Lebeau Family Trip Report 2019: Portofino Bay, Mardis Gras and Birthday Fun - Completed


Apr 2, 2008
This report covers my family's recent Spring Break trip. I typically write my trip reports on my blog and then export them here. If you would like to read ahead of what is posted here, a link to the continuing trip report is at the end of this installment.

Thanks for reading!

Lebeau Family Trip Report 2019: Universal Orlando Resort

For the last few years, the Lebeau family has vacationed in sunny central Florida. We have recently returned from our third consecutive trip to the Universal Orlando Resort. Even as I was planning last year’s vacation, I viewed this Spring Break getaway as the completion of a Universal trilogy. As with any other vacation, the goal was to enjoy a little family fun. But it was also important to tie up any unfinished business from previous trips just in case we don’t make it back to Universal for a while.

Before we board our flight for Florida, let me introduce all of the players for any new readers out there. I am lebeau; husband, father, blogger and narrator for this trip report. My love of theme parks is well-documented here at Le Blog. When I am on vacation, I like to do things I can’t do at home. I get restless sitting around a hotel room watching TV or reading a book. I don’t mind relaxing, but I get bored if there isn’t more for me to do.

My wife, Mindy, has very different vacation preferences. For years, she has mostly tolerated my ambitious vacation planning and commando approach to theme park tourism. When the kids were younger, we made several trips to Walt Disney World. After our last visit in 2014, Mindy had reached her breaking point with the place.

We found that Universal was a good compromise. I still had access to theme parks I could explore to my hearts’ content and Mindy didn’t have to deal with the hassles of a Disney World vacation. After our initial week-long stay in 2017, it was Mindy’s idea to plan back-to-back return trips. We bought annual passes last summer in order to squeeze two vacations out of one ticket purchase.

Our oldest daughter, Josie, is a newly minted teenager. She had just turned thirteen prior to last year’s trip and she will be celebrating her fourteenth birthday very soon. Josie is a Harry Potter fan, but not obsessive. She’s at an age where she likes thrill rides when she is brave enough to ride them, but sometimes her courage fails her. As teenagers go, Josie is usually all smiles. But she’s as susceptible as any teen to sudden mood swings.

Kara is our youngest. She’s all about relaxation. Kara has fun in the parks, but she’d be equally happy hanging out in the hotel ordering room service and binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix. Kara’s tenth birthday was the day after our trip ended, but we celebrated it all week long. Josie wouldn’t want all that attention, but Kara eats it up. As you will see from the pictures in this report, Kara is a bit of a ham.

Travel Day
Travel days are the worst part of any vacation. One of the reasons we keep going back to Orlando is that Mindy and the kids don’t travel especially well. The two hour flight into MCO is about as much as they can handle. Sometimes we look into more adventurous vacation destinations, but so far we keep coming back to the familiar flight.

I used to like to arrive in Orlando as early as possible in order to squeeze in some park time. But I have figured out that usually isn’t worth the effort. A later departure makes it easier to handle last-minute pre-vacation tasks.

To my utter astonishment, we currently have three dogs living with us (which is mostly Josie’s fault). That meant finding someone to dogsit while we were gone. Mindy has a young cousin who was willing to stay in our house and take care of the dogs in our absence, but that meant a lot of last-minute cleaning to make everything presentable.

My dad drove us to the airport. He has it in his head that he’s supposed to take a certain exit. The only thing is, he’s fixated on the exit before the airport. More than once, he has ended up taking a detour in the opposite direction. Sure enough, he got over in the wrong lane this year. I tried to gently point this out, but he was insistent that his exit was the right one. Finally, Mindy said something from the backseat and got us back on track.

The flight was pretty uneventful. The kids were excited because the seats had built-in TV screens. Kara took my headphones so she could watch a movie. Josie watched episodes of The Simpsons. We hit a little turbulence but arrived at MCO safe and sound.

From there, I had arranged transportation to our hotel through Tony Hinds. I had read rave reviews of Tony’s company from fellow tourists. The price was definitely right. A round trip from MCO to Portofino Bay was $100. That’s about half what I usually paid for similar services. That price includes a brief stop for groceries if you want it, but since we were in a hurry to get to the hotel and didn’t think we’d need any extra provisions.

Portofino Bay

Last year, we stayed at Portofino Bay because I was able to find a fantastic rate. This year we were paying Spring Break prices. There was no way I was going to match last year’s deal, but we were able to take advantage of the Annual Passholder Rate which presented a substantial discount. We also made the decision to upgrade to a Club Level room because the dining options at Portofino Bay outside of Sal’s Market Deli tend to be pricey even by Orlando standards.

One of the things we loved about our stay last year was our Bay View Room. We lucked out and got a ground-floor room with a quaint little patio right next to the harbor. Mindy enjoyed having breakfast outside most mornings. We were right next to a Starbucks and the little gelato shop. Everyone agreed that Portofino Bay was our favorite hotel in Orlando.

When it came time to decide where to stay this year, the choice was between returning to Portofino Bay or trying out the Hard Rock, the only deluxe hotel at Universal we haven’t visited yet. We ended up sticking with Portofino largely because we liked the pool there. The pool is important to the kids and I read that Hard Rock’s pool is unusually shallow. That was a deal-breaker.

As we pulled up to the hotel and the images of the little Italian fishing village came into view, I felt like we had made the right choice. I was looking forward to another relaxing stay in “fake Italy”. Staying at Portofino Bay is like spending a week inside Epcot’s Italy Pavilion if the pavilion had all the amenities of a deluxe resort.

My one reservation was our room assignment. I knew that at least part of the reason we enjoyed last year’s trip so much was that we had lucked into a centrally located room with a fantastic view. I had stressed to everyone before the trip that we probably wouldn’t be that lucky again.

I researched the location of the Club Level rooms before we left. Researching fine points of a Universal vacation can be a bit frustrating at times. There are entire websites and fan communities dedicated to even the most minute details of Walt Disney World. But I found out of date information on Universal at every website I visited. And a lot of things just aren’t covered.

Information about the Club Level rooms was hard to come by. Partially, that is because Portofino is the only deluxe hotel that doesn’t have dedicated club rooms. Instead, any room can be upgraded with access to the club for a price. When you reserve a Club Room, you will typically be assigned to one of the hotel’s larger “deluxe” rooms which are scattered throughout the hotel.

This is what I wrote about the Club Level rooms in my pre-trip report:

Another factor is proximity to the lounge. Last year our room was in the East Wing of the resort. We had a Bay View on the ground floor which came with a nice enclosed patio. It was very nice. Unfortunately, we have no idea where we will be located this time around despite paying for a room upgrade.

The Club Level rooms at the other two deluxe hotels are all located on a dedicated floor near the lounge, but that’s not how Portofino Bay is set up. Instead, the lounge is in the main building and Club Level rooms are scattered throughout the resort. This allows greater flexibility to offer the Club Level upcharge to any room, but there’s no guarantee your room will be located close to the lounge.

From what I have read, most of the Club Level rooms are located in the West Wing in the general vicinity of the Villa or Beach pools. The resort is relatively compact, so I’m not terribly concerned with long walks to and from the lounge or any of the other amenities. But our room assignment enhanced our stay last year so I am hoping for a similar experience this time around.

I want to stress that Mindy read this report when I posted it one month before our trip. She even pointed out some of my typos, so I know she read it somewhat closely.

The view from our room
I am also fairly certain that leading up to the trip I made sure to bring up the issue of room location and that I had no way of knowing where we would be located or what kind of view we would have until after we checked in. If anything, I may have brought it up so often that my warnings fell on deaf ears. Because no matter how many times I attempted to deliver the message, Mindy was surprised and disappointed by the location of our room this year.

We were assigned to a room in the Villa section of the hotel as I had expected. Our room was on the fifth floor which is a bit deceiving. The lobby is located on the third floor, so we were only two floors up from the Club and most of the hotel’s amenities.

In adhering to the theme of an Italian fishing village, Portofino Bay includes a lot of staircases, pathways and public areas. This means that while the distance from Point A to Point B may be negligible, you may end up walking quite a bit. There is often no choice but to take the scenic route. Our room was located in the heart of the Villa overlooking the Beach Pool. But getting there from the hotel lobby was about a ten minute walk through several twisting hallways.

View of the Villa from our room
Early in our stay, we figured out that there was an elevator right around the corner from our room that made it very easy to get to the pools, the spa and the arcade. The boat dock was a little further out, but not much farther away than it was last year. We could get to and from the Club in about five minutes. But that first night as we were walking down the well-decorated corridors to our room, none of that mattered.

It became very obvious to everyone that Mindy was losing patience with the walk to our room. On a previous trip we stayed at Cabana Bay and Mindy’s biggest complaint was the walk from the main building to our room. She was having flashbacks to that experience and it was making her angry. Even the kids picked up on it.

When we got to the room, Mindy was fuming. She kept muttering about how stupid it was that the Club wasn’t on the same floor as the Club Level rooms. I didn’t disagree, but that was the arrangement and I thought everyone was aware of it in advance. I opened the window hoping for something other than a parking lot and I was reasonably pleased to see a view of the Beach Pool and some of the surrounding Villa. It wasn’t as nice as our Bay View, but it would do.

Pool view from our room
Josie stared out the window with me and we exchanged a look. It was best just to ride this one out. No one say anything.

The room was very similar to the one we stayed in last year. It was a little larger. The extra space was mostly dedicated to the bathroom area. The room we stayed in last year had a much larger bathroom than most Orlando-area hotels, but it did not have a separate bathtub.

This room had a shower and a tub. Next to the tub was a window that could be opened into the bedroom. The kids absolutely loved this feature. They may or may not have climbed through the window to jump on the beds. Okay, they totally did that.

The bathroom also had an unusual feature allowing you to pipe audio from the TV into the bathroom. The kids liked to open the window so they could see the TV while taking a bath. It took some craning of your neck to actually see the TV from the bathroom, but you could definitely follow along with the audio.

While we were checking out the room, Mindy did some unpacking. She can never really relax in a hotel room until the bags have been at least partially unpacked. This helped to relieve some of the frustration she was feeling over the location of the room, but she was still pretty obviously disappointed.

By this time it was after 8:00. The parks were getting ready to close for the night, but we never planned to visit them on our arrival day. Instead, we were going to check out the Portofino Club. They served “sweet treats” from 8:00-9:00 every night and the kids were looking forward to trying out the deserts.

The Portofino Club

The Club is located near the hotel lobby. There are signs marking the location but they are easily overlooked if you aren’t specifically looking for them. I had been to the Vacation Planning Center that is next to the club but never really noticed the signs before. When we checked in, we were given two extra key cards which opened the door to the club.

Basically the club was like a nice living room with a small buffet area attached. There was a TV which was tuned to basketball that night but was usually playing kids’ shows or family-friendly movies. There were enough tables and chairs that we never had to look for alternate seating.

At night the bar was open. Beer and wine were included and liquor was available at what I believe are reasonable prices. I’m not a drinker, so I’m not the best judge of that. Other beverage options included milk, coffee, soda and bottles of water.

The central buffet area offered up three different sweets. There was always a cookie. Most nights it was chocolate chip, but sometimes it was a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips. The girls raved about the cookies and I have to admit they were really tasty. I have a high bar for cookies and these were surprisingly soft and loaded with chocolate bits. I’m kind of wishing I had one right now to be honest.

The other two treats rotated from night to night but usually there was some kind of tart and a pastry. There were exceptions. On our first night, they served up a berry tart (with a powerful punch of raspberry flavor) and a chocolate pot de crème.

Josie is a big fan of raspberries and chocolate mousse, so all of the desserts were big hits with her. Mindy and Kara don’t care for raspberries so they didn’t like the tart. But no matter what desserts were offered, you could reliably satisfy your sweet tooth with cookies and milk.

The desserts put everyone in a good mood. I think the walk back to the room reminded Mindy of her displeasure, but she was mostly over it. There was a Glow Party going on at the pool below including glow-in-the-dark toys and a foam pit in the kiddie pool. It looked like a good time, but we weren’t up for it. The pool-view rooms could be pretty noisy, but the party ended at 10:00 and things quieted down. Still, if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing you may want to avoid rooms overlooking the Beach Pool.

I always bring an Amazon Firestick with us on vacation because TV offerings tend to be limited in the hotels. I didn’t especially feel like hooking it up before bed. Connecting to the hotel wi-fi is a bit of a chore using the Firestick remote. Fortunately, the kids were able to find Zootopia and we watched that before bed.

I think everyone slept pretty soundly that night. That’s one of the advantages of travel days. We were all pretty worn out. After a good night’s sleep we woke ready to start the vacation in earnest.

Next: First Day at the Parks
  • lebeau

    Apr 2, 2008

    Getting Started
    While the kids were getting ready, I remembered something I had forgotten to do before bed. Back home, Kara had lost a baby tooth right before we left. She dropped the tooth down the sink and was upset because she was didn’t think the tooth fairy would believe she lost it. I was surprised that at almost 10 years old she still believed in the tooth fairy, but clearly she did. So I assured her the tooth fairy would find us in Orlando whether or not she had physical evidence in the form of a tooth.

    Fortunately for me, Kara didn’t immediately look under her pillow. Things got a little more complicated because in the middle of the night Kara got up and asked to switch beds with me. That made what I had to do a little easier. I hate trying to put money under a sleeping kid’s pillow. I’m always worried I will get caught. But this one was easy. While the kids were brushing their teeth, I grabbed $5 out of my wallet and slid it under a pillow in an empty bed.

    Then I reminded Kara about her lost tooth and she was happy to discover cash under the pillow where she woke up. Things got easier still when Kara asked me to hold on to her money for her. The $5 went right back in my wallet, but don’t worry. Kara added it to her mental tally of souvenir money. And trust me, that $5 got spent.

    With tooth fairy transactions out of the way, it was time for breakfast. Some say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If that’s true anywhere, it’s doubly so at a theme park. You need to be fueled up, but not overly full. Eat too little and you’ll be starving in a park that overcharges for food that is usually passable. On the other hand, a heavy breakfast will haunt you in other ways.

    The best breakfast option from our last trip was the buffet at Trattoria del Porto. The food was good and there were lots of choices for everyone. But it cost $20 per person plus a tip. To that every day and you’re adding nearly $100 per night to the cost of your vacation which conveniently enough is about the price of the Club Level up-charge.

    Of course the offerings at the Club are nowhere near as robust as those found at a table service restaurant. The Club Level breakfast wasn’t worth $20/plate. But it turned out to be a very affordable alternative to the sit-down buffet.

    Every day there were four hot dishes to choose from. Two of them were always the same; scrambled eggs and baked beans. Baked beans for breakfast may sound strange to Americans, but beans are a breakfast staple in some countries. Kara quickly adopted this tradition. She had a little bowl of baked beans every day.

    The other two hot dishes rotated. There was always a form of meat and potatoes. Most days, the meat was sausage links which I found disappointing. It was a textural thing. The best way I can think of to describe the meat within the casing was “loose”. I’m sure others will feel differently, but none of us were fans. Other options included bacon and a pineapple glazed ham.

    Breakfast potatoes (pictured above) were the most common starch. The also served has browns which were identical to what you would find at McDonald’s or your local grocery store. I liked the breakfast potatoes but the kids went crazy for the hash browns (loaded with ketchup of course).

    There were also hot and cold cereal options and several flavors of yogurt. The oatmeal had a little toppings bar which Mindy made use of. Fresh fruit was available along with a variety of breakfast pastries and muffins which changed from day to day. Josie picked out the bran muffin pcitured above thinking it was chocolate. I don’t think she’d ever even heard of bran before. Man, was she ever disappointed.

    One of the good things about the Club was that if the kids picked something they didn’t like they could just go back up and get something else. Most days when we left for the parks everyone was comfortably full. Not hungry, but not over-stuffed either. The choices changed just enough that we didn’t burn out on anything after eating breakfast in the club for a week.

    Beverages included milk, juices, soda and coffee. There were also water bottles on hand. I made a point of grabbing 4-8 of these every time we left for the parks. That’s another roughly $20 in value on water alone.

    Over the course of the first couple of days, I figured out that the best strategy for me was to set my backpack down on an empty table and make my coffee. Then help the kids with whatever they need; silverware, napkins, ketchup, drinks… there was always something they needed before I sat down to eat. Then load up my own plate last. The first morning I did this in reverse and ended up with a plate of fairly cold eggs.

    We finished breakfast around 9:00 just as the parks were officially opening. As on-site guests we had access to Early Park Admission, but we never made use of that perk on this trip. One of the things we like about Universal is the ability to take it easy and be spontaneous. Up until this morning, we hadn’t done much in the way of planning.

    The weather forecast for the week was promising. There was some chance of rain every day, but that’s typical of central Florida. I wasn’t too worried about that. Early on, the chances of rain were pretty low and the high temperatures were in the sixties. Coming from Cincinnati where it still felt like winter, that was warm enough for shorts but we decided to hold off on the water rides until later in the week.

    When I asked the kids what they wanted to do on their first day, everything they named was in the Studios park. That park was hosting the last concert of the Mardis Gras season, so we had decided to avoid it in the evening. But it would be fine to start our day there.

    Before the trip, the girls all bought sunglasses. As we waited to board our first water taxi, they posed for a picture. Mindy told them to look “tough” but they couldn’t stop grinning and laughing.

    Kara decided to put on a gun show to convey her toughness.

    Simulators in the Morning

    A short boat ride later and we were headed through the arch into the park. Mindy was carrying her own passes and I had keycards for myself and the kids. As we entered the gates, I handed out passes. I gave Josie’s to Mindy and acted like I didn’t have hers. For just a second, she bought it and then we all laughed. I repeated this joke every single time we went to the parks and if you ask me it just got funnier every time. Josie didn’t seem to think so though.

    One item on our to-do list was to get a birthday button for Kara. Her tenth birthday was actually the day after our trip, but we planned to celebrate it all week long. Josie tends to shy away from the spotlight, but Kara thrives on it. She was looking forward to the extra attention the birthday button would bring.

    Unfortunately, there was a long line at guest services where the buttons are distributed. I was constantly amazed by the lack of preparation some people did before spending a lot of money on a Universal vacation. One of the first rules of theme park tourism is to buy your tickets in advance and yet there were always people crowded around the ticket booths waiting in long lines they could have avoided and paying top dollar for their tickets. We just sailed on by them into the park.

    As this was our third consecutive week-long trip to Universal, there weren’t all that many things we hadn’t done before. Especially in the Studios park which is where the kids tend to gravitate. Since this was also possibly our last Universal trip for a while, everyone wanted to prioritize new experiences. Sure, we would revisit our favorite attractions. But we were also going to check off any remaining boxes just in case we don’t get back to the parks.

    There aren’t all that many attractions at the Studios that we haven’t experienced at least once. But one of those attractions was right there at the front of the park. Every time we had been to the Studios we walked right past the Shrek 4-D. That’s not without good reason. The Shrek attraction doesn’t come highly recommended these days and yet it always seems to have a long line. Unlike the Minions, who my kids have grown up with, Shrek just isn’t all that relevant any more.

    Despite all that, we decided to give the big green ogre a try. But first, we were going to ride Minion Mayhem because the line wasn’t long at all and we figured it was only going to get worse from here.

    We have done Minion Mayhem plenty of times before. It’s a reliably fun simulator that everyone can enjoy. The pre-shows are funny enough that the jokes are still entertaining despite the fact I have heard them all several times.

    Thanks to Express Pass, we were morphed into Minions in no time at all. After the completion of our training, we exited into the dance party where some Minions were waiting to meet with us. The first time we came to Universal, all Kara wanted was to hug a Minion. But now she was ready to walk past them without so much as a wave.

    Shrek 4-D was right across the street and as always it looked like it had a very long line. I explained to the girls that it was really more like a movie than a ride and that when the next show started that line would completely disappear. We were able to enter a shorter line with our Express Passes, but at the end of the day we were all going to be seated at the same time.

    The attraction debuted at Universal just a couple years after the first movie was released. This was before a steady stream of increasingly ineffective sequels soured audiences on the once lovable ogre and his talking donkey sidekick. Shrek 4-D assumes that you still love all of these characters and remember the running gags from the first movie.

    It was also made at a time when you couldn’t just go to your local cineplex and buy a ticket for a 3-D movie. There are some in theater effects to enhance the experience, but the 3-D is the main selling point here and it is no longer remotely novel. The seats move around quite a bit as Shrek and Donkey go on a quest to once again save Fiona, but it falls short of being a ride. Odds are your local zoo or museum has a something similar.

    Afterwards, everyone was glad we did Shrek once. I don’t imagine we will queue up for it again unless it’s an especially hot day and we’re looking to beat the heat. In just over 15 years, Shrek 4-D has become dated, but it isn’t yet obsolete. There’s still some fun to be had before Universal inevitably decides to replace it with something else.

    As we exited, we saw Shrek and Donkey doing meet and greets. Mindy had never seen Donkey out before and she was interested in paying him a visit, but the kids weren’t having it. We hung out for a while and listened to Donkey prattle on. He was very funny, but the girls would not budge and Mindy wouldn’t go without them.

    One of the kids’ must-do’s for the day was to have lunch at Fast Food Blvd. Josie had been looking forward to a chicken and waffle sandwich since our last trip and Kara was craving a Krusty Burger. So I started my next running dad-joke by continually planning the day around lunch at the Classic Monsters Cafe.

    We almost always end up stopping in the place to use the facilities, but we have never actually eaten there. From the reviews I have read, we’re not missing much when it comes to the food, but I do genuinely enjoy checking out the monster stuff. Mindy makes a lot of pit stops and this is usually one of them, but we didn’t make it into the Cafe this year. Definitely have to drop in next time. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll even grab a bite!

    Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to check out Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon or Fallon for short. We all like this simulator enough to ride it once, but none of us are Jimmy Fallon fans. Kara really likes the ride despite having no familiarity whatsoever with The Tonight Show in any of its many incarnations. It’s her speed.

    The problem with Fallon from our perspective is that Express Pass isn’t much of a help. It gets you into the waiting room without having to schedule a return time, but once you’re there you are stuck waiting with everyone else. It’s air conditioned and there is entertainment, so that’s not such a big deal. But it’s impossible to just ride the ride. It’s always going to suck up around twenty minutes of your day.

    This time around, the waiting room was almost empty. The girls grabbed a table in the lobby and I played video games I assume. I went into the theater where the Ragtime Gals were performing a set for about a half dozen people. They did a medley of songs about butts including Baby Got Back and Bootylicious. It was fun stuff.

    Our color was called as soon as the performance ended which was good timing. Before the ride, guests line-up in a long hallway. This is the worst part of the whole experience. Guests charge the podium where the cards are collected and jostle for position in line. If you’re not in the right place at the right time or you’re not especially aggressive you can end up spending a fair amount of time waiting in that hallway.

    I had to meet up with the girls which took a second. We never seem to end up at the front of the line, but thankfully it wasn’t busy so we didn’t have to wait too long for our chance to ride either. As soon as we queued up, there was an announcement that Hashtag the Panda was coming out. This has happened to us more than once. Somehow we always seem to miss Hashtag’s appearances.

    I’m not sure why the kids want to see Hashtag. They don’t know him from any of the other characters in the park. Josie is a huge Simpsons fan, but she has no interest in meeting those characters. But Hashtag for some reason they want to visit Hashtag. Go figure.

    The ride was the ride. There are “jokes” but I don’t think any of them are remotely funny. Even so, it’s sort of fun. We can all ride together and the kids like it. Naturally the ride exits into the gift shop where the kids clowned around trying on hats. I can’t imagine anyone being such a big fan of The Tonight Show or the ride that they would want to buy a Jimmy Fallon souvenir, but those people must be out there because they sure have a lot of merchandise.

    Next: Lunch at the Monsters Cafe Springfield and Animal Actors


    Apr 2, 2008
    Just wanted to say I enjoyed your post here and on your blog!
    Thanks for reading along! I love trip reports for several reasons. For my money, they are the best kind of research. Most of the useful information I have learned about the parks came from reading other people's trip reports. When I write my own, I try to include things that would have been interesting or useful to me when I was planning the trip. I'm also trying to preserve memories so that one day the kids can look back and remember their family vacations in detail.

    looks like you guys had a great time. i love the Portofino
    We did! We always do. Mindy's ready to go back although nothing is planned in the near future.

    Portofino Bay is a fantastic hotel and we loved Club Level even more. We may give Hard Rock a try next time, but we will almost certainly come back to Portofino on a future trip.


    Earning My Ears
    Aug 27, 2018
    this won't help you now, but if you go back again around Kara's birthday, you should be able to get a birthday button at the concierge desk in your hotel. At least I was able to get them there both times I've stayed at Royal Pacific.


    Apr 2, 2008
    this won't help you now, but if you go back again around Kara's birthday, you should be able to get a birthday button at the concierge desk in your hotel. At least I was able to get them there both times I've stayed at Royal Pacific.
    I left this detail out of the trip report, but I actually did stop by the concierge desk after guest services at the park was too busy on the first day. My first stop was at the Vacation Planning Desk and they were a lot less than helpful. That doesn't happen very often, but I guess the girl behind the counter was having an off day. Then I went to the concierge desk and they were extremely nice but they said they were all out of birthday buttons. They gave Kara an "I'm celebrating" button and wrote in "my birthday" which was deemed an acceptable short term solution. When we went to IOA, she was wearing the celebration button up until the point where we were able to get the actual birthday button.
  • lebeau

    Apr 2, 2008

    Lebeau Family Trip Report 2019: Universal Orlando Resort – Part 3
    We were just hours into our first day at Universal and we had already experience one new-to-us attraction. After a trio of simulators, we were starting to think about lunch. The kids wanted Fast Food Blvd so we started heading over to Springfield. But we made some stops along the way.

    Because You’re Not on Vacation Until You Meet Doc Brown

    First we ran into the Secret Life of Pets float. We have never stopped an watched the Superstar Parade, but we have seen all of the floats many times. Throughout the day, the floats will come out individually surrounded by characters who do meet and greets. You can see the entire parade in pieces throughout the course of your day and interact with the characters and performers.

    Since all the characters in Secret Life of Pets are animals on the non-anthropomorphic variety, there are no walk-around characters to accompany this float. All the dogs, cats and bunnies are animatronics. So instead of meeting Max and Duke, guests get to hang out with some street performers. The kids weren’t real sure they wanted to get involved, so I didn’t give them a choice.

    “We were waiting for you!” one of the performers announced when I gave the girls a gentle push forward. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting the kids into. I thought they were just going to take a quick picture in front of the float but first the performers had them run through a couple of dance moves.

    Mindy can dance. Kara gets her rhythm from Mindy which is good for her. Unfortunately for Josie, she takes after my side of the family. We are frighteningly uncoordinated. Kara also enjoys the spotlight, so this was really up her alley. Josie played along because she wanted me to buy her a chicken and waffle sandwich.

    After busting a couple of moves, we continued on our way to Springfield for lunch. As we crossed the bridge, we saw a familiar face.

    We have run into Doc Brown at this same location on the first day of our trip three consecutive years now. The first two times were exactly one year apart. This year, the coincidence was a little less impressive since it was Spring Break instead of the end of May. Every time we have seen him, Doc was wandering around by himself.

    Apparently I hammed it up quite a bit. Mindy and the girls are still making fun of the fuss I made over Doc. I outstretched my arms as though I couldn’t believe what was happening and called out to Doc Brown as we approached. To hear the girls tell it, I was pretty over-the-top. I told Doc that he may not remember, but that we had met him in this spot several years in a row and made plans to meet up with him again this year.

    “And here I am!” he said. We chitchatted a bit. He talked to both the girls. Josie opted to take our picture rather than pose with us. Doc suggested we do a “thumbs up for science.” Then he congratulated Kara on her excellent work and Josie for being our director. Before parting we agreed to meet him here again next year although I’m not sure we’ll be coming back that soon. Whenever we return, I’ll be looking for Doc.

    “See you in the future!” he said as we walked away.

    Lunch in Springfield

    As we approached Fast Food Blvd, Kara asked if we could eat in Moe’s Bar. It was just before noon, so I didn’t make any promises. The Simpsons food court can be a chaotic mess during lunchtime, but fortunately the place was surprisingly empty. Going into the week, we were concerned about Spring Break crowds. Looking around Moe’s it was obvious that for whatever reason the crowds hadn’t shown up today.

    Josie wanted a chicken and waffle sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack. Kara wanted a Krusty Burger. We had to order from two separate lines, so we split up. While Mindy and Kara were ordering at Krusty Burger, Mindy asked me to order her a grilled chicken sandwich.

    For most of the vacation, we would grab bottles of water from the Portofino Club, but I hadn’t done that today. Lacking drinks, the kids ordered the “combo” instead of the “platter”. The combo comes with a milkshake but you can substitute a soft drink if you prefer. Of course milkshakes cost more so the “combo” pricing kind of encourages that purchase.

    At the far end of the food court is the line for Moe’s. Even at the peak times, this line usually isn’t very long. They had a tray out with cups of ice water already poured out which was very convenient. Since I wasn’t eating, I took all the trays to a table, got all the napkins and condiments and four cups of ice water while everyone else got settled.

    The kids were very pleased with their food as you can surmise from Kara’s thumbs up. Although I didn’t order anything, I didn’t go hungry either. The kids tell me it makes them sad when I don’t order anything for myself, but the meals are huge and they never actually finish what they ordered. I can easily fill up on their leftovers which is what I did here. Those expensive milkshakes were largely untouched which helped motivate me to always grab extra bottles of water going forward.

    When we were done eating, the girls wanted to try out the love tester. We had walked past the the thing several times without realizing it actually did anything. Turns out, it wasn’t working right. Everyone who tried got the same result; lovelorn.

    The plan was to double back to KidZone to see the Animal Actors show. We had a little time to kill so the girls took a restroom break. I used the time to snap a few pictures. Everyone gets a picture with the DeLorean from Back to the Future, so I decided to snap a shot of the train from the third movie. It’s not nearly so iconic as the time traveling car, but it’s still kind of cool.

    Not-so-secret Life of Pets

    Considering the kids’ love of animals, it’s kind of a mystery how we have gone so long without seeing the Animal Actors show. Up until recently, we have not made a point of including shows in our schedule. We just never bothered looking to see when they started.

    Although we had passed the banners outside the show numerous times, I don’t think Mindy or the girls ever realized that there was a show that went with the cute pictures. When I told them Animal Actors existed, it became a very high priority for everyone.

    Thanks to Express Pass we got seated right away, but it didn’t really matter. The seats didn’t start to fill up until right before showtime. The premise is pretty simple. A trainer brings out a bunch of cute animals who perform various tricks.

    The cast of critters includes several dogs of course. There are also some cats, a pig and an otter. Some of the most impressive tricks were performed by birds who would swoop over the audience or land on volunteers.

    A couple of kids get in on the act. One gets a big kiss from a St. Bernard. There are lots of jokes as the animals misbehave. The girls didn’t realize a lot of the acting out was scripted. But there were a few times when the show really did not go as planned.

    The girls absolutely loved the show. No surprise there. It’s a funny show with cute animals. It really couldn’t have been more tailored to Josie and Kara’s tastes. Afterwards, the audience can come down and meet some of the stars. Naturally the girls didn’t pass up the opportunity to pet a dog.

    Splitting Up in Springfield

    After the show, Josie wanted to ride The Simpsons Ride. Sideshow Bob was doing meets nearby and there was no line whatsoever. I tried to get the girls to take a picture but they refused. I wasn’t going to push the issue. Bob is a bad guy so he’s kind of scary. He’s also insanely tall. But one of my goals for this trip was to see more of the characters so I visited Bob by myself.

    Kara almost came with me by accident. She was feeling brave about riding The Simpsons and thought that’s where I was going. When she realized I was going to meet Sideshow Bob, she immediately turned around. I told Bob’s handler that my kids abandoned me because they were afraid Bob might try to murder them. Everyone agreed that was likely. Then we posed like we were plotting revenge.

    While I was posing with Sideshow Bob, Kara changed her mind about riding The Simpsons. Josie and I rode it by ourselves while Mindy and Kara walked ahead to Men in Black. They decided to get in some target practice before we joined them.

    Josie is a huge Simpsons fan. She watches the show just about every night and has for years. When she goes to sleepovers at friends’ houses, she watches The Simpsons on her iPad before going to sleep. The ride captures the show’s sense of humor perfectly so it’s not surprising that Josie loves it. Unfortunately the motion simulator is more than Mindy can handle so we almost always split up in Springfield.

    When we were done riding, we headed towards Men in Black. We ducked into the little Coke store so I could show Josie the animatronic alien inside. Mindy and Kara caught up with us there.

    That’s when the kids noticed the stations where you could type your name and have it featured on a bottle of Coke. Josie kept trying to sneak in the kinds of dirty words that entertain little kids. She’s rediscovered the comedy potential of the word “poopy” recently and was very disappointed when the word was blocked.

    There were actually some people waiting to use the device so when I realized Josie was still trying to find a variation of “poopy” the machine would accept, I made her move on. She typed in her real name quickly and gave Kara a turn. Kara was happy enough seeing he name without trying to sneak in a poop joke.

    Men in Black is a family favorite. It’s one of the few attractions everyone enjoys riding without hesitation. Mindy’s pretty competitive. She always plays to win. Neither of us got the bonus points this time (the guy sitting next to me hit the button at the right time), but she still beat me on points. I’m going to chalk that one up to her practice round while Josie and I were riding the Simpsons.

    The little girl who was sitting behind Josie looked to be around seven years old. She rode completely unaccompanied. I kept an eye out for adult supervision and never saw them. I’m sure someone somewhere was watching over this kid, but we were a little worried all the same.

    Checking Out the Annual Passholder Lounge

    Usually we would head back to the hotel for a break in the afternoon. But the crowds were light and the weather was less punishing than we were used to in the summertime. Those factors combined with the fact that it was our first day in the parks lead to us sticking around through the afternoon which is not something we usually do.

    Even so, we were ready to get off our feet. While it wasn’t as hot as it was last June, the kids were ready for some cold drinks. Kara really wanted a slushy. I had shown the kids pictures and videos of the new Annual Passholder Lounge and they wanted to check it out.

    The big attraction here was the Arctic Coke machine which allows guests to buy a Coke and freeze it into a slushy. As soon as we entered the Lounge, the kids were picking out drinks. Josie got a Powerade and Kara coke a regular Coke. They were freezing them before I even knew what was going on. The girl at the register was looking around to make sure someone was going to pay for the drinks, so I whipped out my wallet.

    The end results were a little disappointing. Josie’s drink didn’t freeze at all. Maybe she didn’t follow directions correctly. The process is a bit complicated. It involves turning the bottle upside down and I don’t know what else because the kids jumped into making the drinks without my help. Kara’s turned out better which may be because she followed directions better or may be because the machine handles carbonated drinks better than sports drinks. I don’t really know.

    Initially, Kara’s Coke had a few ice crystals. The girl at the register said it would continue to freeze up after we had opened it and that was initially true. At one point, the Coke was about half frozen. I know this because Kara lost interest in it pretty quickly when it didn’t immediately turn into the perfect slushy she had envisioned. The ice crystals disappeared pretty quickly reverting the Coke into a normal cold drink within about 15 minutes.

    The lounge itself was nice. I plugged my phone and Josie’s into charging ports while we were there. There were free granola bars and samples of flavored Diet Coke available. The girl who poured the Diet Coke samples bonded with Josie over her Panic at the Disco T-shirt.

    What the girls enjoyed the most were chalkboards posted with various questions like “What is your favorite ride?” and “Where is your favorite photo opportunity?” They enjoyed leaving their answers written in chalk for posterity. Josie may or may not have written “poop” on one or more of the chalkboards. Okay, she definitely did.

    Although the Arctic Coke machine was a disappointment, I liked the lounge overall. It’s a nice place for passholders to unwind a bit. In retrospect, we probably would have been better off going to the American Express lounge instead. The have complimentary bottled water there instead of shelling out $3 or $4 for a semi-frozen soft drink. Oh well. Either way we got the midday break we needed.

    Next: Marilyn, the Mummy, ET and donuts


    Apr 2, 2008

    Lebeau Family Trip Report 2019: Universal Orlando Resort – Part 4
    Our first day in the parks was going so well that we decided not to take our usual afternoon break. The crowds were lighter than we anticipated and the weather was warm, but far from the oppressive heat we were used to in the early summer months. Rain was expected later in the evening, so we decided after a quick stop in the Annual Passholder Lounge to keep on going through dinner.

    Mummies, Make-up and Marilyn
    Kara really wanted to go see the Horror Make-Up Show again. Everyone enjoyed it last year when we saw it for the first time. Josie and I saw it twice during that trip whereas Mindy and Kara had only seen it once. While Josie liked the show enough to watch it twice in one trip, she didn’t feel like watching it again this year. So we split up again.

    We decided to go ride Revenge of the Mummy while Mindy and Kara went to the show. Then we would meet up again in the Spongebob Store where Josie wanted to do some shopping. As we were going our separate ways, I spotted a meet and greet I wanted to do quickly.

    Marilyn Monroe was high on my list of meets this year because she is one of the few characters we had never interacted with before. The kids tend to resist meeting characters even when there is no line but I decided this year to check a few boxes if the wait wasn’t too long. And Marilyn was one of them.

    Josie refused to get in the picture with me but she was willing to serve as our photographer. She doesn’t know the first thing about Marilyn Monroe, so she couldn’t appreciate the spot-on Monroe impression. Marilyn commented on my unkempt hair asking how I got my curls. When I said they were natural she told me I was a lucky boy and that she spent hours with her hairdresser. I said I could tell and she laughed uncomfortably. “I hope that’s a compliment,” she said. I assured her that she looked like a movie star and we parted ways.

    Revenge of the Mummy is one of my favorite attractions in Orlando. It hits just the right mix of thrills and special effects without shaking you up too badly. Josie has run hot and cold on the ride. The first year we rode it, she loved it. The next year it didn’t live up to her expectations. This year, she enjoyed it again but it doesn’t seem like one of her favorites. She’ll ride it with me, but I don’t think she would ask to go on it.

    We got to Spongebob Storepants before Mindy and Kara did, so we spent some time looking around. Josie did her best impression of Spongebob’s perpetually annoyed neighbor, Squidward Tentacles, next to the replica of his house. She spent a lot of time in the store last year which may be why she finished shopping pretty quickly. By the time Mindy and Kara arrived, Josie had already decided to spend her souvenir money elsewhere.

    Josie walked her sister around the store showing her what she considered to be the highlights. We spent some time looking at the products with names on them, but we can never find anything with the names Josie or Kara. Lots of Joses, Joeys, and Caras but never the names we are looking for.

    Nearby the Trolls were doing meet and greets including Guy Diamond, the troll who farts glitter. Prior to the trip, the girls were very psyched to see Guy do his stuff. But we had missed his entrance and he wouldn’t fart again until the end of his set. They didn’t want to wait around for that and the line was deemed “too long”. I would guess it was no longer than 10 minutes, but the girls don’t wait in lines if they can avoid it.

    E.T. Needs Our Help

    We decided to end our first day in the parks with a ride on E.T. Adventure. Previously, the girls were very underwhelmed with this ride. Kara and Mindy refused to ride it last year and Josie only rode it to humor me. But their interest was renewed when I told the girls about the practice of making up fake names for E.T. to say at the end of the ride.

    While we waited to be admitted to the preshow the girls giggled over ideas for silly names to give the attendant at the entrance. I decided to be Homer so Mindy settled on Marge. The girls went with Maggie and Lisa to complete the Simpsons theme. Then everyone decided they had to go before me because once I said my name was Homer, the attendant would likely figure out the joke.

    Sure enough, I was the last to give my fake name and I couldn’t do it with a straight face. Coming after Maggie, Lisa and Marge, I chuckled midway through Homer. The girl who handed me my Intergalactic Passport fought hard not to roll her eyes but I don’t think she was entirely successful. Oh well. It was worth it to hear E.T. say “Goodbye Ho-Mer” at the end of the ride.

    I have always found E.T. to be a charming if flawed dark ride. I will put it up against Peter Pan’s Flight at Walt Disney World any day. Midway through the ride, Mindy turned to me and asked “Why didn’t I like this again?” I think it’s just a matter of expectations. Once everyone knew what they were in for, they were able to sit back and enjoy riding flying bikes through air conditioned weirdness.

    There was one thing that distracted me a bit this time around. Shortly before we left, a boy was injured on E.T. when his foot dangled over the side of the ride. Now that I was sitting on the bike, I could see how the injury happened. Kara and Mindy were sitting in the middle bikes so they weren’t in any danger. But Josie was on the end and theoretically her legs were long enough that she could get hurt. So I kept an eye on the placement of her feet.

    As we approached the end of the ride, I leaned over to Mindy and told her to have Josie put her feet on the pedals. I didn’t want to say why because I didn’t want to worry her. I needn’t have bothered. Post-incident they had changed the unload procedures for the ride. The attendants weren’t taking any chances. They stopped the ride vehicles just before landing to make sure everyone had their feet out of the danger zone. I have to imagine Universal will implement a more permanent fix in the future.

    After helping E.T. save his planet, we stopped into the gift shop to take advantage of the photo opportunities. Josie didn’t want to do the bike picture again, but Kara did. Then we posed for a family photo with E.T. in the toy closet. Mindy really liked this one. Every time I post a trip report I get in trouble because of pictures she considers unflattering, but she liked this one enough to get a print of it.

    This is probably as good of a time as any to comment on our photo package. The packages are offered by a third party, Amazing Pictures. In a previous report, I said I didn’t feel like the packages were worth the money unless you could get a discount. Fortunately, Amazing Pictures frequently runs sales for those who plan ahead.

    Last year, I bought the Mardi Gras annual passholder package which was good for one full year of pictures. We were able to use the package for two trips at a cost of $130. It also included two prints. Not a bad deal at all. You do have to know where the photo opportunities are because there aren’t as many photographers out as there are at Walt Disney World. But it’s pretty easy to get your money’s worth at that price over the course of a year’s worth of trips.

    Voodoo Dounts

    As we were leaving the park, the kids wanted to stop for a snack. Kara was still in the mood for a slushy having been disappointed in the Arctic Coke she received at the Annual Passholder Lounge. The thing is, Kara always wants frozen drinks, but she rarely ever drinks them. Having spent a few bucks on semi-frozen Coke products that mostly went to waste, I wasn’t eager to buy more slushies. So I suggested a stop by Voodoo Donuts instead.

    This girls agreed enthusiastically. Mindy had planned to hold out until dinner, but changed her mind when faced with the possibility of a maple bar.

    It was 4:00 in the afternoon so the line for donuts wasn’t bad at all. Mindy and Josie already knew what they wanted, but Kara wasn’t sure. Last year, I bought a baker’s dozen and Kara took a bite of just about all of them without especially liking any of them. She loved the icing on the Voodoo Doll but didn’t care for the jelly.

    I told her I was pretty sure it was the same chocolate frosting on the plain old chocolate ring, but she didn’t believe me. So we agreed that if I verified the frosting was the same, she would order a simpler donut instead of licking the frosting off a jelly-filled Voodoo Doll.

    As it turns out, the day after I ordered our donuts last year, Voodoo Donuts introduced the Creamsicle Donut which was unique to the Orlando location. Kara loves Creamsicles – or so she says. We have an uneaten box in our freezer as I type this. The point being, she wanted to try the Creamsicle Donut but I was fairly certain she wouldn’t finish it.

    We ended up with a box of dounts that included Josie’s Voodoo Doll, a Maple Bar and Oh Captain, My Captain for Mindy and Kara’s Creamsicle and a Chocolate Ring. I also ordered two seasonal donuts for everyone to try; the Mardis Gras themed Beignet Donut and a spring donut that looked like an Easter egg.

    The Beignet Donut was covered in powdered sugar with purple green and yellow sprinkles on one half. It was filled with something called Bavarian hickory which was a coffee-flavored cream. It was less dense than I am used to for a cream-filled donut. Frankly, it was a bit weird but Josie and I liked it.

    The Spring Donut was filled with a strawberry-marshmallow cream that was very sweet an gooey. You definitely got the marshmallow flavor. There was also an artificial strawberry aftertaste. I was glad we tried these specialty donuts once, but I don’t think I would order either of them again. Next time I am back to the tried and true Memphis Mafia.

    The girls gave Mindy a hard time over how she ordered her Captain Crunch donut. She was quite dramatic about the Oh Captain My Captain. Josie hasn’t seen Dead Poet’s Society, but apparently she has seen the clip at the end where Robin Williams students stand on their desks and use the phrase as a show of solidarity. They compared Mindy’s order with that scene. Also, she apparently had one to many “captains” in the name.

    We took the donuts back to the Portofino Club where we could eat them with complimentary milk. The club was in between serving afternoon snacks and dinner, but we were pretty sure milk would be available with the other beverages. Fortunately it was offered all day long because we needed something to wash down the sweet snacks.

    Josie did not share her Voodoo Doll with anyone. That thing was gone in a matter of seconds. The rest of the donuts were more or less communal. Mindy was pleased with both of her choices although she said the cereal was a bit stale. Kara quickly abandoned the Creamsicle after picking off all the decorations which was exactly what I expected would happen.

    We ended up tossing the equivalent of two donuts in the trash, but everyone was happy with what they got to sample. With the annual passholder discount, it came to around $16 which I thought was a decent price for a theme park snack for a family of four.

    Back at Portofino Bay

    By the time we finished, it had started raining lightly. If we had wanted to, we could have gone back to the parks. The rain wasn’t bad at all, but we were ready to settle in for the night. The Studios was hosting the last of the Mardis Gras concerts for the year and the performer was unfamiliar to us. We decided we’d rather avoid the crowds. Islands of Adventure could wait until tomorrow.

    The kids wanted to go to the hotel’s arcade. I do not enjoy these places. It just feels like wasted money to me. The kids love it, but I think they have a better time when I’m not around. A long time ago, Mindy starting taking them to the arcade without me. It started as a running gag that the girls would say they were going for “a walk” and I wasn’t allowed to know where they were going.

    Then Kara slipped up and said something about going to the arcade. I feigned shock. “You’re going to an arcade?” They quickly covered the slip-up by saying they were going to “our cave”. At no point did anyone actually think they were fooling anybody, but for whatever reason the kids get a trick out of telling me outrageous lies.

    Over time, the story of Our Cave has gotten progressively more ridiculous. I will act like I am suspicious and start asking questions about where they are going and they will laugh at the absurd answers they come up with. I couldn’t possibly remember the full back story of the arcade at this point, but I know there is a bear in the cave named Jocelyna who awards them the prizes they sometimes bring back to the room.

    I actually walked to the arcade with them this time just in case Mindy needed access to the credit card. She had left hers back in the room. Once they were all set up, I went back to the room and hooked up the Amazon Firestick to the TV. We were going to be staying in for the rest of the night and didn’t want to rely on the hotel’s TV line-up.

    When we were ready for dinner, we went back to the Portofino Club. They were serving barbecue chicken, roasted cauliflower and mac and cheese. There were also various salads, rolls, etc. I decided to scoop a little potato salad on my plate as well.

    The food was good. In fact, every night we ate at the club, the entrees were better than expected. Some of them were downright delicious. Everything on my plate was good although I am not a huge fan of mac and cheese. I find it bland after the first couple of bites. So I spiced it up with a little Tabasco sauce.

    Instead of little ketchup packets or a dispenser, the restaurants at Portofino Bay have tiny little condiments. The kids were amazed by the single-serving bottle of hot sauce. It was smaller than Josie’s little finger.

    Later that night, we went back to the club for dessert. The sweet treats offered that night included red velvet cake, key lime tarts and a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips. The girls preferred the traditional chocolate chip cookie to this one, but both cookies were good. The red velvet cake was Mindy’s favorite dessert of the trip whereas the key lime tart was probably my favorite.

    I say probably because all of the desserts at the club were good. There wasn’t a bad sweet in the bunch. But it’s hard to beat key lime when you’re in Florida.

    After having enjoyed breakfast, dinner and dessert at the club, any reservations I had about the Club Level upgrade disappeared. This won’t be for everyone, but for a family of four that spends a lot of time at the hotel, Club Level can be quite a good deal.

    Next: Islands of Adventure


    aka: kid-at-heart
    Oct 9, 2018
    Thanks so much for allowing us to vacation variously with you and your family. I have just started reading but do have a couple of questions (for future planning purposes),
    what were the concierge lounge’s hours? What time did they serve breakfast, etc?

    Most days, the meat was sausage links which I found disappointing. It was a textural thing. The best way I can think of to describe the meat within the casing was “loose”. I’m sure others will feel differently, but none of us were fans. Other options included bacon and a pineapple glazed ham.
    Yuk, not a fan of the sausage links. You never know what the casing is made from, animal intestines or skin, or artificial casings. I have no problem eating meat or sausage but the casing part makes me cringe.

    Baked beans for breakfast
    Yum, I like baked beans for breakfast.

    Breakfast potatoes
    Yum again. Starch for breakfast is also good.

    Oatmeal is healthy and tasty.

    Fresh fruit
    Fresh fruit is good.

    Josie picked out the bran muffin pcitured above thinking it was chocolate. I don’t think she’d ever even heard of bran before. Man, was she ever disappointed.
    Poor child. :rotfl2: By the way, my mother, age 93 next week and still as sharp as a whip, is also named Josie. "Josie Mae" Such a beautiful old fashioned name for strong women.

    Beverages included milk, juices, soda and coffee.
    Do you know the coffee brand? Was it good? I hate Disney's coffee. Has no flavor at best, has an off flavor at worse.


    DIS Veteran
    Feb 13, 2009
    Your report is giving me the Universal itch. Those APs are burning a hole in my pocket. The drive is 6-9 hours (depending on traffic and stops), but I am seriously thinking about just going for a few days...although summer would be miserable!

    I am thinking we will wait until February or April break 2020. I am thinking about club level now. Although we *can* just haul all the snacks and such with us in the car, I'm not sure I want to!
  • Pumpkin1172

    DIS Veteran
    Sep 14, 2016
    Can't wait to hear more of you adventure!!!! I'm just living vicariously through your trip report. Not sure when we will be able to take our boys - I took our daughter who is now 25 three years ago...we both of us loved it. I'm hoping I can convince the hubby that we need to take the boys - and He will LOVE it as well


    Apr 2, 2008
    Thanks so much for allowing us to vacation variously with you and your family. I have just started reading but do have a couple of questions (for future planning purposes),
    what were the concierge lounge’s hours? What time did they serve breakfast, etc?
    Trip reports (reading them and writing your own) are the next best thing to an actual trip in my book! When I'm not going to Universal, I love to experience it vicariously through trip reports. Plus you get the best ideas from reading other people's reports. The hours for the club were as follows:

    Continental Breakfast - 7 am - 10:30 am
    Afternoon snack (prepackaged) - 12 pm - 3 pm
    Dinner - 5:00 - 7:00
    Dessert - 8:00 - 9:00

    The hours are subject to change and I imagine they do shift somewhat with park hours. There was a happy hour as well that overlapped with dessert. You were allowed in the club whether it was serving food or not.

    Yuk, not a fan of the sausage links. You never know what the casing is made from, animal intestines or skin, or artificial casings. I have no problem eating meat or sausage but the casing part makes me cringe.

    Yum, I like baked beans for breakfast.

    Yum again. Starch for breakfast is also good.

    Oatmeal is healthy and tasty.

    Fresh fruit is good.
    While not everything was to everyone's taste, there was always something everyone could enjoy. All the staples of a continental breakfast were covered.

    Poor child. :rotfl2: By the way, my mother, age 93 next week and still as sharp as a whip, is also named Josie. "Josie Mae" Such a beautiful old fashioned name for strong women.
    When Josie was a baby, we called her "Joey". She was named after my late brother who passed the same week we found out we were pregnant. We decided to name the baby Joey no matter the gender. When we found out she was a girl I researched Joey as a girl's name to see if it was too weird. I knew there was a character on Dawson's Creek named Joey but I didn't want to saddle her with a name that would get her made fun of. I was a bit relieved when I saw that at one point, Joey was more common for girls than it was for boys.

    When she was born and we were filling out the birth certificate, we decided to give her an escape route in case she didn't like the name Joey. So we considered Jocelyn and a few other JO-names. Josie was the one we liked best, but she was Joey around the house for a lot of years. Then when she went to school, we gave her a choice which name to use. Initially, in kindergarten, she picked Joey. But when she went to first grade she switched to Josie. I switched to her preference, but Mindy has mostly called her Joey all her life. I will use both names interchangeably at home, but I try to stick to Josie around other people.

    Do you know the coffee brand? Was it good? I hate Disney's coffee. Has no flavor at best, has an off flavor at worse.
    I do not know the brand of the coffee, but it was very good. I overheard other guests say so as well. Much, much better than the swill they serve at Disney.


    Apr 2, 2008
    Your report is giving me the Universal itch. Those APs are burning a hole in my pocket. The drive is 6-9 hours (depending on traffic and stops), but I am seriously thinking about just going for a few days...although summer would be miserable!

    I am thinking we will wait until February or April break 2020. I am thinking about club level now. Although we *can* just haul all the snacks and such with us in the car, I'm not sure I want to!
    The only cure for the Universal itch is to go! ;)

    We keep talking about driving to save some money, but invariably we default to flying. For Spring Break, driving would cut into our available time too much, but I would consider it for summer. Loews charges pretty hefty parking fees, but you probably know that already.

    We've been in the summer and it's definitely hot. During June, we came back to the hotel every day after lunch. Sometimes we went back to the parks in the evening and sometimes we didn't. All in all, we preferred the spring weather but their were trade-offs. The pool and water rides were more enjoyable in the summer. And the crowds were often lighter.

    The club can be a great value. It's all in how much you use it. We ate breakfast there every single day and stocked up on water and soda frequently. Almost every night, we stopped for dessert and we had several dinners as well. I am fairly confident we came out ahead, but if you don't spend a lot of time around the hotel the math changes. If you pack a bunch of snacks, it's not as good of a deal but you can't beat the club for convenience.


    Apr 2, 2008
    Can't wait to hear more of you adventure!!!! I'm just living vicariously through your trip report. Not sure when we will be able to take our boys - I took our daughter who is now 25 three years ago...we both of us loved it. I'm hoping I can convince the hubby that we need to take the boys - and He will LOVE it as well
    I bet they will have a blast. How old are the boys?

    And thanks for reading!


    Earning My Ears
    May 13, 2019
    I’m planning our first trip (well, sort of. Kids have never been and I was last there when it was just Hogsmeade on the IOA side) and your trip reports are really helpful! My kids are a little bit younger than yours but I really appreciate the “here’s what it’s like with kids” tips (I never would have thought to pack our Firestick!).


    Apr 2, 2008
    I’m planning our first trip (well, sort of. Kids have never been and I was last there when it was just Hogsmeade on the IOA side) and your trip reports are really helpful! My kids are a little bit younger than yours but I really appreciate the “here’s what it’s like with kids” tips (I never would have thought to pack our Firestick!).
    Thanks for the kind words. One of my goals when I write these reports is to sprinkle in information that would have been helpful to me when I was planning. Everyone's specific situations will be different, but I like to think that there are a few helpful nuggets in there.

    Let me tell you, that Firestick has been a lifesaver more than once! Our first big Universal trip, it rained like crazy for a lot of the week.

    Here's a link to the 2018 TR. It's got some good stuff on the KidZone area. I have found a lot of guests overlook this part of the parks and it's worth spending some time there if you have kids.

    And this is the 2017 Report. We were novices then, so probably fewer tips but you can learn from our mistakes.


    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    May 15, 2007
    Lebeau….I`m catching up...….

    I like to really read everything and it`s been a little manic since we got back last week...…

    But, love your pictures again......you can see how your kids are growing up.....happens so quickly. Love the way they go for a walk but are really going to the arcade...….so funny!!!!

    Although.....beans for breakfast???? No....just no.......but, then I do hate beans anyway.....

    Look forward to more...….


    DIS Veteran
    Aug 14, 2009
    Hi I am enjoying your report. I was so glad to hear you enjoyed the evening appetizers at Portofino. Portofino is still my family's favorite resort and club level. Every time we go to another one we compare it.

    My family pretty much likes the same type of vacations so that works well. Liv and I tend to stay off some rides due to getting headaches or a bit of motion sickness, which stinks cause we like them all.

    I love Minion Mayhem and always do that first if we aren't starting EE at DA.

    I thought your pool view was very nice. We were in the wing near the lounge and it was great for the lounge but the view wasn't that good. I do love those bathrooms with the separate bath and shower.

    Everyone looks like they are having a great time. Look forward to reading more.


    Apr 2, 2008
    Lebeau….I`m catching up...….

    I like to really read everything and it`s been a little manic since we got back last week...…

    But, love your pictures again......you can see how your kids are growing up.....happens so quickly. Love the way they go for a walk but are really going to the arcade...….so funny!!!!

    Although.....beans for breakfast???? No....just no.......but, then I do hate beans anyway.....

    Look forward to more...….
    I'm in the same boat with your latest TR. I'm planning to read it, but I have been busy with getting mine up. I will definitely catch up when things slow down a bit.

    You're not kidding about how fast the kids grow up! We just had Josie's 8th grade gradruation. She's a high schooler now! Her mom isn't ready for all that.


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