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

lebeau

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 2, 2008


The girls were taking a break from the parks halfway through our Spring Break trip. I took the opportunity for a solo tour of Islands of Adventure. On my own, I was able to slow down and enjoy the detailed theming. It was a beautiful day and the Spring Break crowds were out in force. Rides were less of a priority than exploration, but I did have a couple of attractions I wanted to squeeze in.

Ahoy, Matey



The only attraction left on my must-do list was Popeye. I thought about taking the plunge and riding it myself, but I didn’t want to get that wet. Tentatively, we were planning to ride as a family one on of the last days of the trip when the weather was expected to be warmer.



I wasn’t going to ride Popey’s barges today, but I thought I would take some time to explore Sweet Haven. The area around the ride is practically a land with Toon Lagoon. It’s really remarkable that this much effort was put into a relatively obscure cartoon character.



Islands of Adventure has a couple of fast food locations that are rarely if ever open. Wimpy’s is one such establishment. It’s a shame, but the location is a somewhat remote. I don’t imagine all that many soaking wet customers feel like sitting down to a burger.



I walked around the Popeye area partially to see what we were in for. I had heard that it was more or less impossible to stay dry on this ride. That was quickly confirmed as I saw rafts passing under what amounts to a waterfall. Partially, I wanted to confirm that this was a ride the kids would enjoy. No huge drops or anything like that.



The rafts circle around Popeye’s ship, The Olive. Guests can actually board Popeye’s boat which contains a modest play area for kids and some nice themeing.



Inside the boat is a color-coded piano on which even a musical novice can plink out Popeye’s theme song.



You would think a lifelong sailor like Popeye would take better care of his ship. The Olive has a massive hole in its side. Hardly seems sea worthy. The guests lined up along the side are manning water cannons with which to spray the riders below.

I knew I would be back before the end of the trip so I decided to move on. I figured I would make my way to the back of the park and take the Hogwart’s Express over to Universal Studios where I was supposed to meet the girls for lunch.



From Toon Lagoon, I entered Skull Island. Kong is a ride I like well enough, but I won’t wait in a long line for it. The girls aren’t huge fans which makes it a perfect candidate for a solo experience. Unfortunately, the line for Kong is almost always longer than the ride warrants and that was the case today. I scoped out the EP line and it was all the way back to the end of the queue. I figured it would be a half hour even with Express Pass, so I moved on.



We had already spent some time in Jurassic Park and Kara was keen to come back and check out Camp Jurassic, so I pushed right on through to Hogemeade. As expected, the Wizarding World was even more crowded than the rest of the park. This had been the case every time we poked our heads into a Harry Potter-themed land during Spring Break.

Last Train to Potterville



The line for Forbidden Journey was intimidating, but I decided to take a chance on single rider anyway. The entrance was extremely chaotic with the new locker system. There was no clear flow of traffic and the team members seemed a bit overwhelmed directing guests to and from the new lockers.

I asked where the single rider line was and a team member told me it split off inside the queue. So I entered the Express Pass line and then jumped into single rider closer to the boarding zone. I’m not sure if that was how it was supposed to work or not, but I ended up waiting about 10 minutes to ride.

Last year, my lanyard popped off while I was riding Forbidden Journey which is how I lost my annual pass. So this year, I tucked all my documents into my pocket before I pulled down the safety bar on the ride vehicle. And then I kept a hand over my pocket just to be sure nothing slipped out.

I believe this was my first time experiencing Forbidden Journey since the ride was upgraded with a higher quality projection system. I’m not sure I would have noticed if I wasn’t the kind of guy who follows this sort of thing, but the overall quality of the ride was terrific. Last year I was distracted by the fact I had lost the contents of my wallet so I was glad I got to enjoy Forbidden Journey again this year.



It was just past noon and I was supposed to meet the girls in the Studios park for lunch, so I headed over to the Hogwarts Express. On my way, I checked out construction on the new Hagrid ride. It was coming along nicely, but soft openings were still a ways off. There was no chance we were going to experience this attraction before we left.



Express Pass was a lifesaver when it came time to take the train to Diagon Alley. The standby queue was full, but I practically walked on. One relaxing train ride later and I was in Diagon Alley. The place was absolutely packed, but I was getting hungry.



I thought about stopping in the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Fish and chips were starting to sound really good and I was starting to think the girls were going to be a no-show on lunch. Just as I was beginning to seriously consider eating alone, I got a text that the girls were entering the park.

They wanted to eat at Fast Food Blvd again. I’ll admit, that wouldn’t have been my first choice. I was quickly burning out on the Simpsons food court, but Josie wanted another chicken and waffles sandwich. So I told the girls I would meet them there.

Another Lunch in Springfield

It was quarter to one and I was hoping that the lunch rush would be dying down. No such luck. The crowds were here in full force and the place was a madhouse. There was a 20 minute wait just to wait in the individual lines before lining up a third time to pay at a register. I hate dealing with this sort of thing.

I went ahead and got in line and told the girls to text me their orders. Kara and Mindy weren’t sure what they wanted, so I sent them pictures of the menus. I saw them enter the food court while I was still in the first of three lines. They texted that they were going to get a table because there weren’t many available.



By this point, I was pretty close to the front of the first line and I would be able to order soon. But Josie wanted a sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Mindy and Kara wanted Krusty Burgers and I was looking at the fish and chips. That would mean waiting in three separate lines to order food. Ultimately, I decided to throw a Hail Mary pass in the form of using the Mobile Order feature on the Universal app.

This proved to be a fantastic idea. I highly recommend placing a mobile order any time you face a lunchtime rush. The app lets you customize your food and it’s much more clear than the intentionally deceptive menus which try to push you into buying a combo with a milkshake.

Less than five minutes after I hit the “Prepare Food” button, the entire order was ready for pick-up at a central line. It was so much faster and more efficient than waiting in the queues. The only downside was that we weren’t able to make use of our annual passholder discount for this meal. But that trade-off was well worth it.



The girls enjoyed their meals. They had eaten these sandwiches several times before, so there were no surprises. My fish fillets were gigantic, but there was entirely too much batter for my tastes. I ended up peeling off about half the breading, but the fish was tasty and there was still enough food for me to fill up on.

I substituted grapes for french fries because I wanted to eat something fresh. Those were the tastiest grapes I have ever eaten in my life. I’m guessing that’s a function of how much junk food I had eaten so far this week.



By the time we finished lunch, it was approaching 2:00. We had plans to meet some of Mindy’s friends for dinner tonight. Larry and Janelle are Florida residents who live about an hour’s drive away from Orlando. They have stopped down to visit us during our last several trips.

Last year, we brought them back to check out Portofino Bay. Larry was very impressed with the resort. So much so, that he wanted to go back. So the plan was for all of to grab dinner at Sal’s. The thing is, Portofino Bay charges an arm and a leg for parking if you’re not staying at the hotel. Even if you are a hotel guest, it’s still pretty pricey to park in the lot. So we were going to meet them at City Walk.

City Walk stops charging for parking at 6:00. So I figured we could meet Mindy’s friends around 6:30. That left us with about four and a half hours to kill. We could go back to the hotel, but that would mean coming back to City Walk and then back to the hotel again. It was a lot of back and forth for nothing. At least that’s how I saw it. To me, we were better served hanging out until 6:30.

In the KidZone

Josie didn’t love my plan. Despite having eaten one of her favorite meals for lunch, she was getting a bit crabby. No matter what I suggested we do, she didn’t like it.



We ended up going back to E.T. The primary selling point was giving fake names for the extraterrestrial to call out at the end of the ride. This time, we were Kim, Kanye, Saint and North. I’m pretty sure I saw the girl roll her eyes when I told her my name was Kanye. I didn’t hear E.T. call me Jeezy, so I’m not sure she actually entered it.



We timed our ride with ET so that we would be nearby when the next Animal Actors show started. Josie strongly disapproved despite having enjoyed the show previously. She had adopted a firm “I don’t rewatch shows” stance that wasn’t serving us well. I was confident that her mood would improve once the cute critters showed up on stage, but until then I was doing my best to prod her out of her funk.

Meanwhile, Mindy was following some commotion in the front rows. I was too busy with Josie to pay much attention, but there was a family of little people seated up front. Nothing strange about that, but Mindy said these people were being treated like royalty. There were people running all over bringing them drinks and snacks. Whoever they were, they were getting the VIP treatment. If I had looked, I would have recognized them from Portofino Bay.

Sure enough, Josie lit up as soon as the animals started doing their tricks. Never underestimate the power of cuteness. Especially where teenage girls are concerned.



The show ends with the opportunity to pet some of the animal performers. The dog closest to us was a big Saint Bernard. Josie really wanted to pet this dog, but there was a family in front of us that would not move along. Mindy was getting ready to give them a piece of her mind or maybe a knuckle sandwich. But fortunately, our kids were able to squeeze in to see the big dog before it was too late.

The show ended at 4:00 leaving us two and a half hours left to fill. But 4:00 was also significant because that was when the Mardi Gras booths opened up. It was time for us to cross another item off our list.

Next: New Orleans, New York and Italy
 

schumigirl

It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
Joined
May 15, 2007
Forbidden journey is just amazing.....the upgrade is better and just enhances what was a fabulous ride already...….

I love the train journey.....simple and fun.

It`s funny we haven't been to the Simpson`s food court for ages......I did like the chicken and waffles....maybe time to go back, but we got the worst burger ever there and haven't forgotten......

Nice pics again and it must have been nice wandering around with only you to please...….we too love the Popeye area......there are so many little details to see and kids love it......it`s never too busy which is a shame really...it should be busier. Some folks don't wander past the water ride.....which is the wettest water ride on the planet......lol...….
 

lebeau

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 2, 2008
Forbidden journey is just amazing.....the upgrade is better and just enhances what was a fabulous ride already...….

I love the train journey.....simple and fun.

It`s funny we haven't been to the Simpson`s food court for ages......I did like the chicken and waffles....maybe time to go back, but we got the worst burger ever there and haven't forgotten......

Nice pics again and it must have been nice wandering around with only you to please...….we too love the Popeye area......there are so many little details to see and kids love it......it`s never too busy which is a shame really...it should be busier. Some folks don't wander past the water ride.....which is the wettest water ride on the planet......lol...….
We didn't spend a lot of time in the Harry Potter lands this year due to the Spring Break crowds. But that was okay. We have covered those lands during previous visits. We got just enough of a Potter fix this year to see us through. Our primary focus was on lands and attractions we had not experienced before like Popeye. I was glad I got to squeeze in Forbidden Journey and the train though. Kara's still too afraid of the dragon and spiders to ride it and Josie is iffy.

I hit the wall on Fast Food Blvd this year. It's better than your average theme park food court, but I am beyond ready to eat somewhere else. Unfortunately for me, it's one of the things Josie looks forward to when we go to Universal. The chicken and waffles sandwich is always high on her must do list. It's okay, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get one. The best thing I have had there was the buttermilk fried chicken. The fish was okay, there was just too much batter. I am sure we'll be back, but I'm looking forward to trying out more new restaurants in the future.

Popeye is insanely wet and lots of fun. But that's coming up in a future installment.
 
  • Lynne G

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2009
    Some more great pictures.

    I made the mistake of ordering one of those meals, and I could not eat it all. Though I have to say, my DD would probably eat there. While she is picky about chicken nuggets, she does eat those there. Not the waffles though.
    It's a good thing that many a place have their menu out front. That gives DD a chance to say no, to some of the places. They are the ones I sometimes try, without her. When I go with my DS, he's an I'll try most everything kid, so more opportunities with him.

    Potter areas do look so busy, with the crowds even at in the morning you were there. Yep, express on the train is a great saver. It's just the lines to get into the ride that sometimes are the issue.

    I enjoy walking around the Popeye area too, though not to get wet most of the time. We tend to play there after we've rode the 3 wet rides to our limit, then go there, on our way out, to go back to the hotel for some pool fun, before we clean up, and tour the parks dry.
     
    Last edited:

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    It was busy in March.....we didn't last long there some days.

    Yes, not overly drawn to go back to Simpson`s as we prefer to go offsite a lot, but those pics do make the food look tempting!!!

    And yes, there is so much more to Universal than Potter to be enjoyed.....we love the rest of the parks as much as the newer areas......
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Some more great pictures.

    I made the mistake of ordering one of those meals, and I could not eat it all. Though I have to say, my DD would probably eat there. While she is picky about chicken nuggets, she does eat those there. Not the waffles though.
    It's a good thing that many a place have their menu out front. That gives DD a chance to say no, to some of the places. They are the ones I sometimes try, without her. When I go with my DS, he's an I'll try most everything kid, so more opportunities with him.

    Potter areas do look so busy, with the crowds even at in the morning you were there. Yep, express on the train is a great saver. It's just the lines to get into the ride that sometimes are the issue.

    I enjoy walking around the Popeye area too, though not to get wet most of the time. We tend to play there after we've rode the 3 wet rides to our limit, then go there, on our way out, to go back to the hotel for some pool fun, before we clean up, and tour the parks dry.
    Thanks!

    If it were up to me, we would constantly try out new restaurants. But Mindy and the girls are creatures of habit. Once they find something they like, they stick with it. They want to go back to the same places and eat the same meals over and over again. They can be picky eaters so they tend to order food I find a bit boring. However, they rarely finish their meals so I tend to order very little myself and fill up on their leftovers even if it's not what I would have chosen for myself. We did get to try some new places this year, thankfully. We even added a new favorite to the list of must-dos.

    I spent some time exploring Islands of Adventure by myself this trip. I knew it was highly themed, but the level of detail still surprised me. There are so many things that are off the beaten path. I don't think most guests realize what they are missing. Sweet Haven is a neat place to hang out even if you're not planning to ride the Barges. I wanted to take the kids up to Me Ship, The Olive but we never made it. Something for next time.
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    It was busy in March.....we didn't last long there some days.

    Yes, not overly drawn to go back to Simpson`s as we prefer to go offsite a lot, but those pics do make the food look tempting!!!

    And yes, there is so much more to Universal than Potter to be enjoyed.....we love the rest of the parks as much as the newer areas......
    The thing that surprised us about the crowds was how concentrated they were in Potter most of the time. Towards the end of the trip, other parts of the parks started getting busy too. But for the first several days, most of the non-Potter lands were practically empty. Then we would turn a corner into Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade and BAM! That's where the crowds were hiding.

    There are so many overlooked details at Universal. I think people miss a lot racing from ride to ride. When I hear people complain about Universal I think they need to unlearn the lessons Disney taught them. Over there, you need to be as efficient as possible and there's no time to wander around taking in the sights. At Universal, that's half the fun!

    The pictures of the places you guys go offsite are always more tempting than Fast Food Blvd. But it makes the kids happy, so I will cope.
     
  • polarama

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 13, 2019
    There are so many overlooked details at Universal. I think people miss a lot racing from ride to ride. When I hear people complain about Universal I think they need to unlearn the lessons Disney taught them. Over there, you need to be as efficient as possible and there's no time to wander around taking in the sights. At Universal, that's half the fun!
    That's such a good tip to keep in mind!
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008


    We were midway through our Spring Break getaway at Universal Orlando. By this point, we had checked most of the boxes on our must-do lists. Today, we were taking it easy with limited park hours. The girls met me at Universal Studios for lunch and we were basically killing time until we were supposed to meet up with some of Mindy’s friends for dinner. While we waited, there was one more must-do we could cross off our list.



    One of the advantages of traveling to Universal during Spring Break was the ability to check out their version of Mardi Gras. This was an entirely new experience for us and we wanted to make the most of it. Last night, we had participated in the parade as bead tossers, but up to this point we had not yet sampled the New Orleans cuisine.



    Leading up to the trip, I had grand plans of enjoying the many Mardi Gras snacks. Universal offered a tasting lanyard which allowed guests to prepay for samples. It seemed like a good idea until I realized that the girls wouldn’t eat most of the items offered and I couldn’t possibly eat enough po boys and étouffée to justify the purchase on my own. I would be better off just buying the girls what they wanted, beneigts.



    For the uninitiated, beneigts are basically puffy powdered donuts. Universal served them with a choice of dipping sauces; strawberry, chocolate and caramel. Before the trip, we had worked out who wanted which sauce. We were going to need one of each. Pictured next to the beneigts above is Universal’s take on a king cake. These had been on our must-do list until reviews came in indicating the cakes were often dry.



    We would have sampled the beneigts earlier in the trip, but the booths didn’t open until 4:00 in the afternoon. We had been otherwise occupied during the hours that the booths were opened. But now we had time on our hands and we were facing a late dinner so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to cover our faces in powdered sugar.



    Since Universal doesn’t have an area themed to New Orleans, the Mardi Gras booths are located in the middle of New York. Sure, why not? It made for a convenient place to sit down and eat some sweets. We got three orders, one with each sauce. Kara wanted strawberry, chocolate for Josie and caramel for Mindy. Each one thought their sauce was the best, but I’m giving a slight edge to the chocolate which was darker and richer than I expected. They were all tasty though.



    While the girls were enjoying the beneigts, I took the opportunity to wander around New York. It’s a wonderfully themed area of the park that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic due to the lack of rides.



    If shopping is your thing, there are some terrific opportunities to pick up souvenirs in the New York section. I’m not much of a shopper, but I did enjoy ducking into a few of the stores here. I appreciate that there are unique items to be found. Certain T-shirts, mugs and toys are common to a lot of stores, but there are also items that can only be found in specific locations.



    Prior to our beneigt break, Josie had been in a bit of a mood. The sugar helped improve her mood a bit. Mindy and Josie decided to hang out on the stoop while Kara and I hit up the Film Vault nearby.



    The Film Vault is a great store for old school movie fans like me. There are sections devoted to Jaws, Back to the Future, E.T. and Gremlins. We also found souvenirs featuring The Breakfast Club, The Goonies, Universal Monsters, Ghostbusters, Beetlejuiceand Psycho.

    I could have spent a lot of money in there, but I ended up leaving with just one item – a free Annual Passholder pin featuring The Mummy. Universal has been giving out new pins to passholders on a monthly basis but you have to go to the parks to get them and they frequently run out. As an infrequent guest, I was happy to get my free pin, but I won’t be starting a collection.



    The Mardis Gras activities were picking up steam. There were performers roaming around interacting with guests. We weren’t going to be in the parks tonight to enjoy the festivities, so we decided to soak in some of the atmosphere before we left.



    A live brass band was out on the corner playing toe-tapping jazz standards. The party wouldn’t shift into high gear until the sun went down, but everyone was definitely getting into the spirit of Mardi Gras.



    One of the performers saw Kara’s birthday button and started talking to her. She asked Kara if she wanted to dance. Kara’s a dancer, so of course she said yes. They went out into the street and joined the party with stilt walkers and other revelers.



    They were joined by some other performers who formed a circle around Kara.



    She was having a blast as the street performers showed her one dance move after another. By the time Kara had finished making friends and strutting her stuff, we were getting pretty close to our dinner appointment. We still had time for one more ride, so we decided to squeeze in Race Through New York since it was close by and it was something everyone could ride.



    As we exited, we saw the ever-elusive Hashtag the Panda doing meets out on the street. Another box checked.



    We were scheduled to meet Mindy’s friends in City Walk and then ride over to Portofino Bay with them in a water taxi. We had allowed ourselves enough time to take care of another one of out must-dos at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium.



    The girls are mildly obsessed with sweets in general and French macaron in particular. Before we left, they wanted to swing by Toothsome for a box of the fancy cookies.



    We bought a box of twelve which was about $30 after applying our passholder discount. The girls picked six flavors each. Kara had been looking forward to the lemon-blueberry for months. She also got creamsicle, strawberry-lemonade and peanut-butter and jelly. Josie’s flavors included red velvet, chocolate-covered strawberry and cotton candy.



    They each sampled one right away and then saved the rest for later. I tasted a couple of the cookies and they were good. Were they worth $3 each? Not for my money. But the kids enjoyed them.

    The blue fuzz between the girls on the bench was Kara’s souvenir. She finally settled on a big Spongebob Pillow and a stuffed Thing #2 (pictured). For Halloween one year, Mindy and Kara had gone as Thing #1 and Thing #2 which is why Kara selected the second Thing specifically.



    It was shortly after 6:00 which meant that Larry and Janelle would be parking soon. They would have to hike through the dreaded parking garage which we knew would take a while. So we looked for a relatively shady spot where we could sit down and wait for them. Unfortunately, there weren’t a ton of options.



    Red Brick Oven had lots of unused outdoors seating, so I took a seat away from all the paying customers. Mindy and Josie didn’t approve. Since we weren’t spending any money there, they sat across the way on a sloped ledge. Kara split the difference with a photo op.

    Before long, we met up with Larry and Janelle and hopped a water taxi back to Portofino Bay. We had a very pleasant visit as usual. Dinner was at Sal’s Market Deli. On our way, we stopped by the club and grabbed drinks for everyone.



    Mindy loves the Margherita pizza, so we ordered one to share.



    I wanted an alternative, so I decided to try the Prosciutto pizza. It was topped with white ricotta cheese sauce, caramelized onions, prosciutto and shaved Parmesan. The ricotta sauce and caramelized onions gave the pizza a very sweet flavor.

    Larry and Janelle ordered a third pizza. I believe it was the Farm Pesto but it may have been a Primavera. I didn’t want to snap a picture of their pizza because that would be weird, right?

    I was worried that we had ordered too much food and I didn’t want it to go to waste. At home, that wouldn’t be a problem, but even with a refrigerator in the room I knew we wouldn’t eat leftover pizza. Fortunately, Larry started talking about his love of cold pizza. So we packed up all the leftovers in a to-go box and sent them with him.



    One of the reasons Larry liked Portofino Bay so much was that he and Janelle had been to Italy. He said he didn’t care for the authentic Italian pizza, but he loved gelato. So for dessert, he wanted to treat at the gelato shop nearby.



    The girls were more than happy to oblige. I was a bit burned out on sweets by this point.

    We sat outside eating gelato and catching up until it was time for Larry and Janelle to head home. We were a short walk away from our room and were quite ready for bed.

    Next: Soaked by Poseidon
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    lol.....I take pictures of other folks food all the time if we eat with friends!!! Not weird at all.....especially when I tell them it`s for a trip report...….no one minds.....

    Another lovely day gone by.....and love Sal`s pizza......it is so good!!!
     
  • lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Were the cookies worth $2 each?
    Depends on how much you like French macarons. Personally, I don't think so. But we have a specialty bakery that makes them locally and the price is about the same. The ones at Toothsome are at least as good, so I'd say this is the going rate. The kids (Josie in particular) definitely thought they were worth the splurge.
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    lol.....I take pictures of other folks food all the time if we eat with friends!!! Not weird at all.....especially when I tell them it`s for a trip report...….no one minds.....

    Another lovely day gone by.....and love Sal`s pizza......it is so good!!!
    I am sure Larry and Janelle wouldn't mind. They have read and enjoyed my previous trip reports. I just feel weird about it, so I don't ask. Purely a "me" thing.

    Sal's is a gem.
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008


    The end of our trip was fast approaching. This would be our last full day in the two main parks. We had experienced just about everything we set out to do, but there were still a few smaller objectives on our list. It was the final night of Universal’s annual Mardi Gras celebration and we were selected to participate in the parade.



    After breakfast in the Portofino Club, the kids decided they wanted to take it easy. They climbed back into bed and whipped out their devices.
    The one ride everyone wanted to experience before we left was Popeye’s Bilge Rat Barges. This is a water ride notorious for soaking guests. There is really no avoiding getting wet. We had put off riding this attraction because the weather continued to warm up as our trip progressed. The first couple days were a bit too cold for getting drenched.

    It had gotten warmer, but no one wanted to walk around the park in wet clothes. So we came up with a plan to bring along a change of clothes and store them in a locker. We had learned our lesson from the Jurassic Park River Adventure earlier in the week. Be prepared.



    The first order of business was to pick up the bracelets for the Mardi Gras parade at Universal Studios. They would be available starting at 11:00. So I packed up the spare clothes and headed out to the parks solo. The girls would meet up with me later when they were ready to ride.



    Over the course of our trip, I was constantly surprised by how little preparation other tourists had done. Every morning, there were long lines of people who needed to pick up their tickets. That’s no way to start your day. It pays to take care of that before you leave home.



    I was carrying around a big sack of clothes as well as a drawstring back with bottles of water and other essentials. I was going to be somewhat limited in what I could do until I dumped this stuff in a locker. Especially with Universal’s new ride locker policies. This stuff wouldn’t fit in the small, free lockers.

    The couple in front of me at the Studio Audience Center were even more weighed down than I was. I’m not sure what they were doing, but they were each carrying hiking backpacks. You know, the ones that are about four feet tall. They opened the packs and were going through them in line. They had several changes of clothes, books, devices, snacks and who knows what else. It looked like they were planning to live in the parks for a few days.



    It took a while for this couple to do whatever it was they were doing. But when they were done, I was able to get the parade bracelets. This time, we were going to be riding the Gator Float. I texted the girls to let them know we were all set. They were excited to ride again.



    I stored the bracelets somewhere safe and walked over to Islands of Adventure to get ready for Popeye. Originally, I planned to store the clothes in one of the all-day lockers at the front of the park. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. I knew the girls would want their dry clothes as soon as they got off the raft ride. So I continued carrying my bags instead.



    Mindy had expressed an interest in a red velvet cupcake. It was a craving. So I popped into the Croissant Moon Bakery to see if they had any. They didn’t have any cupcakes, but the baked goods were appealing. I took a picture for reference so I could show the girls if they wanted a snack later on.



    It was shaping up to be a beautiful day and the park was very crowded. Since I was weighed down with bags I was being very selective with rides. Anything that required a locker was out. I wasn’t in any big hurry. I didn’t expect the girls to arrive for a while. So I was mostly just hanging out and enjoying the atmosphere.



    I was headed towards Toon Lagoon. I wanted to make sure that our bags would fit in the ride lockers right next to Popeye. I was reasonably confident, but you can’t be too careful. I also wanted to finish exploring the themed walkways around the ride.



    There are so many little details around Sweethaven that most guests probably never see.



    I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to see Popeye’s mailbox, but the walking trails afforded some terrific views of Islands of Adventure and the attention to detail was a lot of fun.



    Although the park was busy, I had these little trails almost entirely to myself. If you have extra time in Islands of Adventure and you just want to get away from the crowds for a bit, this is a great place to relax and unwind. The park actually has a surprising number of semi-hidden areas like this to explore.



    It was just about noon and I figured the girls would be headed to the park soon for lunch. The line for Kong was longish, but it was the shortest I had seen it all week. With Express Pass, I figured I was in for a ten-to-fifteen minute wait. I texted Mindy to let her know I would probably be unavailable for a little while and hopped in line.

    I enjoy Skull Island and I think it gets a bad rap from fans who dismiss it as a motion simulator. Fifteen minutes is about as long as I am willing to wait to ride it and that’s about how long I spent in line. I was glad I was able to squeeze it in this year, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I had skipped it.



    By the time I exited Kong, Mindy and the girls were in the park. They texted from Seuss Landing. I told them I would meet them there and we would figure out next steps. To get to them, I cut through Hogsmeade which was insanely busy. I got to see a little of the Frog Choir show as I passed, but mostly I was just concentrating on getting through the crowd.

    When I got to Seuss Landing, I saw that there was no line at Honk Honkers. I knew Kara wanted to get some cotton candy, so I stopped in to see if I could surprise them. Unfortunately, they weren’t making cotton candy today. They were just selling the pre-made stuff.
    I met up with the girls near Cat in the Hat which they had just finished riding. Not surprisingly, the girls wanted lunch. I started running through some options nearby. We decided it was finally time to check out Mythos.



    Mythos has a reputation for being one of the best restaurants inside a theme park. That reputation is fueled by the restaurant’s multiple awards from Theme Park Insider. They proudly display a banner over the entrance proclaiming their title. I had long wanted to dine at Mythos to see if it lived up to this claim, but we rarely ever eat sit-down meals in the parks.

    Despite the crowds, there wasn’t much of a wait for a table. They told us ten-to-fifteen minutes but it was more like five. We were glad for the air conditioning and the cups of water available in the lobby.



    The restaurant is themed to the Greek god, Poseidon. There are fountains and cool sculptures everywhere. The overall decor feels like Greek mythology by way of coral reefs and conch shells.



    We were seated very quickly and our server was attentive. She let us know that the chef could work around any allergies we might have.



    Our drink orders and bread service came out right away.



    The girls were impressed with the molded butter. It’s the little things.



    I ordered the pad thai based on several reviews I had read online. It was very good. There was a good amount of chicken and shrimp. The rice noodles gave the dish a crunch you don’t typically get from pad thai.



    The girls ordered burgers. Mindy likes her beef medium rare and she said her Mythos burger was cooked perfectly. The portions were huge. None of the girls was able to finish their sandwiches. But they really liked them.



    Our waitress brought Kara a free dessert in a shotglass to celebrate her birthday. We were all stuffed, but we each sampled the chocolate dessert. The small dessert was packed with layers of cream, cake and chocolate shavings. There was a lot of flavor in that little glass. For $1.75, these mini desserts are a great option if you want to end your meal with something sweet.



    All in all, everyone really enjoyed our lunch at Mythos. I think it helped that everyone was really hungry. The girls decided they would definitely want to eat here again.

    Next: Bilge Rat Barges and Gator Floats
     

    Lynne G

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 29, 2009
    Woot, we love those wet rides. Great pictures as always.

    And yes, we always seem to fit Mythos in our places to eat lunch. Picky eater DD says their burgers are better than Finnegan's. And sorry to say, but the last time we ate at Finnegan's, it was determined it was our last for awile. Food was not not very good, as we had much better in the past. Oh, and I order that pad thai quite often. We like all we order at Mythos, and how fun, a small sweet treat on the house.
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Woot, we love those wet rides. Great pictures as always.

    And yes, we always seem to fit Mythos in our places to eat lunch. Picky eater DD says their burgers are better than Finnegan's. And sorry to say, but the last time we ate at Finnegan's, it was determined it was our last for awile. Food was not not very good, as we had much better in the past. Oh, and I order that pad thai quite often. We like all we order at Mythos, and how fun, a small sweet treat on the house.
    We haven't eaten at Finnegan's yet. It seems to have a devoted following among Universal fans, but I have read some pretty poor reviews of the food. So we won't be in any big hurry to address that. Mythos, on the other hand, we will return to. Out of the blue, the kids will start raving about how much they would like another Mythos burger. And Josie's not a big meat eater. My guess would be that is a reflection of having been hungry when we sat down for lunch. Food always seems to taste better when you have worked up an appetite at the parks.
     

    polarama

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 13, 2019
    Woah, Mythos looks very cool! Your water ride plan is super smart, we will have to remember that one!
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Woah, Mythos looks very cool! Your water ride plan is super smart, we will have to remember that one!
    Mythos lived up to our expectations. We're looking forward to going back.

    I definitely recommend a locker and a change of clothes for Popeye. It helps if you're staying on site though. Otherwise you are going to carry around a bag of clothes most of the day or have to use the lockers up front.
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008


    After a pleasant lunch at Mythos, we were headed to Toon Lagoon which was on the opposite side of the park. Either way we went, we were in for a bit of a trek. We decided to avoid the crowds in Hogsemeade and go through Seuss Landing instead. I took a picture of this restroom sign because we seemed to stop here every time we passed through this land.

    Getting Soaked



    I had a bit of trouble with the lockers by Popeye. I kept swiping my annual pass, but it didn’t seem to be working. A locker was supposed to swing open, but it just wasn’t happening. Eventually, Mindy pointed out an open locker off to the side. I guessed I had missed it. I went ahead and put our bags in and closed the locker without a thought.

    There wasn’t much of a line for Popeye despite the warm weather. With Express Pass, we walked right on to the raft with no line whatsoever.



    Bilgerat Barges us a very lively raft ride with some exciting dips but no big drops. Part of the fun is wondering who is going to get soaked next. Everyone will get wet eventually. Most likely drenched. The anticipation of the next big splash is part of the appeal of the ride.



    We were all soaking wet, so we decided to go ahead and ride it again. Our second raft wasn’t full. It was just us and a young couple that looked very “put together’. The poor girl had clearly spent a lot of time on her hair and make-up. She was carrying a teddy bear. I suggested she put it in the center compartment to keep it dry.

    They noticed how wet we were and asked if that was all from one ride. We confirmed that it was and told them there was no way to avoid getting wet. I wasn’t sure how they would react to the drenching they were about to receive, but they loved it. We all laughed and had a great time. When it was over, they asked if we wanted to ride with them again but we decided twice was enough. We were ready to dry off.

    Unfortunately, we had to wait for our locker. It turns out that locker I put our bags in didn’t open for us. I think someone else must have left a locker open after retrieving their belongings. As a result, we hadn’t properly completed the locker transaction. On the upside, our locker was free. (Edit: Mindy tells me we were charged for the locker so I don’t know what happened!) The downside was we had to wait for someone to come along and open our locker for us.
    It wasn’t a big deal but we ended up waiting around for five minutes or more for someone to come help us. He was very nice and asked to see me unlock my phone to verify that the contents of the locker were actually ours.

    It had taken some effort and a fair amount of preplanning, but Popeye turned out to be one of our favorite attractions. We’ll definitely be back on another warm day.

    Interlude



    After Popeye, Kara wanted to get some Dippin’ Dots. There are Dippin’ Dots vendors all over the park, so that seemed easy. But she had her heart set on a specific flavor; Rainbow Ice. As it turns out, there had been a run on Rainbow Ice Dippin’ Dots and all of the kiosks were out. We stopped by four stands in Islands of Adventure with no luck. But the guy by the park entrance said he was pretty sure the CityWalk location would be fully stocked.

    We were relieved to find out that the CityWalk Dippin’ Dots had not run out of Rainbow Ice ice cream. We explained to the guy behind the counter how we had searched high and low, so he gave Kara an extra-large portion. She was very satisfied.

    It was getting hot and we were running out of steam, so we headed back to the hotel for a break. I took the kids to the pool for a quick swim. Afterwards, we went back to the room to get ready for the parade. While the girls were doing their hair, I did a quick check-in on my phone. A Facebook post from one of the groups I belong to jumped out at me. It turns out Warwick Davis was staying at Portofino Bay which explained why I kept seeing a guy who looked an awful lot like Warwick Davis.

    We weren’t especially hungry following a late lunch and some snacks. But I decided to run down to the club to see what they were serving for dinner. From what I had read, the club would have an Asian night and Kara was interested in sweet and sour chicken. Well, it was Asian night all right. But the entree was beef and broccoli which I didn’t think she would like.

    I made up a plate and brought it back to the room. Kara ate some noodles, but didn’t care for the beef. I ate the meat which I thought was quite tasty. We weren’t going to get a full dinner out of the club tonight, but that was okay.

    Mardi Gras Finale



    We reported to the Barney gates for our second tour on the Mardi Gras parade floats. I pointed out the long standby line full of people waiting to take our place should we not show up. This was the last parade of the year and guests were excited. Some of the team members, honestly, seemed a little drained and just relieved that it was coming to an end.

    Since this was the final parade, things were a little different this time around. Before taking us all back to the floats, the team members had an awards ceremony in the courtyard. Bead captains who had received a certain number of compliments at Guest Services were allowed to smash a pie in the face of the manager of their choice.

    It seemed like the team members had a lot of fun participating in this ceremony, but it was a little odd to be an observer. The only bead captain we knew was Yuri from earlier in the week. She did win an award which as far as I can tell was well-deserved. Yuri was terrific. Our bead captain for tonight’s parade was not nominated.



    We had a blast the first time we participated in the parade. The second time around was still fun, but less so. We were placed on the Gator float which was one of the largest floats in the parade. It is the big finale which was cool. It also meant we waited around quite a while to join the parade.

    While we waited, they were trying to connect an extension that would allow a woman in a wheelchair to ride with us. This went on for quite some time. Eventually, it became clear there were technical difficulties. For a little while, it looked like they weren’t going to be able to get the extension working. Our bead captain re-positioned everyone assuming that we were going to leave without the woman in the wheelchair.

    Obviously, this woman was disappointed. She just started sobbing. It was a pretty serious bummer. Fortunately, they were able to get things working at what had to be the very last minute. We were getting a late start, but everyone was able to participate.



    The second time around was fun, but it didn’t have the same energy as our first experience. We were all glad we had gotten to participate in the parade and I think we would do it again. But I think twice in one trip was plenty.

    Since we had gotten a late start, we didn’t have a lot of time to make it back to the club for our nightly desserts. I suggested getting beneigts from the Mardi Gras booths. The girls were enthused. The line was long which was expected on the last night of Mardi Gras. I jumped in like while they looked for a restroom nearby.

    The line was long, but it was moving pretty fast. I expected to have a couple of orders of beneigts ready by the time the girls got back. But then, just as I was swiping my credit card, the fryer went down. They told me they weren’t sure how long it would take to get it up and running again, but I decided not to wait. It seemed like it would be a while.

    When the girls returned, I gave them the bad news about the beneigts. I suggested trying out Cowfish for dessert. We had been there many times and never ordered off the dessert menu. They liked the idea. But as you can probably imagine Cowfish had a long wait to get a table. CityWalk was packed.

    We were running out of options, but I had kept one in my back pocket for just such an emergency. I threw out the idea of frozen yogurt at Menchie’s. The kids liked it, but Mindy wanted something a little more substantial. Plus she was convinced Menchie’s would be as bad as everywhere else on CityWalk.

    Thankfully, it wasn’t bad at all. The kids got their frozen yogurt and were happy. Mindy got a buttery pretzel at an Aunie Ann’s stand. It wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, but CityWalk came through in the end.



    It was a gorgeous night, so we decided to walk back to Portofino Bay. When we got back to the hotel, we were surprised by a couple of kittens. They seemed too friendly to be strays. The kids sat down and played with them for a while and then they ran off. It turns out they belonged to someone staying at the pet-friendly hotel. Once they heard the door open, they ran right back into their room.

    Next: Volcano Bay
     

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