March 9-13 spring break trip....some thoughts

acarsme123

Mouseketeer
Joined
Dec 5, 2015
We were fortunate enough to get our entire trip in before they shut the parks down. In fact we got the notice on our phones the day before we left that things were shutting down after Sunday. I just wanted to reflect on our experience, this having been our first time to Universal. We normally do Disney World, but our son has been begging for us to go to Universal for awhile now so we decided to change it up. From all my browsing of these forums over the last year planning/researching our trip, I can tell people can be very much in one camp or the other when it comes to Universal vs Disney World. Lots of people enjoy both though too. I was very nervous about Universal since it was a big unknown. We've only been to Disney World twice in the last 4 years, but that's enough to make us feel like we have the system down pretty well. There was lots of anxiety about Universal. I hope I don't offend anyone about my views of Universal that I describe. I welcome open discussion about what we observed. Maybe my post will help other first timers that have questions and anxiety about what to expect.

1. Royal Pacific Hotel: Hotel was extremely nice and service was top notch. We drove to Orlando from Memphis, and we were greeted upon arrival by the staff that helped us with our luggage. We arrived to the hotel at noon, and we were able to start the check-in process. The check in staff were fantastic and did a great job explaining everything to us. Our room was not ready, and we were informed that they aren't guaranteed to be ready until 4pm. We decided to eat an early dinner at Citywalk as we had to head to the Magic Kingdom later that night for the dessert party and After Hours event. We got a text at 3pm stating our room was ready, and it was nice being able to get into the room for an hour or so before heading over to MK. We had a room on the 5th floor that overlooked the pool. I thought the room was very nice, although I had two issues. Our main blackout curtain was off a couple of the hooks on the end, making it hard to close all the way. I was able to work around it by tucking the one side behind the other and holding the curtain in place with the heavy little round table that was by the single chair. I guess I could have called maintenance to fix it, but I didn't want to really bother. The other issue we had was that the shower curtain in the bathroom did a terrible job for keeping water off the bathroom floor. Something about the design of the curtain just allowed a ton of water to get out of the tub area, and our floor had tons of water on it lots of times when we would get out of the shower.

My wife said she didn't feel that the room was much better than what we normally get at Port Orleans Riverside, despite Royal Pacific costing more money. I disagreed with her and felt that the room was slightly bigger and a tad nicer. But it wasn't a huge difference. The pool was nice and big. I wish the water temperature could have been a little warmer though.
On checkout day, since we had to be out of the room by 11, we were able to call luggage services and the nice man took all of our luggage down and the hotel kept it for us in storage until we were ready to leave. We had lots of chocolate food items we had bought at the Wizarding World, so it was nice to be able to leave it in a climate controlled environment until we were ready to depart since we were going to the parks one last time on departure day.

2. Parks/Rides/Employees/Lockers:
I had a lot of issues with the rides and motion sickness on the first day. Apparently now that I'm older I can't handle rides as well, especially with the 3D motion based rides that Universal relies so heavily on. The next morning I hit up the gift shop at the hotel, and I was able to buy non-drowsy Dramamine. That helped a ton with motion sickness and I had no issues the rest of the trip. The pre-shows for some of the rides are very funny and clever, especially for the Simpson's Ride. I also enjoyed the announcements being made for Kang and Kodos Twirl and Hurl. Very funny. The cue for MIB and the Harry Potter rides were fantastic too. Universal impressed me with how well the cues were done on some of the rides. We didn't always get to fully appreciate everything that was in the cues though having the Express Passes and blowing through the lines so quickly. It would have been neat to see more of the cue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but we just always used our Express Passes.
With the exception of Hagrid's of course, almost all rides were walk-ons with having the Express Passes. The only exception was the second time we rode The Simpsons Ride. We were in the cue for about 20 minutes before we even entered the pre-show room. I actually got out of line (my son was still holding our place) to confirm with the employee directing the regular vs express passes that we were in fact in the right line. She said we were and that sometimes there was still a bit of a wait.

The Wizarding World was absolutely fantastic. I was blown away with the detail. I've been to London a couple of times, and the details of the elevated train tracks with the occasional sounds and rumbles of trains going overhead was fantastic. We did buy our son an interactive wand and we were able to do some spells, but not all. We did do early entry one of the days, and it was nice being able to do some of the spells with not many people around. The place does fill up quickly though. Lots of the spell spots would not work for my son. He got incredibly frustrated at times. One of the people they have walking around helping people with spells checked my son's wand and said it was still working ok. I think some of the sensors need adjusted at the spell spots, or they just need to make them less sensitive. Seems like you had to be pointing at too precise of a spot and doing too precise of movements to get things to work....even then when you were spot on they always wouldn't work. I don't feel like my son got as much use out of his wand as I would have liked him to have had for the money. The Wizarding World got so damn crowded by late morning and into the afternoon that my son just kind of shut down and didn't want to even bother try doing spells anymore. I really wish Universal would allow you to already be at the entrance for the Wizarding World when the early entry starts. The walk back to Daigon Alley is long and that easily takes 10-15 minutes into the short amount of time you have. It would have been nice to have even more extra time.
...
I am a bigger guy, but I have been working since last summer to lose weight leading up to the trip. At the time of the trip I weighed just under 260 lbs. I wear 38 size pants and I am 5'9". I carry all my weight in my upper body and I am pretty normal sized below the waist. I did get on every ride, but some were very tight. Rip Ride Rocket was the biggest issue I had. They were able to get the restraint latched, but the bottom of my ribs were sitting on top of the restraint bar! I seriously thought I was going to break a rib on that ride! It was not comfortable and it was by far the worst as far as fitting. I refrained from riding that ride again the rest of the trip. It was nice that Hulk had "modified" seats for us bigger people. I had no issues fitting on that with the modified seat. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was pretty tight for me as well, but it was fine for the most part.

Hulk was our favorite ride. It was my son's first upside down roller coaster and he loved it so much we rode 6 times on our trip. One of the best coasters I've been on!
.....
Employees: Ok, so this is one of the differences we noticed between Universal and Disney. There were a lot of nice employees at Universal. Some of them you could tell really took their role seriously, especially the people working in the Wizarding World. Every employee in that area seemed to be top notch.

But some of the food workers, and the workers in lines in the other areas of the park were kind of surly, and just didn't seem as professional as what you would find at Disney. Both my wife and I noticed this. Some of the workers operating some of the rides goofing off and just chatting it up with their coworkers. The fast food workers I felt were just the same kind of people you'd find in most fast food places in America....not the same level of professionalism as what I feel you get at Disney. In fact, I'm convinced some of these people wouldn't have been able to hold a job at Disney. Maybe that's just the culture at Universal compared to Disney, but it was different to be sure.
....
Parks:
Ok, some people I'm sure might take issue to this opinion. Having grown up in Ohio, we had both Kings Island and Cedar Point. I kind of had a problem with all of the carnival type games in the park. To me that seemed tacky and cheap, especially for what you're paying to be there. I told my wife I felt overall Universal was in between Kings Island and Disney. Certainly a step up from King's Island, but just not quite Disney level.

My wife was also disgusted with the cleanliness of the bathrooms at Universal compared to Disney.

I also did not appreciate all the damn survey takers stopping me multiple times a day asking me if I wanted to take a survey. NO!!!! I am on vacation! Don't ask me for a damn survey! If you want me to take a survey, send me an email when I get home from my trip like Disney does and maybe I'll answer your questions then. I was seriously getting mad about it by the end of the week. I have never seen that kind of stuff at Disney in the times we've gone.
...
Lockers: We had a lot of anxiety about the locker system. We couldn't determine if we should buy fanny packs so we wouldn't have to deal with them, or just suck it up and use them. We decided against the fanny packs, and honestly, the locker system wasn't bad at all. Much easier to use than I thought they would be. The only locker issue we had was for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. What a terrible location for those lockers! It was such a cluster! The second time we rode that ride, my wife actually ended up putting our stuff in the lockers for Hagrid's so she wouldn't have to deal with the mess at Forbidden Journey. They really need to revamp that locker area for better flow control!


Food:
For some reason I just had a hard time getting excited about picking restaurants at Universal compared to Disney. They all seemed the same to me. Mostly just standard American fare at most of the restaurants. I seriously don't understand why they bother to put things like Burger King and Panda Express at Citywalk as well. Come on Universal, make something unique! We did have some enjoyable meals. NBC Grill was a favorite. So much so that we ate their twice on the trip. Bigfire was really good. Cowfish was decent, but ranked at the bottom of all the places we ate, including the Wizarding World restaurants. Toothsome's was pretty decent and the desserts were great. The food in Wizarding World was surprisingly very, very good. It really surprised me with the quality both for what we had at lunch and breakfast.

But overall I get more excited for the restaurants at Disney. Disney has more unique themes. When I'm on vacation I want something unique that I can't get back home. I felt most of the food at Universal was just stuff I could typically find in most decently sized cities in America. I feel like they need to try a little harder.

We certainly had some good times during the trip. It didn't invoke the same feeling that Disney does for us though. When we leave Disney, we are sad to leave and don't want to go home. Maybe it's the smaller scale of Universal and with the Express Passes being able to hit all the rides in a fairly short amount of time. We repeated a lot of rides, and at a certain point it got really repetitive. Disney is so much bigger in scale it's hard to feel repetitive.

Well, that's my trip report. It's good to put my thoughts down on paper so I can remember. I welcome open discussion about our experiences and enjoy friendly debate as long as it's cordial. Thanks!
 
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macraven

Proud Redhead
Moderator
Joined
Apr 21, 2003
Thanks for sharing your trip with us
It’s interesting to read how all explore and cover the parks as a newbie

We all have different experiences on our vacations and don’t have debates on what posters write

I’m glad you were able to do the vacation before the parks shut down
 

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