Quick Solo Trip Report

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by cschaaf, Nov 14, 2018.

  1. cschaaf

    cschaaf DIS Veteran

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    We did HHN a few weeks back and I wanted to do a trip report, but we're still dealing with no internet at home thanks to Hurricane Michael (which hit home while we were in Universal).

    Instead, I will run down a solo trip that followed.

    I was attending a conference over at Disney at the Coronado and I had some spare time to spend at Universal. We bought APs last Christmas and I figured it was my last chance to take advantage of mine.

    I'll break this into a few sections:
    • Day 1 - USO
    • Coronado experience
    • Day 2 - USO
    • Day 3 - IOA & USO

    Day 1

    I drove down on Saturday and parked in the garage at 4PM. The Studios park was closing at 5 for HHN, so I went to that side first. Walked directly to MIB - and I quickly learned to love Single Rider!

    We'd never been to Universal without EP - the first time we went, we bought EPs. From then on, we've stayed at one of the on-property hotels that include EP.

    MIB showed a 70 minute standby wait. I figured wait times would probably be inflated to discourage people from getting in line so close to close, but I made the hike to the back corner anyway. I walked in the Single Rider line and, after a brief pause to merge with some EP users, the chain was lifted and I walked down the stairs and was the only single rider in line. One car got loaded up with EP folks and I was on the next car.

    I don't know if the standby line was actually 70 minutes or not, but it did look pretty long.

    Next up, I wanted to ride Mummy. I saw the sign that said everything had to go in a locker. I've also always had a backpack when touring, so I always needed a locker. This time, I only had sunglasses, a phone, a wallet, and car keys. I went and got a small locker, then walked to the entrance. Standby showed 35 minutes, Single Rider was at 20. I probably waited 10 minutes in the SR line. And I'd say about 40% of the people in line were staring at their phones the whole time - so I could have kept mine with me.

    It turned out to be a critical error. I think I would have had enough time to make it to Rip Ride Rocket when I exited Mummy. I went to retrieve my stuff from the locker and the locker area was a mad house. There was a huge crowd standing at the locker bank next to mine, surrounding a TM. When I got to my locker bank, the screen said the lockers were full and when I scanned my ticket, there was some error and the locker wouldn't open. That's when I noticed that all of the locker banks had red lights above them. The locker system had been shut down.

    So I got in the line to get to the TM. She was super stressed, understandably so, and wasn't handling it all that well. Neither were the customers.

    When people would get up to the TM, they'd say the locker bank they were in and she'd say, "I'm only dealing with this locker bank right now. Go wait by your lockers."

    So she was trying to stand in one place and clear up that locker bank despite the fact that there were dozens of other people waiting - and probably waiting longer.

    Customer would get up to her and scream that she needed more help. A fact that I am pretty sure she already knew. She'd say that she called for help and will help anyone at that locker bank, and they'd just continue to yell that she needed more help.

    It was getting hot in the room and people were really angry.

    Eventually, another TM came and he was trying his best to jump from bank to bank trying to clear people out.

    The next issue was - they'd ask you your locker number and get huffy if you didn't know it. I didn't remember mine - with the ticket scan lockers, there's usually no reason to remember your locker number. You remember which bank, go scan your ticket, and the locker pops open. I knew the general area - I could narrow it to 2 lockers, but I didn't know exactly which one.

    Other customers had no clue even which bank they were in - which really complicated things.

    Also, when they would get your locker open, they wanted to see either your ID or for you to unlock your phone. Not a big deal, but it did slow things down. It took over 20 minutes for me to finally get my stuff back - far too late for RRR. Oh well.

    I walked over to IOA and checked Hulk. 120 minutes for standby, 90 for single rider. Nope, not doing that, so I left the parks and headed out to find dinner. I tried to find a place in downtown Orlando and wasn't able to find it, so I decided to just head to Coronado. Unfortunately, I struggled finding my way there without running into a toll road on-ramp that offered a cash option. Everything I was finding was Sunpass only.

    If your city's economy is largely based in tourism, why would you make toll road on-ramps that only accept a form of payment that many of the tourists will not have? Doesn't make much sense to me.

    Anyway, on to Coronado. I went past Disney Springs and considered stopping there for dinner, but it looked jammed. Both garages showed full. I continued on and checked in at Coronado and figured I would get dinner at the food court.

    Continued in next post...
     
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  2. cschaaf

    cschaaf DIS Veteran

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    I checked into the Coronado and walked over to the food court and got some gumbo – it was disgusting. I’m not all that hard to please, food-wise, but this was terrible.

    My room was in the 6A Ranchos area, so about as far away from the lobby/conference center as you can get. It’s a long walk! When the restaurant in the middle of the lake is complete, that will help that walk.

    I had never stayed on Disney property before and maybe Coronado isn’t the best example of a Disney hotel, but I was not impressed. The room interior looked to be new and was functional, but nothing that I wouldn’t have expected from a place for half the price (and I booked at a conference rate).

    For the most part, the room was clean. There was a wadded up tissue behind the sink basin when I checked in. It stayed there for two more days until housekeeping found it. There were two bottles of water that the previous guest had left in the refrigerator and the refrigerator door had been left open, so it was hot.

    The exterior of the hotel looked tired. I was shocked to see that it was built in the late 90s, I would have guessed 70s. It looked like someplace the Griswold’s would have gone in the original Vacation movie. I know they were going for ‘old’ southwest… and I guess they got it.

    I did not expect outdoor hallways for the price. The walls were very thin. The first night, I heard music all night from the neighboring room. When someone checks out, housekeeping is clearly instructed to turn the TV on to the resort channel and, as is typical of many hotels, the volume is super loud. Since the room next to me was empty, that TV stayed on all night blaring the resort channel.

    It was worse the next few nights. The lady in the next room had a cough – it sounded like she was in my room coughing.

    I heard a few people at the conference call the hotel ‘a dump’. I wouldn’t go that far, not even close, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as I expected based on the price and Disney reputation.
     
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  4. cschaaf

    cschaaf DIS Veteran

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    On Sunday, I had a conference event in the morning, then drove over to Universal in the afternoon. I had about 4 hours before I had to get back to the conference. Grabbed lunch at one of our favorites – Red Oven Pizza Kitchen, then went to USO to ride MIB.

    The park was slightly crowded, but less crowded than Saturday. I didn’t note down any of the posted wait times. I did three rides in a row on MIB with less than a 1 minute wait each time.

    It looked like rain was on the way so I made my way to Mummy. The plan was to ride Mummy once or twice, then ride RRR. I skipped the lockers this time.

    I did two fast walk-ons on Mummy. I checked my phone and the storm was just about on top of us so I walked out of the arcade and found an outdoor table with an umbrella. The rain started in about 2 minutes and it poured. I waited for a small gap in the storm, then headed back to the car.

    After more conference stuff, it was pouring again, so I grabbed something to eat at the Coronado food court while I waited it out. I ordered the crab cake sandwich. When I got over to the pick-up area, the cook told me it would be a 20 minute wait. That would have been helpful to know when I ordered, but the storm looked like it would last a while longer and I wasn’t looking forward to the long walk in the rain.

    The crab cake sandwich was a big improvement over the gumbo. The rain let up a bit, but it was hard enough that I had to take the path to the left of the lake. That allowed me to use those outside hallways most of the way and avoid getting totally drenched.
     
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  5. cschaaf

    cschaaf DIS Veteran

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    My third trip over to Universal came on the last day of the conference. Meetings ended around noon and I drove over to Universal. Lunch was at Hot Dog Hall Of Fame – never ate there before. I am a big fan of Chicago dogs and theirs was pretty good.

    I hadn’t been able to ride Hulk in my previous visits, so I made the left to IOA, put my stuff in a locker, and headed to the single rider line for Hulk. The park looked pretty empty.

    Either Single Rider was closed or I couldn’t find the right place to go and I ended up in the Standby line. I briskly walked to the EP merge, waited for one family to pass, then walked up to the front row decision point.

    The front row line was long and I started to wait it out, then decided to backtrack over to the ‘normal’ line. I watched one train load and got on the next one. Exited the ride and walked back to the entrance to look for the SR line. When I got to the metal detectors, I asked the TM where the SR line was. He looked in the queue and said, “It’s a walk-on. It won’t matter which line you pick.”

    This time, I walked the whole way through the queue and got on the next train. The front row line was considerably shorter so some must have done the same thing I did. I got 2nd row both times, so it was as good as I could have hoped for.

    Hulk was the only thing I wanted to ride at IOA, so I went over to the Blue Man Group entrance to UOR. I think the TM was happy to have anyone come through that way. Stopped at RRR and, after putting stuff in a locker, went in the SR line. Again, I walked the queue without stopping until the load area.

    They were actually stopping the load belt because the cars were leaving empty. There were 4 of us at the load and they waived us through, then started up the walkway.

    From there, I walked back to Diagon Alley and The Three Brothers show was just starting. There was a moderate crowd and I stood near the back middle. I had a really hard time hearing the dialog – it was loud and echoed a lot. I am not an HP fan and I had no idea what was going on, but it was still pretty cool. The puppets and effects were good. A few minutes into the show, I noticed two TMs in security uniforms standing a few feet to my left and slightly behind me. One had an ipad and was working something. I took some steps over to see what was going on and he was controlling the stage effects. Pretty neat for me to watch, but it also seemed like they should have found a better way to do that. Maybe that wasn’t the normal way they do it?

    I walked through the new Globus Mundi shop. It’s tiny and I didn’t see anything that stood out as something that’s not sold elsewhere. But again, I am not an HP expert, so maybe I missed something.

    Maybe you can guess where I went next – MIB! Three rides in a row, zero wait. Hit Mummy one last time, then it was time to drive home.

    While I really missed touring with my wife, I had a blast ‘acting like a local’.

    The final tally for rides was:

    RRR = 1

    Hulk = 2

    Mummy = 4

    MIB = 7

    Total time spent waiting in line was probably less than 30 minutes with 10 of those spent on my first Mummy ride.
     
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  6. cschaaf

    cschaaf DIS Veteran

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    Oh, one last item

    When I was leaving for home, I wanted to grab something for my wife. At Christmas, she wanted some macarons from Toothsome, but the place was so packed, you couldn't even get to the counter to see them.

    I went in and didn't see any pricing for the macarons. I figured I'd scope out the dozen flavors I wanted, then ask. While I was looking, two young girls, maybe 10 and 7, came to the counter and asked the price. $3.50 for one or $20 for 6. Yikes! The girls, with wadded up bills in their hands, lowered their heads and walked away. I shook my head and walked away lol

    I decided to go with plan B and walked over to Voodoo. On our HHN trip, I wasn't too impressed with their donuts - they were fine, but I didn't get the hype. I had gotten 2 different filled donuts and the filling was lacking and all in one spot.

    I picked up 4 donuts this time. For my wife I got an ODB and a Chuckles. For me, I got a Portland Cream and a Mango Tango.

    My wife really liked both of hers, especially the ODB. She said she should have split that in half - it's basically like eating a doughnut + a few cookies.

    Both of my filled donuts were much better than the ones I had last trip. Lots of filling and distributed throughout the doughnut.

    Maybe the macarons are amazing, but at that price, I don't think I'll ever try them. For less than $9, I got 4 large donuts.
     
  7. schumigirl

    schumigirl It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts

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    Nice report...…..you certainly managed to do quite a bit during your stay...…

    The macarons weren't amazing...….they weren't even that great......you made a good decision with the donuts!!

    As for the guys with the ipads…you see them at all the shows around the parks like BeatBuilders for example.....it`s common to see them fiddle with sounds and such...…

    But, a nice read...….
     
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  8. cschaaf

    cschaaf DIS Veteran

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    Thanks! I figured I’d hit my favorites and, luckily, my top favs all have single rider.

    Glad to hear I made the right choice re the macarons. The price made the choice for me ;)

    The iPad guys seemed oddly out of place in Potter land. I’m surprised JK agreed to that.

    For something like Beat Builders, it makes a bit of sense. But for Diagon Alley, where they built a stage, it seems like they could have built a small control booth and blended it in.

    Doesn’t bother me, either way. I probably had more fun trying to peek at what they were doing than watching the show itself.
     
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