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  1. #1
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    Default Back from Universal and ready for more!

    Husband and I took our first trip to Universal Studios last week. Here's a recap of our first impressions:

    Attractions - B+ to A grades from us! We like a variety of rides/attractions and Universal definitely has a large spectrum to choose from. We rode pretty much everything at least once, and many things twice. Repeats included Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts, Spiderman, The Hulk, and Hogwarts Express. The duds that we wouldn't do again were King Kong, Shrek, Jimmy Fallon, Dr. Doom's FearFall (only because you only get one drop!) and Fast & Furious Supercharged (although the queue is great). Husband gave an A+ to Rip Ride Rock-it but I hated it. It was way too intense for me, but I loved Hulk, so...

    By our second day, especially since we spent a majority of the day in Universal Studios, we were pretty sick of simulators and 3D. It made me long for the classic dark rides at Disney. The only ones left at Universal, I believe, are ET and The Mummy (although not as tame!).

    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - A+++++++ infinity. Both areas are so well done and detailed down to the last brick. We are big fans of the books and movies, and I think they did a spectacular job of creating an immersive experience. After 10 years of vising Disney, it was so fun to have another jaw-dropping moment experiencing something new at a park. I hadn't felt that way in a long time. Diagon Alley had the edge for me when it came to over all themeing, but Forbidden Journey is the better ride of the two. My husband preferred Gringotts because the large screens on Forbidden Journey make him motion sick. For some reason the Gringotts and Spiderman/Transformers ride technology agrees with him better. Anyway, I could have spent all day in either area just soaking it all in.

    Accommodations: We splurged to stay at Royal Pacific Resort for the proximity, the amenities, and Express Pass included in the price. Some of the things Husband doesn't like about Disney include how long it takes to travel from a moderate to the parks by bus and the Fast Pass System. So, needless to say, it was worth every penny to him to be able to walk to the parks and use the unlimited Express Pass. But back to the hotel - I spent more time here while he was working. I checked in early and spent the afternoon by the pool until the room was ready. The staff here were outstanding, as many of you may have seen from my Facebook post. Everyone from check-in staff to the pool attendant went above and beyond to make me feel well taken care of. We got vouchers for free drinks at their bars because it was our anniversary trip, when my locker in the gym wouldn't open security came ASAP to open it for me with no issue or complaint. The room was well appointed, but next time we will pack our own toiletries. The soap they have leaves a filmy residue that neither of us liked, it almost made our skin feel slimy. Ew. Otherwise, I am positive we won't stay anywhere else but RPR, Hard Rock, or Portofino.

    Food: In the parks we ate at the Three Broomsticks, the Leaky Cauldron, and Mel's Diner. It was adequate for mass produced park food. Outside the parks we had drinks and apps at Jake's in RPR (a couple times, we liked it there!), and dinner at Cowfish (a big win), and dessert at Toothsome (a disappointment, but I think it's because we ordered the wrong things). I do agree with feedback I've read elsewhere that Disney dining is better - I much prefer the Disney counter service compared to what we had here.

    Crowds: I think we hit a sweet spot with our travel dates. Crowds were pretty low Thursday and Friday - we rarely had to wait even without Express Pass. Saturday Universal Studios was very full and Islands was better though still busy. With Express Pass we didn't wait more than 25 minutes for any ride, which was nice.

    A good sign that Husband really enjoyed himself is when he starts talking about our next trip before the current one is done. On our morning walk to the park on day 2 he was already planning our return with the kids. YES! We'll probably go back next year and spend an extra day to do Volcano Bay with them. All in all, Disney still has my heart, but a small space has been cleared for Universal!
    ~Nikki~
    Last Trip: July 2015 Birthday trip - Disneyland! April 2016 - Disneyland!!
    Next Trips: INTERCOT 20th Anniversary Meet October 2017!

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  4. #2
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    May 2000
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    Thanks for the trip report, Nikki! It actually made me a little homesick to go back there. So glad you like the Cowfish, also one of my favorites. So you didn't get to go on Mummy this trip? Such a great attraction! Oh well, something to look forward to for next time.

    BTW, I with you on Rip Ride Rock-it. I've been on it a couple of times because my son loves it, but all I get is a headache each time from my head bumping against the side bars!
    Beth
    INTERCOT Staff--
    Theme Parks and Accommodations



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  5. #3
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    No, we went on the Mummy and really liked it! I meant that the only rides I remember at the park that are more like classic dark rides without the 3D bells and whistles are ET, Men in Black, and The Mummy, and Jurassic Park in Islands of Adventure. By the time we rode Simpsons, our last ride that had 3D motion simulation, we were tired of that trick.
    ~Nikki~
    Last Trip: July 2015 Birthday trip - Disneyland! April 2016 - Disneyland!!
    Next Trips: INTERCOT 20th Anniversary Meet October 2017!

  6. #4
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    Glad to see you had a great trip.

    We have always loved Disney, but Universal also holds a special place in our hearts. We didn't venture over to Universal until the Harry Potter stuff opened. My kids are both HUGE Harry Potter fans so it was a must do when it opened. We have come to love the ease of the Universal experience. And as time has gone it seems we find things that Universal does better, that we once only held Disney to. Customer service is a big one. I often feel that Disney is simply riding it's past Customer Service status, but Universal team members are the ones who have truly gone above and beyond on our last few trips if I compare the two.

    We did a Universal only summer trip the past three summers. Last summer the kids said they missed Disney and so we are booked for a Disney trip at the end of this month. Now that it's getting close to summer they have both said that they will really miss our annual Universal summer vacation. Those three trips were somewhat last minute vacations, and Universal was just the easiest place to go last minute. No pre planning needed like Disney. Tried the beach but, if you don't book your summer condo in late winter/early spring there isn't much left over. Universal can be booked in one simple phone call, then you just show up! We love that it's such an easy trip!
    Denise

    Resorts we've stayed at in 20+ trips: ASMo, ASMu, ASSp, PC, CSR, CBR, POR, POFQ, WL, AKL Jambo, AKL Kidani, Poly, Contemporary, BC, YC, BWV, OKW, SSR, Swan, Shades of Green, Vero Beach, Disneyland Resort

    Next Trip: May\June 2018!! Shades of Green and Polynesian!!!

  7. #5
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    You guys have me dying to try Universal. We still haven't made it over there but after reading this thread, I am seriously considering cancelling the WDW trip I reluctantly reserved for this summer. I have only booked the room using the summer pin code I got and have not bought tickets yet. Our window to schedule FP+ is coming up before long and I am dreading dealing with it. I think I may run the idea by the kids of going to Universal instead and maybe going over to one of the beaches for a day or two or maybe even Busch Gardens.

    When we do go to Universal, I am going to have to find a list of the rides that are the simulators. I absolutely hate the 3D simulator fake ride thing. Most of them give us motion sickness and we feel bad or weird for a while so we just don't do them at all anymore. I haven't been on Star Tours but twice and the last time was so long ago I couldn't even tell you how many years ago.

  8. #6
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    A couple tips for you, DisneyNut. First, download the Universal Orlando App. It has the complete list of rides/attraction and indicates if they are 3D/4D (we learned 4D means it's 3D plus getting spritzed with water) simulations. There are a lot of rides like this in both parks, so if you eliminate them you aren't left with much else to go on. Now, Husband gets queasy on Star Tours, but the reason he doesn't on rides like Spiderman and Gringotts is because they are like hybrid of dark track and simulation rides (think Dinosaur plus Flight of Passage or Star Tours). Those rides combine sections of video and simulation, which tricks your brain into thinking you're in motion, and short sections of dark ride-like stationary scenes give his eyes time to catch up to his brain and feel steady before going into the next simulation scene. Sorry if that doesn't make much sense, I am trying not to spoil too much about those rides. I would be happy to PM you more detail offline if you'd like.

    Second, work with Magical Journeys. They also book Universal hotels and ticket packages. Wendy was super clutch, as always, and made the entire process very easy. We modified our reservation and she took care of it quickly. They have different systems to manage hotel reservations and tickets and I was glad not to have to think about the logistics when booking the trip.

    While Express Pass is super convenient, when the parks are slow it's not needed. If you're not going to stay at a hotel that includes Express Pass in the reservation, the add on price to a base day ticket is at least $90 (in busy times and on weekends it can go up over $120!). If wait times aren't more than 15-20 minutes standby, it may not be worth the expense. All the Universal hotel guests get access to one park an hour early (it rotates like at Disney) so if your family doesn't mind getting up early then you can hit all the major stuff in one park very quickly during that early entry hour and then get over to the other park within an hour of that opening time when crowds are still low. While it does require a lot less planning, when the parks are busy you still need to employ some strategy and be prepared to wait a little.
    ~Nikki~
    Last Trip: July 2015 Birthday trip - Disneyland! April 2016 - Disneyland!!
    Next Trips: INTERCOT 20th Anniversary Meet October 2017!

  9. #7
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    Our family has been visiting Universal since the Early 90's. We have enjoyed it and loved watching them progress from a single park to a multi-day vacation destination. It is a totally different vibe than Disney, and one we enjoy. I have found they really have upped their game since Comcast bought them and it is reflected in the Team Members.

    It is NOT wrong to love both Disney and Universal.



    Quote Originally Posted by BriarRose0708 View Post
    Food: In the parks we ate at the Three Broomsticks, the Leaky Cauldron, and Mel's Diner. It was adequate for mass produced park food. Outside the parks we had drinks and apps at Jake's in RPR (a couple times, we liked it there!), and dinner at Cowfish (a big win), and dessert at Toothsome (a disappointment, but I think it's because we ordered the wrong things). I do agree with feedback I've read elsewhere that Disney dining is better - I much prefer the Disney counter service compared to what we had here.
    I just returned from a 7 night Disney stay and was wishing for the counterservice food at Universal LOL. I love the small stands with Gyro's, Kebabs, potato jackets. For sit down meals we tend to eat at the resorts.

    Nanc
    Nanci Rossetti
    Vacation Specialist
    Magical Journeys
    http://www.yourmagicaljourneys.com
    The Magic begins with YOU!
    The Official Travel Agency of INTERCOT.com

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  11. #8
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    Thanks for the report! I'll be at Royal Pacific in 10 days, and we've never stayed onsite at Universal before. I'm actually kind of regretting that we are doing Universal first and THEN Disney at POR - I think I should have done it the other way around. But we're really excited and your review makes us feel we chose the right hotel and made a good decisions staying onsite!

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