Universal/IOA Slightly Delayed TR


#1

Well, I’ve been back for 6 days, and have great notes for a wonderful TR, but I am in such denial that my vacation is over I haven’t gotten around to writing it yet. If I do that makes it official. I will try to get it done today and post by tomorrow.

It was a wonderful trip - kids were surprised! HRH is awesome for kids, DD and I decided if it were just us we’d probably do RPR again (we had some major housekeeping issues the first few days). I think we rode Spiderman at least 10 times over the 5 days we were there.


#2

OMG! It just dawned on me that you are back! I know that denial feeling all too well- its almost as bad as the “what do I do with myself now?” after a wedding - almost like you have nothing left to look forward to (which is so silly since there is always something to plan…) Welcome back!


#3

I love the HRH! Can’t wait to hear more.


#4

you’ve been back for 6 days already? Wasn’t it only yesterday we all wished you a great time?
Ok, for Dopey here, re-read that quote and explain that? I have not had any coffee, nor is my hair dry- I do not understand it. Thanks :blush:


#5

I can’t wait to hear more also!! I am excited to learn more about US/IOA!! BTW thanks for the postcard!! I love it!!


#6

I can’t wait to read more and get details.


#7

I can’t wait for the TR!

We keep thinking of staying onsite at US/IOA, is it worth it?


#8

I can’t wait to read more!!


#9

It is definitely worth it!!! I can’t imagine going to Universal and not staying onsite. That part of our trip is so much more laid back. If you stay onsite there, your hotel key is your key to unlimited use of the Express Line (often referred to Front of the Line Privileges). You get to ride the rides more often in less time which gives you more time to relax by the pool. You really should give yourself a night or two onsite there. The hotels are deluxe hotels. We like thet Hard Rock Hotel because it is about a 5 minute walk to the parks. We have also stayed at Royal Pacific Resort and really enjoyed the tropical theming there.


#10

Thanks Jeannie, I will have to give it a go when we go on our next big trip!


#11

I have the report written and am working on re-sizing the pics. Hoping to get it done later tonight. Stay tuned. This is way more work than I thought.


#12

OK let’s begin (and hope the pictures post right):

Day One – Sat 6/24

DH and I were too excited to sleep. Both of us were tossing all night. After much deliberation and input from all you MBers, I had the taxi reservation changed to 7:30am (instead of the original 7:15), but they showed up at 7:15 anyway! We were all ready and off to TF Green airport in Providence (much easier airport to get around than Boston).

After checking luggage, security, and the Dunkin Donuts line (I travel a lot out of Providence for work and this is a VERY important line – longer than security), we get to our gate. Now, our true destination was still a surprise at this point – the kids think we’re flying to Philadelphia. The funny thing was that the plane after ours was going to Philly. The sign at the gate kept flashing Orlando and Philadelphia. And we had told the kids that we were going o get on a plane that went to Orlando, but stopped in Philly where we would get off. So, DD, DS and I take our place in the A line (we flew SW and had printed up our boarding passes the day before). DH absolutely refuses to sit on the floor just to get a good seat on the plane, and goes off to the chairs to drink his coffee. Well, we start chit-chatting with the woman behind us and she very casually asks if we are going to WDW. I very curtly say a quick “no” and then feel bad for being slightly rude. I realize that the kids will find out the surprise very soon, so I go off to tell DH that the reveal is coming any minute because people are talking and if he wants to be there he better sit with us. Well, he decides that no he doesn’t want to sit with us, but he does want to see the surprise, so we decide to tell them. They are very confused and not believing us at first, since I had all those fake travel confirmations, and then I pull out all our real confirmations and DS starts to get really excited. DD on the other hand is still confused and slightly disappointed that we’re not going to Hershey Park. She gets over it when I promise to buy her a Hershey Bar when we land in Orlando. She also mentions that she feels bad because she promised to buy my friend Andrea a Hershey Bar. I told her that Andrea knows we’re not going to Hershey and then DD starts to realize that all my friends who told her the other day to have a great time at Hershey Park all were in on our secret.

Here is DS all excited about the surprise:


#13

And DD looking over the real plans, not really knowing what to think:


#14

Well, now I’m free to chit-chat with everyone freely, and the woman behind me felt slightly guilty that she was the cause of our revealing the secret early - even though we assured her she was not. The plane ride was uneventful. I showed DD the Sharpie I had packed in my purse just to write graffiti on the walls of the bathroom at Margaritaville, and she could not stop laughing.

We landed and Chris from Quicksilver was right there waiting for us – the kids loved seeing someone holding a card with our name on it. Luggage was about a 10 minute wait and then we were off to the Hard Rock Hotel.

By now it was 2pm. Check in went pretty smoothly. I had to wait about 10 minutes for my turn. This was just one of the little things that I didn’t really like at this hotel vs. RPR. All 3 Universal resorts are managed by Loews, but I think the HRH is owned by Hard Rock and only managed by Loews. There were a lot of little things that were missing – I’ll go into more detail later – and the special express check-in line for Loews first members was one. We had reserved a room on Club Level and were hoping for a Deluxe Queen (there are 4, but they do not book them, they are assigned as upgrades at check-in). At first the woman told me that there were no deluxe rooms on club level, and I told her to call someone. She did, and said that they were unavailable. I pulled out my notes and asked for the 4 specific room numbers and after another call she told me that I could have one 2 nights later, that they were all occupied now. That was good enough – at least she had asked the right question the second time – but we decided we didn’t want to have to move and took a regular room. She checked us in, gave us our vouchers for our ticket to pick up at the concierge, and then our room keys with a number to call for our room number. Our room wasn’t ready yet, but would be by 4pm (check-in time) and they would call us if it was ready sooner (she took my cell #). She also gave us a very cool CD with 80’s music (which is played everywhere in this hotel except the rooms – DH and I loved it – kids did too, but there wasn’t much they recognized) and blow up air guitars for the kids. We left our bags with luggage check and headed for the concierge to pick up our tickets.

We were supposed to get 5 day tickets and had decided not to go to the parks that first day, but the tickets were 6-day. The kids were kind of looking forward to the pool and we had suits in our carry-on bags, so we turned around to head for the pool. Well, in the 15 minutes it took to check-in and pick up our tix, they sky went from blue to a complete downpour. So, we decided it would soon pass and we would explore the hotel. We went into the gift shop for postcards to send my MB buddies and I discovered thing #2 I like better about RPR – the HRH gift shop is a Hard Rock gift shop. With the exception of a few sundries like Tylenol and Magazines, all the merchandise is Hard Rock – no postcards and no sign of anything Universal anywhere in the shop. I did find a Hershey Bar for DD, so she was happy (and of course I had to buy one for DS too).

We headed up to the club lounge and then we spot the #3 reason why HRH doesn’t have that Loews touch (and I’ve only been here 30 minutes). The club lounge is very small at HRH, about half the size of RPR’s. The offerings were wonderful, and the staff was great, but they were also missing the computer for club guests that the RPR and Portofino Bay hotels each have. Now, I had depended on visiting Mouse Buzz and I never wrote down the addresses from your PMs for the postcards, so now I would have to find the business center to get them. We stayed there a little while, and at one point some guy sits next to me (I’m in the second room a TV area) and lights up a cigarette – I have nothing against smoking, just would prefer not to do it myself and wish people would stay in the designated smoking areas. At that point I think that this is also a smoking room and I ask the concierge. Nope, just some guy who decided he didn’t want to trek downstairs to light up. The concierge then asks him to leave (and he gives me dirty looks for the next 2 days) and I cross #4 off my list (temporarily).

After about 30 minutes of exploring (and locating the business center for future use) the rain stopped and we headed for the pool. Some bozo had broken the no-glass rule and also the glass he brought and the pool staff informed us that the pool would be closed for the next 2 hours because they had to re-vaccuum it. So, we decided that since the rain had eased up we would walk over to City Walk. What I did like about HRH was the proximity to City Walk. RPR was about a 15-minute walk and we relied so much more on the water taxis. The HRH is only a 5-minute walk. What I didn’t like was the one or 2 times we tried to take the water taxi because there was a light rain – there was no covered waiting area at the water taxi dock like there is at RPR (#4 back on the list). Also, I think because the HRH is so much closer they run fewer taxis, or at least they run the one they have far less often. The few times we waited for a taxi at City Walk it took so much longer for HRH’s taxi to arrive, and it has such a shorter distance than the other 2 hotels. But, I digress . . .

Here are the kids at US gates:


#15

We shopped a little at City Walk, and then DD and I spotted a Hair Warp stand and I talked her into having her hair wrap done then. (This is a vacation tradition for us). She wasn’t ready, but there was no line, and we weren’t interrupting any pool or park time to do it, so she agreed.

Here is DD getting wrapped . . .


#16

And me . . .


#17

By now its 3:45 and no call from HRH. I call the number they gave us and they say the room is not quite ready, try calling back in 15 minutes (duh!). So, DH decides to head back with DS because by the time they get back it will be close to 4pm, and DD and I finish getting wrapped. Shortly after we’re done (and on our way back) DH calls with the room # 7017 and we meet DH and DS at the room. Well, the room was ready except for one thing. No blankets or duvets. They had informed DH that they knew they were missing and would be sent up shortly (much more on that issue later). We get dressed for dinner and head to the club lounge for cocktails (well wine & beer) and appetizers. It was crowded. Each morning at breakfast (7:30-10) and every evening for happy hour (5-7) and dessert (8-9:30) it was packed. Tough to get a seat. But, we found one by a window with 2 comfy chairs and DD and DS settled into the TV room. This became our evening ritual (one night we even were disappointed that we couldn’t get “our seat”) and we even gave DD my cell phone and let her and DS explore the hotel (together) for a little while because chatting and having cocktails in the lounge didn’t really interest them.

At around 6:30 we started to head over to RPR for our 7pm Tchoup Chop reservation. We walked to City Walk and then took the Water Taxi to RPR. Oh, I want to interrupt here to mention something great Universal has done since last August when we were there. Instead of having the bag check inside the gate area, they have moved it to each entrance at City Walk. Now, I’m sure the garage entrance probably gets crowded at security, but the hotel walk entrances were never crowded and the guard checking bags was done so quickly that it was actually a pleasant experience. The guards were all so friendly because they had the time to be that way, and there was no big line for bag check inside the park gates. Anyway, on the water taxi we chatted with a couple and their daughter from Cincinnati who were there for a convention. We got to RPR and went to the gift shop to get DH a lanyard (we found all of ours from last year, but not his) and get my postcards. Then it was off to Tchoup Chop. Again, amazing food and service. Right away they brought out the shrimp chips and dipping sauce (peanutty flavor) and then DH and I both had the miso soup with ****ake mushrooms and lobster (amazing). DH ordered salmon with some type of nut-crusted edge. I ordered the clay pot (rice with shrimp and other sea food). DS ordered the Bam-Burger with sticky rice instead of fries, and DD had a platter that had egg-roll, fried rice and other assorted items. We were so full afterward that we decided to skip dessert (we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to walk if we ate more) and headed back to the HRH.

Another new thing since our last visit. They have these pedi-cabs going back and forth from the resorts to City Walk. The drivers work for tips only. DD and DS begged, but there is only room for one adult with 2 kids, so I sent them off and met up with them back at the room a few minutes later :


#18

We get back around 8pm and still no blankets. We had already called down to Star Service twice before we left for dinner, and we called again (notice that the few minutes housekeeping promised has now turned into 4 hours). They tell DH that they had a laundry problem and the best they can do is send up a few blankets and promise us the duvets in the morning (well why did they promise us everything 4 hours ago if they couldn’t get them???). I am fed up by now and go down to the desk t find a manager while DS and DD change for the pool (which has now been swept and is open). I ask for a manager and complain about the 3 calls and promises over the last 4 hours, and he apologizes, and tells me I was calling the wrong dept for 4 hours. Now, one would expect that if they had no housekeeping button on the phone, but had something called “Star Service” and the person that answered each and every time promised me I would have blankets in a few minutes, that I would assume I was doing the right thing. He tells me in the future to call housekeeping and says the blankets are on their way and offers us $40 off the room for tonight because it wasn’t completely ready on time (I didn’t ask – he offered). OK, I’m satisfied and I head off to the pool to meet the rest of the gang. They have found chairs near with a good view of the screen - there was supposed to be a live band tonight, but they’re showing a dive-in movie instead – Robots – and the kids are on the water slide having a blast.

Now, here is where I’m torn. DH and I really like RPR better, but for families HRH can’t be beat. The pool staff makes the whole experience worth the trip. The slide is water-park type slide (a big hit). DD and DS discover quickly that if they find a stray water vest lying around and bring it back up to the top of the slide (where they keep a bin for the little ones) some of the lifeguards will let them go to the front of the slide line. At one point DS had a pile of 5 vests near my chair for future use! The staff are so friendly. Most knew the kids names within the first hour we were there each day. They have activities going on every hour for the kids (aqua golf, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, water balloon tosses) and every hour they do something for the adults to (cups of ice water, chilled towels, clean your sunglasses). It was so worth staying here just for that!!! I had a hard time getting the kids to leave each day – even to go to the parks.

At about 9:00pm DH heads back up to deal with the blanket issue, and we follow at around 9:45 - I had to drag the kids out of the pool. No blankets. Kids are cold and wet and tired and we have no blankets!!! Finally after 3 calls by DH in the last hour they are delivered at 10:00pm – 6 hours after check-in (and I don’t know how many phone calls) 4 blankets and 2 very ratty and wrinkled looking green bed-spreads (looks like they dragged them out of storage just to satisfy us). We retire for the evening – frustrated about the blankets, but a very good day over all!


#19

Day 2 – Sunday 6/25

I wake up at around 6:00 am – I have packed my running clothes, but I have no desire to run (this soon becomes a trend, and what turns out to be a week-long vacation from running too). So, back to sleep and wake-up again at 8:00am. We decide to do the pool in the morning, and get dressed into our suits and head for the club lounge. Food was good, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, danish and muffins, and yogurt. DH heads with the kids for the pool, and I head to talk to the hotel manager again – I checked to folio on the TV on our way out and no $40 credit as promised. Also, want to warn them that the ratty bed-spreads are not going to satisfy us. I ask for a manager, and am told they are busy and one will call me back. Well, I have read enough reviews on Trip Advisor to know that at HRH this means there will be no call, so I tell the woman at the desk that I will wait until a manager comes to talk to me. This takes about 10 minutes during which the woman got very uncomfortable having me stand there and went back to check twice that the manager was coming. I explained the problem of the night before, and the delivery of the ratty bed-spreads, and the lack of the $40 credit and pointed out that the credit was their offer, not my request. I told the manager that the bed-spreads were not going to satisfy us and that obviously housekeeping was not taking responsibility for anything so I was holding him personally responsible for seeing that the duvets were delivered this morning and that the $40 was credited to our room. He assured me it would be taken care of and he gave me his card.

Off to the pool. It was drizzling slightly so DH grabbed a chair under what would become “our umbrella” (it pays to get to the pool early) right near the end of the slide and watched the kids slide for hours. We head back to the room at 11:30 to get ready for park timer and guess what – room is made up, but no duvets. DH opens the door and there is a housekeeper in the hall who barely understands English, but seems to know we were supposed to get duvets. She comes back 5 minutes later with duvets and tells us that she took them from a room that was just made up for new guests (wonder if they had the same problem we did). We stop at Emac & Bolios in the hotel for some ice cream before heading off to the parks.

Now – I have to say this trip was so relaxing in terms of doing the parks. Universal does not have Express Pass (similar to Fast Pass) unless you either buy it ($15 to $40 depending on what time of year you go – I think it was $40 while we were there) or you stay on-site. So, our hotel keys were a magic pass to get us into every express line – we never waited more than 5 minutes when lines were up to an hour (except for one day we waited 15 minutes in a line where the stand-by was only 30 – we decided they were probably loading the express line wrong). We would do a few rides we wanted at a leisurely pace and then head back to get ready for dinner. It was wonderful and worth every penny we paid to stay on-site.

So, today we decided to do Universal Studios. We rode Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast, and Shrek 4-D and left DH off to do Revenge of the Mummy while we headed over to Amity to ride Jaws. We shopped a little on the way; DD bought a bracelet, and then did Jaws. Now, this ride can be scary for little ones, but both my kids have ridden it before several times, and I swear the shark is so un-lifelike you can see the screws. But DD10 was very tense and seemed afraid. DH called as we were getting off and we decided to see Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review. DS did not want to see it at all, but admitted afterward that he loved it. Great music – a little corny – but overall a great show.

Next we headed for Men in Black Alien Attack and rode 2x. DD and I learned the secret of the Red Button (100,000 bonus points if pressed at the right time) and vowed not to tell DH who beats the pants off of us every time. DS and DH decide to do Back to the Future and DD and I decide not to (too jerky for us) and grab a lemon slush while we wait. Next it was off to ET Adventure, and we all made up fake names for ET to say good-bye to us – DH was Cameron, I was Lucinda, DD was Eloise, and DS was Bobio (we have no idea where he got that one).

After ET we decided to wander over to City Walk and cash in some Meal and Movie Coupons I had collected (one courtesy of Franco – Thanks, Franco!). Once we got there it started to pour, so we cashed the coupons and quickly ducked into a store. While browsing I got a call from the manager I spoke with that morning. He assured me he had checked the room and we had duvets (we knew that) and that he had credited to room 50% for tonight as promised. I thanked him and then told DH that he had heard me wrong and mentioned 50% instead of $40. (This room was $400 per night once you added in the tax!). We decide to see what showed up on the folio in the morning before we celebrated. We decided to take a water taxi back to the hotel, and just walking to the taxi port we got drenched.

Some pictures before we got drenched - Sponge Bob:


#20

Doc Brown from Back to the Future: