This last week Joseph and I joined my parents at Universal Studios for an early Anniversary trip (both of us got married in October.) Due to a late decision to go, our usual hotel was booked (Lowe’s Royal Pacific) so instead we decided to try out a family suite at the new Cabana Bay Resort. We went for 5 days, 4 days in the part and a “pool day” as well as one night at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
First off, I have no idea what the hummus was going on this last weekend, but Friday and Saturday were packed! I don’t mean “hey it’s kind of crowded for October. Weird,” I mean 175 minute wait for the Mummy ride crowded! It was ridiculous. It was also HOT. 90’s in October hot. Needless to say, Friday was a killer and unpleasant. (The fact that we got in around midnight the night before is probably one reason it was a rough day.)
With that said, the following two days were back to normal crowd size and weather. MUCH more enjoyable and amiable. Anyway, back to my review.
- The resort is listed as a budget resort, is 50’s themed, and family oriented. It has a bus to take you to the parks that begins operating at 6am, a full hour before the early hours begins at the parks. For more information, check out the Cabana Bay Resort page at the Universal Site.
- The buses were ALWAYS available. No joke, we never waited longer than a few seconds to board one. Mind you, during busy hours they were sure to cram as many people in as possible, but it was there and it wasn’t a long trip back and forth between the parks and hotel.
- The buses drop you off at the end of CityWalk, right at the big hub. This means you have to walk through CityWalk to get to the parks. The walk, while not long, isn’t pleasant in the heat. And it’s SUPER crowded at night. Very crowded. “Don’t let go of your tiny human for fear of them getting lost or trampled” crowded. That part sucked.
- The hotel’s food was good.There was a good variety, good portions, and the unlimited refillable cups were a great purchase. (Icees, coffee, and hot chocolate with no time limits! WHOO HOO!) The varieties were quite epic. There were snacks, frozen yogurt, salad bar, and other restaurant type options. It was expensive, I won’t lie, but it was there.
- The fire pits were nice! We bought the s’more kit for about $8, which isn’t bad. It included sticks and all the fixings for S’Mores. We brought a bunch of our own ingredients, but the kit was worth it and fed the 4 of us quite nicely.
- The pool and lazy river were lovely. Both were heated and the pool had music playing under the water. That was pretty awesome. The lazy river was relaxing and fun, but be warned there are water guns placed around as well, for those who feel the need to be evil ( like parents!) There are also water sprouts, water spritzers, and waterfalls around it as well, so some steering is required if you don’t want to get too wet.
- The suite we had itself was very nice. The kitchenette area had it’s own sink, bar to eat at, microwave, refrigerator, and SHELVING! That part was exciting. Remember all the times you’ve gone on trips and had to keep your food stashed in drawers, not here! You get shelves! WOOT!
- The walls were thin, I won’t lie. However, it wasn’t really an issue late at night.
OMG, this was magical! SOOOOO much to say and love.
- Interactive Wands: These are a must. I realize they are expensive, (you CAN find cheaper ones on ebay), but as Harry Potter fans, the chance to run around, swing your wands and make cool stuff happen, is immeasurable. It is really a dream come true for HP fans, young and old.
- Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream: I LOVED this ice cream! I won’t lie, the Butterbeer is great in soft serve, but my favorite was the Earl Grey & Lavender. I can still taste it! MMMmmmm.
- Escape from Gringott’s: First off, it’s not a coaster, it’s not a 3D ride, it’s really not like anything at the park. And that’s why I loved it! Well one reason why. The other being the extreme attention to detail in the que, as well as the fact that my favorite death eater makes an appearance throughout the ride. We also got to jump to the front of the line because we were sporting our Gryffindor uniforms. 🙂 See? Costuming gets you privileges!
- Knockturn Alley: This was my favorite part of Diagon Alley. (Does that say something about me?) The spells were great, Borgin and Burkes was my favorite store (Bellatrix EVERYWHERE!) and there’s one particular door that I loved watching people open.
- Shutterbuttons: This isn’t something I see mentioned very often, but that we found to be very cool. As part of our vacation package, we do this moving photographs photo shoot. They record various scenes of you and your guests / family / friends in various situations and locations using a green screen. It was a blast as it let us ham it up and act completely silly. Plus, the workers there LOVED their job and Harry Potter, making the whole experience that much more memorable. It’s expensive without the package, but I highly recommend doing this when you go! They give you a digital copy and a hard copy to take.
Islands of Adventure
We’ve been twice before, and the crowds this year were insane. The closure of The Hulk, construction of King Kong, and the early hours being over at US instead of IOA were mostly responsible for this I believe. When you don’t have The Hulk to balance out crowds, the only thrill rides are in Hogsmeade, making it very crowded at night. Just bad timing on our part. Hopefully when we go again in two years, it’ll be different.
- Rapture Encounter: This was great! The fact that our friend Ryan was the handler for both times was a plus! The mannerisms and personalities of each raptor were obvious and hilarious! Not to mention our costumes were well received. Thank you Universal workers were acknowledging Doctor Sattler and Owen. We appreciate that attention to detail! (And that you know your stuffs!)
- Hogsmeade: Just as fabulous as always! But crowded. I will be so happy when The Hulk and Kong open, hopefully balancing out the crowds a bit. If you’re going anytime between now and summer of 2016, keep this in mind.
With the exception of Diagon Alley, there wasn’t much new to do at Universal Studios. This was fine, but something to keep in mind as the new Fast & the Furious ride isn’t out yet so certain rides are always going to be busy with long lines; Despicable Me and Transformers specifically.
- Rip Ride Rocket: Joe and I went on this twice and I gotta say, not impressed. We’ve avoided it in the past because of it’s tendency to freeze and stop halfway up. This was no exception. It didn’t open for a while after opening because of issues, and when it did, it wasn’t enjoyable. Yes you get to pick your own soundtrack, but the ride is rough and jarring, leaving my neck less than happy after each ride. Also the ride operators were less than caring or friendly when working. We complained that one seat’s audio wasn’t working and his response? “Too bad man” and a shrug. Really man? We went over to IOA and complained and ended up with some free express passes to make up for the rudeness, but that shouldn’t have been necessary.
- Men in Black: this ride’s que has been redone and it’s awesome! Very retro and exciting. Plus if you lucky enough to get a host who is completely into his job, it makes the experience exceptional. Also, if you’re looking for something different, you should inquire about the immigration tour. It’s worth it!
As a whole, I love Universal Studios and always leave with the best memories and experiences. Each time is different, never the same.
- Go early if you can. Yes it’s dark when you get there. Yes the buses may be empty, but it’s so worth it.
- Wear a costume! Or at least dress up for the HP parts if you can. You may be a grown man or woman in a robe, and you may get looks on the way, but who cares?! Once in there having that outfit on changes the entire experience for the better. you become PART of the world, not just a visitor and screw what other people think! If you love it that much, show it! I can’t tell you how many people we met who wished they’d dressed up. We had a mother & son befriend us and two young wives from Wyoming follow us around one morning because “you seem like the cool people and seem to know where you’re going.” Without the uniform, you’re just a muggle. Do you really want to be a muggle?
Take a break and people watch. Especially the kids. Their reactions and sheer joy are what make it so great sometimes. The best experience I had was on the Hogwarts Express. We were in a compartment with a family and their young girl. The family was clearly disinterested and tired but the girl, probably 7 or 8, was having the time of her life! Every time something she recognized popped up on the window, her eyes lit up and her smile was huge. She never said a word, but you could see the magic and joy on her face. I only wish her family could have seen it but they weren’t paying her a bit of attention. Whenever she looked up, I gave her the biggest grin and thumbs up I could. I was in my uniform so I hope she felt that someone understood her.
NEXT BLOG: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!!