home News forums Reviews Trade links

Go Back   The DVC Boards at MouseOwners.com - the place to talk DVC and Walt Disney World > TRIP REPORTS > Non-DVC-Related Trip Reports
 Register FAQ Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

 Notices

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes

Old 09-02-2019, 03:03 PM   #1
Jay324
Grand Villa
 
Jay324's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 2,373
Default Back from Universal Great Time but Hurricanes Suck

Just got back from my first Universal trip and it was fantastic. We were originally booked at the Loews Royal Pacific but the day before I noticed the price for the Loews Portofino Bay was only $48 more for 4 nights. Called to see if I could replace the hotel and it wasn't an issue. So we booked 4 nights Wed-Sun with Sunday at BWV for a night of Star Wars.

Not doing a complete day by day trip report and I surprisingly didn't take many pictures so it will be just my thoughts and a summary of the trip.

Resort:

Loews Portofino is a fantastic resort that may very well be a notch above any Disney resort (on par with the Grand Floridian). We arrived and got an upgraded room that had a great patio overlooking the pool. Patio had 4 chairs, a table and even an extra lounge chair. The rooms were huge with an extra large bathroom including a tub and standing shower. Really just a nice room with very comfortable 2 queen sized beds.

The resort itself 3 pools with the main pool being very Disney like (looked similar to the pool at the Poly) and it had a nice slide for the kids and myself.
It had some really nice looking restaurants but we only ate at Sal's Marketplace for lunch one day (cancelled Bice on the last night due to the upcoming storm) and the food at Sal's (pizza, antipasta, etc.) was the best on our trip for the Universal Food was just OK to poor.

The design and common areas were really first class and we really loved the vibe at Portofino......everyone at the Pool and throughout the resort were just so nice. Felt good to be on vacation staying at Loews. Front desk and service were also tremendous and really on par with Disney....need to cancel the last night...no problem at all. Everything was just so pleasant. And the hotel provided a bus to Volcano Bay and a terrific boat ride to Universal City Walk which both arrived very timely. Never a real wait for the boat. As for the walk to Universal, we did it twice and it took around 15 minutes. Beautiful walk with all the surrounding areas fully landscaped and even walked through a butterfly garden on the way. Much nicer walk than from any Disney hotel but it is different where Portofino was very tranquil so the walk is somewhat tranquil. Disney has more of a hurry up to get there type of walk through bus paths, lots of people, etc.

We went thought the Hard Rock once and thought this would also be a great place to stay....about an 8 minutes closer walk as well to the parks.

Overall, Loews Portofino was a top notch place and we would gladly stay there again.


Planning: We were pleasantly surprised at how much we really enjoyed our park visits. Maybe because it seemed so empty and we had the express pass on top of the low crowds which was just such a game changer. But overall it was the lack of planning that made the trip just so amazing. I am so used to going to Disney with 10-15 people and I love my Disney trips. But I am the one that is constantly planning for everyone and while I enjoy it... sometimes it feels burdensome. Universal requires zero and I mean zero planning. Walk in an do whatever you want. We had the 5 day 3 park pass (used 4 and upgraded for free to the seasonal AP before we left) + express pass included by staying at Portofino. We had a game plan of Universal on arrival, Volcano Bay Thursday morning, etc. but after a day it changed and changing was just so easy. It really was do whatever we wanted and just have fun. Nice change from a Disney trip.

Parks: If you haven't been to Universal go asap if only for the Harry Potter Areas. Wizarding World was tremendous in IOA and Diagon Alley was even more spectacular in Univeral. On arrival we hit Diagon Alley and did the Escape From Gringotts ride. This was the best ride I think I have ever been on for it is a real family ride that was done just so well from the entry to exit. From start to finish is just so amazing that it is almost indescribable. My 13 year old loves Harry Potter and the look on her face in any Harry Potter area was just unreal. She loved it to say the least as did my other Daughter, my wife and I. Throughout the trip we did Escape 6 times and every time was just so incredible.

We took the Hogswart Express train that night as well...to Hogsmeade for the other Harry Potter ride (forbidden journey). The Hogswart Express is another one of those memorable rides that also was just done so well. Arriving in Hogsmeade we did the castle tour (line) which was amazing but the ride.....made me a little queasy. Did it twice on the trip and while my daughters enjoyed it my wife and I both felt a little off after the ride. Just not my thing but I can see how others would love it. We also ride the Flight of Hippogriff that night and around 10 x throughout our trip. My 10 year old just kept saying again and with the express pass again was no issue. She really loved that ride....kind of like Barnstormer (which is just OK) but if it made her happy why not. As for the Hagrid ride, we just didn't want to wait for it wasn't included in the express pass and even though the parks were empty this ride had a 100 minutes wait every time we went over there....another time.

Overall, Harry Potter World is the best themed area in a theme park that I have every seen and nothing and I mean nothing at Disney comes even close to either Harry Potter Area.

To be continued.
__________________
Jay324 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 03:17 PM   #2
cmrdgrs
Add-on Aficionado
 
cmrdgrs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: 12 Grimmauld Pl
Posts: 7,259
Default

Sounds like a great stay (barring the hurricane of course). I loved staying at the Hard Rock the one time we went to Universal. I also just love the low level planning of Universal over Disney.

If all of Universal were like the Harry Potter area I think Universal would blow Disney out of the water, but IMO they have more work to do. That said, I still very much enjoy Universal.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
__________________
Carolyn


Where I'm Going 2019:

Friday, 01/18/19 - Monday, 01/21/19 - Offsite (Hyatt Regency Orange County)
Friday, 02/08/19 - Sunday, 02/10/19 - VGC
Sunday, 06/30/19 - Friday, 07/12/19 - HHI
Friday, 08/30/19 - Monday, 09/02/2019 - VGC
Friday, 09/27/19 - Tuesday, 10/01/2019 - VGC
Friday, 10/11/19 - Monday, 10/14/2019 - VGC
Friday, 10/25/19 - Wednesday, 10/30/2019 - VGF
Wednesday, 10/30/2019 - Monday, 11/04/2019 - BWV (Running 2nd 10K w/BFF - 11/02/19)
Monday, 11/04/2019 - Saturday, 11/09/2019 - BWV
Friday, 12/20/19 - Tuesday, 12/24/2019 - VGC


cmrdgrs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 05:55 PM   #3
disneyteach
Grand Villa
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: OH
Posts: 1,136
Default

Thanks for posting! I am in the beginning stages of planning a Universal trip ahead of our annual Disney trip next year. I was leaning towards Royal Pacific, but with your report I may also look into Portofino! Did you book 3rd party? I have friends who booked through Costco before and I was curious how early they release their deals.
disneyteach is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 06:21 PM   #4
Jedimom3
Grand Villa
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Tennessee via South Louisiana
Posts: 1,481
Default

Thanks for sharing all the fun! We agree. Love Universal and love Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I'm with you tho, Forbidden Journey makes me very, queasy. can't keep my eyes open for the whole ride. That said, I still say it's one of the best attractions in Orlando. wonderful for your daughter/HP fan to have such a magical time.

we'd hoped to try Portofino last year, but didnt' manage it. Maybe next time, Pool sounds great. DH always worried about the longer walk, but since most say the boats are constant, or that the walk is nice, we might try it.
So glad all enjoyed.
Jedimom3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 06:27 PM   #5
Wonderdog4
One Bedroom
 
Wonderdog4's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 215
Default

Thanks for the review of Portofino Bay. We recently added a trip to Universal and are staying at Portofino Bay for 2 nights following our F&W trip in November.

I agree that the Harry Potter areas are very well themed and the parks, in general, seem much less hectic than WDW.
Wonderdog4 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 07:22 PM   #6
Jay324
Grand Villa
 
Jay324's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 2,373
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by cmrdgrs View Post
Sounds like a great stay (barring the hurricane of course). I loved staying at the Hard Rock the one time we went to Universal. I also just love the low level planning of Universal over Disney.

If all of Universal were like the Harry Potter area I think Universal would blow Disney out of the water, but IMO they have more work to do. That said, I still very much enjoy Universal.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
Thanks hurricane warning aside it was a great trip. As for more work to do, after this trip, I am not so sure they can do much better but the size of the property really limits Universal compared to Disney and I will follow up on that later on. But Universal is really a nice place

Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyteach View Post
Thanks for posting! I am in the beginning stages of planning a Universal trip ahead of our annual Disney trip next year. I was leaning towards Royal Pacific, but with your report I may also look into Portofino! Did you book 3rd party? I have friends who booked through Costco before and I was curious how early they release their deals.
We looked at Costco and they had an all in 4 night 5 day ticket for $2,850. Booking straight through Universal we started with the Royal Pacific for $1,084 and bought 4 undercover tourist tickets (special summer deal) for $1290 so I at first I didn't think the $500 was worth it for Portofino. Then we searched and so an AP rate at Royal Pacific for $926 for the 4 nights (tax included) so I rebooked with the AP rate. I called and confirmed that as long as I have an AP by check out (seasonal is fine), I can book that rate. Then the day before I saw Portofino at $974 for the 4 nights AP rate so I switched. I think it was a great decision for I really loved Portofino. Check the AP rates for they have a nice discount and although we upgraded to an AP (for free), the front desk never checked our AP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedimom3 View Post
Thanks for sharing all the fun! We agree. Love Universal and love Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I'm with you tho, Forbidden Journey makes me very, queasy. can't keep my eyes open for the whole ride. That said, I still say it's one of the best attractions in Orlando. wonderful for your daughter/HP fan to have such a magical time.

we'd hoped to try Portofino last year, but didnt' manage it. Maybe next time, Pool sounds great. DH always worried about the longer walk, but since most say the boats are constant, or that the walk is nice, we might try it.
So glad all enjoyed.
It's not just Potter many other great rides and shows. Volcano Bay is also nicely done. Yes, if you get a chance and see a good rate, Portofino is a great vacation resort.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wonderdog4 View Post
Thanks for the review of Portofino Bay. We recently added a trip to Universal and are staying at Portofino Bay for 2 nights following our F&W trip in November.

I agree that the Harry Potter areas are very well themed and the parks, in general, seem much less hectic than WDW.
You will love Portofino. Great choice. It is a little further out from the park but that was a good thing in some respects. The extra 10 minute walk (or 2 more minutes on the boat) was worth it. But there are some disconnects (Loews to Universal) that I will get to later on.
__________________
Jay324 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 08:05 PM   #7
DougEMG
Grand Villa
 
DougEMG's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Victoria, BC
Posts: 1,353
Default

Portofino is our favourite out of the 3 deluxe hotels at Universal. Love the express pass and not having to plan everything out like at WDW. My only two main cons against Universal is that too many of the rides are looking at screens and that I don't think I could spend more than a week there.
__________________
DougEMG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-02-2019, 09:39 PM   #8
Brian5581
Add-on Aficionado
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 35,090
Default

Glad you enjoyed, Jay. As I致e said before sometime I値l devote a night or two to Universal, definitely onsite, preferably at Portofino where you stayed.

As of now Harry Potter is the only park offering that has strong appeal to me, so that with a show or two and I知 sure I値l be fine. But hoping whatever they add with Nintendo (or whatever else) finally makes me commit, haha.
Brian5581 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2019, 07:28 AM   #9
kiapgh23e
Grand Villa
 
kiapgh23e's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 2,790
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyteach View Post
Thanks for posting! I am in the beginning stages of planning a Universal trip ahead of our annual Disney trip next year. I was leaning towards Royal Pacific, but with your report I may also look into Portofino! Did you book 3rd party? I have friends who booked through Costco before and I was curious how early they release their deals.
This is what we are doing next year. Going in October with a split US/WDW itinerary.

Great report Jay. Just what I needed to reinforce a split trip next year. My wife and son LOVE HP. So to say we cant wait is an understatement.
__________________
Chris

MOD 97
kiapgh23e is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2019, 09:16 AM   #10
Jay324
Grand Villa
 
Jay324's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 2,373
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian5581 View Post
Glad you enjoyed, Jay. As I致e said before sometime I値l devote a night or two to Universal, definitely onsite, preferably at Portofino where you stayed.

As of now Harry Potter is the only park offering that has strong appeal to me, so that with a show or two and I知 sure I値l be fine. But hoping whatever they add with Nintendo (or whatever else) finally makes me commit, haha.
Thanks Brian. Two nights would be good. I like a little more time to devote to the resort aspect of a vacation so our I thought our 4 nights (well 3 with the impending hurricane and airport closure) was the way to go. And we would have loved the 4 night for with 3 it made us speed things up a bit in the parks with less pool time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kiapgh23e View Post
This is what we are doing next year. Going in October with a split US/WDW itinerary.

Great report Jay. Just what I needed to reinforce a split trip next year. My wife and son LOVE HP. So to say we cant wait is an understatement.
Thanks Chris. The only thing is and it prevented us in the past was we could never get a great deal in the past on a Universal/Disney split stay. By the time my kids were ready (9 + is a good age for a nice experience), it was always so hard to justify a Universal say while staying on points and having Disney AP. Every time we looked at 4 and 4 night stay, it was the same old, do we really want to spend another $3,000 when we can just extend our Disney stay....no extra tickets and just use points on the room. So the additional 4 nights at Disney instead of Universal felt "free". I am glad we finally broke down and said WTF lets just do it already. And now that we have the AP we won't feel the wallet squeeze as much when we reduce our February trip to 6 nights Disney with family and 2 nights on our own at Universal for our tickets are paid for (was going to do 6 with family and 2 on our own at VGF).
__________________
Jay324 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 12:14 PM.

ゥ MouseOwners. "MouseOwners" is a registered servicemark. This is an unofficial fan site and is not affiliated in any way with The Walt Disney Company, the Disney Vacation Club, Disney Vacation Development, or any of their affiliates or subsidiaries. All Disney images ゥ The Walt Disney Company.
Powered by Forum Software