Trip report 6/18 to 6/23

      Due to weather issues we arrived very late (2 AM!), but check in at HRH was quick and efficient. Kids (DD11  and DS16) thought HRH was awesome. We got our express pass photos in the lobby. The machine all the way to the right has very poor lighting and our photos appeared as black blobs--but it didn't matter. I had purchased our lanyards on a previous trip and they worked perfectly. DD11 and I were Gryffindors, DS16  had a Marvel superhero one and DH wore one promoting Duff beer. Then totally exhausted, we hit the sack. Beds were very comfortable and room had lots of outlets. We slept in and got to USF about 10 AM for a quick ride on Despicable Me before our breakfast reservation at La Bamba. We waited about 10 minutes for DM with express. I wanted to do it early, because I knew that it would have long waits later in the day, even with express. We also picked up a card for the Minion Scavenger Hunt in the gift shop after the ride.
      La Bamba was good, but not great. We met Gru, one Minion, SpongeBob, Squidward, Dora, EB and one of the pink berets (Fluffy?) from Hop. Kids were a little embarrassed to have photo taken with Dora, so we threatened to post photos on Facebook if they misbehaved on the trip :). Also, we somehow missed the email from Universal telling us to pick up breakfast vouchers (tickets) at will call. This wasn't really a problem,  they just needed to see the credit card we had used to prepay. 
     With full bellies, we were ready to hit the rides! We are very used to using touring plans, but with the unlimited express pass it really wasn't necessary. We just headed around the park in a circle with minimal waits. We did Transformers, Rip Ride Rocket, Shrek,Twister, Mummy,Simpsons, Terminator, and Horror Make up Show. Transformers was a family-fave. The kids loved Rip-Ride Rocket, while the adults found it a little too jerky and chose not to repeat. Shrek is good, but seemed long to me (maybe I was tired?), Twister was cool, but didn't make our must repeat list. DD11 insisted it smelled like cow-poop. Kids enjoyed Terminator, adults found it dated, but nostalgic. Horror Make-Up Show was very entertaining. There was some adult humor, but those jokes seemed to go over the kids heads. 
      We had an early dinner reservation at NBA City, both kids are on basketball teams and this was a must do for them. A reservation was completely unnecessary,but Disney has us well-trained. I had heard that the restaurant was due to close in a few months and was concerned our experience would suffer. Fortunately, the quality of the food, and particularly the service, exceeded my expectations. We did have to buy some tokens for the kids to play some of the arcade games/shoot hoops. I think the tokens were about $10. 
       Unfortunately, it had started to pour while we were eating and I only had one poncho in my bag (everyone else had left their's in the hotel room). We decided to brave the elements and head for MIB. We actually rode it twice. I am absolutely horrible at this ride, but managed to redeem my score by hitting the red button at the appropriate time. We also discovered that DD11 had never seen any of the movies (oops-probably should have thought of that ahead of time!) By then, the rain and the park had cleared out. We had planned to go to Diagon Alley in the evening and enjoy ice-cream from Fortescue's while waiting in line for Gringott's.  I was almost disappointed to see the wait time for Gringott's was only 10 minutes!! We quickly hopped in line and rode it twice. It did not disappoint! Everyone loved it. Diagon Alley was almost empty and we had a wonderful time exploring the nooks and crannies.  There really is something in every corner. DD11 absolutely loved the interactive wands and spells. Unfortunately, both shows (Celestina and Beedle the Bard) were cancelled for the evening (the superstar parade was also cancelled). We still got ice-cream at Fortescues and ate it sitting on the floor in the Owlery (sp?). My favorite flavor is the salted-caramel blondie. DH got butterbeer, DD11 got chocolate chili (she enjoyed it, but didn't order it again) and DD16 got plain chocolate. The owlery is one of my favorite spots to escape the crowds. It really was a perfect evening. The parks closed at 9 PM and we headed back to the hotel. It started to rain again as we were walking back to the hotel. 
     The next morning we headed to IOA for early entry. We were towards the middle of the pack, but still managed to get two rides on Forbidden Journey, two rides on Dragon Challenge and one ride on Flight of the Hippogriff. Then Hogsmeade got really crowded. We made use of the conveniences (Moaning Myrtle was a great touch) and then had breakfast at Three Broomsticks. DD11 really liked Pumpkin juice and Butter beer. DH got the English breakfast and the rest of us were boring and got the American breakfast. It actually tasted very similar to the food at La Bamba. Again good, but not great. We then headed to the rest of the park. We started with Poseidon's Fury. I didn't think the kids would like this, but they enjoyed the special effects a lot. DH really liked the water tunnel. I also appreciated the special effects, but felt like cattle, as we got herded from room to room. Then we headed for Seuss Landing and did the High in the Sky trolley ride and Cat in the Hat. Okay, but kids weren't wowed--most likely because they couldn't wait to get to Marvel Island and the Hulk! The stitching on DD11's lanyard was coming undone and this gave us a wonderful excuse to send the kids on the Hulk Coaster twice, while we went to get a replacement lanyard. The team member cheerfully replaced it for free. The kids thought the Hulk was great. We then did Storm Force Acceletron. "This ain't no teacups" was DD11's scream as we whirled around. Up next was Dr. Doom's Fearfall. This was really quite boring and ridiculously short and did not make our repeat list. We then headed to Camp Jurassic, as we were saving the wet rides for later in the day. DD11 was two inches too tall for Pteranodon Flyers, so we weren't able to ride it. They still had fun running around and exploring and the adults had a nice break. I think every theme park should have this kind of section--Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom, Redwood Creek Trail at California Adventure, etc.  It gives kids (even older ones) a chance to blow off some steam. By this point we were hungry and went to Thunder Falls for lunch. We were all very happy with our food and too full for dessert. We then went to the Discovery Center and when we were finally ready to leave it was pouring!!! We were prepared with ponchos this time, but unfortunately planned on doing the Jurassic Park River adventure next and it was closed due to lightning. We decided to "poncho up" and head for another ride on Forbidden Journey. We rode it single rider and by the time we were done the rain had cleared. We headed back to JP River Adventure and waited for it to open. We enjoyed it and got wet, but not drenched. You really feel like you are part of the movie. We left our stuff in the locker there and headed for the other two water rides. Ripsaw Falls was really fun and we got completely, totally soaked. My kids had no idea who Dudley Do Right is and we also had to explain what a Canadian Mountie is. It didn't matter, they still loved the ride. Up next was Bilge Rat Barges. This ride is very similar to Kali River Rapids, but you get much wetter. I will never forget the look on DH's face as we headed up the final incline "boat wash" portion of the ride. The kids rode Ripsaw falls a second time as I headed back to Jurassic Park to retrieve our stuff, squishing all the way. We had dressed to get wet, but were not prepared for the smell---I don't know what they put in the water,but it reeks. We headed back to HRH, to get cleaned up and dried off for our dinner reservation at the Kitchen.  It was Saturday night, so it was technically a character meal. We met Scooby Doo (this really excited me!) and one Minion (Bob?). Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to bring either scooby snacks or bananas. They both came to our table more than once. We ordered the Kitchen sink cake for dessert and it was way too much for the four of us. We brought the leftovers back to our room and snacked on it for the next few days. It was still raining really hard, so we  rented a movie in the room and all fell asleep before it was over! 
     The next day was Father's Day. We started with Early Entry at USF and did Gringott's, Mummy, Despicable Me and Transformers and then we took the Hogwart's Express from King Cross Station to Hogsmeade. Next up was the Sinbad Stunt Show. In my opinion, this show is expendable on most plans. Kids deliberately sat in the splash zone and they didn't get wet, so they were disappointed as well. However, lunch at Mythos was excellent! We had reservations and were seated within 10 to 15 minutes. Overheard the hostess tell walk-ins it was a 45 to 60 minute wait. I ordered the gnocchi, DH had the pad thai, DS16 got the risotto of the day and DD11 got grilled cheese from the children's menu. We were all extremely satisfied with our meals and then the waitress gave us all complimentary dessert shots because we had had such a long wait for our food. Truthfully, we hadn't even noticed the wait. After lunch, we took the Hogwart's Express back to USF to see some of the shows we hadn't had a chance to see yet. We started with Disaster and then Beetlejuice (DH's choice)  and another ride on MIB. Disaster was quite fun and reminded me of the Backlot Studio Tour at DHS. I didn't really care that much for Beetlejuice, but DH liked it. He thought the music mash-ups were creative and entertaining. After MIB, we left the kids at Fear Factor (I am easily grossed out!) and we went to see the Blues Brothers instead. DH enjoyed this very much. The kids met up with us and we hit the last few Minion scavenger hunt spots on the way out of the park. We turned in the card and DD11 was able to pick out her prize. It turned out to be a very cute Minion magnet. There were four in total and the woman actually gave her more cards, so that she could get every magnet. We had a very enjoyable dinner at Pat O'Briens (DH's choice because of Father's Day) and then we let the kid's choose what they wanted to do--of course they picked another round of water rides at IOA!  Bilge Rat Barges was closed, so we did JP River Adventure and Ripsaw Falls. The kids absolutely loved JP River Adventure at night. I have to agree that it was a lot spookier and the dinosaurs looked more realistic. We then went to back to USF to watch Cinematic Spectacular. We watched it from the Simpson's area across from Richter's burgers. Seemed like a good view and it was easy to get a spot. I'm glad I saw it once, but it wasn't something I needed to see again. After that it was back to the hotel for a well-earned sleep!
     The next morning we let DS16 and DH sleep in and DD11 and I went to early entry at IOA. She really wanted to do all of the spells and check out Honeydukes. This took us about 30 minutes and the Hogwart's Express wasn't running yet, so we did single rider for FJ with no wait at all. Then we took the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley to do the rest of the spells there. We were supposed to be back at HRH to take the 10:05 super star shuttle to Wet & Wild, but we didn't quite make it, so we took one of the town cars instead. This was $15 including tip. Once we got there we found a shady table by the wave pool and claimed it for the day. I went and queued up for a locker while they went on some rides. It was $15 for a family size locker, $12 for a medium and $8 for a mini. I was able to put my bag in a medium sized locker. They give you an rfid bracelet to access your locker. After that I spent most of my time in the lazy river, which I enjoyed very much. We had a good time, but we all agreed that we like Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon much better. We left on the first shuttle back to citywalk at 4:20. We took the water taxi from Citywalk to the hotel and then changed for dinner. DD11 had requested Bubba Gump's and we were seated quickly with no wait (we have a Landry's Select card). It turned out we had earned a $25 credit at Landry's so we were quite pleased with her choice! We went back to IOA after dinner and did Hulk, Storm Force Acceletron, Spiderman and the three water rides. The crowd levels at Universal definitely thin out at night. By this point, our hotel room looked like a refugee camp. We had wet clothes hanging everywhere!  The clothes dryers at the hotel were $3 and took credit cards, so we decided to do a load of laundry, so we could pack.  
   The next morning came way too early and it was our last day:( We went to Diagon Alley for early entry for two rides on Gringotts, then hit Despicable Me, Transformers and Rip Ride Rocket.  After that, we went to the Simpson's area to eat at Fast Food Blvd.  It wasn't open yet, so we all split a Lard Lad Donut instead. Yummy! Then we saw Terminator on our way out of the park. We went back to the hotel to check out and leave our bags with bell services. Then we headed back to USF and had lunch at Fast Food Blvd. It was very crowded and the set up is like Sunshine Seasons at Epcot. We all wanted something different, so paying was a little inconvenient. I am the only one with an annual pass, so I had to wait at the register for everyone else to get their food, so that I could pay for them. We all really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. MiB was next and then we went to Diagon Alley to see Celestina and the Beedle the Bard shows.  DD and I really enjoyed them, but we are the biggest HP fans. DH enjoyed Celestina more than Beedle the Bard, but he always likes anything with music. Then it was time to say goodbye to USF and we took the Hogwarts Express to IOA.  We did Forbidden Journey single rider, then Dragon Challenge.  A quick trip into Honeydukes and then it was time to head back to the hotel. The heavens opened up (again!) on our walk back, so we all had to change into dry clothes in the fitness center. Fortunately, the hotel was very accommodating.  We took a town car to MCO (very convenient!) and then had a two hour delay(not so convenient!) 
      All in all, we loved Universal and can't wait to go back. Express pass was a wonderful perk, and as much as I want to check out Cabana Bay, I don't think I would ever not stay Deluxe.  Thanks for reading!

Sounds like a fantastic trip!

Glad you had a great trip! Thanks for sharing!

What a great trip report–thanks for posting! This is really helpful to me because I’m considering a Universal trip with DD14 and DS11 next year.

Great report! Thanks for sharing with us. I can’t believe how many rides you were able to do. Makes me want to go again!