Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort’s food court, known as Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory will be seeing a very lengthy refurbishment. This work will begin on July 11 and will last until sometime this fall. (It appears that it will be November 21, 2016.)
Guests staying at this resort will be able to dine at an alternative location, which will serve dishes such as jambalaya, po-boy sandwiches, gumbo, and more. Don’t worry beignet fans! They will be available at this temporary location too. There will also be a selection of grab n’ go meals available for purchase here too.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel. Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Premier, which is where the Portofino Bay Hotel resides.
Portofino Bay Punch – Bacardi superior, Bacardi ‘O’, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of Bacardi 151.
First, a little backstory. Steven Spielberg can be considered one of the main “architects” of the entire Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida, the park which started it all, was built on the back of films that Spielberg either directed (Jaws, E.T.) or was a producer on (Back to the Future, An American Tale, Twister, Transformers). While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the current draw to Islands of Adventure, it’s Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that sits directly in the middle, and the iconic Jurassic Park visitor center is the first thing you see in the park when coming out of the Port of Entry. It’s only natural that when Universal was putting together Islands of Adventure back in the 1990s that they would pick Spielberg’s brain about ideas for the new onsite hotel they would also be developing.
Spielberg’s suggestion was for the new hotel to be inspired by the classic feel of Portofino, Italy. Loews took that idea and ran with it, faithfully recreating a classic Mediterranean fishing village by the lagoon, as well as representing the luxury of many high end Italian hotels on the inside of the resort. Portofino Bay and its 750 rooms can be considered the flagship resort of Loews at Universal. Today we are going to look at several of the reasons we absolutely love Portofino, including what may be the best themed room in all of Orlando. So sit back, put on The Three Tenors as background music, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – The Pools
A little while back we took a trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and fell in love with their Fuentes del Morro Pool. The Beach Pool at Portofino blows away the one at Caribbean Beach and joins the elite of Orlando pools including Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club, and the Nanea Volcano Pool at the Poly. There are a lot of activities surrounding the main pool, including a children’s water play area (complete with pirate ship), pool tables, ping pong, a giant checker board, a fantastic pool bar (with tons of seating and a great menu), two hot tubs, a sandy beach and more, The pool itself is an impressive fort-like structure you can walk around in, a grotto you can swim through, and a great slide.
The Beach Pool at Portofino Bay.
Lounge chairs are everywhere.
There are two other pools at Portofino, including the impressive Villa Pool. Located near the Beach Pool, this area includes even more lounge chairs, 16 cabanas, a hot tub and a plunge pool. Just a gorgeous area with maybe the best pool bathroom area in the entire state of Florida. The third pool is a true quiet pool and located on the other side of the resort.
The Villa Pool, straight out of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos shot at the Universal Orlando Resort. Loyal readers have gone with us down the rabbit hole to see all the Walt Disney locations used in the Hulk Hogan TV show Thunder in Paradise. Then we checked out the times our favorite sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Full Housethat went to Disney World. Today we are taking I4 West across Orlando and checking out which movies, television shows, and music videos were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, Universal Studios Florida is still a working production studio with several sound stages, and has been the home to such shows as Family Feud, TNA Impact, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. However today we are going to look at productions which – for the most part – filmed outside of the sound stages, allowing us to see our favorite Universal rides, hotels, and characters. So sit back, follow along with us on your Comcast cable box, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”
Season 2, episode 13
We’re going to start off our list with the newest of the bunch, as this particular episode aired in April of 2016. I have to personally begin with a mea culpa. I have never seen an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s one of those shows (along with Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Veep) that we’re all supposed to watch. But there is just too much good TV on right now to keep up with everything. I will say this after watching just one episode of Kimmy Schmidt, I’m immediately going back to watch the entire first and second seasons. It reminded me of two of my all time favorite comedies: 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.
While Kimmy Schmidt the show didn’t have as much making fun of the theme park world we know and love (unlike Roseanne, which skewered the parks) it was top to bottom the funniest show I have ever seen involving a theme park (this also includes the more recent episodes of The Middle and Modern Family which went to WDW and Disneyland.) The A-plot of the show involved Kimmy Schimdt finally tracking down her mother, played by the incredible Lisa Kudrow (Friends and the must-see The Comeback.) The B-plots, which involved one character finding herself in the middle of the Washington Redskins owners, and another over at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, were just as good as the main storyline.
Kimmy arrives at Universal Studios Florida.
The Minions, Olive Oyl, and stilt walkers from The Mummy in the Hollywood section of USF. This led to a wonderful scene where Kimmy was mistaken for a meet and greet character and families kept lining up to take their picture with her just because others were.
Kimmy and her mom buying Universal Express to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I just could not believe my eyes at this point. This would be similar to a sitcom at Walt Disney World having a character make ADRs 180+10 days out.
Recently, I got some great news in my career path, and my husband decided to surprise me with a weekend at the Polynesian as a way to say congrats. As “Aloha” can be hello or goodbye, much of our weekend was spent saying hello to new experiences and saying goodbye to an old favorite.
I had already filled up the schedule with lots of experiences that I wanted to take on for the holiday weekend. First up was the first night of nighttime safaris at Animal Kingdom. When I made my FastPass+ reservation, I had not checked the time for sunset. Our time was 7:25-8:25 PM, and so I figured we’d have dinner then take a nighttime safari. We were toward the earlier part of our reservation time, and when we got on board, our driver mentioned that we might want to come back another day for a nighttime safari. Oops.
That said, the safari at dusk was quite possibly the best one we had ever had. The animals were incredibly active and got very close to the truck more times than I could count. I’ve probably done Kilimanjaro Safaris a dozen times or more, but this is the first time that I can recall that the lions were doing more than lying on the rock. As we neared the corner, the male lion stood up on the rock and roared. It certainly was like living the Lion King life.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Of Our Favorite Shows That Went to Disney World. A while back we took a look at the locations in Walt Disney World used in Thunder in Paradise; a camp classic “action” “adventure” show featuring Hulk Hogan in the mid ’90s. Most people, thankfully, haven’t seen Thunder, however they did catch many of sitcoms of that era who also made their way down to Florida.
Cory and Shawn get directions from Goofy at The American Adventure in EPCOT in Boy Meets World.
Now it should come as no surprise to anyone that all the shows featured aired on ABC, and all but one of them shortly after ABC merged with The Disney Company. This was corporate synergy in action. Many of our favorite shows (most part of the hugely successful T.G.I.F. lineup) went to the vacation kingdom of the world. Despite having all the sophistication of a Beetle Bailey comic strip, many people that are a certain age fondly remember these shows, including Your Humble Author. Today we are going to take a look at all the ABC shows that ventured to the House of Mouse and examine The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of each. So sit back, try not to have Urkelbot flashbacks, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Boy Meets World “The Happiest Show on Earth.”
Season 3, episode 21
“I don’t know. I mean I made a mistake. I thought we could be friends like you and I are but, you know when I see Topanga I want to hug her, hold her, kiss her. When I see you I have no interest in any of those things.” – Cory
Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World going to WDW is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. The charisma of everyone in the episode is off the charts and you can see why the show is so beloved. However the actual content of the show is little more than a ’90s version of Three’s Company, and by that I mean the entire episode hinges on a non-stop series of coincidences and people seeing things completely out of context. Now sitcoms aren’t generally known for Emmy-award winning writing, especially back then, but the episode could have been just three minutes long if any of the characters just talked to each other instead of letting people think the worst. It’s basically one of the reasons most people had a very negative reaction to the recent Batman v Superman movie.
With that out of the way, this Boy Meets World episode was a fun one. To get the characters down to WDW, schoolmates of Corey (the main character of Boy Meets World) wrote papers for the Environmental Essay Awards. The three winners just so happened to be Topanga (Corey’s ex-girlfriend), Ronnie (the lothario of the school known as “Lips”), and Kristin, a girl Corey had just dated and accidentally called “Topanga” after kissing. Knowing Topanga and Ronnie would be together down in Orlando, Corey’s friend Shawn hatched a scheme to get them down there as well. There was actually a wonderful moment where right before they announced the winners of the contest, Shawn finally turned in his essay. To cover for Corey, his brother Eric created a ridiculous looking dummy and planned a Weekend at Bernie’s situation. It works because it’s so ridiculous. Big thumbs up.
Overhead shot of EPCOT Center as seen in Boy Meets World.
Topanga and “Lips” ride Dumbo in Corey’s nightmare scenario. It also looks like the Carousel behind them is under refurbishment so interesting choice of shots to use by the producers.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a wonder to behold. It is one of the few Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts that feels far removed from the theme parks and yet it is just a few moments away from the most attended theme park of them all: the Magic Kingdom. When I set out to enjoy this week’s “fun day”, a visit to Wilderness Lodge was not in the original plans. But the best laid plans sometimes fall apart when real life responsibilities pop up. Faced with less time than I’d hoped, I decided to give into the nagging need to visit Wilderness Lodge that had been pulling at me for quite some time. My visit rekindled my love and appreciation for this resort and allowed me to explore some of the construction taking place at this resort as it prepares to expand its Disney Vacation Club inventory.
The transition into the world of the wilderness begins the moment you turn right onto Timberline Drive and pass under the archway leading to the Security shack. The tall pines tower above, flanking either side of the drive. Wildflowers add pops of color along the way.
The lodge stands proud and majestic. It is an impressive sight to behold. No matter how many times I’ve visited this resort that first sight of the lobby never fails to make me grow wide eyed and wide grinned. The towering totems, the tee-pee light fixtures, the view all the way to the top floor, it’s all so warm and inviting.
Check out the hoof prints in the walkway!
Many guests compare Wilderness Lodge to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and / or Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. I have a hard time accept the comparison to the Grand Californian because the theme and style is actually very different than Wilderness Lodge. Grand Californian represents the Arts and Crafts movement of California with a tinge of Art Nouveau. Some of the rich colors such as deep wood tones and rich evergreen are repeated at both resorts, but if you are attuned to details you can clearly see the difference in the two themes.