Universal Orlando Resort

SATURDAY SIX Father’s Day Special: Celebrating Dads at Walt Disney World and Universal

by on June 18, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL, paying tribute to all our favorite dads at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. After a challenging week in Orlando, we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters think it’s time for some lighthearted fun. With tomorrow being Father’s Day, it’s about time we gave a little attention to all the dads we see in Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. So sit back, put on your favorite pair of dad jeans, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – WALT DISNEY: The Father of All Theme Parks

What else can we say about Walter Elias Disney? Without him we wouldn’t have the glorious theme parks we enjoy today and instead would be suffering in the shoddily made and poorly themed rides that make up America’s amusement parks. Even worse, we may have been forced to go to places like museums and libraries to actually learn something. I think I speak for us all when I say UGH. However, thanks to a visionary genius like  Walt Disney creating Disneyland – and then improving upon with Walt Disney World – we all get to enjoy one of the most amazing pieces of entertainment in the entire world.

Unlike most of our hobbies and interests, theme parks are a place we can go with the whole family and enjoy our time together. The theme parks are one of the very few places you can go where no matter who you are, you are accepted. It just doesn’t matter what size you are, what race you belong to, what religion you pray to,  your sexual orientation, or handicap you have. If you’re in a theme park, you are in a safe place. We all owe an unpayable debt to Walt Disney, as his foresight led to us being able to enjoy places that completely transport us away from the real world – and all of its problems – into an alternative reality where everything is as we wish it would be. A world in which the good guys always win. A world where we can fly. A world where our wishes come true.

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Walt was also the father to Diane and Sharon Disney. We all know the story that it was Walt watching his daughters play in shabby amusement parks that inspired him to create something better. Something the whole family could enjoy.  (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel

by on June 11, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Portofino Bay HotelCurrently, 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.

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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 TaleTwister, 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. 

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The Beach Pool at Portofino Bay.

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The grotto.

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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.

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The Villa Pool, straight out of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine.

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Hot tub and plunge pool

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Dani’s Best Week Ever June 9, 2016: Live Entertainment at Universal Studios Florida

by on June 9, 2016

Many fans of Universal Orlando have been focusing on rides lately, with good reason. Skull Island: Reign of Kong has done Team Member previews and it appears soft openings could happen any day now. The Incredible Hulk roller coaster has been testing for a few weeks and should reopen very soon. And two more rides are under construction: Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon and Fast and Furious Supercharged. However, Universal Orlando has debuted new entertainment at both its parks, especially at Universal Studios, throughout the past year.

These shows take place out along the streets and aren’t meant to be main attractions. However they add atmosphere and entertainment in easily accessible ways. I enjoy these additions because they don’t require much advance planning, you can easily walk up at show time and have a great vantage point.

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I ventured out to Universal Studios Florida to enjoy as many live performances as possible. Turns out you can pack a whole lot of fun into just a few hours when your focus is on live entertainment. For someone like me who is apprehensive toward thrill rides, this is a refreshing reminder that there is still lots to enjoy at Universal Orlando even if you’re not that into rides.

As seems to be typical for my weekend theme park visits, I arrived later than I hoped. I decided to take my doggy (#DodgertheDog) to try out Universal Orlando’s Kennel Services. Getting to the parking for the kennel is very easy. It is in the lower back corner of the parking structure, part of the Jaws section.

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Checking in took about ten minutes, as is standard for any kennel service I needed to provide proof that Dodger’s vaccinations were up to date. The form is themed to Hollywood, the pets are called actors and the pet owners are agents. The cost is $15.00 for the day (no discounts available) and the great thing is the kennel is open two hours after park closing, giving agents plenty of time to enjoy the parks.

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Universal Orlando Photo Update, June 6, 2016

by on June 7, 2016

Welcome back to another Universal Orlando Photo Update! We’re in the middle of a very exciting time here at the resort, with two attractions opening up in the coming weeks and a brand new resort hotel not too far behind. We’ll start this week’s update with a look at Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium before taking a trip around Universal Studios Florida and a look at some smaller updates, including Fast and Furious: Supercharged and the Hello Kitty Store. Over at Islands of Adventure we’ve got a short look at The Incredible Hulk as well as some new information about Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Then we’ll close our update out with some shots of the nearly completed Sapphire Falls as well as next year’s Volcano Bay. All that and much more, so let’s get started!

Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium

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Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is Universal’s latest restaurant concept, opening this fall. It replaces the former NBA City concept and is currently undergoing a complete makeover to turn the form basketball restaurant into a chocolate factory.

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The giant windows are leftover from NBA City and will again afford guests a great view of the CityWalk lagoon.

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – May 15 to 21, 2016

by on June 7, 2016

Universal Crowd Calendar Report

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, Universal Orlando Resort stayed within an index point of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted except for Saturday when crowds surged to the highest crowd level of the week. Wait times were manageable all week with the attractions showing moderate waits most days. Busier crowds at Universal Studios were offset by much lighter crowds at Islands of Adventure.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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SATURDAY SIX: Movies and TV Shows That Were Filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 4, 2016

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 House that 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.

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Kimmy arrives at Universal Studios Florida.

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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.

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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.

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Unofficial Guide Reader’s Survey – Best Travel Agents 2016

by on June 1, 2016

TouringPlans logoThe results are in, and we want to thank you, readers, for helping us and your fellow Disney and Universal fans plan great vacations. We are so happy to bring you our Best Travel Agent recommendations for 2016.

The Methodology for Finding the Best Travel Agents

First of all, it’s important to know how we got this list. These recommendations come from you, not us. TouringPlans and the Unofficial Guide survey readers about their vacations and one (of the VERY MANY – really, thank you to everyone who takes the time to do this) sections of the survey concerns how the trip was booked. We ask if you’d consider the agent “an expert” on the destination you booked and if you’d recommend him or her to a friend. To make our list the agent has to have a statistically significant number of responses and 100% positive answers on one question and more than 90% on the other. That’s all there is to it. We don’t swing the votes. And this isn’t a “Top 15” list. If 50 agents had qualified, 50 would be listed. That only 16 out of 1900 agents listed in the surveys received qualified tells you a lot about the quality of work these people do.

We’ve published this list in the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for years, but wanted to add it to our web site this year. Some of these agents we know, several we have personally worked with, and some are brand new to us. We hope this helps you find a travel agent if you’re looking for one. (You’ll notice that some agents and agencies have a relationship with TouringPlans in the form of complimentary subscriptions for qualifying travel packages. This has no bearing on the survey results.)

Finally, without further ado, we give you the Best Travel Agents for 2016, listed alphabetically by first name.

 

Best Travel Agents 2016

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – May 8 to 14, 2016

by on May 26, 2016

Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar Report

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, crowds at Universal started out the week low on our scale and by the end of the week had risen a few points higher. This matched the pattern predicted by the Universal Crowd Calendar except that Friday and Saturday’s crowds were a couple points higher than expected. I don’t believe the spike at the end of the week is indicative of an influx of guests since the crowds have settled nicely in the days since.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Touringplans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – May 1 to 7, 2016

by on May 17, 2016

Universal Crowd Calendar

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, crowds at Universal Orlando stayed within reach of what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted until Thursday when we saw three consecutive days of higher than expected crowds. The good news is that park crowd levels never went higher than a ‘7’ making for excellent touring conditions. Guests who used a touring plan probably never noticed the crowds at all.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – April 24 to 30, 2016

by on May 10, 2016

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Universal Orlando Resort continues to be the one resort that shows wait times within a reasonable distance of what we have seen historically in April. Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland are trending up sharply throughout April, especially during the week while Universal Orlando is showing the moderate wait times that we would expect for late April. However, wait times are still up at Universal Orlando as well, which each day last week coming in at or above what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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