Posts Tagged ‘Universal Orlando Resort’

Universal Dining: Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort

by on February 11, 2014

TchoupChop_SignI’m a big fan of all three of Universal’s on-site hotels but the Royal Pacific Resort is definitely my favorite. Even though I have been going to the hotel for years, I have always eaten my meals at the parks or at CityWalk. After having a terrific breakfast buffet experience at the Islands Dining Room earlier last year, I realized I needed to start checking out all the eateries at the Royal Pacific. First I tried lunch and drinks at Jake’s American Bar, followed by the Royal Pacific’s Character Breakfast (also at Jake’s). In January of this year, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop made some major changes by bringing in a new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas, and completely updating their lunch and dinner menus. Seth Kubersky wrote an article on the TouringPlans blog recently that explored the new menu, and that sealed the deal for me. I needed to try Tchoup Chop ASAP.

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Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos Review

by on February 9, 2014

Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos review

Our Antojitos review is in, as Universal Orlando CityWalk’s newest restaurant opens its doors.

After months of construction and speculation, and a week of soft-opening service, Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant officially opened to the public on February 5, 2014, as the newest dining upgrade in Universal Orlando’s ongoing CityWalk overhaul. I was among the few journalists invited to taste-test the menu last month, and since the first public seating I’ve dined there three times, including the grand opening media party. While I haven’t yet eaten everything on the menu, I have sampled enough to provide this preliminary Antojitos review, which we’ll refine as the restaurant finds its rhythm.

Atmosphere

As you’ll instantly notice from the photographs, Universal’s replacement for the former Latin Quarter restaurant isn’t some sedate hacienda.

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First Look: New Menu at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop featuring Robata Grill

by on January 23, 2014

Emeril's Tchoup Chop new menu Robata grill

An updated sushi bar is just one of chef Ryan Vargas’ new changes at Emeril’s Tchop Chop

Since it opened with Loews Royal Pacific Resort hotel in 2001, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop has established itself as one of the best upscale eateries at Universal Orlando Resort. To kick off 2014, my favorite happy hour hangout has shaken things up in a serious way, with a new chef, new front-of-house management, new flavors, and a new high-tech tool in the kitchen. We’ll be returning in the future for a fully detailed review of Tchoup Chop’s new menu choices, but for now here’s a small taste to whet your appetite.

New chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas (a veteran of Four Seasons and Ritz Carltons in Hawaii and Palm Beach) came on board in October, but only recently introduced his completely revamped menu. The emphasis is still on “Asian-inspired island cuisine”, but there are a variety of new appetizers and entrees, an expanded sushi selection, and a brand-new specialty cocktail list.

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CityWalk Update: Temporary Universal Studios Store Open, New Restaurant Name Revealed

by on January 15, 2014

Universal CityWalk update construction 1-8-2014

The Cigarz sign is already gone as Universal Orlando’s CityWalk construction charges into 2014

Universal Orlando is moving swiftly to reimagine its CityWalk complex before Diagon Alley opens this summer. Here’s our latest CityWalk update as of Wednesday, January 8, 2014.

Universal Studios Store

A temporary Universal Studios Store has opened inside a tent-like structure which sits in front of the CityWalk stage.

Welcome to your home for Universal tchotchkes without a park ticket for the next half-year.

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Universal Orlando Rumor Tour with HateToFly

by on January 14, 2014

Universal Orlando rumor tour with HateToFly

Regular readers of my PotterWatch blog series know that many of the juiciest details leaked about the under-construction Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida have come to us through HateToFly, a prolific poster on the Orlando United web forums. Over the weekend, I took a stroll through both Universal Orlando theme parks with the pseudonymous spy himself, and got the latest lowdown on the future of the resort. So grab a grain of salt and settle in for some of the hottest Universal Orlando rumors anywhere on the Internet.

Islands of Adventure

We began our walk at the lovely Sweethaven waterside, which is hidden in the back of Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure.

Conversations have recently reignited (after flaring up and sputtering out a year ago) about Universal acquiring the theme park rights to The Lord of the Rings and/or The Hobbit from the Tolkein estate, which has been notoriously difficult to negotiate with. More than one source has speculated that the Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges whitewater rafting ride could be converted into the barrel escape from the most recent Hobbit film.

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Islands of Insanity: Christmas Week Crowd Photos from Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure

by on December 30, 2013

I’ve never participated in the running of the bulls in Spain, nor rung in the New Year in New York’s Times Square, because I don’t need to: I’ve been engulfed by the Christmas week crowd in Orlando’s theme parks. In the spirit of “taking one for the team,” I took on the challenge of visiting Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure on two of the busiest days of the year — Christmas Eve (December 24, 2013) and the Friday after Christmas (December 27, 2013) — to give you idea of what guests face during 8 to 10 days on our crowd index.

We maintain our Crowd Calendar to help you avoid days like these, and Tourimg Plans to help you navigate should you be meshuggenah enough to ignore the following photos. These Islands of Adventure Christmas week crowd photos should also serve as great advertisement for the unlimited Universal Express access included with an on-site hotel room. And remember, these mob scenes are just a hint of hordes certain to swarm when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley opens at Universal Studios Florida next summer.

Christmas Eve (12/24/2013)

We’ll start with my mid-afternoon stroll around Islands of Adventure on Christmas Eve:

Wait times are substantial with Forbidden Journey posted at 100 minutes.

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Quick-Service Universal Dining Plan Price Increase

by on December 26, 2013

Universal Dining Plan price increase

New Universal Dining Plan Quick Service pricing as of yesterday (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal Orlando quietly delivered a lump of coal to guests this holiday week with a stealthy Universal Dining Plan price increase affecting their new Quick Service prepaid food program. The Universal Dining Plan — Quick Service program, which replaced the former all-you-can-eat Meal Deal earlier this year, formerly provided adults with one quick-service entree, two beverages, and two snacks for $18.99.

Yesterday, I noticed that all of the parks’ signage advertising the Universal Dining Plan — Quick Service, the price has increased by $1 to $19.99, and the snack allotment has been reduced from two to one. The children’s plan for those age 3-9 is unchanged.

Universal’s web site about the dining plan was temporarily disabled yesterday, but now it is back online with a new PDF detailing the table service version of the plan; we’ll keep an eye out for updated fine-print on the quick service plan, and share it with you when available.

Universal Dining Plan handbill from early December with old pricing.

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Construction Photos and the Gringotts Vault Key

by on December 20, 2013

Universal Orlando Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley construction Gringotts vault key photos

The key to Gringotts Vault 722 has arrived… (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Welcome, wizards and muggles alike, to the latest installment of TouringPlan’s PotterWatch (we’ve dropped the “2.0″ for simplicity’s sake), your regular expansion update on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. This time we’ll take a look at Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront facade, and hear the tale of the Gringotts Vault Key.

Diagon Alley Construction Photos

First, here are the latest photos of construction on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, taken at “magic hour” for our first look at the facade with some of the scaffolding removed:

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Universal Orlando Holidays: Your Complete Guide to Grinchmas and the Macy’s Holiday Parade

by on December 12, 2013

While Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, and other seasonal entertainment at Walt Disney World seem to get the lion’s share of publicity this time of year, visitors to Orlando shouldn’t overlook Universal Orlando‘s holiday offerings. Universal Orlando holidays might not have quite the nostalgic lure of Mickey’s merrymaking, but Universal’s options are every bit as expertly produced, and have the benefit of all being included with regular park admission (unlike the extra-cost “hard ticket” nighttime parties at the Magic Kingdom).

Universal Orlando’s holiday lineup, which kicks off the first weekend each December (unlike Disney, which starts Christmas almost before Halloween is over) and continues through the Saturday after New Year’s Eve, consists of two main components, described in detail below.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort for November 27, 2013 (Christmas decorations, construction, Red Oven Pizza Bakery)

by on December 1, 2013

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express, the first ever attraction that travels between two separate theme parks

Time for a trip to the Universal Orlando Resort. Seth Kubersky covered the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley in his photo update earlier this week, so check out the first edition of his PotterWatch 2.0 for construction updates, rumors, and pictures.

Universal still has not released on any dates on when  the Potter area will open, but we may have been given a little bit of a hint earlier this week thanks to an interview with Loews hotels chairman Jonathan Tisch. While talking to CNBC (which you can watch here), Tisch said that the upcoming 1,800 room Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal would be:

“The largest hotel under construction in the world outside of China. Phase One will open April 1, 600 rooms. The rest of the hotel by June, when Harry Potter 2 opens.” – Jonathan Tisch, Loews Hotels Chairman

On the Universal website, Cabana Bay is having “preview pricing” that ends on June 14, 2014. That’s another red flag that they expect demand to go up in June. Here’s an example of what type of savings you can get for a Family Suite at Universal compared to Disney. I booked out a room from April 12-18 for 2 adults and 4 children at both Cabana Bay and Disney’s Art of Animation resort. The cheapest room at Cabana Bay was $232.00 a night, compared to the cheapest room at AoA at $498.76. After taxes, this particular week at Cabana Bay would cost a family $1572.06, while AoA would cost $2992.53.

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