Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: April 26, 2014 (Margaritaville, New Merchandise, Royal Pacific Resort)

by on April 30, 2014 3 Comments

Filed under: Merchandise, Resorts, Universal Orlando Resort

Last week intrepid Potter reporter Seth Kubersky scoured both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure for the latest updates to his running series of PotterWatch articles. There were several big changes in the WWOHP world, including the arrival of the Knight Bus and the Wiseacre’s Wizarding Supplies storefront in Hogsmeade Village being converted into Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Shop. Crack photographer Brandon Glover and myself hit the parks later in the week to see what else was going on at Universal. Here’s what we found…

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When your walk to the park looks like this, who wants to take a shuttle or boat?

We actually started our day at the Royal Pacific Resort (RPR), my favorite hotel in Orlando. The Disney Hipsters will be making their first ever trip to Universal shortly and staying at the RPR, so I figured it would be fun to give them an idea of what they about to enjoy. One thing I noticed is that the RPR had taken care of a “short cut” that many guests had used to walk from the paved walkway to the hotel lobby area.

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You can see in the picture above the darker shade of grass on the hill. This grass has filled in the large path of dirt that was leading up the hill. The top of the hill has also been blocked by using a palm tree so hopefully this will dissuade anyone from cutting through.

The actual walk to Universal from the RPR is a relaxing one with a lot of foliage. Takes me about five minutes and nothing gets me more pumped that starting to hear the Port of Entry background music loop when I start to get closer to the park.

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The walkway from the hotel lets you out directly next to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Margaritaville has recently finished the work on the Porch of Indecision expansion and has a new “refreshed” menu, so we figured we would stop for a bite.

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There is a large number of tables outside, and we were seated immediately. One thing I had wanted to try for a long time was the Volcano Nachos. I had heard they were pretty extreme, and as someone has written several articles on outrageous foods at Universal (and Disney), that was like a song bird singing sweet music to my ears.

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Volcano Nachos at Margaritaville

It was everything we could have hoped for and more. Simply incredible. Part of the new menu includes a Volcano Burger that has – among other things – Fritos in it. Yes, Fritos. Well, we had to get that.

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Volcano Burger at Margarittaville

Every bit as good as you expect it to be and then some. The Fritos with the burger were great and now will have me concocting a Doritos burger at home. Maybe I can use a pretzel bun and really take things up a notch.

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Landshark Lager Fish n’ Chips at Margarittaville

Another item that caught our fancy was the Landshark Lager Fish n’ Chips. I risked the wrath of Brandon (who I believe has an “Epcot 82” tattoo) by saying these were better than what Rose and Crown offers in World Showcase. Overall an excellent lunch. Nachos were $15.99, Fish n’ Chips were $16.99, and Volcano Burger was $14.29. The serving sizes were huge.

After Margaritaville our first stop was Islands of Adventure. The items that were formerly available to in Zonkos have been moved to the front of the park at the Islands Trading Co. store. I always thought Zonkos was the least successful element of Hogsmeade Village, and think it’s a win-win situation with Honeydukes getting larger (be sure to get a Candy Cauldron) and a better wizard joke shop coming to Diagon Alley in the form of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. The expansion of Honeydukes also has the side benefit of allowing much better crowd flow to alleviate some of the congestion.

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Zonkos products

Next up was a walk through Marvel Superhero Island, where we ran into Captain America.

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Captain America

The gift stores throughout Marvel Island have Captain America merchandise everywhere.

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What was surprising to see was the Captain America Diner closed at 3PM. This past weekend’s edition of the SATURDAY SIX looked at six areas of Universal that can possibly be improved, and longer hours for the restaurants is near the top of that list. We’re just a couple weeks into the run of The Winter Solider movie (which has already grossed almost $650M worldwide), and Captain America has never been hotter. Soon X-Men: Days of Future Past movie will be released (May 23), and that also looks to be huge. Will Universal take advantage by giving X merchandise and characters more of a presence? We’ll see.

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Captain America Diner with hours that would make a banker blush.

This weekend’s SATURDAY SIX is going to be the six most underrated shows and attractions at Universal. My personal #1 is Poseidon’s Fury. The outside theming is second to none (this holds up to WWOHP standards), and the show itself has several “how did they do that?!” moments. Please take the time to place your most underrated attraction or show in the comments section below.

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Poseidon’s Fury

We headed over to Universal Studios Florida, and I was in for a treat, literally. At the Studios Sweets store at the front of the park there were new attraction-themed candies!

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A Jaws lollipop! How insanely great is that? But then it got even BETTER.

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Pinch me, I’m dreaming.

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New Jaws merchandise in 2014. Let’s hope this is a beginning of a trend. There were also several other attraction-based candies, including Shrek and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish but my favorites were…

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I still can barely believe this is real. HUZZAH!!

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“Are there any dinosaurs on your dinosaur ride?” – Ian Malcolm

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This retro theming fits right in with Cabana Bay.

Each box of candy is $7.95, but they do take annual pass discounts. After 10% off and tax, each box comes out to $7.52

There was also Butterbeer merchandise out and about. I want to say I have seen it before, but it has never been front and center in the stores to my knowledge. I liked that the Butterbeer mugs were made out of actual glass and had some weight to them.

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One of the “little things” that rarely gets mentioned on any Universal trip report is the live band that is usually playing at the front of the park. These guys are great and set the mood for a fun day touring the park.

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In the New York section of the park was this Chillin’ Charlie’s Lemon Slush cart. I don’t recall seeing it before. There is a Chillin’ Charlie’s over in Islands of Adventure, so apparently JK Rowling isn’t the only franchise doing okay for itself right now.

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Recently there was a pretty fascinating Open Letter to Tom Fitzgerald (new Creative Director of Epcot), and it prompted me to write my own open letter.

Dear guests who put their kids or friends on their shoulders to look over theme park construction walls,

Stahp. Just stahp.

Sincerely, Derek

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DON”T DO THIS!

Made a quick run through Springfield and no matter how many times I see the various signs inside the Kwik-E-Mart, they never fail to make me smile.

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Kwik-E-Mart

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Kwik-E-Mart

Popeye has been out and about in both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida lately. Probably trying to figure out why so many people are choosing Kale over Spinach. (It’s because they are crazy, Popeye!)

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We ended our day by heading back to CityWalk and checking out the Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake bar. Seth Kubersky has been raving about this place, and we figured we would try it out. it is located on the second level of CityWalk, directly next to the AMC Cineplex.

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Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar at CityWalk

I loved that for drinks they have a ninja sword and a sumo wrestler for the draght beers.

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Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar in CityWalk

We ended up getting the Chicken Wings that are served in a sweet chili sauce. Another thumbs up. Right now it’s hard to beat CityWalk for food options (Hard Rock Cafe, Antojitos, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, and Margaritaville always deliver and  – say what you will – NBA City and NASCAR Grille are fantastic sports restaurants), and with The Cowfish on the way, it looks to get even better. Probably a good thing, too, since the options inside the park close before even my grandmother wants to eat dinner. 🙂

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Chicken wings

That’s it for this trip. Very pleasant day overall with some great food. If you liked what you read you may enjoy my monthly Photo Reports of the Disney Outlet Store in The Magic, The Memories, and Merch!

Posted on April 30, 2014

3 Responses to “Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: April 26, 2014 (Margaritaville, New Merchandise, Royal Pacific Resort)”

  • Great post Derek! Though I wouldn’t exacly say I “rave” about Fusion. Honestly, it’s only a step above supermarket sushi, probably comparable to Bikkuri in downtown Orlando. And the prices are bit steep, though the quality of the fancier rolls I’ve tried has been fine. If you are craving raw fish (as I often am) and don’t want to head to RPR, the spicy tuna handroll is a decent value. Add on a bento box for about $5 and you’ll have a pretty decent lunch, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Kabooki on Colonial Drive!

  • The Red Oven Pizza Bakery was excellent when I stopped in last January. Heartily recommended to all pizza fans.

  • Just a note about Margaritaville outdoor seating: every late afternoon/night (4 nights) that we were staying at Uni, the outdoor area was closed for private events. Very annoying. Also annoying is that you can walk around CW with your drinks, but not bring them back to your hotel. Had a very hostile and aggressive security guard accost (yes, accost) us over this.