Refillable Mugs at Universal Orlando – Worth it or Wasted?

by on August 28, 2015 4 Comments

Filed under: Adults, CityWalk, Drinking, Merchandise, Saving Money, Universal Orlando Resort

One of the first things I noticed that was different at Universal Orlando and SeaWorld versus Walt Disney World is the refillable mugs inside the theme parks. What I didn’t realize until after my first few months of becoming a regular Universal Orlando visitor is the substantial variety of refillable mug programs available throughout Universal Orlando. There’s four options just in the theme parks themselves, then there’s two different programs at the Universal hotels, and finally two programs inside CityWalk, oh and none of the programs can be combined. So in hopes of helping you navigate through the busy waters of all the refillable mug options I’d like to share the details of each option. I’ll also give my stance on if I think each mug is worth it or wasted.
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In the theme parks

Character mugs – $15.99 /  $0.99 refills

Wasted: If you or your child is a big fan of a specific character then the character mugs might be a good value for you. Personally, I think their clunkier size make them impractical for repeated, every day use. However, they certainly are unique and add to the fun of being inside the theme parks.

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Regular refillable cup and Black Transformer mug – $8.99 / $0.99 refills

Worth it: If you are an Annual Passholder or will be visiting for an extended amount of days, the basic refillable cup is a good deal. The $0.99 refills are not limited to the day of purchase, so you can easily get your money’s worth considering one fountain soda is $3.19. If you use the refillable cup more than 3 times you’ll have spent your money wisely. There are also a good amount of food and beverage locations throughout the park to snag your free refills. The downside is the refills are your basic fountain drink variety, not the fancy smancy Coke Freestyle flavor selection.

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Freestyle Coke Machine $12.99 for 1, $11.99 each for 2, $9.99 each for 3-6 cups / free refills for the day

Wasted (kinda): The major downfall of this cup is it is only good for one day. You can add a second day for $5.99. The upside is the refills are free during the days that you pay for the usage, and they are from the Freestyle Coke machine so you can get really creative and change things up.

In order for this cup to be worth it you would need to drink 3 fountain drinks just to break even and that’s if your group purchased 3 cups or more ($9.99 per cup). If you purchase 1 or 2 cups then you’ll need 4 drinks just to break even.

If you are a big soda drinker and a big fan of the Freestyle Coke machines then I can see how this would be a worthy purchase. For me and other frequent visitors I think the regular cup is a better deal. There are a few refill stations out in the parks plus nearly all of the quick service restaurants have the machines, there can sometimes be lines at the machines – just a fair warning.

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Butterbeer $12 frozen, $11 cold /  $0.99 soft drink refills (not butterbeer)

Worth it (kinda): If you are a Harry Potter fan on any level this cup is fairly worth it. On refill value alone it is not worth it, but for sentimental value then it is kind of worth it. When you factor that the souvenir cup is $8 more than just getting the butterbeer on its own, there are other Butterbeer themed souvenirs that are of higher quality that might be worth your consideration. Still, there is something magical about sipping Butterbeer from a specialty themed mug.

Special cup design at Fountain of Fair Fortune

Special cup design at Fountain of Fair Fortune

 

Moe’s / Duff pilsner $11.99 / regular price for domestic beer as well as specialty beer, gives 2 extra ounces

Worth it (kinda): If your goal is to get more for your dollar then this cup is worth it. If reducing your cost is the goal then the next option is more worth it. I’ve done this deal twice and now that I am thinking about it more, I kind of wish I went with the Duff mug instead of the pilsner. The pilsner mug is longer and sleeker.

The refills are not at a reduced cost, it’s the same price as a regular beer purchase, but you receive 2 additional ounces. One more component that adds to the perceived value of this option is for anyone, like me, who has an fondness of The Simpsons. If this is not a factor then the regular Universal Orlando pilsner cup may be a better option for you.

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Duff mug $10 / $6 domestic beer refills

Worth it: Looking back I am wishing I had purchased this refillable option instead of the pilsner style mentioned above. This mug is a few ounces smaller than the pilsner and therefore costs less than the pilsner style. The real beauty of this mug is it seems to be the only option inside the theme parks that results in beer refills that are lower priced than purchasing beer in a regular cup.

The mug itself is a plastic beer mug with a Duff logo and a handle. I think this handle would come in handy when walking through the parks. You can obtain a refill with regular domestic beer for around $6 or a specialty beer like Duff or the specialty beers at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for around $7 and change.

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Universal Orlando pilsner cup $11 – $12 depending on drink. No cocktail refills, beer refills regular price

Worth it (kinda): Chez Alcatraz, in the San Francisco area is a great outdoor bar. When the weather is more tolerable in the Fall and Winter, I love grabbing a cocktail here. Here they offer a Universal Orlando pilsner cup for $11 – $12 depending on the drink. There aren’t any cocktail refills, but just like with the Moe’s and Duff pilsner style cup, the beer refills regular price, but you get more ounces.

With this option you get a stronger drink up front for around the same price as getting your first beer in the Moe’s or Duff pilsner. So for your initial purchase this is a better value if you want a cocktail for the same price as a beer.

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Pictured at the bottom of the menu is the refillable Universal Orlando pilsner cup

 

At the resorts

Specialty drink hurricane style glass $15 for most drinks, $10 refills (15 oz)

Worth it: Really you don’t have much of a choice in the matter. If you buy a cocktail from the pool bar at any of the Premier (Hard Rock Hotel and Loew’s Portofino Bay) hotels or Loew’s Royal Pacific Hotel, you will be served the hurricane style souvenir glass ($15).  Your refills will then be $10.

What makes this deal worth it is twofold. First, you can hang onto the cup and reuse it for quite a long time. I have used a Hard Rock Hotel cup for over a year now. Secondly, if you get a cup at one hotel you can use it for refills at another (excluding Cabana Bay). This really comes in handy especially because it is so much fun to resort hop.

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Royal Pacific Big Kahuna Bowl $35, $30 refills (45 oz)

Wasted (kinda): Essentially this big bowl is three times the sizes of the regular refillable cup and thus three times the cost both on purchase and refill. It certainly is a fun idea for a group to share. But, is it practical to carry a 45 oz bowl back and forth for multiple visits in order to get your refill money’s worth? This is a great idea for partying and special occasions, though.

Cabana Bay specialty drink cup $12 (20 oz) and pool cup $15 (22 oz), refills $10

Worth it: Cabana Bay Beach Resort has two different specialty drink refillable cups. These cups cannot be used at the other resorts nor can the cups from the other resorts be used here. The regular refillable cup gives you 5 more ounces than the other resorts for $12 instead of $15! The refills costs the same as they do at the other resorts.

My personal pick is the pool cup. For $15 you get 22 ounces and a cup that is designed for use in the pool! It has a closing lid and straw, absolutely perfect for chilling in the pool with a refreshing drink in your hand. The one thing to keep in mind when considering the value of the Cabana Bay cups is that there are drink and beer of the day specials that are usually $6-$8 and not part of the cup program.

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Comparing the $15, 15 oz. resort cup to the $15 22 oz. refillable Cabana Bay pool cup

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Cabana Bay rapid fill cup – $8.99 one day, $11.99 two day, $14.99 three day, $17.99 length of stay

Worth it (kinda): I believe there is more value in this cup program than the Freestyle Coke program in the parks, primarily because the cost is lower. If you bought the in-park Freestyle Coke cup you’d have to buy three or more of the cups to get them for $9.99 each, plus a second day would cost $5.99 so that’s $16 each for two days (with three cups of more) vs. $11.99 for two days at Cabana Bay.

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At CityWalk

Fat Tuesday 16 oz cup $10 / $6 refill or 24 oz  cup $15 / $9 refill    

Wasted: I have to first say I am not a fan of frozen drinks. I have yet to have one that did not feel watered down and weak when compared to a cocktail on the rocks. However, I recognize there are plenty of fans of frozen drinks out there, so for those folks this may be worth it.

Yet, for the 16 oz cup you pay $10 for the cup and $6 for the refill. So essentially you have to buy 3 frozen drinks from Fat Tuesday before you break even. This option seems more worth it than the larger 24 oz option. Sure, with the 24 oz option your getting 8 more ounces which really is a lot, but you’re also paying $15 for the cup ($8 more than a regular 16 oz cup and $5 more than the 16 oz refillable cup).

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Specialty cocktail pilsner glass $10.50 / refills $7.75

Worth it: This is by far one of the best values on Universal Orlando property. First, the initial cost of $10.50 is the lowest cost of all the special cocktail souvenier cups on property. Second, the refill cost of $7.75 is quite inexpensive when compared to the cost of cocktails throughout the rest of Universal property.

The downsides are there are only two outdoor bars at CityWalk that offer this deal and they don’t open until 3pm. Plus, your choices are a little limited. Officially this deal is only available when you one of the five specialty drinks listed on the menu. Other liquor is available, but you may not be able to take advantage of the refillable cup deal if you order something other than the special drinks on the menu. Some bartenders will honor the deal for other drinks as long as the alcohol content and mixers are relatively the same as the specialty drinks, but not always.

Still, we’ve had our CityWalk cup for about two years and we have gotten some great use out of it. The cup has changed a little over the years so it is fun seeing the bartender’s reaction when we whip out our older version. Plus, the outdoor CityWalk bars are a great place to relax and take in the atmosphere. The Shoreline bar is right across from Emeril’s Orlando and offers a great selection of craft beers as well as delicious pizza delivered fresh from Red Oven Pizza Bakery.

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Current version on the left, our older version on the right

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In summary

As you can see, there is an overwhelming amount of options. However, I do enjoy that Universal Orlando has these options. In the end, when you find the right cup program that fits your needs it’s like finding a new friend with which to visit the theme parks. Ok, that might be overstating things, but still if the refillable cup suits your style then raise a glass and toast to Universal Orlando!

 

Posted on August 28, 2015

4 Responses to “Refillable Mugs at Universal Orlando – Worth it or Wasted?”

  • We went to Universal for 3 days at the end of April and went for the freestyle in park option. We shared the cup between two of us (three if you include my constantly thirsty child) and even with the mandated wait time between refills I believe we filled it up about 10 times on each day. So for $25 for 20-30 drinks over 3 full days in the parks I think it was totally worth it.

    Incidentally at one point our cup fell out the locker and the internal part cracked, we took it to a drinks cabana and they replaced it for us free of charge

  • None of the in-park options are worth it, because you have to carry the mug around all day! Universal is a park where you never want a bag or anything to carry because of the numerous rides that require locker use. Avoiding lockers is an important factor to your day at Universal, so being required to stop every time you want to go on a ride sucks out the value from those refillable mugs very quickly.

    Also, they can’t be used at table service restaurants, which is where we have most of our drinks.

  • One great perk with the standard refillable cups is that they can be used indefinitely. In May of this year I got a refill in a cup purchased in 2005.

  • This article was awesome! As a universal annual passholder it was right up my alley!