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You Know You are Having a Good Time When Someone Snorts!
Welcome to my Universal Studios vacation trip report.
This is part of a 3 part trip report and actually the second part I am writing. I started with the last portion first, which was a Disney cruise with a day and ½ of Disney World at the end.
For those that read it, you now can see how this trip actually started.
To get things started I will start with a mini intro.
For those that don’t know me, I am Jennifer, or as many of my friends call me, Jen! I like to travel, I like to take pictures and then I usually like to write about my adventures. I do that for 2 reasons. Number one is that I hope it helps others in their planning. I tell the good and the bad and even though my experience isn’t what others may find or even like, I hope to at least give people a little taste of things. I secondly write these for my own personal reasons. I tend to post this on a couple of message boards as well as my blog. If I want to go back and remember my trip, I can just go and read it. Or if there is something I can’t remember in a few years, like why I didn’t like this, or what made that so special, I can go and reread about it.
Of course even when I write it down now, I still can’t remember everything, but the pictures tend to jog my memory and I usually have it pretty close to how it happened.
I am a Mom to 3, but many of you who have read my past reports probably only know my youngest, Claire. Claire is 11 now…boy time flies. My other 2 are just as special but they are adults and rarely travel with me now so they just are not in my traveling reports.
I am also a grandmother now. Yes…I know…I am WAY too young to be a grandmother. I know, I know….you make me blush with all your compliments! But yes I am! And little Gracie is now 20 months old and just as cute as can be
I am also married and if you have read my past reports you have probably seen Skip make appearances. He isn’t always a fan of traveling, and he is even less of a fan of me traveling without him, but sometimes I just have to go and he gripes a bit at first and then makes peace with it.
This trip was actually a work related trip. Back in Oct. of 2014, 2 of my co-workers and I were chatting like we do daily on facebook, and my co-worker Brook mentioned great cruise rates for Feb 2016. Wow! Of course, Deb and I go and take a look and there were several short sailings that were reasonable. We had been talking about doing a work related cruise for some time now, but no one was ever pulling the trigger. They elected me to post about it on our private business page to see if anyone would bite….and bite they did. Soon we were all talking about cruising and then it came down to picking a date and a ship. It was between the Dream and the Magic. I have been on both ships, twice each. I was game for either really. Some wanted one over the other, some it was more about price and in the end we priced out a few sailings and basically went with the cheapest option, which was on the Magic on Feb. 7, 2016.
It’s a long story, but in the beginning we decided to add days to the trip either pre or post. We talked about Disney World, Universal and Sea World. Some could go earlier and some preferred after the cruise. In the end a few days precruise at WDW was decided on for most.
I had 2 roommates for the Disney World and Disney cruise portion of the trip, Cass and Brook. I have roomed with both before and I like both as roommates.
Cass and I both really wanted to do Universal though. So did a few other girls.
In the end Cass was coming down several days earlier than I, so she was going to do 3 days at WDW and then move over to Universal the day before I was to arrive. We decided that on my arrival day (and her Universal arrival day the day before) we would like to stay at Cabana Bay. It’s still a new resort and it looked so cute. We decided the next morning we would move to Hard Rock Hotel so we would have express pass access for the parks.
All the plans were made and we just had to wait for the dates to arrive.
Join me as I relive this Universal vacation….there were a lot of laughs and good times during those few days.
Signing on! I've been thinking about going to Universal, but I'm always worried that it will seem like a "wasted" vacation day if I don't like it there! Will be interested in your opinion on it.
I love Universal Studios. I have a lot of clients who do a split stay now with half at Disney and half at Universal and some now are converted to full Universal clients.
If you like Harry Potter, that alone is worth it to go for a day or 2.
Originally Posted by jandsdennis
signing in for this portion. looking forward to hearing all about universal as at some point we hope to do this as well. loving the reports by the way.
Thanks for joining in. I am a big fan of Universal. Skip loves Universal too, so that is saying something. He is not good with new destinations and the first time we went, he made us do a day at Disney too. I think I have a better chance now of getting him to do a Universal stay over a Disney stay these days.
Today was the pre-vacation day. I was packed and ready and going over everything to be sure I had it all. I was flying out of Columbus Ohio, which is about a 2 ½ hour drive from my house. It’s cheaper to fly out of there often, and Southwest has direct flights from there. Also my sister and Aunt both live there so I can often come the day before and spend the night and have someone drop me off at the airport with no issues.
My plan was to not leave till late afternoon so that I could finish up last minute work details and also to spend a little time with Claire when she got home from school.
During the day Cass had took Uber over to Universal’s Cabana Bay and checked in. She messaged me to let me know she was on her way and then a little later messaged me that our room was the VERY LAST room of the building and did I want her to see if we could get something closer.
Now I surely did not want to put Cass out, but I honestly had NO desire to be that far from the lobby area. I kind of just said it was up to her. After all she would have to trek down the long hall again and down the elevator to get the room changed. Then she said it was a wheelchair accessible room. Oh shoot. I do NOT want that kind of room. I asked her what the shower was like. I knew that those rooms often have showers where everything will get wet unless you have it 10 feet off the floor.
She took pictures and sent them to me and sure enough….it was a sucky room.
Again I did not want to be a pain, but I didn’t really desire this room, even if it was only for 1 night for me. I told Cass it was up to her, but if she wanted to I would prefer a different room. Luckily she was in agreement and she said she really wanted to change rooms but it was such a long haul with her luggage from the lobby, but if I agreed then it made her more motivated to do so.
In the end she got a closer room and it was normal.
As the day went on, my sister asked me if I wanted to go out to eat and what time did I expect to arrive. I had really just planned on hitting a drive thru, but we then decided that the Cheesecake Factory sounded really good. I had to keep that a secret from Claire or she might start crying.
All went well throughout the day and I was antsy to leave. I spent some time with Claire after school and then said my goodbyes to my family and headed off to Columbus. To pass the time, I listen to books on tape. It really does make longer drives more tolerable.
I arrived at Amanda’s house and got settled in and we headed to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. If you have read any of my other reports, you know I just LOVE that place.
It wasn’t too hard for me to get up early and get ready. I double checked I had everything I needed and where I needed it and we loaded my luggage into Amanda’s car.
My flight was at 10:35 and I am a stickler for being there 2 hours ahead usually. With Columbus though the airport is typically very easy to get through and I scored a TSA precheck on my ticket. I swear I get it most times from there, but coming home never.…which is where I really need it.
Amanda dropped me off on her way to work and I checked my luggage curbside. I had a new full size suitcase and then a carryon size (that tipped over when too full) that I checked. I had the full size FULL. The carry on mainly had gifts for all my friends. They grabbed my bags and immediately took my big one to be weighed. It was like at 48.9 lbs. hahaha. I had weighed it over and over and I knew it was close but under.
I went in through security and there wasn’t a TSA precheck line open but that didn’t really matter as only 3 of us were going through security at that time. I just didn’t have to take off anything.
That was pretty painless and I made my way to my gate. Actually I hit the store and got a pop and a snack for the plane and then found a seat and waited. There were a group of ladies sitting next to me that were going to WDW. I could tell one was in charge and made all the plans because she was telling the others all the FP’s they had and dining. It was fun to listen in and I held my tongue at some of the rookie mistakes. I could tell they would have a good time no matter what.
I always try to sit near a plug while waiting to board so I can give all my devices I may use on the plane a final charge. I had a book loaded to my phone and I planned on editing some pictures on my laptop, so I plugged them in and also chatted with a few people via text and facebook.
I also took a picture of my new carryon luggage. If you didn’t read my Cruise portion yet (and you should…LOL), I raved about my luggage. I had looked for something new and more functional. I needed something that would be easy to work with. I decided on Samantha Brown luggage. It’s beautiful, at least in my opinion, and I have watched her on HSN over the years and kept thinking…one day I will get that stuff. I often travel alone or with just Claire so I am in charge and though Claire can handle luggage I need to keep watch on several different things and documents. Even when Skip is along, I still have to watch over all of us.
This carryon set was amazing. I talked so much about it, my sister has bought a set for our upcoming cruise.
If you want to see all the features, go to the HSN site and search for Samantha Brown and then watch the video snippets. She explains all the functions and features of her pieces and I must say I was very happy.
As it got closer to boarding time, I headed off to the bathroom. When I came back an older lady had taken my seat. I thought it was strange as I had seen her sitting in the row behind me before and she knew I had been sitting there, but I guess she wanted to be that much closer to the front. Actually that worked out well as I needed to stretch before sitting for a few hours, so I walked up and down the hall, rolling my fancy new luggage with one hand. Ok, I’m a geek………I was practicing how to handle it down a narrow plane aisle and spinning it a few times.
Once it was time to board, I got in line at my boarding number (I was in the A’s) and soon boarded the plane. I choose an aisle seat and placed my luggage. And then because I am a geek, I took pictures of how well it all fit.
Soon we were taking off and I settled into listening to my book on the phone and pulled out my laptop and worked on that. I enjoyed the snack and drink that was passed out and after about 2 hours we were getting ready to land.
I must say I was pretty darn excited. I was in Florida, I was escaping the cold, I was going to be going to Universal Studios, Disney World and a Disney cruise all in one trip, and I was going to see my co-workers….some who I have done things with in the past and missed them terribly and also meeting new ones in person.
Once landed, I grabbed my functional luggage and wheeled it down and out and after a bathroom stop I headed to the fake monorail.
I texted Cass that I had landed and told her I would keep her up to date. Luggage wasn’t out yet, so I went outside where I got a message from one of my very best friends, Stacy. If you read my Disneyland trip report a few years ago, you know that I spent the first day with Stacy there and she had given me an awesome tour of LA. Well, Stacy was announcing she was getting married! They were tying the knot on April Fool’s day. This is so Stacy. She loves strange and different things and for her I would expect an April 1 or Oct. 31 wedding to fit her style.
Long story short, she invited several of us from Ohio, but I don’t think many of us could end up going. April 1 fell during Spring Break week and the flights were outrageously high. I had points I could use, but even then I couldn’t even get a round trip for 1, let alone 2 or 3 and if I went I would take Claire for sure. Her wedding was wonderful looking though, with an Elvis officiant performing the ceremony, and she seems to be very happy and I am so happy for her.
So after messaging with Stacy and a few friends I headed back in and not only had the luggage now come through but they were loading the straggler bags to a cart to take away. Ooops. I told the guy those were my bags and grabbed them and head off to find the area to check in for my shuttle.
Now I had 1 full size bag check and a carryon size checked and then my regular carryon. I debated on getting a cart but I figured I could handle it by stacking. It worked but it was awkward.
I checked in for the shuttle and was told where to wait outside, which was a little ways down. Now if I had known how far down it was, I would have gone with the cart. Again, it wasn’t horrible pushing my luggage, but awkward and the pavement at spots was like bricks so it was bumpy and made it a little harder to push.
Once I checked in at that desk I sat down and noticed my new Samantha Brown full sized suitcase did not do so well with its first flight.
Not the worst thing ever, just cosmetic, but it annoyed me. I did contact both HSN and Southwest. HSN, said that something done by the airlines was not covered in the warranty and SW said it was normal wear and tear.
I updated Cass that I was waiting for the shuttle.
It wasn’t too long and one came and several of us loaded in. I saw this go by.
And then we were on our way. I got to talking to a few people in the van. The gal next to me was at a conference that was being held at MCO and they got out early so she was heading to Universal for a ½ day. 2 younger guys were going to Universal as well for a few days. They decided last night and booked it. The one guy was a flight attendant and they flew free and he said he had a few days off and just asked his buddy if he wanted to go. How fun! It was nice talking to them.
We also had some other people in the van and I soon found out, Cabana Bay was going to be the last stop.
We then made another stop and then maybe one more, then I text Cass we were coming into Universal….except that we had to drop off the gal first who was going to the park. Then finally Cabana Bay. It seemed like a really long ride, but in reality it was probably around an hour. But when I am so excited and Cass is waiting on me, it seemed like an eternity.
I had to laugh at our drivers’ name. I swear I always get these drivers with names that just don’t sound real.
Cass was right there waiting for me and it was so good to see her! We hugged and she helped me with my luggage and we headed right in. Both of us talking a mile a minute.
I looked around the lobby, but with our hands full, no pictures were taken. She showed me the way to wing with our elevator and pointed out stuff and I thought…wow this place is big and I am going to get so lost!
We headed to our floor and Cass warned me that the carpet in the halls was too thick and it was hard to carry your luggage and she was right. Who thought of this? I have 4 wheel spinner luggage and I had to drag it and even that was hard. We finally made it to the room and I set my stuff down and took in the room. I personally loved it and I loved the theming. I quickly changed into some more comfy clothes and then proceeded to take pictures. Cass said she had straightened it up a bit so it would be picture ready.
We could also see Sapphire Falls, which is opening this summer. I had passed it coming in as well and I was amazed at how little was done. They have a lot to do before this hotel will be ready for guests. Several months later now, I saw someone post another picture and this resort (at the time of writing this) is due to open in a few weeks and it still looks like it has a long ways to go to be ready.
Now a few months before this trip, Cass asked me if I liked surprises. Well sure I do. She said she had a surprise for me and could tell me then or I could wait…she preferred me to wait, but wanted to give me the choice. I said I would wait. She told me not to plan anything for the evening of my arrival then. Ok, I had a few things in mind that it could be, but honestly there were a lot of things…..dinner somewhere? Bowling? Movie? Putt-putt? Blue Man Group? I am going to say I secretly hoped it was the Blue Man Group, but I was doubtful it was that.
Once I got my room pictures out of the way she asked me if I wanted to know about my surprise….Oh yeah! By now I had kind of forgot about it. It was BLUE MAN GROUP! What an awesome friend!!!!
After I was settled in a bit we headed downstairs to take a look at the place and then for me to find some lunch.
This little courtyard is where the elevator came out to and it led to the pool. This also has a smoking area nearby for those who need one.
We noticed the pools hours. I believe the one over on our wing closed at 11 but this one was at 10. It was kind of a bummer as I love to sit in a hot tub late into the evening and 11 for closing is early sometimes.
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I read a review on trip advisor about the cabanas and one person complained because they were not directly poolside and other loungers blocked their view. I thought it was kind of an odd complaint. You rent these when you arrive and it’s very clear to see they are not pool side and that other loungers may be in your view of the pool.
And we asked and the gal acted dumb. We kind of pushed it and she went to ask someone in the back and came out to tell us there were no show ready rooms available. Now I know the place was not booked and I am pretty sure they had empty suite rooms, but maybe they only use certain rooms to show people. I am being optimistic there, but my guess is she didn’t ask or she didn’t quite understand what we were wanting….or she is a big fat liar! Oh well, we tried.
I am not sure which construction this was for, but assuming it was for the addition at Cabana Bay. They are adding like 400 new rooms here I believe. And then Volcano Bay is also being constructed nearby. That is due to open early next year….or was. The other day there was a big fire in the lot where they were storing some of the equipment and word is that about 2 million dollars worth of the waterslide material burned up.
On a side note, when we visited New York City for Thanksgiving last year, we met up with Brook and her son Henry. We all did an around the city tour by boat (which was neat), and after we walked back towards our hotel, and Brook towards her subway stop. My sister and her girls were with us as well and the kids all got along great. (I really think Henry was having a ball watching all these crazy girls in his city). We went into a 7-11 or store similar because they all had a need for an icee. Of course they all wanted the mega large, but I refrained Claire a little bit and got a smaller size. These kids were all going crazy over the Icees. Who knew a highlight on our trip to NYC was going to be getting Icees. LOL! My niece Alexis asks for Speedway gas station gift cards for holidays so she can go and get gas station food.
After that tour I headed back to the room and we just chilled out a bit. I laid on the bed and took a picture of the view from where I was laying.
Then I sent it to Claire and bragged how I could see Hogwarts from my bed. I then facetimed her which she was pretty impressed with. She knows I don’t normally do it and it was probably the first time I ever have.
I don’t remember what she got, but she only wanted half and she placed the other half in front of me. I told her I didn’t want it and she insisted I have it. Ok, I’ll take a bite….wow that is a darn good sandwich….OK twist my arm, I ate the whole half. LOL.
After that we headed toward the Blue Man Group entrance to pick up the tickets.
We entered and I stopped and got some popcorn and a drink and we found our seats, which were good and settled in.
Now I have never been to a Blue Man show before and wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Cass explained it a little bit.
What I didn’t expect was how freaking funny it was going to be. To start out, they have a ticker thing scrolling words across it and it’s just basic info like no photography and stuff like that…then it adds in funny stuff. At first I wasn’t sure I read it right. It’s kind of the dry sense of humor and soon I was just laughing at stuff scrolling across the ticker. The humor is just great and all throughout the show there was humor that adults would catch but kids thought it was funny in a different way.
The show was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!!! So many different neat acts and these guys never crack a smile. At one point we were laughing so hard and Cass snorted. Then that made me laugh even harder. You know you are having a good time when someone snorts!!!!
Now you can’t take pictures during the show, but towards the end I snuck a few on my cell. They are not very good, but you get an idea at least.
I have the best friend ever! I am so grateful to Cass for taking me to this show. I loved it so much that I told my Mom about it as she was coming to Orlando in March and she and my Dad went and saw it too and both loved it as well.
After the show was over we made our way back to Cabana Bay and then went and changed so we could enjoy the hot tub for a short time as it was due to close soon. It was nice and we were disappointed when the Team Member came up to tell us it was time to get out. The night was still young and we wanted to linger, but we also knew we had a big day planned tomorrow and needed to get some sleep, so we headed back to the room and went to bed.
It was just my first day of a long trip, but it was already amazing and fun.
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