Good morning everyone!
Some of this is going to sound like a commercial; I apologize in advance, but when something is enjoyable, it doesn’t make any sense to try to find something negative to say!
As you know, Mark and I took a trip to Orlando last weekend. Mark and I hadn’t been to a theme park in a lot of years (since Kayla was 4) and we were a little unsure how he would do with the walking and the standing in line given his rheumatoid arthritis, which is one reason we wanted to take this trip with just the two of us – if we ended up only being able to stay in a park for one or two hours, we wouldn’t have to worry about disappointing our daughter. There were about 500 other reasons to have some time for just the two of us, so that wasn’t the only reason, but it was one.
Then, as I was going through our options for a hotel room, I started looking at the three Loew’s hotels that are “on-site” Universal Studio hotels – the Portofino, the Royal Pacific and the Hard Rock. They are not cheap, but by staying at the Royal Pacific, we picked up a lot of extras that were worth their “wait” in gold. (You’ll understand and be able to groan at the pun later.)
The most important of those benefits was the fact that every guest at one of those three hotels has automatic “Fast Pass” entry to every ride that has one, which basically is every ride except for Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey. Granted it was January, with Fast Pass, we hardly had to wait in line at all (okay, go ahead and groan now); often we were able to walk right onto the ride as soon as we got up to it. (The lines at Universal are astounding labyrinths; as we walked through them we tried to imagine what it would be like to have to wait if all of the labyrinth was full and came to the conclusion that it would not be fun.) For those of you who, like me, have stood in line somewhere like Disneyworld or Universal for over 45 minutes to an hour for a ride, you can just imagine the feeling of soaring into the ride immediately! I would have felt a little bad about it if the Fast Pass option wasn’t available to everyone if they choose, but if you are not staying at the hotels, you can buy Fast Pass privileges. It costs $87 per person per day on top of the entrance fee, which is already over $80 for a single park, single day admission. (In other words, it ain’t cheap.)
Even though the Harry Potter ride does not have a Fast Pass entrance (yet, anyhow), staying at one of the three Universal Hotels also allows you to enter Islands of Adventure one hour early to go down to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, so instead of waiting over 60 minutes to ride the Forbidden Journey, we had a wait time of about 10 minutes. The second day, Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey was one of the only two rides we decided to ride twice. We waited 60 minutes in line for the ride that day, and easily came to the conclusion that the Fast Pass and early entry was what had made the trip possible. The other ride we rode twice was the Spiderman ride. It is one of the best rides in both parks! Since Spiderman has a Fast Pass entry, it only took about five minutes each time to go through.
Another benefit of staying at an on-site hotel at Universal is proximity and transportation. We were only a ten minute walk away from CityWalk and the entrance to both parks, and if we didn’t feel like walking, there was a water taxi that would carry us to and from the hotel along a canal Universal has constructed. The hotel or the parks, I’m not sure which, also provide shuttle buses if you prefer.
We walked along the hotel path several times; it is a well-designed route, with landscaping that has a pan-Asian flair, including stands of bamboo and small stone statues hidden around, and lots of flowering plants, some of which were still flowering even in mid-January. We tried the water taxi too; it was basically just a ride in a boat but the drivers were very friendly and after all of the hours we had spent walking, being able to sit down was fantastic!
Another benefit was the ease with which we picked up our tickets. There is an automated “Will Call” Kiosk that you go to in the lobby, swipe the credit card/debit card you used to make your payments originally with, and out pop your tickets for your entire stay.
Staying “on the park” really made a difference in how much we enjoyed our short stay. Hopefully, you will get the chance to do so soon!
Have a great weekend everyone!