ADP Live From Disney World
Posted 21 October 2008 - 10:38 PM
I just returned to the room for the evening. I was touring the resort and stopped for a drink at the Velvet Bar. I sat outside on the 3rd floor patio overlooking the pool. It is a beautiful night outside.
Here are a few photos I took while walking around tonight.
Emack & Bolio's. Ice Cream, Starbucks, snacks, and some breakfast items located on the first floor near the entrance to the pool area.
The Hard Rock Store located off the 3rd floor lobby
Inside the Hard Rock Store you will find these small screen TVs with live video feeds from various Hard Rock Cafes throughout the world. Pretty cool!
An Elvis display off of the 3rd floor lobby of clothing and a guitar he used during one of his concerts
Entrance to the Velvet Bar off of the 3rd floor lobby. A great place just to hang out.
More to come tomorrow. Thanks for following along.
Posted 22 October 2008 - 08:59 PM
We are back from our dinner at The Kitchen. I'll give you more about our experience there in just a bit.
Our day started again in the Hard Rock Hotel club lounge. The lounge is called Club 7. I think because it's located on the 7th floor. The lounge is somewhat small and can get crowded; especially in the morning.
Here is a photo of the continental breakfast offerings this morning
We left the Hard Rock Hotel through the back by the pool. There is a walkway in the back that leads to City Walk and Universal Studios.
Here is a photo of us walking out the back of the hotel facing the wonderful pool area
We arrived at Universal Studios in about 5 minutes. The walk is very short. The Hard Rock Hotel is the closest of the 3 on-site hotels to the theme parks.
Here are a couple of photos from our arrival to the theme park this morning.
A shot of Kim and Anna next to the revolving Universal globe
Here's a photo of the entrance to Universal Studios theme park
The first note I want to make about the park today was the lack of streetmosphere. The only street acts we saw today were the Blues Brothers doing a skit next to their cop car. Other than that skit that was the only streetmosphere acts we saw today. It was rather disappointing; however, there could have been more, but we just didn't see it.
Attractions we experienced today were Shrek 4-D, Jimmy Neutron, Twister, Revenge of the Mummy, The Simpsons, Men in Black Alien Attack and Curious George's Play Area. We also saw some characters today; including sponge Bob, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, and Curious George.
Here's a photo of the construction site of a new attraction called Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. A new cosaster scheduled to open in Spring of 2009 inside Universal Studios. Music and coasters seem to go well together.
One of the newer attractions; The Simpsons, was a lot better than I anticipated. What really makes this attraction special is the screen technology. The video screen is more like a circle vision affect. It really surrounds you and gives you the feeling of reality. It is really very well done. I should also mention there are a number of Disney references during the attraction. I won't spoil it, but you will notice them while you travel through the attraction.
Here's a photo of the front of the Simpson's attraction
Another highlight of the day was a dessert I ordered at the San Francisco Baking Co. in the Ammityville section of the park. It's called a rasberry napoleon. It was off the charts good and if you are ever in Universal Studios I suggest going to this bakery and giving it a try.
Here is a picture of the rasberry napoleon. Very big and enough to share.
As we were leaving the park today I snapped this photo of two 1940's cars parked along the street
We left Universal Studios around 4:30PM today. The park closed at 5:00PM to prepare for Halloween Horror Nights.
We returned to our room and freshened up for our dinner at The Kitchen. The Kitchen is one of two signature restaurants at the Hard Rock Hotel. According to Universal's website characters are supposed to be in attendance between 6:00PM and 9:00PM. So I went ahead and made the reservation for tonight for that reason.
We arrived at The Kitchen at 6:30PM and were seated immediately. The restaurant is much like the decor around the Hard Rock Hotel. There are several references to rock & Roll and memorabellia all around the restaurant.
Here is a photo of some of the memorabellia
One of the things that struck me after 15 minutes was there were no characters around. I asked our waiter about it and oddly enough he said "Oh yes, between 6:00PM and 9:00PM" and nothing more.
Onto our food. I wasn't feeling to adventurous tonight so I went with a salad wedge along with a cheeseburger and fries. Kim ordered a baked macaroni and cheese dish. We also both ordered margaritas; one frozen and the other on the rocks.
Here's a photo of my salad wedge
After we ordered our food the Manager of the restaurant paid us a visit and said "I apologize sir, but there are no characters for tonight". He said they stopped having characters on Wednesday's; however, Universal has not taken this information off of their website, nor have they stopped advertising it yet. Well, that's a bummer. Oh well, we will live; however, I was more disappointed that Universal and Loews/Hard Rock don't seem to communicate well.
Our meals did come and we enjoyed the food. There really wasn't much wrong with it and everything tasted good.
After we ate our main courses our waiter came over with dessert offerings. He described all the desserts to us; however, my stomach told me not to do it. We all declined dessert; however, the waiter said the Manager of the restaurant wanted us to have dessert on him for the character mishap. He offered for us to pick a dessert to go. So we all picked a dessert and they boxed them up for us and put them in a bag. A very nice gesture by the restaurant.
Here's a photo of the dessert offerings
The total amount of our bill including tip and a 10% annual pass discount was $65. Not bad considering we got free desserts and had two alcoholic beverages. If you are considering dining here I'd tell you to try something else. There are so many other choices at Universal and I'm not sure if I had only 2 or 3 meals during a vacation I'd choose this place. You may want to try Mama Dellas at the Portofino or Bubba Gumps at City Walk.
After dinner we came back to our room. Anna and Kim decided they wanted to head to City Walk and catch a movie. I believe they went to see Beverly Hills Chawawa. I plan on relaxing the rest of the evening. I may walk around the resort or head out to the hot tub.
Tomorrow we plan on heading to both parks and hitting some of our favorite attractions. We also have a character breakfast lined up for the morning with Spiderman, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 over at Islands of Adventure. I will provide a report on that experience tomorrow.
Lastly, I wanted to show you some photos of our room on the 7th floor.
Thanks for following along.
Catchings some of our favorite Universal Attractions
Character Breakfast at Islands of Adventure
Posted 23 October 2008 - 06:52 PM
We've just returned from our day at both parks. We picked some of our favorite attractions at both parks and decided to spend our day that way. Since both parks are so close to each other and they are walking distance using this strategy was no problem. We started our day at the Confisco Grill at Islands of Adventure where they have a character breakfast. We then started our park touring in Islands of Adventure and would eventually move on to Universal Studios.
Our day started with a nice walk along the path between the Hard Rock Hotel and City Walk. We entered Islands of Adventure at 9:00AM for our 9:15AM reservation at Confisco Grill's character breakfast. Confisco Grill is located in the Port of Entry at the front of the park. Here's a photo of the Port of Entry. As you can see the skies were a bit overcast this morning.
Here's a sign in front of the Confisco Grill advertising the character breakfast with pricing
Characters who appeared today where Spiderman, Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2. Since this breakfast is not heavily attended you get a lot of character interaction time. I believe Spiderman spent 5 or more minutes with us at our table. All the characters do a great job. They each perform some sort of skit or comic routine to help you associate with them.
Here's a photo of Anna with thing 1 and Thing 2 from the Cat and the Hat series
The breakfast is a buffet where you go up and get what you would like. The food is basic breakfast fare with scrambled eggs, hash browns, etc with one exception. Today, they had green eggs and ham sandwiches. I tried one and now, I can honestly say, "I do not like green eggs and ham Sam I am, I do not like them at a character breakfast, or in a theme park Sam I am!" Yuck!
Here's a photo of the buffet line
Our service was a bit spotty considering the restaurant was not very busy. We didn't see our server very much. I waited for a refill of coffee for about 5 minutes, but other than that it was ok.
The total cost of our bill with tip and 10% annual pass discount was $52. Not expensive, but certainly not cheap either. I do believe with the amount of character interaction we received and the quality of the food it was worth it. This is the only character meal you will find in either of the two theme parks. I would suggest giving it a try; especially if you have Spiderman fans in your household.
Here's a photo of the inside of the Confisco Grill
After we finished breakfast we took a walk through Suess Landing. We hit a couple of attractions we wanted to try again.
Here's a photo of the entrance to Suess Landing
We worked our way to the Lost Continent where I snapped this photo. I've always found this structure interesting. I always wonder what people are thinking when they imagine something like this. I call this structure "the vometing water god"!
Attractions we experienced in both parks today were Suess Landing Trolly Ride, Cat and the Hat, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Ripsaw Falls (yes, we got wet), Spiderman, The Simpsons Ride, Men in Black, The Mummy and Jimmy Neutron's Blast.
We finished our park touring today at 4:30 and headed back to the Hard Rock Hotel. On the way back to our room I stopped in the club lounge and snapped this photo.
As I've previously mentioned the club lounge at the Hard Rock is rather small. It was crowded tonight for evening appatizers. In fact, there were no seats available when we came back later. We just took the food back to our room. Comparing this club level experience with the few others we've experienced I'd say this was probably the least appealing to us. Not to say it was bad, we just have experienced better. I still believe the Polynesian resort provided the best club experience for us overall.
As for the rest of this evening we plan on relaxing down by the pool. The pool here is great so we plan on taking advantage of it as much as possible. Tomorrow is our departure day. We have an evening flight out of Orlando so we still have the day ahead of us tomorrow; however, we will need to check-out before 10:00AM and store our luggage with the concierge before heading to the parks.
Here's a photo I took the other day looking across the lake at the Worlds largest Hard Rock Cafe. There is also a concert venue attached where Miss Elanis Morasette played this past Tuesday night.
I'll provide another update tomorrow. Thanks for following along!
Checking-Out of the Hard Rock Hotel
Enjoying the Parks
Posted 24 October 2008 - 09:09 AM
We are getting ready to check-out of the Hard Rock Hotel. We've already visited the club lounge and had breakfast. We plan on heading into the parks today to catch a few more attractions. It did rain this morning, but it has stopped.
Even though we are checking out of the Hard Rock we are still allowed to use the hotel ammenities for the day. We also are still allowed to use the express pass access, so it will be nice to still be able to by-pass the lines.
I'll have another report with pictures either tonight or first thing tomorrow after we return home.
Posted 24 October 2008 - 06:02 PM
I'm sitting in the Orlando airport waiting for our flight which is delayed 10 minutes. Not a big deal. The weather is overcast right now, but it's expected to clear soon.
Our day started at the Hard Rock Club lounge where we enjoyed breakfast. It's been really nice having the club lounge available for breakfast. We don't have to scramble for other options and delay our trip to the parks. It was a real time saver; although getting to the parks a little later was no big deal with the express pass access.
After we officially checked out we headed for Universal Studios. When we entered the park we headed right and ran into some characters who were out signing autographs and taking pictures.
Here are a few photos from our character interaction
The Simpsons RV. The Simpson characters were on the other side
Anna and I with none other than Marilyn Monroe
We also ran into the characters from Madagascar. Madagascar 2 will be in theaters soon
The one thing you will notice as you walk through Universal Studios is a replica walk-of-fame. a good portion of the street has star lables; however, some are still blank for future stars.
Here's a photo of a star you will see while walking along the walk-of-fame
There was a noticable increase in crowd levels today at Universal Studios. I guess because its Friday. With the express pass access lines were not a problem, but stand-by wait times ranged from 10 minutes on the secondary attractions to 60 minutes on the headliner attractions.
Here's a shot of the crowd along the streets at Universal Studios. Some of the crowd was there to see the Simpsons, but we found this type of crowd all through the park today.
Attractions we experienced today were the Simpsons Ride, Men in Black, Jimmy Neutron, Shrek 4-D, Curious George's Playhouse, and The Mummy.
As we were heading out of the park today we saw a prop from the 1980s Back To The Future movies.
The Dolorean with the Flux Capacitor in the back....
As we walked past the future area of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit I snapped this photo of the signage outside the construction site. It gives you a graphic of what the coaster will look like. It looks a bit extreme, but what else would you expect of a Universal coaster.
We left Universal Studios around 2:30 and headed back up to the Hard Rock Hotel Club Lounge. We had a few snacks and drinks before we loaded up our car and headed to the airport.
Our flight is about ready to board so I'll leave you with one final photo of the Hard Rock Hotel who made our stay at Universal wonderful.
A saxaphone Chandelier near the 3rd floor lobby. A big thanks to the staff at the Hard Rock Hotel.
A look back at our trip
Some final thoughts
Posted 25 October 2008 - 05:02 PM
Post Trip Report
We are back home after our flight last night. Our flight was delayed only 10 minutes, but the pilot made it up in the air. Southwest does a great job with everything. By the way, the giant tiger in the earlier photo laying on the bed made it home safely. Since we are light packers we wrapped the tiger in a giant garbage bag the Hard Rock Hotel provided us and checked it in as a regular piece of luggage. It arrived on the carousel in Indy with no problem.
Splitting our trip between Disney and Universal worked out pretty well. The one thing I'd suggest to anyone using this strategy is going to Disney World on the front-end of your trip and then going to Universal on the back-end of your trip. The reason is front of the line express access at Universal really spoils you. Using the express pass at the front-end of your trip and then going to Disney where you might wait 45 minutes in line would be a real downer in my opinion. I know Disney offers fastpass and there are ways around crowds like getting to the parks early, but those types of modifications make your vacation a bit more stressful and rushed.
If you do plan on going to Universal do make it a point to stay on site. The 3 Universal hotels are all considered deluxe level in my opinion. They are priced higher than Disney value or moderate resorts, but the express pass access you get while staying on site is priceless in my opinion. Getting a Universal AP for the hotel discount pays for the AP itself and then some depending on the number of nights you stay in the Universal hotel.
Let me start by saying the food at both Universal and Disney and their resorts is getting very expensive. It seems every year the prices rise. Although Universal food prices are a bit cheaper they are expensive as well. Paying $31 per person plus tax and tip for dinner at the Crystal Palace is outrageous. Disney has a way of manipulating its guests. I honestly believe the reason the restaurant and counter food prices are increasing is to push us to purchase their dining plan. When you look at it the dining plan is a much better deal than going without the plan. I always thought the Disney Dining Experience (Tables of Wonderland) was a better value than the plan, but I'm not so sure anymore with these last round of price increases. We've said it before, but if guests keep filling Disney restaurants they will keep increasing their prices based on demand; however, there has to be a tipping point when people stop going to Disney restaurants. I'm seriously thinking of renting a car for each trip in the future and going off-site every so often to dine. The cost savings will pay for the rental car and then some.
Let me also mention I firmly believe the quality of the food at Universal is better than Disney. There seems to be more care taken by the food preparers at Universal than at Disney. I'm not only speaking of the restaurant food, but even the counter and snack foods served in the parks. Bottom line is Universal provides a better value for food and beverage.
As usual the Food & Wine festival at EPCOT was a hit with us. We enjoyed sampling the food and drink around World Showcase. We did notice less F & W booths this year than in the past. I'm not sure why, but it was noticable. I do wish they offered more than 2 or 3 food options at each booth, but the choices they do offer are pretty good. Oh! And just a quick rant, if you are standing in line for more than 3 minutes, please have your money out and know what you want before getting to the cashier to place your order. :frownblue: It really hellps everyone behind you.
Theme Parks -
We enjoyed both resorts theme parks. Just a quick observation, but Disney's parks are a bit cleaner in general. The restrooms and common areas are both cleaner. I do think Islands of Adventure gives a little cleaner of an appearance since it is a newer theme park (opened in 1999). Universal Studios on the other hand could use some sprucing up. It's starting to show some age from the last time we visited. The retheming of the Simpsons from Back to the Future has helped, but some of the other areas could use a little TLC.
As far as attraction technology Universal offers a better product in my opinion. I thought the visual affects on the Simpsons ride were superior than anything I've seen at Disney World. Spiderman continues to blow my mind everytime I ride it. Someone much smarter than me figured how to make that attraction work. It was ground breaking in 1999 and it is still ground breaking today.
As far as overall theming you still can't beat Disney's appeal. They do a great job from the queue line to the post show. The little touches Disney puts into their attractions does not show up at Universal. You will find little references on Universal attractions, but it is nowhere near Disney's calibar. I'm hopeful the new Harry Potter area will show that Universal can outpace Disney's overall theming.
We really didn't experience any problems with transportation on this trip. Since we had a rental car at Disney we used it when we thought we might have to wait. We did take a Disney bus once and the boat between Hollywood Studios and EPCOT with hardly any wait time.
The transporation at Universal was by boat from our resort to City Walk. Once you are at City Walk you walk to the theme park you wish to visit. We took the boat on some occassions and then walked on other occassions. The walking paths from the resorts to Citywalk are very well landscaped and lit up at night. It's really a peaceful and enjoyable walk. There are cyclists who will take 3 people from City Walk to your resort for tips only. A nice alternative if you are in a hurry and don't want to walk or wait for a boat. Since Universal is a much smaller resort than Disney World the boat rides range from 5 to 10 minutes each way.
It's really not fair for me to compare Pop Century to the Hard Rock Hotel since one is a value resort and the other is a deluxe resort. I'll just say Pop Century is a nice, clean value resort with decent amenities for the price. We paid $74 each night with an AP discount. We did dine in the food court, but we did not use the pool or other amenities of the resort because we wanted to experience more in the theme parks. For us Pop Century was no more than a bed and bathroom at night and in the morning.
As for the Hard Rock Hotel it was a nice place to stay. The pool is the best I've experienced in Orlando. It's laid back and has a lot of nice features to it like the under water speaker system, the long pool slide, and the Beach Club pool bar is large, covered and a great place to spend time and relax.
My only complaint I had about the Hard Rock was the feel of the resort. When you walk inside the property it has a museum feel to it. The memorabilia, the walls, and the floor gave me the feeling I was walking through the museum of art. The staff also gives you a feeling of look, but don't touch. Don't get me wrong, they were extremely helpful and pleasant it's just how they came across. Would I stay their again? Yes, for sure. I'd probably spend even more time at the pool area.
Well, that pretty much covers it. I'm sure there is more I could say, but hopefully I covered it over the last 7 days in the trip report. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.
The next trip will be a solo trip for Mousefest. I'm really looking forward to meeting many of you at the various meets. It will be my first solo trip to Disney World. I don't know if I'll be able to provide a full live trip report at Mousefest because of time, but I'll certainly try to post as many comments and pictures as possible. I'm sure there will be many other like me who will post their comments and pictures as well throughout the Internet community.
Until then I'll see you right here on Studios Central!
December 9th - 16th
Saratoga Springs & All-Star Music