Universal Orlando Trip Random Thoughts

April 30, 2016, 4:12 PM

Just got back from a few days in Universal celebrating my birthday. Not so much a trip report, as some random thoughts...

-Disney does not hold a monopoly on great customer service. Was greeted with a smile by every employee I saw and they joked with the guests, kids and adults alike. I had no negative experiences with any Universal employees.

-I have to say, I love Disney and Universal, but my last couple trips to Universal have felt infinitely more relaxing than my last couple trips to Disney. I stayed onsite and loved not feeling I had to plan my whole day. The express pass was good for just about every attraction whenever I felt like going on it and I just felt more free to wander. Even the character meetings felt a bit more random as opposed to timed meet and greets in designated areas.

-Loved that my hotel express pass was still good the entire day of our checkout.

-The in house drinks that you can only get at Universal? Brilliant idea. Enjoyed trying the Duff beer offerings in Springfield and of course Butterbeer. Really helps to immerse you even more in the various lands.

-Really enjoyed the Gringotts attraction more than Forbidden Journey...not sure why, just seemed less jerky maybe?

- Had some great in park food too...Lombards for dinner one night was fantastic and the taco truck in Springfield was delicious.

-One thing I wish they had more of is attractions in the vein of E.T. As someone who occasionally deals with back pain, seems like a lot of the attractions are super jerky and bumpy...a few more dark rides like E.T. would be a nice change of pace n between the more jerky motion based rides.

Overall, had a great few days, with a lot of laughs and fun. Was glad to buy a season pass as a Florida resident, looking forward to my next trip! It reminded me of the spontaneity I miss with Disney...

Replies (14)

May 4, 2016, 6:59 AM

Good to hear you enjoyed your trip to Universal. My girlfriend and I love going there and it is basically our favorite place to go. I am so glad to hear people starting to realize the magic of Universal. I like Disney as much as the next person, but I am so happy with how far Universal has come in the last 5-10 years.

Universal is the better park in my opinion.

May 4, 2016, 9:20 AM

Yes, the leisure & relaxation, with little planning required, of staying on site at Universal, is what really makes a Universal vacation special. And I'll be there May 7-18, splitting my vacation between Cabana Bay & Portofino Resorts.

May 4, 2016, 9:29 AM

Agreed...it was really weird, but it just felt like I saw less kids and parents having meltdowns and more smiles and people relaxing. I think its the smaller size of Universal Orlando as compared to Walt Disney World. I've been to Walt Disney World a couple times since they revamped the fast pass system and maybe I just didn't use the system correctly, but I felt stressed and pulled in 13 different directions all day. I'm not sure the Universal System would work at Disney (selling express passes or giving them to resort guests), but it sure works great for Universal. Felt like it was a fantastic value. Even the most expensive Universal hotel is still probably 100 bucks a night cheaper than Disney's most expensive option. I'm probably holding off on going back to Disney again until Star Wars Land is open and I feel like my season pass is getting me a full day experience in all four parks. Until then, the Universal power pass is a fantastic bargain for Florida residents, pays for itself in two visits.

Edited: May 4, 2016, 10:39 AM

We had the (unfortunate) opportunity to go on a Make-A-Wish trip at Christmas to Orlando.We got three days at Disney and two at Universal. For reference my kids are 8 and 4.

While this was without a doubt the trip of a lifetime one persistent thought I kept having at Disney was "People pay thousands of dollars for this??"

I get that it was extremely busy but there were so many crying, screaming kids. Huge wait times for (in my opinion) mediocre rides. It was so unbearably crowded.

Universal was much more pleasant. Much better (again, my family's opinion) rides with shorter wait times. And walking into Diagon Alley the first time??? Breathtaking..

Gringotts is awesome. Jurassic Park is great. Even the "B" rides like ripsaw falls and the barge are great. My wife and I were fighting for our kids wands to do spells.

Universal Orlando earned its spot as our yearly destination. We will do Disney again when Star Wars and Toy Story are completed but Universal is just about perfect. Can't wait for Kong this summer!!!

May 4, 2016, 10:47 AM

Sorry to hear your trip was make a wish related, but glad to hear you had a wonderful time at Universal.

As far as attractions go, Universal has amazing, state of the art stuff. They are a little behind Disney as far as shows go, although the Blues Brothers show is one of my favorite theme park shows ever. I think if they replaced Sinbad with a really cool stunt/special affects show and maybe added another musical kind of show, it would be perfect. Also, maybe a couple more slower moving dark rides like ET...I think the DreamWorks and Nintendo acquisition could move them in that direction.

May 4, 2016, 11:05 AM

To Derek:

I agree the show-ish stuff at Disney is considerably better. That said it is telling that in three days at Disney World my favorite thing was the Indiana Jones show.

Universal really has an opportunity with Harry Potter to do better shows. Tale of 3 Brothers was great but not much else. Didnt do Sinbad. That seems like a big enough space to do something current from a big franchise. Not sure what.

Van Helsing hunting monsters would be cool, as would a Back to the Future show.

Perhaps a 50-Shades of Grey show??? (Joking)

May 4, 2016, 12:21 PM

People have to realize that Universal's product is just as good if not better than Disney's. I first went in 2008 and it's gotten so much better.

May 4, 2016, 12:30 PM

The funny thing is that the few people I know that have done both all prefer Universal, usually stating they had no idea it was so good. I realize this is simply anecdotes. Disney has the obvious brand advantage and is probably better if you are into the princess stuff.

May 4, 2016, 1:03 PM

Disney is obviously THE destination for families with small children, especially princess obsessed girls. However, I suspect the acquisition of Dreamworks and Nintendo could lead to Universal building a third gate that is meant specifically to compete with Magic Kingdom, containing more family oriented rides based on those properties. Imagine a whole land based on Far, Far, Away in Shrek? Or a land based entirely around the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Brothers? Magic Kingdom is obviously an Orlando icon, however, Universal could certainly make a dent in that market with the new properties they have control of.

May 4, 2016, 2:28 PM

I think a third gate is coming but while I would like a few more attractions for the younger ones it will never compete with MK in this space. A third gate would house Nintendo, Phase 3 of Wizarding World (Ministry of Magic??), and likely more attractions based on minion, other animated properties.

And where is the Hogwarts Hotel. Why has that not been built yet.

May 4, 2016, 4:18 PM

More BANG for your buck at Universal, 100% agreed!

May 4, 2016, 7:26 PM

Me and the family LOVE Universal and will be there in about three weeks. I agree with most of what everyone is saying that it is a more laid back environment. As far as the fast passes, we generally just use the single riders lines and on most cases go through quicker than the fast pass lines. Glad you had a great time.

May 4, 2016, 7:36 PM

@Rob Pastor. Looking forward to hearing how the Kong ride is (crossing fingers that soft openings have started)

May 5, 2016, 3:59 PM

Jon: They reportedly had some hiccups again earlier this week, problem with synchronizing scenes this time according to insiders. Softs were all ready for last Thursday when the other tech problems cropped up. According to insiders most of the Team Members have rode already,stuff is running well now and the big ape works fine, but secrecy is tight. Staying positive & keeping my fingers crossed. LOL

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