My Disney trip reports from this trip are going to be found on my "50 Disney Days" website.
Here is the one for my Epcot day:
Full disclosure – My hotel accommodations and park tickets were provided for me by Universal Orlando as a travel agent FAM (familiarization) program. My experience and opinions are my own.
Guests staying at Universal Resorts get one hour early access to the Harry Potter area of Islands of Adventure. Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure is a roller coaster that is new since my last visit in 2018. I know the wait times are long for that during the day, so I wanted to take advantage of the early entry for that ride alone.
The early hour was from 9 – 10 am. Anticipating that the line to get in may be long, I was down at the food court for breakfast at around 7:30 am. I was happy with the selections available. I chose a breakfast sandwich with potatoes on the side and found a seat completely alone outside. It was already quite humid and warm out.
There were several other guests at the bus stop but again there were plenty of buses lined up and waiting so it was a quick trip over to Citywalk. I was there at around 8:15 and found a bench to sit on and wait a bit as I didn’t want to stand for too long.
I went over to the park entrance around 8:40 am. They had three lines of guests waiting for the early park entry. There was plenty of team members to answer questions and direct guests as well as a team member with a microphone who was talking to guests and providing information.
They started entry about ten minutes before 9 am. As you walked into the park, the main area was open to all guests. When you approached the Harry Potter area, it was roped off and you needed to show your room key so that only resort guests were admitted to that area.
I was in line for Hagrid’s by 9:10 am and finished with the ride at 9:30 am. It was mostly walking the through the queue with a little bit of a wait at the loading area. The ride was so much fun though maybe a little too much for my stomach… I am really getting old!
Side note: I wanted to note about the ride vehicle for Hagrid’s. I am a plus size lady and fitting on Universal rides always causes me some anxiety. On my very first visit to Universal, many years ago, I was at a heavier weight and didn’t fit on the roller coasters. When we visited two years ago, I did a lot of research and tried all the test seats before we got in line for the attractions. I would not say I had a lot of wiggle room, but I was able to ride everything without any issues.
I researched Hagrid’s vehicles before I left. There are two options because there is a motorbike and a side car. The side car is a tighter fit while the motorbike seems to give a little more space as it is open on the sides. I did not try the test seats this time and just went for it. I was able to fit in the motorbike section with no problem. I did see two ladies try the test seat in the loading area and they were turned away. I don’t love that this is a consideration at Universal, but it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.
Anyway… after riding Hagrid’s, I went right over to the other Harry Potter attraction in Islands of Adventure, Forbidden Journey, which was my favorite on our last trip. Again, it was just a matter of walking through the queue and I was on the ride. I was done with both Harry Potter attractions by 10 am. The park was open to all guests at that point and the wait time for Hagrid’s was up to 75 minutes. There is a threshold at which Hagrid’s changes to a virtual queue system where you can receive a return time in the app. At that point, it was still a stand by line.
Riding Hagrid’s was really my main goal for the day, so with that accomplished, everything was icing on the cake. Limiting my walking was also important so I decided to take the Hogwart’s Express over to Universal Studios. A perk of the social distancing guidelines was having your own car on the train. It was so nice and cool in there!
I did the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon attraction with no wait time. I also went to see the Bourne Stunt show again. No long wait this time.
I stopped for a late lunch at the Today Café which is themed for the Today Show. I love the Today show so of course I liked the theming. There was a team member at the door who was allowing guests in 3 at a time to order at the counter. I asked if I could sit at a table outside to eat. He said it was not a problem at all and he gave me a table number to tell my cashier. I wanted something light and healthy, so I order the avocado toast. It was like a little salad with mashed avocado on top of toast. Tasty.
After lunch, I went to see the Horror Make Up show. This little show is easy to bypass but it is completely worth doing. It was somewhat about showing how effects are done in horror movies but it is also just fun. Beetlejuice was entertaining the audience while the theater was loading. He talked to everyone and was quite funny.
I decided to call it a day after the show. I mobile ordered my doughnuts again.. because why not?
And I saw Homer on my way out!
I was fortunate to spend October 25 – 27, 2020 at the Universal Orlando resort. Full disclosure – My hotel accommodations and park tickets were provided for me by Universal Orlando as a travel agent FAM (familiarization) program. My experience and opinions are my own.
I used Mears, a town car service, to get from Orlando Airport to Universal Orlando. I have used Mears in the past and have always been happy with their service. My experience this time was no different. The driver asked if I had other Mears transportation booked for the week – which I did – so he made a note of my transfers and said he would request to be my driver for those as well.
I checked in at Cabana Bay resort at around noon and my room was ready. As you enter the lobby, you are stopped for a temperature check. I had mine checked and was given a colored wristband. The wristbands indicate that you have had your temperature checked for the day. Even when you go to Citywalk or the theme parks, your wristband means that you can bypass those temperature check areas.
Cabana Bay has a retro theme based on the 50s and 60s. The prices are on a moderate level and the resort has standard rooms as well as family suites. The theme is evident throughout the whole resort.
My first stop was to check out my room and drop off my bags. I was in the Americana wing, which turned out to be very convenient. I was only an elevator ride down to the main food court area and the door that leads to the shuttle bus stop.
I loved the theme of the room – especially the retro bath products and the alarm clock. The room itself was on the small side. Certainly, it was fine for just me. I would think it would be a little tight for a family of four and definitely small for 4 adults.
I took a walk around to explore the resort. There is a Starbucks in the lobby, several outdoor food locations, and a lounge area in addition to the food court. There are two pool areas, one with a lazy river, a gym, and a bowling alley. The hours do vary right now due to COVID (for example one pool area is only open on the weekends) so you need to check on availability during your stay.
I landed at the Hideaway Bar and Grill for a frozen cocktail and some fish tacos. The cocktail came in a souvenir cup which entitles you to refills for $2 less. Due to Covid, they don’t actually refill your cup. You present it and they give you a drink at the reduced cost in a plastic cup.
Throughout the trip, I made sure to eat outside, as I am not comfortable with indoor dining. I was able to find a nice quiet table in the shade to enjoy my lunch.
After my meal, I wanted to go to Universal Studios. Both parks had been reaching their capacity limits on weekends. This was a Sunday and I had seen a post at 11 am that both parks were full at that time. There is a capacity phone number that you can call to check on the status. I called and the parks had reopened for guests.
The shuttle bus was sitting at the bus stop when I arrived. As I would find throughout my time at Universal and Disney, the buses have been divided into zones. The driver will tell you what zone you are assigned to as you board. There was only one other party on the bus, so it was easy to get on and the ride was about five minutes.
All the shuttle buses drop you off at Citywalk and then you walk to either park or dining /restaurants at Citywalk.
Another personal factor for this trip was that I was having knee issues. I had seen my orthopedist for the second time two days before I left. He had given me a stronger anti-inflammatory and a gel injection for my arthritis. I was still not walking well and this would be a factor on my touring throughout the trip.
Due to my knee and the fact that it was the weekend and wait times were high, my plan was to stay in one section of Universal Studios and do the Bourne Stunt Show and the Animal Actors show and then call it a night.
The Bourne show was first up and there was a huge line when I arrived. The team member said that the next show was already full and the line was for the show after that. I did not want to stand for 45 minutes so I sat on a bench across from the show to see when it would start letting in. It didn’t take long for the team member to start allowing guests in so I joined the end of the line. I didn’t realize that I would still be standing for about 30 minutes as I moved through the queue and into the pre-show area.
The entire pre-show area was divided into boxes on the floor. You are assigned an area to wait in. When the theater opens, team members lead guests in lines into the theater and assign your seats. Every other row is left empty and three seats are left empty between each party. When the show was over, team members directed rows to leave one at a time to minimize crowding at the exit.
I don’t want to give too much away about the show. I don’t even know if I could describe it enough. In simple terms, it is a stunt show based on the Jason Bourne character / movies. There is a huge screen across the entire back of the stage that is so clear it is hard to tell what is real and what is on the screen. The show is about 15 minutes long with a lot of action and stunts. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it.
After the show, I grabbed a Powerade and sat on a bench to take a break. I didn’t mention it before it, but it was hot and humid. Add on wearing a mask and it is easy to lose track of your hydration. While I was sitting, I checked on the time for the Animal Actors show. It started in about 45 minutes so I made my way over there.
Again, as guests entered that theater area, a team member was directing us to our seats to maintain social distancing. As I was walking forward, the team member saw me limping and said “I don’t want you to have to walk more than you need to” and he sat me in the handicap area by the entrance. I was certainly grateful for that!
I have seen the Animal Actors show on previous visits. It’s always cute. Some of the show demonstrates how animals are trained to work in movies and television. And some of it is a variety of animals coming across the stage doing cute things. I especially got a laugh at a cat that was supposed to run up a path but decided to sit down halfway and chew on some grass.
It was about 5:30 pm at this point. The wait times were starting to come down around the park and it was open until 10 pm. However, I had 5 more park days ahead of me, so I decided to go back to the hotel to ice my knee.
Of course, I needed an evening treat! I knew that Voodoo Doughnuts was on the way from the exit to the bus stop. They provide mobile ordering. Just as I exited the park, I placed my order. When I got to Voodoo Doughnuts, it was ready, and I walked right up to the mobile pick up area to get it.
Doughnuts in hand, I made my way back to the shuttle bus area. There were 3 buses lined up and waiting so even though the buses have a limited capacity, I was on a bus quickly and back at my hotel within 10 minutes.
On last thing to note for this day is that Universal offers a “chat to the front desk” feature. It was about 9:30 pm and I realized I could use an extra blanket. I sent a message through this feature, got a reply right away and five minutes later there was a knock at the door with my blanket. That was awesome!
I have just returned from a trip to Orlando. I visited Universal Orlando for two days and Disney World for four days. I will be doing a trip report for each but I wanted to sum up my experiences and thoughts on the safety procedures in place for each location.
Universal – Cabana Bay
Disney – Caribbean Beach
Overall Impressions and Thoughts
Overall, I had a great time in both parks. It felt more relaxing and the low wait times were a big plus. I think so much of visiting right now has to do with your mindset. If you want to bemoan attractions or experiences that are not currently operating or complain that you must wear a mask all day, you can easily make yourself miserable. I had some great cast member interactions and saw some cast members make some little magical moments for families. I enjoyed everything that I got to experience, especially two rides that were new to me. The magic and fun are there. You just have go in with the right expectations and frame of mind.
This blog installment has a lot of information about my experience running the Princess Half Marathon
I have a project going this year. I will be turning 50, so I decided to have "50 Disney Days" throughout the year. More than half of them will involve travel to Disney parks or on Disney Cruise line.
I am writing a separate blog for each day. I am going to share the ones involving travel here as well.
My first day of my trip is up now!
This past week, I did the Taste of the Magic Kingdom VIP tour at Walt Disney World. After I booked the tour, I read some of the reviews from previous guests and there were similar concerns in each review that I read. Then I found out that Disney had just revamped the tour with changes so I would be experiencing the new version. After comparing my experience to the reviews that I read of the first version, Disney definitely took feedback into consideration and make improvements.
SPOILER ALERT!! I am going through the tour with all the details of what I experienced.
CHECK IN: The tour is from 9 am to noon. You are asked to check in by 8:45 am at Tony's Town Square Restaurant. You receive a lanyard and have to sign a waiver. You are also required to wear closed toe shoes due to going into backstage areas during the tour.
You are seated in the front section of Tony's and there we met our three guides for the day. As we went through the day, there was always one guide in the front of the group, one guide in the back and one in the middle. This was helpful as we moved through the other park guests. We also were given headsets to wear so we could always hear the guides (this was not done in the past and was a concern mentioned in reviews that I read).
At the check in, we also got our first taste. It was actually more than a taste. It was a Mickey shaped cinnamon roll. They are available at the Starbucks location at the end of Main Street. There was also coffee and tea and bottled water to take with us.
While we were eating, the guides introduced themselves and asked for us to name our favorite food item or restaurant anywhere on property. There were lots of votes for Dole Whips as well as several different restaurants.
STOP #1 - Our first stop was Casey's Corner. This would be our first backstage area (which means no photos were allowed.) We walked through the kitchen area briefly. It is so small!! Only 8 cast members are allowed to work back there at once. If you have ever been to Casey's, you know how crowded it can get. The small kitchen is not able to handle the volume so most of the cooking is done in the kitchens for Tomorrowland Terrace and then transported through the utilidors under the Magic Kingdom. Final preparations happen in the kitchen at Casey's.
STOP #2 - Our next stop was Skipper's Canteen. We went into the kitchen here as well. It is much larger than Casey's. As we exited, there was a table set with a sample to take and then we were all seated in one of the dining spaces.
The sample plate had two items: Cachapas which was a braised pork over a corn cake and a Vegetable Curry Stew over rice. We also received a cup of Punch Line Punch which is a fruit and mango drink.
While we ate there, two chefs from the restaurant came out to speak with us and answer questions. They gave us some information about the menu at Skippers Canteen. One interesting piece of information was how they are able to customize just about any dish to your preference. The one chef has been working for Disney for 18 years. He was asked what the biggest change he has seen over the years. He said that it is food allergies. Not only the frequency of them but the complicated nature of them as well. He said they now design the menus to have elements that can be easily eliminated to accommodate allergies.
STOP #3 - After an opportunity for everyone to use the restrooms, we were off to Aloha Isle for the famous Dole Whip. Everyone received a sample of the traditional Dole Whip and they talked about some other options at that stand. One woman on our tour was so happy to learn that it is dairy free. She hadn't known that so she had never tried it in the past.
STOP #4 - Our next stop was Tortuga Tavern where we got to try a Turkey Leg. They had a full size Turkey leg for display and then we each received a cup with a generous size portion of the meat. We also received another bottle of water here.
The guides spoke about the rumors that it isn't really turkey. They confirmed that yes, it is actual turkey. It is brined and smoked which gives it a ham like taste.
STOP #5 - Diamond Horseshoe was our next location. It was not open yet, so we were able to sit inside. Our sample here was the Colony Salad which is on the menu at Liberty Tree Tavern. There was a chef here to speak to us as well. She is a chef at Liberty Tree, which shares the same kitchen at Diamond Horseshoe. She talked about how they like to change the menus but that guests have favorites which makes that challenging. She said the Colony salad was removed from the Liberty Tree menu and there was a revolution. It is now permanently on the menu.
STOP #6 - We walked into Fantasyland land and into a backstage area behind Pinnochio's counter service location. We ended up walking around the back side of Be Our Guest restaurant. We had a stop there to learn about the environmental efforts Disney is making to deal with waste. Disney donates food items that are consumable to local food banks. They are also learning out to use food scraps to make fuel. They are currently converting some of the waste to a fuel that is used by Disney buses.
As we exited from the backstage area, we got a cup of the Grey Stuff that is served at Be Our Guest restaurant. People say that it tastes like cookie and cream. The guides said they don't know the ingredients but have been told that it does not contain Oreos.
STOP #7 - Our next stop was Cosmic Ray's. We were able to walk through the kitchen area here as well. It is a big operation! Our guides said they do the same business in one day that the average McDonald's does in one week.
Our sample here was a newer item - a plant based sloppy joe. And more bottled water was available
STOP #8 - Our last stop was at Tomorrowland Terrace to try a new item that is not yet on any menu. We had survey forms to complete on what we thought of the item and the guides came around to ask some follow up questions as well. We were not allowed to take photos of the item.
This was the last stop on our tour. We had an opportunity to take photos in front of the popular purple wall with some props and the guides.
I really enjoyed the tour. It is a good combination of sweet and savory items. It is also a good combination of popular items and items that guests may not have tried yet. I have never considered the Mickey cinnamon bun before but it was so good that I made sure I had one for breakfast the next morning. On the other side, I have never had a turkey leg, as it just didn't appeal to me. And after tasting it, it still doesn't appeal to me.
If you do the tour, come hungry! It is a lot of food. I did not eat anything else until the evening that day. Also be prepared to walk. We basically walked around the entire park.
Currently, the tour takes place daily on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The cost is $99 per person, plus tax. There were no discounts available for annual passholders. A valid theme park admission is required. There is an age requirement of 12 and older. You can book the tour they same way you make a dining reservation, either by phone or through your My Disney Experience account.
Today was our last day in Memphis. We had a 5 pm flight so we had some time to do a few things first.
We went to the Peabody hotel to have breakfast because we wanted to see the Peabody Ducks at 11 am.
So the story with the ducks is that in the 1930s the General Manager of the Peabody had a bit too much to drink with his friends and put live ducks in the fountain of the hotel. It because a tradition to have ducks there. Then in the 1940s, a gentleman who had been with the circus, said he could train the ducks to walk to and from the fountain daily.
So everyday at 11 am, the Duck Master rolls out the red carpet and takes the elevator to the roof where the ducks live. He brings them down the elevator and leads them on the red carpet to the fountain. At 5 pm, they make the return trip.
If you want to see this happen, you will want to start lining up about 30-45 minutes beforehand.
After this, we left Downtown Memphis to go to the Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid. The Pyramid was supposed to be an event venue but it did not work out.
Bass Pro bought it and made it a huge store..and more. There is a hotel in there and several areas of live animals. There is a bowling alley and restaurant. There is also the "Lookout" where you take the largest free standing elevator up to the top to get a view of the city.
We took the elevator but unfortunately there was weather coming in and it was insanely windy. We were only out there a few minutes when a staff person said we needed to come inside and they closed the area.
We walked around and had lunch in their restaurant.
And that's a wrap on Memphis. We had a great trip. We weren't able to do everything but we did a lot!
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.