Orlando Universal Adventure
Hi, I'm Craig and I'm the Operations Manager at Thorne Travel. I recently had the opportunity to join Hays Travel, Bookabed & Universal for a trip to Orlando to explore this amazing destination and the Universal theme parks & resort.
The purpose of this educational trip was for myself and other travel advisors to get a full understanding of Universal Resort, it's theme parks, rides, hotels, food options, transport systems, entertainment, bars, restaurants and to experience the fantastic City Walk in the heart of Universal Orlando.
We had a full daily schedule accompanied by Universal employees and guides, highlighting the unique resorts and everything they have to offer. This trip allowed me to gain valuable inside information so we can continue to offer the best advice to our customers looking for that dream Florida holiday!
Day One - Travel Day!
After a comfortable sleep at the Hilton hotel next to Manchester Airport, it was time to head towards Terminal 2 to begin our travels to Orlando. Myself and the group of travel advisors from various UK agencies gathered at the VirginAtlanic check-in desk for a introduction meeting before we proceeded to check-in and passed through security together.
Boarding time! We stepped onboard the Virgin Airbus A330 and we’re welcomed by the very friendly Virgin cabin crew who directed us towards our seats. The comfortable flight was made easier by the great variety of entertainment choices on the in-flight entertainment system and the delicious hot food served twice with plenty of drink options.
We arrived in sunny Orlando and stepped off the plane into the humid Orlando heat. After clearing through the airport, we met our transfer driver for our short drive to the hotel. After a short drive we could see it in the distance...
Universal's Aventura Hotel!
Our home for the next few nights, the Aventura Hotel is a modern and stylish place to stay. This hotel offers great views of all three Universal Orlando theme parks and is underscored by a design that is vibrant, free-flowing and calming. Featuring 600 guest rooms and 11 suites, this hotel also benefire from exclusive Universal Theme Park benefits such as early access into all 3 Universal Parks. A feature of this hotel that I loved was the Bar 17 Bistro. Bar 17 Bistro is a stunning rooftop bar and grill featuring urban international flavours and breath-taking views of Orlando and the theme parks that surround the hotel. Custom cocktails welcome you as you take your seat in the comfortable bar area to absorb the views from every window.
Day Two – Universal & Islands of Adventure VIP Tour
We were lucky enough to have a VIP tour of both parks and began by meeting our tour guides for the day, Jason and Paige. Both Jason and Paige were very knowledgeable and filled the day with interesting facts and figures about both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Our VIP passes meant we headed straight to the front of the rides and no queuing was needed which was AMAZING! This was even included for Hagrids Magical Creature's Motorbike Adventure, by fair the most popular ride in the park, they don't sell express passes for this allowing all guests a fair chance to enjoy the ride. We were truly spoilt by the Universal team.
A firm favourite with the group was the Velocicoaster - the newest ride at Universal which reaches speeds of 70mph! By the end of the day the sun was beaming and our final ride was Popeye's water ride, which was hilarious, and it's safe to say we were all absolutely soaked!
In the evening we returned to CityWalk to dine at the excellent Cowfish restaurant. Cowfish is a unique restaurant that combines both sushi and burgers and they even offer their own unique dish called Burgushi that is a fusion of both!
After dinner we headed to Pat O’Briens bar to experience the world famous ‘Hurricane’ cocktail drinks. A late night and a sore head the next morning after this infamous drink!
Day Three - Universal's Volcano Bay, Cabana Bay & Loews Royal Pacific
On day 3 we spent the day in paradise at Volcano Bay.. Wow what an amazing place!
This imaginative water theme park is equal parts vibrant and serene. Resort-level amenities and creative menu offerings only add to the South Pacific island appeal. Sip a speciality cocktail or sample amazing Polynesian delights!
This slide-filled, ride-filled extravaganza has something for everyone. Thrill-seekers love the multi-story slides and racing tubes, while the lazy river is best for those who wish to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
This waterpark features innovative TapuTapu wearable technology. Upon entry, you'll receive a wearable wrist watch that will change the way you wait in lines. Simply swipe your band against a totem, and you will join a virtual queue for this ride! This is fab as it means whilst you're in the queue you can relax by the Volcano pool, chill out in the lazy river, ride any of the 'ride now' slides (no queues) or enjoy food and a cocktail, meaning you're not standing around waiting in a queue.
As Universal hotel guests, we received early park entry to Volcano Bay, which meant we were able to tour the park and enjoy the slides half an hour before the general public, there were practically no queues so we could ride the most popular water slides before the crowds.
In the afternoon we had site inspections at both Cabana Bay and Loews Royal Pacific - they are both amazing hotels perfect for families. I loved the 50s vibe of Cabana Bay and the moving back story of the inspiration behind the Royal Pacific, it was based on the adventures of Captain Jake who flew the South Seas – I highly recommend if you visit the Royal Pacific that you ask hotel staff if they know Jake and they will have a lovely story to tell.
In the evening we dined at Jake's American Bar at the Lowes Royal Pacific which was an American bistro serving burgers, steak and delicious cocktails.
Day Four - Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel & Free Time
Today we visited two hotels, starting with Portofino Bay. We were wowed by the decor and Universal have truly captured the charm and beauty of the village in Italy. Did you know the design of this hotel was an idea of Steven Spielberg who enjoyed his own holiday in Portofino and loved it so much he encouraged Universal to create the hotel, he even had a say in the design! After this, we headed to the Hard Rock Hotel and this hotel was excellent with plenty unique memorabilia and a guitar shaped pool. The Hard Rock Hotel was only a 5-minute walk to the Universal Studios park entrance!
Back into the parks we rode Rip Ride Rockit, you can choose a song to rock out to during the ride which was a great feature. We took the opportunity to ride the Velocicoaster again, WOW it was even better second time round. Express Passes worked wonders on this ride as the wait time was over an hour and the pass cut the time in half.
After a busy day in the heat we ended with two water rides to cool off, Ripsaw Falls and Popeye's - we got absolutely soaked and it was a great ending to the afternoon.
We boarded a water taxi to take us back to Sapphire Falls, which was the hotel next to the Aventura Hotel so it was a easy walk returning to our hotel from the water taxi.
In the evening we visited Vivo the Italian Kitchen on CityWalk for our final evening meal as a group. As we waited for this delicious meal we shared our favourite experiences from the trip and had a great laugh running over the days prior. After the meal it was time for karaoke at RisingStar, this was a live karaoke with backing singers and a live band. An excellent end of the evening.