Lebeau Family Trip Report 2017: Universal Orlando Resort Day Two
Today was the first full day of our vacation at Universal Orlando (Read about Day One here.). One of my goals for this trip was to slow down and take it easy. Usually on a Disney World vacation, we are racing around in an effort to get the most out of our time there. But Universal is small enough that we should be able to get our fill in six days without driving ourselves crazy. Especially since we were staying on property at Loews Royal Pacific which is both conveniently located and includes free Express Pass. There was no reason for us to rush. The question was, could I slow myself down?
As a first step towards that goal, I did not set an alarm. Realistically, I tend to wake up pretty early on vacation anyway so I usually don’t need any help getting to the park gates early. I didn’t exactly sleep in, but I wasn’t up at the crack of dawn either. More importantly, I didn’t roust anybody else out of bed or push them to get ready. Everyone woke up and prepared at their own pace.
Even without me hurrying anyone up, we were still able to get to the boat docks reasonably early that morning. Early admission was at Islands of Adventure every day of our stay. Today, we were starting off at Universal Studios which opened at 8:00 am. We arrived at the gates shortly thereafter.
When the water taxi pulled up to CityWalk, the captain informed us that there was a TV crew working near the bridges to the parks. Some people were hanging around trying to get on camera. The large screens nearby kept flashing the logo for the entertainment program Extra so we figured they were filming something on Universal for the show. Extra typically tapes at Universal Hollywood, so apparently they were in Orlando to promote some of the new attractions like Race Through New York and Volcano Bay. We didn’t think much of it, but it will come into play later.
There was a pretty large crowd at the front gate that morning. Since we already had our tickets, we were ushered into a shorter line. It seemed like a lot of people were having problems with their biometric scans which was slowing down the entrance process. But once we got through, the crowd quickly dispersed.
Since my photo package lanyard was on display, we were stopped and asked if we wanted to pose for a picture. We made a habit of stopping whenever possible in order to try to get our money’s worth out of the discounted package I had purchased. The photographers had three poses they would ask for. First, a smile. Then everyone give a thumbs up (which always looked really stupid).
For a third option, some photographers would ask one or both of the kids (always Kara, sometimes Josie as well) to hold out their hands. Then the rest of us were supposed to look surprised by what they were holding and point at it. I was the only one who ever made an effort to look surprised. Mindy and Josie just did the “smile and point” thing. Later in the day, I had to stop by the photo shop for them to add Hello Kitty to the picture.
Our first stop of the day was Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Last time around, this was Kara’s favorite ride so I wanted to make sure we got to it. She had hoped to meet a minion at the dance party exit, but there were none to be found in 2015. One of my missions for this trip was to get Kara a face to face meeting with a minion.
This ride regularly has very long lines, so it’s always a good idea to prioritize it. If you’re not using EP and you want to experience Minion Mayhem, I would recommend queuing up first thing in the morning while everyone else is making their way to Diagon Alley. The wait time this morning was still very reasonable, but since we had Express Pass we were able to walk right on.
Kara asked me to take a picture of her in her 3-D shades. As you will see, she was very into having her picture taken today. Expect to see that smiling face a lot.
Minion Mayhem is a relatively tame motion simulator in which Gru from the Despicable Me movies turns guests temporarily into minions to do his bidding. The queue and preshow are loaded with gags from the movies.
As we exited the ride I was happy to see a couple of minions hanging out in the “dance party” that takes place between the ride and the gift shop. Since Josie had no interest in meeting the Minions, she and Mindy went shopping while Kara and I got in line for her meet and greet. Due to the colored lighting in this room, the pictures I took on my cell phone camera weren’t terrific. But thankfully there were photographers on hand to capture the moment. (For most meet and greets, this would not be the case.) Score one point for the photo package.
While we were meeting minions, Josie found a bracelet in the gift shop with her name on it. It actually said “Joey” but we call her by that name at home. Mindy also bought some banana-flavored off-brand Tic Tacs. The girls all thought they were nasty and refused to eat them. The banana flavor was strongly artificial and the candies were crunchier than the name-brand breath mint. They went to waste. Mindy also picked up a Minions keychain for friend Larry whom we would be meeting later in the week.
With one ride under our belts it was already time for a break. When you are travelling with three girls, you have to be prepared for frequent stops. I stuck around to pay for our purchases while the girls went in search of a restroom.
Once my credit card had been swiped, I called Mindy to see where they had ended up. They were in the nearby Monsters Cafe. We have yet to eat in this restaurant, but we visit every trip for potty breaks.
From what I have read, we’re not missing out on anything by avoiding the food here. But the place is definitely worth checking out if you have any kind of affinity at all for the classic Universal monsters. It’s basically a movie monster museum that houses a so-so cafeteria. Go for the exhibits (and restrooms), but eat somewhere else.
Before we left, I wanted to fill up some water bottles to help us stay hydrated. The Monsters Cafe had Coke Freestyle machines which I had seen people use to fill up bottles during our previous visit. But these machines wouldn’t let us get water without a refillable cup. I asked an employee if it was possible to get plain old H2O from the machines and he directed me to the soda station instead.
At the soda station, an elderly man named Bill was filling soft drinks in anticipation of the lunch rush. We asked Bill if he could fill up our collapsible water pouches for us and he was more than happy to oblige. Bill was exactly the kind of person you hope to meet when you visit a theme park. He loved his job and it showed. That kind of interactions adds something intangible to your vacation experience. Thanks for the drinks, Bill!
Next: Race Through New York