Universal Trip 2020

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  • #143467

    jamiedawn27
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    Alright I know this is a site for Disney lovers but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and share some take-aways from my recent Universal trip (Dec 2020). If you have never been to Universal, I strongly encourage you to do so. Here’s just some quick comparisons/info based on my trip from last week.

    Resort: Portofino Bay – Italian themed resort
    Better than Disney? Yes on the whole I would say it is. The appearance of the resort/grounds and music was great. We were in walking distance to both parks and Citiwalk (less than a mile). The walking paths were beautiful and you did have the option of a nice water taxi if you couldn’t walk it. Staying at this resort gives you the unlimited universal pass (a total must – cuts all waits in line by half or more). Our double queen room was large – at least 1.5 times the size of the POFQ rooms and easily fit in a rollaway bed for us and we never felt squished. We opted for the “club level” – whether or not that is why the room was bigger I do not know but I do know club was worth every penny. Free continental breakfast every morning, snacks and drinks all day, a mini supper around 5ish, wine/beer in the evening followed by a dessert hour at 8 – all for a little over $10/person/night. WORTH EVERY PENNY.

    Parks:
    Ways it is better than Disney – annoying bag check? gone…just a quick walk through a metal detector and your bag going thru a scanner. You can walk to both from your resort…no losing tons of time to transportation or being slammed in a bus with standing room only. The park was aimed toward a slightly older crowd so no tripping over strollers or lots of crying/screaming children (a big deal when your kids get older). The rides are so much better…smooth transitions where you walk onto every vehicle…you are never stepping over something to get in one. The Disney 3D rides/shows (other than FoP) are sadly out of date and not innovative at all in comparison to Universal’s. Hagrid’s rollercoaster is probably one of the best rides i’ve ever been on and puts all Disney coasters to shame. I should mention I have not done the Star Wars rides or MMRR yet since my last trip got canceled so i can not compare to those. I was slightly annoyed at the lockers and putting away my stuff before rides but honestly it was better. So many rides I can’t enjoy because i’m distracted and worried my purse or bag is going to go flying off…this lets you just enjoy it. We only saw three shows but they were all wonderful and Disney needs to consider adding something more like the Bourne show – this was an amazing combination of technology and live action which was great fun to watch and once again, beats Disney’s current shows like IJ. Maybe in normal times I would say Disney has a better “feel” but Universal had lots of Christmas decorations and music playing throughout the parks so it was cheery and fun the entire time. I found Universal staff to be comparable despite others claiming Disney cast members are better…everyone we met was happy and helpful. Many told us they came from Disney but left and enjoy working at Universal more. If you have the unlimited Universal pass and can skip half the lines – wow. Way better than the fast pass system at Disney. Oh and having the ability to take the Hogwarts train from one park to the other? brilliant.

    Ways Disney is better…well if you are into the nostalgia and want to do the classics, then Disney is for you. If you have little ones who want to see characters or go on lots of little people rides, Disney is for you too. The food at Citiwalk was great but I did find the food in the two parks was lacking – we couldn’t even find a hot dog cart and there were long lines to get into most of the casual dining. I am going to strike this up to being partially due to COVID and lower crowd numbers so less places open but it was frustrating none-the-less. Oh and Disney has Joffreys ;)

    Shopping:
    They are about even here…although Disney (including Disney Springs) has much more merchandise, the Universal merchandise was more varied. Disney you see your main stuff with very little ride related whereas Universal has a wide variety – you have Jurassic Park, Fast and the Furious, Bourne, Shrek, Dr Seuss, and OH THE HARRY POTTER stuff. I personally have a million Disney items and shirts in my house so the Harry Potter stuff was great and we spent more than we ever have on any Disney trip (a free $50 wand when you spend $195? – we now have 4 free wands…yikes!).

    There you have it. As a family we’ve already decided we want to go back…in a couple years of course. And this was not meant to dis Disney at all…i was just pleasantly surprised at the differences and with our kids getting older they are tired of the same old princess/Mickey stuff and enjoyed the more active rides and HP land.

    #143473

    Nascfan
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    It’s always good to get feedback from different places and I for one appreciate you putting this up. Just as an FYI though, since you haven’t been recently, Disney’s bag check is exactly the same way now. So much better than how it used to be!

    #143479

    85glht
    19 XP

    It’s always good to get feedback from different places and I for one appreciate you putting this up. Just as an FYI though, since you haven’t been recently, Disney’s bag check is exactly the same way now. So much better than how it used to be!

    Disney’s security has improved drastically! Just walk through the metal detector WITH your backpack and as long as the detector doesn’t go off, you are good to go! Now, if you have a large bulky metal item in your backpack, like an umbrella, you just remove the umbrella, hold it in your hands in front of you, make sure that it clears the detector before your backpack and continue to walk through…. it lets the security people see what you have. So much nicer than having your affairs rifled through wasting time.

    #143480

    Nascfan
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    @85glht it really has! It was so nice once we figured out how to hold our electronics/metal. SO much easier and quicker!

    #143481

    starbee
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    MOD

    Disney’s security has improved drastically! Just walk through the metal detector WITH your backpack and as long as the detector doesn’t go off, you are good to go! Now, if you have a large bulky metal item in your backpack, like an umbrella, you just remove the umbrella, hold it in your hands in front of you, make sure that it clears the detector before your backpack and continue to walk through…. it lets the security people see what you have. So much nicer than having your affairs rifled through wasting time.

    1. WHY did it take so long for them to figure this out?!
    2. I hope this is permanent

    #143482

    jamiedawn27
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    Thank goodness! Those lines and people shining flashlights into every pocket of people’s backpacks and diaper bags drove me insane! Good to know they are making some better decisions there.


    #143483

    warrsm
    426 XP
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    Oh thank you for sharing this! Our good friends alternate their trips between Disney and universal and have really been talking us into trying Universal soon. I haven’t been since HP first opened. So all this is great to know!

    #143507

    85glht
    19 XP

    Disney’s security has improved drastically! Just walk through the metal detector WITH your backpack and as long as the detector doesn’t go off, you are good to go! Now, if you have a large bulky metal item in your backpack, like an umbrella, you just remove the umbrella, hold it in your hands in front of you, make sure that it clears the detector before your backpack and continue to walk through…. it lets the security people see what you have. So much nicer than having your affairs rifled through wasting time.

    1. WHY did it take so long for them to figure this out?!
    2. I hope this is permanent

    I think the technology had to be perfected. Also the location the security check points are better. Further away from the entrances of each park…. especially the Magic Kingdom, it’s at the TTC now :up: I believe it is permanent! :up:

    #143524

    starbee
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    MOD

    Thanks for the review Jamie! Glad you joined me on the dark side ;)

    I get asked all the time which is “better” and my opinion is they’re comparable, each has its strengths and weaknesses. To me, it’s apples and oranges. Disney aims to be a place for kids and adults to have fun together, and Universal aims to take you into the movies and give you thrills. There’s things I like better about Universal (everything in walking distance, “value” hotels being better than Disney’s moderate, lower pricing, etc.) but there’s things I like better about Disney (fireworks, parades, FastPass system).

    Your food experience was definitely influenced by Covid and I’m sorry about that. There are some really lousy offerings like Cafe 4 and Comic Strip Cafe, that are your typical theme park food of burgers and hot dogs. But there are some WAY better places. There’s usually tons of hot dog stands and pretzel carts. I can even tell you where they usually are :P

    #143525

    starbee
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    Thank goodness! Those lines and people shining flashlights into every pocket of people’s backpacks and diaper bags drove me insane! Good to know they are making some better decisions there.

    And how they wouldn’t pick people fairly. Like they’d take 3 people from the left and 1 person from the right, then back to the left side :angry: not to mention that was SO dangerous for their own employees! What if they got a needle stick or accidentally discharged a firearm? We know they’ve found all kinds of contraband in there!

    #143526

    starbee
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    I think the technology had to be perfected. Also the location the security check points are better. Further away from the entrances of each park…. especially the Magic Kingdom, it’s at the TTC now :up: I believe it is permanent! :up:

    Well that’s embarrassing it took Disney so long. Universal’s system has been that way for a decade. But better late than never

    #143529

    Nascfan
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    I get asked all the time which is “better” and my opinion is they’re comparable, each has its strengths and weaknesses. To me, it’s apples and oranges. Disney aims to be a place for kids and adults to have fun together, and Universal aims to take you into the movies and give you thrills.

    I couldn’t agree with this more. Comparing the two is futile. It all depends on what a party is looking for. They are two completely different animals.

    #143933

    jamiedawn27
    475 XP
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    One other big thing I was thinking about here and wanted to share. I liked that at Universal the ridiculous amount of planning was gone. I didn’t have to know where I wanted to eat six months before vacation and I didn’t have to have my first three rides planned 60-90 days out. I didn’t have to even know which park I was going to. It was a sort of freedom I hadn’t experienced in a long time. It gave the trip a more spontaneous “we are on vacation!” Type of feel.
    Now don’t get me wrong…usually I’m a planner…I make spreadsheets with cost, hours things are open and my packing list…but it is so much WORK planning a Disney trip that to me it loses some of the magic. Just my opinion…

    #143938

    steve
    166 XP
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    ADMIN

    Thanks for sharing your experience, @jamiedawn27. It’s always great to see other people’s views. I agree with the amount of planning that goes into Disney World. To be fair it is bigger with four theme parks as opposed to two, but it’s great to just be able to GO. :up:

    #143941

    starbee
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    MOD

    YES! :up: last trip I went to Disney and then moved on to Universal for 4 days. It felt like I left something behind because I was so used to my spreadsheets and MDE and I didn’t need any of it. Same as you, I still have plans for Universal because I’m a planner: park hours, a rough touring plan, notes for where I want to eat when, but it’s way more laid back and I can change my mind at any time. It doesn’t feel as rushed or as stressful (like trying to decide if you need to get out of line to make your ADR). What’s really thrown a kink into my Disney plans on my last two trips has been trying to plan a water park day and then the weather changed once I got there and I didn’t get to do it. Sure you can make a backup plan of FPs and ADRs (which we did) that you can cancel if you don’t need, but then you’d have to cancel all your plans on another park day to fit that water park back in and it’s too much for me.


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