Written by: Mark Plante Published On: March 14, 2022
OK, so we had a stressful travel day to get to our destination. But it was nothing that was going to ruin the entire vacation. Although we had very little sleep after a long travel day I was worried that some tired personalities would clash. Luckily, this did not happen, but there were some other reasons why I was concerned.
As we got ready and headed out to the park, we decided to use Universal’s Shuttle to the theme parks due to the fact that it would cost us $27 to park our vehicle in the parking garage at the theme park, even though we were paying $25/day to park our vehicle in the parking garage at the hotel. As I mentioned in earlier posts, this was the first Orlando vacation that we have taken that did not include Disney and this is one reason that Disney is better. Even though you have to pay to park at a Disney World Resort Hotel, first it is only $15 per day at “Value” resorts. Second, if you are staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel, you do not have to pay to park at any of the theme parks.
My main concern is that, again, we have only done Disney and their bus transportation is not that good. At Disney, it can easily take 45 minutes to get from the hotel to the theme parks (Animal Kingdom is the worst.). If you miss a bus, it can be up to another half hour before another bus comes for the park you want to go to.
I was pleasantly surprised that there was a bus waiting for us as we arrived at the bus stop. We were able to get right on the bus and within a few moments we were on our way to the parks. The ride to the parks was smooth and the Universal buses are quite comfortable with TVs playing Universal Park videos. The ride from the hotel took about ten minutes to get to the park and we were let off right below the security and metal detectors that you need to go through to get into the Citywalk section of the park. A quick escalator trip up to the main level and we were ready to go through Security. I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that it probably took us less than a half hour to get from our hotel room to the main entrance of the park. Universal Studios transportation was excellent and we used it throughout our vacation when we were going to Universal Studios.
Security at Universal Studios can be a pain to get through due to long lines, but it usually moves pretty quickly and, unfortunately, is a necessary evil in today’s world. We were able to get through very quickly due to the fact that because we were staying at a Universal Resort, we were able to enter into Islands of Adventure one hour earlier than anyone else (I remember Disney used to have this and it was called “Extra Magic Hours”). Going through Citywalk for the first time in nine years, everything started to become very familiar to me and as I got my bearings, it was very easy to navigate.
Entering into Islands of Adventure was a little bit of a hassle. We purchased our tickets online through a reputable online broker that we’ve been using for over 10 yrs and the attendant at the gate was having problems scanning the tickets and also registering our fingerprints (this will be an ongoing issue), but once this was resolved we headed straight into the park.
At the gate, everyone was allowed to enter the park until you got to the Seuss Landing section of the park. At this point, you needed to show either you room key or your Universal Annual Pass in order to get any further. At this point, my wife and daughter went and got in line for the Velocicoaster ride that usually has a very long wait. Because we had gotten into the park early, they only had to wait 20 minutes to get on the ride, which was not too bad. This is one thing that I was noticing the difference between Disney and Universal was the wait times. Don’t get me wrong, but 120 minutes to wait for a ride is a little extreme, but there were only two, maybe three rides that would get stand-by times of more than 60 minutes and very rarely did I see more than one ride with a wait over 90 minutes.
We had park to park tickets, so once Universal Studios was open, we hopped on the Hogwarts Express from the Hogsmeade Station and headed over to see Diagon Alley.
The whole day in both parks was so relaxing. There was no rushing to hurry to get on this ride or we have to get to this restaurant by this time… It was so laid back. The other thing that I noticed in Universal Studios, compared to when we visited Disney World back in July, 2021… I did not have to recharge my phone during the day for the whole trip as I did at the house of mouse. I was not reliant on my phone so that I could get on rides or when I needed to order ahead of time so that my food would be ready at a specific time. In Universal, if we wanted to eat, we walked up to the cashier and told them what we wanted. I had my food for the most part within 5-10minutes.
So like I said, the only two issues that I had with Universal, was that security can be extremely long at times and that getting into the park via our fingerprints became a real hassle. Other than those two minor issues, we had a tremendous day.
So that pretty much sums up our first day in the parks. Like I had said, I was nervous due to the fact that everyone was tired and that this was the first vacation that we have had that did not include Disney and you know what? We did not miss it. We thoroughly enjoyed the low clouds and laid-back atmosphere of Universal, and we will go back there again.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. We will be continuing this series with “Our Second Day” and show if the atmosphere in the park changes or if we may have been going to the wrong park all these years.