February 2015 Trip Report - A Harry Potter Celebration - Day 1

February 2015 Trip Report – A Harry Potter Celebration – Day 1

IMG_4512A couple days before the trip started, Universal Social Media Team was having a contest for some social media meet up during the Friday night I would be present. I was fortunate enough to win a spot in that contest and it entitled me and a guest to attend an after hour event in Diagon Alley. More to come on this topic later in the report.

My day started early with little to no sleep, up at 4:30am. Had to finish packing, and then start worrying about what I probably forgot to pack. Soon enough 5:50am was upon me and my brother was outside ready to drive me to the airport. Once there I said goodbye and on into the terminal at Logan International Airport. I had checked in online and had my boarding pass ready but still needed to drop off my bag. JetBlue has a line open specifically for bag drops so it moved quickly and fortunately so did security check point. Before long I was well on my way on a pretty smooth flight.

Once I arrived at MCO, I found the Mears driver waiting for me as I got down to the baggage claim floor with no problem. He told me which carousel to go to and let me know he had one other couple to find, that would be going with us. Once I got my luggage, the other couple was also ready and we got into a nice SUV and made our way toward the Universal property. The driver was outgoing and talked quite a bit about football and the upcoming Super Bowl. The other couple was going to the Royal Pacific Resort, and lucky for me, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is that much closer so I was first up. The fair was $32 for one way, only a few more dollars for round trip, but I had a ride back. I tipped the driver and checked in at about 11:00am. Amazingly my room was ready and waiting.

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IMG_4527_EI made my way to the Continental building, floor 7, room 4721. An elevator just outside the food court could bring you there in no time at all. Very convenient location for everything but the walk to Universal, which is the clear opposite side of the resort. I got such a good deal with the AP discount at Cabana I opted for a family suite even though it was only myself. It was such a trivial cost I just couldn’t turn the extra space. As you enter the room there is a kitchen space with a kitchen bar. There is a small fridge and a microwave in that area with a couple of stools at the bar. Panning to the right is a living room area with a coach, chair  coffee table and a television. as you push deeper into the room you come across the bedroom with a sliding door separating the living room area from the bedroom if you are looking for some privacy. The bathroom has a sink area dead center with two closed areas at either side. A toilet off to one side and a tub/shower and sing to the other.

My parents were in town on their own vacation with a little bit of some overlap. I had planned to spend the day with them as well as some time the next morning. Having said that, now I was settled so on to the parental units who were staying at the Royal Pacific Resort. This was also my first opportunity to use the pedestrian bridge to walk to the parks, and the Royal Pacific Resort just happens to be along that way. I found the walk enjoyable and if you calculate the bus time and the location of the bus stop, if you don’t mind a 10 minute walk you might as well.

I was curious to enter the Royal Pacific Resort lobby for the first time since what I consider to be the destruction of the Polynesian Village lobby. When you first enter the building you are surrounded by an outdoor garden. You can maneuver around the garden or walk straight through it. You see nothing even closely related to a hotel front desk until you clear the other side of this beautiful space. I have not seen the new Polynesian lobby first hand so I will reserve final judgement, but this place is wonderful.

IMG_4530_EMy parents came down to the lobby and off we went to CityWalk. They both have scooters so had no objections to continuing using the walk ways. I couldn’t wait to eat at Cowfish. I have been watching from a distance for what seems like forever now. Following the locals on twitter it would seem that service has been questionable at the least and down right horrible at worst. Lunch seemed like a good way to not test that theory out and here we were just around 12:30pm. The elevator was being worked on but my dad made it up the stairs without any issue. I was nervous for a bit when we found the elevator out of order. We sat down in a circular booth took in the very open environment and gazed out onto the hustle and bustle of CityWalk. First order of business was to try one of those crazy shakes, so my dad and I both ordered the chocolate kiss shake. It consisted of Godiva Liqueur, amaretto, ice cream, malt and chocolate. It was incredible and also a crazy way to fill yourself up before you even get started, none the less, still worth it. Switched over to beer as our food was arriving. I ordered off of the burgushi menu, the taste explosion roll which I found fantastic. Never ate anything like it before. IMG_4537_ECopied from their menu; Seasoned natural Angus ground beef, applewood bacon, jalapeños, spicy mayo inside, coated with tempura flakes. Topped with Roma tomato and pepper jack cheese, then baked. Drizzled with cashew cilantro pesto. It had just a little kick to it, while living up to its name with explosion. It tasted like one giant yummy explosion. My mother did try some sushi, can’t for the life of me remember which, but she was pleased with it minus the wasabi. My dad got a burger and it said it was O.K. This happens to be high praise if you know my dad. I thought it lived up to the hype, I really enjoyed a very unusual offering. I decided right then and there I would come back again before the trip was over.

IMG_4595_EWith my belly full it was time to have a little fun in the parks. Decided to hit up some headliners. Spiderman, my absolute favorite, was first up. The ride actually broke down in the last scene so they actually put us right through for a second time. This ride did have an HD update but otherwise it’s still my favorite and still holds itself as a technological breakthrough while opening back in 1999. From here we pushed into Diagon and brought my father on to Forbidden Journey. All of the transfer wheel chairs were in use so they pushed us through the exit so my dad could make it. Next up beverages so we could make the journey to Diagon. If you don’t get a drink when boarding the Hogwarts express you are doing it wrong. Hogshead Ale it was and it is so much fun riding the express. What a fun, innovative attraction that doubles as transportation.

IMG_2927_EWe hung out in Diagon for a while and I took them to Knockturn Alley to show them around. It really is still amazing to step into this space for me. The first step is almost like a first time every time, a gasp and then this warm, fuzzy feeling. So beautiful, so 100%. It is complete and it seems absolutely perfect. Got my dad a beer here, dragon scale ale for the both of us and then took in a set of the lovely Celestina and the Banshees. So good, they are so talented, and so lovely.

IMG_4547_EWe stopped over at the Backwater bar for a couple of Heineken’s. This is such a great place that so many people walk on by. 4pm is happy hour and the tall beers are about the cost of the 16 oz. The only better deal than that is free, so we moved on. We exited the park and went back to the Royal Pacific. My parents were staying on the concierge level so I needed to check this place out. First stop in their room to get a look at the Derek Burgan Suite. The view was breathtaking. Nothing short of spectacular. I would put the view up against anything at the Walt Disney World resort including the new bungalows at the Polynesian Village resort. You see the gorgeous pool below you with both theme parks beyond it. There is no unusual breaks in the flow, its just gorgeous.

IMG_4557_ENext we moved on to the concierge lounge. The beers are free here but very limited choices, bud, bud light, and miller lite. You can get mixed drinks for a limited charge, and there is a meal each night put out with snacks during the day.  It was a lovely spacious room with some nice tables in the center and becoming more spacious and comfortable with big padded chairs and couches toward the ends of the room. A television at either end displaying a Universal picture is there for your entertainment.

After enjoying a beverage I needed to take care of some delivered groceries to the resort from Garden Grocer. By groceries I mean, beer, cold cuts, bagels, and coffee creamer. They delivered them to bell services so I did not have to be there. I simply stopped at the bell hop desk and got my groceries and brought them up to my own room. I am sure they could have been delivered as well, but this was a quicker solution and I didn’t have that much.

Put everything away and relaxed for a spell in my beautiful suite. Had a reservation for 7:30pm at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop restaurant located at the Royal Pacific. Arrived there about 15 minutes early and along with my parents entered. It is a really beautiful restaurant with tall ceilings, mosaic and bright colored lighting. It has some water features about as well and the entire place just comes off as elegant and interesting.

IMG_4568_EAs we sat down, they served us some home made shrimp chips with peanut sauce and we ordered our mai tai’s, or more specifically their special twist on it; 1944 MAI TAI ROA AE. The drink is absolutely amazing and the starter chips and sauce are light and full of flavor. Its a great way to get started. We did order an appetizer, the crunchy shrimp, which was also absolutely wonderful.

I ordered the KFC chicken, korean fried chicken, it comes with kim chee spring onion smashed potatoes and garlicky spinach. My mom ordered the hibachi skirt steak which comes with okinwawan purple smashed potatoes (yes they are really purple), wild mushroom poke, and chimichurri. I can’t for the life of me remember what my dad got, but he sure didn’t complain. We all raved about it afterward and we know we will be back. We had a second round of those mai tai’s before all else was done.  IMG_4565_ERegretfully never made it to dessert, was just to full at this point. The portions were more than fair for such quality food and you wouldn’t leave this place hungry by any means.

After dinner, headed back to the resort for some rest or so I thought. I was going through twitter and caught a couple of people close by who probably needed a drink. It didn’t take much coercion to get @hatestofly and @joshgonz to meet me at twizzler for some night caps. We chatted a while and resolved much of the worlds problems, as drinking usually does. It was a fun end to a long and promising beginning of my vacation.