All three of the girls slept straight through their first night in Orlando. Despite being super comfortable in the air conditioned Garden Room of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, I didn’t sleep too well. I think I was overtired and had adrenaline pumping through me as I anticipated the day ahead.
I’d set my alarm for early. I had expected the sun to have been bright and early but it was absolutely pitch black in Orlando at 6:30am. As we came out of the lift and out into the little harbour area we were hit by our first proper glimpse of the beautiful place we were staying in. The rising sun was glowing against the pale buildings and the water was peaceful.
We headed through the lobby to find the desk where you book or collect Attraction Tickets. It was a super easy process once I’d figured out which confirmation number tallied to the right thing. We had a VIP Tour booked plus four days of admission tickets so we were handed a pretty big bunch of tickets. Then we went to a little electronic booth which takes your photo and prints our Express tickets. When you stay in an onsite hotel, you get free Express Passes which entitles you to the express queue and an hour early entrance to the park too.
After sorting all of our tickets out, we headed for our first breakfast. As part of the review package we were given complimentary breakfast passes which entitled us to food at either Starbucks or Trattoria Del Porto. We chose to dine at the Trattoria Del Porto as it had a buffet style breakfast which hopefully would offer lots of different choices for the girls.
The decor inside the restaurant was just beautiful! Lovely dark wood with tiled flooring. There was fish and mermaid type figures all around the ceiling and upper walls. It was so interesting. But our attention was definitely drawn to the huge selection of food on offer. There was different sections; one with hot food, one with pastries and the other with cereals.
We all found something to eat and Hubby even ended up having four servings. Although our itinerary said that lunch was included, we weren’t really sure what lunch actually meant so we all filled up as much as we could before heading off to find the water taxi that would take us to Universal Studios.
There is a jetty to Board the water taxi. It is manned with security guards and you have to be security checked, including a metal detector that you walk through. I was actually quite shocked but it made me feel super safe and secure. The water taxi arrives every 15 minutes and we actually didn’t need to wait at all before we were able to jump onboard.
This was obviously a super exciting adventure for the girls. The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel was right at the end of the river “road” that takes you straight to the entrance of Universal. It took about 10 minutes if that and the girls enjoyed watching the ducks swimming along and all the pretty palm trees swaying in the breeze.
Walking up to the entrance of Universal Orlando felt surreal. We were actually there. I still don’t have the right words to describe the emotions running through my body as we walked through the arch towards to VIP meeting door. It’s actually quite a small, inconspicuous door with small words printed on it. Rather easy to miss without specific direction towards it.
We were greeted by three friendly ladies, one of which was actually our chosen tour guide for the day. We were shown upstairs to a large room that had tables, a selection of breakfast foods and drinks too. Our tour guide, Dawn, introduced herself to us and the girls. She seemed lovely and bubbly. I felt super nervous as I always do when entering the unknown. Hubby and I thought we’d be touring Universal in a group but actually Dawn was our own personal chauffeur for the day.
We headed off shortly after all of our introductions. The girls, especially P1 was chatting the ears off of our tour guide as she lead us into Islands of Adventure. Universal Orlando Resort is split up into three parts; Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and CityWalk. Our tour guide wanted to start off with Islands of Adventure as that’s where the adventure begins with imagination.
Islands Of Adventure has six different lands situated around a large lake. We walked through the Port of Entry that has a few shops and different buildings, each with their own stories. We then walked into Suess Landing. Personally I’ve always been a bit creeped out by the Dr Suess stories but actually all the colours in this land were spectacular. The expressions on the girls faces was just so sweet.
Being a VIP guest meant that we went straight up the exit and pretty much straight onto the rides. We felt like royalty although it was quite early on in the day and the queues weren’t bad at all so I felt a little guilty for those actually queuing. All the girls were the right heights to ride on a few of the rides in Suess Landing which was really reassuring as it meant we were all having fun as a family.
After thoroughly exploring Suess Landing and enjoying a story time show with the characters from the well loved Dr Suess books, we made our way into the Jurassic Park area. I love the Jurassic Park movies and P3 is obsessed with dinosaurs. I was a little nervous that the rides wouldn’t be suitable, and to be honest they weren’t for her, but we still had an awesome time exploring.
There’s a brilliant discovery centre where you can learn and interact with dinosaur related things. We even watched a baby dinosaur hatch and P2 was allowed to name it. She was also given a certificate of birth to keep, this is such a cute touch and the girls still talk about it now. They keep each one and you can ask them how the dinosaur is doing if you ever return.
Whilst in the Jurassic Park we went on two different rides. P2 was desperate to fly on the Pteranodon Flyers ride which she ended up doing twice. Unfortunately we couldn’t persuade P1 to go on it despite it being quite a gentle ride over the trees and Jurassic Park. I think the idea of dangling was a bit too much for her. We were able to experience the Child Swap option for the first time when Dawn took us on the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride.
Universal Orlando Resort has a Child Swap areas on, I think, every ride. This means that you can swap adults or children in your party without having to queue again. In the waiting areas they have various interesting things going on. The specific one in the Jurassic Park River Adventure, had The Land Before Time playing on TV screens for the girls to watch. I love that Universal have these options to make things so much easier for families and big groups with children.
The detail throughout the Islands Of Adventure was just incredible. Stepping into The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade was just phenomenal. It was just absolutely beautiful with the tall castle standing above everything, the cute little buildings that were dusted with snow. It was like really stepping into the world of Harry Potter, apart from the pretty warm sun of Florida beating down around us. P2 was desperate to ride the Flight Of The Hippogriff which thankfully she was tall enough. She ended up going in on it twice, once with me and once with Hubby.
Then Dawn showed us the way onto the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Hubby went first and assured me that I would love the ride. As we had VIP entry we skipped past the queue area which Dawn told us was a walk through Hogwarts starting in the Dungeons. Guests can see items from the movies as they queue. We went up the exit which showed moving photographs just like the movies of Hogwarts. The small snippet I got to see was just so amazing and realistic. The ride itself was terrifying for me. It suggests not to ride if you suffer from motion sickness, which I do, but I wanted to experience it. The stimulation and effects were just awesome but I had to keep shutting my eyes as it whizzed through scenes and made me feel a little dizzy. It was amazing though!
After putting my feet firmly back on the ground, our tour guide showed us the way to the place we were going to have lunch. As VIP guests you can dine wherever you fancy, however, Dawn had suggested we attend Cafe La Bamba which is opened up just for VIP Guests. We were greeted by friendly staff and a beautiful red carpet. We instantly felt super important as we were guided inside and seated.
P2 asked Dawn to sit with us, there was a cute friendship forming there and so we dined with our tour guide. Cafe La Bamba has a buffet style set up where it brings in a popular dish from all the big restaurants to sort of sample. We all ate amazingly and felt super stuffed after the huge breakfast we’d had in the morning. After lunch Dawn had arranged for us to head over and see the Animal Actors On Location show which the girls were really excited about.
The Animal Actors On Location is a show that is on daily at various times throughout the day. It showcases the best in the animal show business world. It’s a live action show with real animals from real shows. We got to see the Pug from Men In Black, the leading dog from Hotel For Dogs but it isn’t a show with just dogs. They had a pig, an otter, a cat, a porcupine and various birds too. The girls were definitely in their element. After the show had finished Dawn had arranged for us to actually meet one of the animal actors. P2 adores dogs and she really loved meeting Buster who played one of the dogs in Treasure Buddies when he was a puppy.
After the show we caught the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade station all the way to King’s Cross. The train is like a whole ride of it’s own. The windows are like TV screens and even the inside carriage doors are just like the film and show shadows of the different characters, the spiders and frogs. There is a different journey when you head one way than the other, if that makes sense. King’s Cross Station is in Universal Studios side of the Universal Orlando Resort. We were able to take a brief look at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. We then headed for the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride.
We had so much going on throughout the day. The girls were smiling and happy continuously, that it was so easy to forget what the time was. We had amazing weather the entire day too. To end the day our tour guide took us to the perfect location for us to see the Superstar Parade. We found some chairs to sit just along the Hollywood street. The parade makes two stops where you can see them at their best and one of those stops is just near the finish outside Mel’s Drive-In.
The Superstar Parade was absolutely breath taking. It was bright, loud and just fascinating. The parade features Spongebob, Dora & Diego, Hop and Despicable Me. Throughout the day there are chances to meet and greet so many different characters but the parade was just amazing. The dancing and the way it was all executed was super impressive and the girls were in absolute awe the entire time. Dawn had definitely put us in the right place as the parade stopped just in front of us and we were able to watch all the characters and floats in front of us.
The girls were really sad to be saying goodbye to Dawn. She had become an extra part of our family and P2 kept referring to her as “friend”. We asked if she was available to be our tour guide for the following day which she said she’d do her best to arrange. I felt very grateful to have had such a lovely tour guide because she instantly helped us tailor the day for the girls which we always thought would be quite difficult in a heavily ride inspired theme park. The girls had the entire day doing things for their ages plus Hubby and I were able to enjoy rides for us too.
Although we had said goodbye to our tour guide, our day wasn’t over. We had a reservation to dine at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. I was actually quite hungry despite having plenty of food throughout the day and felt a little worried that we wouldn’t get a proper meal inside a chocolate factory. It was pretty busy and I was glad that we didn’t have to join a rather long line of guests waiting to be seated as we had our table booked. There was a place to put strollers and then we were lead upstairs.
It was very dark but glorious throughout the Chocolate Emporium. There was gold fixtures and linen which really brings the theme of chocolate to life. Even the salt and pepper pots were golden in colour. The staff were all in factory uniforms and there was two characters coming around to each table; Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome and her trusty robot side-kick, Jacques. The girls loved this added touch to their meal and it kept them entertained and interested in dining. Something that is always quite difficult when we try to eat as a family.
The food choice was absolutely amazing and well presented on the plates. The portion sizes were the usual American style amount which left us feeling pretty full and content. We ordered one of their extremely delicious milkshakes. It was a really tricky decision for Hubby and I to pick which of the huge selection we wanted. I went for the Brownie version which had a huge chocolate brownie on top. Hubby went for a double chocolate one which had strawberries on the top and flakes of chocolate like icebergs in the whipped chocolate topping.
It was really dark outside and we got the first glimpse of the magic of the CityWalk at night time. The lights were super pretty and there was a busy atmosphere. I originally thought that Universal Orlando may quieten down in the evenings but it is just as busy and crazy with so much going on throughout the evening just like during the day. We caught the Water Taxi back home with three very exhausted children and two sleepy grown ups.
Our first day was just magical and it felt completely surreal that we were here in Orlando literally having the times of our lives. My girls were happy and we were happy too. When we got back to the hotel, we had to figure out where we could get some milk for the girls at bedtime. P2 is still very dependent on milk to get herself to sleep, as is P3. We decided to get room service. They were super easy to reach and brought the milk into our room. We were able to leave the tray outside for them to collect so nobody got disturbed. Of course we paid a premium for the room service milk but the girls found it really exciting. We all sunk peacefully into our beds with no issues at all just like the day before.
Here’s our second day video below which gives a real life documentation of our first full day in Universal Orlando Resort. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on my future holiday vlogs.
You can find out more about Virgin Holidays to Orlando by clicking here, or more about the Universal Orlando Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Trattoria Del Porto restaurant, VIP Tours and the Chocolate Emporium restaurant here.
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