Part 4 – Universal Orlando Resort – A Pool Day & Halloween Horror Nights 2016

We had no plans for our fourth, technically our third full day and our last full day, in the Universal Orlando Resort. We had two full days of being in the theme park with no chance to relax or enjoy what the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel had to offer. P1 had been asking each day if we could go swimming so we thought this would be a good opportunity to try out the pools in our complex. We enjoyed a chilled out morning getting ready, watching some American children’s channels and having fun dancing around.

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Our room was serviced and cleaned every day which was lovely. They replenished any toiletries, loo rolls and towels too. Every morning getting ready felt like a fresh new day and I think we had all started to get used to the luxuriousness of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. I especially loved using the toiletries products, although everything was labelled as being anti-ageing which I had wondered if they were trying to tell me something, they all left my skin and hair feeling super soft. Everything was Julien Farel, including the hair dryer that was provided in the room in a very fancy bag.

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I felt super relaxed and at ease on this morning. The sunshine was beating down already as we walked down to breakfast. Once again we chose to eat at the Trattoria Del Porto restaurant. We had a little routine going in there and loved the children’s area. Of course the fact that the food was always fantastically prepared was the main reason we headed back there each day. They also had little daily specials and Hubby brought over a rather interesting looking breakfast burger. I was beginning to worry about my waist line though as I shovelled down a cooked breakfast followed by two croissants and jam every morning!

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After breakfast we headed to the swimming pool. There are actually three pools in the Loews Portofino Bay hotel complex; Beach Pool, Villa Pool and Hillside Pool. After having a brief look at the Villa Pool and the Hillside Pool we agreed that the Beach Pool would be the best suited for my family. The Hillside Pool is actually an adult only pool in the East side of the hotel and it is super secluded… I only dream of the time I get to relax by a pool like that! The Villa Pool was also a little deep and more suited for older children. However, the Beach pool was just perfect for a day of fun.

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On arrival through the gates of the Beach Pool you instantly feel a sense of safety. Well as much as you can feel safe when you take three younger children to a pool. There is a pool Bar & Grill to the right and the kids club is located on the left which has various activities going on throughout the day. The pool is surrounded by sand giving a real feel of being by the sea. There are plenty of sun loungers which are all kitted out with super comfy padded covers. The initial entrance to the pool is very shallow which is perfect for young children to splash around in. It then slopes to be much deeper and even I couldn’t touch the floor. There is a good selection of safety vest available free of charge for children to wear.

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The main pool has a Roman aqueduct-themed water slide which unfortunately we couldn’t persuade any of the girls to try out. It also has two hot tubs and three cabanas that you can rent out. Although I couldn’t really see the need to do this as the rest of the loungers and leisure areas are super clean and there is a waiter that wanders around every now and then to ask if you’d like anything to eat or drink. The Beach pool was a really lovely temperature which meant the girls were quite content to splash about without getting a chill.

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There is also a children’s pool which is gated, actually the entire Beach Pool is fenced off which is fantastic and with the various life guards roaming around you definitely feel like the kids are safe. The children’s pool is much warmer than the other one, in fact it was probably a little too hot. There are cute little snail and a lobster fountain and the pool is a sort of whirl pool. There is also a really cool pirate ship play area which P3 really enjoyed. I think it should have had some sand around it though for added effect and a soft play area whilst they were wearing their swimming costumes.

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After a little while of us being there a staff member came out with some sand tools like buckets and spades, beach balls and toys. There were two rubber rings there any way and plenty of noodles to use too. P1 was having what we call a bad autism day and was extremely emotional, very defiant and just generally not a pleasure to be around so our experience of the pool was cut much shorter than we had hoped for. I had planned to spend our entire day just relaxing by the pool as a family but with P1 being quite unpredictable I just didn’t feel safe with all three girls as we are outnumbered. So we decided to get dressed and head back to the Universal Theme Parks.

We had park tickets for our entire holiday at Universal Orlando Resort only this time we were heading over as normal people and not VIP guests. I was interested to see how it would be as normal people and whether the staff were friendly to everyone or just making a big effort for us the previous two days. There was a little queue to get in and we had to place our finger prints at the gate as a security measure. Hubby had said he really wanted to do the Revenge Of The Mummy again so we headed there first.On our walk both P2 and P3 fell asleep. We decided to FaceTime my Mum whilst we waited for Hubby to return. I really wanted to see if I could get P1 to agree to going on the E.T Adventure ride.

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She had been extremely reluctant to the point of panic attacks on the previous two days. I wanted to approach it differently and thought that if she had the time to enter a queue it may help her nerves. It didn’t, at all, but I was so pleased with the service the staff gave us. There was a lovely young man who came over to us and offered for us to enter the ride exit way and stand by the ride where you get on. He had no idea who we were, we were normal people and I thanked him explaining that we think she is autistic. He offered P1 a torch to take with her and explained what she’d see whilst on the ride. He was lovely.

Unfortunately, P1 wouldn’t back down and had got herself a bit worked up so we turned away. I knew she would have enjoyed the ride, just like P2 did as it was her favourite, but she just couldn’t get past the initial darkness and the sense of having no control. After having a little wander through Universal Studios, letting Hubby do a couple of rides including the Men In Black Alien Attack, we decided it wasn’t quite as fun when there was two asleep and one that was refusing to do any rides. P2 had wanted to do more rides but she had fallen asleep so we just decided to head back to our hotel for some lunch and a rest. I had contacted the PR lady to see if she could arrange some tickets for us to attend the Halloween Horror Nights so we were awaiting confirmation on that too.

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We went into Sal’s Deli Market which had lots of different Italian inspired meats, cheeses, snacks and freshly baked pizzas. We picked up a kid’s meal for the girls and a fruit salad. The kid’s meal was actually really good, it had a freshly made ham and cheese sandwich, a delicious cookie and some crisps (aka chips, which I genuinely thought would be potato chips when I read it).

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We spent a little while just chilling by Loews Portofino Bay Harbour. The weather was glorious and the girls had a vast amount of space to explore and just be free. Everywhere was super clean which is something I noticed throughout Universal Orlando Resort. There never seems to be a speck of dirt around yet the cleaning doesn’t feel intrusive to your day. It just happens. 

We headed back to our room to arrange a babysitter. Something I never thought we’d ever be doing whilst on a family holiday. The hotel recommended two in-room childcare agencies. We spoke to both and they both sounded equally lovely, but went with the cheaper option., Sunshine Babysitting. Hubby and I had decided that we would really like to go to the Halloween Horror Nights. America seems to do Halloween pretty big and seeing as we were there for Halloween week, it felt wrong not to attend.

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Thankfully we had a babysitter arranged for 7pm and at about 6:45pm the PR lady confirmed that she had tickets for us to attend. She was very lucky to have been able to organise us into a R.I.P tour (VIP Tour) in a group rather than on our own. We were so incredibly excited by this, and a little bit nervous as we’d been able to see some back stage preparations the day before with Dawn, our tour guide.

At 7pm our in-room babysitter arrived. The girls were awake as we wanted them to meet the lady. Her name was Donna and she was just so warm and lovely. The girls, including P3 who generally hates people, warmed to her straight away. I left the hotel room feel anxious but quite content leaving them with Donna. Hubby and I headed to the water taxi child free.

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We booked into the VIP meeting area and were told to head to Cafe La Bamba which is where the Halloween Horror Nights was kicking off. Universal Studios had been completely transformed. It was busy, very busy and in the dark it was hard to decipher who was a normal person or who was about to jump out at you. And boy did they jump! We were in a group of 11 people. One of the men who actually from a little village just round the corner from us in England which was super spooky. Quite fitting for Halloween Horror Nights. They had a small selection of food available in a buffet style and drinks. You could immediately tell that people had been drinking alcohol but everybody was pleasantly happy from it. Hubby and I don’t drink so I was interested to see how the night would pan out surrounded by intoxicated people. 

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights features 9 haunted houses, 5 scare zones, outrageous live shows and you can experience many of the parks most exciting rides and attractions. This year it was the 26th year of the Halloween Horror Nights which is absolutely incredible! This event is older than me and the same age as my husband. We got to meet our tour guide for the night and the group of others, all of which were american but hubby, the man from near us and me obviously.

The houses were; American Horror Story, Tomb Of The Ancients, The Exorcist, Ghost Town: The Curse Of The Lightning Gulch, Halloween: Hell Comes To Haddonfield, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Krampus, The Walking Dead and Lunatics Playground 3D: You Won’t Stand A Chance. The 5 different scare zones are; Vamp ’55, Dead Man’s Wharf, Survive Or Die Apocalypse, Lair Of The Banshee and A Chance In Hell. I had thought that maybe you could avoid the houses and just appreciate the atmosphere with children but I can definitely understand why these nights are not suitable for children under the age of 13 years.

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Our R.I.P Tour was a specifically planned tour of all the houses, most of the scare zones, the chance to watch Bill & Ted’s show and the opportunity to ride on the Men In Black Alien Attack ride. I was literally petrified especially as the first house we went into was the Lunatics Playground which was a 3D house. There was flashing lights, screeching, that awful chuckle from Chance and people jumping out at you. I wasn’t sure where I was at times as it was a bit of a terrifying daze as I went through.

The other houses were equally terrifying but I was able to actually look around without feeling dizzy. The houses were so realistic and the actors inside were horrifying. I spent the entire time screaming and came away that evening with a sore throat and close to losing my voice. It was amazing. The effort that goes into each house and each performance as such, was just phenomenal. I am certain the actors were picking on me as despite me attempting to hide away behind Hubby as we walked through, they were jumping out at me. This obviously amused him and the others in our group.

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We ended the night with a performance from Bill & Ted’s. I hadn’t heard of them before and found the show slightly odd. Hubby found it hilarious and obviously really enjoyed the practically naked women prancing about, but I just couldn’t understand the humour. I felt it was very lost on me. Although it was spectacularly executed and there was lots of action, dancing and fun happening across the stage. At this point we said goodbye to our tour guide and we were able to head back to our hotel room.

When we had arranged the babysitter, I thought Hubby was a little crazy to suggest to her that we would be back at 2am. I couldn’t see myself staying awake that long but we arrived back at the hotel room at very nearly 2am. I was beyond shattered but so pumped full of adrenaline from the night. We had such an amazing time and I suppose it was like a date night. Definitely one that will be extremely hard to top! The lovely babysitter Donna had sent us some photos during the night so we knew the girls were fine. When we arrived home they were all fast asleep. In fact P2 was basically hugging up to her big sister which was just the cutest thing ever!

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I felt pretty sad going to sleep. It was our very last night in Orlando and the next day was a day full of packing, waiting around and travelling all the way back home to Orlando. Don’t forget to check out my video from our fourth day in Orlando and check out my previous posts and videos from our Universal Orlando Resort holiday.

You can find out more about Virgin Holidays to Orlando by clicking here, or more about the Universal Orlando Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, VIP Tours and the Halloween Horror Nights here.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have
volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for
the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity..

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10 comments

  1. Oh I’d love to take the kids to Orlando one day. Looks like you had such an amazing time. You are very brave to have a random babysitter organised. I am struggling to get one here because I am not confident enough they can mind my two kids.

    • Orlando was amazing for kids. Universal especially had so much going on. Oh I was terrified. It was the first time I’d done something like this as usually they are left with family members or not at all. But it went ok!

  2. What a fantastic holiday. You’re very lucky. The pool looked fab x

  3. Oh Jodie, you really had a holiday of a lifetime didn’t you. I’ve never used a babysitting service, I dunno I’m just supper nervous I suppose but delighted you guys got to see the what looks like a fabulous show and got some time together x

    • I had to keep pinching myself. It was out of this world amazing! I was super nervous about the babysitter too but it was a recommended one from the hotel and it went well.

  4. Wow! It looks amazing!! I’m so glad you had a wonderful time xx

  5. Lovely post and gorgeous photos! It looks like you had an amazing time! I would love to have a family trip to Orlando one day – it looks so fun and magical x

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