We’re finally here, at the last post in our Orlando Trip Report series. Over the past seven weeks I’ve charted the hotels we stayed in, food we ate, parks we visited, evening actives we enjoyed and more, and today I’m finishing with our overall Orlando hits and misses.
I’ve corroborated this with Carl, so it’s our joint list. So many of the rides could make it on our hits, but we wanted to keep this different to the trip report, so we’ve included more experiences than things.
Lazy afternoons at Loews Royal Pacific – This was by far the best hotel of our trip. The room was stunning, the pool was relaxing, it was a swift 10-minute walk from the parks and the nachos were unreal. This meant that we spent a few hours almost every afternoon chilling out by the pool during our time here. After a full-on week of Disney and very tired legs, this was pure bliss and is something we’d recommend doing if you’re lucky enough to stay here.
Staying at the airport the night before – The Raddison Blu was a great way to start our honeymoon. It was expensive, but having somewhere to stay to ease Carl’s fear of flying to Orlando was priceless and it was awesome to only have a five-minute walk between the hotel and the check-in desk.
The construction at Caribbean Beach – Sadly Caribbean Beach was bit of a miss for us. It was definitely showing its age and the construction – although not particularly noisy – meant there were no real facilities. Overall, it just didn’t feel very Disney.
Not so friendly check-in staff – As we were celebrating our honeymoon – and it was all over our booking – we had expected a congratulatory welcome at both our hotels. The reality was that neither really mentioned the reason for our visit, much less sent a congratulations our way. We didn’t expect the world but some acknowledgement would have been nice.
Carl seeing Magic Kingdom for the first time – This was an amazing moment. Although his first comment about Main Street was ‘it’s smaller than I expected’ he was literally awestruck and I was so excited that he loved it as much as I did.
Animal Kingdom – Overall this was the biggest surprise for us and it featured one of both of our favourite themed areas in Disney. I didn’t have much memory of it from my visits as a teenager and we didn’t expect it to be as beautiful as it was. We had only planned a day here, but moved our schedule around to fit a second morning in because we loved it so much. Great attractions, fun entertainment, delicious food and unique experiences – Animal Kingdom was a real hit.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – We both loved both the Universal Parks but this was our highlight. For a massive Harry Potter geek like me, I was in complete bliss here. It’s hands-down the best themed area I’ve ever seen in a theme park.
Busch Gardens – It might not be the prettiest park, but there’s nowhere better for thrills in Florida.
The rides – We’ve got loads of posts on the blog about our favourite rides so I won’t repeat it here but needless to say, there were very few we didn’t have a whale of a time on.
Universal Express Passes – Fantastic, would buy them every trip if they weren’t so goddamn expensive.
Lockers – To be honest these caused us nothing but problems. From pushing, shoving, ridiculous queues and forgetting the codes to unlock them at Universal, to having to pay for them when it was compulsory to store your things before a ride in Seaworld and Busch Gardens, they were a monumental pain in the arse. Hopefully over time the processes will improve but we’re not holding out much hope.
Fastpass queues – These were really hit and miss throughout our stay. Sometime we were straight on the ride, and others they were colossal. I think the longest queue of the whole trip was for Space Mountain, with a Fastpass, I’ve never seen anything like it. Ditto for Jungle Cruise. I’ve since heard that this was common during the Autumn period and is ironing itself out which is good.
Epcot Fastpass selection – My god, this really is a dire situation isn’t it? We get that if Disney made it a free-for-all there would be no-one choosing the smaller attractions but after Mission Space and Spaceship Earth there really isn’t much to get excited about here in terms of Fastpasses. The news that the Character Spot is now also a Tier 1 attraction is another blow. Epcot is in dire need of something new and quick!
Disney Dining Plan – Although it does seem a pain to have to book your table service meals 180 days before you travel, we loved the ease of the dining plan. We didn’t really have to worry about how much things cost and it just made everything so much simpler. In fact, we liked it so much that we’ve paid for it on our next trip.
Food variety – I’ve talked all about the food at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in other posts, but in general we were really pleasantly surprised by the variety on offer. Both resorts have moved way beyond burgers and chips and you could eat a different kind of cuisine every day if you wanted. We also didn’t eat anything that was completely inedible and in general found the food quality (in Disney in particular) to be fantastic.
Food and Wine – Just amazing, such a fantastic event that we can’t wait to try again. Next time our aim is to try something from every booth across the length of our stay – let’s see how we do!
Wait time for ADRs – On more than one occasion (one being at The Yachtsman) we had to wait over thirty minutes after our ADR time to be seated. We understand that delays are going to happen, and 10–15 minutes is acceptable, but we found time and time again that we were made to wait. When you have Fastpasses booked and places to go, this is more than a little annoying and means your wolfing down your food to get to your next ‘thing’ without really being able to enjoy it. With more reservations than ever on our next trip, we’re crossing our fingers that it’s improved.
Alcohol prices – Not something we can do anything about as we like a drink but my god is it expensive to grab a beer at Walt Disney World. City Walk fared a bit better but it wasn’t much different at the rest of the Universal Parks. We blew through way more of our budget than expected on alcohol.
Food in Universal Parks – Rubbish choices across both parks with very few table service options and mostly typical fast food fare (that wasn’t all that good) for quick service. Our advice? Eat at City Walk where the food is fantastic quality and there is plenty of variety.
Puddings on the Disney Dining Plan – These were completely lost on us as we were stuffed from our meals and prefer to order sides and starters than puds. We didn’t eat one all trip and when they insisted we get one to-go because they are included in the plan, they remained uneaten in our fridge. We assume this will be the same when we return!
Magic Bands – We loved our magic bands! They made everything so much simpler, especially as we stayed onsite. Absolutely everything is managed through them so you didn’t need to carry cash around with you and we never got bored of seeing the light glow green when we entered a park or tapped in for a Fastpass.
Uber – We used Uber to go offsite and we couldn’t really fault it. We were already set up since we use them quite a bit at home and it was great to not have to try and find somewhere to order a taxi from. We only really had one driver that was a little bit scary (he was watching YouTube while driving!!) but the rest were great and it was super easy to manage. We’ll definitely be using Uber again.
Disney buses – We found these reliable, quick and there was always one around the corner. Apart from them getting busy on evenings (which is to be expected) we were really, really impressed.
Halloween events – We had an amazing time at Mickey’s No So Scary Halloween Party and Halloween Horror nights. Both were completely different events that were more than worth our time.
Fireworks – Disney fireworks really do trump everything else. Even Carl who claims to ‘not be into fireworks’ was enchanted by them.
Drunk teenagers at City Walk – Although we loved City Walk, it did leave a bit to be desired as the nights turned late. It seems to be where a lot of local young people go to get ‘buzzed’ and the atmosphere was a bit like a night out in Leeds at 2am.
Water – We didn’t know you could request iced water from quick service locations at the time and also didn’t do a supermarket shop for any, so we either spent $4 per bottle of water or drank the lukewarm stuff provided by the water taps. This was an error on our part and is something we will be doing differently next time.
Pins – I had a massive fail when it came to pins, I think I was overwhelmed by the choice. When I got them home I wasn’t really enamoured with any of them which isn’t great. I also really wanted to pin trade, but didn’t really understand it so decided to give it a miss. This time I’m going to choose my pins wisely and allow myself the time to trade them. I think this is a really cool thing Disney offers so I want to make sure I take advantage of it.
So I think that’s it. A pretty long post about the overall hits and misses of our Orlando 2017 trip. It’s been so much fun reliving all the magic and I can’t wait to share more memories with you when we head back in two months’ time!
What do you think of our Orlando hits and misses? Do you agree?