Spring Break 2017 with Coaster-Loving Teens, Hard Rock Hotel 4/16 - 4/20


Earning My Ears
Aug 21, 2014
Re: The Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience:

I went to the Universal website and clicked to purchase - I can choose the date, but it didn't offer a choice of time. Is calling to Universal Dining the only way to get a specified reservation time? How did you get your tickets and do you just present the ticket when you go to eat your meal? (I'm asking because we'd probably skip the meal portion and just use the tickets for the dessert and reserved seating for the show. At $45 per person, that's less than half the cost of the special reserved dessert parties that Disneyland offers and to us it's worth it for the reserved seating.) Thank you in advance for any help you can give me! :)
Hi ChipDale! You are correct; when you purchase the Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience, you purchase a set date online and then call to get a meal reservation time. The dessert reservation time is pre-set and will be one hour before the show starts, which is most typically at 9:00pm. In my case, I wanted a very specific meal time, so I actually called the dining number first, and once they confirmed my meal time, they allowed me to order and pay for the tickets while on that same call, and it was a one-stop shop for me.

Dining number: 407-224-FOOD (3663)

Next up, they emailed me my confirmation for the dining experience. I had to print that out as if it were a voucher and take it to "either guest services or to the self-serve kiosks" where they then took my one piece of paper and turned it into 10 separate tickets: 5 meal tickets, and 5 dessert party tickets, for our party of 5. I went to guest services, which took forever. If you’re staying onsite, you might want to ask if this can be accomplished at your concierge desk or ask where the self-serve kiosks are. I wish I had done that… At guest services, they again confirmed that I had made a dining reservation time, so even if you're thinking about skipping the meal, I'd suggest booking a time, or you might accidentally throw off the process of your ticket printing...

My family feels the same way: we're happy to pay for a reserved seat and a view! Bear in mind, these desserts will not forever change the way you think of desserts. They are modest, but we more than covered our 'theme park valued cost' in chocolate-covered strawberries, brownies, and sparkling cider. :-) Hope this works out for you!


Earning My Ears
Aug 21, 2014
Wednesday, April 19. Crowd Levels: Predicted 8 / Actual 8 out of 10

Hi again! I returned from my business trip on Wednesday, then on Thursday packed and departed for a weekend dance competition, for which dances started Friday morning at 8, so we had to be to the host city by Thursday night. If I never again unpack then repack another packing cube, it’ll be too soon. For those of you wondering what dance competitions are like, for the moms, it is like being transmogrified into a personal butler for your teenage daughter so that she can be transformed via the magic of hair accessories and make-up and at least seven different costumes into a beautiful dancer who may or may not appreciate your services and may or may not recognize you for the excellent services you are conducting and may or may not really yell at you from time to time. It is nothing like Dance Moms, where professional hair stylists, make-up artists, and costumers are getting those extremely gifted girls ready for their one solo and one group dance, while the Moms fight and bicker. Here, the moms all work together to fulfil their butler duties, which can entail up to 7 dances in once short timeframe, sometimes with only 9-12 minutes between routines to fully transform the girls… But, on Saturdays, the dancers are in workshops from 7:30am – 2:30pm, learning inspiring new moves and allowing moms to rest up for tonight’s work. I’m using my time to sneak in a few Universal updates.

Wednesday was our last full day of the trip. (sniff, sniff) By now, even I wasn’t feeling super dee duper (tip of the hat to Barney, who is still going strong at Universal Studios) excited about getting out of bed at 6am, so the night before, I had offered the kids a chance to sleep in, avoid Early Entry, and start our day later. I was ever-so-secretly proud when they decided we should do Early Entry today, and sleep on the plane tomorrow. Yes, we have a lot more parenting to do with these teens, but they are now at a sufficient level of Theme Park education to carry on the torch. Good choice, kids. So, Get Out of Bed, you picked to go in, so let’s get this day started!

My slightly-whinier-than-usual gang started our walk to Islands of Adventure. Sore feet, shin splints, a possible emerging toe blister here or there. That didn’t deter us, though, and soon we were in line, about 15 back at a turnstile.

After yesterday’s glorious Early Entry run on Dragon Challenge, the kids planned more of the same, this time starting in the front row of the red side; but sometimes, life, or an attraction break-down, has a way of happening. The ride was down, with no known forecast to come back up. The kids wanted to wait, but I played a logic game with them: if the Team Members are not even willing to wager a guess as to when this ride will be up, how much of your Early Entry do you want to spend in a possible line to no where? So, we redirected to Forbidden Journey and decided to do Single Rider for the 5 of us, then we could check on Dragon Challenge. With a new plan, and a quick dash to the Forbidden Journey locker room, here’s what we accomplished:

Forbidden Journey – Single Rider, wow this went really, really fast and we were off by about 8:09
Dragon Challenge – It was up by 8:12, so: front row, red, and kids were happy again
Dragon Challenge – front row, blue
My husband offered to take the backpack for a moment while we sat at the Dragon Challenge viewing/waiting area and promptly placed it in a puddle, which would provide me with a damp hip region for the remainder of the day. Just as my son never regained Hat Trust, no one ever touched my backpack again. But, thanks for helping, darling. It was a nice gesture. :-)
Hogwart’s Express – we did it right today, and queued up by 8:35 so we were easily in Universal Studios by 9:02​

We had only until 10:30 for rides until our Character Breakfast time, so we maximized our time with some splitting up. From 9:05 – 10:30 we accomplished:

Gringott’s – all of us
Gringott’s – Single Rider for Me, DH, and DD
Rip Ride Rockit – Just the teen boys
Rip Ride Rockit – again , and again for the boys – Until we picked them up
An attempt at Transformers, but it was down, so…
Mummy, again​

Now about that Gringott’s Single Rider queue: unlike Forbidden Journey, which opened up Single Rider at the same time as the standard queue, the Gringott’s Single Rider queue did not open up until the standard line grew longer. Much like Hogwart’s Express, there seemed to be a story the Team Members were supposed to stick with, and then the reality of what happened. So, on this first attempt at Gringott’s Single Rider, we strived to enter the Single Rider line immediately after exiting the ride for the first time. My daughter and I each approached a different door-manning Team Member to ask when it would open. My Team Member advised: it never, ever opens until 10am. The current time was: 9:34am. My daughter’s Team Member advised: it is opening in about 3-5 minutes. Hmmm. Are we waiting 3-5 minutes, or 26 minutes? That will greatly impact our next move. So, I asked my daughter’s Nice Team Member, who confirmed it should be any minute now, but my Team Member kinda nosed her way in to the situation to tell the Nice Team Member that she was wrong, it would be opening at 10am. I do appreciate her desire to stick with the script, but…. I’m still getting mixed messages here. So, I walked up to a more management-looking type individual and asked him, and he said it should be any minute now. My continual process improvement background kicked in, and I was thinking about illuminating some facts for him that he had a bit of an inconsistency issue with two Team Members who were standing about 3 feet apart, but by then my daughter was being guided through the now-open single rider line by the Nice Team Member, which was a much bigger priority for me. Let someone else offer the feedback related the incorrect Team Member… While Single Rider has no theming so you should always experience the full queues at least once so you can be dazzled with the sheer impressiveness of them, it was great to be back on the ride again in mere moments. Plus, my daughter and I were seated together and my husband was in the rear car behind us, so, score! Another great experience not quite opening our bank account at Gringott’s! Great, great ride! Oh yes, and don’t forget the Theme Park Rule of: if a Team Member tells you something that makes no sense, ask another one… You may get a response you like much better.

Then it was time for our Character Breakfast. I’ve said more than enough about that in the pre-planning section. We were in at 10:30, out by 11:30, none too impressed, and parted ways with my husband, whose daily plan had evolved into: returning to the hotel room while the kids and I did afternoon activities/rides.

It was now 11:30 and we blissfully had no plan until we took a look at the app and asked ourselves what we wanted to do this afternoon, which developed into:

Hogwart’s Express back to Hogsmeade​

Note: this was our one and only train ride in this direction. The wait said 8 minutes, but the ticketing process was tremendously confusing for a first timer so it felt like 80. (It was probably 7 minutes…) The lines were more like herds. Slow grazing herds without a shepherd. People were confused about where to go and what ticket to use. We inched our way up through the non-moving masses and got to a ticket agent and then once we presented our park-to-park ticket, we were blessedly ushered into the real queue, leaving behind the mess and mass of confusion. From there, it was a pleasant experience and we loved seeing the second ‘half’ of this attraction, if you will. My unsolicited advice: try to keep the crowd moving toward the ticket agent, or just move your own party through or around them if they won’t follow your subtle urging. Once you’ve been scanned for your park-to-park ticket, it’s smooth sailing and a very fun ride. An A+ method of transportation. As you likely know by now, this side contains the phenomenal Platform 9 ¾, so I held back to be able to photograph the kids’ fantastical transport through the walkway. So fun!

Once at Islands of Adventures, we did this, from about 11:55 – 1:15.

Dragon Challenge – red
Dragon Challenge – blue, now seriously kids, there is more to this place than coasters!
King Kong – Our one true “wait” of the week for an attraction. I wanted to experience this one more time, but knew we were unlikely to be back when it was a walk-on. Standby said 70 minutes. The Express Team Member said our queue would probably have us on the ride within 20 minutes. My kids groaned: TWENTY WHOLE MINUTES. ARE YOU KIDDING US!?!?!?! I then reminded them who had sponsored this trip, and who had indulged them in 30+ roller coaster rides thus far, and who was lugging around a damp backpack (thanks again, honey!) filled with their Hard Rock Hotel branded water when I didn’t even like water myself, and who would be funding their Toothsome milkshakes on the walk home, and Wait? What? Did somebody just say Toothsome Chocolate Emporium? So, they agreed to wait patiently or at least with a lesser degree of eye rolling for twenty whole whopping minutes for me to get, oh, one ride pick of the day. You’d think I was asking them to be the first ever human guinea pigs to test out penicillin without knowing the possible side effects, instead of enjoying a ground-breaking, exciting, new-ish main attraction at a great theme park rather efficiently during peak hours, but we made it on the ride in EIGHTEEN minutes, and – you guessed it – had a blast
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, just once, we were now used to the short ride
The Hulk, nope, they are not getting tired of coasters, even with a promise of milkshakes…​

I finally lured the kids out of the parks with that promise of milkshakes at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. We were certainly not too full to eat, after today’s character breakfast, and we arrived without a reservation to find plenty of seats available. When we told the hostess that we were planning desserts only, we were not granted passage into the full restaurant, but asked to go to the front section for dessert-only patrons. We were great with wherever we sat, and quickly ordered. Two Brownie Milkshakes, and Two Chocolate x 5 Milkshakes for the 4 of us. Apparently, we were in the minority, getting one milkshake per person. As we looked around, it was mainly couples and families sharing delicious treats. I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone came out and surreptitiously snapped a picture of us to post in the staff breakroom as the First Crazy Family to Actually Order One Item Per Person… But, we proudly took our seats and awaited our order. The milkshakes exceeded our expectations on every single front. Sure, when you pay $55 for 4 milkshakes, you have high hopes, but these are beyond description in terms of taste quality and overall presentment. SO glad we didn’t enjoy the food at our Character Breakfast in order to have room for this delectable experience. See, everything happens for a reason.

Once again, we hung out in the Club then in our room and then decided it would be great to head back to the parks for our final night-time rides of our vacation. Well, we didn’t ALL decide it would be great to head back to the parks. My husband declared that he was out, and he was going to spend the evening poolside. I offered the kids the chance for a pool-night, and my nephew opted to join my spouse for the evening, but my kids, who have been training for this all their lives, (as opposed to the 6 or 7 trips my nephew has joined us for, showing excellent stamina but not born into the mentality), they were all about returning for more attractions.

We returned to the parks from 6:30 – 9:00 and accomplished the following:

Rip Ride Rockit – my daughter’s first time venturing onto the ride! My son promised her that she would not fall out of the ride car, and after she intently watched it three times, she agreed to go.
Rip Ride Rockit – she liked it
Rip Ride Rockit – she REALLY liked it
Attempted Transformers, but it had a 170 minute wait for standards lines and they said it would be at least 45 minutes for Express Pass so…
Mummy, again
Quick burger and onion rings at Mel’s Diner, since we had foregone the Club in lieu of the parks
Rip Ride Rockit
Rip Ride Rockit, last ride of the night​

We were disappointed that Transformers was in one of two states during the 4 days we were at Universal Studios: completely down, or, at a 150+ minute wait, with Express Pass estimated at 45-60 minutes by the Express Team Members. While I mocked the kids for not being willing to wait 20 minutes for King Kong, I sure wasn’t willing to wait a likely 60 minutes for Transformers. We had done it a ton of times in 2013. At this point, we would try again on Thursday morning, but we had mentally moved on from a strong need to experience this ride. It would be nice, but not a catastrophe if we never got to ride it this week.

Then we called it a day. We walked back to our room and met up with our swimmers. They had had a satisfying panini dinner at the hotel and enjoyed the pool, live music, and nightly movie. I had lofty plans to get 90% packed up tonight in prep for departure day tomorrow, but you win some, you lose some, and I fell asleep by 10pm like the rest of the family, storing up energy for our last whirlwind day. I told myself it was because I didn’t want to be disruptive to the others. Yeah, that was it. Zzzzz zzzzz zzzzz.


Earning My Ears
Aug 21, 2014
Thursday, April 20. Crowd Levels: Predicted 8 / Actual 7 out of 10

Today was our very last day, so we had to work in theme parks and packing. I had offered that we could sleep, pack, then park, but the kids were still gung ho for one final early entry, and still motivated to be on the first ride of the day for the Dragon Challenge, so off to Islands of Adventure it was. Our only plan variance was that I “allowed” our crew to ride the ferry today. Normally, just as we were walking past the boat dock, we’d hear the sound of the recently departed ferry, and I’d have none of that ‘waiting for the next boat’ request. This one time, it was still there as we approached, so our feet were happy to take advantage of the serendipity.

This was the day that we noticed there were a few turnstiles that had formed no queues, and asked a Team Member if there was a reason for it. Nope, no reason, except that people are more inclined to follow the pack, so no one had ventured to that turnstile yet. Yay! We were happy to take one for the crowd and get that queue started! We also had an interesting conversation with the Team Member who came out to manage our turnstile.

Here was our discussion topic: Universal park-goers who wear their Disney attire to Universal. We saw a ton of this all week, and we commented amongst ourselves that we understand many Universal guests are carving time out of their Disney vacation to come to Universal, but for Pete’s sake, pack at least 1 or 2 non-Disney t-shirts for your time spent at Universal. And take off your Mouse Ears. Seriously. Mouse Ears running amok in Universal parks. We don’t expect everyone to go full-on Potter robes or Minion t-shirts, but we found it a wee bit disrespectful for the full-on Disney clothing and the unwillingness to remove a Magic Band for the day... Don’t get me wrong, I love a good “matching family t-shirt” wardrobe option when we’re at Disney, and have at least 4 sets of t-shirts and even 2 sets of Hawaiian attire that totally match and can be packed on a moment’s notice plus my family is a good sport about indulging me in this when we are at Disney or Aulani. But, for our Universal vacation, I didn’t pack those. And when we’ve added on days from Disney to Universal, I’ve made sure we had Minion, Simpsons, Thing 1 and 2, or just plain old non-theme-park logo’d tops for our jaunt to the Dark Side…

So, when we noticed that several members of the IoA Family of the Day were wearing Disney attire, we were super surprised by this, and as we were discussing it in what we thought were hushed tones, the Team Member at our turnstile joined in on our conversation. By the way, here’s our speculation on the Family of the Day, just our guess as to how it went down: it appeared to be 2 families on a trip together, most likely related, such as two sisters and their families meeting for a Disney vacation. Out of the 8 of them, 4 in one family unit were wearing adorable matching Universal t-shirts and looked like they had camped out for the opportunity to get chosen. The other 4 were the “we’re not wearing matching t-shirts” relatives and still had on their Magic Bands, mouse shirts, etc. So, we surmise that the Universally-attired family was selected for this honor, and then said, oh yeah, we’re a package deal with our brother/sister/cousins/whatnots, and that’s how a Disney t-shirt and Magic Band opened up Islands of Adventure. Or, I just have a vivid imagination. The Team Member at our turnstile said they find it disappointing that so many people wear Disney clothing to their park, but they are routinely coached NOT to say anything about it. She said the only time someone might slip in a “fun” comment to a guest is if their ticket and fingerprint just won’t work, then they might be tempted to say: well, must be that mouse on your shirt doesn’t want to let you pass through these gates….

Moral of the Story: If you’re doing a combined Disney/Universal trip, try to pack a few non-Disney shirts for your awesome time at Universal. Universal deserves the respect, and they also have awesome shirts, hats, and accessories to choose from. Heck, immerse yourself here, too! At a minimum, kindly remove your mouse ears.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Trip Report. Here is how our Early Entry time was spent. You could probably write our ride list for me, from 7:55 – 8:35am, since it is pretty much a rinse and repeat of our past few days:

Dragon Challenge – first ride, front row, red
Dragon Challenge – front row blue
Forbidden Journey – Single Rider * surprise! We split up, and my husband and I sprinted over to Forbidden Journey once we knew the queue was open for Dragon Challenge and the kids more than knew what to do. We quickly loaded a locker (yup, on the top row!) and the hopped up the Single Rider stairs. We had a nice unplanned surprise. We reached the end of the queue for Single Rider at the same time the first passengers reached the standard queue. They were a group of 6, so we figured we might ride together at the tail end of their 2nd bench, but the attraction Team Members were not quite ready for their group to be loaded, so we were sent ahead and given our own bench. Sore! We were, quite by accident, the first riders of the day on Forbidden Journey!
No time to celebrate, as we scooted over the Dragon Challenge to watch for the kids.​

They did Dragon Challenge one more time after we arrived, then we told them to say goodbye, as we were heading to Universal Studios and would not be making it back to Islands of Adventures before flying out this afternoon.

We headed to Hogwart’s Express – queued up by 8:35 and were easily in Universal Studios by 9:02.

The kids’ “final day” plan was to get in as many Rip Ride Rockit rides as possible, so we bolted out of Diagon Alley – armed with yesterday’s knowledge about when to come back for Single Rider, walked against the humongous crowd with a real appreciation of a day in the life of a salmon swimming upstream, and to the front of the theme park to hop in line for Rip Ride. I heard someone shouting “Hey, Aunt Karen!” and turned to see my niece and her two boys, who were visiting their friends in Orlando from their home in Northern New York. Well, I probably shouldn’t say it on this board, especially after my mini rant about Disney clothes in a Universal Park, but, wow, it truly is a small world, after all. No time to catch up on too many family updates, just enough time for a joint family picture and hugs good-bye. We all had urgent, important business to attend to.

The three kids headed off to Rip Ride Rockit, my niece headed to Gringott’s, and my husband and I found a seat in the shade for a moment of peace. Our morning shaped up as follows, from 9:05 – 10:25:

Rip Ride Rockit
Rip Ride Rockit, again
Rip Ride Rockit, again again
Attempted Transformers, but it was down, so…
Mummy, which was dead, a near-empty car
Mummy, instant re-ride (we asked, and they sent us back through the Child Swap)
Then, off to Gringott’s Single Rider​

So, the reason we asked for a Mummy re-ride was because we had the very most annoying, screaming, never gave our ears a break, kinda rude group on that ride with us. This was over the top poor Theme Park behavior, and really ruined the ride for us. We’d ridden Mummy many times this week, and of course this generates screams and shouts at certain times, and it’s just fine by us if you want to holler your lungs off during an attraction. That’s fun for some people. But something about this rowdy group, well, they were obnoxious beyond belief, making far too much out of the ride than was necessary, which caused my gang to look at me like “are you going to do something about this?” when the ride had its few moments where you could exchange glances like that. While there are some battles I might take on, some feedback I might give, this group and this issue was not on that list, not for me. So when we hopped off the car, I signaled to my group to hang back. It was just the 5 of us, and the 6 of them on the car. But, they wouldn’t walk away from us out of the attraction unloaded area, so I signaled to their group “Go, go, go” to encourage them to move along, then tried again to get the cast member’s attention. Which at that point I certainly had, as he covered the ride communication system by practically flinging his body on it and said: what’s wrong? I said, well, that group pretty much just ruined that ride for us, any chance you’d let us walk through the Child Swap for a quick repeat? The ride was still a walk-on and running near-empty cars, so he said of course you can, head on over. But please don’t yell “Go, go, go” into our communication system, as that is the signal to shut the ride down, and we would have been on a 15-minute delay. I apologized profusely, and now you know, The Rest of the Story, as Paul Harvey would say: don’t shout Go Go Go in the exit area of your ride, or you could have some unintended consequences. For us though, it ultimately led to a great re-ride so that our final Mummy ride would be memorable for all the right reasons.

After our awesome and easy experience with Gringott’s single rider, it was time to head back to Hard Rock Hotel to pack up and sadly rescind our Rock Royalty privileges. Check out was technically at 11, but we banked on the fact that their staff would not likely have a swat team knocking on our door to clean at 11:01, and we were right. On our first day, the room had not been cleaned until well after 2:00 and then interrupted my husband’s afternoon nap, which we had great fun teasing him about. I recalled a tip on this board that if you are heading out early and want your room done by a certain time, you should call housekeeping to pleasantly request it. So, we did that for the rest of the week with a great outcome; that’s what gave us the courage to be a little late on our check–out time, too, knowing they probably had a mix of early requests and slightly delayed check-outs… It was 11:45 by the time we took our luggage to Luggage Services, and it seemed like many of our fellow guests were taking that same approach, as we all hit up the Club for one last round of water bottles and to say good-bye and thanks to the Club Team. While we were in the Club, I was able to easily print out our boarding passes for our flights that evening, which was a great added feature. Especially when we noticed the TSA Pre-Check surprise – it was randomly assigned to us – on our boarding passes. Not sure what prompted that to happen, but we’ll take it!

We then headed over to Bubba Gump’s for lunch. While I know this one is hit or miss on reviews, and mostly a miss with lots of people saying they will never go back, everyone in our group loved his or her meal and our service was great. The restaurant was mostly dead at this early lunch hour, so that could have helped. Also, I’m a die-hard Pepsi fan, and this was my first Pepsi after 5 days of Coke, so they could have served me straw with cocktail sauce on top, and just from my Pepsi reunion joy alone, I would have been fine… Then it was back to the parks for the final, final rides, snacks, and moments of the trip. We had from 1:45 – 3:45 in the parks and strategized this list while at Bubba Gumps:

Rip Ride Rockit, at least twice
Transformers, if by any miracle it was back up
Men in Black
Lemon Slushies
Memento Shopping, since so far, all we had acquired was chocolate frogs…​

And, that’s about how our afternoon went. Except for Transformers. Yes, it was back up, but it was back up to the 170 minute wait with 45 minute Express Pass forecast, so we decided we had enough fond memories of it from 2013 and it was better to have guaranteed fun on our last afternoon, than to wait in a line that may never reach its destination.

All in all, we had great fun, shopped for t-shirts, hats, mugs, and I curse the retail store designer who put the banana Minion tic tacs in so many tantalizing places as we have a lifetime supply of those now…, returned to the Hard Rock Hotel, changed into travel clothes suitable for the 40 degree temps we were returning home to, and awaited one of Tony Hinds’s drivers to pick us up for our return to the airport.

A note about Tony Hinds: What a really great guy. He, himself, was our driver for our late night Easter Sunday arrival, and he was just awesome. I told him that this message board had instructed me that he was the best driver in Orlando. He said: Only Orlando? I’m the best driver in the country and will need to improve my reputation then. So, let the record reflect: best in the country. :-) Another driver took us back to the airport, and again, flawless execution on the transportation. Many thanks to all who have recommended him then posted, re-posted, and re-re-posted his contact info for the people who repeatedly ask. It was from one of those re-re-posts where I scored his contact info and this great, plus inexpensive ($100 round trip for our party of 5 ‘adults’ with tons of luggage), ride.

From our moment of check-in to our final hours post-check-out, Hard Rock Hotel was a terrific home base for us. We found all of the Team Members to be helpful, courteous, and as magical as we wanted or needed for this short trip. We almost upgraded our tickets to annual passes on this last day, but our next few vacations are starting to take shape even if they are only penciled in right now, so it was a certainty we’d be unable to make it back or Orlando within the next year. But, we’d love to return again and the kids have already made me a t-chart of pros and cons for returning to Universal Studios. When I said before that they are reading to carry on the torch for a Theme Park passion? Maybe, just maybe, I have over-prepared them for a life of loving Theme Parks!
  • pcstang

    Always Universal Orlando bound!
    Nov 29, 2011
    Happy to hear you had a great trip! It's our home away from home! Loved your TR also.


    Apr 4, 2011
    Hi k1koala. You will love your trip!!! Yay! To give you more details than you wanted on what we wore, here goes:

    We made sure that everything we wore over to the parks that day was water-ride friendly. So the boys wore swim trunks, swim shirts, and Keens. The girls wore swimsuits, swim shirts, and cotton shorts that we were willing to get soaked. I also had a white lacey cover-up that I wore over to the parks with me, but in the end, I thought I might get turned away for looking too much like I thought I was at a true water park, so I left that in our locker, back at the Hulk.

    We took no phones, cameras, nothing, to the water rides. Just us, our lanyards, that darned hat that I forget to tell my son to leave in the locker, and a desire to get soaked! There were no cubbies at the rides, like we see at our local small-scale water parks / theme parks. Just the free locker near Hulk, or the paid lockers nearer to the water rides. The boys were fully dry by the time we left the park. My daughter and I put our soaking wet cotton shorts into a grocery store bag in the backpack and changed into a round of dry cotton shorts that were awaiting our return to the locker, which got damp from our wet suits, but still, better than being fully soaked. This worked out really well for us, as I generally poo-poo anything that causes me to get this wet. As an aside, I wish I hadn't worn mascara onto the rides, but I have darned blonde eyelashes and personally think I look ridiculous without it, but my so-called waterproof mascara smeared all over and really stung my eyes, since we had nothing with us to dry off.

    Good luck with your planning!!!
    Thank you so much for all of the info, I cant wait!! BTW your trip report was awesome!!


    Earning My Ears
    Aug 2, 2000
    ...when you purchase the Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience, you purchase a set date online and then call to get a meal reservation time. The dessert reservation time is pre-set and will be one hour before the show starts, which is most typically at 9:00pm. In my case, I wanted a very specific meal time, so I actually called the dining number first, and once they confirmed my meal time, they allowed me to order and pay for the tickets while on that same call, and it was a one-stop shop for me.

    Dining number: 407-224-FOOD (3663)

    Next up, they emailed me my confirmation for the dining experience. I had to print that out as if it were a voucher and take it to "either guest services or to the self-serve kiosks" where they then took my one piece of paper and turned it into 10 separate tickets: 5 meal tickets, and 5 dessert party tickets, for our party of 5. I went to guest services, which took forever. If you’re staying onsite, you might want to ask if this can be accomplished at your concierge desk or ask where the self-serve kiosks are. I wish I had done that… At guest services, they again confirmed that I had made a dining reservation time, so even if you're thinking about skipping the meal, I'd suggest booking a time, or you might accidentally throw off the process of your ticket printing...

    My family feels the same way: we're happy to pay for a reserved seat and a view! Bear in mind, these desserts will not forever change the way you think of desserts. They are modest, but we more than covered our 'theme park valued cost' in chocolate-covered strawberries, brownies, and sparkling cider. :-) Hope this works out for you!
    Thank you for the perfect explanation of how the tickets for this works - I really appreciate it! (Universal should put it on their website. :)) The rest of your vacation sounds wonderful. I picked up a lot of tips and learned some valuable information. Your reports were a pleasure to read - thank you for taking the time to share your family's experiences with us! :)


    DIS Veteran
    Dec 9, 2010
    Thank you for the 8:35 "magic time" to board the Hogwarts Express. I've done this quite a few times, but never really figured that out!
  • ForMyBoys

    DIS Veteran
    Jan 13, 2013
    I know the last post here was from some time ago, but I just booked our spring break 2018 trip and will be staying 4 nights at HRH over easter so I was very happy to read it. Thanks for the great tips, it was a fun read!!


    May 19, 2009
    Thank you so much for this wonderful and detailed TR! It will certainly come in handy on my upcoming trip .
  • coolbluewater

    Sep 26, 2007
    Planning our first trip and I have to say thank you - you had me at Lanyards. Though our trip isn't until September, I'm busy picking them on amazon. We plan in frighteningly similar ways, brought to a halt by husbands who can't handle the debate anymore.


    DIS Veteran
    May 1, 2005
    Thank you for your report! My family with 3 boys is planning to go to Universal for the first time this summer, and your report has been very helpful! :)


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