An October 2005 trip
to Orlando by Tori_rw
Quote: Recently we explored a lot of what the Orlando area had to offer and found out that it's more than just a place for Disney and kids!
The resort units here are all two-bed units split into an A side and a B side. We were in the A side of the unit. The A side of the unit is very spacious, with a full kitchen, pullout sofa in the living area, big-screen television, VCR, and an entrance onto a balcony. The bedroom has a king-size bed with a second TV as well. There is also an entrance from the balcony from the bedroom. The A unit also hosts a large Jacuzzi, great after those long amusement park days, and a very large bathroom with two sinks and a large shower. The unit itself had everything one would need to make anything in the kitchen (coffeemaker, oven, toaster, microwave, blender, fridge, and full complement of cooking utensils and supplies). I did not get a chance to view the B side of our unit but have heard that the B units are a bit smaller, with a partial kitchen, probably only suited for two adults. Our unit would have comfortably slept four.
Our unit had a view of the pool on our six-story balcony. People have differing opinions on whether a pool-side room is the way to go, but the view is great. However, if you don't like noise at night, it might be an issue. The pool is open until 11pm, and kids are usually down there until they are booted out. Because of the design of the buildings, sound carries well. I never had an issue, but I know people have complained about this in past reviews.
We visited the pool a number of times, most of the time in the evenings. There are two pools (both heated) and two hot tubs. Both were great. The building design again causes issues if you much want to lie out after 1pm, as they all overshadow the pool, making it nearly impossible to get any sunlight.
The resort had plenty of activities scheduled daily. We didn't participate in any of them but watched some of them when we were sitting out on our balcony. There are arts and crafts, bingo, pizza nights, etc. If you want to just stay at the resort, there seems to be a full set of things to do.
I was never bothered by the timeshare people. When you check-in, you are given a temporary parking permit and told to see guest services. I'm assuming that this is when they normally pitch you on the breakfast before they give you your parking pass for the week. I simply told them I was not interested and was not pestered again.
Overall, I would highly recommend this resort to those traveling to the Orlando area.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 7, 2005
Vacation Village At Parkway
2949 Arabian Night Blvd.
Kissimmee, Florida 34747
Restaurant | "Pat O'Briens at Universal City Walk"
We ate early, around 5pm, so we just walked right in. The pub is set up just like the one established in the early 1900s in New Orleans. There is an open-area walkway that takes you past the bar area (a little dark for my tastes), with a singer and settings there, into an open-area courtyard. The courtyard is set up with two fountains (after dark they turn off the water long enough to light the tops of both fountains and turn them back on--really neat!), lanterns, and lights, and it is done in all brick. The tables are scattered throughout the courtyard but aren't too close to be uncomfortable.
The food was awesome. I had to try the Hurricanes I had heard so much about on the New Orleans forums and reviews. They have quite a kick. They are 4 ounces of their Hurricane mix and four of their rum. The drink runs about $9 but is worth trying at least once. They bring it out to you in a glass that I thought at first was a carafe. If you finish it, you'll wonder how and why. It's a lot of drink and packs a punch.
For an appetizer, we tried the crawfish nachos. I'd never had crawfish, and my fiancee wanted me to try some. I wasn't sorry. If you like seafood, you will love the nachos. For the main course, we had jambalaya and their seafood basket. This is real jambalaya, not that wannabe stuff. After a couple of bites, my mouth was on fire. It was so good, however, I had a hard time stopping eating it when I was full.
We, of course, couldn't finish without at least trying desert. We had their cheesecake. It was the smoothest and best cheesecake I think I've ever had. I'm very glad we didn't pass it up.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 6, 2005
Universal City Walk
Orlando, Florida 32801
Restaurant | "Cinderella's Royal Table"
The place was absolutely packed the entire time we were there. I had been last time but wanted to go again so that my fiance could see the inside of the castle. I love the decor and props they have set up. Eating there is worth that alone. The actual restaurant portion of the place is on the second floor of the castle and has huge stained glass windows that look out over Magic Kingdom.
For as busy as they were, the service was incredibly quick. I ordered the prime rib (which was the most tender I had ever had) and he had the leg of lamb, which was pretty good as well. Other than that, the meal was pretty normal, but this is a must-see for parents with kids. Sometimes Cinderella shows up, and it's a fun time for them.
Cinderella's Royal Table at Cinderella Castle
Orlando, Florida 32830
Attraction | "Pirates Dinner Adventure Show"
After you are through the door, they take your picture (which you can purchase later at $20 per photo) and are shown into a town "area." This room has appetizers, like pretzels, chips, meatballs, and pasta salad, nothing too great, but enough to tide you over until the entertainment begins. They also have shops with pirate "booty," tarot card readings, and a maritime museum with history on pirates.
If you wish to purchase any beverages before the show, there are two bars located around the room where you may find sodas, beers, or mixed drinks. After about 20 minutes of waiting, they began a preshow that leads into the main show. The preshow lasts about 30 minutes, and at this time they pick people out of the crowd to help volunteer during the show (or, if they don't get volunteers, they pick people anyway).
After the preshow, you wait about another 15 to 20 minutes. The show starts promptly, and they begin serving your food. For what we paid, I expected the food to be much better. The food was mediocre. We were offered shrimp or beef. We both took beef, so I can't say what the shrimp was like. It was served with a side of chicken, potatoes, and veggies. You also get unlimited soft drinks, beer, or wine with the meal, which is probably the best part.
After dinner you are served desert, which is a scoop of ice cream and a couple of caramelized apples. It was okay. For some reason, they put chocolate on both parts of the desert.
The show was good campy fun. The food wasn't worth the money, but I would say that the show was. If you have kids or enjoy campy pirate fun, then I would suggest doing the show at least once. Just don't go expecting the food to be great.
My one main gripe was that at the end of the show they ask for you to tip your servers a recommended $5 per person. With the way the service works and the amount of money that was paid for the food, I felt a little ripped off. We paid it anyway and chalked it up to a little expenditure in a delightfully campy evening of fun.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 7, 2005
Pirate's Dinner Adventure
6400 Carrier Drive
Orlando, Florida 32819
+1 407 248 0590
Attraction | "Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights"
Universal has more money than most places to put on a good Halloween show, but other than a few exceptions, it wasn't that different than your normal haunted house. When you enter, you are greeted by some pretty neat decorations and lots of fog. If you have issues with the machine-generated fog, this probably isn't the attraction for you, because it's everywhere.
When you are actually in the park, you come up to a stage set up for performances (or sacrifices to their demon queen) that are actually pretty neat, and I think they run about every 20 minutes or so. You are then herded through the park into Scare Zones. Scare Zones are areas set up and are identified by fog. Universal has these areas set up so that people pop out when you are walking through them to scare you. There are different themes for each Scare Zone as well.
There are seven different haunted houses for you to walk through. We only went through three of them. The costumes were neat. The props were neat. Other than that, it was a normal haunted house. The wait times in the beginning weren't that bad. However, by the last house, the wait was 75 minutes, and we no longer felt the 5-minute house was worth the wait.
Other than that, there were some themed bars that were neat. They served some interesting drinks as well; one of them was called Blood Berry Rum, which I would recommend.
Halloween Horror Nights
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Orlando, Florida 32811
+1 407 363 8000
We decided to head on up the coast to see what it was all about. We took Interstate 4 all the way to Daytona and then the A1A up the coast to St. Augustin (I highly recommend this route, as it is very scenic and worth the extra 30 minutes it tacks on the trip). We had a convertible, so we dropped the top and enjoyed the ocean breezes.
It was about a 3-hour drive to St. Augustin on the route we took (we took the faster and less scenic trip on the way home, which was 2 1/2 hours). When we arrived, we went straight to the Fort Castillo de San Juan, the fort that protects the bay of St. Augustine. The admission into the fort was $6 a piece, and you could do a self-guided tour from 9am to 4:30pm. I believe there were guided tours every 30 minutes as well. The fort is neat, as it has been passed from the Spanish (who originally constructed it) to the British (who took it over during the French and Indian Wars) to the American Revolutionaries. There are all different sizes of cannons (some of which they apparently fire during holidays), room setups, and other interesting artifacts of the time periods through out the fort.
After the fort, we headed over to check out the old graveyard the town used from the early 1600s until the early 1900s. We then walked around to see the architecture (which hasn't been altered much since the originally founding in 1600) into the various shops and stopped to have dinner at a little Spanish seafood place called the Columbia House. Prices ranged from $15 to $30, but the food was authentic Spanish food and well worth the money.
Overall, this was the best part of our trip. The trip up was scenic and the town is beautiful and steeped in history. I would recommend this road trip if in the Orlando area.