Universal opened up a new resort geared to families on a budget a few weeks ago. Of course, that meant I needed to do a recon trip! And in order to see how well it worked for 'families' I needed to drag my family with me!
Upon arriving, my first impressions were over all a very bright lobby! Themed as an under the sea adventure. Check in went smoothly, with a very nice and helpful staff!
Lobby area was very easy to find your way around. Much easier than Cabana Bay! There are two towers on each side of the lobby, and lobby is clearly marked with excellent signage! There is a small store that has devoted half the space to Harry Potter merchandise while the remainder of the shelves are divided between generic Universal merchandise and other characters. There is also a pretty good variety of those items you may have forgotten to bring!
Staff was extremely friendly and went out of their way to find me two birthday buttons!
Multiple elevator spots (Unlike Aventura where all elevators are in one spot and always busy!), and elevators were quick and clean. The one issue to remember is that if you go to one of the front elevator sections for either tower, you have to scan your room key to get it to work. They are right beside an entrance from the outside. It is a security thing, and not a problem as long as you are told at check in. It is amazing how many people weren't aware of that!
We had a 2 bedroom suite. My first impression was TINY! It was only slightly larger than what a standard room would be in a Disney Value resort. The main area had two beds, as well as the kitchen area with a picnic table a bench and two chairs. There was a small sink, a coffee maker, microwave and small fridge. The bathroom sinks were also in the main room area but in an alcove. With a standard toilet and shower/tub in the actual bathroom. The second bedroom, had a bed with only a few feet of space to walk around the bed.
The floors were a tile that looked like gray driftwood. Actually very nice, and had small area rugs on each sides of the three beds to put your feet on when waking in the morning.
There is a serious lacking of storage! This room sleeps six people but there were only three drawers and one small 'closet' with only a cloth covering it, not a door. I suppose that saves some space, but when you consider all the wasted space the room had, it made no sense!
There is a phone area/desk. Below it is the three drawers, so you couldn't pull a chair up to it for a desk. Above it is a picture. Completely wasted space. This becomes important when you see that in addition to the three drawers, all you have for storage is open shelves under the bathroom sinks and under the kitchen sink! The area under the bathroom sink is where the towels were kept as there are no towel rods in the bathroom!
The 3 drawers are in the main room and the 'closet' is in the second bedroom. This made for quite a bit of difficulty in getting dressed in the mornings! The only thing that made it semi workable was the fact that we at least had two bathroom sinks!
Luckily I was sleeping in the second bedroom because the air conditioner was very LOUD in the main room! Our family's other complaint was there is no exhaust fan in the bathroom. Since we were on the 9th floor, there wasn't a lot of updraft in the vent...and with four people taking showers the room was always humid!
I had originally had some concerns about the distance from the main parks and the travel time in the bus. Most trips were about five minutes (same as it was when we stayed at Cabana Bay) and only at times closer to closing did we really see an issue with longer trips. Our longest trip was still under 20 minutes, so no real concern there!
Major pros of this room was the number of outlets! At least twice the number you find in Disney's Art of Animation suites! And most of the outlets also had a USB port! Made charging five iPhones, one iPad (plus other miscellaneous electronics) much easier!
Now for my major complaint about the resort. Housekeeping!
On the first day, only a few minutes after we checked in, my daughter and I stayed in the room while the guys went down to get the luggage. Suddenly, without warning, the maid used her key and came in. I'm not sure who was more surprised, her or us! She screamed, we screamed... she didn't seem to know that we had checked in. I have no idea why she was there, as the room was cleaned. She quickly left without speaking and we thought it was strange, but forgot about it.
The next day, when we went back to the room briefly at 5, our room had not been cleaned, but we saw the maid in the hall and she said she would have it done before we returned. On Monday, my daughter became sick from too much heat and went back to the room at 2 pm. The maid had not come but came and knocked on the door a few minutes after. She said she would only take about 20 minutes and my daughter went down to the lobby. After thirty minutes, my daughter came back upstairs and the maid was standing in our room talking with a couple other people. (not in any way identified as being part of the staff!) and the room had not been touched! It was after 5pm before my daughter could return to the room. She had not been able to take a nap as she had planned, so she missed dinner.
At this point we were still chalking it up to a fluke. However, the next day we returned from the park at 4pm due to a short storm. Our room had not been touched and our maid was no where to be seen. After 45 minutes, I went downstairs to see what was going on.
Finally about 5:30 a supervisor came and took out the trash (which had not been emptied the day before) and brought us some towels. She offered to make the beds, but I declined. At this point we wanted to get showers and back to City Walk for dinner!
I discovered later on the bus, that everyone on our floor was complaining about the housekeeping, or lack there of!
I'm sure this is due to it being a new resort, and some training issues. I know that our maid just quit in the middle of the day for unknown reasons. She didn't seem to let anyone know she was leaving. So this is all on the particular maid and not the resort itself, however I do have to wonder what they are going to do when the sister resort Dockside opens in a few months with twice the number of rooms as Surfside! When a resort is brand new you expect things to go wrong. You expect hiccups along the way. I'm concerned that resources are being spread a bit too thin at the current time.
So, would I recommend this resort? Possibly. It's price point alone makes it attractive.
It takes a lot of work to get ready for a family trip, even if you have a travel agent doing the planning and booking for you. Choosing the right places and activities, all while trying to maintain some semblance of your normal routine, especially if you have younger kids — can be a real challenge.
In the hectic pace of everything, it can be easy to forget the bigger reasons families choose to travel with their children: to enrich their lives, expand their emotional and cultural horizons, and help them become better global citizens.
So it’s great to encourage kids to be involved in the planning and to participate in family activities — but what are some ways that you can really get your child curious about your travel destinations without adding yet another list of to-dos to a parent’s already-long list?
Here are some ideas for sparking the love of travel in your child on your next vacation.
I know. Not the most exciting part of your trip, but quite possibly may be the most important thing to remember about your trip. Most people completely ignore this.
Even the most seasoned travelers sometimes feel confused about travel insurance — what’s out there, what it covers, whether or not they need it. While coverage and policies vary from state to state, of course, here are some basics of travel insurance to get you started:
1. There are five main types of travel insurance. What you might need depends largely on what kind of trip you’re taking, what kind of traveler you are, and how frequently you travel. The five main types are:
~trip cancellation and interruption (full or partial reimbursement for a trip you need to cancel prior to departure, a trip that gets cancelled because a tour company or resort goes out of business, or a trip that gets cut short for a wide variety of reasons)
~medical (for health issues that occur outside of your normal coverage area)
~evacuation (due to disaster, dangerous weather, political emergency, or medical emergency)
~baggage (reimbursement for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage)
~flight insurance (also called “crash coverage,” this is basically a life insurance policy that covers you while you’re on the plane, in the event of a statistically-rare crash)
The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever - Explore and Enjoy It!
The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.
Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.
Here are a few tips from Special Needs Group to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.
On this past Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a supplier training. These are usually fun, sometimes entertaining, and occasionally I walk away with new information. Most of the time it reinforces things I may have learned on my own.
This was no exception! I attended a Lunch & Learn by Universal Studios Orlando. As expected, it focused on the new things coming to Universal Studios Orlando. While I had heard a lot about these, this time I was able to see some new and unreleased videos of the wonderful new things!
We saw some wonderfully exciting stuff on the Race through New York starring Jimmy Fallon. It took me from thinking it was just a meh ride to something I really wish I could ride! Seeing some of the backstage stuff was really cool!
And no, this is NOT the video we saw! The one we saw has not been released to the public yet!
Most of the content is written by people at JMorris Travel. Every once in a while we will have a guest blogger, usually it is part of our 'family'.Always with a nod to Family Travel!