My husband (who y’all know better as “Daddy”) loves to say that people who truly love NASCAR racing and/or Disney World are born that way. That they have a special something inside them that makes them willingly line up and spend money and place themselves into hot, overflowing crowds of random people all in the name of fun. He was not born that way. I was not born that way. Our youngest child on the other hand came out with a birthmark of Cinderella’s Castle stamped on her head. She loves it. Loves all of it. Disney that is–not NASCAR. And so in the past 19 years–I’ve learned my way around Orlando. It tries to kill me every time. With its rude visitors and unruly, undisciplined children and the failure of grown people to know how to behave in public; it’s a challenge for me to say the least. However, I love my daughter and we always end up having such a great time when we go. So, I rally through and take solace that I’m at least getting in some great exercise…..for my body and for my patience.
Most recently we took a week long trip and this time we decided to try out two hotels. We have stayed all around the Disney property and our favorite spot there is The Grand Floridian. It wasn’t available for this trip so we decided to go back to The Hard Rock Hotel. We stayed there a few years ago and Daddy loved it. And, since he was footing the bill for the trip without complaint AND had agreed to join us for two days we wanted to keep him happy. I had also heard great things about The Portofino and decided to split it up spending half of the trip at each location. Both hotels are located at Universal Orlando and are walking distance to the park. There are also boats that will ferry you to and fro if you prefer but if you don’t mind the walk–it is definitely a faster route.
And if I’m being honest, while I don’t have the Disney gene, I definitely have at least half of a Harry Potter one; so I do think all of the Hogwarts stuff is pretty cool.
Before we get into hotel details, I’ll go ahead and tell you what you really want to know.
How to get a chance to ride Star Wars/Rise of The Resistance at Hollywood Studios:
We were fortunate to have the inside scoop and I still feel like I lost a year of my life trying to get on this ride. I’ll tell you right now, if we had not followed these instructions to the letter we wouldn’t have stood a chance.
- Make sure you have the “My Disney Experience” app on your phone and that all of your tickets are properly linked to the app.
- You MUST be lined up and ready to enter the park no later than 6:30 am. That’s when they open the gate and you want to be there when they open the gate. Once you are in the park, they’ll let you walk about half way to the new Star Wars area then you’ll have to stand there packed like sardines with the other crazy people who got there as early as you did. Go ahead and log in to the app (if you’ve got more than one phone that helps) and be ready for 7:00 to come. That’s when the virtual que opens.
- Turn OFF the WiFi on your phone. Everybody there is trying to use it and you’ll have a better chance to get in if you use your cell service.
- Once it’s 7:00 be sitting on ready to hit the button. We had three phones out and we got number 56. When we were there, they told everyone who had a number over 100 they were not guaranteed to get on the ride.
- Once you get your number, walk straight to The Millennium Falcon ride and get in line. There’s no fast pass for this one and this is the best way to get on the ride with the least amount waiting.
- Keep your phone handy and wait for your number to be up. Once you receive the notice, you have a two hour window to get back and get on the ride.
- I am NOT a Star Wars person. My daughter and her friend are. And they could not have been happier.
I have shared that info with several people since we were there and they have all told me that there’s no way they would have gotten in to The Rise Of The Resistance if they hadn’t followed the plan. Disney is not doing a very good job of relaying that information to the masses. I get it. If you thought you couldn’t get in, you might not go. And they want you to go. So if you’re headed there any time soon I wish you all the best and may your patience be with you.
Now on to the hotels….
The Hard Rock was just as fun as we remembered. Lots of memorabilia all around and wonderful service at every turn. (Last time we were there, I left a pair of boots in the room. The housekeeping crew found them, packed them nicely and shipped them to me with no charge.) Some of the furniture in the rooms could do with a bit of an update but everything was spotlessly clean and the beds were comfortable. Our daughter brought a friend so we ended up booking a “Rockstar Suite” and it was more than comfortable. There was a king bed, a sofa with two chairs and a coffee table and a side room with two twin beds. The bathroom was great too with a jack and jill set up and never felt crowded. The sofa was a sleeper and I can easily say this room would be very comfortable for two parents and three or maybe even four small children. We also stayed on the club level which ads about $100-$150 a night to the room, depending on the time of year. They serve breakfast, mid day snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres with a full bar and late night dessert. It’s not The Ritz Carlton but it’s well worth the extra expense when you consider that one park restaurant charged $14.00 for a single slice of pizza. I have no shame in telling you that we made more than one PB&J to take with us into the park. The pool is amazing, the lobby is very large and the grounds are lovely. They even have a butterfly garden that is beautifully tended. They have a couple of restaurants, a cool lounge and if you want a really great meal, The Palm restaurant is on property as well. We ended up chatting with the pool bartender one afternoon and learned she had worked there for fifteen years, which tells me they treat their people well too.
At The Portifino, we found a completely different set up for our room and their were no complaints. This resort is definitely geared more toward the grown ups who want to relax in calm, beautiful surroundings. They still had the wonderful pool areas and it was clearly a family friendly resort (I mean–it’s at Universal.) but the rooms were more sedate and relaxing. Here, our room had two queen beds and a full bath with an adjoining parlor room which had a sleeper sofa, two chairs and a coffee table. I liked this set up a little better because the parlor had it’s own full, private bath as well. It was clear that the parlor was also adjoined to another queen room on the other side and I think this would be a great set up for two families traveling together. The club lounge here is in the main building and is a little more grand than the one at Hard Rock. The food was really good and the staff was above and beyond polite. Again, it will add about $100-$150 a night to your stay and without a doubt it easily pays for itself. There are also several restaurants on the property and every evening you are treated to a lovely serenade by the in house opera singers.
A really great plus for both of these hotels is the fast pass situation. (I think Universal calls it something else but I still say fast pass.) Guests of either The Hard Rock or The Portifino can use their room keys as an unlimited fast pass to any ride that allows that feature.
For those who are wondering, about getting from Universal to Disney; we Ubered and it was super easy. It was about a twenty minute, $20 trip each way and we never waited more than ten minutes for a car.
*Side Note* If you’re headed to The Magic Kingdom, ask the driver to drop you at The Grand Floridian and you can take the monorail. Or, get dropped off at The Contemporary Resort and you can walk over. That helps you avoid the dreaded Transportation and Ticket Center. Also, we found that the other Disney parks all had great ride share pickup areas and never had any trouble getting picked up or dropped off. We even stayed at Epcot until it closed one night and still got picked up easily in a pretty big crowd.
Whatever you do and where ever you stay–make friends with the house keeper and make sure to tip her when you go. Lord only knows what you may leave behind!