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Universal Orlando & Disney Vacation

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This is Skull Island. This fortress housed a great 3D-augmented simulator/thrill ride.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Jurassic World was fun for some photo ops. I didn’t get any pics of the water ride we took, since I had to have my camera put away so it wouldn’t get wet.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com
The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com
The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com
The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

That big coaster is the featured attraction at Islands of Adventure.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

The coaster is themed around The Incredible Hulk. It makes a lot of noise, goes really fast, and we didn’t go on it. We’re not a roller coaster family. I don’t think I would survive such a thing.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Here’s what Barish and Handan were looking at. Smart fish – they know where the food comes from.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Here are some close ups I got of the Hulk coaster with my zoom lens. People love that ride!

Going into the twisting loop…

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

…and coming out. Everybody is smiling, but that little girl may be re-evaluating some life choices.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

A glimpse of Harry Potter World through the trees while we were walking through Jurassic World.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com
The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Walking towards Harry Potter World.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

The building below houses the most technologically advanced ride in the world. It is a motion simulator that has a fair amount of real motion thrown in as well. One of the best rides we took.

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

That’s the last photo I have of Day one. After that, I was feeling pretty bad from the heat. My head felt like someone had driven a stake down through the top of my skull, behind my eye and into the base of my neck. The motion simulator cranked the headache from a dull roar to a skull-splitting tsunami.

We left the park around 6 pm, just before the daily thunderstorms hit and drove back in torrential rain. When we arrived at the hotel, we went to the front desk and got the keys for our new suite – the one we paid for in the first place.

*****

Our first room – the temporary one – was in a building far from the main hotel. It overlooked the pool but seemed rather empty, as some floors were totally given over to construction. On the floors with guests, certain rooms were being renovated. There seemed to be a lot of empty rooms, judging by the small number of people we saw in the halls and coming and going.

Our new room was also in that detached building, this time on the first floor. That could be cool. Maybe they gave us one with a patio looking out onto the pool. We walked in and searched for our room.

Huh. Not overlooking the pool, then. But hey, right next to the “Hotel Staff Only” room. That’s cool, though. I’m sure they gave us a view.

I pulled back the curtain. Oh hey, look! The handle of the sliding door to the patio was broken – snapped off at the top and hanging from a piece of twisted metal at the bottom. I unlocked the security bolts (first floor room and all) and carefully slid the door open.

What a view! The crumpled soda can was a lovely touch!

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Beautiful gardens!

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Gorgeous dumpster!

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

And every morning…

The Navages' Universal Studios and Disney Holiday | Orlando theme parks review: Universal Studios vs Disney World | Hilton Buena Vista Palace review | The best Starbucks shop in Orlando | Orlando theme parks and attractions | Hotels in Orlando | TheNavagePatch.com

Wow, they really hooked us up, those wonderful folks at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace. This is what you get when you complain.

Oh, I forgot to mention the construction. Yeah, that was going on in the room directly above us.

C’mon Hilton Corporate HQ – tell me how this was just a happy accident and not revenge for making a stink about your failure the night before.

This brings me to my final thought about the Hilton Buena Vista Palace. It is situated in one of the most heavily-visited tourist areas in the world. The reality is, even if they offered complimentary face slaps upon check-in and a fresh goose turd on the pillow each night, the hotel would still be booked solid year-round. They don’t have to try anymore. It is less a hotel and more of a Holiday Human Processing Plant. They don’t care what comes in, and they don’t care what goes out. They don’t need to. And that is sad, because the lack of effort and the “I don’t give a shit” attitude tarnishes an otherwise decent hotel. I couldn’t help but compare the overall attitude there to hotels we’ve stayed at in Turkey, Vietnam and India. In those countries, hotel staff go to the ends of the Earth for the comfort and joy of their guests, and they do so gladly and without reservation.

Do better, Hilton.

*****

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15 Comments

  1. Great vacation report!!! Kept my attention all the way through page 6. You are a great story teller, Loved Handan’s happy face.

  2. Well, aside from the disaster of the hotel it seems like a pretty great vacation. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the photos of Handan – the joy! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am sure that her happines was contagious to all the folks around.

  3. I am not one to go on ‘themed’ holidays and I will be honest and hesitated to open your post, but, MAN! I am glad I did open it! It looks like you all had such a fun time! I sure know what the hotels from hell are all about. been to many of them! Your photos are really fun. The pelican one looks just like a painting!
    You will need a holiday to get over your holiday now!
    Cheers!

  4. The joy on Handan’s face alone is reason to go back! Also, not many people can be that hot and sweaty and still take a great picture like she can! I agree that Universal is more fun than Disney but the attention to detail at both places is amazing! I think you could go back over and over again and still see new things. I really enjoyed reading your story and not once did I think about sneaking out the back door! Lol! I’m glad you had a good vacation!

    1. Thank you so much, Giselle! You’re right about the detail at both parks – the engineering and artistry are breathtaking! And yes, I’d go back just to see the joy on Handan’s face!

  5. i am going to say this again greg you should write novels, i either was laughing my butt off or was grinning from ear to ear or nodding my head and handan you should be the poster child of smiling joyfully, you were making me go aww at every photo, and barish don’t be upset at the teasing because my face looks exactly like your face did on every ride i get on and if y’all want to ever go again, go in january nothing like leaving in snow up to your butt and swimming in the pool in fla on the same day and of course it’s 5 degrees cooler lol i love, love this post xx ps the pics were amazing

    1. Chris, I will one of these days. Just need to find a little more time! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Yes, if we ever go again, it won’t be high summer. I imagine it would be really enjoyable with cooler temps and fewer people!

  6. You are a great writer. If you ever write a book, please let me know, I would definitely buy it. I live in Florida and love it. But I’m on the other coast. A lot less commercial and more about nature. If you do come in the winter it will be cooler but with a lot more people also. Still it’s manageable.
    It must be great to be with such an enthusiastic partner by your side. Your son looks like a fine young man also. Your family is what a great family is all about. Thanks for the blog.

    1. Thank you so much, Marcia! I hear nothing but good things about Florida’s west coast. I think I’ll take the family there for a vacation in the near future. I know Handan doesn’t want to stay in CT forever (neither do I, for that matter), and the Florida climate suits her just fine, as it reminds her of Izmir. Maybe we’ll end up down there for good one of these years!

  7. I loved every minute of reading this Greg, I was 5 minutes late for a meeting too, just in case you wanted to know :D. And seeing Handan smile from ear to ear in almost every photo. Ah man so worth it!!!!