On our recent holiday to Orlando with Virgin Holidays, we were very lucky to be treated to a special VIP Experience tour of the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks. The VIP tours aren’t just a blogger perk, they’re also something that can be booked as part of your own holiday experience.
We arrived at Universal Studios on a Tuesday morning for our tour. Tuesday was our first day at the parks after arriving at our home for the week (the Cabana Bay Beach Resort) the afternoon before. It was the first time any of us had ever been there before, so we were pretty – okay massively, excited!
Once you walk through the Universal Studios Florida archways, there is a building over to the right before you reach the gates to enter the park. This is where VIP tours convene before starting. We also had Ali from Mum in A Nutshell and her boys with us for the VIP tour. The room where we met our tour guide was also where we could grab pastries and coffee for breakfast while we waited. Gigantic delicious pastries – it was a good start to the day.
We weren’t there for long at all before we met their absolutely lovely PR person Fiona and the equally lovely Tour Guide Jimmy. The boys loved Jimmy!
Before we got started on our tour, Jimmy checked if anyone had any favourite characters that they were hoping to see and asked how brave we all were for the rides.
I looked nervously at the boys wondering how brave they would be, as we’d never taken them on any huge rollercoasters before – the ones in Cornwall are pretty tame, especially in comparison to what was to come during our tour. The boys amazed me though and I discovered during the day that we secretly had two adrenaline junkies on our hands!
We headed into Universal Studios with Jimmy and one of the first rides that we went on was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I have to confess, if I had been queuing and waiting to go on the ride, then I never would have gotten on it. With time to watch the ride in action and for panic to set in, there is no way I would have done it.
When you’re on a VIP tour you don’t use the Fast Passes where you get to queue in the shorter line (although we did for the rest of the week!) you actually completely bypass any queues. Jimmy was taking us in through exit doors, through backstage doors and more. It was amazing not having to queue at all and getting a peek into some usually out-of-bounds areas.
The idea of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit ride is that you choose a song and then try to sing along to as you go around the rollercoaster but … basically I just screamed. Si and the boys LOVED it and did the ride several more times during the week. Once was enough for me. Going up vertically for so long and then flying around, scared me a bit but, the bit that scared me the most is that you have a waist restraint.
No doubt it is a very safe waist restraint but, you still lift off your seat a little and the restraint has a bit of give to it, so it felt like you could fly out. Logically I knew I was safe but, the designers really did know what they were doing when they designed it for a maximum adrenaline rush.
Despite my fear, I have to admit it was pretty amazing and did give me a real buzz once I was back on solid ground. I found this video on YouTube if you want to see exactly what the ride is like – and then tell me how amazingly brave I was really ha!
Having Jimmy with us for our first day was invaluable, there was nothing that that man didn’t know about Universal Orlando and he was really interesting to talk to. Getting the low down on every ride before hand and knowing what was coming up helped us to choose exactly what rides we fancied going on. Plus it was really interesting to hear the history of some of them.
The park got busier as the day went on and not having to queue at all to get on the most popular rides was amazing. My eldest proved himself to be the biggest adrenaline junkie in our family by getting on the Hulk ride on his own with Ali’s teenagers. Watching the ride beforehand, shooting people out at a ridiculous speed and then making them go upside down around seven times put the rest of us off.
At first anyway, during the week we all went on it and it was FANTASTIC. Considering how scary it looked, it turned out to be one of my favourite rides. It has the thrill of the Rip Ride Rockit, but with the reassurance of an over the head restraint plus a waist restraint.
Another benefit to having Jimmy with us, was that he told us to look out for things that we hadn’t noticed on our own. Such as the Panda from the Jimmy Fallon Show waving out of an upstairs window and Kreacher the grumpy house elf from Harry Potter opening the curtains to give us the evil eye too.
We went back to all of the Harry Potter areas a few times during our stay but, it was with Jimmy that we first saw the dragon breathe fire. Well actually – saw heard and felt the dragon breathe fire. Crazily you can feel the warmth from it when you’re nearby! We seriously just had the best first day, partly aided by Jimmy’s awful jokes that had the boys in hysterics!
Going around with Jimmy meant that we learned our way around the two parks, which made the rest of the week very stress free. There was also the bonus of a special VIP Experience lunch as well in the Cafe La Bamba. You can only eat there as part of the VIP experience.
They basically bring all the best bits of food from around Universal Orlando Resort to the restaurant, giving you the choice of so many different dishes to choose from. The steak that I had was amazingly tender and just perfect and the two different types of pasta were delicious.
Even the garlic bread was some of the best that I’ve ever tasted. I’m pondering if all American food tastes as good as Universal Orlando food, as we loved everything that we ate all week!
We got to choose as many desserts as we liked too and they were just fab. There was something for everyone to eat there, including chips for the boys to go with the rest of their food. Food heaven basically and I loved being able to choose a mix of some of my favourite foods to eat together.
On our tour Jimmy took us all in to meet Spiderman and he was so friendly and great with the boys. They were laughing and posing with him and just having a lot of fun. All of the characters around the parks were amazing at sticking to their character and it added to the magic of Universal Orlando Resort.
I was so impressed as well that as you go around there are lots of opportunities to meet characters and take your own photos with them. You can get professional ones and buy them too but, they don’t just make you do that. I definitely wanted to buy our Spiderman one, as they used the green screen to turn the photo into a comic book cover. Plus Spiderman autographed it for us.
The boys were chuffed that we got to keep our VIP Experience lanyards afterwards too. Even almost a month later I am still on such a high from Universal Orlando Resort and desperate to go back at some point!
If you are headed to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, then I really do recommend a VIP Experience tour, especially if you get Jimmy. It isn’t cheap but, it so adds to the experience and if you’re going to go somewhere like that then you may as well go all out and really make it special.
If you can’t afford the VIP Experience tour, then definitely see if you can manage to buy the Fast Passes express tickets for at least some of the time instead, as skipping the queues really does get you around the park a lot quicker. Keep an eye out for more Universal Orlando posts coming soon.