Mele Kalikimaka WDW Adventure 2015 - COMPLETED

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juneau biscuits's picture
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After watching the shows, I'm pretty sure it was close to lunch time (according to my growling stomach). I'm not even sure if Celestina Warbeck and the Frog Choir were in the same parks...LOL! I did do a bit more shooting of Diagon Alley. Again, amazed at the detail and overall immersive experience. Disney definitely needs to keep a close eye on the rear view mirror as Universal gained a lot of ground with Potter and company.

Daytime @ Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Daytime @ Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando 04 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Daytime @ Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando 05 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Eternelle's Elixer of Refreshments @ Diagon Alley 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Eternelle's Elixer of Refreshments @ Diagon Alley 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Pushing the Pumpkin Juice @ Diagon Alley by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Bowman E. Wright Blacksmith @ Diagon Alley by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Diagon Alley may have been the most crowded area of all the parks, including Disney, that we visited during the Christmas season. Partly due to it being relatively new, but more likely, it's just an awesome place. As crowded as the outside was, we found the shops even more congested. I went in and turned right around at Ollivanders'. Erin, who was with our travel group, did manage to purchase a couple of wands. I saw lots of folks using their wands to activate stuff like water, so they're very interactive. I would have gone nuts over something like this as a kid (and spent a fortune). Fortunately, as an adult, I spend my money on stuff like camera gear now..hah!

Wand Testing @ Diagon Alley by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Daytime @ Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando 07 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Daytime @ Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando 06 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Hogwart's Instructor @ Universal Studios by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The Hopping Pot by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Shop details @ Diagon Alley 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Hogwart's Emblem by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Fantastic pictures-I feel like I'm right there! Thanks for the details.

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jtownpluto wrote:
Fantastic pictures-I feel like I'm right there! Thanks for the details.

Glad you're along for the ride jtownpluto...Thanks!

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Amazing photos! Lovin' the report! mickey

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Stunning pics!!

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JMed wrote:
Stunning pics!!

Thank you Jennifer...very kind of you! Hoping to do another batch of updates over the weekend...

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Love the photos. Our next trip to Orlando isn't till October and will not include either Universal park, but dang! You are making me want to go back to Potterville ASAP.

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Now where was I? Yes....LUNCH! We decided to have our meal at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeades so we jumped aboard the Hogswart Express to head towards Islands of Adventure. Focused on food, the group headed straight into the long lines for grub. Three Broomsticks, like everything else Harry Potter, was a sight to behold. The detailing in the window and food displays were visual feasts. The lines, although long, moved briskly but giving us just enough time to decide on the menu choices. Sue went with the Fish & Chips, while I opted for the Shepard's Pie with Garden salad. This was one of the few times our entire group was together. Besides us were the other two couples of our traveling party - Colleen, Kelly, Erin and Jesse. Erin is the daughter of Coll and Kel, and her and Jesse were married a couple of months earlier. This was sort of like their honeymoon. We teased the newlyweds about having to spend their wedding retreat with parents, but they laughed and said they didn't mind.

Due to the big crowds, I told Sue I was going to see if I can find a place to sit. I was a little worried about finding a table to accommodate all six of us, but quickly found out that workers would assign you an area once you appeared with your trays of food...way cool! After picking up our order, we headed to our table and enjoyed a relaxing lunch!

Three Broomsticks Dining Display @ Hogsmeade 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Three Broomsticks Dining Display @ Hogsmeade 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Three Broomsticks Interior @ Hogsmeade 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Three Broomsticks Interior @ Hogsmeade 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Three Broomsticks Interior @ Hogsmeade 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Fish and Chips @ Three Broomsticks in Universal's Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Shepherd's Pie w/ Garden Salad @ Three Broomsticks in Universal Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue, Kelly, Colleen, Jesse, & Erin @ Three Brooms in Hogsmeade 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Eeyore wrote:
Amazing photos! Lovin' the report! mickey

Glad you're enjoying the report Eeyore! Hope you stick around for more!

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crazycatperson wrote:
Love the photos. Our next trip to Orlando isn't till October and will not include either Universal park, but dang! You are making me want to go back to Potterville ASAP.

LOL...Disney is still #1 for me, but Universal is making it harder to pass up on its parks!

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Islands of Adventure is kind of a conundrum to me. I love the concept, although "Islands" seems to have little to do with the overall theming. Perhaps Universal was hesitant to call it Lands of Adventure, fearing a lawsuit from the Mouse House. When I think of Islands of Adventure, I imagine a port of calls similar to Disneysea with a strong nautical theme present. What IOA actually comes across as is a mishmash of licenses and available properties without a strong vision and cohesive focus. Marvel, Dr. Seuss, Dudley Doo Right...and now Harry Potter, all get thrown together into one big mumbo jumbo of a park! The shifts in characters and themes are jarring at times and it works against the immersive environment that Disney pulls off so well. However, Universal does an admirable job when you're in a specific area, whether it be superheroes or wizards. Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoy IOA...but I just can't shake the feeling that they missed the mark a bit.

After we finished eating, we headed towards the Marvel section. Kelly and I are both big comic geeks (or at least were, I pretty much stopped reading/collecting several years back). I actually bought the 1st appearances of Wolverine and the X-Men (not the original Kirby run, but the new group featuring Storm, Colossus, and Wolvie) at the newsstand, so seeing these comic characters explode into the mainstream has been interesting.

Our wives let us do our nerdy thing and take photos with the various heroes and villians. My only regret is not doing a photo op with Captain America, my all time favorite Marvel character.

Rogue, Kelly, Len, & Storm @Universal Studios Orlando 2015 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Green Goblin, Len, Dr. Doom, & Kelly @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Kel, Erin, Jesse, & Sue take a ride @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The photo below of Wolverine is with another visitor. I have no clue who she is, but it's the only photo of Wolvie I snapped as he was leaving.

X-Men's Wolverine 01 @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Captain America @ Islands of Adventure 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

X-Men's Rogue 06 @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Doctor Doom's Fear Fall @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal Studios Islands of Advetnure 10 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The shops in this area featured a ton of Marvel junk..er, merchandise. Very cool theming and on par with Disney.

Marvel Superheroes Store @ Islands of Adventure 05 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Marvel Superheroes Store @ Islands of Adventure 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Marvel Superheroes Store @ Islands of Adventure 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Marvel Superheroes Store @ Islands of Adventure 04 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Great trip report and AMAZING photographs. awesome

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Miss Mikki wrote:
Great trip report and AMAZING photographs. awesome

Thanks Miss Mikki! The report tends to ramble and jump around quite a bit, but hopefully you'll stay until the end.

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By late afternoon, Sue and I decided to head back to Portofino Bay for dinner. Although I really wanted to photograph the park at night, the air travel and lack of sleep convinced us we needed to get a good night's rest. Also, since we were at Portofino for just one night, we wanted to sample at least one of the restaurants. The rest of the group decided to head back to Diagon Alley so we parted ways upon exiting the park. I didn't really have time to explore much more of IOA, but I did take a few photos including one of a tall wizard/magician on stilts. This guy looked cool, but I was soon to be blown away by DiVine at Animal Kingdom. She is probably the most mesmerizing stilt walker I've seen in person.

Tall Guy @ Islands of Adventure 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Tall Guy @ Islands of Adventure 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Across the Bay @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure Trading Company 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

We also paid a visit to a few more of the shops on the way out. Cracks me up to see Cinnabon in IOA...LOL...hey, how about a Dunkin' Doughnuts, or better yet, Krispie Kremes!

Cinnabon @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Croissant Moon Bakery @ Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue & Dobby the House Elf by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Powdered Candy @ Universal's Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Stocking the Candy @ Universal's Islands of Adventures 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Christmas Treats @ Universal's Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Dr. Seuss Treats @ Universal's Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Store Display @ Universal's Islands of Adventure by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Gosh the woman playing Storm looks like Jada Pinkett Smith. I'm like CCP I am going in October and this is making me think maybe a couple of days away from the land of mouse!

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Awesome awesome , thanks!

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Sally-Ann wrote:
Gosh the woman playing Storm looks like Jada Pinkett Smith. I'm like CCP I am going in October and this is making me think maybe a couple of days away from the land of mouse!

Storm does kinda resemble Jada, now that you mentioned it. Universal has really become a "must go" destination with the addition of the Harry Potter areas.

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Emilio wrote:
Awesome awesome , thanks!

Thank you Emilio!

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It was late afternoon when we returned to our hotel. Since we dropped our bags off in the morning, I needed to pick up our key cards from the front desk. I think Universal has cooler access cards than Disney and I like how they have a variety of designs.

Portofino Bay Resort Hotel Key Cards by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

We quickly headed up to our room, anxious to see the inside. I try to take pictures of our rooms before we mess it up...LOL! Poor Sue always has to wait in a far corner while I do my thing. Truth to be told, photos of rooms are not much of interest to anyone except those who have or are planning to stay there. At least that's my feeling, but I could be in the minority...haha!

Portofino Bay Resort Room @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

I had earlier made reservations at Trattoria del Porto, but we decided to check out the restaurants in person before our dining time. For some reason, we ended up eating at Sal's Market Deli! Sue and I liked the laid back vibe and the pizzas baking in the ovens smelled enticing. After battling crowds all day, the near empty deli was very, very appealing. We placed our order, grabbed a booth, and sat down to a relaxing dinner.

Pizza & Salad @ Sal's Market Deli in Universal's Portofino Bay Resort by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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After we had our fill of pizza, salad, and wine, Sue headed back to the room while I toured the grounds for some evening picture taking. Portofino, modeled after an but Italian city, is a beautiful resort. But after having visited the Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo Disneysea, I couldn't help feel a bit underwhelmed by the entire resort. It feels even less than Mediterranean Harbor Lite...if that makes sense. What Portofino charges for a day, I could stay two nights at Cabana Bay and have enough left over change for a nice dinner!

Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel Lobby 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel Lobby 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel Exterior 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

After a good night's sleep, Sue and I got up early to make the most of our last day at Universal. On our way to the docks to catch a boat transport, my hammy wife posed for some pics along the pathway.

Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel Exterior 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue Takes Off From Portofino Bay 4 in a Series of 4 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue Takes Off From Portofino Bay 1 in a Series of 4 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue Gives the Shaka @ Loew's Portofino Bay Resort by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Thanks for sharing the Portofino pics. I probably will never stay there (Universal is not a big enough draw for me) but I still enjoyed learning a bit about it!

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Allie wrote:
Thanks for sharing the Portofino pics. I probably will never stay there (Universal is not a big enough draw for me) but I still enjoyed learning a bit about it!

No problem Allie! Hope you can make it through my Universal portion...only one more day left to report!

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Our plan of attack for day two was to do Universal Studios first in the morning. We all met up in the front and did the obligatory Universal globe pictures. Check out the girl posing like she's holding up the globe in the photo of Sue and I...LOL! At first I was a bit bummed, but it's actually pretty funny.

Kelly, Colleen, Erin, & Jesse @ Universal Studios Orlando Icon by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue & Len @ Universal Studios Orlando Icon by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

At the gate entrance, one of the ticket takers named Vanessa (what do they call Universal park employees anyway? Pretty sure cast member is copyrighted by Disney...hah) asked me about my camera since I was already taking shots like a madman. Not once did she mention that my gear might be prohibitive inside the park. Not wanting to hold up the line, I took a couple of shots of Vanessa and her co-worker and proceeded through the turnstile.

Universal Studios Ticket Takers 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Ticket Taker Vanessa @ Universal Studios 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Entrance to Universal Studios Florida by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

I had to stop into Beverly Hills Boulangerie to check out the pasteries. My obsession with this place comes from my visit to Universal in Osaka. While I pretty much love all foods in Japan, their pastries tend to be a lot less sweet to my liking. However, Japan's packaging and souvenir type promotions are off the wall! I bought this sweet chocolate cake that came with a ceramic "Peanuts" cup back in Osaka. The japanese will serve you the dessert on a plate, and give you the cup wrapped in an ornate box. I was hoping to find something similar here, but to no avail. Ahh, probably for the best..I need another park cup like I need another hole in my head.

Beverly Hills Boulangerie Patisserie Sign by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Sue Outside Beverly Hills Boulangerie Patisserie. jpg by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Beverly Hills Boulangerie Patisserie Counter @ Universal Studios Orlando 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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It's funny, I will immediately remember and recognize buildings and areas whenever I return to Main Street USA, but walking down Universal is always like seeing a new park...LOL! While the production and detailing is solid, Universal just does not seem to imprint much on my nostalgic memory. Probably more a testament to my aging brain, and nothing to do with the awesomeness of this theme park. I'm wondering too if Universal built their shops to actual scale. I know Disney uses force perspective and smaller scales for their Main Street building to give it a more intimate feel. I think it's this "intimacy" that is lacking from Universal, but by golly, that didn't stop me from taking pictures! P.S. If you're not a fan of fish eye lens photos, you may want to skip over some of these pics!

Sue @ Universal Studios Cab Service by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal Studios Classic Monster Cafe 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Downtown @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Macy's & Co, @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Vendor Stand @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Fruit Stand @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Lombard's is a favorite place of mine to eat (love the fish and chips), although we didn't get to stop there this time around. It's quite depressing to think of how many things we didn't get to see or do. Maybe I did spend too much time behind the camera...

Lombard's Landing @ Universal Studios Orlando 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

I also ran into the Blues Brothers. I only saw that movie once eons ago and didn't really think much of it. However, the guy impersonating John Belushi's character was spot on (see I don't even know the character's name...maybe Jake?)!

The Blues Brothers @ Universal Studios Orlando 04 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The Blues Brothers @ Universal Studios Orlando 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The Blues Brothers @ Universal Studios Orlando 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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Sue's a big fan of Minions, so we got in line to give it a whirl. I think this was the only attraction we used our "Express" privileges on..woohoo!
Minion Ride Sign @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Minions Goggle Pick Up @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The ride wasn't too shabby and the visual puns in the queue were very clever. Of course, it wouldn't be a theme park ride if it didn't spill out into a store! Sue always gets a big bang trying on hats at the parks. She would never actually buy one, but it makes for great photos. In fact, I started "collecting" pics of "The Suehatter" and this is the first of many you'll see scattered throughout the trip report (collect 'em all!). This is one of the few times I posed in a hat too. I use to go gangbusters trying them on, but after someone told me about possible head lice one can contract from this practice, my hat trying days greatly decreased...LOL! For some reason, it doesn't bother my wife as much, although she did mention bringing a shower cap the next time we visit a Disney park.

Treasures @ Universal Studios Orlando by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Minion Store Display @ Universal Studios Orlando 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Minion Store Display @ Universal Studios Orlando 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The Mad SueHatter 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Husband of Mad SueHatter Guest Appearance 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Old favorites like ET and Jurassic Park were a no-go, but we did visit our good old fish buddy Jaws.

Sue Meets Jaws @ Universal Studios by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

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I love all the detail in your report. Thank you for sharing I am looking forward to reading more. I love your pictures so colourful Smile we are going to Disney in September and I have allocated 2 days for Universal and IOA so I am getting rather excited reading this knowing I will be there in a good few month Smile awesome

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danijrod wrote:
I love all the detail in your report. Thank you for sharing I am looking forward to reading more. I love your pictures so colourful Smile we are going to Disney in September and I have allocated 2 days for Universal and IOA so I am getting rather excited reading this knowing I will be there in a good few month Smile awesome

Thanks Danielle...I sometimes wonder if my writing is even decipherable...LOL! WOW, very happy for you about Universal and IOA! You're going to have a great time. Well worth the two day allocation!

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Amazing photos juneau biscuits! You have a great eye for composition and your photos capture the moment and tell a story. I really believe in the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words". Someday, I would like to get a full frame camera as the quality is unmatched by anything else, especially in low light. Your opening photo of the Magic Kingdom at closing is just excellent as are all that follow.

Bravo!

PS. How big are the raw files out of the D810? It's a 36 Megapixel camera correct?

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Since we were hotel hopping, Sue and I left the park to check in at the Cabana Bay Resort (this was late afternoon...we planned to return to the park in the evening). As mentioned earlier, I switched over from 2 nights at Portofino, since the Express pass for one night covered both days at the parks. Photos and reviews of Cabana had already piqued my interest as I'm a big fan of the kitsch-type graphics circa late 50's/early 60's. Combine that with a room rate that was roughly half of Portofino and how could I lose? The answer is...I didn't...hahaha! I loved Cabana Bay and wished I had stayed there both nights. There's a fun, breezy ambiance to the hotel that was lacking at Portofino. Obviously, this place will appeal to a lot of families due to the value tagging by Universal. It sure didn't feel like a value level hotel from the amazing architectural design to cool amenities like a bowling alley. Even the Starbucks was retro cool...with a huge mermaid mural adorning the seating area. I blew it on photographing in detail some of the hotels we stayed at, but Cabana Bay (along with the Wilderness Lodge) got the royal treatment from my camera. Here are photos from the front entrance and lobby:

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Entrance Sign 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Entrance Sign 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 11 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 06 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 13 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 15 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Even the key cards have cooler designs than Portofino (poor Portofino...don't get me wrong, it's still a beautiful hotel)...

Cabana Bay Resort Hotel Key Cards by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

The back pool area, restaurant, bowling alley, and telephone booths all display the same amazing retro motiff and flair. Again, this place is just totally cool...

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Outside View 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 14 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Telephone Booths @ Universal Studios Cabana Bay Resort by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Galaxy Bowl @ Universal Studios Cabana Bay Resort by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Outside View 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 03 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Lobby 04 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Cabana hit a home run on the exterior and public areas, but did they slack when it came to the rooms? Nope...all systems go. It's those little details such as the wall art and VO5 shampoo in the shower that really sells the whole time period thing...(and really VO5??? I think the last person I remember using that was my grandmother!)

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Room Detail 01 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr

Universal's Cabana Bay Resort Room Detail 02 by Juneau Biscuits, on Flickr