783 – Pool Hopping with Ray
A trip with a dreamboat to the pools around Universal Orlando.
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, and friends beyond the binary, it's time for the podcaster who you get the seasonal spring stuff, and hopefully I bring the breeze instead of the sneeze, with sleepy ease. My hands are on my knees. Thanks for supporting the show, patrons. Are you up all night tossing, turning, mind racing, trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep? Well, welcome. This is Sleep With Me, the podcast that puts you to sleep. We do a bedtime story. All's you need to do is get in bed, turn off the lights, and press play, and I'm going to do the rest. What I'm going to do is create a safe place where you could set aside whatever's keeping you awake, whether it's thoughts, stuff on your mind that you're thinking about, anything physically you're feeling, anything emotionally coming up. Whatever it is that's keeping you awake, I'd like to take our mind off it. Could be something else, travel, work, second or third shift, seasonal stuff, situational stuff, which maybe we'll talk about in the intro, whatever's keeping you awake, I'd like you to take your mind off it. I think I said that.
What I'm going to do in addition to repeating phrases is I'm going to send my voice across the deep, dark night, I'm going to use lulling, soothing, [inaudible 00:01:37] tones, voice meanders, superfluous tangents. I'm going to go off topic. But first, if you're new, let me give you an idea what to expect, and welcome. I'm glad you're here. Welcome to my attempt to create a safe place, give you a couple of things upfront if you're new. Give the podcast a few tries, because for a lot of people, the first listen, it's not a doozy. It's supposed to be snoozy, but it could be a doozy, because you say, “Why is this person trying to put me to sleep?” So, I'll try to answer that. “Are they ever going to get to the point?” I'll answer that right now. Probably barely. “This doesn't really make any sense,” he says, and I'm like, yeah, I'm here to keep you company. And here, let me answer a couple of those … or let me elaborate. Though, usually when I elaborate, I go off topic.
So, just structurally what to expect, the show starts off with a few minutes of business. That's how we're able to keep the show free for everybody instead of it being a paid service. It's just a free service. We're like an optional service, so like some people pay in, and some people support the sponsors, and everybody benefits. Pretty cool. So, there's a business. Then there's an intro. Now, the intros are different than a normal introduction, to anything, except for an introduction to a book. An introduction to a book, you could expect it to be somewhere between one to 80 pages, probably in the teens, though. You say, “Well, what's a good intro length?” And I'd say 19 to 22 pages, in my opinion. And you say, “Well, is that the foreword?” I say, well, I don't know. It could be. Yeah, because sometimes you have a foreword and an intro, and you'd say, this podcast, we only have an intro, so that's good news.
But the intro is … it's about 12 minutes of me rambling, and not really getting to the point, trying to explain what the podcast is, but it does serve a purpose, so let me tell you. And it's kind of an optional purpose. So, it isn't meant to be familiar. So, you say, “Oh, there's Scoot rambling,” and to ease you into bedtime, because you might be getting ready for bed. Some listeners are in bed. You've had a day of being a human out there in the world, and we all know what that could be like. So, the podcast is here, or the intro's here to be a slow wind down. Now, a few percentage of people do skip the intro, go straight to the story, around 18 to 20 minutes, so you could do that, and some people fall asleep during the intro, which is perfectly okay as well, and then a good amount of people listen to the intros during the day for also a break during the day. So, there's a lot of ways to use it, but it's just meant to let you sink into bed, let you get comfortable, and start drifting off, or as you're getting ready for bed, you have something to listen to, but it's hard to listen to stuff while you're brushing your teeth. I know that myself.
The good thing is, you don't really need to listen to this podcast. Whether you're brushing your teeth or you're already in bed, you can kind of listen, you can barely pay attention. As my nana says, don't pay him any mind. There are listeners who don't understand anything I'm saying, or they turn me down to a murmur, and so those are our options, those are ways … So, you don't need to listen. No pressure. But, there's no pressure to fall asleep either I'm going to be here about an hour to give you plenty of time to drift off, so you drift off, I'll be here to keep you company, and then you fall asleep whenever you want. I'll keep talking. You can set a sleep timer. Some people set it for 30 minutes. Some people set it for 45. Some people set it for an hour. There are listeners that listen to like eight or 10 episodes in a row. A lot of those people are like patron supporters, but they queue up a bunch of episodes in a row, so you could do that as well.
So, that's … Oh, and also, no pressure to fall asleep, no pressure to listen, but if you can't sleep, I'm going to be here to keep you company. So, I don't want you to worry about that either, that I'm going to … at any point, I'm going to be here present. Well, technically, tonight it'll be my neighbor Ray Perkins, and he'll be here with me, or he'll be here talking, and he sounds a bit like me, because we're friends, and he'll be talking about a recent vacation we took. Actually, what's interesting, and that you're here to say, “Well, maybe making this podcast …” I learned some things as I've gone on and I've gotten to interact with people like you, and heard your feedback, and Ray might talk about this, but I think this is kind of the purpose of podcast services, to distract you and take your mind off of stuff.
Because Ray and I, we took a trip and we got into an airport very, very early, like not even early in the morning, but it was like 4:30 in the morning where we arrived, which was actually 1:30 where I live, and I hadn't really … You know how it is. I don't want to get into the details, but on a plane, it's not easy for me to get some z's, and it was so early, we said, we won't be able to get into a hotel room unless we paid for one proactively. So, I said to Ray, the airport wasn't busy, I said, what do you think about us just sleeping here at the airport for a little while? We could find a quiet corner. We had sleep masks. I had ear plugs. He said, “What a great idea.” Then I lied down … Well, I couldn't lay down because the arm rests, because they don't want you laying down, but I leaned on the arm rest, and sometimes it can be intense when you can't sleep and you want to sleep, right?
But the voice in me that makes a podcast says, hey, why don't you just sit here, and then there's no pressure to fall asleep. You just rest, and maybe rest, and you sit at the airport, and you listen to the airport like four in the morning, 4:30, five in the morning airport noises, and maybe you fall asleep, but maybe you don't. This voice, this more reasonable part of me that I've developed through the podcast, said, “It'll be fine. It won't be as good as sleeping, but if you just rest in a relaxed way, it'll probably be good for you,” instead of us having to get to sleep. Somehow, I was able to give myself permission not to fall asleep and just to sit there at the airport with my eyes closed and my chin in my hands, and eventually I did drift in and out of sleep, but I really felt like I got some rest, and I was relaxed, and I didn't have any rigamarole about why the hockey sticks can't I fall asleep here.
We rested there till about six in the morning, and then we had breakfast and stuff. I'm sure Ray will talk about it, but I actually really did feel refreshed, and I think I did probably like 30 minutes of that, get some z's. I guess I'm only pointing it out because it doesn't usually happen like that for me, and I think it was Ray's presence and also this podcast version of me presence to say, “Hey, what if you just sit here and rest?” That's kind of the job of the podcast. I say, what if you just lay there, and I sit here and I tell you a story and I keep you company, and you just listen, and ideally, you listen as long as you need to, whether it's the whole episode or only five minutes. I'm going to be here to keep you company, I'm going to be here to take your mind off stuff. Well, Ray, you'll hear about … it'll be at most meandering. There's a long setup. Ray will explain some stuff about theme parks, and we'll talk about some pools we went to, so it'll be kind of interesting.
But if you fall asleep, you say, “Well, I didn't really miss out on much. I'm sure I could reel this in during the day, or checkout the listener Facebook group or whatever, and hear what happened.” I don't know, that's kind of how it works. I say, “Hey, I'm going to be here,” and you just relax, and I'll just be here to keep you company. The reason I make this show is because I've been there, whether it was on the strip or in a regular time, tossing and turning, mind racing, trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep. I've had it all. I just hope I can help. Now, the catch is, it doesn't work for everybody. This podcast is not universal, and it is a bit different and goofy and weird. I hope it works for you, and I hope I can help you fall asleep, so give it a few tries and see if it works for you, see if it takes your mind off stuff. But again, my voice and my storytelling method, it's different, but I hope it's the kind of thing, they say, “Oh, wow, this really did help,” or, “Oh, the second time, I realized I didn't really have to pay attention, or that you always don't make any sense and mispronounce words and stuff.”
So, that's it. I'm really here to keep you company and be your bore friend, your bore bae, your bore bud, your bore sib, your bore cuz, maybe one day your bore bestie, and help you fall asleep. I really appreciate you checking the show out, first of all, and giving me your time, and I work very hard. I really take it seriously, that you gave me your time, because I yearn and I strive to help you fall asleep. Before we get to Ray's story here, here's a couple of other ways we keep the show a going.
All right, everybody. This is Scoot, and I'm turning the show over … it's been a while, so if you're a new listener, you may have never heard … I think he was on recently in the last six months, but I can't think of the last time he came on. This is my neighbor Ray Perkins. She's going to be doing the show tonight. He actually moved when I moved to stay my neighbor. One of the kindest and well-adjusted people I've ever met, and the only thing that's different about him, which is actually really interesting, is Ray is a bit very obsessed, or not obsessed … He loves theme parks. I don't have him on as often as … People are big fans of Ray's, because he's so nice and well-adjusted and normal, and then also we get insight because we vacation together. So, I'm turning it over to Ray Perkins so he can talk about a recent trip we had in the last six to 12 months together. This is my neighbor Ray Perkins. Believe me, you'll be super sleepy, no worries.
Hello, hello, hello, everybody. This is your friend Ray. Hello to the new listeners. I'd like to introduce myself. My name's Ray Perkins. I'm Scooter's neighbor and his friend, and his vacation partner, of all things. Oh, boy, did we have a trip recently … The royal recently, because Scooter likes to keep a little bit of a private lifestyle. He doesn't even want to be … He said, “Ray, I would prefer if no one knew we vacationed together, so we could …” But I said, “Scooter, it's podcast material. You're the podcast boy. I would love to put it out there in the world, because it is …” He said, “You're right, Ray. There's nothing more podcast-y than a weekend with you.”
But if you knew, hello, it's so good to be here in your ears. I'm your friend Ray. I love to say hello, hello my friends, because I'm so glad to be here with you. So, I'm Scooter's neighbor. This is my second time being his neighbor. We moved from the east to the west, to the west to the east, side of town. I happened to meet him when he was trying to avoid looking at me and talking to me, and I said, “Hello, hello,” and we slowly … It's like, how does the ocean become friends with an ice berg, and you might have to think about that for a while, and say, “I don't know, slowly, that's how you do it.” Or maybe I'm a polar bear. I don't know if I'm the whole ocean, but becoming friends with Scooter does take a while, it does take persistence. There are some advantages to vacationing with Scooter because he's not very flexible, but he can be flexible at the same time, and we do like the same sorts of things. We both enjoy the details of things in different ways, but it's nice.
Tonight, we're going to be talking about pool hopping, P-O-O-L hopping, more strolling, pool strolling I guess I'd say, not pool hopping, in Orlando. We didn't hop or stroll as many pools as we had planned on, because believe me, strolling pools is not as … It takes a lot of energy. But we did stroll quite a few pools, the other pools I've been to, so, I could always give you a review of those pools separately. Also, you want to talk about second chances and third chances and those things. Those things exist as well. So, those are good things. One of my places that I like to go, everybody knows I like to go to the parks in Orlando, in Anaheim, and I don't like to weigh in on corporate matters, but your friend Ray has really taken a shine to the Universal company, only the theme parks and the hotels. I don't mean only. The films are wonderful, and you may have heard me talk about it. Sometimes I forget what I've talked about on this show, but I know we talked about the Universal tour in Hollywood.
Tonight, we're going to talk about, now, Universal … I guess I should give you some backdrop so you have all the information you might need. I'm not going to be talking about the theme parks, but of course, I'll talk about them anyway, and give you some context to why Scooter and I were there, and also what else would you need to know … Oh, my most important tips. In this case, you'll get a couple extra tips at no charge. Especially those of you in the UK. I know the UK and our friends in Brazil, those are the big tour groups that go to Orlando, especially they spend a longer time. I know there's a lot of people in the US, especially the eastern seaboard, that go there. But don't worry, you don't need to listen close actually, because I'm here to put you to sleep. So, I'll give you my hard tips right here, now, and then even if you're asleep, you'll find out about them anyway.
So, if you're going to a theme park, Ray's number one tip, go there when it opens, before it opens, to be exact, as a matter of fact. So, Universal has two parks: Universal Studios, and Universal Islands of Adventure. If you're going to go to them, look it up. When you're planning your trip, you say, “Oh, okay, they open at 9 a.m., or they open at 8 a.m.” Try to get to the gate of the park … Now, this is going to be different for both parks. If you're going to Universal Islands of Adventure, as far as I know, they don't have any early openings, so if it opens at 9, try to be at the gate at about 8:30, or through the gate, so that you can start riding the rides when the park opens at 9. If you're going to the Universal Studios one, now, that's a little bit different, because they open to the hotel guests at 8:00, and then they open to the public at 9. I guess you still want to be there … I would say be there 45 minutes ahead of time if you're not a hotel guest. If you're a hotel guest, you get there about 7:45 to get in at 8:00.
Now, for the hotel guests, they don't open everything. They only open the Minions movie ride, sometimes a roller ride, the M-U-M-M-Y, and then everything in Harry Potter … Oh, no, that's not [Hogsmead 00:19:18], is it? It's … I don't know, like London, Old London Town I think they call it. Not Hogwarts. Hogwarts is in Islands of Adventure, but it's Harry Potter, London, Central London or whatever. I don't know. Honestly, you'd be surprised, Ray doesn't know the actual name of the park. But anyway, I'm not going to talk about the parks tonight. I will eventually do episodes about the parks, or Scooter has a couple of other things, options he's offered me to do episodes on.
A couple other tips. Now, when you're doing your budgeting and your pricing, here's a couple other things to consider. Now, you may be going to the Disney parks and the Universal parks. You may only be going to the Universal parks. I don't know. Now, if you're going to the Universal parks, and you want to do most of the rides and shows, I would say give yourself like somewhere between a day and a half and two and a half days if you really want to do everything and redo the rides you like. You need about two and a half days, depending on how busy it is. But there's a couple of other things to keep in mind. One is that if one person in your party may want to buy an annual pass, now, the pricing on that, you got to do your budgeting, but it's usually a much better value than the competitors, at the House with the Mouse at it. You're going to see, the hotels with the passes, it's just a much better deal. Ray's going to be honest with you. If you get an annual pass from them, you can check out the savings you can get on the hotels they have.
Now, Universal has their own hotels, and most of the hotels in the past were operated by Lowe's, but then they added another hotel called Cabana Bay, which I don't think Lowe's operates. They're adding even more this summer. They're adding two more, and I don't know who's operating those hotels, but the goal would be that the hotels would cover all the price points, with the newer hotels that are just about to open being under $100 or $125, under that, around a night, like for families and things. Before that, the Cabana Bay was the most reasonable priced hotel. I haven't stayed there in about a year and a half or two, but I've always had a great experience at that hotel, and I've always found it to be pricing-wise … Again, I'm not pointing fingers, I'm just saying comparatively, what you get at Cabana Bay, the size of the room, the cost, it is a much better bargain than you'll see with the competitors.
Then, the Lowe's hotels, they have a few, and I know Scooter and I have talked about one, but they have one called Sapphire Falls. They have a new one, Ventura. Then they have one called the Royal Pacific. They have one called Portofino, and then they have the Hard Rock Hotel. I hope I'm not leaving any hotels out. I don't want to hurt any hotels' feelings. When you're booking any of those hotels, check your annual pass rate to see, okay, I'm going to save this much on the hotel, is that worth it to get the annual pass? You also get a little bit of a discount on food and merchandise. Again, I've seen that Universal, when you're in the parks, almost every place you can use your annual pass for a discount, I think maybe 10% off. There's other people where you go and you say, do you have an annual pass discount for this food, they say no. I know at Disneyland, you get a great annual pass discount everywhere, so I don't know what that other park place is doing. They may have gotten too big for the britches in Ray's opinion, maybe. I don't know. I can't believe I'm hearing myself.
So, tonight, so, okay, so those are some tips. One other big tip, if it's in your budget, now, this one you have to budget and what you want to do is check your pricing out, and maybe choose your travel dates based on this pricing. This will be a little bit more complicated, so Ray's going to slow down even more and use his sleepy voice here. Let me use the Disney model, then I'll transfer it over to Universal, even though I'm not sure it applies anymore. Disney used to have three kinds of hotels. They have the value resorts and the moderate resorts and the deluxe resorts, and then they have the vacation club, which is a timeshare that's a little bit different.
If we just use their model, value would be for a family. In the past, but like you'd say, okay, value, well, $125, not exactly a value to everybody, but to me, to Ray, with tax, that would be like an under his value. You add the vacation kingdom area. Then, your moderate would be above that, in the $250 range. For me, $195 to your $300, maybe in peak season, up to $350 or something, but that's not easy to swing. You see, $350 a night, I could stay at the W some place, and I would say, you're right, you're right. Then the deluxe for the Disney, you're talking big bucks. Your friend Ray, I don't know if I've ever stayed in one. I would like to with Scooter. We talk about it.
Now, Universal, they're actually still figuring out what they're calling it. So, I think they call it something different, and if you're looking at the current model, before this summer, Cabana Bay would be considered the value. Then Sapphire Falls is like a value plus. I think they even call it that. Then, the other three, Royal Pacific, Portofino, and Hard Rock, are considered deluxe, or premiere, maybe they call them. Now, when this summer opens, I think it's called the Endless Summer Resort, or Surf Side, something, when those open up, those will be the value, and then maybe Cabana Bay will be value plus. I would assume Sapphire Falls would be a moderate.
Now, when your friend Ray has been looking at pricing over the past couple years, I usually find that Sapphire Falls and Cabana Bay rooms are around the same price. Now, the big difference is that Cabana Bay, the rooms are a little bit bigger for a family. They're called like mini suites, I think you would call them, and what that means is they have two beds, and a fold-out sofa, so for a family that needs that kind of bedding situation, there's a little bit more room, and I believe that the shower's in one room and the commode is in another room. This is the thing with Ray. This doesn't have anything to do with this, but I would say that who's the theme park that's going to come up with one and a half baths already? Because I stayed some place recently with more people, and I said, this place could use one and a half baths. I don't need a whole bath. I just need a half bath right about now, while someone's in the whole bath.
But anyway, so, why am I telling you all this? Oh, because, so the deluxe resorts at Universal, Royal Pacific, what is that place called, Hard Rock, and Portofino, they do offer, which is an unbelievable benefit, especially if you have two or three or four people staying in one room, is you get this Universal express pass. You get in for the night you check in … You get it for two days, so the day you check in, and the day you check out, if you're staying for one night, for example. What this allows you to do is not wait in line, and it's very expensive to buy this, like maybe $100 or something, $75. So, if you had four people staying in a room, that's a $300 value. Believe me, it's worth it not having to wait in the lines. You get to really … not cut exactly to the front, but pretty close. This does make it much less stressful, especially with traveling with younger children. You might want to give them some life lessons about waiting in line, but here's where the kicker is. If you have the annual pass, you're getting a discount on the room, and believe me, Ray would not hear himself saying this. These hotels are all very nice. What I mean by this is …
Okay, let's back up. So, the Sapphire Falls, that hotel is not … you don't get the express pass there. But, that hotel is very, very nice. For the price you're paying, when you look at comparative things in that area, it is a very nice hotel room. I know we stayed, Scooter and I stayed, when the hotel first opened, and it did not go well, but has that hotel recovered. I mean, we got a room for less than … definitely like much less than we would get for a value room at another theme park. The room is nice, the towels are nice, the bathrooms are nice, the staff is nice, the bedding is very high quality. It just feels like you're in a good hotel, if you weren't on vacation, but you were saying, “Wow, this is a pretty good hotel.” That's the Sapphire Falls. Now, the Cabana Bay, it's a different feel, but it's more of a family feel, but you still say, “Wow, this is a big room for the pricing we're paying for.” I guess what I'm saying is … I guess, while Ray doesn't stay at Waldorf's or Four Seasons, but for me, I said, whoa, whoa this is … I do have taste, though. It's not the biggest hotel room you're going to stay at, but it does feel like a nice hotel room, and especially if you're staying … Again, comparative, in this situation, it's a good deal.
Then when you look at these other three hotels, that you get the express pass on, this is when you do have to be a little bit more of a discerning shopper. Now, in my experience, usually the most expensive hotel, I think just because it's the smallest, is the Hard Rock Hotel, and Ray has never stayed there, just because it's always, out of the three, the most expensive. Now, the Royal Pacific and the Portofino, they tend to … The Portofino does tend to be more expensive than the Royal Pacific, but not quite as expensive as the Hard Rock, but sometimes it will be. But there are times that the Royal Pacific and the Portofino are about the same price. Then, out of the three, the Royal Pacific is generally usually the least expensive of the three. Now, not cheap at all, but comparative, again, especially when you consider these express passes … Gosh, your friend Ray feels like I'm advertising for them, but I'm not. So, it is a considerably good bargain, again, especially if you're comparison shopping to what you might be paying, especially to my friends in the UK and Brazil, which are traveling and planning these things. I want you to know these things, so I can save you some time and money.
So, on my most recent trip with Scooter, usually you could look at the three … or your friend Ray. Twice I've done this now with Scooter. I said, okay, one time, a while ago, we stayed at the Portofino for one night. That was on the same trip that Sapphire Falls had just opened. We stayed at the Portofino, and then the Sapphire Falls. Now, this trip, the Royal Pacific was much better deal. As a matter of fact, we picked a day, we planned a trip around the best price at the Royal Pacific, and we said, okay, this day of the week, it was the least … it was a very low price comparative, so we planned a trip around staying at the Royal Pacific for one night. Now, I would, if I was in a position to do so, would've liked to stay more than one night, but again, Scooter's working on a budget, and Ray's working on a budget, so we only stayed at the Royal Pacific one night, and we stayed at Sapphire Falls one night. Again, we managed to get a very good rate at that hotel.
So, we stayed at the Sapphire Pacific one night and then the next night we stayed at the Royal Hawaiian … What is it called? Sapphire Falls and Royal Pacific. So, why is any of this important? That's why I'm getting to your tips. So, we stayed at Sapphire Falls one night, and then the next … As soon as the next morning comes, of course you have to check out of your hotel, but then you can check into your hotel at the Royal Pacific before the park opens, you check your bags, you check into the hotel, and while you don't have access to your room, you do have access to the park, front of line passes. So, you do that … I guess Ray's laying out a very complicated plan here.
So, just give you a little bit more details on me and Scooter's vacation, but I don't want to talk about our travels at the park on this episode, so Scooter and I flew, and this'll lead into everything, so this will work. So, Scooter and I flew in a very interesting situation. This is the first time Ray's ever done it like this, I think, though maybe that's not true. We took a true Red Eye, the reddest of the Red Eye, because we flew out of the Bay Area, in the evening, and we flew out of Las Vegas. Now, we flew on this newer discount airline, and both Scooter and I, we really thought it went well. Now, this airline, we won't say its name, but I've heard people saying not great things about it, and you do have to pay for everything. So, I guess looking back at it, I would have to trace out in a spreadsheet to say, okay, where's our value point. But it just so happened that when Scooter and I were traveling, the airfares were incredibly high, and this was really the only reasonable option. But it ended up working.
What I'll say about the flight is that, now, not all the planes are like this, because on the way back we didn't have one of these planes for our flight. But they have these, on the new planes, they charge you for your bags. So, if you want to carry on a bag or check a bag, you have to pay, which is nothing new, but if you want anything to drink, you have to pay, and if you want anything to eat you have to pay, which again, is nothing extremely new. In some sense, and now I have a new found appreciate for that, if it's going to be reflected in value, because one, there's less lines for the restroom, and you might think I'm being funny, but I'm not, I observed it very clearly. There was almost never a line, because people aren't filling up on beverages. Even one or two. So, that's one thing. The main thing I loved about it is the newer planes, now, people say, “Oh, the seats don't go back,” because in order to fit more people there, their seats don't tilt back, but oh, boy, you don't need it.
Scooter and I did discuss this as we were on the flight, because we said, maybe the seats going back offers you an illusion of control, and that's why people don't like it, because in my opinion, moving a seat back four inches does not make me any more comfortable to sleep on a plane. But I'll tell you what does. They had these very firm leather seats, and I mean firm in a good way, and the the front of the … They have on electronics, so you can't charge your phone, and there's no entertainment. But so, the back of the seat in front of you, it doesn't have any back to it. It's just a plastic shell. It actually gives you more room, at least in Ray's opinion, for your knees, and they have a very small tray, because they're not giving out meals or drinks really, so it's like a tiny tray. There's only a couple of bungee cords, so there's no magazine rack. So, in some sense, at least on this configuration of the plane, you have a little bit more space, even though maybe you have less, or you have the feeling, you have the illusion of space.
So, I found it very nice, and I know it's hard to sleep on a plane anyway, and so I don't feel like any of this subtracted from that. So, it was good. We flew from Oakland to Las Vegas on this airline, one word airline. I'll give you a hint: it's yellow. Then we flew from Las Vegas to Orlando, on a strange timed flight. It left around 10 p.m., or no, 9 p.m., 8:30, something like that, west coast time, and then landed in Orlando at 4:30 in the morning, so, that was a bit of a to-do, and Scooter was very stressed about that. He said, “Ray, I don't think I can handle this.” He even had to talk to his therapist about it, and this therapist said, “Why don't you see how it goes, just see how it goes?” Then, what does Scooter do? He says, “Okay, Ray.” Our plane got in early, so it was supposed to get in at 5, it got in at 4. We had debated what to do, because we said, “Well, if we get in at 5 or 5:30, we go to the hotel, maybe by an off chance they'll have a room for us at 6 or 7 in the morning.” Probably unlikely, and then we could go to the park, the theme park, at 8 a.m. But we got in at 4:30, and Scooter said, “Ray, what do you say?”
Now, the airport was busy, but not busy … It was active, but not busy. Scooter said, “Ray, look over here, there's an entire empty waiting area. Why don't we just go back to sleep in the airport?” I said, “Scooter, you're right.” Now, I don't know if either one of us really slept, but we lied there side-by-side, and I think … I don't know if he … I know I slept a little bit. We just lied down in a couple of chairs, and we rested there for about an hour and a half, and then we got a little bit of a snack and some coffees, and then about 6:30 in the morning, we headed over to Sapphire Falls. I think by the time we got checked in to Sapphire Falls … Now, they did not have a room, so Scooter's gambit worked, because it wouldn't have behooved us to stay at Sapphire Falls. Then we changed our clothes in the restroom. We checked our bags at the baggage check. We had our room keys.
This is where another one of Scooter's planning went in. He said, “Ray, make sure we'll bring … What we're going to do is we're going to go swimming, because we're going to be so tired, we could always sleep at the pool.” Actually, Scooter had even looked into how much would a pool cabana be, just to go to bed for the day, but that was a little bit too expensive, he said. So, we checked our bags, we had our backpack with swim trunks, sunscreen, water, and I think that was it. We changed and we went to the park for a little while, but we were very tired. Then it was time to go pool hopping, and who would think that you would be with your friend Scooter, in a theme park, at about 10:30 in the morning, Scooter says, “Okay, let's go to the Hard Rock Hotel …” Oh, okay. Yeah, okay, let me tell you. “So, let's go to the Hard Rock Hotel and go swimming.”
Now, this is another thing to know about these Universal hotels, is if you're staying at one, you could swim at the pools at all of them. This is, again, where Scooter and I's planning just … we click. Now, it even gets better, because all the Universal hotels are walking distance, so you don't have to take a bus, you can walk, or they have little boats, or they do have a shuttle bus if you're going to further away ones like … Sapphire Falls you could take a boat to or a bus, or a shuttle, a trolly, and the same with Cabana Bay. They don't have a boat. You could walk there, or take a bus. But the Hard Rock, and I think I talked about this in an episode, you walk through this garden area along a human made canal where the boats travel, and they have trees, it's all very lush. Yes, it's a manufactured environment, but it's very nice. You see people on the way to the hotel, and of course, we had Scooter's daughter with us, and so the three of us head over to Hard Rock, and we go in, we get changed, and we go to their pool.
Now, oh, boy, what a nice pool to start your day at. By the time we got over there, it was 11, and there was plenty of room. You go to some pools and there's not a place to lie down, everybody's saving places, everything's a bit of a mess. This was very well-kept, and there was more than enough, what are those called, lounge chairs. Scooter even said, “Ray, I found a couple of lounge chairs in an area with shade.” So, we put our stuff down, and then we started swimming. Now, this layout of this place, again, it's very tropical, and the Universal hotels are big on a beach feel, which even adds a nice element to it. So, they have a hot tub on one side. That's where we put our stuff. They had a beach volleyball court. Then they had a water slide, which we'll get to in a little while, if I can remember if it was themed or what. Then to the left of the water slide is a little pool bar and restaurant. We almost had lunch there, but we did not. Then the hotel is on the far side of the pool.
This pool was shaped … It's a pretty big pool, shaped like a big rounded U, and so on the left side where the water slide goes in, there's one of those zero entry things. Now, there's beach sand everywhere, not in the pool, but right up to the edge of the pool. So, it's like … I don't know. It just gives you a nice feel. Again, there's chairs everywhere. Then you get in the water. Now, the first thing you notice is the pool temperature's just right. The unique thing at that pool was that underwater speakers, which makes sense for Hard Rock, they're playing classic rock type music. You go underwater, and you can hear the same music underwater. A little bit tinny because you're under the water, but it's just fun, and the kids love that. That's about it. There's a water play area. There's probably a couple of other things for the little kids. They may have a quiet pool. We didn't find it.
Here's a couple of other things to know that really blew my mind. They have very good towels there. In most of the Universal ones, that we found, they have sunscreen there. So, if you forgot your sunscreen or you want to put on more, they have sunscreen. That's just like a customer service thing, that Ray said, this is superior customer service. This is customer care. They also always have a water thing with ice, ice water, lemon water, something, which again, goes a far way. What does it take, like a little time to do those two things. It just makes you feel a little bit … you say, “Well, I need to stay hydrated, I need to stay screened,” and I don't know, it's just a nice touch. The pool is very nice. It has plenty of areas for shallow swimming or zero entry sitting on your … just sitting there on the zero entry, or whatever it's called. If you want to get somewhere where it's up to your neck and swim underwater, you could do that, and there's plenty of selection.
And then they have a very good water slide. Scooter and his daughter said this was … and I thought, top notch … It was close between this water slide and the other one, but I think it was built into rocks or something, and you go up a couple of flights of … You go up a ramp, you go up the stairs, and then there's someone up there watching things, which again, I like as a human element to say, okay, go ahead, we'll keep an eye on you. I thought all the staff there was very good, but the water slide, it was good. It had a couple of turns. It had a little whoop-de-do, and you felt like you went … it was fun. So, we did that or a while, and rode the water slide, swam. Scooter tried to sleep, but he unsuccessfully did not sleep, and then eventually, it's moving towards when we would have lunch, and Scooter was like, “Well, we can have lunch here,” and then we said, “Well, let's go to the Portofino.” That's the next hotel. Let's walk there. Let's get something to eat there, also because Scooter thought they had P-I-Z-Z-A there.
So, then we walked there. Now, it's a bit of a walk, but again, just a nice walk. You go under bridges, the boats are going by, there's the butterfly garden I talked about one time. I think I did a show about it, but there's a little butterfly garden, shaped like a butterfly, outside the Hard Rock on the garden walk. There's like whatever they call it where the bicyclist can carry two people in a chair. Then we went to the Portofino, and I think the first thing we did was we went to the quiet pool, and that was, holy cow, talk … Now, they have the best chairs. They had a hammock there. If you have the means, they have a lot of cabanas. But this pool is more for grown-ups, or just no yelling or splashing. But they have a lot of lawn areas. I'm sure they hold a lot of events there. Scooter was like, “I could sleep here all day,” but I said, “Well, you got two of us to entertain now.” But very quiet, a nice pool, long rectangle. There's a restroom right there. Again, water. I don't know if they had sunscreen there, but they had it at the main pool. Just plenty of area, plenty of area to stretch out. There was a Bocci Ball. I don't know. Very nice. It was so nice.
So, we stayed there for a little while. Scooter started getting tired, so I said, okay, let's go eat your lunch. Then we got a little lost trying to find the place that served P-I-Z-Z-A, but eventually we found that place, and it was nice. We ordered a pie, and we took it actually to the pool, which was even nicer. So, we went over to the main pool, and it was a little bit busier, because it was like around 12:30 now, 1:00. There was still plenty of open seats. None of this saving seats all day. I'm sure people do that, but it wasn't like there was no seats for nobody. So, we found some seats, we put on more screen, we ate our pie, we drank water. Then they have activities going, mostly for kids. Again, it's like the beach. They have it set up like the sand, there's different levels.
So, this is the Portofino main pool, and this one's also shaped … it has the zero entry, like you're walking into a lake. I think they had a kid pool somewhere. They have two hot tubs with water falls, which Scooter loved, because the water falls were coming from high up. So, he would stand under there and let it hit his shoulders, and he said it was relaxing him. They were pretty big waterfalls, and they weren't busy, so Scooter would go in them. If the kids are in the hot tub, Scooter won't go in there because he says … because then he says it's polluted. I say, “How do you know?” And he said, “I was a kid once, Ray.” So, he doesn't … So, those were not busy, so he would go in them, and he said, “Oh,” and I said, “What about the kids that were in here earlier?” He said, “Well, the aeration of the waterfall, it's purifying it from the pee in the pool.”
This pool is a … You go in a zero entry. Then they have a little rock area in the middle, where the water slide comes out, and you can swim around the rock area. The water slide also very, very good. A little bit different layout, but just as fun and fast as the water slide at the Hard Rock. Again, just so well supervised. That's what Ray was … the chairs now, nothing against the Hard Rock, but these chairs had pads. So, not only we eat our pizza, we had the access to the sunscreen, and we had a little bit of a shady area with the sand, and again, it wasn't overwhelming. While this pool was much busier, it wasn't like pandemonium. And then, oh my goodness, very busy service, but very well-trained staff. They say, “Oh, I see you eating a pizza there. If you want something to drink or you want to order any other food, I'm here to help.” So, they had a bar and a restaurant there at the pool. Then they had the sand. They had different games for the kids, and like a DJ, and the towels, much nicer towels than other theme park hotels.
Now, I didn't use the restroom there. When I did, I went somewhere … I left. So, I'm not sure if they had a restroom there, so I'd have to check with Scooter, because the quiet pool did, and the Hard Rock, it did have one nearby that you could walk to. Let's see, what other things did Ray … I don't know. The waterfalls are great, and the tiering was great. So, they had the beach level things, then they had a second level, then they have cabanas that people seemed to be enjoying. Then they had the seating at the bar and the restaurant. And plenty of water. Definitely enough people looking out after everybody swimming. Again, at the top of the water slide, they have someone supervising things, which is something Ray and Scooter and everybody appreciates, because you know kids get excited and they say, “I'm going to do this my way.” So, some places they just have a red light and a green light, and you say, “Well, who's going to make sure the kids follow the rules?” At this place, they have somebody saying, “No, no, no, please wait your turn, please no running.”
But then after we did some swimming and pizza eating, we all lied down on our chairs there, and we had a nice shady spot, and it was warm but not too hot. It was a nice week in Orlando that week, and so we were able to lie down and get comfortable. We set our chairs back. We had plenty of room. There was some pop music playing, not too loud. The chatter of everybody enjoying themselves at the pool. It was all very, very relaxing. Your friend Ray started to lie back, and then I got up on my side, and I laid in my chair flat, and I held one of the towels like it was a little blanky poo, and I snuggled my shoulder in there, and I got a little bit more comfortable, and I look out and I said, “Oh, Ray, I'm getting sleepy,” and I started to think about it, all the ways to save and all the different things, and the pools and the walking, and soon I was dreaming of floating down the canal there, like I was a boat driver, and then I was driving a cloud boat from theme park to theme park, slowly going, stop to stop, just floating in warm water. Scooter was lying under a waterfall, the water massaging his shoulders. Kids behind him who added pee to the pool and giggling. It was all very, very nice. So, this is your friend Ray saying goodnight.