My mother is a hypochondriac. She has essentially been locked down in her house since early-March when we first started locking down for the pandemic. As the months continued to fall off of the calendar, she started to get a little stir-crazy. She had grilled me on recent stays at Walt Disney World resorts. Eventually, she decided that she wanted to book a staycation at a Disney or Universal resort so that we could watch election coverage together (we live on different ends of Florida, and hadn’t seen each other since February).
I immediately thought of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort. There are some incredible deals right now throughout Universal Orlando Resort, and I have had a number of clients recently book Endless Summer, who have had nothing but glowing reviews. Having spent a lot of time at Universal since reopening, I was also confident that my mother’s mind would be put at ease with all of the safety protocols. We stayed for two nights in the first week of the month.
Her comfort level increased from the second we entered the lobby. There were security guards waiting at the entrance to take everyone’s temperature. Once you passed the temperature screening, you were given a wristband to indicate that you were not running a fever. Many people have mentioned that these temperature checks are not 100% effective, because guests could potentially be asymptomatic. While that is technically true, every additional precaution reduces the chances of transmission. The safety procedures continued with guests being required to wear masks everywhere outside of their rooms, with the lone exception being in the immediate swimming pool area.
The room was spotless. With modern, wooden floors, you can tell that these rooms are extremely easy to clean. The remote control was in a baggy after it had been sterilized. There was not a dusty overhang, or a missed smudge in the mini-fridge. This was when my mother really began to relax. She did spray a disinfectant on the bed, before she would sit on it, but that was more her idiosyncrasies than any fear she had on cleanliness.
We opted to save a few dollars by not having a pool-view room, but that was cool in its own way. I was able to see Volcano Bay, and several of the rides in Universal’s parks from my bed. That was a thrill for me as a theme park fan. The room also boasted really cool surfing-themed paintings. All of the décor kept with the theme.
We stayed in the Surfside building, which boasts the quick service dining location, Beach Break Café. We ordered from this location both nights we stayed there, mostly because the food was so incredible the first night. I started off with their veggie burger option. This burger is made with a bean patty, but is not listed on the on-line version of the menu. It is very much available, and it is delicious. Sometimes veggie burgers can be too dry, especially when they use a bean patty. The version at Beach Break Café is so well-seasoned that it brings a big kick of flavor. It is also topped with fresh veggies (and tomatoes, which I know are fruits, but you know what I mean). These vegetables provide some extra juiciness to the offering.
On the second night, I ordered the Herb Marinated Tofu with Lemon Tahini Vinaigrette Power Bowl. On a bed of quinoa and rice, this was the standout dish from the trip. Not to sound cliché, but the tofu tasted like chicken. Literally, it had the texture and flavor of chicken. They worked on the quality of this dish. It was exceptionally well marinated, and was not soggy like a lot of theme park tofu. They also didn’t take the cop-out option of frying it. If this version of the power bowl was this good, I would recommend Carne Asada and Adobo Chicken options, as well.
My mother opted for the Caprese Panini and the Baked Ziti. These were more standard theme park-style options, but she stated that it was easy to tell the ingredients were quality. She wanted simple, and she got simple. Her Caprese Panini came with chips, and they were a thick, kettle style. These were good chips, and that is an area were restaurants can get a little cheap to save money. I am glad that they didn’t do that. We also got fries both nights, and their fries were fantastic. This was another case of the chefs seasoning perfectly. Not too salty, but definitely flavorful. This is a great option after a long park day. You will get a filling, but not greasy meal. You are getting real food at Beach Break Café.
I would also recommend the refillable drink mug. For a price of $9.99, you can get a refillable drink mug for 24 hours. After the initial day, additional days are $3.00. This gives you access to coffee, hot chocolate, and the Coca-Cola Freestyle Fountain. The soda is available all night, but the coffee and hot chocolate are only put out later in the morning. That isn’t a deal breaker (I still think it is worth it, depending on your drinking habits), but it is important to note. There is also a Starbucks in the lobby, if you just can’t wait for Beach Break Café.
On Wednesday morning, I decided to take advantage of the extra hour that is given to guests staying on-property at a Universal Orlando Resort. On that particular day, the extra hour was at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. We were allowed in with our room keys (it is a credit-card-style room key). There were only four rides available for the bonus hour. You were limited to the three rides in Hogsmeade, with most people heading straight for Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure (it had a 45-minute wait by 9:10 a.m.), and the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. You had to wait until 10 a.m. for the other rides to start operating. This is a nice feature, but not a game-changer in my humble opinion. That being said, it is a game-changer if your party has a huge Harry Potter fan.
The amenities were fantastic for a resort at that price-point. The pool is huge. It was big enough to have families socially-distant at even the busiest times of the day. Fitting with the beach vibe, it was very relaxed at the pool. I also noticed that fellow-guests were being very respectful with their masks. Kids would take off their masks in the pool, but would have them on when they were playing in other sections of the pool area. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort also boasts an impressive fitness center. This was my particular favorite amenity, because I am a gym-rat. Out front, there was also a big sign with the times the fitness center would be closed for cleaning, and there were a lot of times listed. All of the equipment was also spaced out more than normal to accommodate social distancing. The fitness center was immaculate, and it isn’t as if people were just avoiding it. There were people burning off their Simpsons Donuts pretty regularly as we walked past.
I can honestly say that Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is one of my absolute favorite places to stay in the Orlando-area. It may not have the frills of some of the deluxe resorts. That doesn’t matter. For families and people on a budget, I can’t recommend this location enough. My wife and I are already planning a return visit in January. Universal has really raised its game to meet the challenges of 2020. Team members have been extra accommodating. The rooms were pristine. The service was perfect.