This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six “Secrets” of Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry. One of my favorite places at either of Universal’s two theme parks doesn’t have a single attraction or show. Port of Entry is the first official “island” you experience when walking into Islands of Adventure and I consider it the best “Main Street” of any theme park in North America. The level of detail throughout transports guests into a world that never existed, yet somehow feels completely real.
The journey through this exotic land starts before you even hit the park, as the impressive Pharos Lighthouse stands tall outside the gates and the fantastic Call to Adventure theme plays in the background. As far as park icons go, the Lighthouse is right up there with Spaceship Earth and Cinderella Castle in my list of personal favorites and the background music never ceases to thrill me. Once through the turnstiles, guests pass by the archway which promises “The Adventure Begins” and they generally make a beeline to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or over to the Hulk Coaster and Spider-Man at Marvel Superhero Island. With this edition of the Saturday Six we are going to make a plea to you, Dear Reader, to slow down on your race to the rest of the park and take a moment to take in the immersive land Universal Creative has delivered with Port of Entry.
# 6 – The Love Birds
Sitting together along the walls of Port of Entry are two love birds. These two actually took me a while to find myself, and I have combed over the Port of Entry many times. There is even “coo-ing” playing over speakers in the area and once you see them, you’ll wonder how you missed them for so long. I would imagine this is a detail that 99.44% of IOA guests never notice, and that’s what I love about it. The term “Disney Difference” gets thrown out a lot when it comes to detail in theme parks and while some may be wondering where the Disney Difference went at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I think they will find it in spades at IOA.
# 5 – “Main Street Windows”
Getting a window on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom is one of the highest honors one can achieve at Walt Disney World. Whether it’s Disney family members Elias or Roy Disney, Imagineer John Hench or management like Lee Cockerell and Frank Wells, having your name in tribute on one of these windows is a theme park equivalent to having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except that they are much harder to attain.
Universal also pays homage to the people who helped create their resort in a variety of ways at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, including window tributes. This particular window in Port of Entry is for “Codiga Adventures” and is referencing David Codiga, a former Executive Vice President of Universal Creative. Mr. Codiga’s most recent project was the High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas, the world’s tallest ferris wheel.
# 4 – Mail a Letter from IOA
In a previous edition of the Saturday Six we wrote about how guests can mail a letter from Hogsmeade Village, but there is also another special mail box for outgoing mail in Port of Entry. Rocket Air Mail is located to the left of the turnstiles once you enter the park and mail is picked up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Unlike the Owl Post’s special Hogsmeade Village postmark, letters and cards mailed from the Rocket Air Mail box will only be postmarked from Orlando.
# 3 – References to the Other Islands Throughout Port of Entry
“Keep your head on a swivel” is a great expression from the sports world used to describe people needing to pay attention to what is going on around them and the same can be said while walking through Port of Entry. Besides the must-see gags including a jail break and a firehouse that “moved closer to water,” there are references to the other islands of IOA throughout Port of Entry. Look up, look around, and always remember that everything is there for a reason.
The grandaddy of all references to other islands in Port of Entry is Confisco Grille. The restaurant displays items throughout that have been “confiscated” by travels coming through Port of Entry. You will see references to every single island, including the Wizarding World.
# 2 – IOA’s Former Landlords, Seagram’s
Connected to Confisco Grille is the Backwater Bar, and the sign for the bar outside contains a huge ad for Seagram’s. This ad for alcohol seems almost out of place until you realize that when Islands of Adventure opened in 1999, the Universal theme parks were owned by Seagram’s (it’s a long story.) The ownership of the parks has changed hands several times since, but this rock is a nice tribute to a company which helped develop one of the most original theme parks in the world.
# 1 – The Navigator’s Club
Also connected to the Confisco Grille is the Navigator’s Club. This is a venue upstairs from the Confisco Grille that is primarily used for private parties or meetings for Universal Team Members. I’ve asked Guest Relations several times what the official policy is for the Navigator’s Club and they have always told me to ask the hostess of the Confisco Grille if it is okay to go upstairs.
There’s not too much to see upstairs, but the view is incredible. The first room you encounter is a small sitting room with a couch, that seems almost like a study in your own house. There is one set of doors which leads to a room that is full of tables and not much else. Another set of doors leads you outside. A small path leads you to a covered area with more tables. It’s quiet, peaceful, and gives you opportunities to take pictures you can’t get anywhere else.
BONUS: Reliable Rentals
Every theme park in Florida has a place at the front of the park that rents wheelchairs and strollers, but only Port of Entry ties this area into the overall theme.
So there you have it: Six “Secrets” of IOA’s Port of Entry. Believe it or not there are even MORE secrets we wanted to include such as the ability to test screen upcoming television shows (and get paid for it), the ENORMOUS complete fossil of a whale-like creature in the IOA Trading Company, tons of photo ops, and many of the little signs throughout (such as a hilarious meeting notice for the “Lost Explorers Club.”) See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we are going to look at some Outrageous Snacks at Walt Disney World. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.
Special thanks to Disney Blogger Extraordinaire Morgan Crutchfield and Brandon Glover for their assistance with this article.