Our experience started with valet parking. We arrived at Universal about 1/2 hour before the 9:00a time they had told us to be there, so we grabbed a coffee in Universal City. We made our way to the gates, and were checked in and led to the second floor VIP room. There we were greeted with muffins, croissants, cookies, juices, and coffee. They even had a really cool "make-your-own" espresso machine. We met our tour guide, grabbed several bottles of water, and off we went.
We covered the rides first. You are walked to the front of the line at Simpsons, Jurassic, The Mummy, Terminator, House of Horrors, and then new ride, Transformers. By the time this portion of the tour is over, it is off to lunch.
The lunch is in a building not accessible to the general public. The selection was amazing, and the food was not the typical "theme park" food at all. They had (wonderful) sauted shrimp, pastas, salads, cheeses, crackers, breads, smoked salmon, lasagne, Asian kabobs, chicken (all sorts), fruits, potatoes, meatballs, ..... really, the list goes on and on. There were sodas, water, juices, and many different desserts and ice cream to choose from. All-you-can-eat buffet style.
After lunch, you are taken to the trolley for your back lot tour. This is the only portion of this experience that I had some serious issues with. The first was, each and every person pays the same amount for this tour, and it's no small fee, $250 to be exact. We had myself, my husband, our daughter and our son, so that's $1000 for one day of fun. When we approached the trolley, we just happen to be the last of our group. The trolley we were on had 8 seats at the front that were on the outside without an obstructed view, four facing each way. By the time we loaded the trolley, we were occupying the very back four seats. These seats are encased in windows. At no time during the rest of the day did the tour guide ask the guests that got the "good" seats to swap with the guests in enclosed section of the trolley. This really put a damper on taking ANY photos at all. I didn't really think this was rights, seeing as how, as I mentioned above, everyone pays the same amount, therefore, everyone should have the same experience.
The second problem was the exhaust fumes. Being seated in the back, the fumes were, at times, unbearable! I had a sweatshirt with me, and whenever the trolley was moving, I had to cover my nose and mouth. My 17 year old daughter had the same experience. We were sitting in the very back right seats (don't sit there.)
The third problem again stems from the trolley. As the day went on, the seats on the inside of the trolley got very, very hot. The windows do not open, and towards the end of the tour, the heat and staleness was almost unbearable.
The people in the front with the open seating had none of these problems. So.... as a note to folks that are planning this trip, when you leave your lunch, make sure you are the first people as you go down the escalator to the backlot tour or you are gonna be at the back of the trolley.
As far as the backlot tour is concerned, less the trolley experience, it was pretty good. I had envisioned stopping more to get out (the agent that sold me the ticked had said that we would get out on Wisteria Lane, which we did not.) We did, however, get a pretty awesome tour of the props warehouse, the costume department, and a set from the TV show Parenthood (which was pretty cool.) We were able to sit in a sound/recording studio as well. We were able to walk around the famous "City Hall" area from Back to the Future, and the War of the Worlds area, too.
The tour ends with Waterworld. You can either sit in the VIP section or in the "soak" section. (Note... if you sit in the soak section, you will more than likely get just that.... soaked! So beware of your cameras.) After Waterworld is over, you can utilize your pass for Front of the Line on any attraction. By the time we got done with Waterworld though, it was 5:00p, so not a lot of time was left before their 6:00p closing that night. I suggest you go on a day that the park might be open later.
The experience, all in all, was pretty good. Being able to get on their "E-ticket" rides without a wait was great, and the lunch was fabulous. Our tour guides was just mehhhh. I think this could have also made a difference to our experience, if she would have been more outgoing and fun. And the trolley (which you are on for a few hours) was REALLY a downer.
From before you enter the front gate:
View from the balcony of the VIP lounge before they open to the public:
Another view from the balcony's VIP lounge. (A not to people that want to take photos.... they didn't have the doors open, I just walked out here. You are allowed to do that.)
Our table at lunch:
The horrible, dreaded trolley. (The driver wasn't the problem, just to be fair and so no one gets the wrong impression of him. He was pleasant. The problem was the trolley itself.)
A view from our stop at War of the Worlds: