After our Disney Cruise, we headed to the Universal Resort Orlando for my annual travel conference. We stayed at the Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort, which is one of the on-site hotels for Universal Orlando. For this review, I will go over the 5 Resort hotels and the 2 parks that make up the Universal Resort.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort, of course we spend the most time here since we were sleeping here and my conference was located at their convention center. This hotel theme is South Pacific/Hawaiian, so you are greeted with artificial leis & everyone says “Aloha” & “Mahalo”. The rooms are very comfortable and well appointed, gorgeous color scheme with orange and purples, stand alone shower here too and ample space to get ready though for most of the stay, I had the room to myself. My husband stayed for the weekend and then headed home since I would have been very busy with conference classes. We spent all day Saturday at the parks, unfortunately they were closing at 6pm that day due to Grad night festivities, we were initially disappointed but we accomplished enough and we were all pretty tired from getting up early to get off the ship after a late night prior.
We dined at “Jake’s” twice during our stay, once for dinner and once for lunch and the food was good- pub like options but their flatbread pizzas were delicious. My husband had tomatoes that he said were some of the best he’d ever had in his Caprese salad. Great service, very attentive and even the manager came by to check on the tables both times. Super impressed with this. A few nights during the week they have live music at Jake’s too.
We had drinks at the Orchid lounge a few times, service was hit and miss here, but the time when service was slow was really more due to the conference day ending and everyone heading to the bar at the same time, they just couldn’t handle the demand--they were doing the best that they could. You could also order sushi at this bar.
Pool Service was good and there is a bar and sitting area by the pool for dining if you wanted to have lunch in that area.
There was also a buffet restaurant and an Emeril‘s restaurant/Chop house that we did not get to try.
Conference sessions that included food were all good. We had a couple breakfasts and lunches in the ballroom and really no complaints. We also had a few grab and go breakfasts and lunches that were done well.
We took a bit of time to walk through the other resorts, though we did not get to see any sleeping rooms..here is a brief recap of those:
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort- which opened up in 2016 is a beautiful beach inspired theme hotel. Pretty array of blues and greens, very open lobby, nice pool area. We walked around and thought that a few things didn’t match the overall theme..there was a gorgeous spiral staircase from the lobby on the 3rd floor down to the 1st floor that was wine country inspired and next to it was the tavern bar that was also wine inspired- both beautiful but I didn’t see how it fit into the beach theme of the rest of the hotel. Also, on the exterior of this hotel there was a gazebo like structure done in Roman columns..again didn’t really match. But I did like the hotel and we stopped into the tavern for a drink had great service & our server was super friendly. This resort offers water taxi service to the City Walk/Parks, they also offer the shuttle bus and you can easily walk the garden path which would take about 15-20 minutes one way.
Across the street is the Cabana Bay Beach Resort...this is like stepping back into the 50’s and I LOVE It! Such a cute place, very retro, two sections to the resort, two pool areas, 5 buildings of rooms and bright colors adorn this place. There is also a bowling alley here and they have some vintage cars parked outside to complete the image and timestamp of the resort!! This is the only resort currently not attached to the water taxi system but they do offer bus shuttles to the parks or you can easily walk through Sapphire Falls and take the water taxi from there..you can also walk to the parks- probably about a 25-30 minute walk each way.
There will be a new hotel opening up later in 2017- the Aventura Hotel, a high-rise that will be located between these two resorts. I think once it’s built there will be a more direct walking path from Cabana Bay Beach Resort, so we’ll see.
On the other side of the City Walk and parks you have the Hard Rock hotel, which is exactly what you’d expect with all of the musical memorabilia around the resort. I liked the vibe and would not hesitate to stay here. You can walk to the parks easily from there or take the water taxi...I think both of those are more efficient than the bus since the water way is super close. They had a wide variety of restaurants and lounges.
Loews Portofino Resort is the 5 star option here at the Universal Orlando Resort and it is gorgeous! Of course, Italian themed and you feel as though you’ve just walked into a 5 star hotel located in Italy. Of course, there is a Piazza area, marble all over the place, cute little walkways that look like streets in Italy. The signs that point the direction of hotel venues are very Italian like signs, really all details well thought out at this resort. We did stop into the American Bar for a drink and the servers were wonderful. We had questioned why we had been seeing charges for “rocks” on the bar bills for the “jack on the rocks” orders and they were quick to find the answer and explain that you’re not being charged for ice, they give you a larger pour when you order liquor on the rocks, but they charge you an extra $1 for it...interesting concept. This happens throughout the Universal resort, we noticed & our bartender said in 7 years of tending bar, this was the first time he came across this procedure and billing was at the Universal resort.
The Parks- right now there are two parks Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure- you can read my previous park review here- as much has stayed the same. I’ll note the differences. There is now an attraction train ride that links the two parks & expands Harry Potter world to both parks. The train ride is cool and well done & the expanded area in Universal Studios for Harry Potter is amazing and honestly, we missed it the first day- we had an agent only night at Universal during the conference where they closed the park for us and they had select rides opened and that’s when we discovered this area. Definitely worth visiting! Not much new at Islands of Adventure..the new stuff is now at Universal. Along with the expanded Harry Potter land, they have added a Mummy theme ride which is a roller coaster indoors and it’s pretty awesome...there is also the latest attraction- Jimmy Fallon Race through NY and we got to ride that a few times, it was pretty cool.
Soon they will be adding a 3rd park- Volcano Bay Water Park which opens May 25, 2017 and it is located next to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort….it looks like it’s going to be a great resort park of its own once opened.
And of course, you can’t forget the City Walk which has endless dining, shopping and entertainment options. We did dine at the Hard Rock Cafe, Margaritaville and Vivo...all good experiences. We had a private party one other night at the Hard Rock in the Lennon Room which was very cool, lots of John Lennon Memorabilia . The newest attraction here is the Toothsome Chocolate factory restaurant with some pretty insane delectable treats--I can’t speak personally, but know of several people who tried their milkshakes--they are huge and looked yummy!!
The City Walk is a very lively place at any time of the day, but lights up at night and it’s nice to have this option to walk around and enjoy.
Universal Resort Orlando is definitely trying to compete with Disney World- you can definitely spend a few days here and not feel rushed. A great benefit to staying at one of the Universal Resort hotels is that you get early entrance to Harry Potter Land & to the new Volcano Bay Water Park. And if you stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay or Loews Royal Pacific you also receive an express pass that is valid on all rides except those in Harry Potter land, it saves so much time!!! You can also purchase the express pass if you’re staying elsewhere to if you’re only making a day trip over to these parks while staying with the Mouse...but during peak times, I would definitely recommend having the express pass-- it’s the only way we were able to accomplish so much with our 6 hours on the Saturday we arrived.
You can view pictures of each resort here & sad to say that I did not take a huge amount of pictures for the Loews Royal Pacific Resort: