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Universal Orlando Resort -- On-Site Hotels

Portofino Bay Hotel
Portofino Bay Hotel, the high-end Loews hotel at Universal Orlando. Even though there are lights are burned out, it still looks better at night than during the day...

While Disney does have some non-Disney owned hotels on-site, most are owned, run and maintained by Disney. Unlike Disney, all of Universal's hotels are owned by the Loews hotel chain, who represent the high-end luxury brand in almost any city they have a presence in.

Universal Orlando's hotels are no different. Even the "low-end" hotel on property, the Royal Pacific Resort, can compete with any "low-end" deluxe hotel on Disney's property.

In this respect, UO is more like Disneyland, leaving the cheaper "partner" hotels off-site but nearby. The "Partner" hotels don't afford you front-of-line privileges, though.

Oh, those front-of-line privileges. Universal's version of a Fast-Pass is Universal Express. If you stay in any of the three on-site hotels, you get unlimited access to the Universal Express lines. No (or very little) waiting. This isn't as important in say, early December, but during the crowded summer months, it's great.

(I am sure that all those people I probably PO'd in MiB when I passed them for the fourth time didn't think so, but hey, I was paying for the privilege...)

Anyway, beyond that, just being able to take the boat (or walk, if you haven't done that enough) to the parks is better than having to drive or wait for a shuttle bus...

Royal Pacific Resort

400px Map
Map of Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Click on the map for a larger view. (1250px x 750px, 260KB.) Map ©Loews Hotels
Royal Pacific Resort is the newest hotel on Universal's property, completed in 2002. (When I was there in 2002, however, they were still working on the convention center part of the hotel.) This is a large place, with a 1000 rooms, and the "cheapest" of the three Lowes hotels on property. I also stayed here in 2003, 2006 and 2008.

Royal Pacific Resort, Universal Orlando
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Hard Rock Hotel

400px Map
Map of Loews Hard Rock Hotel. Click on the map for a larger view. (1250px x 675px, 184KB.) Map ©Loews Hotels
The first time I was at Hard Rock in 2003, I had a room so far from the lobby, that I think it was shorter to go down the stairs and out the fire door and walk to USF, than it was to walk to the lobby and to the boat dock, then the boat dock in City Walk to USF. Maybe I shouldn't have checked in with a Disney t-shirt on. (And I've always wondered if I'd get a closer room to the lobby if I walked in with a pair of crutches...)

And then the second time I was there in 2004, I was upgraded to a Concierge Room on the seventh floor, where you get to feel real important by having to insert your keycard before you can press the elevator button for the 7th floor. (I always wondered who stayed up in those "special" floors. It turns out they could be schmucks like me.) Anyway, the room was right off the elevator, and noise isn't a problem up on the 7th floor...

I don't have any interior pictures, but they put in this interesting feature in the rooms. The wall by the bathroom angles out, so if you're in bed watching TV, the room has a distorted perspective, and looks and feels much larger than it really is. I'm surprised I haven't seen that in more places.

Anyway, if you're up for a challenge and have the willpower and the cash, the prime rib down in the Palms is absolutely delicious, but it's the size of your head...

Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Orlando
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Portofino Bay Hotel

400px Map
Map of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Click on the map for a larger view. (1500px x 1175px, 391KB.) Map ©Loews Hotels
In 2007, I stayed at the Portofino Bay Hotel. The Portofino Bay Hotel is a nice place. A very nice place. But probably too nice of a place for someone like me, who can have just a nice of a time at a place that costs $150 less per night.

One of the major complaints I had about the place, was the bay area. During the day, it is plainly visible that all the relief and detail on the building is painted on. It makes the entire place look pretty cheesy. It does look better at night, but then you get to see all the light bulbs that are burned out.

I also appreciate opera as much as Quint's introduction in Jaws where he scrapes his fingernails on the blackboard. You get it at dinner, you get it in the courtyard at night, you get it everywhere. It just became irritating. I would rather be at Hard Rock and think of where Nancy Wilson's guitar spent a lot of it's time. I guess I just have no class... :-)

Portofino Bay Hotel
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  • 05/05/2010 - Entire page re-imaged, pictures added
  • 09/13/2012 - Update to v3
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2