Which hotel has the best club-level lounge at Universal Studios, Florida, in Orlando? Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific?
All three Universal hotels offer club level rooms that provide free food, drinks, and snacks throughout the day. The lounges tend to be open from approximately 7:00 am – 9:30 pm and offer free coffee, teas, soft drinks, continental breakfast, afternoon snacks, hot & cold hors d’oeuvres, and complimentary beer and wine plus “Sweets Hour” each night.
The Portofino Bay Hotel is the best and most expensive. The Royal Pacific is the cheapest, but the cheapest is not always the best option as the rooms are small, and if you have kids, there’s no slide in the pool.
Below, I have outlined the pros and cons of these hotels’ club floor and lounge sections. When you have considered food costs and drink costs across the resort, it usually works out better value to book a club room (even though the upfront price is more) than booking a standard room at these resorts.
When you take all your expenses into consideration, food, drink, fast pass costs (your park entry ticket must be purchased separately), and the inconvenience and time wasted getting to and from the parks, it is often worth paying for a club room in a better hotel, because the cheaper options have less good food and more queues.
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1. Best Club Lounge: Loews Portofino Bay
All three Universal hotels, Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific, offer club level rooms that provide free food, drinks, and snacks throughout the day. The best is the club lounge at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal, followed by the Hard Rock and the Royal Pacific, which both come in second for different reasons.
Crucially, the rooms at Loews Portofino Bay are larger. Compared to the Royal Pacific, where the rooms are almost 120 square feet smaller, the Loews Portofino Bay rooms are generous at 335 square feet. They are the largest of the three hotels, with the Hard Rock coming in at the middle and the rooms at the Lowes Royal Pacific being the smallest.
Nestled along the picturesque bay at Universal Orlando Resort, Loews Portofino Bay recreates the charm and romance of the famed seaside village of Portofino, Italy, right down to the cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes.
This AAA Four Diamond Award-winning hotel features 750 guest rooms, including 45 spacious suites. Each room offers the epitome of European luxury and elegance with authentic Italian furnishings and marble accents. Of course, each guest room is also equipped with the latest amenities to combine the best of Old World hospitality with modern convenience. Hotel guests enjoy impeccable and attentive service, an opulent spa, three themed swimming pools, and exceptional dining, plus an exclusive package of theme park benefits, including:
Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens (valid theme park admission required).
Free Universal Express℠ Unlimited ride access to SKIP THE REGULAR LINES in both theme parks all day, a benefit worth up to $125 USD per person, per day (valid theme park admission required)…”
We really like this hotel. It is your best luxury hotel choice at Universal Orlando. It is also the most expensive, with the Hard Rock and the Royal Pacific coming in cheaper. All three hotels are on-site at Universal, and the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a leisurely 20-minute stroll to City Walk and the park entrances. The Portofino Bay pools are great. There are three, one is very peaceful, and another has a slide and daily activities with prizes. It’s not usually difficult to find a lounger around these pools, which is a blessing.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is probably the furthest of the three premium hotels from the parks. The landscaping around the whole Universal complex is fantastic, so the walk is delightful. If you can’t face walking, complimentary water taxis are also available.
At the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, there isn’t a specific club floor (unlike the Hard Rock and the Royal Pacific), so your room can be anywhere in the hotel, and you have to walk to the club lounge, which can be quite far away. The rooms at all the hotels aren’t noteworthy. You get what you pay for, so the ones at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel have the edge over the other two hotels. They are significantly larger and nicer with a double sink and larger bathroom (those at the Royal Pacific only have a single sink).
Expect all the usual amenities: flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, coffee maker, fridge, and a safe. The rooms at all three hotels are decent but not amazing. Staying here is all about the parks. The beds are comfortable, although, be warned, adjoining doors aren’t very well soundproofed at any of these three hotels.
The club at Portofino Bay offers a better quality of food than the food in the lounges at the other two hotels. Breakfast includes warm eggs and bacon or sausage, so it is not continental like the breakfast at the other hotels. Snacks also include vegetables and hummus,
Dinner usually includes a salad and then an entree with two sides. The food quality and quantity are excellent, as are the desserts, and their cookies are usually a hit with the kids. Crucially, there is plenty of room and plenty of seating and no queues out of the door at mealtimes like at the Hard Rock! You can also enjoy free beer, wine, spirits, and prosecco in the lounges, which makes a significant saving on your drinks bill.
The Portofino Bay is undoubtedly the best and most expensive hotel of the three hotels, but we recommend that you ask for a room near the club lounge to avoid a long walk.
It is worth mentioning that while you can choose these hotels for their convenience to Universal, they do not provide the level of luxury offered by the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, which we have reviewed separately and is our top choice, and the best hotel with a club lounge in Orlando.
2. Lowes Royal Pacific
This is the cheapest of the three Universal hotels and the second furthest when walking to the parks. The pool at the Royal Pacific has a fun boat water feature where the kids can play, but there’s no slide, which is a disadvantage. I do, however, like the tropical Royal Pacific theme.
Club rooms here are located on the 7th floor, which gives you access to the Royal club lounge. The lounge is attractive and has TVs in three areas showing kid’s shows. The Royal Club Lounge is larger than the club room at the Hard Rock but smaller than the Portofino.
There are free drinks throughout the day, and you can enjoy a continental breakfast, which is not particularly impressive, with dry cereal, fruit, yogurt, bagel, pastries, and bagels. The only warm dish is oatmeal. There is also apple juice, orange juice, and coffee to drink. The Royal Pacific also has an automatic pancake maker, which is pretty cool.
The afternoon bite includes packaged chips and granola bars, spicy crackers, and pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Royal Pacific’s dinner menu is rotated with a different meal every day of the week. Dinner includes a salad and a warm main entree, cheese, crackers, and vegetables, but the choice is limited, so you are stuck if you don’t like that evening’s theme. Themes include Caribbean night, an American night, a Mexican night, etc., with meaty options and strong sauces. You can also enjoy beer and wine with your meal. Desserts are small but delicious, and there is loads of choice.
The rooms at Lowes Royal Pacific have been recently refurbished. The bathroom has one sink. Rooms at both the Hard Rock and Portofino Bay have two sinks. They feel small, but being that this is the cheapest of the three hotels, this is to be expected.
3. Hard Rock Universal Orlando
The Hard Rock is closest to the entrance of Universal Orlando. The rooms are larger than Royal Pacific, and the pool has two hot tubs and a long slide. This slide is a major plus point and a reason to choose this hotel over the Lowes Royal Pacific.
The club lounge is on the seventh floor and is the smallest of the club lounges at the three hotels, which means that during dinner, there can be a queue stretching right out of the door! For this reason alone, this is the worst of the three Universal hotels for the club lounge.
But please bear in mind that although you have to queue, the food choice and quality are better than the Lowes Royal Pacific but worse than the Portofino, and the rooms are larger than those at the Royal Pacific.
There are free drinks throughout the day. You can enjoy continental breakfast and not particularly impressive (like the Royal Pacific, the only one with a hot breakfast is Portofino) with dry cereal, fruit, yogurt, bagels, doughnuts, pastries, and oatmeal. There is also apple juice, orange juice, and coffee to drink.
The afternoon bite offers bagged chips and cookies instead of snacks in a communal bowl like at the Royal Pacific, so you can grab a bunch of them and save them for later (shhh).
Therefore, the Hard Rock club lounge offers better food than the Royal Pacific, and the food has a vegetarian option, but it is a more busy lounge. Expect cheese and crackers, vegetable salad, and two entrees for your evening offering.
Plates are small at all three hotels, so it’s hard to stuff yourself, but it is easier to fill up at the Hard Rock and the Portofino than at the Pacific because of the variety of food and, at the Portofino, the quality of the food.
When factoring in the price of staying at one of these three hotels: Royal Pacific, Portofino Bay, or Hard Rock, is that free express passes (which allow one to bypass long lines) are included. The value of the express passes to a family of four per day can be up to around $300 USD. So even a $500 USD nightly room rate looks like a great deal. On a busy day, these passes turn a two-hour line into a twenty-minute line.
Portofino Bay wins hands down for us not only for the lounge but also for the pools and the slides and pool activities. If you stay at the club level of any of these hotels, you can enjoy breakfast in the lounge before you head over to your first park for early admission and then return to the hotel in the evening to eat out on the varied hors d’oeuvres accompanied by beer, wine, and soda and a sweet dessert. There’s usually enough food to fill you up, so you and your family don’t need to eat or drink out. Water bottles are available upon request at these lounges for taking to the parks, along with granola bars. However, the quality and quantity of each of these amenities do vary by hotel.
If you’re staying at Universal Hotels, you need to buy Park tickets. Fastpass tickets are included, but you still need to pay for the park entrance. We advise guests to check-in to the hotel as early as possible and any time after 6:00 am on your check-in day. You will immediately be given a hotel key card that serves as your Universal Express Unlimited throughout your stay (your park entry ticket must be purchased separately). The hotel will hold your bags and issue you a room when ready. However, by checking in early, you will have access to all the Universal Express Unlimited privileges, preferred restaurant seating, pool access, etc., from as early as 6:00 am.
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