Which is the best hotel at Universal Studios, Florida, in Orlando? Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific? Portofino Bay is the most expensive. The Royal Pacific comes in the cheapest, but the cheapest is not always the best option as the rooms are small, and if you have kids, there is no slide in the pool.
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Below I have outlined the pros and cons of each hotel, but I have also focused on the hotel’s club floor and lounge sections. When you have considered food and drink costs across the resort, it usually works out better 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). The inconvenience and time wasted getting to and from the parks, a $400 USD or $500 USD/night club room might be less expensive than a $200 USD/night standard hotel outside the park, particularly if you have one, two, or three kids.
1. Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific: Club Lounge
These three Universal hotels offer Club Level Rooms, free food, drinks, and snacks throughout the day. These lounges are open from approximately 7:00 am – 9:30 pm and offer free coffee, teas, and soft drinks, continental breakfast, afternoon snacks, hot & cold hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beer and wine plus “Sweets Hour” each night.
Our top choice is the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal, followed by the Hard Rock and the Royal Pacific, which both come in second for different reasons.
If you can stretch to it, stay on the club level of any of these hotels. You can enjoy breakfast in the lounge before heading 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, soda, and a sweet dessert. There is 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, along with granola bars for taking to the parks. However, the quality and quantity of each of these amenities vary by hotel.
The club at Portofino Bay has 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 always includes a salad and then an entree with two sides. The food quality and quantity is 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 to your drinks bill.
The Portofino Bay is undoubtedly the best and most expensive hotel of the three hotels but ask for a room near the club lounge to avoid a long walk.
By booking via our luxury travel concierge and you get the following free benefits at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (at the time of writing):
- Upgrade on arrival (subject to availability, up to Deluxe room category)
- Continental breakfast daily served in the restaurant for up to two in-room guests
- One lunch for two at any Loews Portofino Bay Hotel restaurant (excluding Bice Ristorante) during your stay, excluding alcohol, taxes, and gratuities. Amenity can only be redeemed at a Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Operated restaurant. Not exchangeable for a Credit. Room Service does not apply)
- 20% discount at the Mandara Spa for service of $100 USD or more
- Early check-in / late check-out (subject to availability)
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
You can choose these hotels for their convenience to Universal. They do not have 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. Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific: Universal Advantage
Whichever Universal Hotel you stay at, 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). They will hold your bags and issue you a room when it is 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.
3. Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific: Which Is Best?
Celebrate la dolce vita, the good life, at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. This is the best hotel of these 3 hotel options. With larger rooms, larger bathrooms, better Club Lounge and arguably the best pools.
Nestled along the picturesque bay at Universal Orlando Resort, this luxurious hotel 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 all 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, exceptional dining, and an exclusive package of theme park benefits.
Guests of Universal Orlando On-site Hotels enjoy:
- Early Park Admission† to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and select attractions at Volcano Bay™ water theme park, one hour before the theme parks open (valid theme park admission required)
- Complimentary water taxis or shuttle buses that take you directly to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and CityWalk™
- Resort-wide charging privileges with your room key card
- Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to your hotel
- Complimentary access to select live entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk™ for the length of stay
- Start your day with a wake-up call from one of your favorite Universal Orlando characters
- Golf Universal Orlando™ program offers an exclusive program for golfers that enables guests to take to the links during their stay. You can reserve a perfect tee time, arrange for complimentary transportation to and from select courses, and more
Universal Orlando character appearances with some of your favorite theme park characters
Guests of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel®, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort enjoy:
- Free Universal Express Unlimited™ ride access^ to SKIP THE REGULAR LINES in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure—a benefit worth up to $129 USD per person, per day^^ (valid theme park admission required. Available at select on-site hotels)
- Priority seating at select restaurants throughout both theme parks and enjoy first available seating at select Universal Orlando and Universal CityWalk™ restaurants
We really like Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. It is the 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 an easy 20-minute stroll to City Walk and the park entrances.
4. Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific: Best Pool
The Portofino Bay pools are great. There are three, one is very peaceful, and another has a slide and daily activities with prizes. It is not usually difficult to find a lounger around these pools either, which is a blessing as the pools at the other two hotels can be busier.
5. Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific: Best Location
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is probably the furthest of the these 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.
6. Loews Portofino Bay vs. Hard Rock vs. Royal Pacific: Best Room
Crucially, the rooms at the Loews Portofino Bay are 335 square feet and are the largest of the three hotels, with the Hard Rock coming in at the middle. The rooms at the Lowes Royal Pacific are almost 120 square feet smaller.
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 on the other two hotels being 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. That said, the beds are comfortable, although, be warned, adjoining doors aren’t very well soundproofed at any of these three hotels.
7. Lowes Royal Pacific: The Royal Club Lounge
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 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 kids’ 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 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 along with cheese and crackers and vegetables, but the choice is limited, so you are stuck if you don’t like that evening’s theme. Themes include a 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.
8. Hard Rock Universal Orlando: Rock Royalty Lounge
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 there can be a queue stretching right out of the door during dinner! 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 is greater 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 breakfast that is continental 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, 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, vegetables 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 the Pacific because of the variety of food and, at the Portofino, the quality of the food.
Also worth noting, 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 guests to bypass long lines) which are included, which immediately takes the room rate down. 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 when it actually comes in closer to $200 USD. These passes turn a two-hour line into a twenty-minute line on a busy day.
Portofino Bay wins hands down for us not only for the lounge but also for the pools and the slides and pool activities.
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