Recently, I stayed two nights at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel during my visit to Universal Studios. The seasonal rate is not inexpensive at a little over $400/night during my visit (with 3 guests). During some months, the rate can go down to the low $300s. While the rates are more expensive, there are some perks you get for staying on-site that you can’t get from an off-site property.
1. Impeccable Service
Most on-site hotels at the parks pride themselves on providing excellent guest experiences, and it showed. We were warmly greeted when we arrive with our rented vehicle and luggage in tow. The check-in process went smoothly and each guest was given a personalized room card, which doubled as the Unlimited Express Pass. The bellhop service staff escorted us to our room and gave us a mini-tour of the property since our room is located in another nearby building.
2. Convenient Proximity to the Parks
After visiting 2 parks in one day, we were tired. We left the Island of Adventures in the late afternoon and headed back to the hotel to get some rest. If we weren’t staying on-site, we likely won’t return to the park to watch the Hogwarts Castle’s Light Show after dusk. We caught the show at around 9PM. When we were done, we simply took the complimentary ferry ride back to our hotel.
3. Complimentary Water Taxi (Ferry)
The complimentary water taxi takes you right into the heart of CityWalk in about 8-10 minutes. The wait for a ferry never seemed long (every 15 minutes), and it is a very relaxing ride. The Hard Rock Hotel is closest to CityWalk, a 5 minutes walk. The Portofino Bay Hotel is about a 15 minutes walk.
4. Extra Hour of Park Access
If you are a guest at any of the on-site hotels at Universal Studios, you get an extra hour:
“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)”
The extra hour is convenient before crowds descend on the park. During our visit, Universal Studio opened at 9am. We got to the park at 8:15AM. There were not many lines at that hour, and we easily made it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as our first stop.
5. Unlimited Universal Express Pass
I wrote about the Unlimited Express Pass, which can be quite costly if purchased separately. If you are a guest at one of these three on-site resorts, your room rate includes a free Universal Express Unlimited pass.
This Express pass is worth it if you hate long wait, especially during the peak season. The math might actually work out to stay at an on-site property than to buy the pass separately.
6. Comfortable Room
The room is clean and comfortable, and the bathroom is way larger than I expected. We asked for a extra bed, and check-in clerk also waived the fee for us.
7. A Taste of Portofino, Italy
I enjoyed themed properties, and I felt like I got a little taste of Portofino, Italy. Even if you’ve never seen photos of Portofino before your visit, you won’t miss seeing pictures of the real Portofino Bay. They are prominently displayed as part of picture/room decor.
Also, the hotel resort never felt crowded. In fact, it was so quiet at times that I actually wondered, “Where is everyone?”, especially since I imagined the real Portofino Bay to be bustling with people and activities. Still, I enjoyed the quietness after a day of non-stop activities at the parks. In fact, it is one of the reasons I chose to book Portofino Bay Hotel over the Hard Rock Hotel.
Which hotel you choose is really a matter of personal preference (and budget), but you can’t really go wrong with any of the on-site hotels.
Are you planning a visit to Universal Studios? Where are you planning to stay?