Loews Portofino Bay Hotel: Universal Studios Orlandoby Jane Price, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 07-22-2010
I had wanted to take my eldest granddaughter to Universal Studios, as she is now old enough to appreciate the two parks there. When a Harry Potter Package was offered a few months ago, I jumped at the chance for the two of us to go. Included in the package was three nights at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Having stayed at other Loews resorts I knew we would be in for a treat. We were not disappointed.
Kiddie Pool at Portofino Bay
Kiddie Pool at Portofino Bay
The hotel is close to both parks, but feels far removed from them, more so than any Disney hotel in which we have stayed. Parking is covered and close by, not interfering with the hotel ambiance in any way. We were booked for a garden view room, but were given an upgrade to a deluxe villa room overlooking the quiet pool.
The room was spacious with a HUGE bathroom with double marble sinks, separate shower and bathtub and 2 comfy cotton robes hanging on the door. A side cabinet by the door had a coffee maker with a nice selection of Emeril Coffee packs and a locked honor bar, which we never used. All that was missing was a mini-fridge.
I have been to Italy, and this hotel does a lovely re-creation of it, just cleaner, a lot less people in the piazzas, and the motor bikes have all their parts intact and are not running red lights! The extensive use of trompe l’oeil frescoes throughout the hotel’s interiors and exteriors adds to feeling of being in real Italy. The expansive bay area is a very good re-creation of the real Portofino Bay, and offers up a musical event most evenings at sundown. We caught the end of one upon our return from the park via water taxi.
The hotel has seven restaurants and bars to choose from, all with Italian-style offerings. Unfortunately, we did not have time to try one. Maybe next time? We did poke around some of the shops while waiting for the water taxi, and they had the usual assortment of t-shirts, clothes, sundries, and toys.
The three ways to get to City Walk and the theme parks are water taxi, bicycle rickshaws, and walking. The water taxi is the most popular way, as it is cool and comfortable, with beautiful gardens along the water. It reminded me of the ferries at Port Orleans Resort. The bicycle rickshaws seat two and are peddled by buff guys who will take you over to City Walk for tips only. This was the fastest way to get around, and I tipped $4.00/person. Walking is for the physically fit, as it is close to one mile each way, although it is a pleasant walk by the water, through the gardens. After walking most of the day in the heat in the parks, we opted for the water taxi, which runs every 15-20 minutes.
There are three pools at the hotel. We went to two of them as they were close to our room, the quiet, villa pool appeals to adults sans children, and the lively beach pool suits families. Both places offered us large, fluffy towels and complimentary iced water with citrus slices, and all lounge chairs had thick padding in both sun and shade. The beach pool had a large, zero-entry lagoon. I sat and had a Bailey’s Irish Crème milkshake where the lagoon connects to a large swimming area complete with waterslide, waterfalls and grotto. There was a large kiddie pool/play area and a large spa with a HOT waterfall. The theme here rivaled any of the Disney hotel pools, including my favorite, the Beach Club.
The staff was always friendly and helpful, serving with a smile. The only caveat here is the cost of parking, $15/day for self parking and even more for valet. However the hotel was so wonderfully themed and the service so good, I am sure we will return again.
Pool at Portofino Bay
Pool at Portofino Bay
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I loved hearing about the Portofino in Orlando. The mile walk to Universal was very informative. Thank you for writing!
My sons and I just returned from our stay at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios. I purchased an annual pass just for myself, which allowed me a significant discount on the room rate, discounts on park tickets for my kids, and a 10% discount on food and souvenir purchases.
We stayed in a standard garden view room with two queen beds, and the room was absolutely lovely. It was spacious, richly decorated, and comfortable.
Contrary to the article, there was a mini-fridge as part of the honor bar. All we did was move over the array of juice boxes ($5.00 each) and expensive waters ($4-$7 each) and there was plenty of room for our bottled water and snacks from home. A good tip for parents-- show your children the price list of the snacks (M&M's- $8.00, for ex.) and make sure that they understand that anything they consume comes out of their souvenir money. Worked like a charm!
Unlike the Disney hotels, the pools close earlier at the Portofino Bay. The Beach Pool (waterslide, sand pool) closed by 10:00pm each night, and the Hillside Pool was closed by 11:00pm. This was a disappointment to my boys who were used to coming back from the Magic Kingdom and taking a quick dip before bed.
If you do stay at the Portofino Bay, you will not be disappointed by the staff who were all kind, courteous and very eager to assist. Make sure you stop by the Gelateria by Sal's Market Deli-- I've never tasted better sorbets and ice creams. I'm still dreaming about the fresh red raspberry sorbet! Be sure to ask for tastes of the different flavors before ordering-- they are happy to offer samples.
It was truly worth staying at the Portofino Bay to "express pass" all of the lines at both Universal Parks and to see the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" an hour earlier than the public. We walked right onto the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff attractions on two different days, just by being in line for the boat/shuttle by 7:15am. As we were leaving the "Wizarding World" at 9am, the line just to enter that area of the park was 2 hours long. This didn't include the wait for the attractions.
One morning, we were lucky enough to catch a bicycle rickshaw over to the parks. The seat comfortably held myself and my two sons (ages 8 and 11). The driver was very courteous and somehow managed to carry on a conversation with us while pedaling up hill and around other tourists. I tipped him $10.00 for all three of us.
All of us are looking forward to returning to the Portofino Bay next year for a part of our Disney Vacation. My younger son loved building sand castles pool-side, my older son went crazy over the chocolate chip cookies in the deli, and me? I just loved the gorgeous Italian atmospehere! Ciao!
Thank you for the wonderfully written article. You packed a lot of information into it and I'm sure there was so much more you wanted to share. Portofino Bay Hotel is at the top of my list for accommodations now for that next visit to the Universal parks. I definitely would want to stay on site because I would definitely want the express pass perk. I will do a lot to avoid waiting in a long line.
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Updated 07-22-2010 - Article #502
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