Universal Orlando Day 3

Suzanne Barney on 21 June 2017
Today was spent looking around all of the hotels in Universal. The main benefit of staying on site is that you can get into the park at 8am an hour earlier than non residents.

People staying at Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel or Portofino get upgraded to the express pass. This is worth $99 per person per day so if you do the maths (and don't like queuing) then it has real benefits.

We were based at Sapphire Falls which is Caribbean inspired and is the newest of all the onsite hotels. The pool is really impressive - 16000sqft and it also stays opens late at night, something I found this fascinating to still see people in the pool so late. The only time the pool closes is when it rains. The standard rooms are the normal 2 double beds. I need to mention the breakfasts as well as they were excellent - and dare I say healthy - at the Amatista Cook House. There is a boat to take you to the parks apart from Volcano Bay which you can access through Cabana Bay or a boat to the parks, or alternatively you can walk.

The hotel next door is Cabana Bay which is retro 1950's/1960's themed. It's a lot bigger than Sapphire Falls, adjoined to Volcano Bay Park. They have a bowling alley, lazy river, gym, and two pools including one with a waterslide, and even its own beach. The Volcano Bay view rooms are impressive and also the suites for larger families. There is a lot going on here with food courts and waterslides - impressed us as the price is quite low to stay here compared to the other onsite hotels.

Royal Pacific is south seas themed and is one of the more reasonable hotels if you want the express passes. This is another hotel you can get to Universal by boat transfer and has more of a south seas feel. This has a spa, plus a lagoon style pool with beach and also a supervised kids camp so if parents want to go out on their own it's $15 per hour. This to me had a beach resort feel to it and was a bit more laid back

Portofino Bay could be in Vegas - it is very impressive they have basically copied Portofino so the resort looks like the village and is really tastefully done. The foyer is really impressive with art works and antiques dotted about. It is really peaceful and classy with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes. There are 3 pools to choose from - including one adult only. There are even a couple of vespas parked in front of the foyer to give it that Italian feel.

Hard Rock Hotel is the smallest of all the onsite hotels, and the vibe at this hotel is great with live music around the pool. Rock memorabilia is dotted around the foyer, and there is even an underwater stereo sound system. There are jacuzzis, and a 260ft waterslide. It is lively but laid back with some good eateries and the closest hotel to the parks.