When it comes to planning your vacation, deciding where you are going to stay is really important. In October, I went to Florida for two weeks and stayed onsite at Universal Orlando in the Hard Rock Hotel. I’ve stayed onsite at Universal before in the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. In this post I’m going to tell you why staying onsite at Universal is highly recommended.
First off is deciding which resort at Universal you want to stay at. Universal now has 5 onsite hotels – Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and the newly opened Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. All are themed differently and have different price ranges.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls are probably the cheapest onsite hotels at the resort. While Royal Pacific, Hard Rock and Portofino Bay are more expensive. Below is a price comparison chart taken from the official Universal website, of the resorts in 2016.
Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls are cheaper than the others, but depending on what you want to do with your vacation, they might work out more expensive in the long run. If you are staying a week or two at Universal and want to just do the theme parks then I recommend staying at the more expensive Royal Pacific, Hard Rock or Portofino Bay, and for good reason too.
For guests staying at the three more expensive resorts, Universal offers free Express Unlimited Passes for the duration of your stay. This is probably the best theme park perk in the world. You basically get to jump the regular line on many rides in the Universal parks as many times, as you like in a day. This perk is worth $84 per day per person. You do the math. If you are spending a week in Universal, that would be $588 each. Me and my dad stayed at Hard Rock for two weeks so that would have worked out $2352 if we both bought two Unlimited Express passes for two weeks. So staying at Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls doesn’t really save you any money. And don’t try saying, having Express doesn’t matter, we will just queue. I can’t see anyone happily queueing 45 minutes to an hour for one ride if they can avoid it. You would end up paying for Express.
Priority seating for restaurants is only available at Hard Rock, Royal Pacific and Portofino Bay too. So if you went to a restaurant like Hard Rock Cafe and it was very busy, you could jump the wait by staying at the three resorts. The other two resorts don’t get this benefit.
Now there are benefits that guests of all 5 resorts can enjoy. These are:
- Early park admission to either Universal Studios or Islands Of Adventure (Universal chooses the park on the day) one hour before the general public get in. This does include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter too.
- Resort wide charging privileges with your room key.
- Free delivery of any merchandise you buy around the resort to your room
- Golf Universal Orlando programme
- Free transport to and from the parks. From Cabana Bay there is a bus that takes you there. From all other resorts there is bus and water taxi available
I really enjoyed staying on site at Universal. It’s great for theme park fans like me and the free Unlimited Express is fantastic for guests staying at select hotels. It also means you can go to the parks early, come back in the afternoon for a rest and go back in later. This is a really good idea, especially in the Florida heat.