Last week our family headed south to Orlando - but instead of staying our usual week at Disney + a few days at Universal Studios Orlando, we flipped our vacation upside-down and stayed nearly a week at Universal's premier resort, Loew's Portifino Bay.
Because we were traveling with extended family (two of which are older and a slower pace was a must), we decided upon Portifino Bay Hotel for its quiet and relaxing vibe. And I'm glad to say we were not disappointed!
A Respite from the Chaos
Inspired by Venice, this hotel beckons those who love the seaside. You truly feel transported to Italy and the theming is consistent throughout the interior and exterior portions of the resort. My favorite spot on the large hotel property is the waterside "Harbor" piazza; with quaint cafe seating with views of the gondolas floating in the blue waters, it's a paradise minutes from the theme park.
A common pitfall I find my clients falling into is wanting to "do it all" while on vacation but I challenge you to find a peaceful place to escape to after the rush of the parks - without it, you'll be crashing early and not getting the restful getaway you desperately need and deserve. Portifino Bay is an excellent choice, situated near enough to the action and attractions of Universal Orlando, but far enough away that you'll forget you're on a theme park property.
We stayed in a traditional two-queen room. The room was spacious and clean, with simple, sophisticated furniture pieces. The beds were incredibly comfortable, I was not the only one in my party raving about the excellent sleep they were getting.
Three relaxing pools line the property, one of which is a sandy "beach" pool and building sandcastles poolside was a definite highlight for my kids. The other two pools were quieter and I didn't get a chance to use them as I was there with four children, but they looked very tranquil.
As this is a large property, the rooms, pools, and restaurants are all spread out and it does take some walking to get to and from the different areas of the resort. While I felt that the wide spaces attributed to the peaceful atmosphere of the resort, I can see it becoming cumbersome to those who are not prepared to walk distances. My in-laws both used electric scooters during our stay and no issues navigating the resort.
A make-it-or-break-it feature of each hotel I personally stay at is transportation. Nobody wants to be sitting around waiting for a boat, bus, or any other form of transportation for 30+ minutes. Luckily, Portifino Bay had FANTASTIC transportation, mainly via the water taxi located just beyond the harbor area. Now I know this is largely due to the positioning of the hotels to the parks, and the easy-to-access waterway that heads right to the central Universal theme park hub, but water transportation at Universal's premier resorts is just SO GOOD.
You know I love Disney, but Disney just cannot compare to the speed and convenience of these water taxis. I don't think we ever waited more than 10 minutes to board a boat, and once onboard, it was only a short 5-10 relaxing boat ride. My mother-in-law even commented on what an excellent way to start the day it was.
The old saying, "You get what you pay for," is true - when staying at a Universal premier resort, you will pay more than if staying at other onsite or offsite resorts, but you'll also receive Universal bonuses which in my opinion make the upgrades worth it - you are on vacation, after all. Make it easy to enjoy.
Incredibly convenient features about Loew's Portifino Bay include:
Express Pass - Express Pass is included when you stay at any Universal premier category hotel. With this pass, you get to skip the regular lines at most of your favorite rides and attractions. So you can fit way more fun into your day.
Water Taxi Transportation - As I said above, our family found the water taxis to be an efficient, fun, and relaxing way to get to and from the theme park areas. Only the premier hotels (and Saphire Falls) have the water taxi option. All other Universal hotels rely on bus transportation.
Club Level Options - As an ultra-convenience option, we chose to include the Club Lounge in our package. This is only an option at premier resorts, and Portifino Bay includes extra food and beverage offerings beyond what is offered at the other premier hotels. Imagine having a large lounge with breakfast, snacks, drinks (yes - wine and beer, too), and a nightly meal waiting for you.
You don't have to eat there for every meal (we didn't) but I'll tell you - with four kids it was so nice to have a space to take them where a fresh breakfast was prepared and coffee was ready to go - at no additional cost. Cartoons were playing quietly for the kids and the adults could enjoy breakfast in peace. Breakfast included eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and toast each day. Afternoon snacks of cookies, chips, pretzels, and soft drinks were available. Then, from 5-8ish, we enjoyed a light dinner that varied each day. Tacos, beef stew, Chinese fare, and pulled pork were all served. Each night cheeses and desserts were also available. And of course, adult beverages - four varieties of wine and several types of beer were served, with no limit during the evening hours. It was a wonderful way to unwind after a long day out and about.
Loew's Portifino Bay Hotel: is it right for you?
I loved our stay at Portifino Bay, and I will happily recommend it to my travel clients.
I think you'll enjoy a stay at Portifino Bay Hotel if you:
want a quiet escape from the parks and don't mind being off the beaten path
appreciate upscale hotel accommodations. Portifino Bay is a 4-star hotel.
desire a more 'all-inclusive' feeling vacation
want to be pampered (there's a spa on the property!)
plan to spend downtime enjoying pools, lounges, and the resort atmosphere
don't want to wait in lines at the parks (save time and stress!) - Express Pass when purchased by itself starts at $89 per day, per person!
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