I recently enjoyed a week of fun in the sun at Orlando’s Universal Studios Resort, retracing my childhood steps and exploring all 3 of Universal’s parks. My flights and hotel were booked through TUI, who are specialists in holidays to Florida. Our base for the week was the luxurious Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, which is one of 7 official Universal Orlando Resort Hotels. Checking in to one of these hotels means you’re staying right in the heart of the Universal action, with all the parks and City Walk in walking distance. If you’re thinking of booking a stay at Loews Portofino Bay, this review will share exactly what to expect from this Italian-themed hotel.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Review
The Loews Portfolio Bay Hotel in a Nutshell
Loews Portofino Bay has been inspired by the bucket-list Italian town of Portofino on the Amalfi Coast. Its intricate and thoughtful design replicates traditional Italian architecture as well as the Portofino’s iconic colourful houses and waterfront area. Although the hotel has 750 rooms and suites, it never felt crowded or busy. The clever design meant that there are no high-rise blocks (a typical giveaway of any big hotel). I loved how the consistent Italian theme ran throughout the hotel and provided a peaceful escape at the end of a busy day in the hectic parks. Further hotel facilities also include three outdoor pools (one for families and one for adults-only), 5 restaurants, as well as the Mandala Spa.
A Glittering Waterfront
The waterfront area is the heart of this property, with a scattering of al fresco restaurants, bars and shops. Every evening guests can catch a live Opera performance on one of the waterfront balconies, further adding to the Italian charm. Complimentary water-taxis also depart from the waterfront area every 15 minutes, taking guests towards City Walk via the pretty canal-way. At around dusk, the waterfront lights up a beautiful golden hue and the reflection of the colourful houses on the water looks like a painting.
Benefits of Staying in an official Universal Orlando Resort Hotel
Guests at all official Universal Orlando Resort Hotels (including the Loews Portofino Bay) are rewarded with some amazing benefits for visiting the parks. These include;
- A Universal Express Unlimited™ for every guest when they visit the parks (worth $99.99 per day). This means the whole family will be able to skip the queues for all rides in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
- Early-bird access to the parks 1 hour before the official opening times
- Complimentary water-taxi rides to other hotels and City Walk (the gateway to all of the parks)
- Complimentary shuttle buses to other hotels and Volcano Bay
- City Walk and the gates to Universal Studios is an easy 10 minute walk away
We made use of all of these amazing benefits during our stay and they really came together to enhance our Universal Orlando resort experience. Skipping the queues felt like such a privilege and meant we wasted less time waiting around. I also loved catching the water-taxi every morning and avoiding the busy morning traffic and the walk from the car parks.
After a hectic hire-car drive from Sanford Airport, we couldn’t wait to check in and chill out at Loews Portofino Bay. We were so pleased to arrive and find that parking our hire-car in the hotel’s onsite underground parking was very easy. The automatic doors of the hotel’s main entrance opened, and we were immediately enveloped in cool, elegant surroundings (which also smelt amazing).
After a speedy check in, a bell-boy offered loaded up our luggage on a trolley and offered to show us the way to our room. As we walked across the waterfront towards our room, he gave us the lowdown of everything we passed by. When we arrived in our room, he also showed us around and told us about all the facilities within the room. It was everything that a check-in experience should be at a luxury hotel and the bar for service was immediately set high. I folded into a heap on the plush kingsize bed and felt myself begin to immediately relax.
An Elegant Room with Waterfront Views
Our beautiful, spacious room was definitely one of my favourite things about our stay at Loews Portofino Bay. It felt like a safe haven and a sanctuary away from the madness of the parks. The Italian design also featured within the room, with plush furnishings, elaborate headboards and decadent lighting.
The most impressive part was the large Venetian-style balcony overlooking the hotel’s waterfront and canal. Being so close to the glittering water made it feel even more relaxing. Our room was serviced twice a day, so it always felt fresh and clean. We also received a welcome hamper with a hand-written card from management which was such a thoughtful and much-appreciated touch.
We could see when the water-taxis we’re approaching from our balcony, so were able to time our departures to perfection every morning.
A Blissful Adults-Only Pool
When we weren't busy in the Universal Parks, chances are you’d find us relaxing around the gorgeous adult-only pool. As expectant parents, it won’t be long before we’ll need to use the family pools on holiday, so we wanted to make the most of the tranquil vibes of the adult pool. With chic striped umbrellas and plush sun-loungers, the Villa Pool oozes style. It’s drenched with sunshine for most of the day and you can order food and drink from the attentive poolside staff. They sometimes circulate the pool with cold towels and cocktail samples, so always keep an eye out.
Its also worth mentioning that there is a fantastic family pool at the Loews Portofino Bay. It has a fun atmosphere with a slide, a lazy river, poolside games and Splendido poolside bar and restaurant. Families could easily spend a day here if you were planning to have any ‘down days’ away from the parks. The hotel is very well catered to children, and it’s great that they have designated pool areas specifically for families and adults. There is also a third Hillside outdoor pool which is a quiet and relaxing option for kids and adults.
Authentic Italian Food
As Loews Portofino Bay is an Italian-inspired hotel, I had high hopes that their Italian food would be equally as authentic as its ambience. During our stay we had two evening meals within the hotel complex, at Mama Della’s and Bice Ristorante. On the other evenings we ventured out to City Walk. Mama Della’s is one of the resort’s most popular restaurants (reservations recommended), and serves up rustic and authentic Italian food. There is both indoor and outdoor seating on the beautiful waterfront piazza, which becomes very atmospheric by night. I opted for a classic Alfredo tagliatelle with pancetta which was incredibly delicious. The pasta was rich and freshly-made and the service was superb.
On our second night of dining at the hotel we ate at Bice Ristorante, a fine-dining Italian experience on a first-floor space above the waterfront. The ballroom-like room was incredibly elegant and the service was faultless. Following the chef’s detailed recommendations, I opted for braised beef tortellini dish which was perfectly cooked and full of flavour. Dining at both restaurants was a real treat and we loved having these options right on our doorstep. Find out more about Food and Drink at Loews Portofino Bay.
Our stay at Loews Portofino Bay hugely enhanced our overall experience at Universal Orlando Resort. We loved staying in total luxury, and in such close proximity to all the parks. Our mornings were stress-free before visiting the parks, as all we had to do was hop on a quick water-taxi and we were right in the thick of it. No driving, and no huge car parks. This hotel is luxurious in all senses; service, facilities, dining and setting. It caters very well for families and young children, but also has an incredibly romantic and refined atmosphere for adults and couples (like us). You can make the resort hotel you want it to be. If you have the budget to enjoy this wonderful hotel, the Loews Portofino Bay is definitely worth considering for your holiday to Universal Orlando Resort.
Visit TUI’s dedicated advice page for more information about holidays to Universal Orlando Resort
What do you think of the Loews Portofino Bay in Orlando? Is this the type of hotel you’d love to stay, or have you already visited? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave comments and further questions in the box below. Jess x
This sponsored blog post has been created in collaboration with TUI UK and Universal Studios Orlando. All photography and all words are my own.