If you are planning a Universal Orlando vacation you really should take a look at the Loews Portofino Hotel Resort.
I have now stayed at almost all of the Universal Orlando Onsite Hotels, including all Club Levels, multiple times.
On my most recent visit, I stayed in Sapphire Falls, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Club Level.
All of the Universal Orlando Hotels have a lot to offer, but my favorite place to stay is Portofino Bay Club Level.
Let’s look first at an overview of why staying at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel is a great option if you are visiting the parks.
Then I will share my experience of staying in Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Club Level.
Universal Orlando Resort Hotel Benefits
There are many benefits to staying in one of the eight Universal Orlando Hotels.
- Early Park Admission
- Universal Transportation by Boat or Bus from the hotel to the parks
- Complimentary package delivery to your room
- Purchases can be charged to your room by using your resort room key
- Complimentary scheduled transportation to SeaWorld and Aquatica
- You can use any of the pools of the Universal Orlando Resort Hotels, except Endless Summer Surfside and Dockside.
Early Park admission is a huge advantage.
There are limited attractions open with Early Park admission, but the ones that are included make a huge difference to your park experience.
Usually, in Islands of Adventure, these rides are open for Early Entry:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Jurassic World VelociCoaster
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
For Volcano Bay, these attractions are usually open for Early Entry:
- Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
- Honu of the Honu ika Moana
- ika Moana of the Honu ika Moana
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Waturi Wave Pool
As Universal Portofino Bay is a Premier Hotel, you also get an incredibly valuable extra benefit.
Universal Express Pass.
Essentially, it is a way to spend less time in line so that you can experience more of the attractions in Universal Orlando.
Instead of waiting in the usual standby line, you are able to use the Universal Express Entrance.
It is a huge time saver.
And you get an Express Pass included with any of the Premier Universal Orlando Hotels. This includes Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific.
Considering that Express Pass can cost anything upwards of $88 per person per day, and is often a considerable amount more than that, you can see how staying in a Premier Hotel at Universal Orlando might be a good choice.
A great bonus is that you can use your Express Pass for your arrival and departure day.
But why stay in the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel?
Portofino Bay Hotel Location
The Portofino Hotel is incredibly convenient for access to the Universal Parks and City Walk.
You can walk to Universal Orlando within about 15 minutes, and Islands of Adventure within 20 minutes. The path is pleasantly landscaped so it is a nice stroll to the parks.
However, as you are probably going to be spending most of your day walking around the parks, you might want to save your energy!
Getting to Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando is easy if you use the boat transportation which will take you straight to City Walk, which is ideally located between the two theme parks.
The boat takes less than 7 minutes and they run very regularly. In all the times I have stayed at Portofino I have never had a long wait for a boat.
Even getting back to the hotel at a busy time when the parks close, the wait is usually only 15 minutes.
The Universal Boat Transportation is incredibly efficient and easy.
The only time it isn’t is when there are thunderstorms – obviously quite a frequent event in Orlando. The boats have to stop running at this time, for safety reasons.
If this is an extended delay you can walk back to the hotel, or take one of the buses.
This really is the only time when you would use the bus transportation from Portofino Bay to Universal Orlando or Islands of Adventure.
Usually, the boat just makes a lot more sense.
To get to Volcano Bay from Portofino Bay there is a bus.
The bus stop is at the front of the hotel and buses run regularly. I have rarely experienced a wait longer than 15 minutes for a bus.
We were arriving from our stay at Universal Sapphire Falls Resort.
During this trip, we stayed at three Universal Orlando Hotels (the things I do for research).
We had left our luggage with Luggage Services at Sapphire Falls and were told that they would be transferred to Portofino no earlier than 4 p.m. This was fine and easier than bringing everything with us on the boats to transfer hotels.
We arrived at around 9 a.m. as I wanted to get our Express Passes and also to get breakfast in the Portofino Club Lounge
I thought that I had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the Lounge, but the line at the check-in desk really put a stop to that.
There were probably only around 5 or 6 guests in front of me but the process took a ridiculous amount of time to even get to the front of the line.
The check-in process took 45 minutes.
I have experienced delays at the Portofino before. The check-in desk just doesn’t seem to be staffed with enough people.
Once I did get to the front of the line the front desk agent was friendly and helpful. I told him that I was trying to get to the Concierge Lounge for breakfast and he did his best to speed up the process.
I got my keys with the Express Pass and the keys to the Lounge.
Our room was not ready but the agent promised I would receive a text as soon as it was.
Rooms at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
There are 750 rooms in
My first impression was just how big this room is.
At 490 square feet, these Portofino Club Rooms have a very generous amount of space.
The Club rooms offer even more space than the standard rooms which are 450 square feet.
Our room is designed to comfortably sleep four guests, with two Queen beds.
There is also space for a rollaway, for a fee, if you want to add a 5th person.
King rooms are also available.
This is your view as you walk into the room.
To the left of the door is a reasonable-sized closet with a safe.
On the right is the large bathroom with a very nice shower, but no bathtub.
I remember the days when there was a rather strange design with a shuttered window that opened out from the bathroom to the bedroom. Fortunately, that is no longer the design here!
There is a nice-sized desk and also a large dresser with a television.
There is a lack of USB’s but there are power points by the bed and also on the desk.
We definitely managed to avoid the Fiji Water which was priced at $7.50 per bottle.
There is a small refrigerator in the dresser.
The Keurig coffee maker was kept well-stocked with supplies and was nice to have, although we rarely used it as we had access to the Club Lounge.
We had a pool view room. The location was great for the pool as we were located just between the Beach Pool and the Villa Pool.
The view of the Beach Pool was nice, but partly blocked by trees.
The room was very convenient for the pool, and a 5-minute walk from the boat dock.
We visited when the outdoor temperatures were in the mid-90s, so we worked out how to walk everywhere inside and only spend the minimum amount of time outside!
There is no set Concierge floor as there is in many hotels. So your room can be located a long way away from the Club Lounge.
It took us around 5 minutes to walk to the Lounge. If you want to be closer then make sure that you ask at the check-in desk.
We found this location was great because we really could not have been closer to the pools, and this was a good trade-off for being further away from the Lounge.
The Portofino Club Lounge
The lounge is easily accessible from the main lobby area. You will have a separate key card for the Lounge area for access to the front door.
I have stayed in the Loews Portofino a number of times but not since the recent expansion of the Lounge. This was my first time experiencing the new upgraded space.
The Portofino Club Lounge was a decent size before, but now it is huge, with 3,500 square feet of space. It is divided up into four distinct spaces.
The first is the area where you walk in, which has plenty of seating, and which is where the buffet tables are arranged.
There is another area with more tables and some booths at the side.
You then walk into another large seating area which has a bar, and a self-serve coffee maker.
At the side is another smaller area with some seating and some library shelves. I had hoped there would be board games, but unfortunately, there weren’t any available.
The space is just beautiful. There are some very nice decorative touches.
The main advantage of the Concierge Lounge is, of course, the food.
The Lounge is open from 7 am until 10 pm and there are complimentary sodas, coffee, tea and water available all day.
Breakfast is served every day from 7 am until 10 am. I thought that the breakfast selections were excellent. There were plenty of items on the cold table including croissants, pastries, cheese, meats, fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, and berries.
There is a toaster with a selection of breads and bagels.
Hot breakfast items were included as well. There was always sausage or bacon, as well as either scrambled or boiled eggs.
The breakfast potatoes were always good. On the days when scrambled egg wasn’t offered, there was French Toast.
I definitely thought that the breakfast was one of the best I have experienced in a Club Lounge for both selection and quality. The Concierge staff worked hard at keeping everything replenished.
We made it quite a few times to lunch as well. This was from 12 pm until 3 pm.
There was no hot food, but the cold table was well stocked with salad and dips such as ranch and hummus. Often there were warm breadsticks with marinara sauce.
There were bags of chips available, but these disappeared pretty quickly!
We had dinner in the Portofino Club Lounge most nights of our stay. This is served from 5 pm until 7 pm.
Dinner is popular, Very popular, particularly at 5 pm.
We learned that it was better to arrive at 6 pm or later, or the lines for the hot food were a bit intense! There was no express pass here and sometimes the wait for the fresh dish of hot food to come out was more than we wanted to get involved with!
Here is the menu that was posted at the door. I am sure this varies, but this gives a good idea of the daily offerings for dinner.
We don’t eat meat so a lot of the menu wasn’t suitable for us, but we still had some good choices.
There were always two tables with hot dishes and an additional two tables with salads, bread, meat, cheeses, and fruit. There was also a different soup every day.
There was also an open bar at dinner between 5 pm to 7 pm. The bar staff were friendly and helpful. Rarely was there much of a line.
The selection was good.
The bar is huge. This area seemed to be used for private meetings as well at other times of the day.
The floor tile, the ceiling, and the beautiful light fitting added to the overall relaxing and upscale atmosphere.
If you need even more food there are the “Sweet Offerings” which are available every night in the Concierge Lounge at the Portofino from 8 pm until 9 pm.
We rarely made it for dessert, and I am not sure all the walking around the park would have negated the calories if we had eaten here every night!
One thing we did do one evening was get a dessert plate and a coffee and sat out on the balcony which is close to the Lounge side door. At 8 pm every evening there is live opera entertainment and it was sheer luxury just to take some time to listen to the music overlooking the harbor after sunset.
The Club Lounge at the Portofino really is one of the nicest concierge spaces I have experienced.
You have access to the Portofino Lounge until 11 am on your day of check out. So you can take advantage of that final breakfast in the Club Lounge.
However, you can use your Express Passes until the park closes on the day that you check out. So if you have a later flight, or don’t have to leave early in the day, you can still use your Express Pass for the whole day.
There are three swimming pools at Loews Portofino Resort.
There is one pool, even though I have stayed multiple times at the Portofino, that I have still never seen! This is definitely the best option if you are looking for peace and quiet.
The two main pools are:
- The Beach Pool
- The Villa Pool
The Beach Pool has a Roman aqueduct theme. It is a decent size (although coming from a stay at Universal Sapphire Falls it didnt seem quite big enough).
There is a water slide and a sandy beach. Cabanas are available for rent.
There is a children’s pool at the side of the main pool.
One of the best features of this pool is the huge jacuzzi which is located at the top of the pool area. Not many people seem to find their way up here as most are centred on the main pool.
The Splendido Bar and Grille is open from 11 am until 10 pm. It serves a selection of pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, and salads as well as having a full bar. There is a large shaded area with plenty of seating.
If you want a quieter pool then head to the Villa Pool. When we stayed we mostly used this pool as it was just a lot more relaxing.
The area around the Villa Pool is beautifully landscaped.
Located between the Villa Pool and the Beach Pool are the Fitness Center and the Mandara Spa.
The Hillside Pool is on the east side of the resort – and pretty much no one goes to this pool. If you want to experience a pool with peace and quiet then making the trek over to this pool could be a good choice.
Be aware that this is Florida, so the pools may be closed at certain times of the day because of the thunderstorms. We visited in August and this happened a number of times.
Where to Eat
Universal City Walk is just a 7-minute boat ride away if you want a larger choice of restaurants and places to eat, but Loews Portofino also has a number of excellent food choices.
Bice Ristorante is a fine dining option in Portofino Bay Resort. Dinner is served from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM each day.
The Bice Menu is fairly typical for an upscale Italian restaurant with the usual favorites such as Caprese, Fritto Misto, and Bruschetta on the Appetizer Menu. Pasta Entrees are priced around $30 and upwards. If you choose the meat entrees expect to pay anything from $45 to over $60.
Unusually for a fine dining restaurant, Bice has a Kids Menu.
Mama Della’s Ristorante is an option if you are looking for something a little less formal and a lot less pricey.
Open from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm every day Mama Della’s has a fabulous location on the harbor front of the Portofino Hotel.
It serves traditional Italian fare including Fettucine Alfredo, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Lasagne and Eggplant Parmesan. Prices are from around $25 to $35 for an entree.
Trattoria del Porto is also located on the harbor front and offers breakfast daily, and dinner on select days Thursday to Sunday.
The breakfast menu offers all the usual favorites a la carte and there is also a buffet option. For dinner, there is a small menu but it can be a good choice if you want to eat at the hotel but want something a little more reasonably priced.
Sal’s Market Deli is open all day from 11.00 a.m. This is the place to pick up a delicious pizza or a snack. Pizzas are priced around $18. A good option for sharing is a large pizza which is a $2 upcharge.
There are plenty of tables out on the harbor front to sit and enjoy your snack or beverage.
The Portofino also has a Gelateria and that old traditional Italian favorite, Starbucks.
The Thirsty Fish Bar is a very nice place to spend some time with a beverage. They have plenty of tables outside where you can sit and people-watch in the harbor.
If you just want to kick back and relax in your room there is 24 Hour Room Service available.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Club Level is my number-one choice when staying at Universal Orlando Resort.
I always look at whether or not a Concierge upgrade is going to give value and, having stayed here a number of times, I do think that the Portofino Lounge is worth the extra money.
The rooms are large and the beds are incredibly comfortable. The Portofino would be a great option for a family of 5 as the rooms are so large you can fit in a rollaway easily and still have a good amount of space.
Although the rooms have been updated relatively recently there was still something about them that I can’t quite identify, but they don’t quite have all the elements of luxury that I am looking for in a resort that has this price tag.
Maybe it is the outdated travel clock alarm or the rather generic headboards, but there is something about it that really just doesn’t quite work. At least they no longer have the strange opening in the wall between the bedroom and the bathroom!
However, the location is excellent and the boat service is very efficient.
The Beach Pool is not the best pool at Universal Orlando Resort, but it is still a very nice pool for the family.
There are plenty of different options for where to eat. Prices are high, but this is theme park hotel reality, and the harborside location really is unique.
Service at the Portofino was just OK.
One of the Luggage Service team was incredibly unpleasant – really not something you should have to deal with anywhere.
Service really wasn’t as good as it should have been, and it was definitely not as good as the exceptional service I experienced in Universal Sapphire Falls.
The real winner here if you are comparing it with other Premier Universal Orlando Hotels is the Lounge. Whilst the Hard Rock Hotel and Royal Pacific do offer a Club Lounge, they really don’t compare well with the Portofino. The size of the lounge and the food choices here are so much better.
The price. The Portofino is usually the most expensive Universal Orlando Hotel option.
But if you are looking for the best Universal Orlando Club Lounge experience there is no doubt that you will find it at Portofino Bay.
Have you stayed in the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Club Level? Share your experience with us in the comments section!