I am so excited to finally start sharing the details of my first Universal Orlando trips last month. After having never really been, I visited once with Glass Slipper Concierge and then a few weeks later with my family! Both times I stayed on property at Loews Portofino Bay Resort and don’t think I’ll ever book anywhere else.
Loews Portofino Bay Resort at Universal Orlando
Portofino Bay Resort is considered deluxe in category, if you are familiar with Disney tiers of hotels. It is beautifully appointed, convenient to the theme parks, has excellent service and a variety of wonderful amenities. It is a real escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks and makes relaxing at the end of a long day easy. It was also my experience that the resort is very quiet. You often find families sipping coffee by the bay in the morning, and wine in the evening while listening to live music.
Relax in surroundings inspired by the beauty, romance and charm of the picturesque seaside village of Portofino, Italy. Wonderfully appointed rooms and suites welcome families home each day. Tempting outdoor cafes and shops dot the piazza around a serene harbor. Three enticing pools offer every level of relaxation. Incredible restaurants tempt every palate with flavorful culinary tours of Italy.
Benefits of staying at a Universal Orlando Resort
Like at Disney, there are valuable benefits to staying on-site at a Universal Orlando resort hotel. When staying at Portofino Bay, all guests receive the following. (These benefits also apply to Hard Rock and Royal Pacific.)
Early Park Admission
Visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay™ one hour before the theme park opens with paid theme park admission.
Skip the Regular Lines
Guests of select on-site resort hotels enjoy free† Universal Express Unlimited™ to skip the regular lines in Universal Studios Florida™ and Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ (valid theme park admission required. Not valid at Universal’s Volcano Bay™).
Get There Faster
Enjoy complimentary transportation to the theme parks and Universal CityWalk™.
Cut your wait time in half withpriority seating at select restaurants throughout the resort hotels and CityWalk.
Now, I have two KEY takeaways on these benefits….
First, let’s chat about the FREE Universal Express Unlimited Pass. For my Disney fans, this is like having a FastPass for every ride. In both of my trips, one being over the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend, I didn’t wait in a line more than 10 minutes!
Next, the priority dining had us seated with 20 minute waits every time we used it. The normal wait times were about 40 minutes. We didn’t go in with any reservations and, frankly, we didn’t need them.
Finally, I have quoted and booked quite a few clients at Universal in the last year. If you are considering adding Universal to a larger Orlando trip, I have not seen a case where you wouldn’t fare better staying on property at Universal versus coming in for the day from somewhere else.
Exclusive Benefits for Portofino Bay Resort
In addition to the benefits offered by Universal Orlando, I get exclusive benefits for my clients through my affiliation with the Virtuoso network of luxury hotels. These include:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability (up to Deluxe Room Category)
- Continental breakfast daily served in restaurant for up to two in-room guests
- One lunch for two at any Loews Portofino Bay Hotel restaurant (excluding Bice Ristorante), during your stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities
- 20% discount at the Mandara Spa for a service of $100 or more.
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Of course, on top of these I also do itinerary planning, touring plans, provide tips and tricks, and handle every detail of your stay from the moment you arrive in Orlando!
Rooms at Loews Portofino Bay Resort
I stayed in a Deluxe Room on my first visit, and a Double Queen Bay View Room later with my family. Both rooms were very similar in decor and amenities. The Deluxe Room is larger in size and would easily accommodate a rollaway for parties of 5. The Double Queen is equally as nice, just slightly smaller, and also will accommodate a rollaway. Both rooms also have the option for king bedding.
In addition to regular rooms, I also had a chance to tour the Parlor Suite with connecting King bedroom. This spacious 920 sq. ft. suite provides an expansive living room with a murphy bed that can accommodate two guests, a plush armchair, a flat screen TV, and desk area. In the common area there is a bathroom that features a stand up shower, a dining area with a large dining table, and a kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave. The connecting bedroom features a comfortable king bed, that can accommodate up to three guests, with a full-size bathroom with a tub and shower. The suite overlooks the Villa Piazza area (formal garden area).
One other fabulous suite option at Portofino Bay is the Despicable Me Kids’ Suite! Designed to capture the excitement and playfulness of Gru’s Laboratory, these suites have a king bed in the master bedroom and 2 twin beds or a bun bed in the separate kids’ room.
Dining at Loews Portofino Bay Resort
There is a variety of great dining at Portofino Bay, including lounges, pool side quick serve, buffets, table service and fine dining. All of it is conveniently located at the Piazza overlooking the bay.
The Thirsty Fish is the perfect place to linger over Italy’s famous lager, Peroni, as you take in the view over the Piazza. We immensely enjoyed Thirsty Fish on both my adult trip and family trip. They have live music in the evening and winding down with a cheese plate and glass of wine feels wonderful and indulgent after a day at the parks.
Mama Della’s Ristorant offers family-style dining with specialties from the regions of Tuscany, Naples and Piemonte. We dined here with the Glass Slipper agents and it was a wonderful meal! The servings were plentiful and everything I sampled was just outstanding. To dine here, do consider making a reservation a few weeks in advance. They are on Open Table.
Trattoria del Porto
Trattoria del Porto serves breakfast and dinner in a friendly, casual atmosphere. I enjoyed breakfast and dinner here. I always enjoy an omelette bar, and the the design your own pasta bar at dinner was delicious and, again, a wonderful meal! This is a sit down restaurant but I did not see that reservations were necessary. If you book a trip through me, this is where you can dine for breakfast.
Sal’s Market Deli
For casual dining, choose from a comforting selection of Italian staples like handmade pizzas, sandwiches, salads, meats, cheese and fresh fruit at Sal’s Market Deli. The pizza here is quite good, and there is both indoor and outdoor seating. Of course, if the weather is good, take it outside to dine on the Harbor Piazza. This is a quick serve restaurant and no reservations are needed.
On the scenic Harbor Piazza you’ll find Starbucks. The line here is LONG in the morning so go at an off time. That being said, the line is still shorter than any in-park location over at Disney. :-)
In addition to these locations, you can also enjoy burgers, sandwiches and more poolside at Splendido Bar and Grill. And of course, Italy is known around the globe for its cool and creamy gelato. So stop by the Gelateria for a scoop or two.
Recreation at Portofino Bay Resort
The Beach Pool
The Beach Pool is ideal place for the family to spend the day together—enjoy a Roman aqueduct-themed water-slide, a sandy beach and adjacent children’s pool, two hot tubs and three colorful beach cabanas.
From ping pong tournaments to pool basketball to hula hoop contests and arts & crafts, you’ll find something fun to do poolside for the whole family.
Activities and Amenities During Our Stay
The Villa Pool is quieter and features hot and cold plunge pools, a pool suited for lap swimming and relaxing and more. Here you can also try your hand at one of the world’s oldest lawn bowling games at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – bocce ball!
A third pool, located on the hotel’s east side, is an adults-only retreat that offers a bit more privacy and a quiet place for relaxing by the water.
When Mom and Dad want to enjoy a night of fun or a quiet dinner alone, they can drop the kids off at the Resort Kids’ Camp. Kids will enjoy arts and crafts, stories, computers, video games, movies, board games and other activities. Kids’ Camp is for children ages 4–14 (children must be toilet-trained children). $15 per hour, per child / $15 per meal. Open from 5 PM–11:30 PM, Sunday through Thursday and from 5 PM to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
The luxurious Mandara Spa encourages you to take time from all of the theme park excitement to be spoiled from hair toe. This full service spa offers everything from pedicures to massages.
Getting to CityWalk and the theme parks could not be easier or more convenient. A water taxi runs continuously throughout the day and picks up right at the Harbor Piazza. In fact, with our Bay View room we could wait to leave the room until we saw it pulling in. So nice! I love that you go through security before you board the boat. Once you arrive at CityWalk, you are free to go between the two parks and CityWalk without more security lines for the rest of the day.
In addition to the boat, there is a nice shaded walking path. It takes 15 – 20 minutes and is very easy and enjoyable. Even in late May :-)
To get to Volcano Bay, there is bus service from the front of the resort.
Overall, I enjoyed two wonderful stays at Portofino Bay! I am happy to answer any questions that you may have!
Look for the rest of my Universal Orlando trip report to come over the next week!
As a Gold Key Adviser with Glass Slipper Concierge, I offer concierge travel planning for family vacations. I specialize in selling Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, Adventures by Disney, Aulani, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and many other delightful destinations.
Start designing your dream vacation today!
DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED