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    Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

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Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Information: Rooms, Pools, Dining, and More

Overview

If you want the ultimate European-style, spare-no-expense on-site experience, look no further than the Portofino Bay Hotel. Universal’s topof- the-line hotel evokes the Italian seaside city of Portofino, complete with a man-made Portofino Bay past the lobby. To Universal’s credit, the layout, color, and theming of the guest room buildings are a good approximation of the architecture around the harbor in the real Portofino (Universal’s version has fewer yachts, though).

The front of the Portofino continues the theme, with Vespa-like scooters parked around a burbling fountain. Deep-green tapestries hang from the sand-colored porte cochere, which is flanked by narrower recessed arches. It’s a convincing transition from the nearby parking deck.

Inside, the lobby is decorated with pink marble floors, white wood columns, and arches. The space is both airy and comfortable, with side rooms featuring seats and couches done in bold reds and deep blues.

The Rooms

Most guest rooms are 450 square feet and have either one king bed or two queen beds. King rooms sleep up to three people with an optional rollaway bed; the same option allows queen rooms to sleep up to five. Two room-view types are available: garden rooms look out over the landscaping and trees (many of these are the east-facing rooms in the resort’s east wing; others face one of the three pools); bay-view rooms face either west or south and overlook Portofino Bay, with a view of the piazza behind the lobby too. Rooms in the west wing are closest to the water taxi dock and resort walking paths. A very small number of rooms have working balconies; you can’t reserve one in advance but may upgrade at check-in if one is available for $15–$30 extra.

Rooms come furnished with a 42-inch TV, a small refrigerator, a coffee maker, and an alarm clock with an iPhone docking port. Other amenities include a small desk with two chairs, a comfortable reading chair with lamp, a chest of drawers, and a standing closet. Beds are large and comfortable. You’ll have a hard time in the morning convincing yourself that getting out of them and going to a theme park is the best option you have.

Guest bathrooms at Portofino Bay are the best on Universal property. We’ve seen smaller New York apartments! Speakers inside the bathroom transmit the audio from whatever is playing on the room’s TV. The best thing is the shower, which has enough water pressure to strip paint from old furniture, not to mention an adjustable spray nozzle that varies the water pulses to simulate everything from monsoon season in the tropics to the rhythmic thumps of wildebeest hooves during migrating season. We love it.

While we think Portofino Bay has some of Universal’s best rooms, certain areas are starting to show their age, and the prices put it on par with the Ritz-Carlton, something its good points can’t quite justify. On the other hand, the Ritz isn’t a short walk from Harry Potter, and the Portofino is significantly cheaper than the hotels along Disney’s monorail.

Pools, Spa, Recreation and Child Care

Portofino Bay has three pools, the largest of which is the Beach Pool, on the west side of the resort. The Beach Pool has a zero-entry design and a waterslide themed after a Roman aqueduct, plus a children’s play area, hot tubs, and a poolside bar and grill. We like the naturalistic Mediterranean seaside feel of the Beach Pool.

Two smaller quiet pools sit at the far end of the east wing and to the west of the main lobby. The Villa Pool has private cabana rentals for that Italian Riviera feeling and a bocce ball court with free equipment for that Jersey shore feeling, while the smaller Hillside Pool, tucked behind the east wing, is the most secluded. Rounding out the luxuries are the fullservice Mandara Spa; a complete fitness center with weight machines, treadmills, and more; a business center; and a video arcade.

Besides the pools, the Portofino has a full-service Mandara spa and a complete fitness center with free weights, weight machines, treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and more.

Campo Portofino offers supervised activities (movies, video games, crafts, and such) for children ages 4-14. The cost is $15 per hour plus $15 per meal, per child; hours vary.

On-Site Dining

On-site dining includes three sit-down restaurants serving Italian cuisine, plus a deli that doubles as a pizzeria, as well as a café serving coffee and gelato. Two bars round out the food offerings at Portofino. The Portofino has 10 separate convention meeting rooms and is a popular destination for small to midsize groups. Perhaps because Universal figures that most guests have an expense account, some of the food prices go well beyond what we’d consider reasonable, even for a theme park hotel.

The Portofino has ten separate convention meeting rooms and is a popular destination for small to midsize groups. Perhaps because they're figuring that most people staying there are on an expense account, some of the restaurants' prices are well beyond what we'd consider reasonable, even for a theme park's hotel.

Rates

While we think Portofino Bay has Universal’s best rooms, the prices put it on par with the Ritz-Carlton, something its rooms and grounds can't quite maintain. On the other hand, the Ritz isn’t a short walk from Harry Potter, and the Portofino is significantly cheaper than the Grand Floridian at Disney. If you’re going to stay at the Portofino for two nights or more, consider getting an annual pass to the Universal parks, which gives substantial discounts on rooms (often more than $100 per night) and can more than offset the cost of the room.

Additional Activities

If you still can't swing a stay here, at least take a complimentary sunset water taxi ride to the harbor for Musica della Notte, the free mini-concert of romantic popera tunes belted from Portofino's bayside balconies daily at dusk (weather permitting). Several times each year, Harbor Nights are held on the plaza, with wine tasting, hors d'oeuvres, and live music. Tickets are $45 in advance, $55 if purchased at the event, and $75 for VIP admission with reserved seating. See Loews' event page for details on the next date.

Hotel Photos

Hotel Video

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths Weaknesses
Guest room bathrooms Expensive on-site dining
On-site dining variety

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Dining

Commuting Times to the Parks
Park Resort
Transportation
Walk
Universal Studios Florida 15 min 17 min
Islands of Adventure 18 min 23 min
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