Rome. Venice. Florence.
Is there anyone in the world who hasn’t dreamed of visiting Italy? Seeing a country that has so thoroughly influenced the world I know today has been a distant dream of mine for ages.
I say distant for a reason. Not only is Italy thousands of miles from the United States, it’s always been financially out of my grasp. While I’m finally getting a glimpse of Italian life this spring on my first trip to Rome, I know that trip only scratches the surface of a country with centuries of rich history. It will take me years of planning and saving to see even 1% of what the country has to offer.
Luckily for me, I can escape to my own little slice of Italy whenever I want…without even leaving Orlando!
Nestled on Universal Orlando property, just minutes from my home, lies the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. It’s one of four hotels at Universal Orlando Resort, and it takes the cake in terms of luxury, comfort and total indulgence. I stay here frequently when I’m craving a relaxing weekend or just need to get away from it all.
With its colorful buildings, nightly opera performances, and super luxe rooms, the Portofino allows me to check out of real life and experience, as they say, “la dolce vita.” The good life.
Everything here is immaculately themed to transport visitors to the Mediterranean seaside town of Portofino, Italy. From the grand hotel entrance, lined with vintage Italian cars and scooters, to the welcoming staff at the front desk, la dolce vita begins the moment you arrive at the Portofino Bay Hotel.
Grab a key card (and maybe even a drink at the lobby’s Bar American) and head on up to your room. It’s hard not to be dazzled by the charming, Instagram-worthy buildings, or the bay full of gently bobbing boats. But there will be plenty of time for exploration later. There are 750 guest rooms and 45 suites at Portofino Bay, and I can assure you they are all gorgeous. When checking in, I recommend asking for a bay view room (as opposed to garden view). The view out of the window is gorgeous…it’s a good thing, too, because once you’re in the room, you’ll be tempted to stay in all night!
I am in love with the colors, textures and overall style of the guest rooms here. I love a hotel with a good wow factor, and despite staying at the Portofino several times, the gorgeous rooms still manage to elicit a satisfied sigh on each new visit. Decorated in serene blue and white tones, the rooms evoke the colors and feel of the Mediterranean, while remaining distinctly Italian. Luxe velvet ottomans, crisp white sheets, and shining marble accents all contribute to the feeling of being pampered.
The sense of luxury continues in the bathroom. The marble sink top, beautifully tiled floor and shower, and Italian accents are gorgeous. I specially love the tiling around the mirror, and was thrilled on a recent visit to find the shower stocked with Davines products.
The enormous bathroom is equipped with dual sinks, a shower/tub combo, plenty of fluffy white towels, a hair dryer, and all the odds and ends you may have forgotten to pack. Q tips? Cotton balls? All provided. Other small items, such as the notorious forgotten toothbrush, can be purchased in one of the hotel shops.
If you do decide to leave the hotel room, there are plenty of things to do around the hotel. I prefer a glass of wine alfresco from The Thirsty Fish, a harborside bar, before taking a leisurely stroll around the hotel. If three pools, several Italian restaurants, an onsite spa, and two classy lounges don’t appeal to you, just explore the hotel grounds. Make sure to ask about the nightly opera performance when checking in for your stay in paradise! Everything, from the gentle music drifting across the water, to the beautifully-lit buildings lining the bay, works together to erase the outside world. It’s total bliss.
Of course, staying onsite at Universal Orlando Resort has its perks. The Portofino Bay Hotel is my refuge from the outside world, but it also serves as an excellent base for exploring Orlando’s many theme parks! The Portofino Bay Hotel is admittedly a little pricey (at least, it is for this travel blogger!), but if you plan on visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, it can actually be an excellent value.
Guests of the Portofino Bay Hotel (as well as those of the Hard Rock and Loews Royal Pacific Hotels) are entitled to free Express passes for the length of their stay.
Express passes are not theme park tickets. What they are is a magical ticket to shorter lines at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure throughout the day. They can be a real life saver when visiting the parks at the busiest times of the year, for example, Christmas or spring break. I wouldn’t dream of bringing my family to Universal without Express passes, but for non-hotel guests, they are an often-expensive luxury. By staying at the Portofino Bay Hotel, you score a gorgeous room, a relaxing home base, and free Express passes for everyone staying in the room! If you have a large family, like I do, the room practically pays for itself.
Hotel guests also have access to perks like early park admission, meaning exclusive access to certain parts of the Universal theme parks an hour before the park opens to regular theme park guests. For those short on time, or who just want the most for their money, early park admission is a great way to get a head start on the day. Or in my case, it means my afternoon nap comes that much sooner.
These are two of the most obvious benefits of visiting Universal Orlando resort and staying at the Portofino Bay Hotel, but there are many more benefits available, such as merchandise delivery (no lugging bags around the park all day!), priority seating at certain restaurants, and even wake-up calls from favorite Universal characters (great for the kids)!
But for me, the Portofino Bay Hotel is a destination in itself. After a long week of work, writing, and the ups and downs of everyday life, a night along the waters of Portofino Bay is all I need to relax and recharge. It’s clear the Italians know a thing or two about the good life. Until I get on that plane to Rome in the spring, I’m happy to put my feet up here and enjoy the good life for myself.
Disclosure: As an employee of Universal Orlando Resort, I stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at a discounted rate. As always, all opinions are my own. I have in no way been compensated for this post.