Universal Studios has three hotels that offer park perks, free transportation, and other on-site amenities. Unlike Disney, Universal leaves hotel operations to other professionals, however. One hotel/resort is a Hard Rock, while Loews operates the other two.
In general, Universal’s themed hotels don’t have quite as much follow-through on their respective themes as Disney resorts. Disney tends to make the theme feel like a primary goal, with the hotel rooms a side thought. The balance leans the other direction at Universal, but the hotels are not less worthy – just a bit less mired in their name. Still, the Hard Rock, Italian, and South Pacific themes stand out in each of their respective resorts. The buildings with hotel rooms, however, look more like, well, buildings. All three resorts also have convention facilities.
A top perk for staying in a Universal resort: Guests get a special pass that allows them to bypass long lines within Universal’s Orlando theme parks. Rooms also include free transportation (boat) to Universal Studios (the theme park), Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk (restaurants and shops).
The direct competitor to Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the Royal Pacific has its own island show (extra charge) and South Seas atmosphere.
The only Orlando park hotel with an Italian theme, Portofino Bay recreates a small town on the banks of the Mediterranean. Nightly Italian music (free) and Italian restaurants round out the theme.
The hotel has a rock-‘n-roll theme, but it feels more like a normal hotel than the other two Universal resorts. While it arguably attracts a younger crowd, older adults still enjoy it since many music industry artifacts (rotating exhibits) date back 20 to 40 years. Note that the hotel does not have gambling, but a Hard Rock resort about 1.5 hours away – close to Tampa – does.