North America or Italy? Peace and relaxation or excitement and thrills? Some choice to make but the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando offers the best of both worlds.
We arrived at the entrance to the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel directly from Orlando International Airport in the late afternoon and the sun was just beginning to slowly slip from the sky. As our limousine turned into the hotel entrance we entered an oasis of calm. We came into an Italian landscape with tall poplar trees, bushes, flowers and luscious grasses. Only the palm trees hinted that you could be in Florida. The limousine drove on and as turning a bend in the road we had our stunning first view of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel rising across the lake like a perfect seaside village. Could this be Florida or were we on the Italian Riveria?
Our limousine passed over a small bridge from where we had a further look at the lake and the Hotel. We then entered the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel’s forecourt and pulled to halt under the covered portico. Around us were reminders of Italy with the scene set by large planters filled with lush green bushes and flowers, Vespa motor scooters and even an old Fiat 500 car. Greeted by attentive staff we were directed to reception where we were warmly welcomed and checked in. All around the reception area were posters advertising Italian products and resorts also famous Italian films questioning your mind and senses of whether you were in Italy or Florida.
We were then handed over to the hotel’s Public Relations Manager who guided us through the Hotel enlightening us on the delights of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and then proceeded to personally escort us to our room. On the way we were shown the various features of the Hotel passing through the lavish entrance area then down to the enchanting plaza which is surrounded by sweeping buildings which contain the hotels rooms and restaurants. It reminded you of an Italian upmarket seaside resort which is what it represents. In the meantime our bags had been taken to our room.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel opened in 1999 and has regularly refurbished to maintain its high standards. It was designed to offer the ambiance of an Italian seaside village with many of the guest rooms overlooking the resort’s own lake, Portofino Bay, modelled on the historic Italian fishing village of Portofino upmarket resort famous for its picturesque harbour and association with celebrity visitors. Allegedly the design of the Hotel was influenced by Stephen Spielberg as the real Portofino is his favourite place in Italy. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel continues this tradition by offering the sumptuous ambience of luxury combined with excellent service.
Our suite was perfect and luxurious with a combined bedroom and living area. It contained two large beds and a comfortable sitting area which if on a business trip could be used for working. There was also a large bathroom and shower area which was perfect. The room was large so you won’t be tripping over your luggage or each other. As a bonus from the balcony of our room we overlooked the Piazza and the Bay, both of which are beautiful and romantic. We could see quests strolling in the evening sun, with couples holding hands enjoying a piece of Italy. Families played excitedly looking forward to the next day to the thrills of the Universal Orlando Resort. There beyond the Piazza we saw the shuttle boats to the Universal CityWalk and Universal Orlando Resort going backwards and forwards calling at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel dedicated pier to load and unload their eager passengers.
Later we went down to the Piazza to enjoy pre-dinner drinks. As we sat there slowly sipping our drinks and enjoying the sun looking around the Piazza the Italian theme continued with striped sun umbrellas and awnings covering the tables and chairs. Later that evening there were opera singers performing high on a balcony overlooking the Bay. They had incredible voices and it added to the Italian atmosphere. It almost felt like we were having two holidays in one. This was what the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel has aptly named Musica della Notte (translated as “Music of the Night”) and is a special event where a variety of music is played live in the Piazza between 18:00 and 20:00. This event is not to be missed while you drink-in the architecture and atmosphere around you whilst enjoying you sparkling Prosecco or Cappuccino.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando offers three full service restaurants, two quick service restaurants, a bakery, and two lounges. Shopping at the resort focuses on Universal Parks merchandise, resort-specific specialty merchandise, convenience items, and authentic Italian products.
The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel has three swimming pools being the Beach Pool, Villa Pool and Hillside Pool. For relaxing there is the Mandara Spa which is located near the Beach and Villa pools. This is the second Mandara spa located in the Orlando area. For exercise there is a jogging and walking trail runs the perimeter of the resort in addition to the pathways that connect the resort to the Hard Rock Hotel, Universal CityWalk and the Royal Pacific Resort and eventually to the Universal Orlando Resort which you can reach in about 20 to 25 minutes. For a more relaxed approach there are frequent shuttle boats which leisurely run from the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel to and from the Universal Orlando Resort. Though not very Italian there are also rickshaws to take you to the Universal Orlando Resort or to be more conventional there are also shuttle buses.
That evening we dined at the Trattoria Del Porto. This restaurant has a rustic Italian feel and serves a wide choice of meals. We went for Pasta Cucina where you create own recipes from a wide selection of pastas, savoury sauces and fresh ingredients. The chef cooks your choices in front of you adding any further flavours you may request. Whilst this is billed as an all-you-can-eat experience after one delicious dish your hunger is satiated, the choice of wines to go with the meal can also only be marvelled at. As we were about to leave who should enter the resturant no other than Gru and Kevin the Minion, from Despicable Me, who had travelled over from the Universal Orlando Resort. We were more excited by this than the children in the restaurant and they too were thrilled to see these amusing characters. The characters circulated the restaurant and were more than happy to meet and greet also to have their photographs taken with diners.
After a stroll around the Piazza and another cooling drink we returned to our room. Enjoying the evening air from our balcony we watched the sunset over the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. In the distance we could see the fireworks display at Universal Orlando Resort. We then retired to enjoy a wonderful night’s sleep in our very comfortable beds.
We rose early and after a sumptuous breakfast caught the shuttle boat to the Universal Parks. A great advantage of staying at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is that you can also be in the Universal Orlando Resort one hour before the park opens to everyone else. This means you can get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Universal Studios Theme Park early before the gates open to general admission to try out the Flight of the Hippogriff, the Dragon Challenge and the Hogwarts Express.
We were very impressed with Loews Portofino Bay Hotel which oozes pure class. The Hotel was extremely clean, the food and shops were excellent. The staff were extremely polite and helpful. The shuttle boat to the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal CityWalk were a very nice and welcome touch. It is also far enough from the theme parks and restaurant area that if you want some peace and quiet in the evenings you’ve got it. The tranquillity of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is worth going for let alone the ease of access to the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal CityWalk.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
5601 Universal Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819