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A family-friendly, rock-themed resort right next to Universal Studios theme park
The entrane to the Hard Rock Hotel At Universal Orlando Resort
Like the other two Universal Studios resorts, the Hard Rock is managed by the upscale, family-focused hotel group, Loews. Like its neighboring sister resorts, Royal Pacific and Portofino Bay, it has comfortable, up-to-date guest rooms, a wide variety of on-site features (in the case of Hard Rock, a great waterslide, butterfly garden, beach volleyball court, and outdoor pool tables), and special privileges at the Universal Studios theme park, like skipping the regular lines for rides and preferential treatment at the park's restaurants.
The main differences between the three Universal properties lies in the hotel's atmosphere and a few choice features. Whereas Portofino Bay creates a more romantic, Italian-esque setting (and has the only spa of the three resorts) and the Royal Pacific is a bit mellower and more relaxing, the Hard Rock sticks to the fun (if cheesy) rock 'n' roll stylings that its worldwide restaurants are known for. Classic rock plays in the lobby. The entrance is adorned with an electric-guitar fountain, and numerous display cases that exhibit pop-music kitsch from the Beatles, Elvis, Twisted Sister, and Aerosmith.
A solid array of conveniences and effective execution -- about what you'd expect from a hotel in this price range
Entrance to the free water taxi to the park
Staying at a hotel in Universal Studios has its perks. Guests get special privileges at Universal's parks, and a free water taxi makes the commute from theme park to hotel both scenic and hassle free. As is the case at the other two Universal Resorts, service at the Hard Rock is efficient, and generous -- when I asked for extra toothpaste, I got a week's worth. But although the entrance and lobby are adequately staffed with valets and bellmen, guests shouldn't expect the same initiative and personal attention found at higher-end Orlando resorts like the Ritz-Carlton or the Ginn Reunion.
- Free water taxi to and preferential treatment at the Universal Studios theme parks -- bypass the regular lines at most rides and attractions; priority seating at all table-service restaurants (no waiting in line); free package delivery for purchases at the parks; guests can charge all purchases at the parks to their hotel rooms
- Dedicated concierge
- Evening turndown service (by request only)
- 24-hour room service -- something not offered at the Disney resorts
- Wake-up phone greetings from Universal characters (like Spiderman)
- Free shuttle buses to SeaWorld, Wet 'n Wild water park, and area golf courses
- Self and valet parking charged per day; Hertz car-rental desk on-site
Inside the Universal Studios compound, a 10-minute walk or five-minute water taxi ride from the theme park
The Hard Rock is one of three hotels located inside the Universal Studios Resort complex in Orlando. Like the other two Universal Resorts, it has a long driveway with plenty of green space to separate it from the main roads that connect the hotels to the resort and the grounds are isolated from street noise.
Universal is the second-largest resort in Orlando, next to Walt Disney World. The three hotels -- Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific -- connect via shuttle bus and water taxi to the two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and to a shopping and dining strip called City Walk.
- 10-minute walk or a five-minute, free makes the commute from theme park to hotel both scenic and hassle freewater taxi ride to Universal Studios, the Islands of Adventure, and City Walk, a strip with shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs
- Five-minute drive to SeaWorld and Wet 'n Wild parks; the hotel provides a free shuttle
- Five-minute drive to International Drive, a 14.5 mile road parallel to Interstate 4 that's full of hotels, strip malls, outlet shops, restaurants, and, in the middle of this stretch, the Orange County Convention Center
- 20-minute drive to downtown Orlando; there's not much to see downtown, though Orange Avenue has a notable dining and nightlife scene, and non-theme-park attractions like the Orlando Science Center and Harry P. Leu Gardens (both popular tourist spots)
- 25-minute drive to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom parking lot, followed by a 15-minute ride on a tram and monorail to the park itself; similar commute to Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios
- One hour and 25 minute drive to Kennedy Space Center
- 20-minute drive to the Orlando International Airport
Average-size and comfortable, with up-to-date amenities
A Standard Room
Not as cartoonishly designed as the rooms at other Orlando theme park resorts, the only indications that the Hard Rock's guest rooms belong in a rock-'n'-roll-themed hotel are the photos of Beatles and Rolling Stones on the walls and throw pillows with "Sweet dreams are made of this" stitched into the fabric. Otherwise, the decor is modern, in the spirit of a well-maintained midlevel chain.
- At 375 square feet, the standard rooms are a very comfortable size; a bit smaller than those at Portofino Bay, but larger than those at the Royal Pacific. Each standard room has either one king- or two queen-size beds.
- Comfortable beds (besting the beds at most Disney resorts): 300-thread-count, 100-percent Egyptian cotton linens; feather duvets; Sealy Posturepedic Pillow-top mattresses
- 32-inch flat-screen TV with in-room movies and 25 channels, including HBO
- iHome iPod docking alarm clock
- Free in-room Wi-Fi; wi-fi is also free in the lobby and common areas. Guests can upgrade to "premium" Wi-Fi for an additional fee.
- Average-size bathrooms with 100-percent cotton towels, a shower-bath combo, and high-quality Lather bath products
- King suites (650 square feet) have separate living areas, pullout sofas, and two flat-screen TVs; Kids' Suites (800 square feet) have child-size furniture, a king bed, and two twin beds
- Club-level guests have access to a lounge on the 7th floor with free snacks and drinks; free fitness-center admission; club-level rooms also get evening turndown service and bathrobes.
Excellent array of facilities, including a great pool
The volleyball court and waterslide
As is the case at all three Universal Studios properties, guests find plenty to do at the hotel. While the Hard Rock Hotel lacks the spa found at Portofino Bay, its pools are about as nice.
- Enormous pool with a huge, 240-foot waterslide (bigger than the waterslides at most other Orlando resorts); hot tubs; deck area also has pool tables, pingpong, shuffleboard, and mini-basketball hoops
- Excellent, large fitness center with wide range of modern equipment, but admission costs $10 per day
- Beach volleyball court
- 24-hour business center has free boarding-pass printouts, but all other services (computer usage, printouts, photocopies, faxes) have nominal fees attached to the. FedEx and UPS shipping available. Secretarial services are available for a per hour fee. Notary public on-site
- Video arcade
- Free wi-fi in the lobby and other common areas
Very family friendly, with a theme designed to appeal to teens and plenty of amenities to occupy tykes
Because all three Universal Studios resorts have very similar features and services, families will do fine at any one; picking is really a question of priorities. Portofino Bay's classier, most grown-up atmosphere may be inappropriate for small children, but its stellar pools and large rooms make it a solid choice anyway. The Royal Pacific has the best atmosphere for small children, especially thanks to a twice-weekly luau. Meanwhile, Hard Rock's rock 'n' roll theme attracts families with older children, although its massive pool area and kid-friendly restaurant serve youngsters well.
- With rollaway beds (which have a nightly fee), double queen rooms and king suites sleep up to five guests.
- "Camp Lil' Rock" kids' club: charges per child per hour; activities include video games, arts and crafts, movies, and treasure hunts
- Volleyball court, pingpong tables, pool tables, shuffleboard, and mini-basketball, each with free equipment rental
- Babysitting referrals available through the concierge
- Kids' menu for room service and at The Palm; separate kids' dining area at the Kitchen restaurant; snacks and ice cream at Emack & Bolio's
- Want to dine with Spidey or the Cat in the Hat? Just make a reservation with the concierge.
Allowed, with restrictions and requirements, including a recent health certificate and a one-time cleaning fee
As at any Loews Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel welcomes pets, so long as guests comply with some very specific rules, listed below. Two pets of any size are allowed per room, and there is a one-time cleaning fee. Each pet receives a pet tag, a bowl, and a treat upon arrival. Cats and dogs have their own menu, and it includes dry food (Iams Chunky or Feline) and hot entrees (Bow Wow Tenderloin and the Kitty Salmon Supreme). Dogs can even cap off the meal with a baked dessert, the Power Bark nutritional snack bar.
- A health certificate for each pet, obtained from a veterinarian within 10 days of the pet’s arrival, must be presented upon check-in at the hotel.
- Pets must be supervised at all times while in the hotel, and must be leashed or restrained in public spaces. Dogs may be walked in designated areas only. Pet-sitting services can be arranged through the concierge.
- A per hour "time out" fee is assessed by the hotel management if a pet is left unattended and needs to be removed from a guestroom.
- Arrangements must be made with housekeeping for daily room cleaning.
- Owners are responsible for pet waste cleanup.
- If the dog’s behavior results in complaints by other guests, the owner may be asked to board the dog in an outside shelter.
- Pets are not allowed in the pool/lounge or restaurant areas.
In the rooms and throughout the hotel, there were no stains, smells, or any other cleanliness problems.
A wide range of options, plus live performances at Velvet Bar and a host of eateries at Universal's City Walk
The hotel offers a solid set of options, from ice cream and snacks at Emack & Bolio's to upscale dining at The Palm, plus a breakfast buffet at the Kitchen and poolside snacks at Beach Club. For other options, guests can take the short water-taxi ride to Universal's City Walk, which has 31 places to eat, including fast food family chains like Bubba Gump.
- Kitchen is the hotel's main restaurant and serves three meals a day
- The Palm: restaurant and bar serves steak and seafood, open for dinner
- Beach Club: poolside bar/cafe serves drinks and pub fare; open for lunch and dinner
- Emack & Bolio's Marketplace: ice-cream shop also serves Starbucks coffee and snacks
- Velvet Bar: cocktail lounge hosts monthly "Velvet Sessions," live performances by artists like Joan Jett and Eddie Money
- 24-hour room service; service fee plus automatic gratuity
Like all Universal resorts, the 650-room Hard Rock has solid service, great dining, and modern, very comfortable rooms. While it lacks the spa and quieter ambience of the pricier Portofino Bay, its pools and facilities are equally impressive. Plus, its more modest, rock 'n' roll theme might better appeal to teens than Royal Pacific or Disney's cartoonish fun.
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Things You Should Know About Hard Rock Hotel At Universal Orlando Resort
- 5800 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819
Hotel is Also (or Was Formerly) Known As
- Hard Rock Cafe Hotel Orlando
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Hard Rock Hotel Orlando
- Hard Rock Orlando
- Hard Rock Resort
- Hotel Hard Rock
- Universal Hard Rock Hotel
- Club Level Garden View Room
- Club Level Pool View Room
- Deluxe King Room
- Deluxe Queen Room
- Garden View Room
- Graceland Suite
- Hospitality Suite
- Kids Suite
- King Suite
- Pool View Room
- Standard Room