- Fitness center charges a per-day access fee.
- Self and valet parking charged daily.
- No spa (though guests can make use of the spa at the Portofino)
- 25- to 30-minute drive to Disney theme parks
A family-friendly, rock-themed resort right next to Universal Studios theme park
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
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.
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.
Average-size and comfortable, with up-to-date amenities
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.
Excellent array of facilities, including a great pool
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.
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.
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 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.
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