I have recently returned from a family vacation to Orlando, Florida and must say that I now need a rest to recuperate! I’m sure if you have ever visited this adventure filled city, you will understand. When my daughters were younger we visited Orlando many times, but as they are now all adults we have lacked the ‘excuse’ to visit this ‘kid’ friendly city, until now.
Our group of 10, with ages ranging from 11 to 80, decided that Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure were the number one priority during the trip. After doing our research, we soon discovered that the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando is the ONLY place to stay. Let me share with you how we ‘lived like rock stars’ during our vacation.
The hotels location is one of the biggest selling features for me, as it is just a short stroll to the theme parks, plus the shops, restaurants, and nightlife of CityWalk. Close enough to all the action, and yet nestled sufficiently away so as to protect you from all of the hubbub.
TIP: To exit and enter through the various gateways of the hotel you will need to show your hotel key. We found that putting our keys into a lanyard avoided the need to frequently scramble to locate our keys. The lanyard also came in very handy at the theme parks for showing our express pass (read on for more about express passes).
The hotel offers a wide variety of rooming options with over 620 guest rooms and 29 suites. We had booked 5 Standard Rooms with Pool Views for our group, and must admit to being a little surprised at just how large they were. With around 500 square feet, two queen beds, and a separate dressing area, they are ideal for families, or for couples that just want to spread out!
As you might expect at the Hard Rock, the rooms’ décor was contemporary with plenty of added amenities. As a coffee addict, I loved the Keurig coffee machine. I was happy to find a fridge to chill our bottled water, but surprised at no minibar? Oh well, less temptation for midnight munchies I guess.
The large HD flat-paneled television, MP3 docking station, clock radio, and high-speed wireless Internet access (free thankfully) ensures that all your technology needs are well met. A selection of magazines, and a daily complimentary newspaper, was also a nice touch.
One somewhat disappointing aspect we found with our room was the daily housekeeping service. Our room was frequently not cleaned until we called the front desk at mid afternoon, while one of our other rooms had a housekeeper knocking on the door at 8am. It felt a little like the hotel was understaffed, but in fairness it was peak season and as soon as we called, the problem was rectified.
I am also not a fan of the electronic key entry system. While the keys are quite fun, with different character photos printed on each one, we had quite a few issues with them not working. We also discovered that when we had checked into the hotel we had not authorized for the keys to be used as a charging device at the various stores.
Tip: If you have a $ after your name on your key then you are not able to use the key to charge items to your room. This can be easily rectified at the reception desk (but not if you are not told!!).
100% of the rooms are smoke free and the hotel caters to four-legged friends by being a pet friendly home away from home. We bumped into quite a few puppies during our stay and that made us wish that our Brinkley had been able to enjoy the vacation with us.
Tip: The rooms are quite spread out, and some are quite a long walk from the elevators, so specify your preference when booking if this is an issue.
The Pool – The Hard Rock Hotel Beach Club features heavily in all their advertising material, and for good reason. The younger members of our group had a great time on the 260 foot waterslide and thought the underwater speakers were quite novel. The 12,000 square foot pool had a sand area, and a separate kiddies pool to keep the really little ones happy. My favorite part though, and something that made me feel like a true VIP, was the cabana rental. Equipped with a ceiling fan, tv, fridge (stocked with sodas and water) wireless internet, and a dedicated server to bring you all the food and drink you could ever wish for.
Tip: you can book your cabana before your stay even begins. Should the weather look a bit doubtful, then you are able to cancel the day before without charge. We loved the Yellow Submarine themed cabana as it was in a great location, without too many people walking by.
Fitness Centre – Lets just say that I was in total relaxation and vacation mode so I did not make the most of this space, but my husband made up for that! The gym has a variety of cardio machines plus circuit training equipment, available from 5am to 10pm daily, at no additional charge. There are also lockers, and a steam and sauna room.
Spa – As with many luxury hotels, the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando has a spa facility. Our trip did not give us the time to try out this area (sad face) but maybe this gives me a good excuse to return one day.
The Kitchen – described as ‘new American cuisine, and comfort food with a rock ‘n roll attitude’ this is the location for a daily elaborate breakfast buffet, a lunch menu, and a dinner option. Check back on my blog soon for a more elaborate review of this restaurant, as we dined there MANY times.
Emack and Bolio’s Marketplace – located next to The Kitchen it is the place to get your Starbucks coffee, your ice cream sundaes, or pick up a snack, bottle of wine, or to find a toiletry item you forgot to pack.
The Palm Restaurant – if you want something a little more fancy, then this is the place to go. Our group enjoyed a wonderful meal on our last night at the hotel as we celebrated 3 milestone birthdays in our group – a 21st, a 50th and an 80th (pretty impressive) We booked one of the private dining rooms within the restaurant and enjoyed delicious steak, plenty of bubbly, all served by very attentive staff who helped to make our celebration special. Appetizers $10-$24, Salads $8-$16, Steak $47-$99.
The Velvet Bar – for over 21s only, so not ever very full during our visit in this kid friendly hotel.
Beachclub – as you might guess, this is located by the pool and serves a variety of drinks, plenty of cocktails, plus a good selection of snacks and appetizers. Our favorite was the southwest chicken salad at $17 a serving with grilled chicken breast on a bed of lettuce with black beans, roasted corn, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro and a delicious jalapeno honey vinaigrette.
Despite a few niggly things not going to plan, our group thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando and would gladly go back again (tomorrow if possible). The staff was extremely helpful and very cheerful (in a kind of theme park way). But here are my top 3 reasons why you should ONLY stay at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando when visiting Universal.
Have you been to this wonderful resort, if so, what do you think? I hope you found this post informative and an aid to planning your next vacation. If so, consider signing up for my monthly newsletter to ensure you don’t miss any tips (or tricks) that I discover during my journey around the globe.
Address: 5800 Universal Boulevard, Florida 32819
Phone: +1 407 503 2000