Lowe’s Portofino Bay Universal Resort is a world away from the busy Universal Theme Parks. (I mean this figuratively; the location is actually conveniently close to City Walk & Park Entrances.) It is modeled after a real Italian waterfront town, with scooters for photo ops and colorful sailboats moored in the harbor. The facades of the building are painted with a trompe d’oeil effect (this is a thing that Alex mansplained in detail during a stop in one of the courtyards) to create the illusion of carvings. An exploration of the resort led us through no shortage of Italian-style gardens and plazas. The resort is also home to a large convention center, but it was unoccupied during our visit, giving us plenty of time to take in the decorative paintings featuring a cat.
Pools & Amenities
There are three pools onsite. A small Hillside Pool at the far end of the East Guest Wing is a convenience for guests who are staying further from the central Lobby Area. We stayed in the West Guest Wing, with easy access to both the family friendly and busy Beach Pool and the serene Villas Pool.
Transportation to the Parks was super easy, with a garden-lined path along the canal that gets you to the entrance to Universal Studios Florida with just a 15-20-minute walk. The boats were equally convenient, arriving every 15 minutes and taking you to a dock centrally located in City Walk between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando.
Rooms & Club Level Amenities
Room options range from Standard Rooms to large Suites. We stayed in a two-queen Standard room and splurged on Club Level for the first time, which gave us access to the Club Lounge and Madera Spa amenities.
In the lounge we picked up both cooked and continental-style breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening wine & beer, small-plate dinner options, and dessert service. We opted to take our meals to outdoor seating spots around the resort, and on the patio adjacent to the Lounge. Breakfast had the most options, and was easily a full meal. For dinner, they offered three cooked options (a starch, a meat, and a vegetable) and we selected a sampling of our preferences. They also provided rolls and raw vegetables each meal, so we were able to make a meal out of the dinner by returning once for second servings of the vegetable sides. I
In the spa, I was able to escape the insanity of the busy weekend Park crowds in the sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi. In all, we aren’t sure that the $150/night Club Level upgrade matched dollar for dollar, but it did force us to relax and enjoy the resort grounds more, instead of rushing from attraction to attraction in the parks. We were still trying to dine primarily outdoors, and the to-go option for meals gave us a chance to find nooks around the resort to enjoy dining al fresco.
Restaurants & Shopping
If you’ve visited the Boardwalk area at that other Orlando theme park resort, you’ll find Portofino similar for dining and shopping. There are both quick bite options and fine dining, and most are Italian inspired.
Let me help plan your trip to Universal Orlando, Florida
Choose a Resort
Universal Florida has so much to offer, and staying onsite is the best way to experience all of it. From the affordable (& brand new) Aventura Hotel to the luxury of Portofino Bay, there’s a place to stay for every interest and budget. Staying at a Universal Resort even gets you early admission to a park!
Go from Muggle to Wizard
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is rightfully the biggest draw to Universal Florida. This immersive experience is enjoyable if you’ve seen the movies, but even better if you’e read the books. Put on your robes and exchange your Muggle money, explore the dark corners of Knockturn Alley, and drink all the butterbeer .
Pick Your Parks
Universal Orlando is home to three parks: Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. (Note: a park to park ticket is needed to ride the Hogwarts Express.)
Dine at Universal Orlando
Finding fare to fit all budgets and dietary preferences is easy at Universal Orlando. Pre-order a quick meal using the App, reserve table service meals, or enjoy fine dining at a resort.