In today’s post, Seth Kubersky, author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, shares with us the advantages of a stay at Universal Orlando on-site hotels.
Universal offers perks to get theme park visitors into its hotels. All guests at Universal Orlando Resort on-site hotels can take advantage of the following:
• Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World one hour before the public
• The ability to charge in-park purchases to the hotel-room key
• Free package delivery to the hotel room for any items purchased in the theme parks
• Free parking at the main CityWalk parking garage
• Free transportation to the theme parks and CityWalk
• Pool-hopping privileges to use any hotel’s recreational facilities
• Free Wi-Fi Internet in all hotel rooms and public areas (faster speeds available for a fee)
• Free scheduled transportation to SeaWorld and Aquatica via the Super Star Shuttle
• Free rental golf clubs, range balls, and transportation (for foursomes) to participating golf courses.
In addition, every guest staying at the three deluxe hotels (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific) get the following benefits:
• Free Universal Express Unlimited Passes for both parks
• Priority seating at select restaurants in the parks and CityWalk
All these benefits are available from the moment you arrive until midnight on the day you check out. Even if your room won’t be ready until the afternoon, you can register at your hotel as early in the morning as you like, leaving your bags and retrieving your Express Passes (if eligible) in time for the Early Park Admission hour. Then linger at the resort after your checkout time, taking advantage of your pool privileges until late in the evening.
Staying at On-site Hotels Includes Early Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The most valuable of these perks is the admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the general public each morning, followed by the Universal Express Unlimited Passes for deluxe guests. It’s hard to put a dollar value on the Early Park Admission, but two-park Universal Express Unlimited Passes are sold to the general public for $80–$160 per day, per person, excluding tax, depending on the time of year you visit. Universal says the pass is “a value of up to $89,” which works out to $356 per day for a family of four.
One night at Universal’s Royal Pacific hotel costs anywhere from $234 to $404, excluding tax, depending on the season. If you were planning on staying at a comparable off-site deluxe hotel anyway, staying at the Royal Pacific gets your family two days of Universal Express Unlimited at little to no extra cost. During busy season, this can be a huge boon for parties of four or five. If you are traveling solo or as a couple, or are visiting at a slow time of year, calculate the cost of staying at Cabana Bay or Sapphire Falls and buying Express Passes upon arrival if they turn out to be necessary.
Some of the benefits are of questionable value. Free parking at the theme parks, for example, is of little use to anyone staying at the resort because it’s probably just as much walking from the resort as it is from the garages.
Having stayed at each of Universal’s hotels, we think a sometimes overlooked benefit is the ability to walk to the parks from your hotel. And it’s not just the convenience—the walkways are pretty and almost serene at night, if you can ignore the whooshing noise from The Incredible Hulk Coaster.