Universal’s expansion since 2014 has been extremely impressive. After Royal Pacific Resort opened in 2002 bringing the hotel count on Universal Orlando property up to three, it was twelve years before the next hotel officially opened. After Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort opened in 2016 and now Universal’s Aventura Hotel, the sixth hotel on-site, is officially open!
Each hotel on campus is unique, but Universal’s Aventura Hotel is more different than any Universal hotel to come before it. Aventura is a Prime Value hotel, which is currently the best price point that you can receive for a hotel room at Universal Orlando Resort. The other Prime Value on-site is Cabana Bay, and the other hotels are Premier and Preferred.
At value pricing, you do have to ask the question, “Will this live up to hotels that are twice the cost?” The answer is yes in some ways and no in others. Normally we don’t enjoy reviewing a restaurant or hotel on its opening day, because we understand that everything “new” has growing pains and needs time to work the kinks out. That being said, we have to cover everything new and exciting in the universe, so this review is merely a snapshot of a moment in time. Now, let’s take a look at my stay at Universal’s Aventura Hotel on its opening day.
It’s easy to spot Universal’s Aventura Hotel and its 600 rooms from all over Universal Orlando property as well as I-4. It’s higher than any other hotel on-site, and its fidget spinner shape with giant glass windows from the top to the bottom catch the eye. At night, it’s lit in shades of blue that represent its modern, clean aesthetic inside perfectly. For those who are planning on parking at the hotel, self-parking is $14 a day per car and valet is not an option.
Walking into the lobby, you immediately are hit with clean lines and colors in a very open, modern concept. Because of this, you won’t find the same endearing themes that you’ll see at the other hotels. There is no warm entryway like Portofino Bay or Royal Pacific and the fun that you have walking in the door at Hard Rock and Cabana Bay is missing. It has a similar, cool feel to its next door neighbor, Sapphire Falls, but with a general lack of theming, unless you consider contemporary a theme.
Check-in was about as smooth as you could hope for a hotel on opening day. The line fluctuated throughout the day, but there was never more than ten groups waiting, and when I checked in, I walked right up to the counter. The Team Member checking me in was courteous and professional, despite having issues with her computer crashing during the process.
After checking in, I immediately went up to my room to check it out. A few days before the grand opening, I had the benefit of attending a preview where I was able to see a Standard Queen Room, a Deluxe Queen Room, and a Kids Suite. I was in a Standard King Room and I was pleasantly surprised. The 314-square-foot room felt open and inviting. The Standard Queen Room I previously saw felt tight, mostly due to the two large beds, but the Standard King Room features one bed and a fold-out sleeper couch that keeps the room from feeling claustrophobic. Also worth noting, the Queen Room I saw in previews was one straight line with the bathroom and bedroom in a straight configuration, but the King Room I was in is essentially L-shaped, which helped make the room feel extra large.
The hard wood floors in the room add a warmth that balances the white walls and sheets. The drawers and desk are light colored wood and look like they came out of an IKEA catalog. The headboard has purple tones, while the sleeper coach and decorative pillow on the bed have a sea green color scheme. One wall is accented with the hotels’s fidget spinner design to add some extra pop and color to the room. The bathroom is cleanly designed with a sliding door to the shower/toilet area for privacy and the toiletries are Zero%.
The room is all about technology. The main controls from the room are on your special iPad that comes standard in a charging case with an in-room charging base so it never dies at the wrong time. The amount it can do is frankly surprising. It showcases basics like pool and dining hours as well as resort maps, but it can also control some of the lights in the room, your thermostat, television (including YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime that stream directly to the TV), in-room dining, alarm clock, item requests, chat with the front desk, weather, and the Bible.
Overall, I found the in-room tablet use to be very easy to use, but it felt slightly incomplete. The main reason I say this is because of the lights. It would be great if all of the lights could be controlled with the tablet, but then again, the lights that aren’t are right beside the bed and the ones that are just happen to be further away, so it makes sense when you think about it. My favorite feature, besides the television control, is the room request service. It gives you the option to requests toiletries, coffee, extra sheets, even a crib and the delivery is pretty quick! I tested it out by ordering extra shampoos and they were delivered in eight minutes from the time I placed the order.
Besides the in-room tablet, each room has a bluetooth speaker, which is very simple to use if you want to blast some music. There are plenty of outlets; two USB and two regular outlets are placed on both the desk and nightstand giving several options to charge up your devices. The bathroom has two additional outlets. The coffee pot is a bit of a disappointment as it’s just a basic Cuisinart one cup brewer. It is the least technologically advanced device in the entire room.
The beds are on the firm side, but that’s to be expected considering they are brand new. The linens on the bed feel a bit cheap. I enjoy a freezing room while I sleep and balance it with decently warm blankets, but these didn’t do the job. I know my way of sleeping is peculiar, but the more you know. The shower was perfect with a high amount of water pressure and the Zero% toiletries were better quality than expected. The biggest surprise about the room was the soundproofing. I expected to hear sounds from the highway and more while sleeping, but the only ambient sound I heard was coming through the thin door from the hallway! As long as you don’t have noisy neighbors, you can manage to get a quiet night of sleep.
Dining around the resort is rather impressive and provides a ton of options for all travelers. The main dining at the resort is Urban Pantry and it’s open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. It’s based on a big city food hall and is located right in the lobby. Urban Pantry contains four food stations – Sushi/Wok, Burger, Roast, and Pizza. The best stations by far are Sushi/Wok and Roast, but I have a feeling that the food will improve at the other stations with time and guest feedback.
Bar 17 Bistro is the lounge on the 17th floor and the closest thing that Aventura has to full-service dining. The menu features Bao Buns, Rice/Noodle Bowls, and an assortment of Small Plates. The food up here is better than average, the views are incredible and give you a 360-degree look around Orlando, but there is one major issue – weather. Just like the theme parks, Bar 17 Bistro will shut down when lightning gets too close to the hotel. This happened while I was having a late night meal, so I understood the circumstance, but they really should’ve kept this lounge indoors considering the weather in Orlando is unpredictable. Even if there isn’t lightning, I can say that you will absolutely get wet if you’re sitting close enough to the windows and there is enough wind.
There are two more bars at the hotel – Bar Sol, which is the pool bar, and Bar Ventura, which is the lobby bar. Both provide quick service and plenty of options. There is a Starbucks in the lobby, which left me unimpressed. The service was relatively slow, which is expected from a new crew from Starbucks, but preparing drinks wrong is unacceptable. I ordered a Nitro Cold Brew, which should be served without ice, and it came out poured over ice like a normal Cold Brew Coffee. If you’re going to be a test dummy for this crew, speak up if your order is wrong. I didn’t and I regret it.
The pool area is just off the lobby and provides a relaxing atmosphere given the small space it is crowded into. The pool was much larger than I expected, but the big surprise was the huge number of pool chairs. There was a ton of seating around the pool and it seemed like there was even more in the splash pad section for kids. When I say splash pad, I say that with hesitation. Don’t expect this area to keep kids entertained for too long if they’re used to water slides and interactive water elements, but this hotel doesn’t scream kids in general. There is also a hot tub and fire pit which lights up every night.
Other amenities at the hotel include the gym, which is located on the 2nd floor of the hotel and is large considering there are only 600 rooms at Aventura. The gym is full of treadmills, machines, and free weights allowing for many different workouts. Instead of a typical arcade, Aventura has opted for an extra cost VR Room that is located right beside the fitness center. There are only three VR stations and it costs $10 for a play. It may be technologically advanced, but time will tell if its successful enough to sustain.
The best way to describe Universal’s Aventura Hotel is neutral. From the design to the dining to the rooms, it all screams neutrality. Universal wants this to be their on-site boutique hotel and they definitely achieved their goal. I would be pleasantly surprised to stay at a hotel like this in Los Angeles, New York City, or any other major city, but not necessarily at Universal Orlando. While I’ve applauded Universal in the past for the redesign of their rooms at the other hotels, the reason I could applaud them was due to the overarching theme that still existed at the resort. Universal’s Aventura Hotel does not have a theme in any way, shape, or form and it suffers from that.
Aventura could be placed anywhere else in the world and I would be singing its praises from the lobby to the 17th floor, but it lacks the magic and design of Universal Orlando as a whole. This hotel feels like it wants to attract millennials and business travelers, and it may do so successfully, but it definitely won’t be the go-to place for families despite such an attractive starting price point.