Staying on property at Universal can be quite an expensive endeavor. Thanks to the addition of Cabana Bay and Sapphire Falls, there are now cheaper options available. However, the premier hotels still offer some attractive add-ons that might be worth the price tag.
We decided to spend a night in the Hard Rock Hotel to make our visit to Universal Orlando easier during our Disney holiday. We opted for a standard room knowing we’d only be there for the night, as we would spend all our time in the parks and on CityWalk.
The benefits of staying in a premier hotel at Universal include early admission to the Wizarding World, free transportation, priority seating at certain restaurants, complimentary access to select live entertainment, shopping sent to your room for free and, arguably most importantly, a Universal Express Unlimited pass for all guests for every day of their stay. So this means, even if you are only spending one night at the hotel, you will have a two-day pass. The price for this pass starts at $84 per day per person. It is also important to note that you receive the Unlimited pass compared to the regular Express pass which you can only use once per ride.
We arrived extremely early at the hotel, so we could be in the park for opening. Check-in was quick and easy, the staff was very friendly and helpful. Our room was ready, so we could drop our bags off straightaway. If your room isn’t ready yet, they will hold your bags for you so you can start exploring. This works at check-out as well and is free of fee. So, just leave your bags at the concierge and head out. Before heading to our room, we created our Express pass in the lobby which was so easy.
The room itself had a decent size and the beds were comfortable. The bathroom was very simple but had its own sink, additionally to the wash basin outside of the bathroom. The room was clean and had an overall comfortable feel to it. My one criticism would be how dark the room was, even with all the lights on. We were on one of the lower floors and behind a lot of trees, so these factors probably contributed as well. The hotel furthermore offers multiple restaurants, bars with occasional live music and a pool that plays music underwater. A Hard Rock shop can, of course, be found as well. Most of the entertainment is geared at a more adult audience, but we did see a fair few families.
When booking there was an offer on for bed & breakfast, which saved us around $10 per person compared to the regular breakfast price. The breakfast buffet was plentiful and really good. There were many traditional breakfast dishes from the US and Europe, cold and hot. There was savoury and sweet, including pastries and fresh fruit. Finally, my favourite feature of the breakfast buffet were the omelette and French toast/pancake station. Here you could pick from suggested favourites or make your own. Just a tip though, the omelettes are huge! Service was fine during breakfast, a little slow at times but overall we could not complain. We thought it was a great way to start the day and were full until afternoon.
Important things to keep in mind when making your decision whether to stay in a premier hotel, and the Hard Rock Hotel, are your budget and your needs. Firstly, do the math of how much money you would be saving compared to buying these things individually, e.g. Express pass and breakfast. Secondly, make sure you actually will reap the benefits from these add-ons. During quieter times you can probably get through the park without the pass just fine. Thirdly, do you want to treat yourself? Then go for it!
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hard Rock Hotel. The room was perfect for our needs, and the hotel made it easy for us to relax while making the most out of our short time at Universal. Walking distance to the parks, free water taxis to CityWalk and the Express pass certainly were big selling factors for us. I would definitely recommend this hotel for a short but sweet stay, and we will most certainly be returning! Oh, and room service is that cherry on top…