While it may be hard to think of rock ‘n’ roll and luxury in the same breath, the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resorts combines the best of both to offer guests a memorable stay. Driving up to resort, the California mission styled buildings create a laid-back vibe. Walking into the lobby will amp up your energy with rock music on the sound system. It can seem a bit loud when there is a gaggle of people in line, but after a long day of traveling it injected some much-needed liveliness into our attitudes.
Front desk service was cheery and helpful. Don’t let the purple hair and piercings cause you to jump to the wrong impression, these young men and women are service professionals. After taking care of the usual check in necessities, I got a brief overview of the property’s amenities, picked up a map of the grounds and area, and got a few questions answered.
I also signed up for the hotel’s text message program. By the time I got to my room, I had a welcome message from Robert (who had checked me in) and a reminder to text any questions or concerns that I might have. It’s a useful service that can make a call to the operator or a stop at the front desk/concierge unnecessary. They are able to provide information about the entire Universal Orlando resort system, not just the hotel. I’m a pretty low-maintenance traveler, so wasn’t sure if I’d use the service, but it came in handy when I lost a lens cap and had a question as well as when I needed to adjust a reservation time.
The lobby also features a large living room area with comfortable couches, chairs, tables, a large screen television, and some plug-ins. It was an often used spot to meet up with people, get a little work done, or to hang out after check out but before the shuttle service arrived. It opened out onto a patio deck that overlooked the pool, and the weather was warm enough to enjoy both indoor and outdoor relaxation. All the common areas feature one-of-a-kind rock memorabilia and music that seem to change frequently.
Guest rooms are spacious and continue the rock theme. Pillows were embroidered with sayings like “Keep Cool” and “Peace,” other pillows sported the peace sign, and the mirror had growth marks representing heights of various musicians. Scoot up against it and see which artist is the same height as you (for me, it’s Beyonce). As fun as this was, there was a downside – it’s the only full-length mirror in the room and it was hard to get a good view of how you looked before leaving the room. Perhaps if you’re a true rock star it doesn’t matter.
Our entry level room had two queen sized beds and overlooked the Woodstock Lawn; the water taxi and walkway were just beyond. There was plenty of work space and plugins, including USB plugs, a refrigerator, and coffee maker with pods. A separate vanity with dressing area made it easy for the three of us to use the bathroom facilities as well as get ready each morning. The seventh-floor club level offers guest additional perks, including complimentary breakfast.
Special features at the hotel include a program that helps you create a personalized playlist and having a Fender guitar delivered to your room (deposit agreement required). I didn’t take advantage of either of these options, but since they are standard at other Hard Rock Hotels, perhaps I will another stay.
We ate a two of the restaurants at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, the Palm Restaurant, a classic steak and chop house, and The Kitchen, offering all day dining.
The Palm Restaurant is a well-known steakhouse chain with locations around the country. It features a retro-swank atmosphere, although dress code is still Florida casual, a dimly lit interior, and a menu of classic steak preparations. Reservations recommended.
The Kitchen offers salads, burgers, sandwiches, and assorted fare. We stopped off for an afternoon snack and enjoyed the housemade potato chips topped with a blue cheese and balsamic glaze. Delicious! Reservations not required, we visited twice as walk-ins and were seated immediately.
While we didn’t have time to spend at the pool, it was busy, but not overcrowded, with swimmers rocking out to the underwater sound system. Midday there were plenty of lounge chairs still available, as well as cabanas available for rent. With as busy a schedule as we had, I wish we would have made time for a down day and spent time relaxing by the pool.
One of the compelling reasons to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando is the special perks offered at neighboring Universal Orlando theme parks. Easy access is a big plus, it’s a short walk (5-10 minutes) on a paved and well-lit path, or you can catch a free water taxi that docks at the hotel. It’s easy enough to go back and forth between your room and the parks multiple times a day. Your room key also gives you resort-wide charging privileges and at select venues purchases will be delivered to your room free of charge.
Another key perk is early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (an hour before regular admission can greatly reduce wait time) and will also include early admission to Volcano Bay when it opens in May. Hotel guests also get the Express Pass which allows users to skip the regular lines at participating rides and attractions at both theme parks (a value of $89 per person per day). We used the Express Pass lines whenever we could and found that it cut the wait time in about half. Both the early admission and express pass are enhanced benefits when staying at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, regular park admission tickets are still required.
A convenient location, rock ‘n’ roll luxury, and a value price with lots of perks make the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando a great choice.
The Hard Rock Hotel Orlando is located at 5800 Universal Blvd., Orlando, Florida, and is one of six hotels at Universal Orlando Resorts. The others are Loews Portofino Bay, Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Sapphire Falls, and the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The Aventura will open in 2018. Rates start around $300 night, with dozens of package options available. Add up on the extra benefits you get from staying at a resort property to realize the full value of your room price. Book directly with the hotel or try a booking site such as Priceline or Expedia.
NOTE: I received a complimentary stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando.
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