Surf & turf sliders at Vice Versa, Vdarra

Review: Vice Versa at Vdarra, Las Vegas

Vice Versa Patio Lounge Address: 2600 W. Harmon Avenue, Las Vegas (at the Vdarra Hotel & Spa) MJ Rating:  1/2 (2 1/2 out of 3 stars) Features: Vice Versa is located on the center patio of the Vdarra Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas. Casual, yet hip, Vice Versa’s patio has fire pits (perfect for colder desert evenings) […]

Is a River Cruise Right for You?

Earlier this year, I was the enthusiastic guest of Viking River Cruises onboard their longship Eistla cruising the Rhine. We started in Frankfurt and ended in Amsterdam, the trip is also offered in reverse, and, I’m told, this was a fairly typical first river cruise itinerary. River cruising is generating a lot of buzz lately, […]

American Goldfinch Martini

There’s a New Bird in Town: Goldfinch Tavern at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

After months (and months) of construction, and months (and months) of wondering what it would be like, the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and Ethan Stowell have now opened the Goldfinch Tavern. Named for Washington’s state bird, the Goldfinch Tavern offers simply prepared Pacific Northwest cuisine made with premium local ingredients. Open for break, lunch, dinner, weekend […]

Mt Fuji, Japan

Yoshida Udon: A Meal Fit for Mt. Fuji

It was hot and filling, and best of all – it wasn’t fish! I slurped up that bowl of Yoshida Udon like there was no tomorrow. I had been in Japan for a couple of days and had been treated to gourmet meals aplenty. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were beautiful works of art, masterpieces of […]

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Hotel Review: Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel, Orlando



Loew’s Portofino  Bay Hotel

Address:  Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando is located at 5601 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida.

Value Luxury Ratingheart 15xheart 15xheart 15x (out of three hearts)

Features:  Located on the grounds of Universal Orlando Resort, and a short complimentary water taxi away from CityWalk and the theme parks (and through November first from Halloween Horror Nights), the hotel location is popular with guests wanting the extra benefits that come with staying on property. Those theme park benefits are substantial, adding up to real dollar and cents savings, and include:  Express Pass (skip the lines) valued at up to $89/per day, priority seating at many theme park restaurants and first available seating at others, first available seating at CityWalk restaurants, complimentary water taxi to both theme parks (avoid driving and parking), complimentary shuttle to Wet ‘n Wild water park, SeaWorld, and Aquatica, and one hour early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Those amenities represent substantial savings of time and money, easily making this a value luxury hotel for anyone wanting to visit Universal Orlando.


Other hotel features include:  resort charging privileges (including at the theme parks), package delivery (send your purchases back to your room and stay at the parks having a good time), golf program with shuttle to two nearby premium golf resorts, spa on property, three swimming pools (I hung out at the adults only pool because it was quitet, but the beach pool in photo above looked like a lot of fun), and more. The hotel is pet friendly (additional fee), offering numerous amenities for the four-footed guest.

Price Range:  I stayed in a deluxe queen double room overlooing the Beach Pool. Checking prices on random dates for early 2016, prices for this room start at around $325/night. This is an entry level room; garden views are less (around $280/night) and view rooms and suites are more.

Personal Notes:  Let’s be honest here – a theme park vacation is not an inexpensive proposition. For many families, it’s a dream vacation, one that is planned for (and saved for) all year (or years) long. After putting that much effort into a theme park vacation, don’t scrimp on a hotel. Getting a well situated hotel saves money (see the amenities listed above), time (early admissions, no need to drive and park), and stress. That’s like banking up more good times for use during your time at the theme parks.

As an adult, however, I don’t want the cacophony of screaming kids surrounding me. Sure, at the parks I expect it. But at my hotel, I like something with a little more quiet, a respite from the craziness of a day at a theme park. That’s where Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Resort really delivers. The hotel offers lots of important family amenities, but it doesn’t dismiss guests wanting peace and quiet. The lovely European-styled resort has plenty of nooks and crannies to escape to for some down time. The hillside adult only pool is quiet, the Bellinis served poolside are delicious, and you’d never know you’re so close to the theme parks.

For dining, you can opt for one of the restaurants on property, offering options from family friendly to adult upscale. Grab a coffee at Starbucks and sit on one of the patios to ease into the day. Watch the sunset go down over the bay with a glass of wine or hit the fitness center to work off some nervous energy (or calories from that glass of wine).

Table side guacamole at Antijitos with @hypoxic0004 #universalcitywalk A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on


If you’re ready to escape the hotel for awhile, Universal CityWalk provides three blocks of shopping, dining, and nightlife, and is a quick water taxi ride away from the hotel. It’s convenient location next to the entrance to Universal Orlando Resort offers many choices — pick up some casual food to take back to your room or choose one of the casually delicious restaurants for dining al fresco. I tried Vivo for Italian (try the meatballs) and Antijito for Mexican (try the guacamole made tableside precisely for your palate preference).

With so many ways to spend your theme park time and money, staying on property at Loew’s Portofino Bay Resort at Orlando makes good sense and cents.

Disclosure:  My trip to Orlando and stay at Loew’s was sponsored by Universal Orlando.


Explore the archives for more travel ideas.

Halloween Horror Nights: A Hauntingly Good Time

As daytime segued into evening, the personality of Universal Studios Florida segued from fun and frivolity into apprehension and anxiety. […]

Postcard from Universal CityWalk

Universal CityWalk

Located adjacent to the entrance to Universal Orlando Resort, Universal CityWalk is a three block dining, shopping, and entertainment district. […]

Lisbon: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Monument of the Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal

A little over four years ago, we were planning a trip to Portugal. The plan was to stay in the […]

Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

The ruins of Pompeii are a UNESCO World Heritage Site

On August 24th, 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted in a violent two day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, […]