The Perlmutters Take On Universal Orlando

Spaceman Spiff

one by one, cleaning the universal boards of riff-
Apr 6, 2000
I found this over at and really enojyed it so I brought it here for you guys to enjoy too. Wish I could spend a month at UO.

The Perlmutters Take On Universal Orlando
By Rick and Gayle Perlmutter

Lately, we’ve been spending a lot of time at Universal Orlando. It might seem odd for a couple who usually write about Walt Disney World, but we’ve had our reasons. This year, for the first time, we’re covering Universal Orlando in our guidebook. If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple: Now that Universal Orlando has 2 luxurious resorts, it has become a theme park destination.

Of course, we love theme parks. But we must tell you that for us, a theme park adventure must be part of a larger picture, one that also includes luxurious accommodations, good food, and exciting night life. In just one brief stay at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel, we found all these things and a kind of theme park adventure that was something really different from what we were used to.

Universal’s two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, have an “in-your-face” kind of fun and an edginess that was new to us. Universal Orlando is a place of over-the-top coasters and pulse-pounding thrill rides. It’s a different kind of theme park adventure and one we thought our readers would want to know about.

The Hotels of Universal Orlando:
We love luxury resorts. For us, it’s what travel is all about. If all it took to satisfy us was “all the comforts of home,” we’d probably just stay there. These hotels did not disappoint.

Universal Orlando features 2 very different resorts, Portofino Bay Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel. Both are luxurious and comfortable and both feature everything that seasoned travelers like ourselves have come to expect: beautiful and spacious accommodations, wonderful service, great restaurants, and a special and memorable atmosphere. And these wonderful hotels not only offer an unequalled proximity to the Universal Orlando attractions but also a theme park benefit so amazing it made us feel very special. In fact, it gave us an idea of what a visit to Walt Disney World must be like for Michael Eisner.

“No Line, No Wait” is a perk for guests of Hard Rock or Portofino Bay that enables them to get right into virtually any attraction at Universal Orlando without waiting in line. It’s like FASTPASS on steroids and it made our time at Universal casual and relaxing. And this perk allowed us to see just about everything we wanted to see in just a few days. “No Line, No Wait” makes staying in one of Universal Orlando’s onsite hotels a real “no-brainer.”

As for location, guests of either hotel can simply hop aboard one of the beautiful motor launches that make the quick trip to the Universal Attractions. Disembarkation is at CityWalk and only a few steps from either theme park. A charming garden walkway is another choice and is especially nice after dark.

Both Portofino and the Hard Rock are Loews Hotels, a company that proclaims “Loews loves kids!” Both hotels feature a variety of perks for young guests: from a “Kid’s Closet” of toys to affordable two-room Kids Suites designed especially for families. Parents Magazine cites Loews as the top U.S. hotel chain for family travel. It’s easy to see why.

The Portofino Bay Hotel:

This charming place is a re-creation of its namesake, a picturesque village on the Italian Riviera that is a getaway for the world’s rich and famous. We’ll tell you that it seems more like a village in Italy than it does a themed hotel. Universal’s Portofino clings to the shores of a small harbor where a fleet of fishing boats lay quietly at anchor. The hotel’s beautiful piazzas, sparkling fountain courtyards, and narrow cobbled streets make it romantic and picturesque. Olive groves, small vineyards, and the colorful and decorative trompe l'oeil lend it a real sense of authenticity. And here on the lovely shores of Universal’s Mediterranean, is the luxurious Spa at the Portofino Bay Hotel.

Our standard room was lavishly furnished and surprisingly spacious (a stunning 450 square feet!). Bath robes, umbrella, bathroom scale, and luxurious toiletries were just a few of the amenities we enjoyed. After our first restful night, our only discomfort came with thoughts of check out.

The Hard Rock Hotel:

The beautiful fountain in front of this California mission-style hotel is a water-splashed spiral of bronze electric guitars. It speaks volumes about this place. Inside, the strains of classic rock are nearly everywhere. The lavish lobby features numerous displays of Hard Rock’s extensive collection of authentic rock memorabilia: autographed guitars, sequined costumes, and psychedelic posters advertising famous music festivals. But all is not simply music and artifacts here at the Hard Rock. This hotel is not just luxurious and beautiful but also casual and fun. Hard Rock claims to be the first in a new generation of hotels. We couldn’t agree more.

Even though the Hard Rock is a place of non-stop music and partying, our room was a safe haven of luxury and peace. Our spacious and well-appointed accommodations enjoyed some smart and stylish contrasts. The monotone beige of walls, bedspreads, and drapes were elegantly contraposed by the simple black and white photos of rock superstars and by the gentle curves and warm wood tones of bedstead and dresser. As modern as these furnishings were, they also seemed to evoke the stylish opulence of the 1920s. A plush carpet of teal and green brought everything together, to create an overall effect that seemed chic and soothing, even glamorous.

The Universal Orlando Theme Parks:

Our first theme park visit to Universal Orlando was to Islands of Adventure. The five separate areas here are really like different parks, each with its own unique theming and assortment of rides, shops, and restaurants. Some of the theming we enjoyed especially well: Port of Entry, Jurassic Park, and the Lost Continent.

Nearly wherever we went in the park, we could hear the screams coming from the park’s three world-class roller coasters, as they whipped through impossible-looking corkscrews and loop-de-loops. It’s hard to have favorites with this many rides, but here are few of them: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Poseidon’s Fury, and Jurassic Park River Adventure.

We hadn’t visited Universal Studios in years and were delighted to find so many new attractions that it seemed like a different place. We rode Men in Black at least three times (Gayle has recently discovered she likes to shoot things). Other favorites here were Terminator 2 3-D, Jaws, Back to the Future, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. There were many others and we spent several days enjoying the Studios. It was especially easy with our “No Line, No Wait” passes.


CityWalk is Universal’s place for nightclubs, restaurants, dance clubs, and shops. It even has a 20-screen Cineplex (we saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Some of the clubs here are surprisingly beautiful, especially Pat O’Brien’s and Bob Marley’s. In the evenings, there’s always something fun going on at the CityWalk stage. Later, clubs like CityJazz and the Latin Quarter feature live music well into the wee hours. We especially enjoyed the entertainment at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. We spent more than a few evenings here, browsing the shops (our favorite is The Endangered Species Store) and enjoying the food and music.

Dining at Universal Orlando:

There are so many great places to eat at Universal Orlando that we had trouble fitting them all in. At the hotels, we enjoyed The Palm, Sunset Grill, Mama Della’s, and the sublimely romantic Delfino Riviera. Eating at CityWalk was no less inviting with Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, the Latin Quarter, NBA City, and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Even the theme parks have some good food offerings. Our meal in Mythos at Islands of Adventure was memorable and reasonably-priced, too.

And in the End:

So, after more than a month of Universal Orlando, we are just as impressed by it as we were during our first days. If you’ve never been, we think you should give it a try. Just don’t go expecting to find a place that tries to be another Disney. Universal doesn’t try to be like any other place. It simply doesn’t have to.


Haha, nice! I remember last year when they said they would only cover Disney Parks in their book!


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