Universal/Portifino experience


Earning My Ears
Jan 2, 2001
Let me start by saying this was my first time to stay at the Portifino Bay and will be my last. The hotel portion of this trip did not meet my expectations.

Our vacation started with arrival at the Portifino at 1:30 PM. I requested early check in at 1:00 PM, and was informed that no early check in was possible. I also requested that we had adjoining rooms for my family (Me, my Wife and two boys 5 and 2) and my Mother and her husband. Not only did they not have us rooms that were together; they were in separate wings. They then stated that they could put us in the same wing just not on the same floor. So we then went to lunch and came back to check in at 3:00 PM. We again requested rooms at least on the same floor, the person that was helping us this time was dismayed that we were not on the same floor to begin with and got us rooms on the same floor, which we were assured only 1 1/2 hours before would not be possible. I kind of hate to complain about this but it seemed to me that everything I had requested on the phone at the time of making my reservations was a waste of time.

On to the rooms. The rooms were nice but not extravagant, although the bathroom was very nice. We got the room with the separate shower and bath. One gripe I had about the room was the fact that the mini-bar did not have a price list. I called the "Star Service" number and requested one and after an hour the list has still not shown up and we gave up and went to bed. The room that my Mother had, like all the others, came with feather pillows. I happen to love feather pillows but my mother is allergic, she requested foam pillows and after 1 1/2 hours a roll-a-way bed was delivered to her room, no foam pillows, just a bed that she had not requested.

The last thing on my list is a trip to the concierge to find out about the front of the line stuff (which in my book, even with all the problems, made the Portifino stay almost worth while). We were instructed to show our room keys to the attendant at the front of each ride. We were then instructed at the time of check out (we only stayed one night) to come back to the concierge and pick up special room keys due to the fact that we would have to turn in our room keys at check out. We found out the next morning that this was not true after all and they could not believe that some one there had told us that. The room keys were ours to keep, and we actually needed them to exit the parking garage.

All in all for $320 a night they did not seem to have their act together. I have stayed on premise at WDW (Dixie Landings and Wilderness Cabins) on two separate occasions as was far more impressed with the level of service and friendliness of the staff.

Next time I will stay at WDW and schedule maybe one day for IOA, which is the better of the two USF parks. I hope I didn't ramble on too long with my rant, I just wanted to vent in a forum where everyone might use this in conjunction with other trip stories to help them plan their next vacation.

Sorry it wasn't what your family expected. Sounds to me like your initial check-in with a misinformed clerk may have spoiled your opinion of the remaining stay. Keep in mind, the Portifino is a first class hotel that provides numerous amenities(room service, fitness, etc.) not available at Dixie Landings or Wilderness Cabins. The fact you spoke to the Concierge is in it self something unavailabe at DLR or Wild.cabins.
Sounds like the events were annoying yet, did they have lasting affects on your enjoyment of the parks?
How was FOTL?
I understand the pillow issue. Four out of Five hotels my family stays in, don't provide enough pillows. We always wait at least 30-hour for more(including the WDWContemp.)
I loved the front of the line privilege! It was great. As far as the hotel experience swaying my visits to the parks, it did not. I love IOA, it is my second favorite behind Epcot, and that is only because I have small children. USF did not really excite me all that much though; it was ok but not great.

Portifino is a first class hotel, and that is why my expectations were high. You should not have to deal with the kind of annoyances we dealt with at a first class hotel. Also the demeanor of the staff was not what I would expect, they were not rude by any means but they did not seem to want to put in the effort for great service. This has not been the case at the WDW resort hotels we have stayed at. They always seemed happy to take care of whatever issue you had without fail. Also whatever information we needed about the parks (i.e. Early admission, etc.) we were able to get at check in at the front counter.

Unfortunately it was not just one misinformed clerk at the Portifino it was two at the front desk and one at the concierge counter. It was not an entirely unpleasant experience, it is just the fact when I spend that kind of money, I want it to be the best, and it was not.

The long and the short of it is next time I come to Orlando for a vacation my money is going to WDW. If they could just give me FOTL there :)
When I was at Portofino in August they screwed up our room assignments that we had booked and the woman at the front desk was unwilling to help so I asked to speak to the hotel manager. He was very accomodating, understood our problem and compensated us for the trouble that we went through. The problem is that the front desk clerks do not have the power to do anything for you and try to get you to accept whatever room they have in the computer for you. You must demand to speak to the hotel manager if you are having any type of problem that the clerk will not solve for you. I believe if you simply explained to the hotel manager that you are not paying $320 per night for your family to be separated, he or she would have done something to better accomodate you.

I have even had worse experiences in Disney Resorts. The BoardWalk front desk people are the most incompitent I have ever seen! They wanted me to take a lower category room than I paid for! It wasn't until I spoke with the manager that we cleared everything up!!


Just my thoughts here. We travel quite a bit. Have stayed in Disney World at least 10 times or more and have stayed in some very exclusive hotels around the country. We have had anywhere from extremly wonderful experiences to dreadful ones...all in the same resorts. My point is this:
Our experience is very subjective to who is waiting on us, the time of day, the mood we or the service person is in at that moment, the stress level etc. There are many reasons for things "not going our way", that are out of our, or their control. If the majority of the people have a great time at a resort...then one has to conclude that "a bad experience" is a rare one and not an over-all attitude of the entire hotel. I never judge an experience without taking all this into consideration. My good time probably depends mostly on how well I get over disappointments and expectations and move on to enjoying the moment. I survived a "Disney Cruise"! The best part of that vacation was our veranda room, and the disney shows. The food was "the pits". This cruise is a bit over-priced in our opinion, but we enjoyed ourselves in spite of it. That is what you have to do. Over look a few things and move out of your "expectation" mode.
Just so you don't feel alone, we had the same sort of experiences at the Portofino. FOTL saved our feelings, but we left feeling that the PBH left much to be desired considering the price. It is unique and all, but it has a looong way to go to attain the 5-star rating it aspires to get.
Visited Portofino and Universal mid-December with my sister and new brother-in-law. We loved Universal and enjoyed the beauty and restaurants at Portofino Bay. I particularly love the villa pool and the American Bar. We did however have housekeeping issues. Our rooms were quite far from each other, (my sister stated, "I think our room is in Tennessee")but, since we are all adults
we were ok with it. When my sister initially got into her room(6:00pm)there was only a sheet on the bed. It took housekeeping two trips to get the correct size bedding. The next day, housekeeping left their pile of dirty towels on the floor and their bed looked like the duvet had been thrown on the bed from across the lagoon and then napped on. At that point I was embarrassed, as I had booked the vacation and told them how much I loved Portofino.
I went to the front desk and told the manager who assured me he would send housekeeping to fix it.
When we got up to their room after dinner the staff had cleaned up the mess but were congregating (about 6 housekeeping people and a cart)right outside their door. My sister and her husband were at first nervous to go in the room (thought the staff might be mad because I complained). I just went up to them and said, "excuse me, we would like to get in"...at that point they left. The following day I left the daily tip for the housekeeper (my room) under the pillow (sticking out a little). When I came in from the pool the housekeeper had not been there yet but the tip was gone. I called star service and found out the mini bar had been attended to and probably the mini bar attendant had taken the tip. Gee, I don't know...I think if I wanted to tip the mini bar guy I would have left it on the mini bar. When I spoke to my housekeeper she said
it was the second time that day someone had complained about the same issue. Although these problems may seem small, I see it as a potential threat to their future business. Just in case you're wondering, we did not receive an apology, complimentary drink, or anything. I think it would have been nice of them to have sent my sister and her new husband a small bottle of wine or something since I had explained to them this trip was a wedding gift from me and I felt slightly embarrassed about the housekeeping and the condition of the room upon check-in. Thanks for listening.


Souns like you guys didn't get the service you expected. That bites no matter where you are. I was soured on Universal after a trip to USF about 5 or 6 years ago. I thought that it was boring and poorly planned after having been to WDW. Handicapped access to the rides wasn't thought out well and the service was miserable.

Last year my Mother received a "special offer" to book the PBH. For $670 she received 3 nights, 4 days for 2 people. It included unlimited passes to Universal, FOTL access, a gift for the kid (she took my son) and a dinner for each of them. There were other little extras thrown in too. The rest of our group was staying in Disney at OKW. Our group was very impressed with the service given to Mom by the Portofino. The room was way the heck out in a far wing but it was close to the boat access for the parks. The rooms were clean with the mints on the pillows. I thought the rooms were more luxurious than the ones in WDW, and we've stayed in many of them. Mom has stayed at the GF and liked this better. She checked in last Friday. She was originally supposed to go in Nov. and became sick, so the trip was transferred to the same time as our WDW excursion. No problem with the transfer, and her packet with all her goodies was waiting in the concierge office.

On one of the days Mom was sick with a migraine so she spent the day in the hotel. The maid, who only spoke Haitian French, was extremely kind to my Mom and brought her extra packets of coffee (I guess she realized caffeine helps a migraine). My husband left our Disney group to take the kid to Universal and he couldn't believe the change in the park. USF is still eh but IOA was wonderful. He was dancing like a kid when he came back to us. Since he has been to MGM a few times, I took our friends to MGM while he went to IOA.

On our last Florida day Mom, the kid, and two of our friends decided to go to IOA. The husband, one friend and I checked out of Disney, went over to the Portofino, put all the luggage in the van and spent the day using the Portofino pools with Mom's key. Lemme tell you, I love WDW but these pools had them beat. They were spotless. The bathrooms were spotless. The service was great. We spent some time in the beach pool and then went to the Villa pool. Again, I have never seen cleaner bathrooms, and not many places have free personal product dispensers. No one gave us a hard time about being there, which was nice since we were naughtily poaching their pool.

Mom had no complaints whatsoever about the PBH and wants to go back. I doubt she'll get a package like that again. I think that it's new, they have to get some bugs ironed out and they have to really impress upon their staff that the customer is always right. Maybe give them another chance.

Well after sending a letter and an e-mail to Lowes corporate headquarters I got a response, which in itself was refreshing, and an apology that seemed sincere. The managment at the Portifino wants to make good so I thought I would pass the info on to ya'll. So here you go folks the good pub with the bad. After this response I think I will give them another chance.


Dear Mr. Sparks:

Thank you for taking the time to comment on your recent stay at Portofino Bay
Hotel at Universal Orlando, a Loews Hotel. It is always appreciated when our
guests share their observations, as your feedback provides valuable insight as
we strive to provide excellent services and accommodations for our guests.

Mr. Sparks, we extend our sincere apologies to you and your family for the
difficulties you experienced. We have forwarded your concerns to the
appropriate department managers so that they are made aware of the situation.

Our mission is to create timeless memories for our guests and we do hope that
you will return to Portofino Bay Hotel. Obviously, we failed to achieve our
goals and meet your expectations. For this, we are truly sorry. When your
travel plans bring you back to the Orlando area, please contact my
administrative assistant at 407-xxx-xxxx, and she will be happy to upgrade your

We look forward to welcoming you as our guest in the near future.

Thank you and have a wonderful day.

(Name Withheld)
General Manager

I received the identical letter. Understandably, form letters are used widely, however, I agree it seems sincere on the part of the management.
my experience is that Portofino tried to make good on their errors.

I had two minor problems with my room.

one was that I didn't get the wake up call I asked for. we woke up on time anyhow, so it wasn't a big deal, but the manager insisted on buying us breakfast. overall the staffwas eager to please, except I did get bad advice from one member of the concierge staff -- but I followed my instincts instead, and everything worked out (she told me my kids wouldn't like Hard Rock Cafe. little did she know it would prove to be one of our best evenings.)

there were no coffee supplies with my coffeemaker. but I really wasn't upset about it -- got my coffee later that morning at the park -- so I didn't even bother to complain.

I paid $260 a night for a villa room, which I thought was clean and comfortable and pleasant.

I didn't have a price list for the minibar either, BTW, though I did have one at Beach Club.

I have stayed at the Portofino 3 times in the last year and will return again next week. The hotel has improved markedly each visit. The last time (two weeks ago) I finally thought that the hotel lived up to the five-star image it tries to project. But even before that I still thought it was the best hotel in Orlando. It takes a lot of time and effort to get a hotel and its employees on the right track and I definitely believe the Portofino will continue to improve.

Going to a new hotel is risky! It can be worth the risk, but you have to expect that the staff will be underinformed and some of the bad ones will not yet have been "weeded out."

I'm sure that the Hard Rock will experience the same bumpy ride for its first year. Then hopefully it will be as glorious as the Portofino is now.


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