If a trip to Europe might not be in your clients’ budget, the next best thing could be found in Orlando, FL, of all places. Travel Agent braved the central Florida heat in mid-July to check out Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando.
Loews Portofino Bay offers a little bit of Italy in Orlando
Modeled after the Italian seaside village of Portofino, the complex, which includes the hotel as well as several shops and restaurants, is a series of burgundy-, beige- and terra cotta-
colored buildings fronted by a large pool of water brimming with gondolas.
A spacious room at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Our Deluxe Room, #2312, had a king-size bed and a small sofa. For an intermittent escape from the air-conditioning, we enjoyed spending our time on the small patio, kept company by the tranquil sounds of Italian music emanating from a sound system and the curious geckos that called our patio area home. Note: Although we enjoyed our accommodations, our view of the pool and lawn was slightly masked by trees and shrubbery, so you might want to reserve a room on a higher level for your clients.
Other popular picks are the 450-square-foot Garden View Rooms, which come with a king-size bed, or two queens. If your clients are all about the view, Bay View Rooms offer picturesque scopes of the Harbor Piazza.
On the premium side, Villa and Hospitality Suites offer 620 to 920 square feet of extra space when booked with a connecting room. Perks of these accommodations include a service kitchen and full dining table that seats six to 10 people. The top pick in the house, however, is the Presidente Suite (room 2605). This expansive option has three balconies, which have picture-perfect views of the harbor; a two-poster bed; dining room table; a master bedroom with views of the aforementioned harbor; a TV situated near a whirlpool; and up to three additional connecting rooms.
For the Kids
A trip to Orlando is usually a family affair, and Portofino Bay caters to such clientele with its kids’ suites. Ranging from 650-675 square feet, these suites consist of a standard king bedroom for adults and a separate room for kids. For an added safety measure, the kids’ room only opens up to the adults’ room—there is no separate entrance into the hallway. Guests can also opt for the Dr. Seuss Kids’ Suites, which offer a glimpse at some of the most beloved stories from the children’s books.
A trip to Italy—or a dead-on replica—wouldn’t be complete without food. The array of options is endless, but we did enjoy a meal with our party at Mama Della’s Ristorante. This family-style Italian eatery exudes a casual feel with mismatched furniture and plates, as well as jovial conversation coming from almost every table—as if you were eating in an Italian mother’s home. Although we didn’t meet “Mama Della,” we were serenaded by a singer clad in a bright red dress who wowed us with a soulful rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon.”
The property also features outdoor operatic singers every night at dusk, weather permitting.
Checking Out the Rides
Often touted as a ride unto itself, a free water taxi transports guests from Portofino Bay to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. At Universal, we bypassed the lines with our VIP tour (flashing your guest-room keycard also works) and were able to check out the new Simpsons’ Ride, which reached its 1 millionth rider during our trip. This adventure will appeal to any fans of the long-running show, and those with a critical eye will feel at ease: The original cast provided the voices, and the show’s creators consulted on the ride.
Also in the works are two new attractions, which theme-park fans can expect to see late next year and early 2010. The high-tech rollercoaster Rockit will give riders the opportunity to pick their own soundtrack for the ride. In addition, fans of Harry Potter can expect a new ride in late 2009/early 2010.