Published: July 28, 2014 at 2:08 PM
I have to second the comment of the anonymous poster. I personally have stayed at 2 of the hotels on this list (Hard Rock and AKL), but I find it difficult to bring myself to pony up the money needed to stay at many of the hotels on this list. Similar to the anonymous poster, I find myself spending far more hours in the parks than in the hotels, so as long as the bed is comfortable, the bathroom is clean and works properly, and is a good value, I'm happy. Sure, it's fun every once in a while to stay in a nice hotel room, but from personal experience, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.
We stayed in a Savannah Side room at Animal Kingdom Lodge about 8 years ago. The room was very nice, and the lobby is jaw dropping along with the view of the animals grazing outside our sliding glass door. However, when you are at the parks from rope drop until they kick you out, it means you are only in the room to sleep and get dressed. It was cool to observe the animals while my wife was taking a shower and getting ready, but that 30 minutes (that you can get for free by just stopping by the hotel and walking out the back doors of the lobby) was not worth 3-4 times what one of our off-site hotels cost during that trip or double what Coronado Springs cost during that same trip.
Same goes for the Universal Hotels. While Hard Rock was very nice (we won that particular trip in a contest, so the hotel was free), I don't know if I would have chosen to stay there if I was footing the bill. The room again was very nice, and having Universal Express was pretty awesome, but we typically travel to Orlando in October when the lines are pretty manageable, so it's not something we would normally need. In fact, we're going through the calculations for our upcoming trip in October, and the hotel rates end up being almost double the nearby off-site hotels rates (that include breakfast) even if you subtract the cost of Universal Express from the room charge. Not only that, in order to get Universal Express, you have to pay the full admission prices from Universal (we often find cheaper tickets to UO through other sources), so it's not all that it's cracked up to be for us.
Many will say that staying in a themed hotel is part of a theme park vacation. I think that it's nice when it's within your budget, but since we travel to Orlando pretty much every other year, we'd rather come back again in 2 years than splurge on a fancy hotel that we'll only spend 8-10 hours a day in (including sleeping). We've look at DVC, but that's not really our style either (we actually enjoy the thrill of hunting for the best deals). So while all of these hotels are very nice (I've walked through almost all of them), I think many of the less expensive, and less prestigious properties are just as good. Personally, we've grown to like Pop Century along with many of the hotels along Major Blvd. across from Universal's main gate.