Loews Portofino Bay wins record ninth Theme Park Insider Award

January 2, 2020, 11:28 AM · The second Theme Park Insider Award category for 2020 is Best Luxury Hotel, with Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando reclaiming the honor.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

This is a record ninth Theme Park Insider Award in the hotel category for the Portofino Bay, which offers 750 guest rooms in a waterside resort themed to the Italian fishing village and holiday resort. Operated by luxury hotelier Loews - as are all the Universal Orlando hotels - the Portofino Bay also offers the resort's top hotel benefit of free, unlimited Universal Express access to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. It's by far the best on-site hotel benefit in the theme park business and has helped to make the Portofino Bay a consistent favorite with Theme Park Insider readers.

The Portofino Bay is located on the opposite end of the Universal Orlando Resort from our Best Moderate or Budget Hotel winner, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. But it's still just a short water taxi or lovely Garden Walk stroll from the hotel to CityWalk and the resort's theme parks. The Portofino Bay also offers multiple table service restaurants, serving Italian cuisine, as well as three themed swimming pools and a Mandara Spa.

And you'd have plenty of extra time to enjoy the hotel's amenities if you stayed here, given all the time you can save in the parks with that Universal Express front-of-line pass for everyone in your room.

Our honorable mentions in this category this year are Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Wilderness Lodge at the Walt Disney World Resort, and the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort.

The Theme Park Insider Awards continue tomorrow with the presentation of our award for Best Quick Service Restaurant. And for reservations at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, please check availability through our travel partner.

About Theme Park Insider: Theme Park Insider is a consumer's guide to the world's best theme park resorts, reaching more than five million unique readers via its website annually and winning multiple honors for its reporting, including from the Online Journalism Association and the Webby Awards. Winners of the Theme Park Insider Awards are those locations that received the highest average reader rating, with a minimum number of votes, in their categories over the past year.

Replies (6)

January 2, 2020 at 11:45 AM

This is a very nice hotel, but I don't get the abundance of praise for it as it's the most expensive among the 3 deluxe resorts at Universal, yet the complex and facilities do not warrant the higher price tag (typically $100-150/night more than Royal Pacific). Portofino Bay has the longest walk/boat ride to the parks and CityWalk of the 3. The rooms are very nice and spacious, but not that much different from those at Hard Rock Hotel or Royal Pacific. I do think Bice is the best resort restaurant on property (The Kitchen is a close second), but a single fancy restaurant doesn't put this above cheaper, more proximal hotels like HRH or RPR. While I've stayed at all 3 UO deluxes, I've only stayed at 1 Disney deluxe hotel (Animal Kingdom Lodge), and if you take away Universal Express, I'd probably take the slightly less expensive AKL over Portofino Bay.

January 2, 2020 at 3:48 PM

Well deserved. Congrats to UOR on their fantastic resort hotels. Keep the momentum going!

January 2, 2020 at 4:03 PM

I've stayed at Portofino Bay, and I love the way the bay looks, with the Italian-style buildings and small boats. Harbor Nights is also a really great event, and the rooms are lovely. Plus, nothing beats the Express Pass that comes with your stay!

However...

As Russell noted, it's quite far from the parks and CityWalk. And when I was there, I remember walking around the property and feeling so lonely. I rarely saw another person, and it seemed like a ghost town. Very jarring.

Personally, I'd much rather stay at the Royal Pacific, regardless of it generally being the cheapest. It's feels more active, cozier, and the garden walk is really beautiful.

Mostly, I think Portofino Bay looks great in pictures, but I feel very disconnected and cold. I seriously doubt I'll ever stay there again.

As for Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge, I've stayed at both of these as well, and I absolutely love Wilderness Lodge. It feels like you're entering the Pacific Northwest. The restaurants are fantastic, it is an easy boat ride to Magic Kingdom, and the decor and feeling of it are outstanding, in my opinion.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a treat, and I hope everyone gets the chance to stay there. The main lobby is gorgeous - up there with Grand Californian. And to go out to your balcony and see those animals....should not be missed!!

I do dock it points for being so remote - kind of the same deal as Portofino, though I was much more comfortable at AKL than Portofino.

January 3, 2020 at 2:05 AM

I'll be staying at the Portofino in October so will be able to comment authoritatively after that. But the reason we booked it rather than the Royal Pacific was partly BECAUSE of the location. Frankly I can cope with a fifteen minute walk to get to the parks if it means I get a quieter, more peaceful hotel. Plus the theming looked to be at a different level to the other two luxury resorts at Universal. And if I don't see anyone else around the resort that will be great :)

January 3, 2020 at 8:28 AM

Portifino absolutely deserves this honor! Between the relaxed and heavily themed atmosphere, 3 great pools, themed entertainment, beautiful spa and fitness area, several dining and snack options, it's a great place to be.

January 4, 2020 at 1:31 PM

The most over rated resort in the theme park enthusiast community strikes again. IMO most WDW resorts, the Europa resorts, and even some of the UO resorts, are better than Portofino. Portofino totally lacks atmosphere and the buildings aren't even that well themed they look like a cheapo Wisconsin Dells resort.

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