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5 Reasons Universal Orlando Resort's Hotels Are The Best in Orlando

The decor and vibe is comparable to Disney

 harshlight, Flickr (license)

Image: harshlight, Flickr (license)

One of the things that set Disney apart from its competitors in the ‘90s was its commitment to resort theming. Up to that point, it was relatively unheard of to build a hotel that stuck to a particular theme — and did so in ways both dignified and playful.

Hotels like the Port Orleans - French Quarter and Boardwalk Resort transported guests to intricately themed eras and environments, but never felt cheesy or kitschy while doing so. It was a tough line to walk, but Disney pulled it off.

Now, Universal is walking that same line and doing so with equally amazing deftness. The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is among the most well-themed and beautifully designed hotels in central Florida. Perfectly capturing the roadside motel vibe of mid-century America, Cabana Bay offers the kind of style and verve more closely associated with Deluxe Hotels at Disney rather than the value accommodation it is in reality.

It’s other resorts, from the beautiful Portofino Bay to the relaxing Royal Pacific, are equally dedicated to immersive theming — and, they manage to do so in a way that equals Disney without feeling iterative. 

The location is spectacular

 osseous, Flickr (license)

Image: osseous, Flickr (license)

In part due to Universal’s smaller size, nearly all of it’s resort hotels are located walking distance of its parks — with a ferry and bus linking them if guests don’t wish to walk. Just as importantly, the hotels are located just off Universal CityWalk, providing prime access to nightlife without boarding a bus if so desired.

For all but the most luxurious of Disney’s resorts, that is not something that can be matched further south on I-4. Even guests at Cabana Bay Beach resort can walk to CityWalk (albeit a much further distance than for guests at the high-end hotels). 

If you’re staying on Universal property for the length of your Florida vacation, it literally doesn’t get more convenient. But, even if you wish to venture off property, these hotels are in a perfect spot. The famed attractions of International Drive are just a short Uber or Lyft trip away, but when you return, you’ll feel comfortable staying in the secured confines of the Universal resort. It really is the best of all worlds — the safety and convenience of a resort bubble without feeling cut off from the real world like you are at Disney. 

There are Deluxe amenities at all resorts

 greenlilyrose, Flickr (license)

Image: greenlilyrose, Flickr (license)

One way Disney likes to stratify its resorts is through the offering of some perks at its higher end resorts but not at its more budget friendly resorts. For example, all Deluxe Resorts with the exception of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offer non-bus transportation to at least one of Disney’s theme parks. Disney’s Moderate Resorts have water slides and table-service restaurants. Disney’s Value Resorts don’t have any of those things.

Universal is different. While the value-focused Cabana Bay Beach Resort doesn’t have a sit down restaurant, it does have a bowling alley, which is unique at the Universal Resort. It also offers a full-service Starbucks and a lazy river — all elements Disney usually keeps to its higher-end resorts.

The mid level hotels, like Aventura and Sapphire Falls, both offer destination restaurants in addition to their smaller food service spots. Even the forthcoming hyper-value resort, Endless Summer Resort, will offer a sandy beach overlooking the lake beside which the former Wet N Wild water park stood. According to rumors, the resort will also offer rented watercraft for that lake — something that’s quite unheard of at Disney’s most inexpensive resorts.

Ultimately, the lack of gradation among the resorts can make them feel like better value. Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that can make the difference, and Universal taking its customers staying at its cheapest resorts this seriously really makes it a great option to consider.

Yes, it’s scary leaving the Disney bubble — so why not dip your toe in somewhere you’ll feel valued? Universal, suddenly, is such a place.

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