Loews Portofino Bay Review – Italian-Themed Universal Orlando Resort Hotel

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Facade of Portofino Bay as seen from across the water with boats on it on a clear day

Ever since I had started going to Universal Orlando on a more regular basis, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel was the one I was most excited to stay at. Themed around (you guessed it) Portofino, Italy, I was excited for the chance to explore what appeared to be a beautiful hotel themed to a place at the top of my international bucket list to explore: Italy.

Keep reading our Loews Portofino Bay review to see how I felt about this theme park resort hotel!

Location of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

Portofino Bay is located on Universal Orlando Resort property. Similar to their other on-site hotels, it is run and managed by Loews Hotels, but carries many benefits for those visiting Universal Orlando.

It is one of the hotels closest to the park, right next to Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, which sits immediately next to Universal Studios Florida. When I walked from City Walk to Portofino Bay, it took me just about ten minutes. The walkway provides scenic views of the water way and surrounding area, including when you pass by Hard Rock Hotel.

While walking is definitely an option, so is my favorite way to get around the Universal Orlando Resort: the boats. You can take a boat from Portofino Bay that will drop you off in City Walk between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

Before boarding the boats at the resort, you go through security, meaning you won’t have to go through security again when you get to CityWalk. This saves a lot of time, as going through the regular entrance to CityWalk can take some time between security and then walking to the parks themselves. The boat ride itself is nice and relaxing, giving you a picturesque ride to the parks if you’re looking to give your feet a rest.

Just as a reminder, Universal Orlando Resort does not currently offer any free transportation to or from the Orlando Airport to its resorts. You can, however, book a Mears shuttle bus through their website for a fee, as well as choose a ride share service on your own like Uber or Lyft.

Portofino Bay Rooms & Accommodations

When you pull up to this hotel, you immediately get a feeling for the elegance it displays. Driving up a winding path that overlooks the water and resort was a beautiful experience, and a quick way to get excited about your vacation to Universal Orlando.

The lobby is beautiful and one of the things I love about Universal Orlando Resorts is the way they have a lot of their hotels smell. It’s something that really sticks with me when I visit, and smelling a similar scent out in the world brings back memories of staying at the hotel.

The level of detail at this resort really floored me. Areas of the hotel really feel like you’re walking down the streets of Italy, from building facades, to gazebos, to ornate fountains, etc. It was so fun just walking around the resort to see what other details I could pick up. 

The rooms were nothing short of comfortable and stylish. The beds were extremely comfortable, and there was more room in the room itself than I was expecting. A family of four could easily stay here. The bathroom had two sinks as well separate from the toilet, which is a nice touch. The rooms also reflected the elegant old-Italian style without feeling too garish or outdated.

Portofino Bay Restaurants & Dining

No need to beat around the bush: Portofino Bay had the best theme park resort food I’ve ever had. I mean, it’s hard to beat well-cooked Italian food. The restaurants are also located near the water that sits in front of the resort, giving some picturesque moments as you walk from place to place.

The first place I stopped at was Sal’s Market Deli for a quick breakfast after I checked in to my hotel. The interior of this quick service spot was my favorite of the two restaurants I visited. It just screamed Italy to me – and I’ve never been to Italy. There were little cafe tables, booths, Italian flags, pots hanging from the ceiling. It felt very much like a place you’d walk into in Italy to grab a quick bite.

The wrap I got was probably the best breakfast wrap I’ve ever had. It had your standard eggs, potatoes, cheese, and the like inside, but what really made it stand out was the jam. The tomato jam gave it this sweetness that most breakfast wraps don’t have, and it went so well with the other ingredients in the wrap, not overpowering it ever. I highly recommend this if you visit – I even told the staff it was the best breakfast wrap I’ve ever had and they were so sweet and appreciative.

Later that evening, I went to Mama Della’s Ristorante, which is a typical Italian restaurant. The staff here was super friendly, and there were even roaming musicians! I got to hear them play live music throughout my dinner and they even came and played me some music as well. The restaurant definitely feels like Mama decided one day to make her house a restaurant – the booths even look a bit like couches. It’s great.

I was served with the bread and dipping oil with garlic, which was fantastic, and then ordered the lasagna. This was delicious. The noodles weren’t over or undercooked, the red sauce was great, it had just the right amount of cheese and beef without either being too overpowering. I left full and very happy.

The next morning, I returned to Mama Della’s for the breakfast buffet. This buffet is usually held in another restaurant (Trattoria del Porto), but it was closed for refurbishment. This is a similar buffet that you can get at Universal’s other upper-level hotels, where you pay one price for an all you can eat buffet. There were no roaming musicians this time, but the staff was friendly and the food was great.

The food at Portofino Bay was nothing short of spectacular. It should be noted that as with all Universal Orlando hotels, there is also a Starbucks on property. With this being a more expensive hotel, the food is a bit more pricey than other locations, but it was easy to taste the difference that price made in the quality of the food I was eating.

Portofino Bay Pools & Amenities

My visit to Portofino Bay happened on a chilly set of days for central Florida, so I did not experience the pool areas myself. Yes, pool areas – there are three on the property. While I did not experience them, they seemed lovely with theming and plenty of options for seating.

There is a gift shop for you to pick up some souvenirs – this one stayed pretty clear of parks merchandise and had more things themed to the resort itself or similar items. No huge section of Minions or Harry Potter merchandise here, which I didn’t mind. However, if you’re looking for that kind of merch, there is a separate Universal Gift Shop on property.

There is a fitness center, and arcade, and a small business center, which I walked into and loved seeing a little Christmas tree set up. There are also many conference rooms and halls for anyone looking to conduct some business on their stay.

Staying on Universal Orlando property comes with the usual perks, including free transportation to all the parks and CityWalk. As mentioned above,  Portofino Bay also has a free water taxi to CityWalk as well. You also get package delivery service for free: if you buy something in one of the parks, you get it delivered to your hotel for free. It’s super convenient since you don’t have to worry about carrying merchandise bags around a theme park all day.

Don’t forget about theme park early entry as well – get a head start on your day and get to the parks earlier than other guests staying off-property. Make sure to check ahead of time what park and rides are open for early entry. I highly recommend hitting up Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure if it’s an option, as that roller coaster does not have Express Pass yet and the lines tend to be very long – usually 90 minutes minimum once the park opens to everyone.

This is one of Universal Orlando’s top-level resorts (Premier tier), meaning that every person staying in the room gets free Unlimited Express Passes for the duration of their stay, including the day you check in and the day you check out. If you’re coming with a family or group, it can possibly be cheaper to pay more for the hotel room and get free Express passes than it is to stay in a cheaper hotel and have to pay for Express Passes for each person, which can be very costly.

Loews Portofino Bay Review – Final Thoughts

This is my favorite Universal Orlando Resort hotel I’ve stayed at, and my favorite hotel I’ve stayed at ever. There’s simply no comparing the vibes of this place to anywhere else I’ve been. And surprisingly, you’d never know you were right next to a theme park – it’s so charming and quiet, you can almost forget.

It’s a bit on the expensive side, so that’s something you’ll want to remember while you’re booking, but the cost is well worth it in my opinion, especially if you’re coming with a group and plan on splitting the cost of the room.

I was so happy to write this Loews Portofino Bay review and remember all the great things I experienced there. Have you stayed at Portofino Bay Resort? What were your thoughts? Tell me your favorite thing about it and let me know if you often crave the Italian food from this hotel!

FAQs About Portofino Bay

Does Portofino Bay have free breakfast?

No – there are breakfast options at Portofino Bay but they all have a cost.

How do you get from Portofino Bay to Volcano Bay?

You will board a bus from Portofino Bay to get to Volcano Bay. There is no other way to get to the water park from this hotel that is provided by Universal Orlando Resort.

What time is check in and check out at Portofino Bay?

Check in is at 4pm. Check out is at 11am.

Does Portofino Bay have room service?

Yes it does.

Does Portofino Bay have a gym/fitness center?

Yes it does.

How many pools does Portofino Bay have?

There are three pools on property.

Does Portofino Bay include Express Pass?

Yes – each person that stays in a room at Portofino Bay receives Unlimited Express Pass for the duration of their visit, including the days you check in and check out.

Is parking free at Portofino Bay?

No – there is a cost to park a vehicle at this hotel.

Can you check-in to Portofino Bay early? Can you check-out late?

This is on a per-case basis, but during my visit, I was able to check in early and have a late check-out at noon. However, this is based on a number of factors including room availability. Check with the hotel staff to see what’s available for your stay.

Christian McIlwain

Christian has been a fan of theme parks since he was a child. He has over twenty years of experience both researching and working in the industry. He grew up visiting Kennywood Park throughout his childhood. Currently, he lives in Atlanta, GA where he frequently visits Six Flags Over Georgia and Orlando area theme parks.

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