During my visit to Universal Studios Florida for Halloween Horror Nights, I had my first stay at an onsite Universal Hotel, The Aventura Hotel.
As I said it was my first stay at Universal, so have nothing to compare it to other than Disney Hotels.
The first impression I got was that the hotel was quite the stand out feature on property, size wise. It dominates the sky line on property and compared to all the other hotels, rather than being wider, it goes up.
We were lucky in that a friend picked us up from the airport and it was a fairly easy journey to the hotel. Parking was ample and an easy system for people staying on property to enter the car park, using your room key to enter.
Check in was very simple, checking over the details and making sure both occupants had room keys. We opted against using the room to charge purchases and they just took card details in case of any damages.
They gave us a choice of floor level and we got very lucky with our room, in that we got a view of Volcano Bay, which in turn meant a view of Cabana Bay, I-Drive and 3 Disney Parks off in the distance.
Journeys to the parks were very easy, a 15-20 minute bus journey from outside the lobby, a 25-30 minute walk along the river, or a boat ride from Sapphire Falls (more about there later) along the same river, which took 10-15 minutes, though be warned at the end of a Halloween Horror Nights evening, the wait for the boat can be long and I recommend walking.
The room itself was very spacious for what Universal class as a budget hotel. For those of you that don’t know, Universal tried something different with these rooms, everything including TV, lighting, air-con is all operated by iPad. It’s a great concept, but is hampered by the fact there is only one iPad in the room, which is fine when you are settled in the room, but if you have come in and it is dark, its a little more problematic.
The beds were comfortable. Other than the fact we were hampered by jetlag (4am wake ups aren’t great when you have late nights from HHN) I slept fairly well with no issues from the bed.
For me the bulk of the amenities were superb, the Universal Store inside the hotel stocked all the basic Universal goodies that tourists would want (I picked up some Wizarding World sweets here, so need to battle the hordes in the parks)
The pool I didn’t use, but despite it being on the small size compared to the other hotels, it seemed to be more than ample enough. I also didn’t try the pool bar, but some of my travel buddies did and felt it was better than the next option.
Bar 17 was a big disappointment. We visited on the Saturday night after HHN, though not late, as we had been pacing ourselves, what with 4 nights of horror. First thing I noticed was it felt very much like a nightclub. Not well lit (yes I know it is outside but still, I would expect to be able to make out where my hands were!!). Drinks were on the expensive side and honestly weren’t great. Seating wasn’t easy to find, but luckily we did find some sofas on the Disney view side. Talking was difficult cause of the music being too loud. The big pulling point was the views of the Disney fireworks, but we missed Illuminations at Epcot and Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom (it was a non Mickey’s Not So Scary party night). But honestly I had watched 3 lots of Fireworks from my hotel room the night before, so it wouldn’t have made much difference if they were going while there. Overall not really worth the effort to get to the top floor.
My podcast team mates also recommended the bar in the hotel lobby above Bar 17, as it was easy to walk in after a long night and grab a drink before heading back to the room.
My big plus was Urban Pantry, the eatery in Aventura. While I went safe and got a bacon cheese burger, my friends had pizza, impossible burgers and noodles over the course of the trip. I hadn’t heard great things previously, but the food and service were great.
Overall the stay was good, if you are on a budget, in my opinion its a great hotel, but on my friends say, they recommend Cabana Bay over this.
Having walked through Sapphire Fall multiple times, I would stump up the little extra to stay there. It is lest basic, with better facilities, both within the hotel and closer transport journeys.
I would score the hotel 7.5, mainly due to it being fairly basic with no real theme, but with plus points for the food.