One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more about my current travels right after they happen. Well, ask and ye shall receive! I’m jumping in to start sharing some posts from Florida and Tennessee, a trip so fresh I just unpacked from it. This post is brought to you by Universal Orlando Resort.
We had our big night out. We had our big outfit coordinating day. We went all out at a water park. We ticked off several bachelorette weekend boxes, but we still had one to go: total relaxation. Turns out Universal Orlando Resort is the perfect place for that too.
When I first visited Universal, someone casually revealed a little-known secret to me — guests of any of the onsite resorts are welcome to pool hop between all five hotels. With each of the onsite hotel pools boasting different perks and amenities, we could hardly be asked to choose between them for our last day in Orlando! In fact, we didn’t want to miss a single one. So we decided not to. Thus, the five day pool hop challenge was born.
For the second half of our trip, we were stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal’s most bargain friendly hotel (for the moment — an even more budget hotel, Aventura, is in the works). So we kicked off our trip by shuttling over to the other side of Universal both physically and metaphorically: the resort’s most luxurious property, Loews Portofino Bay.
Portofino Bay is an Italian-themed hotel that, in true Orlando fashion, boasts a Balinese-themed spa. Mandara Spa is the only onsite spa at Universal Orlando Resort, and welcomes guests from Universal properties and beyond. We started our day early with a workout in the onsite gym before checking in for our now much-deserved treatments. I opted for a Dolce Limoncello Body Polish with Massage, which included Portofino’s signature body polish infused with vanilla and lemongrass.
While the spa itself was undergoing some construction and renovations and some areas were closed, we were still able to use the sauna and relaxation room pre-treatment, and I was floating by the time I got off the table — my masseuse was so talented I actually asked her where she went to massage school! (So I could stalk other graduates, I guess?)
Eventually we reached maximum bliss levels and made our way out to the pool to continue the fun. A lush fruit plate and frozen peach bellinis were the perfect post-massage treat, as was splashing around in Portofino’s Villa Pool, one of three on the property.
We’d heard that this particular pool was adult only, but as more and more kids filtered in I realized we’d been misinformed — turns outs, there are no officially designated adult-only pools at Portofino, though the Villa Pool and Hillside Pool tend to be a bit more quiet and relaxed than the lively Beach Pool. For the first hour or so we were there, it was totally serene.
But eventually, it was time to move on — to the Hard Rock Hotel! We’d hoped to take the water taxi directly from one hotel to the other, but the captain wasn’t able to dock and so we had to switch back at CityWalk — in retrospect, it might have been quicker to walk between hotels.
Hard Rock was a different world from Portofino Bay. Here, at the legendary home of rock n’ roll royalty, a poolside DJ pumped out tunes that could be heard both above and below the water, as the 12,000 square foot pool features an underwater sound system.
And that’s not all. There’s also two hot tubs, a real sand beach, a bumpin’ volleyball court, and our favorite part, a waterslide. Unlike waterslides in Volcano Bay, you’re free to bring your cameras on this one — which we of course loved. And it wasn’t a dinky little slide either!
Each hotel pool has a unique menu, and at Hard Rock we were smitten with the frosé — a frozen rose concoction perfect for kicking the insanely hot summer-in-Orlando temps. Also a good beat the heat strategy? Underwater photo sesh!
Next up, back to where it all began — the Royal Pacific Resort! To get here, take the water taxi to CityWalk, and transfer there for Royal Pacific. We’d already logged some time at this pool earlier in our stay, so we didn’t stay too long.
But we did take advantage of a little secret we’d learned — while the pool area is always bustling with families enjoying the lagoon-style pool and Royal Bali Sea children’s water play area, the hotel has a private little beach facing the lagoon the water taxis ply through. And it’s almost always empty. While you can’t go in the water here — you should assume there are gators in every body of water in Florida up to and including bathtubs — it’s a great spot for sunbathing and enjoying a little peace and quiet.
With three pools under our belts, it was time for a late lunch at Sapphire Falls Resort. This is a hotel I’ve been lucky to stay at twice, and so I felt like I was showing Olivia and Ashlee around my Orlando home away from home. We skipped the water taxi this time and strolled along the resort’s lush walking path instead.
I really, really love this pool. It has a great waterslide, a fun firepit, and generally a fantastic layout — somehow, it never feels crowded.
Wondering how we could afford so many fancy frozen drinks? Heres another insider Universal Orlando Resort secret! At $15 for a signature drink, your tab could add up quickly. But if you’ve already purchased one drink in a souvenir glass, refills are just $10.
We brought one Royal Pacific glass with us for the day, unsure if it would work at other hotels, but found that every single bartender gave us a new souvenir glass at the $10 price regardless of what logo was on the glass — which meant we ended the day with a super fun souvenir, a full set of glasses from each of the five pools! (I gifted the set to my aunt in Tampa, who now has them on reserve for poolside parties at her condo.) And we only paid $10 for each of them.
We also paused for lunch at Drhum Club Kantine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — in my opinion, Sapphire Falls has the best food of any of the Universal Orlando Resorts, and Drhum Club is no exception. Over many visits I’ve tried the veggie wrap, the pork tacos, and the baja spiced chicken salad — all were fantastic! Looking for something sweeter? The desserts are also pretty on-point.
I love Sapphire Falls so much, I was sad to leave! But we were on a mission… and we just had one stop left to achieve it.
With a quick stroll across the street we’d reached our final stop, which just so happened to be our hotel — Cabana Bay Beach Resort!
For this stop, I’d specifically packed some very special bachelorette-themed pool accessories. At Cabana Bay’s lazy river, you can either purchase branded floats onsite or bring your own to the float hut for a free inflation. Engagement ring drink floats? Check. Champagne bottle lounging float? Check check.
We also had some special guests stop by for our last stop. One of the groomsmen in Ashlee’s wedding, Keyth, and his wife, Kristina, are Orlando locals, and they kindly came to meet us for a float and a frosty beverage — a non alcoholic one in Kristina’s case, since she was pregnant (with twins, Olivia hoped, since that would make the above photo perfect — ha!)
And then it was on — non-stop fun for our final hours of sun!
We did it! Five pool hotels in one day. Phew. Ya know, sometimes you just have to really challenge yourself to tackle difficult goals and achieve greatness. I just couldn’t have been prouder of all of us.
In all seriousness, it was the perfect note to end Orlando on. My eight days there were long and they were jam-packed, as you can probably tell from the six separate blog posts I wrote from that time!
Yet the amazing thing is that I left with so much more I wanted to come back for. Of the business partnerships I have formed over the years, this one has definitely been one of those with a lasting impact — working with Universal Orlando reignited my childhood love for theme park destinations, and I’m having so much fun sharing that with my family and friends. Cheers to a great year, Universal Orlando Resort. I hope to see you again soon.
What’s the best destination you’ve discovered for a bachelorette weekend?
This post is brought to your by Universal Orlando Resort. I am a member of the Universal Blog Squad, and have been compensated for this partnership. I maintain full editorial control and as always all thoughts, opinions, and over-ambitious craft projects are my own.