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.
Aloha from Orlando!
Wrong state, right? Maybe not, if you find yourself lucky enough to stay at Universal Orlando’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This Hawaiian-themed hotel is one of the five — soon to be six! — onsite accommodation options at Universal Orlando, and was my first stop after the wet and wild opening of Volcano Bay. (For the Volcano Bay opening, I stayed at the Loews Sapphire Falls again, where I stayed for my inaugural visit to Universal last October.)
I know I’ve been posting a bunch of hotel reviews lately but what can I say? I’m a travel addict obsessed with finding fun and thoughtfully designed accommodation, and I’ve been hitting the jackpot on it this year!
Walking across the suspended bamboo bridge that leads you Loews Royal Pacific Resort, over a blue canal lined by landscaping that reminded me of rice terraces, it really did feel like we’d entered the South Pacific. The heart of the hotel is an open courtyard with an expansive fountain, around which the lobby and several dining options are laid out.
Frankly, the lobby and surrounding areas as the least exciting part of Royal Pacific for me. The hotel opened in 2001, and the recently renovation of the hotel’s thousand rooms and suites were the reason I was itching to stay here. The lobby, in my humble opinion, could use a similar facelift to better match the tone of the newly stylish and colorful rooms.
Just look how gorgeous these hallways and door number signs are!
And the suites stick the landing.
I found myself completely obsessed with the details like the floor-to-ceiling orchid print behind the bed, the framed photos that I’m pretty sure I know exactly where were taken on the Big Island in Hawaii, the vintage trunk-inspired dresser and ottoman, and the unique lighting fixture between the beds.
With three of us sharing a room, the queen room was perfect. King bed rooms also have a small couch that converts to a sleeper sofa where the second bed is in queen rooms. Families might want to splurge on the adorable kid’s suites, which are themed to Jurassic Park — love! And families with furry members are also welcome — there’s even a room service menu for dogs.
The bathrooms were also beautifully updated — how great is that mirror!
Like all Universal Orlando hotels, Royal Pacific Resort has convenient access to the theme parks at to CityWalk. But Royal Pacific in particular is the closest, it feels, for walking to Islands of Adventure and to CityWalk for those who’d rather stroll than take a tuk tuk ride or a water taxi.
Which made it the perfect location from which to attend my reader meetup the first night I checked in. I was thrilled when nine of us came together — including my little sister, who’d arrived just hours before! — to talk travel, blogging, and Florida from the oversized chairs of the Lone Palm Airport Bar in CityWalk. Can you think of a better destination for a travel meetup?
(Want to come to my next one? Keep an eye on my Facebook page for upcoming events!)
That night, Olivia and I met up with our friend Ashlee to kick off our weekend with dinner at Tchoup Chop. Along with the rooms, this restaurant was one of my primary reasons for wanting to stay at the Royal Pacific!
And I wasn’t over-hyping it. Having now had many of them, I feel confident in saying this is one of the most unique meals you can have at Universal Orlando Resort, a must for anyone who loves Asian-Polynesian Fusion cuisine. Lunch and dinner are both served here — if we’d had more time, I’d have come back for lunch too!
Don’t leave without trying the kālua chicken eggrolls, the multi-hued mardi gras cauliflower, the korean fried chicken, and Emeril’s signature banana cream pie. Time your visit with the killer happy hour from 5-8pm and don’t miss the restaurant’s tropical-inspired craft cocktail menu.
The restaurant design felt more Brooklyn than Orlando, and in fact I told our lovely waiter that I was reminded of one of my favorite Thai restaurants, SEA in Williamsburg. He told me he’d heard the comparison before!
There are plenty of other dining options outside celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s spot. There’s also the more casual Islands Dining Room, and while the atmosphere can’t compare to Tchoup Chop, I had a truly delicious dinner there on my previous visit to Orlando that probably featured my favorite food of the trip (though I tend to take into account the whole experience when talking about favorite meals.) There’s also pub food at Jake’s American Bar, which hosts a monthly beer festival, a sushi bar at Orchid Court, the poolside Bula Bar and Grill, and a weekly Wantilan Luau dinner show.
And that’s where we were headed the next evening. Believe it or not, I’ve been to Hawaii multiple times and spent a collective couple of months there at this point, but I’ve still never been to a luau! So I thought, when in Orlando… why not?
The dancers and musicians were very talented and the food was surprisingly fresh and tasty for a buffet (with plenty of healthy options) though overall the entire affair was more oriented towards multi-generational families than a couple of twenty-somethings. Regardless, we had a blast and it was the perfect low-key dinner right at our home-away-from-home.
There are several major perks to staying at Royal Pacific. First, like all onsite hotels, you get an extra hour of early admission into the theme parks, absolutely essential for beating the crowds in busy periods. Second, as one of Universal’s three top hotels, guests receive complimentary express passes for each person registered to the room, an $89 value that allows them to skip the regular lines in the park.
Royal Pacific also had one of my favorite new hotel features ever, which was a text concierge. Want to know how much to rent a poolside cabana for an afternoon? Need extra towels? Hoping to bump that dinner reservation back thirty minutes? Just text the concierge and wait for a quick reply. It was seriously so convenient, I can only hope this is a trend that spreads like wildfire across the hotel world.
I can’t think of a better onsite resort for a girlfriend getaway. Loews Royal Pacific Resort was the perfect place for the first half of our mini-bachelorette weekend. Speaking of that whole bachelorette thing, wondering what our theme was? Here’s a little hint…
Stay tuned for more from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
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.