I’ll admit it – I’m biased. I love Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando with all my heart. I adore the colourful lobby; the gorgeous pool area; the bright, tropical rooms and the fabulous food at the Strong Water Tavern, plus the fact you can hop on a river taxi and be right at the park gates in no time make it a no brainer for me. However, while we were at Halloween Horror Nights, we were lucky enough to stay at Universal’s Aventura Hotel, their beautiful, modern new hotel right next to Sapphire Falls, and I have to say, I was mightily impressed. It could even be my new favourite. Here’s why:
1 It’s a ‘Prime Value’ hotel
Meaning? Well, in essence that it’s quite a budget choice of accommodation. BUT this hotel absolutely does not strike me in any way like a budget option. As soon as you walk into the beautiful, modern lobby, it has the feel of a luxury hotel. Universal’s resort hotels are split into the following categories:
Value hotels: the new Endless Summer Resort and Surfside Inn and Suites will be in this category, with pricing from around $73 for a 7 night stay (I wrote a bit more about what to expect from these resorts here).
Prime Value Hotels: Universal’s Aventura Hotel and Cabana Bay Beach Resort, with prices from around $116 per night based on a 4 night stay.
Preferred Hotels: this is where Sapphire Falls lands, with prices around the $160 mark (4 night stay).
Premier Hotels: this top bracket is quite diverse. You’ve got Loews Royal Pacific Resort (around $220 a night), Loew’s Portofino Bay (around $264) and the Hard Rock Hotel coming in at around $314 – all those prices are based on 4 night stays.
2 It feels really grown up
I think I mentioned this before when I was talking about where to stay when you’re heading for Halloween Horror Nights. Yes, the pool is a bit more compact compared with the sprawling pools of, say, Cabana Bay or Sapphire Falls, without a slide and with only a small splash area for the kids, but sometimes, especially if you’re travelling with older kids, or just as a group of adults, it’s nice to choose somewhere that has a bit more of a grown up feel.
3 The rooms are gorgeous
You won’t find the bright, tropical colours of Sapphire Falls, but what you will find are clean lines, a spa-like bathroom, modern finishes and muted greys with touches of richer shades.
4 … and ridiculously high tech
Want to turn your air conditioning up? Just reach over and grab your personal in-room iPad. Forgot to switch that light off? Change channels on the TV? Want to check out what time the bar closes? It’s all on the iPad. It’s a lazy person’s dream. There are also loads of USB points, as well as a little pop-up section on the desk, perfect for plugging in your laptop.
5 Everywhere is really easy to get to
The hotel’s unique shape (it’s called a trefoil – imagine three rings slightly overlapping each other), means that you’ll never be the unlucky person whose room is miles away from the central lobby. The three ‘leaves’ of the trefoil are identical so all of the rooms are easily accessible.
6 You literally walk through a gate to get to Universal’s Volcano Bay
Talking of that pool area (which, by the way, is sheltered and gorgeous, with tons of sunbeds and wide and deep enough that you can swim decent laps if you want to), there’s a gate right there that will take you straight to the front entrance of Universal’s incredible water theme park, Volcano Bay. Plus, as a resort resident, you can take advantage of early park entry and rock up and enjoy the flumes and water coasters an hour before other guests. Top tip: head to the most popular attractions first, like the incredible Ko’okiri Body Plunge. We’d whooshed through the drop door and down 125ft of terrifying watery doom, plus two of the other big plunge rides and a couple of the water coasters before anyone else was even in the door. By the time it starts to fill up, you can be gently bobbing around the lazy river, taking it easy.
7 The food options are particularly good
Urban Pantry in the main lobby area offers a multitude of food choices, from delicious breakfast sandwiches (yes, this was breakfast and yes, the lady in Starbucks did think my name was Beth), to pizzas made fresh in the on-site pizza oven, amazing burgers, delicious noodle bowls and a fabulous roast kitchen where you can get your choice of roast with all the trimmings.
Oh, and just to add a little Aventura flair to the dining experience, just order your food, then take your little buzzer to your table. The pad on the table registers your location, and the friendly staff bring your order straight to you. Clever, non?
8 Ooh, and Starbucks!
It’s fab to have an on-site Starbucks. I loved popping down first thing for a quick coffee before breakfast, or it’s lovely as a post-park pick me up to take back to your room.
There’s also a sweet, and very modern little lobby bar. Perfect for a pre-dinner drink before heading out to CityWalk for dinner, or a nightcap at the end of a busy day.
9 The rooftop bar! Oh the rooftop bar…
One of the places I was most excited to see was Bar 17 Bistro, Aventura’s gorgeous new rooftop bar and grill. It really didn’t disappoint. It’s semi-covered, so perfect for balmy evenings sipping cocktails, and the views across the parks are breathtaking. There’s a great menu featuring delicious steamed bao buns, rice and noodles as well as salads, some delicious grill items (the octopus looked amazing) and sliders. Bar 17 Bistro opens from 4pm until 2am with food served until 10pm.
10 There’s the v-hub too
Especially for Virgin Holidays customers, the exclusive v-hub is a fab space to use during your stay. You can grab a light breakfast of pastries, coffee, fruit, etc before heading out for the day, or if you need somewhere private to come and use the Wi-Fi. Plus it’s a great space to use so that you can make the most of your last day as there are showers and lockers, so even after you’ve checked out, you’ve got somewhere to go to freshen up before your flight home. Clever stuff.
All in all, a pretty tempting, modern alternative to Sapphire Falls, don’t you think? Don’t make me choose!! planning a trip to Halloween Horror Nights As always, if you’re, or have any questions about Universal holidays, hit me up. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll know someone who does!
Enjoy seven nights at Universal Orlando Resort with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, with accommodation at Universal’s Aventura Hotel from £1165pp. The price is for two adults and is based on a Skyline view room on a room only basis with car hire included. The package includes a 3 Park Bonus Ticket for access to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay AND the Halloween Horror Nights Frequent Fear Plus Pass Ticket – offering multiple nights of admission from September 14th through to November 3rd. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book:, 0344 557 3859 or visit one of our individual retail stores or one of the 110 stores located in Debenhams and Next stores nationwide or visit www.virginholidays.com.