The Saturday Six is a weekly look at the most interesting, most fun, and sometimes even the most outrageous things within the theme park world that we all love so much. Whether it’s the top six reasons to play Hollywood Drive-in Minigolf, the top six outrageous food items at Universal , or even the top six “secrets” of Marvel Superhero Island , the Saturday Six will be your personal guide to experiencing the very best Orlando has to offer.
This week’s Saturday Six looks at the Top Six “Secrets” of the Royal Pacific Resort. Like the Portofino Bay Hotel, the Royal Pacific is run by Loews and is one of the three on-site hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort (the Hard Rock Hotel is the third). Let’s take a look at some of the things you might not have known about this incredible hotel.
#6. The Character Breakfast
One of the few weaknesses across Universal property is the overall lack of character dining experiences. At Walt Disney World you have a lot of unique opportunities to dine with various characters. Whether it’s dining with the princesses at Akershus, meeting Cinderella’s step sisters at 1900 Park Fare, or being able to enjoy breakfast with members of the “Fab Five” at Chef Mickey’s, Disney has many places across its entire resort to enjoy character dining. Universal? Not so much.
There were times when you could have a character breakfast at Confisco Grill in Islands of Adventure. That experience has been moved over to Universal Studios Florida at Cafe La Bamba. For the on-site hotels, the RPR is the only one to have a character breakfast, and it is held every Sunday from 8am to noon at Jake’s American Bar. The cost is $26.99 for adults, $14.99 for children ages 3-9, and those under three are complimentary. This breakfast includes the choice of one plated meal (which had options that included Tahitian French Toast, steak & eggs, and Hawaiian pancakes among others) and unlimited use of the “continental” section which had a whole bunch of fruit, cereal, and every pastry you can imagine.
The big selling point here is the fact that the characters which your kids will interact with are Minions from Despicable Me, a brand which couldn’t be hotter. The new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction is one of the most popular rides in either Universal park, as kids can’t get enough of the Minions. Not only will the Minions and Gru have your standard meet-and-greet photo op at this character breakfast, but they also engage in Minion dance parties, which the kids seemed to really enjoy. I consider the price pretty reasonable for everything you get, especially considering the amount of one-on-one time it seemed each child got to have with the characters. I myself was a fan of the many different types of donuts available, and I’m still mesmerized by the make-your-own-pancake machine that works almost like an assembly line with your pancake coming out the side of the machine. I need an at-home version of one of those.
Actually, pet friendly is not the word as the area set aside for pets is like nothing I have ever seen at any hotel I’ve ever gone to. There are several areas of the property you can walk your pets, but the true highlight is the Royal Pet Resort area near the front of the main building. Elaborately themed with a whole bunch of items for pets to interact with, at first this almost seems like a kid’s play area. It’s a large piece of land, and it’s not until you go deeper into it that you start to see all the levels of theming just for dogs.
The pet policy at all three of the Loews hotels at Universal is the same. There is a $50 a day pet charge, but that caps out at $150 regardless of how long you stay. You book 3 nights, it’s $150. You book 30 nights, it’s still $150. Cats, dogs, birds, reptiles and all other pets are welcome. The pet friendly rooms are located on one floor in just one of the towers of the resort, so if you are not a fan of seeing pets on your vacation, don’t worry, odds are you’ll never even know they are there. Even the Royal Pet Resort, as big as it is, is almost impossible to find unless you know where it is located. It’s unobtrusive to the daily guest experience, but for those that consider their pet a part of the family, it can be invaluable.
#4 Proximity to the Parks
The picture you see to your left was shot from our hotel room and as spectacular as it is, it doesn’t get across how close you are to Islands of Adventure. From this view you can see Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall, and in the back Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Dragon Challenge. There is just something about waking up and seeing Hogwarts Castle right outside your window. This is the type of view and closeness that Disney wants you to believe you can experience at WDW, but they just don’t have a hotel close enough to the parks to deliver the goods.
The garden walk from the Royal Pacific to Margaritaville at CityWalk is about 1/3 of a mile, and it is a nice relaxing stroll with lush landscaping. There is also a water taxi that can pick you up at the hotel and drop you off at the center of CityWalk. From leaving my hotel room to being at the front gate of Islands of Adventure took 12 minutes, walking. It’s convenient to be close to IOA as all guests staying at the RPR have early entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Having that one hour jump start on the crowds can not only given you the opportunity to do the Ollivanders wand experience or ride Flight of the Hippogriff with little to no wait, but it also lets you take pictures of the wonderful village of Hogsmeade before it gets overrun with people.
Fitness centers at most hotels are the most basic version of a gym you can get: a couple treadmills, some stationary bikes, maybe some free weights and a couple nautilus machines. What makes The Gymnasium at the Royal Pacific stand out is not its work out equipment, which is very good, but the incredible locker rooms with a gorgeous spa inside. There are several relaxation rooms where you can just hang out, along with steam and sauna rooms as well as a gorgeous whirlpool area. The changing areas, steam and sauna rooms are separate for men and women while the large whirlpool area itself is for both genders. At 5,0000 square feet, the gym is massive in size but it actually feels more intimate than overwhelming. The fitness center cost is $10 per day, but Loews hotels has a loyalty program called YouFirst in which gym access is free starting after your second stay at any Loews hotel across the country.
Just as I would consider The Polynesian one of my favorite resorts at WDW, I prefer the tranquility and relaxing nature of Royal Pacific’s theme. The entire resort is filled with ambiance in the form of landscaping, torches, and water elements. There are small statues throughout the entire resort, from the Wantilan Luau area to near Emeril’s Tchoup Chop. The pet areas have animal themed statues. The outdoor display near the lobby is amazing with elephants playing in the water. The whole resort has an exotic theme that just draws you into it and is the perfect area for either a break during the afternoon after battling the Florida sun, or a great way to unwind after a hard day of hitting the parks.
For people used to staying on Disney property, this is Deluxe level of accommodations (with amenities that Disney does not offer like the Unlimited Express Pass for each guest) for the price of a Moderate. I did a quick price check and looked at the availability for a room on September 1, 2013, for a 1-night stay for 2 adults and 1 child. The Royal Pacific had a Standard Room for $234 and a Water View Room for $264. Disney’s Polynesian Resort had a Standard Room for $474, a Lagoon View for $596, and a Theme Park View for $641. For comparison, Disney’s Coronado Springs (a “Moderate” resort) had a Standard Room for $196 and a Water View for $225. You do have to pay for parking at the Universal on-site hotels, and the price per day is $18 for self-parking and $25 for valet.
With each trip I make to Disney or Universal with friends and family I’m discovering that the hotel pool is one of the biggest factors in how much guests enjoy their overall stay, especially kids. The Royal Pacific is at the very top of the list when it comes to on-site theme park hotel pool areas joining Art of Animation’s Big Blue Pool, the Yacht & Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay, and the main pool at Portofino Bay. I enjoy the lagoon style of Royal Pacific’s pool, and there is a HUGE play area for kids themed to an ocean liner. The “Royal Bali Sea” is an interactive water feature your kids will go bananas playing in. It dumps water on them while also allowing them to spray each other with water canons. I think that if they had these types of pools when I was growing up I would have had to been literally dragged away from it to go anywhere, theme park or otherwise. When I was a kid we had boring rectangle concrete pools, and we liked it! Little did we know…
The Royal Pacific pool has a white sand beach area as well as a zero entry side for easy access. There are several hot tubs surrounding the pool along with ping pong tables, a pool bar, and an ice cream stand. Right outside the pool area is the beach front in which you can relax and take in the sun or play a game of beach volleyball. The staff will provide you with towels and will gladly set up all your chairs around the pool. The level of service, top to bottom, when it comes to the Loews hotels is second to none. They have a system in the rooms called “Star Service” that provides almost immediate results. This past weekend I called down to have a cot brought to our room, and it arrived in less than five minutes. This is compared to my last stay at Pop Century where it took 3 hours to get towels brought to our room.
So there you have it: the top six “secrets” of the Royal Pacific Resort. See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or head on over to the TouringPlans.com Podcast Network and check out Universal NOW! and Pardon the Pixie Dust.
Special thanks to Brandon Glover for his assistance in this article.