by Carrie Calzaretta
Crossing over a shaded bamboo bridge and into the lobby of the Loews Royal Pacific feels a bit like entering some remote island hideaway. True to its moniker, there are lush palms, tropical flowers, fountains and green in every direction. Immediately, this appealed to us. Hotels that are family-friendly but don’t remind you of that fact everywhere you look are hard to come by in Orlando, and the Royal Pacific pulls this off beautifully.
The centerpiece of the main floor is Orchid Court, an impressive courtyard with fountains, statues and an amazing collection of rare orchids. But the view outside reveals an enormous pool teeming with kids, and the rides off Universal’s Island of Adventure off in the distance. The Royal Garden is one of three Loews resorts at Universal Orlando, and it’s the largest of them. (Rooms are slightly smaller here, and rates slightly lower, than at the Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino.)
It’s a 1,000-room, southeast Asian-inspired paradise that, despite its serene setting, has loads of kid-friendly activities and amenities. The supervised kids’ club and easy access to both the Universal theme parks make it an excellent choice for families. A major draw for folks staying here is the fact that your room key acts as a Fast Pass at both parks, so you can skip most of the lines. You also get early admission to Island of Adventure, included in the cost of your stay. Character dining and several kid-friendly restaurants add to its family appeal.
Learn more about Loews Hotels and Resorts.
Our Editor Loves
- Universal Orlando Resort hotel
- Free transportation to theme parks
- Interactive play area for children
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Basic rooms at Royal Pacific are small at 335 square feet, and have one king or two queen beds, a small table and a desk area with two chairs. Deluxe rooms have the same amenities but come with either a lagoon or waterway view. Although our Deluxe Double was tight, it was cheerfully decorated with bright florals and fun bamboo-print pillows. We had a great view of the pool and the rides of Island of Adventure in the distance. The kids stood at the window and watched them in the darkness.
The most noticeable difference in Royal Pacific's rooms when compared to those at Hard Rock and Portofino are the bathrooms, which are small and the fixtures slightly dated. There is a tub and a toilet in the bathroom, and another separate small sink/vanity area outside the door. Ample room for four certainly, but nothing fancy.
All rooms have 32-inch flat panel televisions with HD Channels and On Demand, iPod docking stations and Keurig coffee makers (with Emeril's Gourmet coffee) and assorted teas.
King Suites have 670 square feet and two rooms, giving you separate living and bedroom areas. The living area has a pullout sofa, chair and desk, and a 42-inch flat screen TV. There is another 37-inch flat screen TV in the bedroom with HD channels and On-Demand in-room movies.
Each of the three Loews at Universal has its own themed kids' suites, but the Jurassic Park Suites at Royal Pacific are by far the cutest, and are popular for families with young kids. Connected to a standard king size bedroom, the Jurassic Park suites have raptor's cage headboards, big wall murals and artwork from the movie, and custom furniture. There are two twin beds, a desk and chair and a flat-screen TV in the kids' room, which has access back into the adult's room, not into the hallway. Some of the kids' suites are located directly adjacent to the elevators, which might make for a noisy night.
Unless you are staying in a club room, in-room Wi-Fi is $10/night. It's free in the lobby. Club-level rooms offer access to the Club Lounge, which serves continental breakfast, free soda and non-alcoholic drinks all day, afternoon beer, wine and snacks. With Club level you'll also get access to free Internet, bathrobes, turndown service and free access to the gym.
My husband and I decided to take advantage of the Express Pass promotion and stay one night at the Royal Pacific at Universal Studios Orlando. We were able to walk to Citywalk, Universal, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay making this location ideal for us. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the accommodations due to cleaning details being missed in the ladies restroom in the lobby (first impression), the disappointing view from our room (first floor view of unkept ground area including roof shingles), and some poorly executed tile work in the shower, and a bit of cereal under the bed from a prior room occupant.
Room hygiene was very terrible. The cotton swab packaging in the bathroom was unsealed and had not change a new one within two days. I don't know what drinks were spilled in the fridge. The whole fridge is sticky. The pillow smells terrible. It's a smell that hasn't been cleaned for a long time. The whole accommodation experience was terrible, didn't match for the price of the hotel.
The Royal Pacific has a huge lagoon-style swimming pool that's hopping with families from morning until close. There is an awesome interactive play area, Royal Bali Sea, which looks like part of an old ocean liner, attached to the main pool. Our kids had a blast shooting the water guns and cannons. It seemed like there was always some type of impromptu activity going on at the pool. When we arrived there were a group of kids playing a game of water volleyball, and our kids were welcomed right in. Scheduled activities take place throughout the day, and into the evening too, including like arts and crafts, water games and dive-in movies. We saw more kids in the pool here than we saw at Hard Rock or Portofino, so it was louder and a little more chaotic. Not a problem for us!
If you tire of the pool, there are two hot tubs, a volleyball court, a croquet lawn, shuffleboard, Ping Pong and cabana rentals. There's also a game room located next to the pool that's open until midnight, though while we were there it didn't seem to draw many kids. One of the perks of staying at one of the Loews at Universal is that you get access to the facilities at all three. So, you can use the pools at both
Hard Rock and Portofino Bay.
Every night at the pool there is a torch-lighting ceremony. What a spectacle! Our kids were totally impressed by this unexpected Hawaiian ritual, which included a very authentic-sounding chant and a fire dancer. These are the special touches that make staying on property worth the extra money.
Loews Royal Pacific has a supervised kids' club open in the evenings, Mariners Club, for kids ages 4 to 14. There are arts and crafts, story time, computers, as well as video and board games. It's small, designed as a place for parents to drop off the kids and have an evening out, not an entire day. The kids can eat dinner there for $15 a meal. It's open from 5 to 11:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and from 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The hotel concierge can arrange for area babysitting services.
We saw lots of teens at the Royal Pacific, and while there isn't a separate kids' club for them here, you'll find plenty to keep them entertained. There are booze-free teen nights held a couple nights a week at The Groove, a nightclub in the CityWalk complex. Admission is $10 to $15 and a photo ID is required.
The two Universal theme parks, Universal Studios and Island of Adventure are both within 10 minutes' walking distance from the hotel, but our family preferred taking the water taxis. Families will love attractions like Shrek 4-D, and Simpsons ride, and the Revenge of the Mummy coaster. We were a little concerned there might not be enough to do for our 4-year-old, but between Feivel's Playground, Barney and the E.T. Adventure, we had no reason to worry. Universal's other park, Island of Adventure, is home to the much-anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with the towering Hogwart 's Castle, Dragon Challenge, and buildings draped in the realest fake snow and icicles we've ever seen. But be warned, if you are planning to visit Wizarding World, be prepared for shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and long lines everywhere. Our 8-year-old loved Marvel Super Hero Island, Spider-man in particular, while our youngest could have stayed in Seuss Landing all day.
Islands Dining Room
The main dining room is the most family-friendly place to eat. It's a casual, Indonesian-style dining room that serves three meals a day, and has plenty of child-friendly meal choices. There is also a cute little play area for the kids, so you won't feel rushed through a meal if they're having trouble staying in their seats. There are huge glass windows that bring in the light in the morning, making it a cheerful place to come for the breakfast buffet. There's a small outdoor patio, open weather-permitting, and live entertainment on select nights.
For the best food, definitely try Emeril's Tchoup Chop restaurant, which has Asian and Polynesian dishes like steamed pork and Asian vegetables, edamame fried rice, as well as a small selection of sushi. The restaurant is open and airy with bamboo and great Feng Shui. You'll get amazing food without the formality, and wonderfully attentive waiters. For lunch there is a build-your-own noodle bowl, and a build-your-own bento box, as well as a children's menu. Tchoup Chop also serves a three-course brunch on Sundays with a keiki brunch box (fruit, breakfast eggroll and French toast) for kids 12 and under.
Orchid Court Sushi Bar
The hotels' newest restaurant is open in the evenings for sushi and sashimi. We did not have time try it personally, but heard it has gotten great reviews. Next door is Orchid Court Lounge, which feels more like part of the lobby than a real lounge, and serves continental breakfast and coffee every morning.
Jake's American Bar
A casual atmosphere with bar food, burgers and salads is ideal for big eaters because of its extra-large portions.
Bula Bar & Grille
Located by the pool, Bula has quick meals like wraps and burgers, as well as a selection of tropical drinks; and Bula Ice Cream Shop has ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet and Starbucks coffee.
If you're looking for something really different and memorable, try the Luau on Saturday rights (and Tuesday nights seasonally). There are fire eaters, live Hawaiian music, hula dancers and a huge buffet with suckling pig, seafood, pork with pineapple, and fruit. There's also a separate buffet for the kids. It's definitely pricey, but remember you're getting a show along with your dinner, and the cost includes soda, wine and beer.
You can also catch character meals take place at all three Loews Universal properties on select nights.
Room Service is available 24-hours a day.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
The biggest perk to staying at one of the three Loews hotels is the close proximity to the park, and, more importantly, the fact that you get to skip the lines in the parks. Your room key acts as an Express Pass and allows you to bypass the lines on almost all of the rides in both Universal Studios and Island of Adventure. That's worth almost $90/day per person. Even though that excludes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a stay at any of the Loews also gets you an hour of early admission into Island of Adventure, so you won't wait too long there either.
Staying on property also means you get resort-wide transportation via water taxi or shuttle bus between all the hotels and Universal Studios, Universal CityWalk and Islands of Adventure. You are also given priority seating at select Universal Orlando restaurants, free package delivery to your hotel room, and resort-wide charging privileges.
While there is no spa at Royal Pacific, you are allowed access to the Mandara Spa, just down the road at the Portofino Bay. They offer everything from massages and facials to full-body treatments, hair and nails, as well as his-and-hers steam saunas.
All Loews hotels are pet-friendly, and families can borrow cribs, nightlights, baby blankets, and outlet protectors without getting charged. There is free Wi- Fi in the lobby, but there is a fee of $10/day to connect in the room.
Getting There and Around
There are no hotel shuttles from Orlando International Airport to the hotel. If you want to take a bus, try Mears, which has reasonable rates and a good safety record. If you're driving, take I-4 and get off at Kirkman Road./Highway 435 and follow the signs to Universal. If you're staying at any of the Loews Universal hotels, you'll get free shuttle service (either by water taxi or bus) between the resorts, theme parks and CityWalk. The water taxis are the most fun, but also take the longest. There are also free bus shuttles to SeaWorld and Wet & Wild. Parking at Loews Royal Pacific is $15 for self parking and valet is $22.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season in Orlando is March through April, June through mid-August, and mid-December to early January, while low season is February, late May to mid-June, mid-August, and October. Rooms will be less crowded and less expensive in low season. Holidays and school vacation times are always extremely crowded. Temperature-wise, the summer months are generally quite hot, with temps going into the mid-90s, while November through the winter months can get chilly, with temps getting down into the high-40s at night, and averaging in the 60s or low-70s during the day. Hurricane season is June through November.