Welcome to the first installment of our Orlando 2017 trip report where we talk about the hotels in Orlando we stayed at during our trip.
Originally I (it’s Charlotte, btw) was going to do a day-by-day account of our whole visit, but my iPad somehow lost most of my notes *sad face* so I had to re-think how I wanted this to go.
Fortunately for us we’re headed back to Orlando in four months (lucky sods, I know) so I’ll do a proper trip report of our 2018 visit – making sure I backup my notes this time! Instead, I’m going to do separate posts for each of the following: hotels, parks, food, drink, halloween activities, merchandise, everything else and highs and lows – starting with the hotels.
We stayed at three hotels in Orlando during our visit: The Radisson Blu at Manchester Airport, Caribbean Beach at Walt Disney World and Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Studios Orlando – we hope you enjoy!
Choosing our hotels
I thought I’d take it right back to start and share how we made the decision to stay at these three locations. As this was our honeymoon, we knew we didn’t want value resorts. We have nothing against them – in fact we’re staying at one in September this year – but we wanted this holiday to feel super special.
For Walt Disney World we were happy to go with a moderate. I’d been to Orlando three times before but always stayed offsite, so had no idea what to expect. To be honest we just assumed all Disney hotels would be nice because, y’know, it’s Disney.
Caribbean Beach was the cheapest of the lot so we booked it. This was before the construction announcement and we got the free quick service dining plan (which we ended upgrading) so we were happy.
With Universal, I’d been lucky enough to enjoy three nights at the Hard Rock Hotel as a teenager and was adamant I wanted to stay there again. That was, until I saw the price. You can tell my parents paid for that trip because it was way over our budget, even for our honeymoon. Instead we found the price for Royal Pacific wasn’t too scary and, as it included express passes, our second week was booked.
We organised everything through Virgin Holidays and were pretty happy with the price we paid, around £4500 including flights if I remember rightly including Disney and Universal tickets.
As our plane was fairly early we knew we wanted to spend our pre-travel day at Manchester Airport. As he’s explained before, Carl had a fear of flying to Orlando so we wanted something comfortable and close. With its connecting bridge and the option of a runway view, the Radisson Blu was chosen. It wasn’t cheap at around £180 for the night, but we used some of our wedding money to pay for it and it did feel like a treat.
The Radisson Blu at Manchester Airport
We were dropped off at around 6.30pm by one of our wonderful friends (who provided us with a champagne and beer reception, no less – our friends are the best) and our first impressions were great. The lobby is on floor three – which was a bit confusing – and there were lots of corporate types milling around on the ground floor scowling at us for trying to squeeze all our luggage through, but we were soon in the lift and on our way.
The receptionist was very friendly and congratulated us on our honeymoon. We received our first (and only!) bit of honeymoon magic here. As a congratulations they offered to bring a couple of free drinks to our room. Carl chose a lager and a big glass of wine was ordered for me. The reception area was nice, very suited to corporate events but modern, clean and spacious. Overall, a great first impression.
As a side note: Carl ended up leaving his bloody wedding ring in the room the morning we departed and didn’t realise until we’d cleared security (yep, he’s a plonker) and they were very helpful when we called to ask if they had it. The woman checked immediately and got back to me within 10 minutes to say we could collect it on our way home. Panic over, but Carl did spend his honeymoon without a wedding ring!
The runway view room was great for Carl – who is equally obsessed with watching planes as he is scared of them. I would 100% advise booking one if your budget will allow, the windows are massive and there was always something to look at. The bed is also huge and really comfortable, we certainly got a great nights sleep. In terms of storage there is plenty, but we didn’t really need it as everything was packed in our hand luggage.
We didn’t have breakfast here but we did eat dinner in the Little M Bar. There are two restaurants to choose from but we didn’t fancy anything heavy. The Little M offered drinks and a pizza menu which did us just fine. We shared a margherita, a portion of fries and downed one too many alcoholic beverages in our excitement. Let’s just say, I didn’t feel too peachy when we arrived at the airport the next morning. Massive fail.
The food was £18 which is fairly pricey for a pizza and some chips but it was all delicious and we expected it to be on the expensive side. The drinks weren’t cheap either – at £4.90 a pint and £9 for a large glass of white wine we spent around £60 on this meal which was a lot. But I guess it was our choice to get the best part of steaming the night before an eight-hour flight.
The location is what seals the deal on this hotel for me. It’s super convenient, right next to the airport, and the covered walkway takes you directly where you need to be. It was amazing to not have to worry about waiting for a bus, especially with a nervous flier in the party.
For what is a premium priced airport hotel room we both thought it was well worth the money and will absolutely stay there again if we have the spare cash – a great place to be before a long flight!
Caribbean Beach at Walt Disney World
As I said above, we booked this before the big construction project was announced. When we heard the news we were a little bit worried, but as soon we were offered a $75 gift card for every day we were there, we decided to stay put – Disney merchandise was way more important!
When we arrived we were gobsmacked. This place is humongous and we really didn’t anticipate the scale of the location. We were dropped off at Custom House and there was no queue – wahooo – so we were served immediately. Our first experience of Disney customer service was a little underwhelming. The woman who served us was, quite frankly, miserable but she did what she needed to do; handed us a map, told us about the closures and passed us over our magic bands. Side note: we were very giddy to accept these.
She knew it was our honeymoon as she passed us ‘happily ever after’ badges but didn’t really say much else. We know loads of people go on Disneymoons so we weren’t expecting her to roll out the red carpet, but a congratulations wouldn’t have gone a miss.
Anyway, Custom House was pleasant enough and we were soon being carted to our room in Martinique. In terms of everything else, Centre Town – the main hub of activity – was completely under refurb so we did feel a *bit* like we were staying in a motel. We were on the ground floor which never bothered us as we always felt safe, but as the food and drink options were served out of trucks and we only ventured to the pool area where everything was located once.
Overall Caribbean Beach Resort just didn’t feel like it had the Disney magic, but we think this was because there was no central hub with a shop, arcade, quick service restaurant etc. When we did use it the pool was nice and I remember being so relieved to soak my aching feet in some cold water!
There isn’t much to say here. The room was more than ample for two adults sharing for a week. There was a mini fridge which kept our drinks nice and cold and a good sized bathroom with lots of storage space. The beds were super comfy although the second one was mostly used as a dumping ground. It was really quiet – even being on the ground floor – and was always cleaned to impeccable standards despite our mess.
The decor was a little dated so I can see why they are redoing all the rooms here. It was also always dark because, being on the ground floor, we never opened our curtains fully. Overall a good room for a moderate that I think would easily fit a family of four, although you might get a bit sick of being on top of each other.
As I said above, we only ate here once for lunch. I don’t even think the eating place was named but we ordered from a food truck and picked it up inside. I had a turkey sandwich and Carl had a burger. Both were ok – nothing to write home about – but they did come with the most delicious tater tots known to man.
They also had rooms converted into little convenience stores at each of the ‘Islands’ where we picked up pastries, crisps and drinks throughout our stay. Don’t buy alcohol here if you want some spending money left over for Minnie ears, it was obscenely priced.
Walt Disney World is massive and the hotels are all spread out across the resort but we don’t remember the bus to any parks taking longer than 20 minutes. Martinique turned out to be a great location as we were one of the first to be picked up and dropped off on the bus. This meant we almost always got a seat going to the parks and got out as quick as we could when everyone was falling over each other on the way back. Other than that, there isn’t much else to say. Well located and Martinique was gold – book there if you can!
Overall we liked Caribbean Beach. It had everything we needed and the buses were fantastic; there was almost always one within 15 minutes of us arriving at the stop. We weren’t overawed but it’s hard to judge considering there was so much construction and Centre Town was closed off. I guess we’ll just have to head back when it’s all done to judge it fairly – as if we need an excuse!
Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Studios Orlando
The final hotel of our stay was a week at Lowes Royal Pacific at Universal Studios Orlando. As I said before, we chose this because it had the perks of the Hard Rock – such as express passes – without the higher price tag. In short, we loved it.
Our first impressions of Royal Pacific were great. The lobby is really grand and impressive when you enter, and it really felt like a luxury hotel compared to Caribbean Beach. We loved that the central hub had places to eat, drink and shop and I got really, really excited about the huge amounts of Harry Potter merchandise. We could really tell we’d arrived at Universal. After having very few onsite amenities at Walt Disney World, it felt really nice to be staying in a ‘proper’ hotel for a week.
The pool area was my personal favourite place. The sun loungers were really comfortable, the bar did the world’s best cocktails and the food was delicious. We spent a couple of hours chilling here most afternoons during our stay. By week two we were getting tired and my feet were in so much pain, so having a beautiful area to relax and rest my toes was bliss. As an added bonus, you can see Dr Doom’s Fearfall going up and down and hear The Incredible Hulk Coaster roaring round which is pretty cool.
One thing I will say is the staff were a bit patchy. The woman who served us when we checked in was so miserable and again, there were no congratulations about us being on our honeymoon despite Carl being very obvious about the reason for our visit. The staff at the pool bar, on the other hand, could not have been nicer and really made us feel welcome during our stay.
The express passes really were a godsend as it meant we never had to queue much for the rides at Universal. We also got early entry every day which we almost always utilised. We tended to head into the park for seven, and leave around 12 to spend the afternoon by the pool. A great, more laid back week in comparison to the rush of Disney.
This hotel is big. There are three towers housing all the rooms and ours was one of the furthest away. It was nice and quiet though and we both really liked the decor. The bed was even comfier than the one at Disney and the room was really modern, fresh and clean. There was tons of storage space and our view over the pool was pretty neat. This is a strange thing to complain about but the cleaners came at an odd time. They were nearly always there at about 4.30pm when we were coming back to the room to get changed. This meant we often had to go without our room being cleaned or adjust our plans so we weren’t there at the same time. Not a biggie, but something I’ve never experienced at another hotel before.
We only ate one type of food at the pool bar here so there isn’t a whole lot to say. The menu looked delicious but as nachos are our thing – we had really delicious nachos when we celebrated our engagement in Spain – we ordered two lots of these during our stay. They were so so good, but massive. We shared a portion and it was absolutely enough for two people as a main meal. Although I must say, why do they never use real cheese on nachos in Orlando theme parks? The drinks here were fab as well and we got through lots of refillable mojitos and lagers during our stay. They weren’t cheap, and you had to buy the plastic glass and remember to bring it down to the pool with you, but they were so refreshing on a hot day.
This was one of the best things about Loews Royal Pacifc. Located just a 10-minute walk from City Walk (at most) we loved the flexibility and freedom we had to nip to and from the parks here. And, when my poor feet were just too tired, the water taxi was quick and easy to hop on as well. Volcano Bay was a bit more difficult as we had to wait for a bus which took ages to arrive. But as this is a little further away, we assume each of the Universal hotels – with the exception of Cabana Bay – probably had this problem. Volcano Bay had just opened at the time, so the bus issues have probably been ironed out now.
We loved this hotel and if we could, we’d stay here every time we visited Orlando. Unfortunately the price has either gone up, or we didn’t realise how expensive it was before, because at over £200 a night, we’ll be giving this a miss when we visit in September. Is it worth it? Absolutely. We just don’t have the budget for it two years in a row.
So there you have it, my very long and detailed review of the three hotels we stayed in during our trip to Orlando in October 2017. This series will continue next week with an overview of all the parks we visited.
Have you ever stayed at one of these hotels in Orlando? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!