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Universal Studios Orlando - ? hotel on-site vs. express pass upgrade

Universal Studios Orlando - ? hotel on-site vs. express pass upgrade

Apr 19th, 2010, 05:58 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 266
Universal Studios Orlando - ? hotel on-site vs. express pass upgrade

My sons and I will be visiting Orlando in May and have a reservation for 1 week at the Cypress Harbour Marriott timeshare which is very close to Universal and SeaWorld and probably 15-20 minutes from Disney. We plan to spend time at various parks but probably 2 days at Universal, 1 at SeaWorld, and 2-3 at Disney. When we visited Orlando in the past, we always stayed on property...either at Disney and only went to Disney properties, or at Universal and only spent time at their parks.

Two of my sons may only be there for the weekend and Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are the top priority. I don't want to spend an hour or more waiting in lines for the more popular rides...it will be May which is before high season but it will be a wkend. We were spoiled when we stayed at the Royal Pacific Hotel on Universal property in the past and used our room key as a special pass to bypass lines.

My question is whether it's worth it to spend 1 night at the Royal Pacific to have 2 full days of their privileges vs. upgrading 2 day/2 park passes to include the express pass option.

2 day/2 park passes for adults are $137.15 each and the express upgrades (which I've never used but sound good) are $58...$195.15 each or $830.68 for 4 passes after taxes.

OR 2 day/2 park passes and spend 1 night at the Royal Pacific at $319 or about $350 w/ taxes for a total of $898.60. Yes, this option is more expensive at ~ $70, and yes, we already have a place to stay, but are there other advantages (other than taking the boat to the hotel) to staying on site that either I'm not aware of or not considering?

I'm not as concerned about the rest of the trip since we will be in Disney parks or SeaWorld during the wk and will just have to use their FastPass options in the park (Disney that is).

Appreciate the advice from the experts out there!
Momof3boys is offline  
Apr 19th, 2010, 07:13 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 5,493
Just being on-site for about the same price and having a room to crash in seem worth it... you might check the Hard Rock for a "cooler" location if the rates are the same, especially if your kids are into the music and the Rock thing... I think being at the park gives you way more freedom and access...
garyt22 is online now  
Apr 19th, 2010, 07:48 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 69
To me, commuting back and forth to the parks from a central hotel is not a big deal - Orlando is such an easy city to get around in. However, I am absolutely sold on the value of the Express passes - especially during peak periods. The ability to zip through the lines just frees up so much time, and really allows you comfortably move throughout the park at your own pace, rather then spending hours in line.

I have been to Universal twice with my two teen children - both times have been in October to go to the parks during the day, and attend the Halloween night at the park during the evening, which draws very large crowds. First year we went without the express passes and become extremely frustrated by the long lines, and the kids got to the point the wanted to leave the park before closing because they were wiped out from battling the crowds. Two years later we returned with Express passes - we saw soooo much more of the park, and made it through all the major rides and all 7 of the haunted houses (first time only got through 2 houses) and they were having so much fun, they didn't want to leave.
russp3762 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2010, 03:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,708
Check to be sure, but I'm pretty sure the express pass that you buy is good for just ONE express entrance to each atratction. The room key lets you use your express over and over as much as you want on the attractions.
Just having the room there if you want a place to go is worth it.
You've been there before so you know how good it is to have that express all day for two full days.
I'd go with booking a room on site for a night.
schmerl is offline  
Apr 20th, 2010, 03:36 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 291
Mom---I agree that a property within Universal might well be worth it to you. We've been to Universal 2x in the past 4 wks (for concerts at Hard Rock Live, not for U.S. or I.of A). First stay we chose Doubletree at the entrance--close, but there was still the issue of shuttling and/or parking, then the long slog via the people-movers and Citiwalk. Most recent stay we chose Hard Rock Hotel, and were extremely happy to be only a short water taxi ride from our room. For you, with the added ExpressPass feature, I'd say it's an absolute no-brainer to book an onsite hotel.

I won't advise you against the Hard Rock Hotel, even though I would never stay there again. Convenience trumps everything else, IMO. Just guard against being seduced by any perceived "coolness" factor. If the Loews properties are in the same ballpark, $$-wise, I would choose one of those.

Have a wonderful trip with your sons !
lifes2short is offline  
Apr 20th, 2010, 06:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 11,449
We've stayed at two of the three Universal hotels (the Portofino and the Hard Rock.)

We liked the ability to use the room key as an express pass. Big plus for us. We're thinking of a few days in October in Orlando and would probably spend at least one night at one of those hotels for that reason.

However, what I don't like about those properties is the nickle and diming feeling I've gotten when a guest there - relative to the Disney hotels. I don't like that they charge for parking - even self-parking - and the prices at their on-site restaurants can be a bit high. I know you expect to pay more at a resort. But, relative to Disney, I felt the Universal hotels were excessive.

The other knock is on the potential for drunks coming back and making a lot of noise when the bars closed at CityWalk. We've never experienced that at a Disney hotel. At the Hard Rock, we had that occur on both nights of our stay.

As I said, those negatives won't stop us from staying there again. But, it is worth being aware of the downside so that you can plan accordingly.
Ryan is offline  
Apr 20th, 2010, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,621
schmerl already posted what I was going to say - it's been a couple years, but the last time I looked at the express upgrade, it was good for only one entrance to each attraction. Perhaps it's changed, but if not, it would be worth it to me to have the unlimited express privileges that a room key gives you.
chepar is offline  
Apr 20th, 2010, 03:58 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 266
THANK YOU, everyone who responded, for helping w/ this decision! Fodorites have always been so wonderful with answering my vacation questions.

I never even considered...and didn't see it mentioned, schmerl & chepar, that the Express Pass with the regular ticket could only be used 1x/ride vs. the on-site room key being used multiple times/ride. Thank you so much for that info, and I called Universal to confirm and you are right. As some of you said, this decision then becomes a "no brainer"! When we were at IoA and US in the past, we probably rode the major attractions 6-12 times each! What a disappointment if we could only go once.

The decision is to stay on site at the Royal Pacific which is the least expensive of the 3 on-site hotels...plus hope to avoid any over-indulged party people at the Hard Rock for 1 nt. This also gives me the option to send my boys out to enjoy the parks together if I just want a couple of hrs of "me time", and avoiding the parking/shuttling issues as mentioned. THANKS AGAIN!
Momof3boys is offline  
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