I recently booked a stay at Universal’s newest on-site hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, for my family. I liked it, my husband loved it, and my toddler and baby enjoyed it. I thought I’d share some pros and cons and a few tips if you are considering a stay at Sapphire Falls.
- Sapphire Falls is Universal Orlando’s newest resort hotel and the first “moderate” level resort. Universal calls it a Preferred Level resort.
- Express Passes are not included in your Sapphire Falls stay like they are at Royal Pacific (the other Preferred Level resort) or the 2 Premier resorts (Portofino Bay and Hard Rock Hotel).
- Early Access to Volcano Bay and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter ARE included as is the case with all on-site Universal hotels.
- The 16000 square foot resort pool includes 2 white sand beaches, a splash area for the littles, and a water slide.
- A full-service restaurant, a quick service restaurant, a lobby bar, are all available on-site.
- Standard Rooms sleep up to 4 guests (5 with a rollaway and a $25 fee/night). Standard Rooms have either 2 Queens or a King and a sofa bed. King Suites, Kids Suites, Sapphire Suites, Hospitality Suites and a Presidential Suite are also available to book.
Water Taxi Service – These are SO convenient for the parks and the kids love it! The ride to and from Sapphire is a little longer than Royal Pacific but about the same as Portofino and the boats come every 10-15 minutes. I never waited longer than 5! The dock is close, especially if you are in Guest House 1. I’ve stayed at Portofino and Royal Pacific which are in the Deluxe category and the walk to the water taxis was longer from most rooms.
Early Access to Volcano Bay and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – All on-site hotels at Universal have this benefit but it IS a great benefit if you use it. Especially with the popularity of the new water park (Volcano Bay).
Beautiful Theming – It’s the type of resort that constantly reminds you that you are on vacation. From the smell in the lobby to the room décor, and the themed lobby. There is no doubt that Universal wants you to relax. I will say that Universal promotes this resort as an island retreat where “shoes are optional” but to me, it in no way gives off that vibe. It’s more like a luxury hotel with some island-y décor. But I still liked it. It’s not as elegant as Portofino, not as beachy as Royal Pacific, and not as bright and fun as Cabana Bay. But it is a nicely themed resort.
Amatista Cookhouse – The full-service dining location on site is so good we ate there twice in 24 hours. The service was amazing, the servers were SO great with our 4-month-old and toddler, and the food was fantastic! I often opt for quick service options when both kids are present but the food here was amazing AND a family friendly atmosphere.
Room Service – For us, this doesn’t make a difference since we rarely use room service. But, it is worth noting that room service is offered here and that is a step up from most moderate level resorts.
Price/No Express Passes – I understand why Universal is not offering Express Passes for their version of a moderate level resort. Express Passes are meant to keep lines shorter (for those with and without express pass) and if you give too many away it disrupts the flow and the wait times in Express Pass lines become longer which is not fair to those paying for Express pass. So, I in no way expect Universal to offer Express Passes here. BUT, the price difference is a big enough jump from their Value resort (Cabana Bay) that without the lure of Express Pass, I personally would skip over this option and book a Resort that includes Express Pass (Royal Pacific is just a little bit more per night and the rooms are pretty much exactly the same) OR save money and book Cabana Bay where you can get a family suite for the same cost of the Standard Room at Sapphire Falls.
Quick Service Option – The quick service option in the lobby (Dutch Trading Co) is centrally located and has convenient hours. The food was actually really good. But it’s a con on my list for 2 reasons; lack of seating and lack of kid-friendly options. We arrived late after driving all day and were relieved that the quick service option was still open. But, we had to sit in the lobby and eat with the food on our laps because there is no seating at the quick service location. Also, no kid-friendly options, no kid meals, not many ala carte options and just a pretty limited menu all around. If it was just me and the hubby, I would have only had an issue with the lack of seating. But since we often travel as a family, I am listing this as a con. But they do have pretty great coffee!
Floor Space in the room – The rooms are beautiful, and they remind me A LOT of the Royal Pacific rooms in both theme and space. But, there is almost no floor space in the 2 Queen rooms. The doors on the TV Stand/Dresser are big and open out (instead of drawers that pull out). And there is no room to walk through if someone is using that space. The chair at the desk is right in front of a bed and the chair does not push up under the desk. These sound like small issues, but it really makes it difficult to move around the room easily. I prefer the set up at Portofino or Cabana Bay over these rooms. They just felt crowded-like too much furniture in a small space.
Overall, I did enjoy the proximity to the parks and the overall feel of the resort. I doubt I will stay here again when Cabana Bay is a cheaper option with a better room layout for families or for just a little bit more per night I could stay at one of the resorts offering free Express Pass. But, if you are looking for a getaway without kids and you are going in the off season, this could be a great option! If you are traveling with kids or during peak season, any of the other on-site options will probably fit your needs a little better. But, the great thing is that there ARE multiple options at Universal so there is something for everyone and all budgets!
I’d love to help you plan your Universal getaway!
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Agent affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations
Email me or Call me at 1-800-670-4312 ext. 139 or Find Me on Facebook and Instagram