Is it worth the upgrade?
I recently took my family of five for our first Universal Orlando Vacation! I am a Disney girl at heart, but Harry Potter has been calling to my oldest daughter and since our youngest was finally over that 42” mark, we felt that we could have fun as a family and not spend the entire day doing child swap. When looking at the hotel options, I knew without a doubt that we wanted to stay at one of the on property deluxe hotels so that we could take advantage of the early entry and free unlimited Express Pass. Beyond that I wasn’t set on one particular hotel or room type until I did my research. All of the Universal Resorts are wonderful in their own way, but I was initially drawn to the Hard Rock Hotel because of the pool. It looked like a vacation in itself and I could see myself sitting in a chair, my feet in the sand, cool drink in hand, watching the kids play in the zero entry pool. That sounded wonderful! Then, after a business trip landed me at the Hard Rock back in December, I was set on the Hard Rock as far as location goes. While there are boats that you can take to get to City Walk, I found the easy five minute walk to Universal and ten minute walk to Islands of Adventure to be most convenient.
Now that I was set on location, I needed to book a reservation, but what room type? My first thought was that we never choose a room based on view (we don’t spend time looking out the window so why pay more for a certain view?) so I would just go with the lowest priced room for a family of five and call it good. Then I learned about Club Level! At first I thought that the upgrade was just too pricey. We were already spending more on the room than we normally spend at Disney (we are a moderate level family) but I could justify that with the Unlimited Express Pass and early entry benefits (well worth the cost!). Club Level was a whole new ballgame, would we get our money’s worth? The short answer is YES we did and I highly encourage the upgrade! It was more than worth the extra nightly expense.
As soon as you check in, even if your room isn’t ready (ours wasn’t), you are given access to the Club Level Hospitality Room. We arrived during afternoon snack time and the kids were hungry so after we dumped our bags with Bell Services, we headed upstairs and instantly felt like rock stars! To get to the seventh floor club level you need your key card for the elevator. My kids were impressed with that fact and how we noticed over the next few days that once we got on the elevator, it was non-stop to the top! No stopping at other floors for people to get on, most of the time it was just us baby!
When we arrived at the newly remodeled seventh floor we headed right into the hospitality room where we found assorted cold sodas (Coke products), lemonade, ice water with lemon and lime, iced tea, a nut based trail mix with M&Ms and raisins, assorted individual bags of chips, granola bars, and bottled water. I really liked how they had little cups with lids next to the trail mix so that you could easily take some to go. We relaxed with our snacks and laid out a game plan for the rest of the day and then headed out to the parks for a few hours, making sure to grab a few bottles of water and some granola bars for later.
After a few hours of park time everyone was hot and ready to put on swim suits and try out the awesome looking pool. It was almost time for the evening hot appetizers so we headed back to the hotel. Back upstairs we were more than pleased to see the offerings. Over the course of a few days the evening snacks included fried macaroni balls, chicken wings, sushi, pot stickers, and more than I can remember, usually there were two main hot items with a salad or coleslaw as well. Every night there were assorted cheese and crackers, a veggie tray, and fruit bowl, iced and hot teas, ice water, sodas, beer and wine, and if the kids ask nice you just might get one of the attendants to whip up a Shirley Temple or two!
After eating and finally getting into our room we headed out to the pool for a few hours of relaxation. As the sun set and the long day finally caught up with the kids we once more headed upstairs, had showers, put on PJs and then walked back down the hall for evening treats! Each night you will find a fun dessert, milk, hot cocoa, and water. Over the three nights we were there we had freshly baked chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and sugar cookies, hot churros with caramel and chocolate dipping sauces, and build your own ice cream sundae night! It was an awesome way to end the day and since the kids were worn out from the parks, getting them to sleep after the sugar rush wasn’t very hard at all!
My kids are breakfast people. They need a good solid breakfast each morning to get going and this was my main reason for initially considering the Club Level room. Each morning there was fresh donuts and assorted pastries, fruit bowls, hot oatmeal with fixings, hard boiled eggs, cold cereals, yogurt, and a toaster for bagels and toast with jelly or peanut butter. We also found a decent coffee, hot tea, milk and juices set out. A pleasant surprise was the Mimosas for mom and dad! Obviously nothing fancy, but it was more than enough to get us going in the morning and ready to hit the theme parks! On our way out we were offered bottled water, granola bars, and apples and oranges for our day bags so that we had snacks as the morning wore on.
So what do you think? Does it sound like we got money’s worth for the Club Level upgrade? I think so! The Hard Rock Hotel’s close proximity to the parks made it very easy to take advantage of the food and snack options at the hotel throughout the day. I have to admit that other than our arrival day we didn’t make it back for afternoon snacks, but we did eat lunch and a few snacks in the parks each day (Butterbeer!) so the afternoon snacks weren’t as important to us as the breakfast, evening appetizers, and nighttime treats were. Every family is different and if you aren’t big on breakfast or don’t want to head back to your hotel in the evenings like we did, then Club Level may not work for you like it did for us, but we loved hanging out by the pool each evening and since we were already at the hotel, the appetizers were a perfect fit. They actually ended up being more than enough food for us in the hot summer weather and we found that we really didn’t need to buy dinner so it was even more of a money saver!
Overall, I do recommend the Club Level rooms. The Portofino Bay and the Royal Pacific Hotels also have a Club Level that offer the same options as the Hard Rock Hotel, so if one of the other themes appeals to you more, then by all means, go for the other hotel option, but definitely go for the upgrade! You won’t be sorry that you did!