UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Resort
Universal Studios Theme Parks
Review by: Lance Hart
Universal Orlando’s Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort
(9/25/16) I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Universal Orlando’s newest resort hotel, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, positioned comfortably between the wonderful Royal Pacific Resort and the fun themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Like the Royal Pacific, the Sapphire Falls Resort is connected to the rest of the Universal Resort via the boat taxi waterways. While Royal Pacific brings to life the wonder of the South Pacific islands, Sapphire Falls is all about the Caribbean Island lifestyle, from the music in the lobby to the colorful themeing that encompasses the entire resort.
Entering the resort from the main entry the first thing you may notice in the large atrium style lobby is a giant chandelier overhead, themed to look like it was made up from several dozen giant colorful beach balls. If the mood strikes you, or you are waiting on a shuttle as you leave, there is plenty of room in here to pull up a chair, sit and relax. At the rear is a special lounge area just outside the Strong Water Tavern which in addition to having a wonderful view out the windows of the Royal Pacific Resort, it also has a large video wall playing news or perhaps one of the big games on TV at the moment. With the Strong Water Tavern just behind the video wall, it makes it easy to get yourself a beverage or an appetizer and sit and relax for a spell. Speaking of the Strong Water Tavern, this has been designed to be a well stocked Rum Bar offering more styles of rum than you can imagine, as well as a wide assortment of rum inspired beverage options. Flag down a rum captain and you can look into getting a flight of different rums. It also has a cozy outdoor patio with a view down upon the bay below and the water as it tumbles down the falls.
Off the main lobby is the Universal Studios Store that is always stocked up with the latest themed merchandise from the parks, as well as the Dutch Trading Co., where you can stop in to pick up a snack or beverage to-go (from milk to soda to beer and wine) as well as pastries in the mornings as well as various freshly made sandwich items that change throughout the day from breakfast, to lunch to evening options.
As the lobby is actually on the 4th floor of the resort, you can journey down to the first floor where you will find your water taxi over to CityWalk and the Universal Orlando theme parks, but you can also stop into the Amatista Cookhouse for a regular sit-down meal. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating options for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day, typically opening at 6am and serving dinner until 10pm.
It wouldn't be a true resort at Universal Orlando without a fantastic pool area and the Sapphire Falls does not fall short in this area. The large pool area features both stair and zero-depth entry options, a waterslide and while deeper towards the two far ends, the center area of the pool gets shallow and features an ankle deep pathway for guests to cross from one side of the long pool to the other. This is useful to not only get to the hot-tub area, but also to the Drhum Club Kantine feature features a full bar as well as a Tapas menu with fresh seafood options. With the aforementioned hot-tub area as well as a comfy fire pit seating area nearby, this makes for a nice little hideaway to get away, sip a beverage and unwind after a busy day at the theme parks.
The basic layout of the rooms themselves are quite similar to what you may find over at the Royal Pacific or Hard Rock Resorts, featuring two large beds, a giant screen TV and a desk you can sit down to do any work or email at… or pull up the latest Screamscape news update for a quick read. While the room is a little smaller feeling than what you may have at the Cabana Bay, they also feature a wonderful walk in shower over the bathtub / shower combo found at Cabana Bay, complete with a nice little bench so you can sit and relax under the water.
The resort also features a fairly large gym if you want to work out, a video game arcade, as well as an assortment of outdoor games and activities out by the pool area. At night I noticed they would set up a giant projection screen facing the pool so those swimming at night could enjoy a movie as well which was a nice touch. If you get a chance, be sure to venture down the lookout pathway to view the lit up falls after dark as well.
All said and done the Sapphire Falls Resorts offers a very complimentary themed resort that fits right in with the theming, while not repeating it, of the nearby Royal Pacific resort and the upcoming Volcano Bay waterpark opening in Summer 2017. One thing to remember however, one major difference between the Sapphire Falls Resort and the Royal Pacific is that guests here do not get the benefit of Universal Express access to the theme park attractions. Universal Express access is only included for guests of the Portafino Bay, Hard Rock and Royal Pacific Resorts. Sapphire Falls and Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests get early admission into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter only. Keep this fact in mind when deciding which Resort to stay at. If the theme parks are expected to be busy during your stay, it may be much more beneficial to stay at a resort where Universal Express is included, as the cost to add it onto your park admission later on is typically at least $80+ per person for the day.
I do have one tip however. In the evenings, if you are coming back to the hotel late after an all day stay at the theme parks, or an evening out at Citywalk, be forewarned that if you return after 11pm the store and Dutch Trading Co in the lobby do close down. So if you feel like you need to pick up a light snack, a soda, or perhaps wanted to get some aspirin or lotion to soothe that sunburn, you may want to grab something at Citywalk and bring it back with you as after 11pm I was unable to find a vending machine anywhere in the halls, and the only drink option open that late was the Strong Water Tavern.
Enjoy your stay at the Sapphire Falls Resort and see if you enjoyed it as much as I did.