I have lived in Florida for over 27 years, including 3 years in the Orlando / Universal Studios area. That's obviously not nearly enough time to sample the thousands of hotel options available in the Sunshine State, but I've stayed in a wide array of resorts, hotels, and motels over the years.
The Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal isn't the fanciest or the most elaborate hotel you'll find in the greater Orlando area, but from my recent experience, it's a solid value with alot to offer. (Especially if you are able to use the booking tips I've provided below.)
We booked two rooms for our stay -- one for my wife and I, and one for her parents. Both rooms offered a good amount of space, but ours was particularly nice, because it happened to be in the corner of the hotel. The layout of our room in the floorplan of the hotel basically made it into more of a Queen Suite than a regular room. Both rooms and bathrooms were clean and fairly well-appointed with the usual things you'd expect in a nicer hotel in a very busy area -- hair dryer, coffee maker, toiletries, lotions, plenty of towels, etc. Our room even came with a refigerator and little cocktail sink, though I don't believe that is standard for regular rooms. Additionally, and importantly, the beds and bedding were very comfortable.
ROOM TIP: I'd definitely recommend trying to request a corner room as I described, if you are staying for a while.
The public areas of the hotel aren't overly fancy, but they are clean and fairly spacious. The layout of the hotel makes it easy to find your way around, get in and out of your room easily with your luggage in hand, and enjoy the straightforward amenities provided by the hotel.
We ate at the bar / restaurant in the main lobby for dinner one of the nights we were there and the food was surprisingly good, though there was a rather limited selection of options. And, the service was adequate, but not overwhelming.
The pool area and outdoor patio are nice, though nothing spectacular. You shouldn't expect a resort-style spa experience, but they are certainly adequate for a family or couple looking to spend an hour or two sunbathing or enjoying a cocktail after a long day trekking around the nearby amusement parks.
One of the greatest strengths of this hotel is its LOCATION. You are very close to Universal Studios, International Drive ("I-Drive" if you are local), and I-4 (the main interstate that runs through Orlando and connects it to Tampa on the Gulf Coast and the beaches along the Atlantic Coast.) The hotel offers a shuttle service, but we were able to drive to Universal and park in about 5-10 minutes, start to finish, although in a busier tourist season you can probably expect more delays.
Perhaps most importantly, though you are right next to International Drive -- which offers a huge variety of options for dining, entertainment, and shopping -- but the entrance to the hotel is not actually ON International Drive, and is instead on Universal Blvd. This means you can walk or take a shuttle to many places that are within a mile or so of your hotel, but you are not forced to drive in the horribly congested traffic that International Drive is plagued with. Still, you are able to drive directly to Universal Studios with almost no chance of getting lost.
DRIVING TIP: The hotel is not particularly close to the Orlando Airport. If you can arrange shuttle service or splurge on a taxi, that could work, but it might be nice to rent a car of you are planning to be in town a while, or want to go to more than Universal Studios. If you do, however, be aware that Orlando has some terrible traffic and a GPS is a great idea. Also, if you arriving to the hotel by travelling East on I-4 (from Tampa or Disney) do not take Exit 74A even though it is very close to the hotel. Especially at night, this exit can be backed up for a long time. Instead, keep going to Exit 75A and turn right on to Universal Blvd and proceed directly to the Crowne Plaza, allowing you to skip the congestion of I-Drive and Sand Lake completely.
The one main negative of this hotel is that there isn't a ton of parking in the hotel parking area. It was fine when we were there, but I could see it being a hassle in the height of tourist season. And, because its location is so good for being in the middle of things on I-Drive, there's not a great view of much of anything natural or beautiful. But, these are tradeoffs you might be willing to make if you can get this hotel for much less than one of the Universal or Disney Resorts.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- When visiting the adventure capital of the world, enjoy the award winning service and experience of Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal. Recently voted the top hotel in guest satisfaction among all Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, this Orlando, hotel is where relaxation meets adventure! The perfect blend of modern luxury and impeccable service with a premier setting soaring 15 stories over world renowned International Drive and offering views of popular local attractions and their fireworks or seasonal light shows. A masterpiece that blends Park Avenue elegance with the chic deco of South Beach. The hotel features complimentary scheduled shuttle service to the Universal Orlando Resort including Islands of Adventure, City Walk and Universal Studios, the Worlds of Discovery theme parks including Sea World of Orlando and water pakr, Aquatica, the Walt Disney World theme parks and Wet n Wild. The hotel is also a stop on the I Ride Trolley, serving Universal Boulevard and the International Drive areas for just dollars a day. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel Orlando
- Orlando Crowne Plaza
- Crown Plaza Orlando
- Crowne Plaza Universal Orlando
- Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Florida