[ON LOCATION] STEVE GRASSO
Prevue visited Universal Orlando Resort in Florida to learn about how MICE groups can leverage the resources of the entertainment complex for unique and creative meetings and events.
Our host hotel was the Caribbean-themed Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which offers 1,000 rooms as well as a 16,000-sf pool. Steps away is the neighboring Loews Royal Pacific Resort, inspired by the South Pacific and offering a further 1,000 rooms as well as a lagoon-style swimming pool and white-sand beach area. The two properties together form the Loews Meeting Complex at Universal Orlando.
“This complex was designed with the meeting planner in mind,” says Kathy Cattoor, VP of resort sales, Universal Orlando Resort. “It is two individual hotels with meeting spaces connected via a 75-ft walkway that takes 20 seconds to walk through. So it gives you 2,000 guest rooms and 247,000 sf of meeting space, and is like our own mini convention center. Our clients love this because it gives them the intimate feeling of a smaller hotel but with massive space.”
Combined space options between the two hotels include four ballrooms ranging from 30,000-42,000 sf, more than 40,000 sf of total outdoor space, as well as 30 smaller meeting rooms and several meeting planner offices. The Meeting Complex is situated apart from the entertainment areas but immersive character activations can be brought into the spaces as required, such as an appearance by the Minions or the Transformers.
Universal Orlando Resort comprises eight hotels across four different categories providing a wealth of overflow options for big events. Other properties include the Italian Riviera-themed Loews Portofino Bay Hotel offering 750 rooms and 42,000 sf of meeting space, and the Hard Rock Hotel offering 650 guest rooms and 7,200 sf of meeting space.
Universal CityWalk is the complex’s dining, retail and nightlife district. Unique venues include Pat O’Brien’s Orlando, inspired by the venerable New Orleans bar that invented the Hurricane cocktail and featuring live dueling grand pianos. Bob Marley - A Tribute To Freedom is a bar inspired by the Jamaican singer’s home and featuring live music, while The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium is a steampunk-themed chocolate factory serving gourmet chocolates and artisanal milkshakes in a sci-fi Victorian setting.
More than 30 dining and entertainment outlets occupy the space, and as well as full venue buyouts, groups can combine three or more venues for an exclusive Block Party, allowing attendees to experience an eclectic mix of themes and experiences customized to their needs. Venues can be combined to accommodate group sizes from 600 to 6,000 attendees.
Groups can buyout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, a replica of the street from the movie offering themed shops and a rollercoaster; or even combine it with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, incorporating the Hogwarts Express train transfer between locations as part of the experience. Also located at Islands of Adventure is Universal’s newest addition, the thrilling 70 miles-per-hour Jurassic World VelociCoaster.
Our visit included a scenic water-taxi ride to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel for a 5-course banquet amid the Italian-style architecture of the hotel’s courtyard. Universal’s culinary team served dishes including spiced bison tenderloin, braised diver scallop and heritage pork belly while we were serenaded by an opera trio, for a dining experience that would wow any group.