ORLANDO, Fla – In need of a staycation? Look no further than Universal Orlando Resort.
In December, after a monthslong delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, Universal opened its newest value hotel, Endless Summer: Dockside Inn and Suites.
The hotel helped expand Universal’s vast portfolio of exciting places to stay, while also adding more than 2,000 additional rooms.
In 2019, Universal opened Dockside’s sister hotel, Surfside Inn and Suites, which is located across Universal Boulevard, just a short drive from the theme parks.
I recently stepped inside Dockside Inn and Suites to see what the hotel has to offer, and why you should give it a try next time you’re looking for a little getaway.
From the outside, Dockside Inn and Suites sports similar color palettes as Surfside, but as soon as you walk inside, you’re immersed in a totally different atmosphere.
Universal’s creative team wanted guests to feel as though they’re on the beach.
“You really feel like you’re walking on the beach at sunset, all the lighting is supposed to capture all of that, as well as the color scheme,” said Mandy Penn, senior director of marketing for Universal Orlando. “You’re gonna see more greens and wood, and our driftwood statues here (in the lobby) is our main element.”
Adding to the authenticity of the beach look in the lobby, creators used the inner workings of a surfboard to parts of the design above the lobby Starbucks and front desk counter.
“That’s really what’s inside a surfboard and then the foam sticks to all of that,” Penn described. “They added all of these elements that are absolutely true to the surf lifestyle and when you go into rooms, you’re gonna see surfboards and every single one is real.”
Just steps from the front desk is the lobby bar, Sunset Lounge.
The bar was designed after an old VW bus, complete with windows, that now holds the alcohol, headlights and chrome accents. The bar is open daily and serves cocktails, beers, wines and more. It’s also one of the things that differentiates Dockside Inn and Suites from Surfside Inn and Suites.
Moving around the corner is Dockside’s Pier 8 Market.
The large room is surrounded by windows and has a number of tables for families to sit and eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“This is supposed to feel as if you’re underneath the pier, and so you can see the details on the window. What happens is when the light comes in, it becomes fractured. And it really feels like you’re walking underneath the wooden planks, if you’re at the beach,” Penn pointed out.
The area is fantastic to see when you step inside. From the large pier-looking beams that stretch from the ceiling to the floor to the light blue shades simulating the ocean water around them. Pier 8 Marketplace is also packed with a number of delicious food and beverage offerings.
Chicken and Waffles (served with maple syrup and butter)
Since Dockside is a value resort, almost every item on the menu is under $12.
“A few select items can be delivered to the room or you can also do mobile ordering because we know a lot of people want to do that now,” said Jen Hodges, the director of public relations for Loews Hotels in Orlando.
During Universal’s Mardi Gras season, officials said they have tried to spill over the festival excitement from the theme park to Universal’s area hotels.
Dockside Beignets: Sweet fried pastry with a bourbon caramel sauce and topped with powdered sugar. Available in Dockside's Pier 8 Market only.
Pier 8 Market has a popular shrimp and grits, as well as delicious beignets. The Sunset Lounge is offering the endless carnival cocktail.
When it comes to the rooms, Dockside Inn and Suites offers standard rooms and spacious two-bedroom suites.
The suites make up more than half the rooms at both Dockside Inn and Suites and Surfside Inn and can sleep up to six people.
“Its just such a beach retreat from the moment you walk into the room,” Penn described.
From the moment I stepped into the room, I noticed the colors and feels of the beach. From the ocean blue-colored bed sheets, sandy colored headboard, wood paneling and sunset-style artwork around the room.
Dockside Inn and Suites
Universal’s creative team made several changes to Dockside’s rooms after doing some consumer research.
One change was the addition of the door to separate the two rooms for privacy in the suites.
They also listened to consumers and created a bathroom with a separate bath and vanity area so multiple people can get ready at once.
“It’s really the ideal setup for larger families, or even families that just want more space or groups of friends traveling together. And it’s an incredible value price,” Hodges pointed out.
The suites also come with a kitchenette area and picnic table for meals and hanging out.
The standard rooms are pretty similar but come without the separate room, kitchenette and picnic table in the room. However, they do come with a mini-fridge.
Both rooms are packed with areas to store items. Luggage can be stored underneath the bed and bags can be hooked on multiple areas of the walls.
“We wanted to create this living space that guests are comfortable in and not crammed in,” Penn described.
Rooms start at $79 per night. Suites run as low as $120 per night based on a four-night stay. On top of the incredible rooms, guests staying at Dockside also get exclusive theme park benefits, like early park admission and free bus transportation.
Outside of the rooms, Dockside Inn and Suites also has some awesome amenities.
The hotel has an incredible gym, two heated pools, sandy beaches, splash pads and pool bars.
Dockside Inn and Suites Pool and Oasis Bar
Universal officials had fun creating Dockside’s Oasis Pool Bar.
Central Florida locals will know that Dockside and Surfside’s property used to be the home of Wet & Wild water park.
To pay homage to the former water park, which closed in 2016, the Oasis Bar named some of its drinks after some of the water park’s former attractions. Guests can sip on The Surge, Disco H2O or even Match Five.
“This hotel has so many amenities that it just does not feel like what you would typically think of as a value hotel. With all the benefits, with all the theming and the experience, since we opened our doors in mid-December, the feedback has been terrific and people are just blown away,” Hodges said.
Florida residents can be among the first to stay at Dockside Inn and Suites. Officials have special pricing for rooms, which can be viewed here.
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