Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
, the fifth and newest hotel on Universal Orlando property, opened its doors to guests on Thursday, and while planned media previews were canceled in the wake of Pulse, I strolled over from CityWalk on Saturday to take my first look. As you can see from these photos, this mid-range hotel — located physically and price-wise in between Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Royal Pacific Resort — has many attractive features. The Caribbean-inspired theming is more subdued and modern than Disney's pastel Caribbean Beach hotel, and the lineup of bars and restaurants rivals some deluxe resorts.
In addition to the old-school artisanal aesthetics, the amenities and rooms (which begin at $179 per night) feature some fun high-tech features.
Unfortunately, there are other aspects of Sapphire Falls that are clearly not yet ready for prime time. Unlike earlier Universal hotels, Sapphire Falls threw open its 1,000 rooms without any soft-opening shakedown, and work crews are still scrambling to complete construction in numerous areas.
Here are a few of the funnier signs that Sapphire Falls is still a work in progress:
—Beware if you take the garden path from CityWalk to Sapphire Falls; the hotel is not yet listed on any directional signage, and four different security guards gave me wrong directions.
—When you do find the right pathway into the hotel (turn left at the Pacifica Ballroom sign, then follow the sidewalk to the right) you may find yourself in the middle of an active construction zone. —Typos happen, but this one in the kids' video arcade is particularly unfortunate:
—Finally, I've stayed in hundreds of hotel rooms around the world, but never found a toilet whose sliding door had no lock or latching mechanism whatsoever.
If anyone smarter than me can figure out how to keep these doors closed, please let me know. Otherwise, I look forward to taking a closer look at Sapphire Falls once the hotel is actually finished, but I'll have to leave before I have to go.