As a relatively small hotel on a smallish plot of land, the Hard Rock Hotel boasts fewer amenities than the nearby Portofino Bay, but what’s here is choice.
The Hard Rock’s only pool, all 12,000 square feet of it, is like a jewel in a fine setting. The hotel itself almost completely encloses it. The open end looks out past a rocky hill topped by a thirty-foot guitar and a forest of palm trees toward Universal Studios Florida. The far side of the pool is an extensive sandy beach, dotted with lounge chairs and cabanas. The near side is dotted with more palm trees and still more lounge chairs. Two heated jacuzzi spas offer soothing massages. As a screenwriter might put it in a pitch meeting, “It’s Bel Air meets Palm Springs.”
Like the Beach Pool at Portofino, the Hard Rock pool features a water slide, this one a bit longer (at 260 feet) and zippier. But the feature that will have everyone talking is the underwater sound system, which plays the same toe-tapping rock music you hear at poolside and throughout the hotel. It is possible to float lazily on your back, your ears below the water line, and groove to some of the greatest rock 'n roll ever recorded (though the sound is quite tinny). If you prefer, you can sit on underwater benches along the side where heated jets of water caress your back.
Near the pool is a concrete shuffleboard court, which struck us as a bit incongruous. Yes, of course even rockers grow old, but it’s still just a little difficult to picture Twisted Sister hanging out here.
A lot more “happening” is the Beach Club bar (reviewed below). Attractive young servers roam the pool area taking orders for exotic drinks with names like Blue Suede Shoes and Hard Rockin’ Lemonade.
Hollywood deal makers can spread out in one of the private tent-like cabanas that can be rented by the day. "Standard" cabanas start at $180, "Beach Side" locations begin at $230. Club Level guests get $45 off. There are no half-day rentals. All cabanas have a television, refrigerator, fresh water, fruit basket, towels, and a small selection of soft drinks.
Most nights the pool hosts a "Dive-In Movie." A large screen is set up on the poolside beach so guests can watch while floating on rented rafts. The films include classic comedies and current blockbusters (think Ghostbusters and Iron Man) and are never rated higher than PG-13. On other nights there may be a "Dive in Concert" or blacklight volleyball. Some nights a D.J. appears to keep the joint jumpin'.
If there's a downside to all this, it's probably that the pool is just too popular. So expect it to be crowded. The pool is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. or midnight during warmer months. Access is through a gate that can be opened with your room key.
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