My family of five checked in for overnight (2 adults, 1 grandma and two teens) primarily to get the fastpass access to Universal IoA rides including the early entry to Harry Potter (you now get the fastpass from when you check in to the end of the day afterwards with a special photocard) and to park the car (for free) for that day without having to pay for extra parking at the park. We actually went to Universal Studios the day before without a fastpass because it was really quiet.
We had previously been to the Royal Pacific Hotel - one of the sister hotels to this one - but we wanted to see how much better the Hard Rock was.
The theming is excellent from the off. A sweeping drive culminating in a fountain of metal guitars just outside the main lobby makes you feel as if you've arrived at a rock star's home. The lobby was spacious with some interesting memorabilia displayed well. Check in was quick and efficient (although I received some incorrect advice from the staff about a discount booklet). The rooms were bright and spacious with nice artwork on the walls.
Because it was unseasonably hot for February we all used the pool too. Again, nicely themed, very large with lots of sunbeds and palm trees. Unfortunately the vaunted 'underwater sound system' didn't seem to be working, which was a bit of a shame.
We used the boat to get to the park and saw the fireworks the previous night but we didn't eat at the hotel so I can't comment on the restaurants. We then took advantage of early entry to Harry Potter the next morning. I had decided not to have breakfast at the hotel thinking we could grab and go at Citywalk but nothing was open at 7.30 so we had to wait until we were in the park at 8.
So, it was a good experience but we all (unanimously) preferred the Royal Pacific Hotel for its pool and even the theming. My daughter went as far to say the Hard Rock's decor was 'a bit tacky', which wasn't the case at the Royal Pacific. I would say (although this is just my opinion) that the rooms in the Hard Rock were perhaps slightly bigger but you're there for such a short time that it doesn't really matter.
So I'm glad that we have seen both hotels but when we come back it will be to the Royal Pacific.