First off I'll say that we're in our mid-40's, drove down from the Atlanta area and stayed at the Disney Boardwalk Villas after 3 days at the Universal Loew's Royal Pacific Resort (I also wrote a separate review here on TripAdvisor for the hotel.) This was our 5th trip together to Disney and our third stay at the Boardwalk. (We've also stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Jomba House) For the first time, we were disappointed in the Disney experience and honestly, the perks at Disney Properties don't measure up to those offered at Universal (which we visited for the first time).
As I mentioned this was our third visit to the Boardwalk hotel and in the previous two trips we've had nice rooms and good views. I thought it was interesting the front desk didn't know we were returning guests when the Holiday Inn we stopped at on our drive down knew we were returning guests. It's all in the computer. But I digress....
This time, for whatever reason, they put us in a bottom floor, handicap room next to the under construction Luna Pool. The hotel was not even close to full occupancy from what we could tell (we've been there in much busier seasons) so I'm at a loss why they would put us in that location, particularly with the handicap room. Being a handicap room means there's a flat shower with no lip so when the water doesn't drain fast enough, which it didn't, it will start to leak out over the rest of the bathroom. Putting a towel there next to the shower stopped that.
There was also a machine room of some sort right next door so we could hear the constant low frequency hum of whatever was in that room.
The Luna Pool was under refurbishment so all day, every day, there was a construction crew working all around the pool. Would not have been so bad if we were up above the pool, but as we were right next to it, was quite annoying whenever we came back to the room. The entire Luna Pool area is in major need of refurbishment as the brick walkway to / from the Boardwalk itself is pretty dark and dingy. Not sure if pressure washing is needed or they need to just replace the bricks.
Speaking of refurbishment, the bridges that the boats pass under when going from Boardwalk to Disney Hollywood studios are downright disgusting at this point. Caked with mold and grime they certainly don't measure up to the "Disney experience." Wonder if Disney parks have cut back on their maintenance budgets because we have never seen anything like that in our previous 4 visits to the parks.
The Bakery at the Boardwalk is under refurbishment as well so they set up shop in a tent along the water. Not as nice, but functional. We had breakfast one morning at Cat Cora's restaurant, but it's overpriced for what you get. Food is good, but I would rather spend the money on dinner there. So we primarily had muffins from the bakery each morning.
There's also the ESPN restaurant and the Flying Fish restaurant, but we honestly didn't eat at either of those. Jellyrolls looks like it's still there as is the Dance Club, but again, we didn't go to either.
The primary reason we stay at the Boardwalk is because of it's ease to get to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, but we honestly did forget about the 15 - 20 minute bus rides to get just about anywhere else and then the return trip. Because Universal is so compact, it's just a 5 minute boat ride to CitiWalk and then you can walk directly into either park or even back and forth between the parks.
Earlier I mentioned the perks don't measure up to Universal. This was our very first visit to Universal Studios and by staying on property, an Express Pass was included with the room. What this means is that we were able to go to the front of the line of about 80% of Universal attractions as often as we wanted. The passes cost anywhere between $35 - $85 if you have to purchase them in the park.
With Disney, we still had to rely on the antiquated FastPass system which means you have to go the attraction you want to ride, get a FastPass, then you have to wait about 2 hours until you can get another FastPass. In other words, we were not able to enjoy all of the attractions because even in early February lines were 60 - 105 minutes for most of the popular attractions. Sure, staying on Property gets you the "Extra Magic Hours" in the park, but during the 10pm - 12 midnight Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom, the wait for Space Mountain was 90 minutes. That's just silly.
At Universal, there were lines upwards of 60 minutes, but with the Express Pass, we could enjoy everything we wanted to do. So staying on Universal Property is definitely the way to go, but staying on Disney Property just doesn't have that same advantage anymore. Might make sense to start staying off property and just save the money since the FastPass system is the same for everyone, no matter if you're a resort guest or not. And the "extra Magic Hours" really don't help you much, especially if they are in the evening. Most park visitors know about the Extra Magic Hours so all you have to do is get on line for an attraction just before the park closes and you get to stay on line, whether you're a resort guest or not.
Staying at the two properties back to back like this definitely gave us a new perspective on traveling to the theme parks and I think in the future, we'll probably shorten our Disney stay and lengthen our Universal stay. Not sure if we'll stay on Disney property again in the future, doesn't seem to be any major advantage other than just location. That's a lot of extra money to spend that we could put towards other things on a trip to Orlando.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.