Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Universal Orlando Announces New Resort - Sapphire Falls for 2016

© Universal Orlando
The Universal Orlando Resort is forging ahead with its expansion plans, which are set to increase the number of on-site hotel rooms by thousands in the coming years.  Universal has announced the all-new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, featuring 1,000 guest rooms (including 77 suites) which will bring the resort's total room count to 5,200.

"Inspired by the picturesque rivers and waterfalls of the Caribbean, Loews Sapphire Falls will immerse guests in a highly themed resort environment using traditional island styling with modern touches. A resort-style pool with a water slide, children’s play area, sand beach and fire pit will help form a central courtyard and will be surrounded by the hotel’s guest rooms."

© Universal Orlando
Sapphire Falls' Caribbean theming will be "casual" and "easy-going," giving guests a relaxed feeling as soon as they arrive.  The water taxi system will be expanded past the Royal Pacific hotel in order to provide service to Sapphire Falls.  While not explicitly stated in the press release, it sounds like this new property is meant to fall on the price scale between Cabana Bay Beach and Royal Pacific.  Also unconfirmed at this point, but it seems that Universal Express will not be included for those staying at Sapphire Falls.

The new resort will feature a full service restaurant, which I believe can be seen in the second piece of concept art above.  There will be a large set of water falls, flowing from the expansive pool area down into the water taxi route.  Sapphire Falls will also have a quick-service food location, pool bar and grille, and lobby lounge.  It is hard to tell from the concept art (upper left of the aerial view), but parking may come in the form of a garage instead of surface lots to save on space.

The Sapphire Falls Resort will be located on the last large parcel of land in the current resort's boundaries, between Cabana Bay Beach and the Royal Pacific.  The plot of land is quite large, and most of the resort appears to be in the Northern part of the space - not sure if the Southern part is being saved for later (wink ?), or for parking/retention etc.

The expansion also includes 131,000 square feet of new meeting space, including two large ballrooms, pre-function space and break out rooms.  The convention area will be connected via indoor walkway to Royal Pacific's existing 141,000 square feet of meeting space.

“Our guests repeatedly tell us that our Universal Orlando on-site hotels provide them a completely immersive vacation experience from the moment they enter our hotels and are transported to another place,” said Tom Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Universal Parks & Resorts. “We look forward to bringing them yet another incredibly themed experience with the opening of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.” 

The new Sapphire Falls Resort will open in 2016, with reservations beginning in 2015.