Universal Orlando has finally opened Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn & Suites on December 15, 9 months after its original opening scheduled in March. We were able to tour the hotel back a week before opening and came away impressed, anticipating our opening night stay on March 17.

“The hotel is ready to go,”  said George Cronk – Managing Director, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites – back during our tour.

And then “2020” happened.

As Universal tried to navigate on how to operate the Resort during an extraordinary situation, Dockside Inn & Suites remained closed as other parts of Universal started to open. Now, 9 months later, guests were finally able to check-in and enjoy what the resort had to offer, although with adjusted safety measures as we’re still in the midst of a pandemic.

It should be noted that Universal has done a tremendous job with enforcing safety guidelines and making everyone feel comfortable as we still battle the pandemic. During our stay, we saw no issues with mask enforcement and there was plenty of social distancing. It also helps that the size of the hotel can offer ease of social distancing.

Temperature checks are a must as soon as you enter the lobby, and you’re given a colored wristband that you must wear throughout the day to signify you’ve been cleared. Universal also wants to make sure you know they went above and beyond with ensuring a clean hotel, with frequent cleaning of high-touch areas such as telephones, remote controls, door handles, light switches, elevators, and tabletops.

Universal has also instituted several contactless experiences for guests, including hotel texting-services, express checkout, and contactless room deliveries.

There are a lot of parallels between Dockside and its sister hotel, Surfside Inn & Suites, with both hotels offering value for a Universal vacation, from the cost of the room to the food offered; but Dockside feels less of a value resort in comparison – most likely due to Universal being able to take advantage of space available.

The view outside our room.

As Dockside sits on a larger plot of land, the resort was able to take advantage of its space – most noticeably with the lobby, dining area, pool, and amount of rooms – with 2,050 rooms available compared to Surfide’s 750.

Dockside’s themeing is inspired by lakes and piers, featuring warmer colors in contrast to the beachy, cool colors of Surfside. Throughout Dockside, you can find that constant theme – even on the signage.

During our one-night stay, we opted for a pool view 2-bedroom suite, which can sleep up to 6. There is no difference in size or layout of the rooms compared to Surfside, outside of colors and aesthetics. The room was definitely spacious, especially for a party of 2.  The suites include two separate rooms, a kitchenette area, a picnic table, and a bathroom with a separate vanity area. The suite is ideal for families looking for extended stays that offer a “home away from home” feel without breaking the bank.

Of course, if you don’t need all that space – you can opt for a standard room.

Like Surfside, the hotel’s location “off” of the main Universal property didn’t feel like it was an issue. Transportation to and from the Universal hub is actually faster than traveling by bus from Aventura or Cabana. Unless your view isn’t the poolside rooms, it may not be something you notice.

The pool area is quite large and should be quite popular in the warmer months. It was a little cold for a pool outing during our stay, so the pool area was mostly empty – so we spent that time at the bar, of course! The Oasis Beach Bar is Tower 1’s pool bar and offers a great drink menu. They even have their own exclusive brew, Dockside Sunset Blonde Ale, brewed by Miami-based Veza Sur Brewing Co, which is a mango blonde ale.

Most of the drinks on the menu are named after Wet ‘n Wild attractions (Other Fun Fact: 28N 81W is named after the coordinate location of the Orlando area). The drinks we tried were fruity twists on some classics, and all were delicious. For example, the Surge was a Strawberry Moscow Mule, the Mach 5 was a Strawberry Mojito, the Blast was a sweeter Gin & Tonic, and the Storm was their take on the Mai Tai. The best part is that all the drinks have the option of being served in a Bubba Tub!

The Surge – New Amsterdam Vodka, Lime, Strawberry, Mint, Ginger Beer

The Bubba Tub is $18, and is the equivalent of two drinks (32oz). The bartender recommended most of the drinks for the Tub but The Flyer; as it’s reminiscent of a shandy and should be enjoyed in a traditional glass.

The Sunset Lounge, the hotel lobby’s bar, features a design inspired by a vintage, yellow Volkswagen bus, and serves specialty cocktails and craft beer. Here, we tried the resort’s signature cocktail – the Endless Summer Lemonade, which is also served at the Oasis Beach Bar. The drink is a pretty straightforward cocktail, featuring Grey Goose Vodka, Lemon, Thyme; and was refreshingly enjoyable. The other cocktail we tried was the Dockside Sangria, which Martell Blue Swift Cognac, Peach, Red Wine – which was a nice twist on a standard sangria.

The highlight of our stay though was the food at Pier 8 Market. The menu offers extra-affordable options, with most dishes priced under $12. The standout was the Chicken and Waffle meal, which comes with 2 pieces of fried chicken on a sizeable waffle, with mashed potatoes & gravy and coleslaw and choice of sauce – all for $7.

That’s right. $7.

We opted to switch out the two sides for a larger Mac N Cheese, but nevertheless, the fact that we had a meal that good at a value resort, at that price point, should be praised to the ends of the Earth; and here’s the best part:

You can have it delivered to your room!

There is a late-night option to have an 8-piece Bucket family meal sent to your room, which features 8 pieces of fried chicken, 2 waffles, mashed potatoes & gravy, coleslaw, and the 3 sauces… for $24! On a side note, we also have to praise the 3 sauces. All of them were delicious (Slopping, Sticky Sauce {Bourbon, Bacon, and Maple}, Spicy BBQ, and Southern Hot Buffalo.)

A family bucket meal… for science.

We made the order around 11:15 and it was delivered within 20 minutes. Whatever we didn’t finish, we stuck in the fridge to take home with us after we checked out the next day. Those who have stayed at Universal resorts in the past should be familiar with their late-night pizza delivery options, especially during Horror Nights – so this is a nice change of pace and one of the most unique offerings at Dockside.

During our stay, we also tried the BBQCB, a burger with smoked bacon, cheddar, onion rings, and bourbon bbq sauce, which was also incredibly tasty.

The Dockside Wrap was the only dish we felt lukewarm about. The Wrap features pastrami with swiss cheese, coleslaw, and french fries – all stuffed inside the wrap; and while it was mostly enjoyable, the flavor of the coleslaw was a little too “cabbagey”. It’s possible it could be opening day hiccups, however.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Universal resort without a Starbucks, which is located in the lobby, across from the check-in counters. The Universal Studios Store is also located here, which features your standard Universal merch, but also some really cool Endless Summer-themed merch.

A hotel can offer the world in amenities but it’s the staff that can make or break your stay, and we have to give the highest marks to the Dockside Inn & Suites staff. Everyone was extremely friendly and went above and beyond to make sure we were helped throughout the hotel, from the check-in staff to the bar staff, and especially during our visits to Pier 8.

Dockside Inn & Suites is all about value, from room accommodations to dining; but it doesn’t feel like it. It felt a little closer to Cabana Bay’s offerings instead of a sister to Surfside’s offerings.

It’s a fair point that the location could be a turn-off for some, especially compared to more upscale hotels, which are located closer – but the amenities at the value your getting should not be ignored; especially when you consider you’ll be getting all the on-site benefits such as early park admission and complimentary resort-wide transportation.

Endless Summer will also, eventually, be smack dab in the middle between the current Universal Orlando Resort property, and Epic Universe (whenever that time may come) so Dockside is in prime position to be one of the most popular resorts in the coming future.

If we had to choose between Dockside or Surfside, we’d go Dockside.

For more information and to book a stay at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, visit the official site. At this time, Tower 1 is only open at Dockside. Tower 2 is set to open soon, and it does look ready for guests.