Universal Orlando Opens Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Filed under: Orlando Vacation Tips,Universal Orlando |

A few days ago Universal Orlando opened it’s newest resort hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Naturally, here at Florida Leisure, we’re always interested in the latest and newest things going on in Central Florida and this was no exception.

It was a chance to see a new hotel and what was on offer for Universal’s guests as well as compare it to our own Florida Leisure Vacation Homes.

Although the entire hotel won’t be open until June 16, the first phase opened on March 31st and is supposed to add value and moderate level priced rooms to the three other Universal on site hotels.  The hotel is themed to resemble beach resorts of the 1950s and ’60s and my first impression was “The Flintstones”.  I could quite imagine rolling up to see Fred and Wilma Flintstone in the hotel lobby along with Pebbles, Dino, Baby Puss together with their great friends Barney and Betty Rubble with Bamm Bamm and Hoppy.

In fact, the whole hotel was calling out to me in a Hanna and Barbera way. It was first impressions and first impressions count so I ended up a little disappointed when I couldn’t find any trace of these characters from my childhood.

The entrance to the hotel is quite impressive. It’s nice and spacious and the circular courtyard has some nice old classic cars parked outside for guests to pose and take pictures with. As you move inside, the lobby immediately smells and feels new with its vibrant colors that surround some tall greenery that reaches upwards to a skylight. The lobby and check in desk are immediately to your right and as you slowly turn around in an anti clockwise fashion, you notice the doors leading through to the pool area. If you keep moving to the left you notice the Swizzle Lounge, one of many bars on property serving up a cocktail or two, and then the Cabana Bay Reach Resort Gift Shop… the place to get all the latest Universal souvenirs.  Finally as you look back to the lobby entrance door you find another desk that appears to be the place to get your theme park tickets.

The ambiance of the setting is then completed with some great musical oldies from the 50’s and 60’s playing a mixture of rock n roll, surf, motown and some modern tunes.

Moving outside, the property will eventually have two pool areas; North Courtyard and South Courtyard. The one that is complete at the moment is the North Courtyard that features an iconic dive tower feature complete with a 100 ft waterslide. The pool with its zero entry area and sand beach looks fantastic but one can only reflect on what it may look like with the hotel half full or even fully booked.

The South pool will be slightly smaller and again features a zero entry and sand beach but this area will have Universal’s first lazy river. Poolside there will be a choice of activities from ping pong, volleyball, hula hoop contests and pool tables.

Other recreation options can be found indoors and the Galaxy Bowl, 10 lane bowling alley is sure to be a popular place to hang out. Lanes can be rented for $45 per hour or per game at $7.50 per person. Shoe rental is also available at $4.00 per pair. The area also features food and beverage options such as churros, hot dogs, beer, wine and soda and this compliments the video screens and music that blares out. To the side of Galaxy Bowl is Game-O-Rama and as you might expect, this is a room that is full of the latest and greatest gaming experiences.

The hotel also has a fitness studio that offers all types of cardiovascular equipment and there’s also a decent sized open area with mats where guests can work with medicine balls, Bosu balls and other such equipment.

On the dining side of things, options are somewhat limited. The Bayliner Diner food court is the main dining area and this is the place where guests have the choice of dining in or taking the “grab and go” option. The 600 seat food court features a choice of food stations that includes burgers, pizza, pasta, a bakery and a salad bar. If you’re looking for a quick snack or just a coffee, then you’ll want to pay a visit to Starbucks coffee shop.

The hotel itself is located on the south side of the Universal property, near to I-4 and Turkey Lake Road on Adventure Way. When completed it will have 1,800 rooms split half and half between family suites and standard rooms. The standard rooms, that can sleep up to four guests, are the usual 300 square feet of space while the family suites, with a capacity of six guests, are marginally larger at 431 square feet.

At time of writing the standard rooms range between $119 and $149 per night with the family suites between $174 and $209 per night.

There’s no question that Universal decided to build this hotel after watching the success of the Disney value hotels, the All Star and Pop Century. It was a natural fit to add this hotel to the Portofino Bay, Hard Rock and Royal Pacific, but guests expecting to receive all the benefits the guests at the other three hotels receive are going to be disappointed.

The first issue is that guests at Cabana Bay will not receive the unlimited Express Pass access. Widely regarded as the best benefit of staying at the other Universal hotels, the pass is valued at around $80 per person per day and that kind of value just cannot extend to the cheaper hotel at a $119 price point.

The other issue is that Cabana Bay stands apart from the rest of the Universal property. The other hotels are connected via the waterway but Cabana Bay guests will only have the choice of taking a bus to the theme parks or making a 20 to 35 minute walk in the Florida heat to their park of choice.

Other points to note if you’re thinking of staying at Cabana Bay include the fact that pets are not allowed and if you’re traveling by car, there will be a $10 per night charge to park your vehicle.

So there you have it. The newest hotel to hit the Orlando scene. Bottom line, you’ll either love or hate the themeing and decor but at the end of the day, it’s still a hotel. It’s for you to decide whether you’d prefer to stay here or whether to consider another option, such as a vacation home. I’ve written plenty over the years about the advantages of staying in vacation homes and you can read some of my articles at www.SayYesToVacationHomes.com to help make your decision.

More photos of Cabana Bay Beach Resort are at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

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