I make no bones about it- I love Universal Orlando. I pay a visit to the theme park resort every time I visit Central Florida. Something else I really love is visiting brand new theme park resort hotels. It’s very much like opening a Christmas or birthday present. You don’t know what to expect until you open it. Unfortunately, new resort hotels don’t open up very often. Typically, they are very well done with every detail themed to the hilt. On a recent visit to Universal Orlando I stopped in to see the newest theme park resort hotel to debut in the Orlando area- the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal’s first attempt at a moderately valued resort hotel.
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is Universal Orlando’s 4th onsite resort hotel. The 3 other resort hotels are considered deluxe level accommodations. Cabana Bay is a step below the deluxe resorts on property and considered more of a moderate resort with fewer amenities and a less expensive price point.
One of the first things I look forward to when visiting a new theme park resort hotel is the drive-up and entrance to the lobby area. It’s typically your first look and impression of the resort. It sets the tone for the rest of your visit. The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is themed after the late 50s and early 60s family vacation trip when you’d pack the car, RV, or station wagon and head to warmer climates. You immediately get the feeling of the theme when you drive-up to the lobby entrance and see the vintage cars from the 50s and 60s, and the décor. Also noticeable were the themed motor coaches that take resort guests to and from the theme parks. They are decorated to match the resort’s theme perfectly.
After parking my car in the small check-in parking lot, I walked through the front doors to find a very open check-in area with a two story ceiling. To my left I saw a lobby bar area called Swizzle. To my right was the check-in desk, and in the middle of the lobby was what appeared to be 60s style furniture next to some tropical foliage. What struck me about the lobby were the colors that seemed to pop out at you and the 60’s style decorative décor.
Off the back of the lobby was the pool area. Since it caught my eye I decided to go check that out first. The pool is gated and only for resort guests. This is a very large pool area complete with cabanas (as you’d expect from the resort’s name), tables and chairs with umbrellas, a pool bar called Atomic Tonic, a sand recreation area complete with game tables, a child’s water play area, and of course the large pool with a multi-level diving platform (for display only) and a long, winding water slide finishing underneath it.
After leaving the pool area I decided to step back into the main building to check out some of the other resort amenities. As I already mentioned the main building is a two story structure, meaning there are resort amenities on both levels.
On the first floor you’ll find a Universal gift shop with a lot of similar items you’ll find in the theme parks (including Harry Potter merchandise). Next door to the gift shop is a very inviting Starbucks which seems to fit the resort’s theme very well. Also on the main floor you’ll find the resort’s main dining experience called the Bayliner Diner. It’s a food court with a ton of space for seating. Inside you’ll find 6 different stations where you can order food. One of the main attractions of the diner is the large TV screens on the wall where you can watch popular TV shows from the 50s and 60s.
Once through the first floor I took the steps up to the second floor where a number of other resort amenities awaited. Upstairs you’ll find a 10 lane cosmic bowling alley with food and beverage service. It appeared to be very well done. Next door is the arcade and fitness center (endorsed and sponsored by Jack LaLanne himself). Also on the second level you’ll find a recreation center full of board games and other resort activities. The entire second floor is very well done and spaced out appropriately.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see one of the many family suites that have already opened. The resort is not complete. Only 600 family suites are currently open with another 300 suites and 900 regular rooms to come online later this year.
My overall observations of this resort are it is bright and vibrant. I’d love to see this resort lit up at night. I bet it has a lot of neon color. The 50s and 60s family vacation theme carries over very well to all sections in and around the lobby area. I could easily spend many hours at the pool. It was comfortable and inviting. For you Disney aficionados I’d say this resort is in the moderate category with a few more amenities than you would typically find at a Disney moderate resort. I’d also say the pool area is a bit more stepped-up from other Disney moderate resort pools with more to do and enjoy.
At its current price point Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a very good value in my opinion. From what I saw of the resort and with two great theme parks and an entertainment district not too far away, your family could have a great time here. Just remember, this resort does not include unlimited Universal Express for the theme park attractions like at the other three onsite resorts do. Most of the other amenities are included like early theme park admission.
The best endorsement I can give this resort for now is that I want our family to stay here. It may not be the best resort at Universal Orlando, but it does appear to be fun, entertaining, and a perfect complement to the rest of Universal Orlando’s theme park offerings.
Check out our video walk through of the resort suites and courtyard.
Watch Craig and Shaun’s overview of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort on the DIS Unplugged Universal Edition.
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