THE BIG 5: Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s top five attractions & amenities

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The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opens next Monday, and to celebrate, we’re throwing a party, BIG 5-style!

Read what gets us the most excited about Universal’s first-ever budget hotel, and then tell us what you’re most looking forward to in the comments below.

 

#5 – Family suites

One half of Cabana Bay’s 1,800 rooms will be family suites, which are 430 square feet in size and which sleep up to six. Universal is very obviously attempting to compete against Disney’s recent Art of Animation Resort suites, since the amenities are comparable (though a bit smaller): two flat-screen TVs, a kitchenette area, sliding partition for privacy, and an “extra-large” bathroom that can fit three at a time. Prices range from $174 to $209 per night, which is cheaper than their Disney counterparts.

The best of Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s family suites.

Having the ability to easily (and cheaply!) stay with one group is nice, and the rooms themselves look nothing but inviting. And since these family suites open up first (the standard rooms bow on July 1, alongside the hotel’s “grand opening”), we’ll have plenty of time to break them in before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley debuts this summer.

 

#4 – The theme

Though, at first blush, the retro 1950s/’60s vibe doesn’t seem to be quite as intriguing as, say, Springfield USA, there’s no denying that Universal Creative’s designers have gone above and beyond the call of detailing duty. Utilizing a bold color palette and perhaps the most extensive application of a hotel theme yet, Cabana Bay is a sight to behold, from the rooms to the Bayliner Diner food court to, even, the Jack LaLanne Fitness Center (which is complimentary, unlike at the other on-site hotels).

Jack LaLanne Fitness Center.
Jack LaLanne Fitness Center.

Everything screams “hip and vintage,” as the company itself describes it, resulting in a property that truly looks nothing like anything else on either Universal’s or Disney’s lot. Don’t be surprised if this instantly tops the list of the most visually appealing and classically fun hotels anywhere in Orlando.

 

#3 – The extras

An enjoyable theme demands fun activities, and Cabana Bay has them in spades. In addition to the standard recreational offerings at the other on-site hotels, such as dive-in movies and a game room, Cabana will also feature volleyball, ping pong, bingo, and, most befitting the vibe, poolside hula hoop contests.

The true star here, though, is easily Galaxy Bowl, a 10-lane bowling alley that looks positively ‘60s but offers a modern array of food and drink, including beer, wine, and churros. Oh, there’s also going to be pool tables on hand, along with “music and video screens,” but of course.

The best of Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Ten lanes of fun. Leisure suit optional.

The most impressive part of this lineup, aside from its sheer versatility – which Universal absolutely needs in order to accommodate the 5,000 to 7,000 guests it’ll have on-hand at any given time – is how it fully complements the family-road-trip-of-yore feel. We weren’t kidding when we said this might be the most extensive usage of theming in a resort ever seen.

 

#2 – Pool areas

Cabana Bay Beach Resort will offer two pools, making it the only property other than Portofino Bay Hotel – Universal Orlando’s flagship venue – to do so. Both are zero-entry and feature a sand beach, but the additional amenities differ quite a bit from there.

The pool in the North Courtyard, where most of the family suites are located, is 10,000 square feet and features not only a fully retro-looking water tower, but also a 100-foot waterslide that just so happens to run right through it. And while the South Courtyard’s pool may only be 6,000 square feet, it features Universal’s first-ever lazy river – more on that in just a moment.

Poolside at Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Poolside at Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

And what pool area would be complete without a bar/snack counter? Up north, the Atomic Tonic will serve up exotic alcoholic concoctions, while the Hideaway Bar and Grill down south will feature – you guessed it – grilled offerings.

 

“Honorable mention” – the dark side of Cabana

We typically reserve our honorable mention entries for exactly that – an honorable mention – but this time we thought we’d turn the format on its head and address some of the drawbacks of Universal’s first value-/moderate-priced resort.

Although most of the deluxe hotels’ benefits will be extended to Cabana Bay guests – early park admission, the delivery of souvenirs right to your room, free transportation to Wet ‘n Wild and the SeaWorld parks – there are a number that, unfortunately, will be denied. Chief among these is the lack of complimentary unlimited Express Passes, which is Universal’s (expensive) skipping-the-regular-line option, but there are others that also must be taken into account: the inability to bring pets into the hotel, Cabana’s distance from the rest of Universal Orlando, and the lack of water taxi service to and from CityWalk. This means that if you want to get to the theme parks, you’ll need to wait for a shuttle or just walk.

The best of Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
That’s a long walk.

And, finally, as if all this weren’t enough, there’s also the rumor of Universal somehow staggering Cabana Bay guests’ early park admission in an attempt to stem the flow of the several thousand more people into the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter every morning. We really don’t see how this could actually be put into practice, but it’s worth mentioning, at the very least. (For more on all this, please see our recent blog post.)

 

#1 – Lazy river

The single biggest item we’re absurdly giddy over is the venerable lazy river, which already sounded like a lot of fun before Universal announced that it was going to be throwing a number of little twists into the formula. How does the addition of waterfalls that you’ll be passing under, water cannon that other guests will shoot at you, and a stronger-than-normal current to propel you along sound? Like the perfect end to a busy day at the parks, if you ask us (which you must’ve).

The best of Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
The best of Cabana’s best.

Taken with everything else that Cabana Bay Beach Resort has to offer, it makes for an undeniably attractive stop on your next vacation – even if you’re staying somewhere else.

 

Want to learn still more about Cabana Bay? Be sure to check out our overview of the new resort. Or you can read all of our BIG 5 blog posts.

UPDATE: Orlando Informer will be spending the night at Cabana Bay Beach Resort on March 31. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for live photo updates all evening!

 

[sws_author_bio user=”msunyata@yahoo.com” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Marc” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

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Melissa Will Donahue
Melissa Will Donahue
March 27, 2014 10:46 am

Great info! Thank you!

Jennifer Hawk
Jennifer Hawk
March 27, 2014 10:58 am

Excited to arrive on Wednesday !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Heidi Czepiel Zufelt
Heidi Czepiel Zufelt
March 27, 2014 11:03 am

13 days

Sonia Bazzy Makki
Sonia Bazzy Makki
March 27, 2014 11:05 am

Already booked for August ..

Terri Arseneault Kozlowski
Terri Arseneault Kozlowski
March 27, 2014 11:20 am

Cannot wait to see your pics of the place!

Stuart Nielsen
Stuart Nielsen
March 27, 2014 12:11 pm

I thought about it but the lack of the unlimited express pass decided me against it. There’s something to said about going on your favorite rides 4 or 5 times in a row and the unlimited express ticket option makes Cabana Bay as expensive as the Royal Pacific. So we went with the Hard Rock because there is something to be said for 5 minutes from park gate to the door of your room. 🙂

Rich Jones
Rich Jones
March 27, 2014 2:26 pm

Too expensive!!! When news first broke about this hotel a while back, it was spoken of as a “value” hotel. $175 and up IS NOT a value price!! Universal dropped the ball here! You still have to pay that much a night and LOSE benefits that the other SLIGHTLY more expensive hotels on property give you! Just wrong!

lainieg
lainieg
March 27, 2014 3:33 pm

will you be able to use the gym if you are staying at one of the other onsite hotels?

OrlandoInformer
OrlandoInformer
March 27, 2014 3:35 pm

lainieg That’s a great question – I’ll try to fine out when we’re there next Monday. In the meantime, I’m thinking the answer will be no because, since it is free, it will likely be busy.

lainieg
lainieg
March 27, 2014 4:20 pm

OrlandoInformer lainieg  Thanks Dan.  We’re staying at the Portofino for 3 weeks and don’t fancy paying their prices for use of the gym – mind you if Im being honest the chances of us actually getting anywhere near a gym are pretty remote! 🙂

Brendan Gamble
Brendan Gamble
March 27, 2014 3:36 pm

Already for sept

MicheleClauser
MicheleClauser
March 27, 2014 5:19 pm

Going in late August and wondered if they are opening in stages what would likely not be ready by then. With the heat and the long walk I am desperately hoping the pools will be open and have extended hours so we could hit them and the bowling alley after a long day at the parks.

Universalfanboy
Universalfanboy
March 27, 2014 5:44 pm

Lazy River all the way!!!!!

Ozmin
Ozmin
March 27, 2014 9:16 pm

Dan – I’m arriving on 4/5 – 4/12 staying @ Hard Rock.  How much do you think will be open?  Pools?? Lazy River??

Universalfanboy
Universalfanboy
March 27, 2014 9:31 pm

lainieg I do not think that anyone would stop you from using it, but seeing that it is not easy to get to, that Resort does not think that it will be an issue. Plus, I am told that it will not be manned.

Universalfanboy
Universalfanboy
March 27, 2014 9:33 pm

The other Resorts will only allow 5 people in a room and CBBR suites are for 6. Plus the other Resorts are way more expensive then $175. So, CBBR is a greatr value.

Universalfanboy
Universalfanboy
March 27, 2014 9:37 pm

Ozmin The North Courtyard pool will be open, but the South Courtyard that has the Lazy River does not open until the middle of June. The 16th I believe.

Michael Hanley
Michael Hanley
March 27, 2014 7:23 pm

I like the low rates at the onsite hotel and lazy river pool it has might have to stay the sumtime

Dana Trivino
Dana Trivino
March 27, 2014 7:28 pm

I’m actually really excited! My husband and I are thinking of doing an overnight just to experience the brand new hotel!

OrlandoInformer
OrlandoInformer
March 28, 2014 9:16 am

Universalfanboy Ozmin  Yeah, June 16 for the second pool and lazy river 🙂

Kathryn Simpson
Kathryn Simpson
March 28, 2014 11:25 am

will be there as soon as school’s out in May to check out the awesomeness!

Kathryn Simpson
Kathryn Simpson
March 28, 2014 11:26 am

Also, just a note. ALL of Disney’s value resorts are bus only!

Lisa Cook
Lisa Cook
March 28, 2014 6:30 pm

I’m very excited to see all of the talk that is to follow the regular use of this new resort!

Lisa Cook
Lisa Cook
March 28, 2014 6:36 pm

Especially when guests, “tell all” when talking about how no express pass granted just for staying on property and the new expansion worked out for them but use of the early extra hour still invoked effects their planning! Whew! Big things are going on in WW!

Marcos Valenca
Marcos Valenca
March 31, 2014 11:22 pm

Marc, please, why do you think Disney Vacation Club Resorts had bad side effects and what are they?

Marcos Valenca
Marcos Valenca
March 31, 2014 11:29 pm

OrlandoInformer lainieg  Please, is Cabana Bay’s bowling alley a paid feature?

Universalfanboy
Universalfanboy
April 1, 2014 1:08 am

Marcos Valenca OrlandoInformerlainieg The bowling cost $15/hr up to 3 people and $15/1.5 hrs for 4-6, plus $4.00 for shoes.

Marcos Valenca
Marcos Valenca
April 1, 2014 1:15 am

Universalfanboy Thank you for answering. Are those prices reasonable?

Universalfanboy
Universalfanboy
April 1, 2014 11:20 pm

Marcos Valenca Universalfanboy I haven’t bowled for so long that I don’t know exact prices now, but I believe a regular bowling ally charges 4 or 5 dollars a game per person.

Marcos Valenca
Marcos Valenca
April 1, 2014 11:45 pm

Marc N Kleinhenz It’s understandable Disney’s interest in deluxe resorts as, probably, they’re more profitable. About the number of resorts in the different categories: Of course there are more deluxe resorts, but look at the amount of rooms in each Value and Moderate establishments. The amount of value rooms is huge. I, for one, don’t like the fact the service, in the villas, is not the same as in the deluxes. I guess mousekeeping only cleans once every 4 or 5 days in a DVC property. Yet, Disney’s brand and perceived magic is powerful. Even with the new Four Seasons at… Read more »

BrianArmstrong
BrianArmstrong
April 5, 2014 1:34 pm

It looks so nice and has its perks. It also offers so many different options so it is great for family(s) the biggest grow back is the no express pass included.

About Marc N. Kleinhenz

Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he's now the editor of Orlando Informer, along with being its podcast co-host. He’s also written for 32 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, The Escapist, and California Informer [OI's sister site]), has had his fiction featured in several publications, and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.