From the moment you pull up to Cabana Bay Beach Resort, you feel like you have just stepped out of a DeLorean into the 1950s. From the periods cars parked out front to the sign announcing cold air and color TV, the retro theme is simply magical.
And the beauty of this resort offering family suites is you get to experience wonderful conversations like these: my mom (who grew up in this era) explains to my two young children that TV used to be in black & white and not everyone could afford air conditioning.
Entering the amazing retro and neon lobby (where else can you find orange lounge chairs mixed with sky blue couches), and hearing familiar 50’s and 60’s music standards being piped into the background really provides that magically immersive environment that only a theme park resort can provide, but not every one of them succeeds in doing so.
CABANA OR BUST?
Take, for example, Disney’s competing hotel in this retro resort space: the similarly priced Pop Century Resort. To give you a little Seussian flair, Pop is literally over the top. Too much so, I think. Everything is so loud and in your face and overwhelming with its theme, that it literally hits you over the head like a club.
The décor is garish and the look at me “Remember When…” type signage is omnipresent and obnoxious. And being a Disney Value Resort, it is quite the obvious thinly-veiled overlay over its sister properties… If you know anything about Disney Resorts, Pop Century screams All-Star Resort, from the exterior to the interior. They are called All-Stars (Movie, Sports, and Music) because they all look the same. Pop is no different, just with a few coats of gaudy paint.
Image Copyright Disney
Contrast that with the subtle styling of Cabana Bay Beach Resort. It tries to recreate the nostalgia of the era by sneaking up on you and allowing you to notice all the little touches, like the wind-up alarm clocks in the rooms and the Alberto VO5 bath products. Cabana Bay welcomes you like a lounge with a sultry singer, Pop smacks you in the face with a whoopee cushion… That’s still warm from someone sitting on it.
While Pop exists in the same retro space (or tries to), it does not offer Family Suites in addition to its regular sized rooms like Cabana Bay does. So let’s also take a look, then, at Disney’s Art of Animation Family Suites for comparative purposes, though not in the theming category as Art of Animation isn’t promoting an era but immersive environments inspired by Disney hits Finding Nemo, Cars, and the Lion King.
Both Cabana Bay and Art of Animation offer sleeping for six via two beds and a pull-out sofa, plus similar amenities, however AoA gets the nod in size as its family suites run approximately 520 square feet and feature a second bathroom, while Cabana Bay’s are about 430 square feet and offer one bathroom, albeit with three separate sections (sink, toilet, and sink and shower combo).
Although offering basically the same product (family suites), the price is drastically different. You will pay at minimum $100 to $200 more a night at Art of Animation than at Cabana Bay, depending on the season and discount rate (passholder, Florida resident, etc.) That’s a large sum of money that can be spent elsewhere in your vacation budget, and sure buys a lot of Butterbeers and Butterbeer Ice Cream plus an Interactive Wand! Or, uh, more boring pedestrian things like food or gasoline.
Keep ‘em coming, barkeep!
SURE I’D LOVE TO HIT THE LAZY RIVER, BUT FIRST I’M GONNA HEAD UP TO GO BOWLING WITH AN ICEE IN ONE HAND AND A STARBUCKS FRAPPUCINO IN THE OTHER!
I’m fairly certain that’s a sentence you would never hear at any other Orlando area resort hotel besides Cabana Bay. Why? Because there’s a whole lot to do, eat, and experience at Cabana Bay all without ever having to leave the comfort of your hotel. And when you do leave, you’ll find that Cabana Bay is just a cool-faux-woody-surf-bus ride or pleasant walking path away from two world-class theme parks and the too-cool-for-school (going retro!) CityWalk.
Pools, Slide, and Lazy River
In Florida, pools are a necessity just like air conditioning and deodorant (except for the foreigners standing directly in front of you while waiting in a 40 minute line for Escape from Gringotts.) Cabana Bay doubles your chances of locating an unoccupied pool chair with two awesome zero-entry pools.
The Courtyard Pool boasts the resort’s iconic diving tower waterslide (which is not only fun but fairly long as well at 100 feet) and a sandy beach, plus poolside cabanas are available for daily rental. The Lazy River Courtyard features a (wait for it) lazy river with waterfalls and water cannons, plus its own zero-entry pool.
How many hotels do you know of that feature a 50’s themed bowling alley? This is the only one in a Universal or Disney Resort. The Galaxy Bowl sports 10 lanes plus offers full restaurant service as an available option, so you can even eat while you bowl. And directly adjacent is the Game-O-Rama arcade.
Starbucks Coffee Shop
This is one of our favorite amenities… And once again Cabana Bay shows off its uniqueness in the Disney/Universal Resort scene in housing a full-fledged actual Starbucks. It doesn’t just “serve Starbucks Coffee” like some other hotels. How much more convenient can it get than to meander over to the lobby to get your favorite Frappucino and breakfast?
This may not seem like a big deal, but I assure you when it’s 103 degrees out under a sweltering Florida sun there’s nothing better or more refreshing to cool you and your family down than slurping on an ICEE as you stroll to or from one of the pools. Again, no other area resort I know of has self-serve ICEE machines, which are conveniently located inside the Bayliner Diner’s “grab and go” section.
Of course, nothing in life is absolutely perfect so there are some considerations to keep in mind. Like all Universal Hotels, Cabana Bay charges a nightly fee for self-parking and Universal Express is not included, although early park admission is part of the deal. There is also no water taxi service.
But all in all, Cabana Bay’s biggest advantage is that it hits the sweet spot in the age-old battle that rages in a vacationer’s wallet between affordability and value. With all these exclusive amenities, amazingly immersive theming, and exceptional price, there are few better family options than Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
To visit Cabana Bay Beach Resort and check it all out yourself, as well as everything Universal Orlando Resort has to offer, don’t forget to utilize the experts at Orlando Informer Travel.
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