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Krista  Joy
Writer

An Insider's look at the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando

Published: April 6, 2014 at 8:22 PM

On March 31st, 2014 Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort opened its main public spaces and the North Courtyard guest buildings. Come join me and lets take an inside look! You should know, however, that this was not the official grand opening. We still have additional family suites, standard guest rooms, The Lazy River Courtyard, a second 8,000-square-foot zero entry pool, AND  Hideaway Bar and Grill, to look forward to. These are expected to be available June 16th, 2014. Still, there is still a lot to see - so let's get started.

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Outside, the iconic sign welcomes us as we drive up.

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Classic cars are on display.

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I don't know how long it will last, but for now, we can even get inside and play with the windows and locks.

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The lobby is gorgeous, open, and spacious!

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Hey it's the beautiful Cabana Bay girls!

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Let's go upstairs from the lobby to the Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio.

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My husband tried out the gym already, and he said the equipment was amazing and everything was brand new. Since I didn't seem to get any photos, we will have to take his word for it.

Now, let's check out the Galaxy Bowl.

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There is a great menu at Galaxy Bowl, with lots of food choices as well as cocktails, beer, and wine.

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arcade

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Now we will head down the spiral staircase and find ourselves at Starbucks!

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There are beautiful Weeki Wachee inspired murals on the walls as a nod to the classic Florida state park and the iconic Starbucks mermaid.

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Check out the coffee bean wall. It shows the life cycle of the Starbucks coffee bean from field to grinder.

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A bit further back, there are wonderful smells coming from the Bayliner Diner! This food court has something for everyone to enjoy including a salad bar, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and grab-and-go items.

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This place is enormous!

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The beautiful weather is calling us - so let's head back out towards the pool - and maybe stop by the Swizzle Lounge.

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Upon exiting the lobby we have found the first of two pools that Cabana Bay will have upon completion.

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This is the larger of the two. The water slide winds through a dive tower... but no diving off of it please... it's just for show! Sliding however is encouraged. The slide ends with a splash into this 10,000 square foot zero-entry pool.

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There is also a hot tub that is not pictured here, but check out all the cabanas there are to enjoy!

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The band is loud - but they sound great! They're playing mostly contemporary hits instead of the expected 50's and 60's music.

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Look to the left to see the Atomic Tonic Pool Bar.

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The signature drink is delicious!

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This is the Kids Splash Pad.

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Later we can relax by the fire pit.

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For now, let's take a stroll along the blue bubble walkway...

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to Flamingo Park

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where we can sit at a picnic table under retro style pavilions.

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Now let's head up to the family suite in the Thunderbird wing. It's a great view from up here on the 4th floor!

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The first thing we see inside the family suite is the darling little kitchen area.

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The couch pulls out into a sofa bed.

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There is a nice room divider that slides shut for privacy.

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Turn around to see the bathroom. To the left you have a sink and shower.

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Retro-style toiletries!

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In the middle there is another sink and mirror - and to the right - a private water closet.

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I hope you enjoyed this inside look at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort! Thanks for coming along with me today. I think this resort is really "swell" and it's exciting to know it's just the beginning! What do you think of the resort? Share your comments with us - and have a "groovy" day!

groovy

Replies (15)

Phil B.

Published: April 6, 2014 at 10:15 PM

I really have to tip my cap to Universal with the theming of Cabana Bay. Even though I'm not that high on the actual theme itself, the execution is thorough, coherent and meticulously detailed. There's a minimalist, stripped down design aesthetic that was a part of this era and they really captured it nicely, without it ever feeling like they cheaped out on anything. It really is an incredibly highly themed resort for what is supposed to be considered value lodging. This is more of what I would have envisioned for Disney's Pop Century resort as opposed to what they actually ended up with. Well done Universal.
N B

Published: April 6, 2014 at 11:43 PM

Amazing report and pictures. Very well done. Although we won't be staying there this Summer, we will definitely take a walk (or bus) over there and check it out.

I love this style, the one shot of the pool looks like the scene from the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. Universal outdid themselves on the theming of this place and the prices seem very reasonable to be so close to the parks.

I have no idea what the theme of the fifth hotel is going to be, but I'm sure it will be spectacular.

O T

Published: April 7, 2014 at 12:51 AM

I love the theming and this can hardly be called a moderate resort with all it's offering and the detail of it's theming.

Can anyway say if the proposed green walkway bridge is already there? It should go from the resort across the road straight into City Walk next to Hard Rock Café.

Jaiden Cohen

Published: April 7, 2014 at 3:56 AM

If I'm staying at the royal pacific can I go and bowl?
Brandon Townsend

Published: April 7, 2014 at 5:53 AM

Great article and pictures, thanks. I was originally going to stay here for an upcoming Universal trip, but after crunching the numbers (Express Passes) and comparing the conveniences (boat transport and proximity) I went with the Royal Pacific. I'll have to head over there and get some pics myself during my trip.
I hope you can scoop the location and theme of the 5th hotel!
Rob Pastor

Published: April 7, 2014 at 6:42 AM

The bridge is just about to start construction...This moderate on site resort that's priced similar to a Disney value resort is getting rave reviews everywhere. I booked it for 5 nights in September, then I'm booked into Royal Pacific for 8 nights to get the Express Pass. I thought I wanted to try something different and my GF, who is used to our stays at Portofino, is actually excited to stay here. We are looking forward to the lazy river, pools and the beautiful ambiance of Cabana Bay. It looks like a real home run for Universal, especially for large families that need a suite.
Russell Meyer
Writer

Published: April 7, 2014 at 9:51 AM

This is very much a copy of Disney's Pop Century Resort that got stuck in the late 50's early 60's. I'm not a huge fan of the style, and to me, personally, it looks like a Vegas hotel that should have seen the wrecking ball 20 years ago. The suites are an obvious aim at Disney's Art of Animation Resort and other suite-geared resorts in Orlando. With just a minimal advantage (early entry with no Universal Express) for staying in the Cabana Bay over nearby name-brand hotels that are also within 15-minutes walking distance of the park gates, I don't really see the appeal of the place. Not only that, a common complaint I'm seeing about this resort is, like the other Universal Resorts, guests are required to pay for parking. All of the nearby name-brand hotels have free parking and are similarly close to the park gates or have frequent shuttles that take guests to the main entrance to CityWalk.

Who knew that a bowling alley with a few props hung on the wall from the sets of Match Game and Patty Duke would have such a huge appeal. It's a bowling alley folks, and not a particularly big one from what I can tell.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 7, 2014 at 11:35 AM

If I were going to Orlando for Universal, I'd think hard about not renting a car and simply hiring a shuttle to my UOR hotel from the airport. Russell's right; that UOR hotel nightly parking charge is rough. But you can walk everywhere at the UOR, so why rent the car, if that's your vacation destination?

And if you're going elsewhere in Florida on your trip, think about renting the car from a neighborhood place AFTER the UOR part of your trip, so you can avoid paying to park your car on days when, frankly, you don't need it.

That said, judging solely from photos, I think Universal did a MUCH better job of theming Cabana Bay than Disney did with Pop Century.

Anon Mouse

Published: April 7, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Cabana Bay has that retro look that reminds me of Disneyland Hotel after its recent makeover. I have mixed feelings about the hotel's design that looks like my nightmare childhood. I hated the station wagon. In those days, air conditioning was optional in most cars. Thus, my family often bought the car without air conditioning, saving $2000. The passengers have heat spells from sitting in the back and we smell the exhaust pipe from having the open rear window for ventilation. How we survived?

A trip from LA to Disneyland seemed like a cross country drive. The roadside tourist traps with atomic styled coffee shops are just terrible, but they are affordable and the only restaurant available. Take it or leave it. A burger at Bob's Big Boy is gourmet compared with McDonald's.

The ill fitting clothing never looks good on regular folks and especially with the 60s bouffant hair dos. Too many photographs are fashion NOTs. Cabana Bay will bring everything back into style.

N B

Published: April 7, 2014 at 12:06 PM

I was not familiar with the Pop Century Resort until I looked it up today. Not even close to Cabana Bay. PCR is garishly painted with over sized props everywhere and bad signage.

Just looking at the photos gave me a headache. Cabana Bay is retro, but true to the look and feel without being completely tacky. I'm sure there are plenty of people who will feel nostalgic when they see CB for the first time.


Gabriel Schroll

Published: April 7, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Very well done, Universal!

Next time I go to Universal, I'll probably look hard at staying there, though if I can afford it, I'll just stay at Royal Pacific because I love the boat access, the beautiful walking path, and the Express Pass. But if I can't swing the cost of Royal Pacific, I'll be more than happy to stay at CBBR as it truly looks like what Disney was too cheap to achieve with Pop Century.

Dan Barnes

Published: April 7, 2014 at 1:37 PM

I know it's the wrong decade, but the coffee bean wall in Starbucks looks like a giant Connect Four game.
Rob Pastor

Published: April 7, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Comparing it to Pop Century is ridiculous. I stopped there once while at WDW just to see what it looked like. Pop Century looked like a cheap Motel 6 with ugly plastic monstrosities all over the place. Not even close.
Russell Meyer
Writer

Published: April 7, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Robert, you seem to forget that a lot of people don't fly to Orlando for vacation. Many Northeasterners still make the drive down I-95 or take the Auto-Train. A lot of people from as far away as St. Louis, Chicago, and Dallas make the trek---it's practically a right of passage for many families. When you drive, you've got to put our car somewhere, and I never really understood why Universal felt that they needed to charge guests that are already paying premium hotel rates for parking. It's nice that you can walk around without having to move your car, but it's not like you're taking up spaces for off-site guests in the garages.

While I do think that Universal did a nice job with the themeing, I just don't find it terribly appealing. I have stayed at Pop Century, and it's tacky and gaudy, but that's part of that resort's theme. This new resort seems to take a nod from Pop Century and focuses it to create that unifying late 50's/early 60's theme, which looks straight out of the old Flamingo or Sands Resorts that met their fates over a decade ago. Considering that long walk to the parks and limited perks, I simply don't see the advantage of this resort over major-brand hotels nearby to UOR. If they had Universal Express, at the $100-$150/night rates, then they'd have me, but with just the early admission, I'd probably just book at the nearby places we've stayed at in the past across Kirkman or on I-Drive.

We make the same cost benefit analysis when determining whether to stay on Disney property as well, and without a significant rate discount or a free dining promotion, we wouldn't stay at Disney resorts either.

184.88.83.1

Published: April 8, 2014 at 5:27 AM

The bowling alley is a replica of the one seen in "The Big Lebowski" film. It's pretty well done, only 10 lanes, but on the expensive side.

Parking fee is probably the only negative, but even with that it's cheaper than the value resorts. And if you do intend to stay there for a few days, you don't need the car. It's just part of cost/benefit. It won't be for everyone.

This place will be packed during Halloween Horror nights for those that don't care about express (since only daytime express is included at the others), but still want to stay onsite.

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