This hotel will offer early access, walking distance to the parks, transportation to the parks, and discounts, as all the others do. Completely worth it in my book.
That means Universal aren't trying to compete with the low-cost hotels that surround them on International Drive, but rather the All-Star and Pop Century Resorts over at Walt Disney World.
For me, Universal, by opening a value resort, has a massive opportunity to take a considerable number of short-stay tourists away from Lake Buena Vista and over to Universal Orlando.
With the huge popularity of Potter, and with its rumoured expansion, more and more people are going to spend more and more time at Universal, and those staying for 3-5 days may well find the majority of their time being spent at Universal, whereas a couple of years ago it may have been Disney who demanded the majority of their time, and thus got their hotel custom.
That makes a value hotel at Universal a highly attractive option. Yes, it doesn't have Unlimited Express Access, but it still has early entry and is a stones throw from the parks.
On the issue of the complementary Express Pass, you have to ask yourself, during peak times would an extra 1800 room hotel, with some of those rooms having up to six people staying in them, begin to have a major impact on the length of Express lines at popular attractions?
Also curious if this hotel means Universal is renewing the lease for Wet'n Wild and not building a Water Park exactly on site?
Granted their are other large tracts of land nearby but not on property
1. the 70+ acre plot where the Orlando Thrill Park was slated to open and was killed by the nearby community (along with Disney & Universal)
2. the land along I-4 from the turnpike to Kirkman that only has the old Days Inn (demo it) still standing is about 50+ acreas but slender and if Universal wanter to go "really crazy" incorporate the Doubletree, Fairfield, & Holiday Inn's more so into the property and expand their value hotel room base
and last does this force Sea World to move forward with there own hotel options
maybe enough room for a water park
Initially when I read that this would be a Value-Moderate hotel without Express Pass privileges, I was really bummed. I'm all for going BIG or not going at all.
However, after thinking about it for a bit, I'm reversed course. 3 of the 4 on-site hotels will be Deluxe, to use Disney terminology. If you want unlimited Express Pass and all the perks that come with staying at Portofino, Hard Rock, or Royal Pacific, stay at one of those resort hotels! They're not going away.
The country is still not in fantastic shape, economically, and a lot of families will be thrilled to stay on property at a price they can actually afford. It's a smart move by Universal, in my opinion, though I won't stay there myself.
And don't forget, if you're staying in a moderate room at Cabana Bay with early park access, you don't even need Express Pass necessarily. One hour to spend in the park with only your fellow on-site hotel guests is more than enough time to run over to Harry Potter, and then either Minion Mayhem or Incredible Hulk or Spider-Man or Rip Ride Rockit. You can easily ride two attractions before the regular guests arrive in the park.
It'll be interesting to see how this works. I imagine the keycards will have to look a little different to help the attractions workers more easily identify guests who can and cannot skip the lines.
I really think this is going to be a big hit. Being that Cabana Bay will accommodate up to 1800 guests, I feel like this should complete their on-site hotel endeavors. Any additional building or expansion UO does should definitely be to grow their theme park footprint.
If I am going cheap or for "value"..... I may as well stay at one of the nearby hotels for cheaper off of I-4 (and you can possibly take a shuttle over if I want to save on parking, but apparently if you stay in the hotel you have to pay for parking anyway so you are not saving anything substantial there).
The whole big draw of staying at a Universal Hotel for me is two things...... the Unlimited Express Pass being the biggest draw, and the distance to the city walk and parks being the second. Most other things can be gottne at one of the close by competitor hotels..... and their are plenty close enough that it is not THAT far away to get up and come over to the City Walk or a park.
Again, if I am trying to save money and going cheap..... I doubt the prices of this new hotel will be truely competitive with the prices I can get at one of the competitors not directly owned by Universal on I-Drive or nearby.