Universal Orlando Resort announces new value-priced resort, no Unlimited Express Pass included

July 9, 2012, 10:14 AM · Universal Orlando Resort is set to add another hotel option for its guests, it was revealed today.

The Central Florida theme park destination will once again team up with Loews Hotels and Resorts, who are also involved in the operations of Universal's current three on-site accommodations offerings.

The hotel will be named Cabana Bay Beach Resort and will be themed around classic American driving vacations of years gone by.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Concept art courtesy Universal

The resort will feature a total of 1800 rooms, 900 of which will be large family suites, capable of accommodating up to six people, with the other 900 being standard hotel rooms priced at a value to moderate level.

This is Universal's first major move towards providing value accommodation at the Orlando resort, and could be a move to try and lure tourists away from the increasing value offerings at Walt Disney world.

Whilst many of the amenities and perks offered in Universal's current hotels, including early park admission, will be available at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal's Unlimited Express Access will not be complementary.

“Our new hotel will give guests an affordable, incredibly themed on-site hotel experience unlike anything else at our resort,” Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive officer, Universal Parks & Resorts told Orlando Attractions Magazine.

“Our new family suites and family-value pricing will give our guests on-site options they’ve never had before.”

Replies (22)

July 9, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Great move for Universal. This is something that their resort fundamentally lacked. LOVE the theme too. Very nostalgic for my childhood.
July 9, 2012 at 10:34 AM · This is a topic we discussed on TPI a few months ago. We were far ahead of the information release...All in all a good move by Universal. It keeps more guests on property and will be conducive to family needs and budgets. And it will not water down the value of the Hotel Express Pass available at the three deluxe Universal hotels.
July 9, 2012 at 10:55 AM · Universal's rooms are overpriced, but the big draw for my family is the included FOTL pass. I would not bother staying at this new hotel if it did not include the FOTL pass. Without the pass, off-site hotels are still going to be much more affordable even than this value hotel. Disney has a big draw with their dining plan, something that Universal is severely lacking in.
July 9, 2012 at 1:44 PM · Universal doesn't need a dining plan, as their sit down restaurant choices are all more reasonably priced than Disney's.

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.

July 9, 2012 at 2:17 PM · No plans to ever stay at the new resort, but it's a smart move by Universal. Unlimited Exress makes the higher prices at Portofino / Hard Rock / Royal Pacific worht it, however.
July 9, 2012 at 2:54 PM · like it, I think universals hotels are stunning but they just cost a bit too much for me so with a value package I cant wait to stay there now
July 9, 2012 at 3:31 PM · In my opinion, the term "value" will be much closer to the Disney hotels definition of value, as opposed to the Orlando hotel industry standard.

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?

July 9, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Love the expansion, makes me wonder would could have been with Universal's new found spending spree if the property off Universal Blvd behind the Convention center hadn't been sold a few years ago, as that had room for two additional theme parks.

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

July 9, 2012 at 3:59 PM · Other aspect with the increased amount of hotel guest getting early access, we also see increased number of attractions open...and also see Universal do extra hours in the evening as well to accomodate those guest
July 9, 2012 at 4:13 PM · Not having the Express Pass will hurt them I feel. If they do not want to do the Universal xpress they should at least give you a limited option such a 1 each per ride per day or let guests pick 3 or 4 rides to use the option on.
July 9, 2012 at 4:29 PM · Will the value priced resort include parking? That's the one thing that always bugged me about universal. I have a platinum pass that includes free parking at the parks, but they won't count it towards parking at the hotel so I still have to pay for parking even though I sprung for the more expensive season pass.
July 9, 2012 at 5:28 PM · I agree on the parking. I think the Disney value resorts have free parking. It is pretty steep at the other UO hotels. And will they have water access to City Walk?
July 9, 2012 at 5:59 PM · Nice idea, but they could have used that land for a third theme park.
July 9, 2012 at 6:18 PM · not enough room for a theme park, I would guess due to third parking deck needed or some "monorail" as water taxi wouldn't work

maybe enough room for a water park

July 9, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Rather see a water park added to their immediate resort area, but this too will be a good move for Universal. Too bad there wasn't room for a resort and water park. It's still a 2-3 day getaway at best.
July 9, 2012 at 8:19 PM · Awesome move for the bigger rooms but why not the express pass people will stay off grounds for even cheaper
July 9, 2012 at 8:37 PM · People, people. There's still more than enough room for an onsite water park after this. No worries.
July 9, 2012 at 8:57 PM · "classic American driving vacations of years gone by" sounds like maybe Route 66. where would they get an idea like that?
July 10, 2012 at 8:51 AM · I always thought Universal should build a fourth on-site hotel. With Harry Potter and its inevitable expansion, and perhaps Transformers coming soon to USF, I thought this would be a good move for them, especially considering that when looking at the map of the property, the piece of land this will be built on is not large enough for a third park, or even a decent expansion of IOA.

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.

July 10, 2012 at 9:24 AM · One thing for sure, Universal would not build an additional 1800 rooms if there was not a need.
July 10, 2012 at 4:28 PM · As a consumer I would not be interested in staying there and where they lost me is with the No Unlimited Express Pass.

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.

July 12, 2012 at 2:44 PM · i like the theme, but I wonder why they dont just do ahead and theme it HP.

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