Think an Orlando theme park vacation costs too much? Universal has a new hotel for you.
Just before we took our first trip on Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Universal Orlando showed off its seventh (and lowest priced) hotel, which opens June 27.
Rates slide with the length of stay, but even a short stay at Universal's first official "value" resort (Cabana Bay is now "prime value" in Universal's lingo) runs for far less — and with higher resort quality — that you could find in any of Disney's on-site Value hotels.
We took a tour of the 750-room hotel, which occupies the former site of the Wet 'n Wild water park. Surfside's companion, Dockside, is the larger resort going up on the former Wet 'n Wild parking lot and will open in two phases next year.
A two-bedroom, three-queen-bed suite also is available, starting at $131 a night. Surfside offers a surfboard-shaped pool, the "Sand Bar" poolside bar, and Beach Break Cafe food court. Update:Note that while Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests have enjoyed access to the pools at all the other Universal hotels, that pool-hopping benefit does not extend to the Endless Summer Resort guests.
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UOR confirmed the pool hopping in a tweet this week, and that was news to me, so I included it.
I timed the bus ride from the Aventura Hotel to Endless Summer at five minutes, most of it spent at stop lights. There's a sidewalk, but you'd likely melt in the heat half the year if you tried it. But the distance is otherwise easily walkable to someone used to walking places.
Buses should run every 10-15 minutes or so to CityWalk, but no one seemed to have a firm answer on that yet.
For the money and based on the location - this is hard to beat. It makes me wonder how the other value chain hotels in the area will respond with changes in their pricing in order to compete.
That's a great point Rob. Most of the chain hotels have been slowly inching up their rates in recent years despite lots of occupancy available. This looks like a serious "disruptor" to the status quo, which hopefully will knock some sense into hoteliers in the Orlando area that have been getting fat on bloated rates because everywhere is similarly overpriced. We used to regularly find nice chain hotel rooms in the $70 range 5-10 years ago, but on our most recent Orlando vacation in October 2017, we had to search really hard and utilize lots of "tricks" to find rates in that range. We would gladly stay at this resort for a week or more as a "home base", and not even bother trying to find something closer to WDW, even if we were only visiting UO for a few days.
My question Robert: I assume like other on-site hotels, there will be the daily parking fee? ...Paying that parking fee really bothers me on non-theme park days when we just want a pool day! I consider the parking fee on the same level as the infuriating mandatory "resort fees" at other hotels. The room rate may be a good deal, but you do have to factor in the parking/resort fees when comparing hotel costs.
According the the hotel's website there is a $14 charge for self parking. That's considerably less than the $25 it costs to park in the garages outside CityWalk. If you're coming to Orlando with a car, staying and parking your car at this new resort is still cheaper than staying at a non-Universal hotel and parking in the garages. FWIW, it's $36 to park at HRH and PB, $27 at RPR, $25 at Sapphire Falls, and $17 at Aventura and Cabana Bay. I will say though that there are some hotels that are about the same walking distance away from the parks that do offer free parking and even have free shuttles to the park, but you're not going to get early park entry or find many with rates under $100/night.
WDW has started doing the same thing, so I don't begrudge Universal's charge, particularly since they've been charging guests to park their cars at the on-site resorts for well over a decade now.
For me, it's par for the course, and something you have to research before booking your stay, just like those obnoxious "resort fees" and "amenity fees" you note (a new one is the "breakfast fee" hotels are automatically tacking onto bills even though they advertise "complimentary continental breakfast"). We're encountering this in planning our upcoming trip to Southern California where we're trying to avoid the Mickey and Friends parking structure, but finding that virtually every hotel within reasonable walking distance of Disneyland charges for parking (some even more expensive than it costs to park in the garages). Even hotels seemingly in the "boonies" are charging for parking these days simply because they can.
I have pool hopped at the Uni resort for years, never have an issue. Use my Hard rock room key (or Cabana Bay or wherever i'm staying that year) to pay for meals and drinks at all the other pools.
About pool hopping: Look at number 6 pro-tip Universal mentioned on their own blog:
This hotel looks great for how close it is to the parks and how the rooms are in relation to the price. And above that it is still run by Loews and their service level is excellent.
Last time I stayed at Cabana Bay I was only charged half price for the parking because I was staying for two weeks.
Didn't see this mentioned anywhere when I was booking the hotel, but I was happy to accept it when checking in. Nice touch from Universal.
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Did they mention how frequent shuttles will be to and from the parks/CityWalk?
Did you get a sense of how far the walk would be, and if the sidewalks in the area were improved to accommodate increase pedestrian traffic?
Have the UO resorts always had "pool hoping" privileges? Perhaps it wasn't widely advertised like it is at WDW, but I didn't know on-site guests to use other resort pools (Portofino Bay's is by far the best, but the "Dive In" movies at Hard Rock with the underwater soundtrack are pretty cool).