When I was booked into Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando, I wasn’t expecting much more than a pleasant place to stay while visiting the parks. It’s a brand new property, and not one that I’d seen first hand or read much about before traveling. I’d heard buzz about its clean and modern vibe but not much beyond that. It wasn’t till I posted on Instagram and saw friend’s comments “I’ve been dying to stay there!” and “OMG I LOVE that place” that I realized how lucky we were to be lodged here during our visit.
We were provided lodging by Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando as part of a press excursion to Universal Orlando. All opinions are my own
Pulling up to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort reception was a bit like pulling into a Mad Men set. Or a Jetson’s animation. The circular entrance drive is dramatic, as is the big atrium and massive mosaic wall behind reception. The sprawling lobby houses shops and a “Swizzle” lounge/bar. Down an undulating corridor you’ll find the Bayside Diner (a large cafeteria style dining room) and a Starbucks coffee shop with mermaid murals and mid century modern furniture that is in complete keeping with the rest of the hotel.
Some hotels pay homage to other eras but Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort goes above and beyond to transport you there.
Every fixture, chair, light switch, and planter from the lobby to the pool area and up throughout the generously sized rooms, has been considered. Even the bars of soap have a retro vibe.
We stayed in a family style suite – large and comfortable with a small kitchen area that had a fridge, coffeemaker and microwave, and a seating area with a pullout bed, as well as two double beds in the bedroom area. You can see more details in the room tour video below.
It’s easy to lose track of where and when you’ve come from, after checking in here. Throughout the resort, music from the 50s and 60s is played. In the automat/cafeteria style dining area, there are 4 huge movie theater sized screens. These screens display tv commercials from the 50s and 60s on a loop. Food in the cafeteria was simple, good and affordable.
Vintage cars parked out front conspire to take you back in time.
I felt an instant lifting of my cares when I arrived at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, that rare vacation sensation that time there exists outside of regular time.
There was no throbbing top 20 pop radio music hits to remind me of the line I waited in at H&M while buying last minute clothes for the trip or being stuck in traffic while my kids argued in the back seat. There were no cheap corporate biz-traveler-style amenities trying lamely to make me feel “at home”. I felt less like a demographic, and more like a human at this hotel, than I have felt in ages at any mid range chain.
How often do you find a mid-range hotel that is clean, fresh, bright and comfortable that doesn’t feel like the lobby of a doctor’s office or a waiting area in a bank? There’s only so far that free popcorn and cookies go to disguise cold corporate cookie-cutter design. A few free snacks, don’t family-friendly make.
But the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a hotel of a different color. Bold orange, teal and white with spots of chrome and well-designed signage in well-thought-out fonts. “WELL DONE” was the neon sign that flashed in my mind.
Every inch of this hotel is designed with the mid range leisure traveler in mind. It’s an old fashioned concept made fresh again. I’m not sure anyone’s seen much of this concept in the last few decades, and it’s about time.
I was almost sorry we had plans to visit the parks because I could have hung out at the hotel more, playing in the in house bowling alley and “Jack LaLane” themed fitness center, lounging by one of the two pools (we preferred the one with the waterslide) or lazing in the lazy river. We would have loved to stay longer for the nightly movies for the kids and pool tables and ping pong tables in sandy play areas out by the pool. A perfect scene for leisurely entertainment.
Cabana Bay made me nostalgic for more than a bygone era. The hotel made me personally nostalgic for the types of vacations I took as a kid. A little less hectic, unrushed and restorative. Clean and comfortable. I’m jealous we don’t have a hotel like this closer to home in So Cal.
So while this hotel is a perfect place to park yourself while visiting Universal Orlando, I’m advocating you consider staying here a little longer. Park yourself in a lounge chair and play cards with the kids. Bring the grandparents too. This is an incredibly family friendly resort property and you should absolutely plan some time to enjoy it!