Until recently, I had never stayed at one of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels. Why would I? As a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, it seemed to make more sense to just visit and stay at one of the Walt Disney World resort hotels. That’s what I know and (mostly) love. But in May, I had the opportunity to branch out and stay at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Everything has changed.
This place is legit. I was shocked at how I felt about staying at this resort, from the first day to the last. And guess what – I was spending MORE days at WDW than I was at Universal (hereafter referred to as UOR)! I did rent a car (which I usually prefer to do even if staying on Disney property), but the drive was short and manageable and totally worth it to stay in this truly fantastic resort.
Still haven’t convinced you? Here are just a few of the MANY reasons I can wholeheartedly recommend a stay at Cabana Bay.
1) The Theming and Design is Perfect.
Maybe the 50s and 60s beach resort throwback vintage thing isn’t your style, but if that’s the case, I just don’t know if we can be friends. Every corner of Cabana Bay feels like you’ve been whisked away into the best parts of mid-century modern design, leaving behind anything that could feel “dated” or “looks like my grandma’s house”. This is not your grandmother’s house. From the “Color TV” and “COLD AIR” assurances on the Cabana Bay sign, to the gorgeous classic cars in the circle drive (which are all from classic movies, by the way) and a Starbucks that somehow seems to fit the décor, there was nothing that I didn’t love to look at.
(As an aside – this is not how I feel about any of the Disney Value Resorts, with the exception of Art of Animation, which is technically a “Value Plus”, but closer to a Moderate Resort in price. They are perfectly fine and enjoyable, but basic, and nothing about the design or themes take my breath away like Cabana Bay. And unlike Disney Value resorts, the theming also reaches into the rooms. Speaking of theming in the rooms….
Because they are *also* perfect. While I’m not convinced that they are, actually, those exact items inside the labels (VO5 smells suspiciously like Herbal Essences, a scent that any teen girl in the 90s would know by heart), but it’s a perfect and lovely detail in even the standard rooms.
3) End your day with sweet dreams and Fixer Upper.
At the end of a long day at the theme parks, I am usually so tired that I can sleep ANYWHERE. But for the price you pay, you should be getting a premium bed. Not only did I find the Cabana Bay beds to be better than any mattress I have EVER stayed on at an Orlando-area hotel or resort, but they were absolutely one of the best hotel beds I have stayed in…anywhere. (If you are curious, the only ones that managed to beat out Cabana Bay were the Conrad Hotel I stayed in on my honeymoon and a Westin with the “Heavenly Bed”. Both of these were more expensive than my Cabana Bay room, as well.)
Also, the rooms get HGTV, which isn’t exactly rare among hotel rooms, but I don’t have it at my house so I binge-watched every second that I could of Property Brothers, Fixer Upper and House Hunters that I could when I was in my room. You do you.
Spoiler Alert: The day that I had set aside for getting my tan on at the pools (and lazy river!), it rained and it rained and it rained. So I didn’t get to enjoy them the way I wanted to. This of course means that you have to go and enjoy them for me.
Cabana Bay pools not only outscore all of the Disney Value Resorts for water play options, it very easily surpasses most of the Moderate and Deluxe category Disney Resorts as well. Cabana Bay offers two zero-entry pools (one main and one smaller), one lazy river, 100ft waterslide, two splash pads (with covered tables and chairs for moms and dads to keep a close eye on kiddos), two white sand beach areas, a poolside bar, poolside bar and grill, and cabana rentals. And that doesn’t even include the kid’s pool activities, live music nights and movie showings! Be sure and bring an inflatable pool ring from home to save a few bucks – you can purchase them for the lazy river, but they do not have any to rent at this time.)
In other words, the pool areas alone are worth the price of admission. Be sure and enjoy them!
5) Universal Team Members Treat You Like Gold.
Let me shoot you straight – Universal is no longer the Second Place, “If we have some extra time I guess” option in Orlando, and a large part of that is due to their impressive staff and customer service training. Case in point: When I walked up to registration upon arrival, I made some friendly conversation with the Team Member there (I wish I could remember her name because she was great!). And for NO REASON AT ALL, she ended up giving me two free drink passes for me and my friend to be used at the bars or at the Starbucks there. Just for fun! Just to be nice! If you know me at all, then you know a free drink is a great way to make friends with me. (Also, I learned that you can get whatever crazy additions you want at the Starbucks with that free drink so yeah, I went crazy with my Venti Dirty Chai with Whipped Cream and probably sprinkles or whatever else on top. I was too happy to remember it all.)
I haven’t even mentioned the Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio (fitness rooms are very hard to find at Value Resorts, and this one is huge), the Galaxy Bowl, Game-O-Rama game room, extra large FAMILY SUITES, excellent food court, Universal Studios Resort Store, valet parking, EARLY PARK ADMISSION on select days to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which is why you’re probably there, huh?), and complementary shuttle bus transportation to both Universal Orlando theme parks, Universal CityWalk and (presumably) the new Volcano Bay Water Park opening in 2017.
Between you and me, I have never felt this way about a VALUE resort before. This one changes the game entirely. This is one of the most perfect affordable family resorts I have stayed at! Want more? Check out this great video (which, I can attest, is basically how it felt to me, except I never met Minions in the lobby….though I have been told they show up from time to time).
Now it’s your turn! Have you been to Cabana Bay before? Let me know about your experience in the comments below! Have more questions or looking for a quote for a vacation? I can help with that too!
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Let’s get you to Cabana Bay, shall we?
– Michaela –