On Monday March 31st Universal Orlando opened their newest hotel, the retro mid-century style Cabana Bay Beach Resort. MiceChat takes you for a tour of the new hotel. We then head off for a mini photo tour around the Universal Orlando Resort to share what’s new at this ever expanding destination.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Universal announced back in 2012 that they would be building a new resort, but this new hotel would be their first “Value” resort with family suites that would compete head to head with Disney World’s newest hotel, The Art of Animation Resort.  Universal Creative decided to take the classic roadside motel concept from the 1950’s and 60’s and make it retro-chic. This 1,800 room resort features 900 family suites and 900 standard guest rooms. We are going to take you on a tour of this resort so you can see the incredible details that make this resort the most luxurious value hotel you will ever stay in!

Hotel Exterior

When you drive up to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the style, look, feel and era are clear.  Here, Universal Creative has decided to use subtle clues, like color, shapes, and typeface to let you know what era you are in. You won’t find giant tacky props. Rather, thoughtfully designed signs and beautiful architectural features tell you that you have stepped back in time.
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Hotel Lobby and Front Desk

When you step inside the lobby, you will feel as though you have stepped back in time to the old Lowe’s Intercontinental Hotel lobby, with a stunning atrium, beautiful front desk with tiled background, swanky Lounge and Universal Gift Shop. All of these elements create an amazing luxurious feel that isn’t cheap, that feels like a place you want to spend time in.

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At the front desk, Team Members give you beautifully designed collateral. The creative team has designed 6 different room key cards so you can try to collect them all.

Cabana Pool

Outside the Lobby are two courtyards, the Cabana Pool and the Lazy River Pool courtyards. The hotel will be opening in phases. Phase 1 includes the Cabana Pool courtyard with it’s 3 buildings and 600 family suites. This pool is over 11,000 sq. feet, with a diving tower water slide and a zero depth entrance.  This pools is fun for all ages. Kids will love the beach play area, and adults will appreciate the pool bar.

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Food Trucks

Outside the pool deck, Universal has created a space where local Food Trucks can set up shop and bring unique local flavors to the resort.  Every day guests will be able to experience a different food truck!

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Family Suites

The family suites side of the hotel is the first part to open at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. With room to sleep 6, the space has been thoughtfully designed to accommodate families with busy theme park needs! The rooms are designed beautifully and evoke the era. Everything in the room, right down to the VO5 Shampoo and Zest Soaps, keep you in the scene. However, you’ll find plenty of modern upgrades such as a flat screen TV, lots of plugs for electronic charging, fridge, microwave, and a separate toilet, sink and shower stations in the bathroom, to allow for families to get ready in the most efficient way possible! No longer will brothers have to do the potty polka while their sisters curl their hair (speaking from experience)!

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These rooms really are a work of functional art. The space was maximized and everything was beautifully designed.

Resort Amenities

Universal has packed this hotel full of amenities. Upstairs, guests will find the Jack LaLanne Fitness center, where they have a Black and White TV playing old Jack LaLanne fitness videos that you can work out to, along with modern exercise equipment.

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Next to the fitness center is the Bowling Alley with 10 lanes.  Those with a sharp eye will notice that the bowling alley was modeled after the one in the Big Labowski.  You can also get a meal here and enjoy a full service bar.

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Next to the bowling alley is the arcade where kids can play video games.

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Downstairs is probably the nicest hotel Starbucks I have ever seen.  Using mermaid imagery from Weeki Wachi Springs to evoke the old florida charm, along with the mermaid from the Starbucks logo, there is a beautiful unified theme.

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The food court features different stations with varying cuisine that will change with the seasons, and also cater to everyone’s tastes in the family.

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As someone who is intimately familiar with the hotel products available at Disney, and in Orlando, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort blows every hotel out of the water when you compare price, value, convenience and amenities. While hotel guests won’t get access to the Unlimited Express Pass when they stay at this hotel, the pricing makes it much more accessible to people who have wanted to stay on Universal Property but were not able to before. With all the amenities that are included, and the quality of the resort you will feel like no expense was spared at this Value hotel.

Universal Studios

Now, let’s take the shuttle bus over to the parks where we will check-in on the big projects taking shape!

Diagon Alley

Diaogn Alley is moving forward, and the walls are moving again! With new concrete now poured we get our first glimpse at what the streets in front of London will look like. Also, trees have been planted, and can be seen over the walls. Over by Fear Factor, a large earth berm has been created where flora will be added to mask the back sides of the attraction and Diagon Alley area.

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CityWalk

CowFish

Over in CityWalk, CowFish construction is gearing up, with the building now open and prepped for construction.  This 2nd floor location is going to be a great viewing area for the fireworks in the park once it is complete.

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That wraps up our Universal Orlando update for this week.  What do you think of the new value resort?  Have you stayed in a Disney Value Resort and how do you think it compares?

Now listen to the latest episode of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast

  • CaptainAction

    Thanks for the great photos and detail Eric.

    You could just step in to Cabana Bay and film a movie set in the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s. Very cool.

    If Universal rumors are true, the berm next to London won’t be needed very long because the Fear Factor stage area will become the Ministry of Magic from the Potter world.

    Eric, any evidence of dirt moving yet for Skull Island from King Kong?

    • Truecoat

      There is a crane onsite for King Kong.

      • CaptainAction

        Cool! Thank you.

  • Justonedream

    All I can say is WOW.

    Disney…Are you not the slightest bit worried about your competition???

  • BrizMarc

    Watch out Disney!!

    • redrhino54

      LMAO……If Disney built something this cheap and tacky looking, you people would be jumping all over them !!!

  • Nola ron

    Love the pics. Kinda reminds me of some airports I’ve been to!

  • FarFromHome

    question: The hotel keys say “exclusive theme park benefits”. What are they? I know they don’t get the Unlimited Express Pass, but do they get early admission? Thanks

    • Truecoat

      Early admission but you can also get that at other partner hotels not owned by Uni.

      • FarFromHome

        Thanks!

  • Erik Olson

    Eric,

    Really fantastic report on a resort I’m very, very excited to stay in. Thanks!!!

  • tooncity

    Universal I hope you stick-it to those crooks at Disney.

  • DuckyDelite

    I’m not a huge fan of 50/60’s architecture, so I thought I’d just give this hotel a pass. However, looking at the pics of the lobby and restaurant, I may have to go check it out. The theming is amazing. Thanks for all the pics!

    Does anyone know if the cars in front of the diner are permanent?

  • Irving

    Years ago, I would think of this report as an April’s fool. (Uni beating Disney in its own arena) But the reality these days is completely different. While Disney is spending money on “Hub improvments” and thinking how to make a “tourist” to spend more money on property using MM+, Uni simply invest on what we the public really wants: immersive environments, spectacular attractions, great themed hotels. Wow!. Really Disney?.

    Yes there is the Avatar thing, but, if they build at the same rate than Seven Dwarfs Mine, we will see the completion of that land in several years, and honestly, IMHO, Avatarland is not really what Disney fans are expecting from them.

    • Justonedream

      Completely agreed–Very well said.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Eloquent & insightful post, Irving!
      Please post more often on the forums.

  • Cabana Bay is everything that Disney’s Pop Century should have been. Rather than just building giant a giant Yo Yo or Rubic Cube, Universal has created an actual themed environment. With a great pool, slide, bowling alley, restaurants, bar, Starbucks and family suites all for less than Disney charges, I think Uni has a big hit on their hands. I can’t wait to check out this resort!!!

    I’m also really impressed with the beautiful Starbucks. So much more convenient to have the Starbucks right there in the hotel rather than having to get to the park first for your cup of joe.

  • seenoevil

    The hotel looks awesome and I plan on staying there next year. I’m so excited! Between that and the new Potter area, I feel dizzy. It’s going to be a great trip and ALL at Universal!

  • Big D

    It actually does look like the Pop Century only better. If we were going by Disney’s scale for their hotels I’d say this looks more like a moderate resort then a value resort. Very impressive. Did Universal partner with any hotel companies to run this resort like they do with Loews for their other three hotels?

  • GlennSearle

    I would NEVER stay in one of the Disney value resorts. They look horrible to me!
    I can’t wait to see and maybe stay in Cabana Bay. What does that say? Hey?

    • Aotphks

      It says you have taste.

  • dlpostcardguy

    This hotel looks amazing. We are going to WDW in December and Disney might just lose out on 3 nights of our hotel stay. I agree with the comments here. This is actually immersive right down to the shampoo. Really well done. If Uni was even smarter they would offer transportation to the Disney parks to get people to stay even longer at the Uni resort.

    • Ryan120420

      But here is the thing though, Disney would NEVER allow Universal to operate a Shuttle service from their property to Disneys.

      There was a Train or Monorail that was proposed a few years ago that would connect Orlando International, Universal Orlando, The Convention Center, and Disney TTC. But it quickly bit the dust when Disney voiced their opposition.

      Disney wants to make it as hard as possible for you to leave their property.

      • CaptainAction

        Yep, they try to lure and capture you with buses and Magic Handcuffs.

  • jcruise86

    THANK YOU, Eric Davis, for posting such an excellent article! ! !

    This resort looks so creative, and going there will feel like stepping into the Flamingo when it opened on the Las Vegas Strip.

    I could praise 100 details. The only thing missing was the small metal box next to the bed that you put a quarter into to make the bed shake. 🙂

    One quibble: although the drawings of it looked looked cool, in the photos I think the exterior of the entrance is a little boring looking and pretty ugly. But besides the exterior of the entrance, I love everything else, well except the pool’s “diving platform.” I want to dive off of it but can’t. Maybe this tower would look better next to the pool if it were painted light blue or aqua green. Too bad there wasn’t room to fit more greenery around the pool.

    OK, back to the love. Congrats to Universal Orlando, and, again, great work, Eric Davis!

    • jcruise86

      P.S. Those two mint-condition old cars in front of the resort looked great! It’d be cool if 6 or 8 exceptional cars (that were pre-approved by Universal) from the exact period were allowed to park there for free throughout the trip of their collector owners. Seeing the different cars could be another detail that would draw folks to visit this resort.

      Just a suggestion.

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ It’s also give travel writers one more thing to photograph and write about.

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ “It’d” ):

      • danielz6

        Awesome idea!

    • CaptainAction

      jcruise86, the diving platform reminds me of one of the first shots from, “Goldfinger”. I remember the resort Bond was staying in, and it might have been in Miami, as a cool helicopter shot of someone diving off a similar platform back in 1963 or so.

      I think the lawyers wouldn’t allow anyone to jump, much less dive off anything that high in 2014. When I saw the promos for the Cabana Bay, I was wondering how they were going to handle that diving platform.

  • Kate

    We moved from Orlando to Colorado last summer and have been pretty anxiously anticipating a trip back to see friends and hit Disney for a day or two. Even when we were local, we stayed at Boardwalk or Beach Club a few times a year (though I refused to call it a staycation), and the plan was to stay at one for a week or so this fall.

    Not anymore. After seeing this, our dollars are going to Universal. We may go to the Disney parks for a day or two if a friend is kind enough to let us use his maingate, but an affordable, well-themed (and well-located, especially for those who don’t intend on spending all their time in a theme park) new hotel — one that paid attention to all the details, even the soap and shampoo? Beats worn down overpriced “deluxes” which are getting increasingly shabby, at least on the non-DVC side, every time. Not to mention parks with attractions and restaurants that are actually new, instead of a high-tech LiveStrong bracelet? Sorry, Disney. We may plan a quick trip to CA for my Lightning McQueen-obsessed son, but this lifelong fan and longtime Cast Member is done as far as Florida’s concerned.

    • CaptainAction

      Kate,
      If someone had told me 12 years ago that I would describe my feelings for WDW and Universal the same way you just did, I would have laughed at them.
      I agree with you.

  • Marko50

    Nice article, Eric.

    However, it’d really be nice to read comments that were REALLY commenting on the article without turning it into another pseudo round of Uni v Diz. Yep, pseudo because Disney obviously is not willing to take up the challenge that Universal may or may not have thrown out. Also, while the property may not be filled with giant props, it certainly isn’t devoid of them, either: speaking of the diving platform. I don’t know of any motor camps/motels that had them; I would say that it doesn’t even match the theme.

  • clj7181

    Out of curiosity, I priced both Uni & WDW the last week of October –

    Cabana Bay: $113.71/Night
    WDW All Stars: $113.71 (Pop is $124.95 / AoA is $133.71)

    Coincidence – I think not

    Disney Moderate are $201.71 and then the Deluxe start at $350 for OKW up to $547.43 at the Grand Floridian where as the Universal hotels range from $210.30 – $249.50 or at a slight premium over the Moderate.

    • CaptainAction

      And I have 5 folks in our family so when we used to stay at Pop Century we needed, and still would need TWO rooms.
      So, Pop Century $250 and Cabana Bay $113 for our family of 5.
      Hello Cabana Bay!

      • redrhino54

        Hey Captain, why not tell the truth, your an vacation club member at motel 6….LMAO ! The place is tacky and cheap looking. When im on vacation, I expect comfort and luxury. Ive only stay at one Disney value hotels, Pop Century, and only for 2 days. Cabana is not my cup of tea, but enjoy it Captain…..lol

  • pianojohn

    Wow.

    It looks so beautiful, and I plan on spending a night there as a staycation, and probably won’t even bother with going to the park. But if I do, it is a short walk or bus ride there.

    Whenever I stay at Disney, I spend more time traveling from my resort to the parks, especially the value ones which seem to be the furthest from the parks.

  • 9oldmen

    When I first saw the image of the vintage vehicles outside the “Bayliner Diner, I immediately thought of the scene at the Miami Airport in “Catch Me If You Can”. The design team definitely had the enthusiasm that Disney had back when they built the “50s Prime Time Cafe”. I also REALLY like the wall graphics in that last picture. I think it’s the dining area of the food court. It looks like they might have hired artist Chip Wass. If you don’t know who that is, do a search and you’ll see what I mean. Also, the cartoon playing on the screens, is it something vintage, like an old Woody Woodpecker cartoon, or Andy Panda, or is it some content created just for this hotel?

  • Kidgenie

    Wow. Cabana Bay is priced out at a lot less then I thought. Very kewl. I didn’t know Vol5 and Zest were of that ear? Interesting. But the Floor plan of the family suite, I am underwhelmed by. Not sure why so many comments are comparing Cabana Bay to Pop Century, IMO, they should be to Art of Animation. And in that category, Art of Animation is going to win for the Actually suite comes with two full baths, yes each with a shower, sink and toilet. Even though it smaller, the “gst bath” toilet and shower can be closed off from its vanity. So you can definitely have lots of people getting ready at the same time. The Art Suites seem better laid out, with much larger living space and a well defined master bedroom that features a queen bed.

    Cabana bay as a bit of a “check mark” for a water slide, but hey… it HAS a water slide and will have a lazy river and will have bowling alley! yeah. Universal Rock it out on this one. All for a lower price then Art of Animation. Pretty awesome, so while I do like the design of the Suites at Art of Animation much better, I think Universal did was pretty neat stuff here and I am willing to say they exceeded my expectations. But no, I don’t think its enough to worry Disney about its value priced rooms and Suites.

    Some mention how the Disney Deluxes are aging and now shabby,but honestly I disagree. Grand Room are being remodel as we speak, Wilderness Lodge rooms have been recently, Saratogas have too, but that is DVC. Animal Kingdom Lodge is coming soon as are Yacht an d Beach club and all of the resorts from Values to Deluxes have moderized there linen used on the beds. Gone are cluncky old and question-alby dirty bed spreads, replaced by top sheets that are, no questions about, fresh and clean.

    • jcruise86

      I don’t think hotels even had soaps back before the early 70s, but that’s OK. I’m guessing that even Micechat’s most fanatical theme sticklers would not wish a 1950s hotel in the South to be segregated.

      • jcruise86

        I meant shampoos–not soaps. I’m sure all American hotels had soaps in the 20th century.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Uh, that’s terrific. I especially like that they went all out into midcentury modern versus something transitional (something that suggests midcentury modern.) They did a stellar job.

    And, as someone who isn’t anti-Disney (and who thinks that Disney will retain their leadership status for a looooooooooooooong time with or without investment: see…history,) there’s not remotely a comparison to the Value Resorts. If pricing is accurate, Cabana Bay entirely beats any of the motels in Disney drag on property. Drop in a full service restaurant, and they beat Moderate Resorts as well. Just a well-done, bang-up job by Universal here.

    To be fair, I’ve always thought it was nuts to stay on Disney property. For the price of a moderate resort with exterior hallways, a food court and a glammed up Denny’s, one can venture five minutes out and wind up at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, easily one of the best hotels in the state. For value resort prices, you can drop into two queen sized beds versus two doubles at pretty much every resort-like Radisson, Holiday Inn or Courtyard “Marriott Village” hotel in the ‘hood. I haven’t stayed on property for at least 10 years now, just because of that extreme price differentiation.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      “For the price of a moderate resort with exterior hallways, a food court and a glammed up Denny’s,”

      …and before CaptianAction nabs me, I fully own that the above statement is the thesis for Disney’s current business plan, and encompasses all that is wrong with Disney in the first place.

  • fnord

    They sure as heck provided soap and shampoo all through the 50s and 60s and I assume before as well!
    As to the segregation, the past is past, and who in their right mind would want to repeat it?

    • jcruise86

      I thought shampoo came to Holiday Inn level hotels in the early to mid-70s. My bad.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ ^ I corrected my soap error (Duh on me.) 8 minutes before you posted.

      But, fnord, imagining from my post that I suggested that any Micechatter WOULD want a segregated hotel was your reading & writing error.

  • jcruise86

    Attention everyone: if Cabana Bay sells out, Universal will keep raising its prices till they maximize profits. The initial low prices (along with Walt-like attention to detail) might help make this a hot property.

    Sorry.

  • fnord

    jcruise, I thought it was tacky for you to bring up segregation at all in this forum.

  • Aotphks

    Thank you for the nice Cabana Hotel report. The place looks very lovely and classy. The furnishing color schemes remind me of the decor at the Contemporary resort back in the 70s when I was a little girl and mom took us there on a surprise visit. I love the Starbucks and the bowling alley. Very clever. This could be a game changer for value resort hotels. Will have to ask the husband to consider a stay there next time we return to Orlando.

  • topdad1

    Looks cool man ! Hope Universal keeps trumping Disney , maybe they will get off their wallets and repair then improve the parks instead of spending $ One B I L L I O N $$$ on ‘magic handcuffs’ . Also the Disney Value resorts are just more holding pens for the unseasoned traveler. Good job Universal .

  • steve2wdw

    I love the retro look of the new rooms, but the fixtures are going to need constant attention. When retro chic fixtures start to wear, they end up just looking old (like they’ve been there for 50 years). I had an uncle who had a “rumpus room” in his basement, fitted out with really cool retro lamps, etc….but once everything sat for a while, it actually looked like it had been there forever and the “cool” factor disappeared.

  • wendygirl1979

    I have no interest in Harry Potter. Haven’t seen either of the Despicable Me movies, only parts of Transformers (the cartoon) and I couldn’t tell you what else Universal has. None of this is gonna stop me from staying at Cabana Bay. They had me at the VO5!

  • tcsnwhite

    This “Cabana Bay Beach Resort” is kind of how I thought the re-design of the ‘newer’ Disneyland Hotel could have been like – a real throw-back to mid-century/retro style.
    Maybe not quite as ‘googie’ in style…but very close, with a more elegant aesthetic.
    But every time I look at this hotel…so many of these period-specific designs would have fit perfectly for the Disneyland Hotel.

  • Not My Real Name

    I have an idea: One or two free games at the bowling alley for hotel guests. It couldn’t be unlimited free games because the place would be packed all the time.