Cabana Bay Resort, Where the Adventure Begins
Every year, I manage to take a trip down to Universal Studios Orlando for some fall fun. Universal Studios is that one place that never disappoints me and they keep adding something new every year that draws me back. In the early years, I stayed at Holiday Inns and Motel 8’s that were within a few miles of the theme park. They were great for the wallet but they carried some downside – Driving in traffic, paying the $20 parking fee, and waiting in line while watching people go in early. I never stayed at an On-Site hotel prior to Cabana Bay Resort due to a higher price point. I’m not a wealthy guy; I had to work on a budget every time. When Cabana Bay opened in 2014, this was my opportunity to get rid of the downsides at an affordable rate. The last two years I stayed at Cabana Bay Resort and that is where my adventure begins for Universal Studios Orlando.
I’ll go over key features/areas:
Theme: Cabana Bay Resort has a 1960’s retro feel – The classic cars in the parking lot, big-screen television in dining showing old school commercials/cartoons, and the Swizzle Lounge. The lobby reminded me of an airport hub in the 1960s, I was waiting for Pan Am flight attendant to walk past me as I check in both times. They hit a home run when it comes to theming of the hotel.
Room: Both stays at the hotel, I had the Courtyard Family Suite Poolside (my rate was around $189 night). The room had two queen beds and a pull out sofa bed. A small kitchen makes a great area for heating up leftover pizza in the morning. The bathroom area was divided up into three sections, makes getting ready in the morning a speedy process. At night the view from outside the room was amazing, everything was lit up from the pool area all the way to the huge hotel signs at top of the building. To my surprise, the rooms were very quiet to outside noise maybe it had to do with the time of year going to the park. Two minor problems, group consensus the beds were on the stiff side and two people were stuck in the bathroom due to bad locks. I remember the locks being an issue the prior stay too. Overall, the rooms were adequate for my needs which were resting my feet after walking around both theme parks all day.
Pool: I always thought there was only one pool area at Cabana Bay, the huge pool with the fake diving platform located right outside the lobby area. I was wrong, on the other side of the resort, there is another pool and a lazy river. I did not find this pool area till I google map the resort for this write-up. I’m kinda bummed that I never found it during my walkthrough of Cabana Bay. They have cabanas you can rent at poolside and I believe while we were there the pools closed at 10 pm. I only wish that the hot tub was a little bigger, always seem too crowded to get in during the evening. It would have been a perfect remedy for my sore muscles after all-day walk fest at the park.
Benefits: Access to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios one hour earlier than the rest of the crowd. Being at the park at 7 am, still dark out and knowing that you have 12 hours of thrills ahead of you makes for a good benefit. That was the earliest I ever arrived at a theme park, the normal for me has been 10 am for most theme parks. The other major perk about staying at Cabana Bay is the shuttle service. I like the feeling of leaving my car in the hotel parking for most of the vacation. The buses run about every 10 – 15 mins to the CityWalk / Universal complex. We never had an issue with long waits or not enough room on the bus. (Reminder: We went during fall, off-season) You could also jump on other shuttles that to you to SeaWorld or the other On-Site hotels from the CityWalk area. Two extra benefits I did not try out: Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to your hotel. Great for not having to backtrack later in the day to get items you saw earlier so you do not carry around all day. Resort-wide charging privileges with a room key, if you like to leave your wallet or purse behind at the room.
Dining: There are four locations on the resort where you can grab food after a day at the park. The Bayliner Diner was my “go to” place for food. (menu) I was stuck on the Delizioso pizza for most of the trip. I would get a couple pies and take them up to my room. (Around $10) Compare to all the other food items and my level hungriness, the pizza seems like the best overall option. Bayliner Diner stays open till 10 pm but they kept opened few minutes longer for some last minute pizza order. They do serve breakfast in the morning and Starbucks is just around the corner from them. Other Food Options: Galaxy Bowl Restaurant – Menu till 10 pm and the Hideaway Bar & Grill – Menu till 10 pm. After hours delivery to your room by Delizioso Pizza till midnight/1 am.
I also had a Sonic Fill mug for soft drinks for duration of stay, basically you are pre paying for unlimited trips to the soda stations. (From $9 to $18) The mug has a RFID chip that Coke Freestyle machine reads to find out how many days you paid for ahead of time. I learned the mug needs to be in a “sweet spot” for the soda machine to read the information. I saw few people get frustrated over the system but trial and error will eventually pay off.
Entertainment: During the day, the theme parks and pools are the busiest places for entertainment. At night few other options are available. You can take the free shuttle back to CityWalk and enjoy the nightlife entertainment i.e. bars, movie theater, and mini golf. Cabana Bay has Galaxy Bowl, ten lane bowling alley on the second level of resort. ($15 per person plus $4 for shoes for at least 60min lane time) They also have Game-O-Rama beside the bowling alley, modern arcade that kids will enjoy while you hang out at the Swizzle Lounge in the lobby area. Near the pool there is a game area that host ping pong, billiards, hula hoops, and cornhole for anyone looking for fun. Also Cabana Bay does a movie night at their pool with their classic universal children movie lineup.