I first booked a stay at Universal’s Cabana bay in the autumn of 2018. This was to be a Christmas morning surprise for my family who had never been to the States before. After much research and working out a budget I decided to go with Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort for our two week stay. As a family of two adults and one teenage boy, the amenities offered and proximity to Volcano Bay really sold this hotel to me. When I made the booking, Cabana Bay was the cheapest of all the on-site hotels (This was before the opening of the Endless Summer.) so I viewed it as “just a place to sleep” and an affordable base. It might be an entry level price point but this hotel is anything but “just a place to stay”.Entering the Hotel
Cabana Bay certainly has the “wow” factor. From the moment you enter the drive way, you are met with unmistakable theming evocative of the 1950’s and 60’s. Classic cars and a giant pop-art style sign combine to make a truly iconic entrance and photo-op. Entering the stunning hotel lobby you begin to understand the enormity of this 2,200 bedroom hotel. The expansive atrium has a bright and airy feel with a palm tree and lounge area at its centre, check-in desks to the left, an official Universal Studios store to the right, and a beautiful view of the first courtyard pool area.
Cabana Bay is advertised as a family hotel, and the various types of rooms offered are definitely family friendly. The exterior-entry courtyard family suite (motel style) I opted for met the needs of my family perfectly. The family suite consists of a living room area with a kitchenette, breakfast bar and sofa bed. The bedroom area with 2 double beds can be separated from the living room with a roll away door, which is great if you need more privacy or the feeling of having two separate bedrooms. Universal has been very clever in not only optimizing the space available to them but also understanding the needs of its target audience. The retro rooms with a bright blue, orange and red colour scheme have the best modern technology with a large, flat screen TV in both rooms (with a fantastic range of channels) and lots of plug sockets and USB charge points in convenient places. The storage is ample and takes advantage of the space and decor. Large pull out drawers on both side of the room divide and a traditional wardrobe cubby provides plenty of space for a family of four. However, where Universal really nails its family rooms is the layout of the bathroom. The bathroom is essentially separated into three sections meaning – at least 3 people can get ready for a day in the parks at once. In the middle of the bathroom area is an open sink area with plenty of space to store your toiletries and a large mirror. To the left and right behind lockable doors are a toilet area and a shower bath and sink. Even the bathroom doors have large mirrors on them! Literally, everyone can be getting ready simultaneously.
Each Courtyard has its own large pool area and various ways to entertain the family. In the North Courtyard, with the exterior entry rooms, is a 10,000 square ft zero entry pool with a popular dive tower and slide. This courtyard has a nostalgic, Florida-seaside feel with its sandy play areas and pool side games that are all free to play. The warm lighting provided by neon building signs and fairy lights make this pool area particularly gorgeous in the nighttime. This pool is serviced by the Atomic Tonic bar which has all kinds of beverages for sale as well as being somewhere you can refill your resort mug. The South Courtyard has a 6,000 square ft zero entry pool and it’s own lazy river! The lazy river is where I spent a lot of my time when I wasn’t at the parks. Tubes are available for purchase at the tube shack and are a good investment if you go in a few times during your stay. Though the South pool is smaller it does boast a lot more amenities: a hot tub, two fire pits, movie nights and a large Hideaway Bar and Grill makes the South Courtyard a really cool place to hang out.
The food available at Cabana Bay is comparable in price to the food inside the Parks, but it’s a lot more varied and cultured. There are many eateries dotted around the hotel grounds. The most popular is undoubtedly the food court, Bayliner Diner. The menu options included: Pizza and Pasta, From the Grill, International and Deli. I found these to be plenty of choice for a 2 week stay. From these options, I sampled the Cabana Bay burger and pepperoni pizza. The quality was good, and I’d say they were both good value for money. An absolute must buy for your stay is the sonic refill mug. At $18.99 for unlimited refills during your stay (including coke freestyle, hot beverages and ICEE’s), it’s a no brainier. As standard with most Orlando hotels, there is a Starbucks in the Lobby which is handy to grab a quick sandwich or pastry throughout the day. The poolside bars also have similar food offerings. However, the food at the Galaxy Bowl is probably the most fun on property and is eligible for annual pass discount. The Galaxy Bowl and Game-O-Rama (bowling alley and arcade) are great ways to spend a wet hour or two in the summer afternoons.
Staying at Cabana Bay your main transport to the parks is the bus. While it may not be as fancy as the water taxi, it sure is quick. I cannot recall a single time during my visit when I had to wait for a bus at either the hotel or CityWalk. In fact, getting to the parks is so easy from Cabana Bay that, on several occasions, I popped over to Universal Studios for literally one ride or one snack. Volcano Bay is so close to Cabana Bay that I almost consider it an extension of the hotel. The walkway between them is clearly marked out and is, at most, a 5 minute walk. For my next trip, I would love to have a Volcano Bay view room. (These are located in some of the South Courtyard buildings and towers.) As a water park lover, this seriously would be my dream view.
It may not give you free Express Pass, table service restaurants, or the beautiful water taxis like the pricier options, but Cabana Bay really does feel like a top-tier hotel for me. There is not a single aspect of my stay that I did not enjoy or would advise against. This hotel is a perfect base and even place to spend a few hotel days. With all the different facilities on offer, you could never be bored or unsatisfied at Cabana Bay!