We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and it became one of my all-time favorite hotel stays. Here are the top 10 reasons why I loved this fabulous retro-themed resort.
Having been longtime annual passholders at another local theme park, we decided to switch things up this spring and visit Universal Orlando with our kids. As part of the fun, we stayed overnight at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Although my husband and I had stayed at the Royal Pacific many moons ago, we hadn’t even visited any of the newer hotels of the Universal Orlando Resort. In fact, we hadn’t stayed at any hotel since we evacuated for the arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017, in which we lost power for five days.
I was a little concerned that the excitement of a hotel stay might have worn off due to the hurricane experience, but I needn’t have worried. Staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort turned out to be one of my favorite hotels of all time. Here are the top 10 reasons why I enjoyed our stay so much.
Top 10 Favorite Things
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
10. The Family Suite
I am a sucker for affordable hotel suites. Offer to charge me a few bucks more to upgrade from a standard room to a mini-suite, and I will throw down my credit card like it’s on fire. The family suites at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort include a living room, kitchenette (with mini-fridge, microwave, and sink), and a sliding room divider that separates the sleeping area from the living room / kitchenette area.
9. The Two Pool Areas
Before arrival, I did not realize that Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort had not one, but two elaborate pool areas. Sure, lots of hotels have multiple pools, and some even have more than one “pool area,” but each of these pool areas were so themed, decorated, and expansive that it appeared as though the builder forgot they’d already built a pool area, so they went and built a completely new and unique one on the other side of the hotel. Bravo, Universal Orlando, for raising the pool area bar. (Did I mention there were two pool area bars?)
8. Espresso on Tap
A morning without good coffee is not a good morning; it’s a big problem. I hate leaving behind my carefully selected whole coffee beans at home, along with my increasingly elaborate system for coffee preparation. (It involves 3 devices and split-second timing.) Therefore, when I’m on vacation, I need coffee that is at least reasonably close to what I make at home. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort has a full-fledged Starbucks location right off the lobby. Problem solved.
7. Bayliner Diner
Food courts are what they are. They serve lots of food to lots of people at (hopefully) an affordable price. Having dined at dozens of food courts over the years, I’m no stranger to hanger-sized food-a-poriums. Bayliner Diner, however, pulled off the difficult task of making substantial upgrades to the food court experience.
On our first visit to Bayliner Diner, I was surprised to discover that the dining area was much more attractive when viewed in person than as seen online. Somehow, photos and videos just weren’t able to capture the design elements of retro-themed style that were were so charming in real life. Although the menu carried the standard chicken, burger, and pizza options, there were also some thoughtful touches like an elaborate fruit and smoothie bar for breakfast, and a really nice selection of gluten free options. More on that below.
6. Gluten Free Options
Not everyone has dietary restrictions. But I do, and eating the wrong thing can literally ruin an entire vacation for me. It was with huge relief that I discovered how many gluten free options were available at the resort. First of all, there was a large, designated area of gluten free to-go snacks at the food court. If you wanted a hot meal, a chef would come out (even in the bowling alley; more on that later) and work with you to plan and prepare a safe meal. I did not get sick once. I was actually able to eat without having a panic attack. Hooray!
5. The Retro Theme
Given that my house looks like a cross between an IKEA, a tiki bar, and a set for a 1960’s movie filmed in Technicolor, I am fond of retro decor. This goes double for space-age designs that incorporate geometry, patterns, and sinuous curves. It was thrilling to see a Universal Orlando hotel that went the full nine yards in terms of theming. The theme wasn’t just a few pasted on accents; it was deeply embedded in the architecture, furnishings, and color scheme. Well done.
4. The Bus
It might seem silly to go ga-ga over a bus, but the convenience of hopping a bus directly to CityWalk is worth a nod (and then some). Once we had parked our car for check-in, we didn’t need it anymore. Any time we wanted to visit the parks or CityWalk, we stepped just outside the hotel doors for a five minute ride in air conditioned comfort directly to the security checkpoint at CityWalk, through which all incoming guest traffic passes. No need to drive, park, remember where you parked, or hike through a parking garage. Sold!
3. Galaxy Bowl
I don’t even need to bowl to enjoy bowling. All I need to do is settle into a chair and watch the kids play. When our vacation weather turned soggy, it was a godsend to have a bowling alley right there within the resort. Tucked away on the second floor, this recreation spot boasts 10 lanes and a full menu of lunch and dinner choices. We bought two sessions of play time and lunch served at our lane, happily racking up a good two and a half hours of neon-lit fun in a perfectly themed setting.
2. The Bed
There is not enough time or space to fully explain the difference between what I think constitutes a good bed, and what my husband thinks constitutes a good bed. Suffice it to say that one of us prefers to sleep on a hammock filled with marshmallows, and the other prefers a lightly padded board. Miraculously, and against all odds, we both liked the bed.
1. The Value for the Money
Our family typically takes short vacations, of two nights or less, so it’s important that our hotel experience makes a big positive contribution to the overall vacation experience. The pool, the recreation, the dining, and the room experience are just as important as whatever our outside attraction plans may be (like visiting a theme park). Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort came through in spades. We were covered for rain or shine, with dietary restrictions or without, all in a gorgeous setting at a reasonable price. We’ll be back for more.