In Florida, we stayed for a week in Universal’s newest complex, Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This retro-themed resort only opened in March 2014, and before we went I couldn’t find much information about it online, so here’s what I wish I’d known beforehand.
Normally one of the biggest benefits of staying at a Universal hotel is that you get a free fast pass for Universal’s theme parks. However, Cabana Bay is a budget resort, so guests don’t get that extra fast pass benefit.
Does it matter? Does a budget hotel necessarily feel cheap? We didn’t think so.
What’s in the room at Cabana Bay?
We stayed in a standard room which contained:
- Two queen-sized beds
- Flat screen TV
- Coffee maker, small refrigerator and safe
Big enough for passports and money but not much else
- Wardrobe and drawers for storage
No bedside tables on the outsides of the beds, which is annoying when you need somewhere to put your glasses and phone
- Free wifi for up to 5 devices
You can pay for upgraded wifi but this was enough for us
- Hair dryer
- Shower, small bath and about a bazillion tiny towels
I counted 14 towels, yet there were never any bath sheets and the rest were all hand towel and flannel sized. You do get big towels down by the pool, so clearly this is a hotel policy decision from somebody who’s never tried to take a take a shower in the rooms.
The room was larger than it looked on the Cabana Bay website with plenty of room for all of us. And the resort itself is ENORMOUS with around 1800 rooms.
Other Cabana Bay amenities include:
- Regular bus to Universal Studio theme park
We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a bus which had us at the park a few minutes later.
- Early entry to the parks
You don’t get a free Fast Pass when you stay at Cabana Bay, but you do get into the park an hour early. If like us you’ve only really come for the Harry Potter rides, then this makes little difference because HP rides don’t accept fast passes anyway. And we found that other queues were rarely more than 10 minutes in any case, so we never missed not having a fast pass.
- Diner/food court
Neither amazing nor terrible, the dining area had plenty of choice (including vegetarian) and was a good, fast option when you’re in a hurry to get to the park. You can pay for a refillable cup for the duration of your stay and have access to unlimited coffee, hot chocolate and around 100 flavours of soft drinks. My children still talk of the hot chocolate on tap in awe.
- Starbucks and Universal gift store
Starbucks was busy in the mornings but had reasonably fast service, as did the well-stocked gift store. The shop was good for basic toiletries and things like swimming goggles.
- Two swimming pools
One has a flowing artificial river and the other has a children’s splash play zone and a water slide. Both pools have bars and food available.
- Video games room, gym, bowling alley
Not that we had any energy for these, although we did use the gym’s shower when the one in our room wasn’t working. Looked pretty nice with up to date equipment.
- Movies by the pool
And really good movies too. Probably our favourite thing was to crash out at the end of the day watching The Avengers or Iron Man whilst the kids had a swim and the adults investigated the cocktail menu.
- Non-stop demented music from the Fifties and Sixties
The whole place has a retro vibe, finished off by a sountrack of the most bonkers tracks of the era. Think Del Shannon’s Runaway and Big Bad John on a loop. It’s a bit much when you first arrive, but after a few days you’ll be humming along. We also enjoyed the retro adverts that played on a loop in the food court.
Whilst there were niggles about our stay – hot water went off completely for a couple of days, and whole tiny towel/lack of bedside table situation. But the basics were great – the place is clean, the staff are friendly, the vibe was fun. Considering the hotel population is the size of a small village, they do a pretty good job at keeping it all running smoothly. We liked it a lot and would definitely go back.
Have you got a place to stay in Florida you’d like to recommend? What do you think about this place?