Vacation dreams are a big deal, and it seems like every family member has their own wish list. Invariably, half the family longs for lazy stretch outs under poolside palm trees while the rest of the crew is ready for non-stop adventure.
Thanks to the folks at Universal Orlando hosting me at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort — and providing tickets to their theme parks – I’m able to tell you why I honestly think it’s the place where you can actually have it all.
The first time I stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort was with my family in February. We normally stay at a friend’s condo but they were in town, too. A bit of research on TripAdvisor and I was sold on Cabana Bay. It had amazing reviews and top ratings for value. Plus, when I went on the hotel’s website, the amenities looked great.
The second time I stayed at Cabana Bay was in May as part of a week-long blogging retreat sponsored in part by Universal Orlando. This time there were no kids, just 15 blogging colleagues meeting up, talking business and learning from each other.
I absolutely loved staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort both times.
The hotel is co-owned and operated by Loews Hotels & Resorts in a joint venture with NBC Universal.
(Other on-site resort hotel include Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. In addition, Universal’s Aventura Hotel – a modern and sleek 16-story glass tower – will open in Summer 2018.)
First of all, as soon as you walk into Cabana Bay, you know it’s going to be a good week. With the sunny blue Florida sky as a backdrop, the fun retro style and vibrant colors – think a Frankie and Annette beach movie – have the curious effect of relaxing and energizing you at the same time.
Rooms are wonderfully decorated, decently sized, and very clean. The 1950s-60s vibe is carried through right down to small details such as glassware in the bar and VO5 shampoo in the rooms!
My choice during both stays has been the family suite. It sleeps up to six people and includes two queen size beds, a fullsize pull-out sofa, a kitchenette area, a sliding partition for privacy and two flat-screen TVs.
The resort also has its own 10-lane bowling alley—decorated in that vintage modern style—and a game room that my guys really liked.
Then we get to some of my favorite features.
The Bayliner Diner: It’s set up food court style with five stations as well as grab and go options — so it offers TONS of hot and cold meal choices as well as snacks. It’s perfect if you have a picky eater in your group.
My personal favs were the self-serve granola and fruit bar for breakfast (load up on yogurt, granola and fresh fruit/berries) as well as the salad bar at lunch where even my biggest, healthiest, yummiest salad still came in under $10 and without guilt.
Proximity to Parks: Whether you take the lovely, scenic walking path through the gardens or hop on one of the frequent shuttle buses (we NEVER had to wait), you are just minutes away from Universal Studios or Island of Adventure and CityWalk.
The shuttle takes all of five minutes, walking with kids takes about 15-20. But…. best of all, there’s a dedicated entrance from Cabana Bay to Universal’s newest theme park, Volcano Bay (stay tuned for another blog post about this amazing water park).
Park Admission Perks: Staying at Cabana Bay qualifies you for early park admission (valid theme park admission is also required). This is especially great if you want to beat the crowds in the Harry Potter areas: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. They quickly get crowded. And since certain Harry Potter rides are not eligible for Express Pass, you can take them in without any long waits.
The Pools: Both zero entry pools (yes, there is more than one) are large and very clean. One pool even has a small sandy area, while the other has a water slide. There’s also a lazy river, which was my favorite. You can purchase a new tube onsite for a few dollars and it’s yours for your stay.
S’mores: The grounds are beautiful, day or night. I love that you can roast s’mores at the built-in firepits. It’s a relaxing way to end the night as you talk about the day’s adventures. Bayliner sells s’mores kits – including roasting sticks – so you don’t even need to pack supplies.
Split Bathrooms: I loved that the hotel room bathrooms are “split” in Cabana Bay. What I mean is that they are compartmentalized so that at least three people can be getting ready at once. The sink and vanity is in the middle, with a water closet on one side and a shower room on the other.
When I was on the retreat I was completely stressed out about sharing a bathroom with people I didn’t really know. (My family, who cares? LOL) We were so fortunate to have a sponsorship with Squatty Potty and they totally outfitted us with travel-size Squatty Potties as well as their Unicorn Gold spray.
Its non-toxic formula includes real gold nanoparticles combined with essential oils to trap odors below the surface of the toilet water. All I know is that it worked perfectly. Loved it. You can get it here through my affiliate link. Given that I am the only female in our house, I tucked a bottle into my suitcase and Mike and Sam now have to use it. Haha
BONUS POINTS: Also Cabana Bay gets bonus points because there’s a Starbucks onsite. This mama needs her caffeine. Daily.
If you want to head to Orlando attractions that are outside of Universal, you have a few options including arranging a shuttle, getting a rental car or taking a taxi/Uber.
Thanks to a sponsorship from the folks at Kia, during our retreat, I was able to zip around Orlando in a gorgeous Kia Sorento. It was so roomy and PERFECT. Mike will tell you any day how I am not a car person. But I was so impressed I Facetimed him to show him how snazzy this SUV was. When you turned off the car, it actually chimed and eased the seat back so you could easily get out of the car. Ha! Like a little car butler. 😊
For getting to other attractions, my favorite parts were the two sun roofs (it is sunny Florida after all), the amazing GPS system that never got us lost and the back-up camera. Navigating parking lots – and hordes of people — in a SUV can be tricky. But not with this puppy. The back-up camera had an overhead view that meant we could get into and out of spaces quick and easy.
Where we didn’t need the car was for Universal-based activities – such as visiting Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay theme parks or eating and shopping at CityWalk.
I’m certainly not the only one shouting the virtues of Cabana Bay to anyone who listens. The hotel opened in March 2014, and they’re already adding another 400 guest rooms this year in the form of two towers.
So no matter if you’re looking for palm trees, adventure, or a great spot for a business get-together, I highly recommend bright, clean, and family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
To learn more or to make a reservation, call 1-888-273-1311 or visit www.universalorlando.com.