Today Universal Orlando officially opens the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort, welcoming its first guests. Though the entire hotel won’t be open until June 16, the first phase adds value and moderate level rooms in this fourth on-site hotel, themed to retro beach resorts of the 1950s and ’60s.
Take a tour through all of the new hotel’s features and amenities in the videos below, followed by a closer look through photos.
Video: Cabana Bay Beach Resort tour at Universal Orlando – Pool, Lobby, Bowling, Food & more
Video: Cabana Bay Beach Resort family suite room tour at Universal Orlando
The hotel’s vintage look is obvious from the outside and in, beginning with classic cars parked outside the lobby courtyard, circling the hotel’s tall marquee.
Inside the lobby, vibrant colors surround a tower of greenery reaching upward to a skylight. And on this first day, Universal’s popular “Despicable Me” characters Gru and some Minions greeted guests, including helping to celebrate Cabana Bay’s very first family check-in.
Video: Minions welcome first Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests at Universal Orlando
Opposite the lobby desk is the Swizzle Lounge, one of many bars on property serving up quite a few signature drinks. Throughout the entry area, period appropriate music is playing – a mix of doo-wop, rock n roll, along with some mod and jazz tunes.
The guest rooms of this first wing of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort are heavy on the vintage theme, with pastel shades of orange, aqua, and brown mixed with comfortable furniture and modern amenities including flat screen TVs. These family suites sleep up to six people and include a fold-out foam bed, kitchenette, sliding partition for privacy, two TVs and a bathroom with preparation spaces for three people at once.
Even the soaps are retro themed, featuring vintage style labels for Zest and VO5.
Once checked in, guests will find Cabana Courtyard at the center of this first phase, featuring a dive tower water slide and 10,000 square foot zero-entry pool. The slide is simple but fun for all ages, dousing riders at the bottom by a giant waterfall cascading off of the dive tower. (No actual diving is allowed from way up there!)
The pool is surrounded by ample seating in the sun, some of which is set atop sandy “beaches,” giving a convincing feeling of being near the ocean while actually sitting in the middle of busy Universal Orlando roads.
Keeping with the hotel’s name, private cabanas are available to rent around the pool.
The outside world is mostly hidden while walking through the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, though some nearby attraction peaks are visible in the distance, such as Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall and Hogwarts castle.
A few retro pinup-style girl characters walk around and mingle, as if they just stepped out of a time machine and were transported from the 60s to today’s era.
Other pool areas include an activity area with bean bag toss, ping pong, and pool tables, another bar, and a fire pit.
During the day, a poolside DJ alternates with a live band. The DJ plays an odd mix of period appropriate music from the ’60s and today’s thumping top 40 hits, though it’s likely the music of today will fade away from this hotel soon. The band plays the right mix of songs, beginning their first opening day performance with Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock.”
Video: Cabana Bay Beach Resort band plays “Jailhouse Rock”
This whole area is accessible only via room key for resort guests and closes promptly at 10pm, keeping the courtyard quiet for those who want to sleep early. But it also leaves little to do for those who want to stay up late, with employees encouraging those guests to visit nearby Universal CityWalk – about a 10-15 minute walk away.
Each of Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s buildings is named after classic hotels that inspired this one. The feeling of being at a brand new, yet decades-old beachside New Jersey hotel is spot on, while keeping modern amenities present.
The rest of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort complex includes several more attractions, the most enjoyable of which is its 10-lane Galaxy Bowl bowling alley. Though rather pricey at $15 per person plus the cost of shoe rental, the vintage feel of the hotel continues through Galaxy Bowl, keeping the feeling of stepping back in time present. It’s successful in elevating the overall experience of staying at the resort.
The hotel’s video game arcade is surprisingly not filled with vintage machines, instead only the most modern high-definition games.
Those looking for more physical activity can enjoy the new Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio, the first to have LaLanne’s name on it. There’s even a statue of him inside, along with plenty of memorabilia and video clips.
The food of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is an odd mix of cuisines, found at the hotel’s Bayliner Diner – a food court that includes a salad bar, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, pasta and grab-and-go items. The signature dishes inspired by favorites of the past are the tuna casserole and Swedish meatballs. The Brazilian chimichurri beef is also among the best.
Breakfast is also divided into stations in the same food court, serving made-to-order omelets, pancakes, waffles, french toast, and other standards.
Other food options will arrive in the form of local food trucks parking at the hotel’s Flamingo Park. On the first day, the Yum Yum Cupcake truck was there. On the second day, it was Tamale Co. Other trucks will follow in the future.
One of the most confusing aspects of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is how they handle their soft drinks. Guests can purchase standard soda cups at roughly $3 each, able to fill and refill their drinks at regular soda fountains. But those who want to use the Coke Freestyle machines with more than 100 flavors need to purchase the souvenir cup. For one day, it’s only a couple dollars more, allowing refills every 5 minutes until midnight. Guests can also buy additional days or a length-of-stay cup. It’s all driven by RFID chips embedded into the cups, preventing guests from unlimitedly refilling their drinks.
Naturally, there’s also a gift shop selling plenty of hotel-branded items, Jack LaLanne merchandise, as well as the usual assortment of Universal Orlando T-shirts, mugs, plushes, and more.
After dark, the whole hotel beautifully twinkles with neon lights and soft orange glows.
Overall, Cabana Bay Beach Resort perfectly evokes the feeling of decades past, mixed with all the comforts of today. From the music to the colors to the cars to the characters to the furnishings and decor, Universal Orlando’s new hotel already works on every level its designers set out to create – and it’s not even complete yet.
Following phase one, this summer will see the full grand opening of Cabana Bay Beach Resort on June 16, which will add a second 8,000-square-foot zero entry pool, Universal Orlando’s first lazy river at an on-site hotel, The Hideaway Bar & Grill, as well as family suites and value-priced standard guest rooms. (Under construction, seen below.)
When complete, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort will feature a total of 1,800 rooms – 900 family suites and 900 standard guest rooms.
Though Cabana Bay does not offer free Express access to rides at Universal Orlando’s theme parks like their other three (more expensive) hotels, guests do receive Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the theme park opens.
Rates for the family suites begin at $174 per-night, and can run as low as $134 per-night depending on the length of stay. Rates for the standard guest rooms – which will be available this summer – begin at $119 per night, and can run as low as $93 per-night depending on the length of stay.
Parking is a bit pricey, $10 per car, per night for resort guests and $20 for visitors between 30 minutes and 24 hours. Those staying less than 30 minutes can pay $5 to park.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is co-owned and managed by Loews Hotels & Resorts.
More photos from the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando: