I think if I had to pick a favorite hotel, this would be it!
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is without question the most incredibly designed hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Yep, I know that’s a bold statement, considering this is only a 3-star hotel and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some of the most incredible 5-star hotels. The thing is, I believe hotels are meant to transport you away from your everyday mundane life into something exceptional. For me the Cabana Bay Beach Resort did exactly that, it took me out of my life and slap bang into the 1950’s. From the moment I arrived, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face – I know that sounds lame and totally generic… but it’s true though!
The problem with themed hotels is that they never go full retard. They often stop somewhere in the middle with this half-hearted compromise that just makes everything a little cheesy! The Cabana Bay Beach Resort went full retard and the results are incredible!
If it’s not yet clear, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort celebrates the family vacations of yesteryear by recreating the iconic beach resorts of the 1950’s. I almost felt it had a retro-futurism about it – like you walked into an episode of the Jetsons.
As a designer, my appreciation for aesthetic details was off the charts! I was amazed at every corner and just kept pointing things out to Elzaan (who claims she had never seen me that excited)! The lobby and reception (as pictured above) are one thing, but it’s the small things that make the difference, like the retro silver payphones, the retro-themed Starbucks or the fact that rather than having a standard hotel gym they have the ‘Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio’ – complete with a life-sized gold statue of Jack himself striking a bodybuilding pose! The whole place is just filled with incredible details to make you smile.
The theme naturally carries through to the rooms. We had a very basic twin room that was brought to life with super bold retro colors and prints. It was loud, but that’s kinda what made it so awesome! My favorite thing had to be the fact that even the shampoo and soap was themed to the era with a little 50’s VO5 and a bar of Zest soap! Amazing!
We only managed to grab one meal at the in-house Bayliner Diner and although the food was nothing particularly special (given the price) the experience was pretty fun. The Bayliner Diner is a massive canteen style dining experience that aims to get you fed and back out in a hurry. It’s a little like a small food court filled with all kinds of quick and easy dining options like burger bars and pizza stations. We decided that “when in Orland” it’s best to eat like a local and therefore smashed a breakfast of pancakes with bacon and a side of, well bacon of course. Why? Because… bacon.
I think it’s pretty fair to say that I loved the Cabana Bay Beach Resort Hotel. It’s fun and just made me feel happy. I am however willing to admit that had it been located anywhere other than at Universal Studios, I may have felt differently. Theme parks are meant to make you feel like a child (unless you are a child of course in which case they’ll just make you feel awesome) and if that experience can stretch beyond the theme park and into your hotel, then I think you’re living the theme park dream!
Staying in Universal Studios definitely has its perks. The biggest being early admission to the park and the fact that you can just walk in or take a shuttle without the worry or expense of parking your vehicle. An extra hour of theme park time is worth everything when you only have 3 days or only get to visit every decade or so. It’s been about 18 years since my last visit and I think I was more excited going at 39 than I was at 21! There’s just something about these places that makes me uncontrollably excited!!
We were lucky enough to be given a 3 day, 3 park pass, complete with an Express Pass for our time and it pretty much worked out perfectly. The Express Pass is definitely the way to go as it made our wait times minimal and on most occasions, we just walked straight on to the rides. Waiting in line all day can really suck the fun out of everything, so I seriously recommend splashing out and getting that pass.
We managed to split our first day between Universals Islands of Adventure and the Universal Studios Florida, with our second day giving us the chance to go back to what we had missed out on in the first day as well as ride all our favorites again! We also managed to spend the better part of the afternoon at Universals Volcano Bay before I dragged Elzaan back to the park to ride our absolute favorites one last time! It was all a bit of a mad rush and 1 extra day would have made it perfect!
Trying to explain an experience like Universal Orland Resort seems pointless – It’s part magic unicorn and part perfect Windsor tie knot. You feel me? We all lead such serious and busy lives that taking a moment or 12 to be completely silly has a great way of regenerating your lust for life! I for one take life super seriously (Elzaan will confirm this) but the moment I walked into any of the three parks, it all just fell away and I managed to live a little… a lot!
We did and saw a lot in our whirlwind two days and although it’s difficult to capture it all, I’ll try to give out a few pointers on my absolute must do’s during your visit.
• Definitely do the Hulk Roller Coaster here – in fact, do it more than once. It’s my favorite ever roller coaster. Ever. Roooooaaaaar! (you’ll get it once you go).
• Ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. You’re going to want to limit your 4D experiences (because queasy) but you won’t want to miss this one.
• If you plan on riding Ripsaw Falls or Jurassic Park River Adventure do it at the start of the day when it’s warm, or maybe just pack a change of clothes. You will get wet.
• Take the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. DO NOT WALK!!! The Hogwarts express is one of the BEST experiences ever!
• Now that you’re in Diagon Alley, grab a Butterbeer (it’s a MUST) and definitely ride escape from Gringotts! Your express pass will come in handy here – the 2-hour wait was 10minutes for us… and most of that was just walking through the queuing experience!
• There are LOADS of 4D rides here, we really enjoyed the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem one. We pretty much skipped the rest.
• Definitely, walk through Springfield, stop in at the Kwik-E-Mart and maybe grab a Duff beer at Moe’s Tavern, but give the Simpsons ride a miss, I think.
• Once you’ve built up some courage, take on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit! It’s not as bad as it looks. Pick Kanye West. Just trust me!
• Go back to Diagon Alley, get on to platform 9 and 3/4 and take the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade, it’s a whole different ride!
This is the newest of Universals parks and an awesome way to chill a little while still having fun. There’s no particular do’s or do not’s really here, except for the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, that’s a definite do! It’s EPIC!
That’s it! I could go on forever about this but we both have other places to be. If you’ve never visited Universal Studios Orlando, do me a favor and put it on your bucket list! I’m already trying to convince Elzaan that we need to go back! : )
Okay. Travel safe and stay fancy.