Thursday, 29 June 2017

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Orlando - A Review

We are very lucky to have stayed in many wonderful destinations, in accommodation ranging from tents to luxury hotels. One thing that we can often find to be an issue though is travelling as a family of five as most hotels will only accommodate up to four people. This has caused problems in the past in that either we cannot stay where we wanted to, or that we have had to pay for two rooms. We were therefore delighted to find a wonderful hotel in Orlando that had rooms to sleep up to six people. As soon as we had a look at the website we knew that this hotel would be perfect for us and so we arranged to stay at the fabulous Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a retro themed hotel inspired by the 1950's and 1960's and features a huge dining hall, bowling alley, arcade, two swimming pools, water slide and lazy river ride. There is also a play area and large sand pit which Riley in particular really enjoyed. If this wasn't enough for you then the hot tubs, shop, on site Starbucks, free retro bus service to the Universal parks and character visits might just grab your attention.

On arrival we were met from our taxi and a gentleman placed all our luggage onto a trolley and transferred it into the lobby. We joined what appeared to be a large queue for check in, but there were plenty of staff on reception to make the line move very quickly. When we checked in we were greeted by a lovely lady who was very friendly and explained where everything was and provided us with directions to our room. We were pleased to find that we were located quite close to the main building so it was never too far to walk to get to the dining hall or the arcade with the kids in the evening. We could also see the pool out of our front window and had a really nice view. Everything was within easy reach and we were very happy with our room location which was in the Castaway building on the top floor.

The rooms are motel style in appearance from the outside and are spread across numerous blocks which have all been named. The name of each block is featured on the top of each building which also lights up in the evening, so it is always very easy to find your way back to your room at night. As we entered our room we were really pleased with the size of it and it was very comfortable for our family of five. As we went through the door we came straight to the small kitchenette. This offered a few cupboards for storage, a microwave, a fridge, kettle and sink area. There was also a breakfast bar with seating to the right hand side. We made use of the kitchenette and purchased some drinks, snacks and cereals from a local store to save us a bit of money on food to eat throughout the day.

The lounge area featured a double sofa bed, storage drawers and a large television which was really handy for the kids to watch cartoons on in the morning whilst Mr F and I would get ready. The bedroom area featured more storage and two large double beds. There was also a walk in wardrobe at the rear of the room which also had a safe which was useful to keep our passports and money in whilst we were out during the day. The bathroom area is cleverly designed and is split into the three sections consisting of a separate toilet, a sink and mirror area, then a further sink and mirror area with bath and shower. This meant that more than one person at a time could get ready in the morning meaning less time spent in the room and more time enjoying the pool and theme parks.

The retro theme continues throughout the rooms and our room was bright and vibrant with fabulous soft furnishing and interiors. The large window at the front of the room meant that we could look out over the pool and also enjoy the sunset over the hotel in the evening. The only addition we would have loved for this room to have, would be a balcony, but as I mentioned previously we spent more time out of our room than in it, so this wasn't a major issue.

Just in front of our building was a brilliant large sand play area which immediately caught Riley's attention. There was a large storage tub that was full to the brim of buckets, spades and shapes for children to help themselves to and play with. Riley spent many hours playing here and really enjoyed pretending he was digging for treasure. We were also impressed with the large quantity of sun loungers available. We didn't struggle to find seating on any occasion and felt that the pool area was set out really well.

In the front of the rooms were wide walkways with fencing so it was nice to be able to take in the view wherever you were in the building. It also meant that if there was some entertainment on by the pool, then you could always notice it or hear it, which was great for us as it meant that we didn't miss anything.

One of our favourite parts of Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort was the pool. This was fantastic for children and featured a large slide as well as a splash area for toddlers. The lifeguards were fantastic and constantly looking around and paying attention to everyone in the pool which made us feel really reassured and safe. There was an ample supply of life jackets available for children which you could borrow free of charge and although Emma and Ben can both swim they felt more comfortable in the life jackets as these gave them more buoyancy and made them feel very safe. We managed to get a lounger by the pool every day regardless of what time we went to the pool. Sometimes this was in the morning and on other occasions it was in the late afternoon to cool off after a busy day at the theme parks.

There was also another pool by the adjacent building where you could also find a lazy river ride. You needed to purchase your tubes to go on this but they were really reasonably priced and you could use them in the other pools too. There was a bar area where we could purchase drinks throughout the day which also had a refill machine for customers who had purchased a refill cup. We found these to be great value and bought one for each of the children to use during our stay. This saved us a small fortune on drinks.

There were numerous other bar areas located throughout the resort and the bar in the lobby was a nice cool place to relax in the evening whilst enjoying a cocktail. We enjoyed just walking around the resort in the evening and would always spot something new. Outside the main entrance towards the food court there is a lovely display of retro cars outside which you can have a look around. Each one also features a written piece of information about the car in the window so that you can learn a little more about them too.

The food court offered a wide range of dining choices. We ate here on numerous occasions for breakfast, lunch and dinner and divided our meal times between here and the restaurants on CityWalk and International Drive. We made use of the free shuttle service in the evening to get to CityWalk or we would get a taxi to International Drive which would cost around $12 each way.

The kids really enjoyed eating their breakfast in the food hall and would enjoy a bagel, fruit and some milk most mornings. They also offered cooked options so that there was plenty of choice for everyone. I found all the meals that we ate on site to be good sized portions that offered reasonable value for money. The dining area was always kept very clean and there was always someone around making sure that tables were clear and tidy. The seating was very comfortable and it was generally just a nice place to enjoy a casual family meal together. The resort also offers an evening shuttle between the other hotel restaurants so you can visit plenty of different restaurants for variation. These run every half an hour from the hotel lobby between 6pm & 10pm.

I enjoyed the on site Starbucks as it was great to have somewhere close by to grab a nice coffee in the morning. This was located just before you reached the food hall and by the stairs that took you up to the arcade and Galaxy Bowl area. My children loved the arcade area and it had a great facility where you could load your money onto a card which was then used to operate the games. This was a great idea as it meant the kids didn't get carried away in spending their money. It also meant that when they won points these were added to the card instead of having to walk around with thousands of paper tickets like you do in many UK arcades. The night before we left the kids then cashed in all their points in the arcade shop and came away with quite a few little prizes. The Galaxy Bowl area also looked great fun. This offered family bowling but also a place to enjoy a nice sit down meal. Unfortunately we didn't have the chance to try this during our stay, but if we return then we will definitely give it a try.

Another aspect of the resort that we really enjoyed was the entertainment. This wasn't as constant as it is in other resorts and instead was actually quite subtle. In the evening a projector screen would be set up and you could enjoy an outdoor poolside movie. The films would change each evening and it was a lovely idea to be able to enjoy a family film together in the evening. On a couple of days during our stay there was also a DJ set up by the pool who would organise some fun games with prizes for the kids to enjoy. In addition to this there were regular character visits from some of Universal's most popular characters and Emma and Ben were really excited to have their picture taken with Homer Simpson.

We've found that the hotels website offers some great rates on stays at the hotel and excellent value by booking direct with rates in the summer school holiday period starting at only $159.96 per night + tax for a family of four in a Poolside room. This is a great price considering all the facilities that are available and it's close proximity to the Universal Theme Parks.

One thing to consider on top of this however is the price of parking. We arranged transfers as opposed to hiring a car, but if you bring a car then there is an additional car parking charge of $12 per night, so you will need to factor this into the cost of your stay.

Check in is from 4pm and check out is 11am. You can check out via the television to save queuing in reception which we found really useful and easy to do.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic stay at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort and definitely hope to return next year.

If you would like further information on Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort then you can visit their website here for the most up to date information and rates: Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Disclaimer: Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

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