Perhaps you experienced the “motor hotel” travel craze of America’s exploding car culture firsthand in the 1950s and ʼ60s. Or perhaps you’ve been seduced by the style and sophistication of AMC’s Mad Men. Either way, you’re likely to love Universal Orlando Resort’s newest on-site hotel: Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Classic cars and kitsch are the one-two punch that greets you at the Cabana Bay door. — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Its towering neon sign could beckon passing motorists off an interstate as a siren would a sailor. From the moment you hit the classic car-line bus circle, you’ll step back to a time when families would pile into the station wagon and hit the road for seaside towns like Wildwood, New Jersey
Much in the way automobiles began to afford everyday families with the ability to travel and vacation back then, this moderately priced property will make an on-site Universal vacation affordable to a whole new demographic.
The dive tower water slide is the centerpiece of the Cabana Courtyard's expansive zero-entry pool. — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
“It was clearly an underserved market,” notes Russ Dagon, vice president and executive project director at Universal Creative. “When we designed the first three hotels, the idea was five-star, four-star and three-star properties. We intended to hit a wider range and we didn’t. The intent here was to hit the moderate market. And from a quality standpoint, the finishes and what you see here doesn’t speak down to that market in any way, shape or form. It’s clearly holding true to our design aesthetic.”
That it does.
Upon completion, 900 family suites - each sleeping up to six - will be ready for vacationers. — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Family suites are stylish, vibrant and kitschy; they sleep up to six. Artfully designed partitions afford privacy, two flat-screen TVs mean families can watch cartoons and scope the weather situation simultaneously and bathrooms, with evenly spaced prep areas, mean three people can get ready at once.
Rates for suites start at $174 per night but can run as low as $134, depending on length of stay. Standard rooms (available this summer) run from $119. Stay longer, and rates can dip as low as $93.
The Cabana Courtyard features a massive, zero-entry pool, upwards of 11,000 square feet, with a water slide at its core.
“The design was based on these classic platform diving boards from the ʼ50s and ʼ60s,” says Dagon.
Clearly, this wasn’t something that could fly today, but the team found a way to incorporate the look into something not merely stylish, but functional.
“There are two levels of waterfall coming off that as well as jets that will hit you as you’re coming down the slide. You will be getting wet!”
Seventeen poolside cabanas interestingly combine features reminiscent of both ʼ60s roadside pavilions and luxurious tropical resorts (slanted mod rooftops meld with rich, wood louvers for a unique look).
The Swizzle Lounge lobby bar: sidle up for a sidecar. — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Guests enter the soaring lobby, checking in to tunes from 1958 to 1962 while checking out the lobby’s swank Swizzle Lounge. Sure, you can get your Don-and-Megan-Draper on here before a night out at CityWalk, but they make kiddie cocktails, as well.
Out in the Cabana Courtyard, the Atomic Tonic – note its '50s-rad rocket with monkey appropriately onboard for the ride - will be serving drinks to beat the heat, while a family-friendly fire pit will warm cool nights (S’mores kits will be available for purchase, as well.).
Inside, the 10-lane Galaxy Bowl awaits, as does the Jack LaLanne Fitness Studio. Eats come by way of Bayliner Diner, a large, food-court style venue featuring salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta and a host of grab-and-go items.
When the final phase opens in June, Cabana Bay will feature 1,800 rooms - half suites, half standard. An additional 8,000-square-foot zero-entry pool – along with a bar and grill and Universal Orlando’s first-ever hotel-ensconced lazy river – will complete Cabana Bay’s retro-postcard picture.