Review: Universal Studios' Cabana Bay Resort

One wing of the resort.

This was my very first true "adult" vacation - and I went to Disney World and Universal Studios. Ok, it was "adult" enough. Adult in the fact that I paid for it and I planned it. My brother, who has dual duty as a best friend, and I spent seven days and six nights at the resort and it was incredible. 

When I was shopping for this vacation I scoured the internet for the best deals on air fare, activities, theme parks, rental cars, and lodging. There was a certain environment I wanted to be in, but also a specific budget I had to adhere to. In essence, I naturally wanted the most bang for my buck!

My first assumption was that we wouldn't be able to afford a theme park's resort and in Disney's case, I was right. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort for around $600 for the week for two people! I was sold and booked us pronto!

Our flight was a late one and we had a hot air balloon ride scheduled for before dawn the next morning so I reserved us a cheap motel for the first night. We'd only be in it a few hours anyway. Only, after we woke up, checked out, and arrived at the balloon's meet-up spot we were informed the weather was too windy up "there" and so the trip was cancelled. It was six in the morning and we couldn't go back to our motel. That's how we ended up at our resort, TEN hours early for our check-in. 

On a whim we went to the counter and explained our situation and how we felt a little displaced. The concierge was gracious, laughed with us, offered empathy (amazing for so early in the morning or so late in her shift) and pulled a room up for us to be ready in an hour. Incredible! The hotel was nearly booked full, too, since a convention was happening nearby. We spent the hour walking around the resort and getting our bearings. It was beautiful, spunky, and so fresh! You could tell this place was nearly brand new.

The Lobby


Large monitors showed vintage cartoons, advertisements, and video clips from the era.
Mural at the end of the cafeteria.
The main restaurant was cafeteria styled with the bright orange trays and the open seating. Our eyes were as big as saucers trying to take everything in. The atmosphere struck life into our exhausted, four hours of sleep fueled bodies. During our trip we ate in the cafeteria for breakfast twice. The food was decent, but priced like a resort. We found it was more cost effective to go to the grocery store down the road and buy snacks for the parks and hotel room. We ate lunch at the park and typically splurged on dinner at a nearby restaurant. 

Starbucks in the resort's lobby.
I didn't know it when I booked it, so it was quite the happy surprise when we walked down the main hallway of the lobby to find this Godsend - Starbucks! I recommend arriving at about 6:30AM to beat the rush of people who are stumbling in before heading off to the parks. It's a very nice, clean, consistent Starbucks, too. I'll let you discover the cool murals they have in it.

The Room

Our two queen bed room
The room was super clean and the colors spot-on-perfect. Although we didn't use the desk or TV, I'm sure they were nice. The dresser was large and sufficient space for us both to utilize as well as the closet. Our view overlooked the parking lot, but we didn't care. We weren't there for the view and didn't plan on spending much time in the room anyway. 

The night stand separating the beds hosted plugs ins (those black rectangles you see over the clock and phone) which was perfect for our cell phones and my backup battery. I'm a stickler for pillows and usually, if I can, will bring my own. In this case, I didn't, and it wasn't an issue. The pillows are the typical hotel pillows, but if you double up on them you'll be fine. Depending on your sleeping needs, the bed was comfortable, the blankets warm enough for an air conditioned room on a February night.

The water pressure in the shower was fine and we appreciated that the sink was outside of the bathroom so two people could get ready at the same time. The vintage feel extended into the soap and shampoo brands and other little touches throughout the room.

The Exterior


It was really easy to find the resort - in the dark, on four hours of sleep - but we were guided by the wonderful wizard Siri. It was still dark when we arrived, but navigating the parking lot and check-in parking was a cinch. Yes, you will have to pay for parking, but don't freak out. We stayed a week and our total parking bill was about $60. It was worth it to have a car and the parking was never full so we typically got "princess parking" whenever we returned from our daily excursions.

Vintage cars line the loading zone outside the lobby. Beautiful a classic.

There is a shuttle that will take you from the resort to Universal Studios and with our reservation we were allowed early admittance to Adventure Island which comes in handy if you want to hit up the popular Harry Potter sites in Hogsmeade. The shuttles arrive about every 15 minutes and the drivers are courteous and usually have a smile on their face. Late in the evening, when you are exhausted and don't really want to talk to anyone anymore, they are nice and quiet.

The bus to Universal Studios maintained the theme of the resort which made it easy to spot when you left the park. That last bit is important because you'll never wonder "I hope I'm on the right bus" unless you are suuuuper unobservant or distracted. 

Pool with real sand for your relaxing pleasure.
We only ventured to one of the pools on the resort compound. There is a water slide somewhere, but we didn't end up walking that way. I played in the lazy river for a bit and splashed in the main pool for  the sake of doing so. It was in the low twenties when I left Wyoming so I felt a certain obligation to splash around outside in a pool for a bit. You can hear the resort's music while you're underwater which is pretty cool. It was February so the weather and pools teetered on being too cold to enjoy, but warm enough to risk it. The hot tub was a sure fire winner. 

Official Review


If you look at reviews on Cabana Bay's Facebook page you'll see some disgruntled people. Their reasons seem valid, but it certainly wasn't a shared experience. Perhaps their expectations were too high, perhaps mine are too low. OR perhaps I was so high on the experience of being there that I didn't care about any minor flaws that might have trickled our way. Even the cons are nothing of a surprise and what's to be expected (for the most part) from a resort.
It was an absolute blast. We would definitely stay here again! 

Pros:
  • Clean Rooms
  • Kind, informative staff
  • Warm, large pools that weren't overcrowded
  • Lots of room in the hot tub, not a lot of kids
  • Starbucks in the lobby
  • Gift shop had band aids and other first aid/family oriented necessities
  • A comparatively affordable resort
  • Definitely family oriented
  • There is a ton of stuff to do like bowling
Cons:
  • The band aids were about $7.00 for a normal sized box
  • Cafeteria food was eh. So-so at best; not worth spending the money on
  • The price went up online while I was in the middle of booking my reservation due to a sudden influx of reservations from a convention
  • Check-in is 4:00PM
  • No spa on site.