Stepping through the lobby of Universal’s new Cabana Bay Beach Resort really is like stepping into a time machine. Universal Creative and Loews Hotels have knocked it out of the park with this gorgeous hotel. It’s as if they preserved this hotel under a glass dome since the early 1960s and just unsealed it on March 31.
Even the Universal logo that hangs above the gift shop is the same one the company would use in front of films back in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
The displays and the merchandise in the shop feel like they are right out of… well… they feel like they are right out of the ’50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios down the street.
They even have their own brand of retro sweets for sale, such as rock candy, wax bottles and candy buttons. All of which became popular with the baby boomer generation and can now be rediscovered by a totally new one.
At their Starbucks Coffee Lounge, located just off the main lobby, is filled with great touches to classic 1960s architecture and style.
The Starbucks seating area that features murals of mermaids from Weeki Wachee Springs right down the road. Again, not only a nod to the time period of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, but it also is a top of the hat to Starbucks’ mascot, the Green Siren.
Jack Lalane was actually considered to be the pioneer of health clubs. He opened the first one in 1936 in Oakland, California and it became a smashing success. In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Jack was the face of fitness on television all the way up until his death in 2011. Jack made multiple appearances on talk shows like Johnny Carson, had his own workout programs and later in life, became known as the guy with his own brand of juicers.
The walls of the Jack Lalane gym at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort are filled with his memorabilia from over the years, personally donated by Jack’s widow, Elaine “LaLa” Lalane, who also served as a consultant for the design of the gym.
The great thing about exercise routines is that they are timeless. Regardless of the latest diet fads or the latest equipment (which the gym is filled with state-of-the-art treadmills, weights and more), Jack’s routines still hold up playing on a flat screen television made to look like one straight out of the ’50s.
Even the rooms are outfitted with brand new flat screens, however that little added touch of wood paneling for the framing brings you back to that time period of the baby boomers again.
Toiletries in the guest rooms are stocked with VO5 shampoo and conditioner. Even the soap dish holds “You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zest fully clean” facial bars.
Even the bedside alarm clock isn’t a iPod dock like many modern hotels are using. This baby is anything but digital.
Despite the pool being equipped with a dive tower, it’s not used as such for practical reasons. However, considering that this is only half of Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s pool complex (the rest will open in June of 2014), it’s quite impressive.
Surrounding the pool are great breakaway areas, from bars to Flamingo Park, which are equipped with real grass or AstroTurf that you can lie out in if the pool is too noisy for you.
Just beyond the pool are these great covered picnic tables with built-in checkers boards if you are looking to escape the sun and just kick back for a little while.
There is also a great recreation area equipped with ping pong tables, volleyball and pool tables. Universal Orlando is pushing hard to become a destination resort like Walt Disney World. Considering they now have two theme parks, CityWalk and hotels like the Cabana Bay Beach Resort with all these amenities, they want people to stay and never have a reason to leave.
The family suites are not quite as spacious as those at Disney’s Art of Animation. However, they are much cheaper. For example, a weekend rack rate here in a family suite this July will run you $231.50.
Compare that to Art of Animation during the same weekend, which will set you back $380.14. Granted, the rooms at Art of Animation are bigger. However, they both can accommodate up to six guests. Considering the amenities at Universal Orlando are different, it’s not an apples to apples comparison and never will be.
Can you now spend a week at Universal Orlando and still feel like you have activities you have yet to uncover like you can at Walt Disney World? Most likely not. However, considering there is enough to fill three or four days with Diagon Alley opening this summer at Universal Studios Florida, there will be people who can visit Universal Orlando and never set foot on Disney property. It can and will happen. The question is, will it make a dent to Walt Disney World’s piece of the Orlando tourist pie? Time will tell. Your thoughts?