Universal Orlando announces new Cabana Bay Beach Resort hotel

Posted Monday, July 9, 2012 10:53 AM | Contributed by Jeff

[Ed. note: The following is an excerpt of a press release. -J]

Universal Parks & Resorts and Loews Hotels & Resorts will build a new hotel development at Universal Orlando that will add high-quality, high-value options for families wanting an affordable on-site experience.

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort will offer two distinct experiences within the development's multiple buildings: 900 family suites, capable of sleeping six, that include kitchen areas and 900 standard guest rooms - offering both moderate- and value-priced accommodations. It will be operated by Loews Hotels & Resorts and is scheduled to open in 2014.

The hotel will be themed differently than anything else currently available at Universal Orlando. It will evoke the driving vacations so many Americans grew up enjoying with their families - spending time at sweeping motor courts just off the highway, where families relaxed and played after a long day's drive. The new hotel's hip, vintage look will be accented with bold design, dramatic, clean lines, bright, period colors and touches of neon. Inside areas including the lobby, dining areas and large, comfortable rooms will follow suit. The hotel will have two themed pool areas.

"Our new hotel will give guests an affordable, incredibly themed on-site hotel experience unlike anything else at our resort," said Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive officer, Universal Parks & Resorts. "Our new family suites and family-value pricing will give our guests on-site options they've never had before."

The hotel will be built on a 37-acre site within Universal Orlando Resort and adjacent to Universal's Islands of Adventure - just off Hollywood Way and Turkey Lake Road. Site work will begin soon. Pricing information, opening timeframes and room on-sale dates will be released over time.

The new hotel will allow families to choose between value pricing or the higher level of benefits and service that come with staying at other on-site Universal Orlando hotels - Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. It will provide early park admission, proximity to Universal's Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios and resort-wide charging privileges - but will not offer complimentary Universal Express Unlimited Access.

"The Cabana Bay Beach Resort furthers our goal of operating special and distinct properties in important markets," said Paul Whetsell, Loews Hotels & Resorts president and CEO. "This is another important step in our plan to expand the Loews system in major markets across the United States."

Read the entire press release from Universal Orlando.

Monday, July 9, 2012 11:01 AM

It was only a matter of time before this came to be, especially with the success of the Harry Potter stuff. There is certainly plenty of land there. I think the most interesting part of the story is around what they're building. This sounds like their version of Disney's Pop Century and the new Art of Animation. It should be interesting to see if they price it similarly. I think they can get away with a little more given the fantastic proximity to the parks.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 11:03 AM

I think it is great that they are expanding, but...

1. They're gonna have to be really careful about posting lots of warnings that this hotel does not offer Universal Unlimited Express features.

2. I can't decide if the idea sounds really cool and vintage-y or really tacky. Maybe it will be both. *laugh*

All in all, if they wanna start competing more with Disney and adding all these great attractions, they DO need more on site hotels. It is a great idea for the long term.

This DOES make me wonder if they plan on getting rid of the FOL benefits in the other hotels because of the sheer number of people who use it. It would make sense.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 11:17 AM

It will evoke the driving vacations so many Americans grew up enjoying with their families - spending time at sweeping motor courts just off the highway, where families relaxed and played after a long day's drive.

Not such a stretch considering it will be located just off a highway if I am not mistaken on the location. Will the themed swimming pools be in the middle of the parking lot? :)

bunky666 said:
This DOES make me wonder if they plan on getting rid of the FOL benefits in the other hotels because of the sheer number of people who use it. It would make sense.

Doing that would certainly give me a reason to look off-resort for a room and an excuse to rent a car and visit the other parks in the area.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 11:54 AM

eightdotthree said:
Will the themed swimming pools be in the middle of the parking lot? :)

Don't forget the 9-hole miniature golf course made with frayed, warped artificial turf!

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Monday, July 9, 2012 12:09 PM

Not to mention the cigarette machine and the dusty snack machine in the lobby.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 12:18 PM

Not surprising that Universal Express is not included.. hopefully they will at least give a discount on the Q-bot for hotel guests. Also, can't find any mention of whether it will be connected to the canal/boat system. That's one of my favorite things about staying on site, aside from the Express Pass.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 12:24 PM

I'm a little surprised that they still offer free Express for the existing hotels. Honestly, it has always been the first motivator to stay on-property (I've never been in the parking garage, if that tells you anything), but could I do without? The park product has become rather premium in the last two years. I'm not convinced it would dramatically alter occupancy.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 1:55 PM

ThemeDesigner said:
Also, can't find any mention of whether it will be connected to the canal/boat system. That's one of my favorite things about staying on site, aside from the Express Pass.

It looks like it won't be terrible difficult to add to the canal by connecting it to the Royal Pacific lagoon.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 2:17 PM

I'm a little surprised that they still offer free Express for the existing hotels. Honestly, it has always been the first motivator to stay on-property´╗┐

For our recent Orlando trip, we booked one "throwaway" night at the Royal Pacific. It was the cheapest way to get two days' worth of Express access for the four of us---only a little more per person than buying the once-per-attraciton version for just one day. We also checked out the (very nice) pool area for the check-in afternoon. Full waitstaff service on the pool deck? Sign me up! We also thought the boat service was a really nice feature, and the walk wasnt all that terrible if the boat line was long.

We were impressed with the resort overall, and thought it met or exceeded the quality of the "Deluxe" Disney resorts in just about every way we could see, though RPR does have the smallest rooms of the three existing resorts---about the size of a standard room at Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Lodge, minus the second sink.

But, we didn't sleep there. We've gotten far too accustomed to having a full condo to even consider squeezing the four of us into one of those rooms for one night. I'd argue that the price point is too low on the room, but the resort was not even sold out for that night, so apparently it is not.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Monday, July 9, 2012 2:18 PM
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Monday, July 9, 2012 2:41 PM

RPR has the best location of the hotels, because it's closest to RPR. I haven't stayed in the other hotels, only visited, but I tend to think RPR has the best pool of the bunch. I've (expensively) tied one on there several times.

RPR also has the most inconsistent service of any 4-diamond hotel I've stayed at. We had a lot of issues with service (cleanliness, no crib, non-responsive managers) on our last visit in January 2011, but other times I haven't even noticed the service, the way it should be. Makes me nervous about Loews as an operator, but I suppose it's worth trying one of the other properties there.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 4:33 PM

Royal Pacific is also the cheapest of the three hotels on site which I don't understand. I've visited all three and prefer it to the others. Can't wait for our HHN22 trip in September. There are some great deals that time of year and the resort service is still in full swing when compared to the winter months.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 4:53 PM

We've already lined up a 1BR at the Beach Club Villas to be within stumbling distance of Food & Wine for a no-kids trip this fall. But, if that hadn't already been booked, I'd've been sorely tempted to go back to RPR instead. With just the two of us, those rooms would be just fine.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 6:38 PM

Jeff, I've noticed that RP, PF, and Hard Rock have all had mixed reviews. It sounds like sometimes they just drop the ball...but I've noticed that with Disney as well, so...

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Monday, July 9, 2012 7:26 PM

I've only stayed at Pop Century, but five visits and never an issue. And a 4-diamond it is not.

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Monday, July 9, 2012 8:32 PM

I'm interested in the pricing. I imagine their definition of "affordable" and mine are quite different!

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Monday, July 9, 2012 10:41 PM

Jeff said:
I've only stayed at Pop Century, but five visits and never an issue. And a 4-diamond it is not.

My husband and I are huge animal lovers and went on a honeymoon to Disney. We were supposed to stay at a savannah room with concierge service and the whole 9 at Animal Kingdom. We booked the room with no problem. Then a week before our wedding, Disney "selected" us to be moved to Saratoga Springs because they were doing construction to make more time shares in the AK resort, and we were located on a floor where there would be a lot of construction noise. While they gave us money back for the decrease in cost, and they gave us free meal plans for our length of stay, it blew my mind (and royally pissed me off) that

1) They didn't know only three months in advance (when we booked the trip) that there was going to be construction to the rooms that would make a stay at Animal Kingdom unpleasant.

2) They didn't notify us until a week before the trip. We were really, really looking forward to staying at AK and having the honeymoon of our dreams.

Saratoga Springs was nice, don't get me wrong, but it almost felt like a retirement community or a country club rather than an imaginative Disney resort. When we DID go to the AK resort to eat at Jiko's (yummy yummy food and wine and LOVELY staff FTW), we were even more disappointed by what we were missing.

I can't fault Disney for their attempts to make things right, and they were very generous in compensation. We DID have a lovely trip, and our particular unit at Saratoga Springs was super close to Downtown Disney. I never read too many negative articles about Disney resorts, whereas I have seen many conflicting reports and reviews on Loews Universal resorts. I'm still much more willing to try one of their properties before trusting Disney with my not-likely-to-ever-happen-again luxury vacation again.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012 12:27 AM

I'm hearing that there will more than likely be a "transforming" announcement in the next week (maybe two) to kind of accompany this. And no, other forums are not my only source for this.

As for the hotel addition, I'm not surprised at all. For about two years now it has been more of a "when," not an "if" thing. I'm excited to see how this shakes out in the larger picture and watch this thing go up after the staging area the plot will be used for first (at least partially) gets emptied.

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