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Don't expect to find a lot of moderation when you visit the
Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal Orlando's first-ever moderate resort.
Photo by Jim Hill
The folks at Universal really went all out to make their
newest on-site hotel a celebration of the family vacation circa 1958 - 1962. That
time when Mom, Dad & the kids would all climbed in the station wagon and
then drive on down to the shore. Where the family would then spent a week
swimming & sun-bathing while they stayed at this fun-yet-funky beachfront
motel or hotel. So everywhere you look in & around Cabana
Bay, both the big picture ...
Photo by Jim Hill
... and the little details combine to sell you on the idea
that this particular resort is set in that era.
And as a boomer who was actually born during that particular
pop culture era, I applaud the lengths to which Universal went to reinforce
this design concept. Take -- for example -- these signs telling you where the
hotel's cell phone charging stations & ATM are located.
Or -- better yet -- this sign above the entrance of the
Universal Gift Shop ...
Photo by Jim Hill
... which replicas the typeface for the Universal (then
Universal International) logo which was used back during this specific era in
the company's history.
I mean, as a baby boomer, it's really hard not to smile when
-- as you pull back the shower curtain in your hotel room -- you then discover
that your complimentary soap & shampoo is a bar of Zest and bottles of V05 shampoo
Everywhere you look, there's some sort of clever wink or nod to the late 1950s
/ early 1960s. Take -- for example -- that stylized rocket ship which hangs
over Atomic Tonic, Cabana Bay's
If you'll look closely, you'll see that this rocket is being piloted by an ape.
Ah, but that's not just any ape. The graphic on the side of this rocket is
actually a tribute to Ham the Astrochimp. Who was hurled into orbit from Cape
Canaveral in January of 1961 in kind of a test run / precursor to
Alan Shephard's flight aboard Freedom 7 in May of that same year.
Let's hear it for Ham, the
first hominidae launched into outer space.
That's what's really great about Cabana
Bay. That across-the-resort
commitment to celebrating the late 1950s / early 1960s. Which is why this new
Universal Orlando hotel can't just have any old fitness center. It has to have
a Jack LaLanne Physical Studio ...
Photo by Nancy Stadler
Again showing their dogged pursuit of authenticity at this
Universal Orlando property, they actually reached to Jack's widow -- Elaine
"LaLa" LaLane -- and had her consult on the design & the color
scheme of this fitness center. So that it then resembled where Jack worked out
I really appreciate that Universal continually went the
extra mile when it came to Cabana Bay
... And speaking of the extra mile, it's worth noting that -- during the
development phase of this moderate resort -- Universal Orlando actually sent
its people out into the field to visit classic beach resort towns like
Wildwood, New Jersey ...
... so that they could then use the color palette &
design choices that were made back in the late 1950s / early 1960s during the
construction phase of these beachfront motels as the inspiration for what
Universal was trying to do with Cabana Bay.
Exterior of the Jolly
in Wildwood, NJ. Photo by Jim Hill
And if you know your Wildwood history, it's easy to see -- as you walk around
Universal Orlando's newest resort -- the various tributes to that Jersey Shore
town that have been folded into Cabana Beach. Take -- for example -- the
Caribbean Motel's famous curved walkway.
Mind you, at Universal Orlando's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, that walkway now
leads up this hotel's dive tower-themed water slide ...
... not to mentioning provided a pleasing frame for this
pool's waterplay area.
And as fun as Cabana
Bay to wander around during the day
... you really have to come back here at night. When all of the neon & area
lightning comes on and then makes the place look downright swanky.
That's why -- last night as Nancy, Angela and I were wandering around this
place -- it was so hard to decide what to do. Should we grab a drink at the
Or maybe go upstairs and bowl a few frames at Galaxy Bowl?
I have to admit that I was pushing to drop by the Bayliner Diner ...
... if only so I could then sample some of the authentic
1960s comfort food that Universal has recreated & is now serving there.
Like swedish meatballs.
But you know what I like best about Cabana
Bay? It wasn't this hotel's snazzy
bedroom decor ...
... or the fact that the everything right down to the graphics that Universal
Orlando used on the tri-fold menus at the Galaxy Bowl gets the period just
It wasn't the classic cars that were parked out in front of this hotel's lobby
area & food court.
Or the fact that the 10 shuttles which service this resort are all painted to
look like woodies. (And if you can catch a glimpse of these buses from this
resort's upper floors, please note that there are -- of course -- giant surfboards
painted on the tops of these vehicles.)
It's the fact that this hotel even exists at all. At a time when so many of the
classic 1960s era motels in & around Wildwood like the Royal Hawaiian ...
... the Singapore ...
... and the Blue Marlin ...
... are being replaced by generic condos ...
... it's just so nice to see Universal Orlando spending all
of this time & effort & money to recreate that era. Which is why I
can't wait 'til this Summer. Which is when Phase Two of Cabana Bay -- with its
Continental & Americana wings (not to mention this hotel's highly
anticipated lazy river) opens. I just can't wait to see what pieces of late
1950s / early 1960s pop culture that part of this complex will pay tribute to.
Oh, jeese. Look at the time ...
Sorry to cut today's story short. But I've got to get downstairs ASAP ...
... to meet a friend for coffee at Cabana
Bay's onsite Starbucks.
I'm supposed to meet this guy in front of one of those large
photo murals that take their inspiration directly from the Weeki Wachee mermaids
... which -- again -- is just the sort of attraction that a family would have
visited when they drove down to Florida
in the late 1950s / early 1960s.
So what do you folks think of the photos that I've shared today? Does
Universal's new Cabana Bay Beach Resort look like the sort of place that you'd
like to experience the next time you're in Central Florida.
Why not join me in the conversation pit ...
... and share your thoughts about the images that I've
included as part of this article.
It is OFFICIAL.....Universal Creative is now Imagineering in its Hey Day!
And I think it boils down to what you have always said....Universal Creative is not too top heavy and it seems they are just building places that are just downright interesting.
Just by reading this article and seeing the pictures..makes me want to go bowling and see what else is on the menu.
This aesthetic gave me many bad memories. It is more form over function. The seats are horribly uncomfortable. They seem to be designed for wide butts that pinch your thighs, which cuts off circulaton. They are designed to look good in the environment they are designed for, but are actually quite gross. Your home should not look like an airport lounge. The heavy use of vinyl, plastic, and metals gave an artificial look. I hated the formica table and countertops for years. I hated the family station wagon with bench seats with vinyl coverings especially with no air conditioning. The back window is often open to allow for ventilation, but it usually just gave us the exhaust smell. This was before the carbon monoxide warnings of today.
When traveling to our summer jaunts to Disneyand in Southern California, we stayed in many local motels. They are horrible and quite the budget hotel that the look implies. The walls are paper thin. Usually no air conditioning. Ugly decor. Lots of plastic, vinyl, and formica. Tasteless food. Bad service. It wasn't snazzy. Cabana Bay is a step up, but let me tell you, a step up in those days means real luxury. I probably won't stay in such a resort. I can't get a comfortable seat.
I'm impressed! We have even more proof that Disney can't just shrug off Universal anymore; Uni may never become the number one theme park/resort in this market, but they're definitely out to match WDW - if not surpass them - in their offerings. Time for Disney to stop putting their full focus on getting MyMagic+ to work properly and to start letting WDI spend enough money to bring on their A game...
It's outstanding work, but I'm worried the choice of theme won't have legs... Boomers aren't getting any younger.
What fun, amazing, and detailed theming! I'm a Disney fan, but this is a grade A effort by Universal.
I'm not sure of agree with your assessment of the staying power of the theming, Powers - granted, the boomers are getting up there, but the nostagia aspects of this period appeal to a lot of twenty and thirtysomethings these days. Check out a Dapper Days event at DL or WDW and you'll notice that a lot of the participants are way too young to remember the period where their clothes came from or were inspired by...
Maybe disney should have just left tomorrowland a little longer and it would have become relevant again (I meant that as a joke, but there might be some truth in that).