Universal Orlando Resort

Universal’s Cabana Bay Transportation Guide

by on April 16, 2014

Cabana Bay transportation guide

When you get tired of relaxing by Cabana Bay’s pool, use this transportation guide to get to Universal’s theme parks (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the newest Loews-operated on-site hotel at Universal Orlando, only opened at the end of March, but if you’ve been following our coverage – from my mega-sized photo gallery from opening day to Derek Burgan’s Saturday Six devoted to the property – you may feel like you’ve already stayed there. One aspect of Universal’s first moderately priced hotel that many readers have asked for more information about is the transportation options available to guests of Cabana Bay. As you may have heard, Cabana Bay does NOT offer water taxi service like Universal’s original 3 luxury properties. So I spent a recent sunny afternoon testing various methods of getting from the hotel to the parks (and vice versa), in order to bring you this comprehensive Cabana Bay transportation guide.

Parking at Cabana Bay

Cabana Bay doesn’t offer valet parking, but that deficit is offset by a $10 daily self-parking rate for hotel guests, which is significantly cheaper than parking at the other Universal hotels. Parking lots ring the hotel, so you can park right alongside your room. Unfortunately, high parking rates for non-guests ($8 for 5 to 30 minutes, $20 for 30 minutes to 24 hours) make it expensive for locals to drop in and knock down some pins at the Galaxy bowling alley.

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Construction Photos and Early April Rumors

by on April 13, 2014

It’s been a couple weeks since our last PotterWatch look at Wizarding World of Harry Potter progress around Universal Orlando. While visible exterior changes are not as dramatic as as they were in earlier months, we can definitely see that the project is gaining new details as the expansion’s summer opening approaches. Enjoy these Hogsmeade Station and Diagon Alley construction photos from a few days ago, followed by a survey of the latest Potter rumors circulating on the net.

 

Diagon Alley Construction Photos

This is Universal Studios Florida‘s London Waterfront facade, behind which hides Diagon Alley, as it looked on April 7, 2014.

Diagon Alley construction photos

Note the trees that have been added to the area in front of the facade.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six “Secrets” of Universal’s Port of Entry

by on April 12, 2014

IOA_lighthouse

The Pharos Lighthouse

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six “Secrets” of Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry. One of my favorite places at either of Universal’s two theme parks doesn’t have a single attraction or show. Port of Entry is the first official “island” you experience when walking into Islands of Adventure and I consider it the best “Main Street” of any theme park in North America. The level of detail throughout transports guests into a world that never existed, yet somehow feels completely real.

The journey through this exotic land starts before you even hit the park, as the impressive Pharos Lighthouse stands tall outside the gates and the fantastic Call to Adventure theme plays in the background. As far as park icons go, the Lighthouse is right up there with Spaceship Earth and Cinderella Castle in my list of personal favorites and the background music never ceases to thrill me. Once through the turnstiles, guests pass by the archway which promises “The Adventure Begins” and they generally make a beeline to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or over to the Hulk Coaster and Spider-Man at Marvel Superhero Island. With this edition of the Saturday Six we are going to make a plea to you, Dear Reader, to slow down on your race to the rest of the park and take a moment to take in the immersive land Universal Creative has delivered with Port of Entry.

IOA_AdventureBegins

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 5, 2014

SS_dayThis week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. When Universal broke ground in January of 2013 for its first ever value resort, not too much was known about what guests would get. There were pieces of concept art, but in the theme park world those have to be taken with a grain of salt as they can often be more of an artistic interpretation than reality. For example, I’m relatively confident the Disney Springs we end up getting won’t exactly look like the one we were promised. However, at a fan meet for the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast last year I was in the audience for a presentation by Russ Dagon, the project director for Cabana Bay. Russ talked about the new things Cabana Bay would be bringing to the Universal family of hotels (including a lower price point and the first ever family suites) but stressed that the concept art we were looking at was pretty much photo realistic. Turns out he was right. Everything in the concept art was there when I walked into Cabana Bay on its grand opening (Monday, March 31, 2014): the outrageously large lobby area, the gigantic representation of an old style diving platform (which houses a water slide in the pool area), and even the ’50s and ’60s era cars outside the front of the resort for photo ops. After walking around Cabana Bay, it became apparent there were a lot of things this resort brought with it that we weren’t told about ahead of time. Today we present six of these surprises…

# 6 – Sonic Fill

SS_SonicFill

Walt Disney World took a lot of criticism last year when it replaced its old refillable mug program with Rapid Fill. Using an RFID chip inside the mug (or paper cup), Rapid Fill only dispenses soda on days that guests have paid for. Universal hotels have never had a refillable mug program, so it was definitely a surprise to see the debut of Sonic Fill at Cabana Bay. Sonic Fill works exactly like Rapid Fill: you pay for the amount of time you want (from $8.99 for one day up to $17.99 for length of stay), and you can use the mug to fill up at any drink station in Bayliner Diner. The great surprise is that not only does Cabana Bay have the regular Coke soda stations we are used to seeing at Disney resorts, but it has 8 Coke Freestyle machines in the Bayliner Diner and 2 more upstairs at Galaxy Bowl. These Coke Freestyle machines can be used with Sonic Fill and promise over 100 drink choices.

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Photo Gallery: First look at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 1, 2014

Welcome to 1962! The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opened on March 31, and we are bringing you a photographic peek at Universal Orlando Resort’s first moderately priced hotel. As you can see, the new resort is inspired by the mid-century modern motor lodges from Wildwood, New Jersey, to Miami Beach, which once defined the American family vacation. We’ll be back in the near future with a fully detailed review of the resort, but for now enjoy this pictorial guide to the newly launched property.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Exterior

 

Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort photos

Photos by Seth Kubersky

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SATURDAY SIX: Our Six Favorite Jokes in Universal’s Springfield U.S.A.

by on March 22, 2014

Kodos Line

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a sign for the FP+ kiosks at WDW

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Our Six Favorite Jokes in Universal’s Springfield U.S.A. Universal Studios Florida has received a lot of attention over the past two years. The park fixed many of its most glaring weaknesses by adding a new daytime parade, a nighttime spectacular, a new E-Ticket in Transformers: The Ride 3D, an incredible family ride in Despicable Me: Minion Mayhemand of course will shortly be debuting the first ever park-to-park attraction with the Hogwarts Express that will travel to what could possibly be the most immersive land in the history of theme parks with Diagon Alley (keep up to date on all the Potter construction with Seth Kubersky’s PotterWatch articles.)

And while all of this is no less than exciting, throughout all these developments one area of the park has quietly become one of our favorite places in Orlando: Springfield U.S.A. The Simpsons Ride has been a favorite of many since its debut in 2008, with the television show’s trademark sarcastic wit taking its aim at the world of theme parks. Now the area is a completely developed land with a second attraction, a Photo Connect opportunity, elaborately themed carnival games, an outdoor bar in Duff Gardens, and some of the best quick service food items in any theme park including Fast Food Boulevard, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, and Lard Lad Donuts.

But what makes Springfield U.S.A. stand out is the clever use of jokes and humor throughout the entire land. Today we’re going to look at our six favorite bits.

# 6 – Kwik-E-Mart Merchandise Signs

IMG_3332

The Kwik E Mart says what we’ve all been thinking since 1971

When you step into the Kwik-E-Mart, the gift store for The Simpsons Ride, you would be best served by walking around and noticing all the details throughout the store. Our favorite gags are the clever signs above some of the merchandise saying things like, “C’mon, if you ran a store I’d buy your junk!, “Satisfaction begrudgingly guaranteed,” and “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!

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Photo Gallery: Sneak Peek at new CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks Coffee

by on March 15, 2014

Universal Orlando CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery Starbucks

The new CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery is now open, and Starbucks is coming soon. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal Orlando’s overhaul of its eateries accelerates this week as the new CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks Coffee locations open to the public. Over the weekend, I was invited behind the barrier to check out the new new franchise locations.

CityWalk Cold Stone Creamery

First, I sampled Cold Stone Creamery, which features hard-packed ice cream customized with “mix ins” and blended on the namesake cold stone.

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Photo Update: Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge Construction

by on March 14, 2014

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge is under construction (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge is under construction (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Last month, I brought you pre-construction photos of the pedestrian path that guests of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort will use to walk from Universal Orlando‘s newest hotel to CityWalk and the theme parks. Since then, I’ve received exciting new details on designs for the Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Walk, which will eventually supercede the existing sidewalks in the area.

The walking path on the north (westbound) side of Hollywood Way will have to serve temporarily for guests unwilling to take the provided shuttles buses during the hotel’s initial opening phase. The walk, which I documented in a video, is entirely navigable at this time with the exception of a crosswalk and traffic signal at the final intersection, which could be easily added before Cabana Bay’s first guests arrive at the end of March.

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PotterWatch: New Hogwarts Express Details Released

by on March 14, 2014

Exciting new Hogwarts Express details revealed by Universal Orlando.

Exciting new Hogwarts Express details revealed by Universal Orlando.

As even the most unobservant Muggle probably already knows, Universal Orlando is opening a major expansion of their hit Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions this summer, and one of the most anticipated elements of the additions is the new Hogwarts Express train, which will link the existing Hogsmeade Village in Islands of Adventure with the new Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Today, Friday March 14, Universal is releasing new Hogwarts Express details, and thanks to Touring Plans’ friend Jim Hill we are happy to be among the first to bring you the news, including some details you won’t find in the official press release.

Here are some exciting new officially confirmed facts about the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction:

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New Disney Dish Podcast: Hogwarts Express Details

by on March 14, 2014

t_logo_fbEarlier this week, Jim Hill got a sneak peek at the film that’ll play when guests board Universal’s Hogwarts Express later this year, and other exclusive details on the train’s construction..

Listen to Jim talk about the film, the effects, and how much detail is going into building the train and King’s Cross station.

Download: MP3 / iTunes (coming soon)

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