TR - Cabana Bay Beach Resort & Volcano Bay - August 2017

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by Oshay1, Jan 3, 2018.

  1. Oshay1

    Oshay1 Earning My Ears

    Dec 5, 2007
    Not sure why this took me so long to post but here is anyway. We had a 6-day trip (August 19-25) to Universal Studios and we stayed on-site at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This was our 3rd trip to the Universal Parks but our first time staying at an on-site hotel. Overall it was a great trip and I would highly recommend it to any family that wants something different than Disney. I am not one to write reviews but I have so much information on reviews that I don’t agree with or is just plain wrong from our experience, so I thought I would give my two cents, for what it worth.

    Hotel: We usually say off-site so we can save money and since we have a family of 6 it is hard to find a room that can accommodate all of us. We are Me, my Wife, and our 4 Children (20 Boy (not really a kid), 15 Girl, 13 Girl and 9 Boy). When we were looking for options to stay we found we could stay at Cabana Bay for about the same price as staying off-site, Cabana Bay has family suites that can sleep 6 people and we would not have to drive to the parks. So we figured let’s give it a try and overall I would say it was a good decision and would stay there again. We got a Courtyard Family Suite Poolside room in the Starlight Building on the 3rd Floor close to the main lobby. The room has 2 queen beds and sleeper sofa, so it can technically sleep 6 but that depends on the size of your kids. Our oldest son is 20 years old, 6’4” and 190lbs, so he is not really a kid and him sharing a bed is not optimal. So we bought a single blowup air mattress and there is just enough room in the living room area in front of the windows to set up the mattress if you move a chair a table in to the kitchen area at night, not a big deal, my 15-year-old daughter did it every night since she was sleeping on the air mattress. Then every morning we put the fully inflates mattress in the closet so it was out of the way, it stuck out a little bit but who cares, it worked and everyone was happy with the sleeping arrangements. I know for some people this stuff would be a deal breaker but we don’t mind and it is great for all of us to be to be in one room and have to socialize with each other so a little closeness for a week is good once in a while. This is what family vacation is about, spending time together!!! The only complaint is there is only one bathroom but they have it set-up as 3 stations, a separate room for the toilet, and then a sink and then another separate room for the shower with another sink. So it was not that bad we just had everyone shower at night so as not to waste time in the mornings and after a long day in the parks you were sweaty and wanted to shower anyway. The room also has a small kitchen area that is perfect for a quick meal; it has a small refrigerator, a microwave, a coffee maker and sink. We try to eat breakfast in the room every morning and find that is a great way to save money and time. We also bring out own coffee maker so we can bring our own K-Cups (, small and portable, perfect for vacations like this. The hotel has 2 pools and lazy river but if you have to buy or bring your own tubes. They also have nightly movies outside and they have 2 fire pits where you can make s’mores, you can bring your own stuff or they sell s’mores kits in the food court. We did not eat at the food court much so I cannot comment on the quality of the food but they had a nice selection. Again, overall a good experience and we would recommend it if you are looking a nice place to stay that is not very expensive.

    Transportation: Since we stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort they have complimentary bus service to the Transportation Hub and that was a nice, we did not have to drive. Now you do have to pay $12.78 per day to park at the hotel if you drive there but that is cheaper than the $20 per day to park in the parking garages at the parks. All I have to say is the bus service was very efficient and we never waited for a bus, there was always one there waiting and he would leave when the next one got there. So absolutely no complaints about transportation to the parks.

    Tickets: Since we stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort we got early access to the parks but did NOT have the Express Passes. Obviously, we could have bought them but with so much time (5 days) we did not need them and it would have been a waste, but even with that said we really did not need them. Yes, we waited in some lines for longer than I would have liked but most are indoors with A/C so it was not that bad, but we used Touring Plans (@TouringPlans or and Universal Phone Apps so that helped us really minimized our wait times. If you have not used TouringPlans (@TouringPlans) before you should try them, we do not follow their Touring Plans but they have great historical data and the app tells you if you should ride it now or wait for later in the day when the wait will be shorter, so worth the cost. But if you are trying to do both parks in one day or if you go when the parks are very busy then the Express Passes are much more important if not mandatory.

    Parks: I am not going to go into much detail about the parks as so many people do the parks differently. We used to get up early and be at the parks for rope drop when the kids were younger. But now that they are older and mainly teenagers they like their sleep so we no longer get up early but we still try to get to the parks by 9:00-9:30am. The most important thing for us is to take it easy and have fun, it vacation after all and getting up early is not fun for our family but if your family is an early bird go for it.

    Volcano Bay: We did Volcano Bay on a Tuesday and this was the only day we got to the parks early as we heard that the park was very busy and there were days they park was at capacity by 9am so if you did not get there early you might not get in, on-site guest can access the park as early as 7:30am. So this was the only day we would make the kids get up early and since we were at Cabana Bay Beach Resort we just walked to the Park as it is right behind the resort. Originally we really wanted to reserve a Cabana but they are just too expensive if you ask me, $399 the day we went (the price changes depending on when you go and demand). So we reserved one set of Premium seating ($75) for me and the wife, 2 loungers with a sunshade, a lock box and an area attendant to provide food and drink service. We figured the kids would be busy so no sense getting them premium seating that they would never use and hopefully they would be able to be close to us and it would not matter.

    So we got up early, grabbed towels from the pool at the hotel and walked into Volcano Bay at 7:40am and that wife says to me “What the hell are we doing at a water park at 7:40am!”, I agreed, LOL. They give every person a TapuTapu band when you enter the park so you can reserve your ride times, it’s a pretty cool idea and I liked it a lot. My only issue is the band can fall off pretty easy and then you have to bring your ticket back to the front and get another one, apparently this happens a lot as I saw several lifeguards picking them up all the pools and lazy rivers, (not sure if you lose your ride time or not since we did not lose any) so it is not a big deal, just a pain to have to stop what you are doing and get another band. One problem we had with the TapuTapu device was you can add a credit card to your online account and then have the credit card linked to your TapuTapu band and then you can use the TapuTapu band to pay for things at the park like lunch and drinks so you don’t have to carry around money or your wallet. But you have to go to a Concierge Desk and have them link the Card to the band and we did not know this so we had an issue when trying to pay for lunch and it would not work, so make sure this is done when you first get to the parks if you want to use this feature. So we find the Concierge Desk in the front of the park but they tell us to go to the Concierge Desk in the Rainforest section. We go there and they have our reservation, glad we made the reservation ahead of time as they were all sold out of Premium Seating, Cabanas and Towel Services. One of the attendants walks us to our seating in the Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides section; this seems like a good area, not along the main path so nobody just walking by, only people that were sitting in the area. The best part was there is standard seating right in front of our seats so all the kids have chairs right with us. So we set up our area, put on suntan lotion and then hit the rides. It about 8:00am and all the rides are still "Ride Now" so we hit few of the big slides and then by about 9:30am we had to wait for our first ride using the TapuTapu. So we go into the TeAwa “The Fearless River” (a fast lazy river) and we had a blast, so much fun and way better than the usual lazy river.

    We were there for until about 3pm and we did every ride, both rivers, and the big wave pool. I would say it was my favorite day as we had great weather and everyone had fun including my wife who does not like your typical water park. But it did get noticeably more crowded as the day went on and by the time we left all of the rides had a 120 min wait or longer. I would suggest this is must do early park as we got more done in the first 3 hours then we did for the rest of the day. Also, I think you have to know you are going to the newest park in all of Orlando so it going to be crowded and you have to be prepared for it! Don’t complain if it is busy just roll with it had have some fun, but I can tell you it is better to get there as early as you possibly can and it might even be worth it to stay at an on-site hotel just so you can access the park early if this is must do for your vacation, it was for us.

    Conclusion: We had a great time and would definitely do it again! We were a little nervous about staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort but it was a great value and great choice for families, ever larger families like mine. We really like the Universal Parks and with the addition of Volcano Bay, it is a really good vacation if you want something different than Disney.
  2. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

    Apr 21, 2003
    Thanks for sharing!

    You’ll love returning for another stay
  3. paceyswife

    paceyswife Mouseketeer

    Aug 22, 2010
    Thanks for sharing!! We had planned on returning this weekend but scrapped it for a few reasons. (Phew...good thing as weather not that much better than up here in the frigid north)! We are booked the third week in August (19th-23rd) and will be hitting up Volcano Bay for first time and staying at CBBR again due to proximity and the kids really liking it. Had a suite last time for the four of us (boys will be 10 and 13) but went with a regular room this time as we really were only there to sleep and didn't utilize the extra space or kitchenette. I'd like EP but feel crowds should be dying down and we will be there mid week so hopefully locals will be back to school.
  4. Ruth B

    Ruth B DIS Veteran

    Sep 18, 2005
    Thanks for sharing. Great tip about VB
  5. stephensmum

    stephensmum DIS Veteran

    Jan 10, 2007
    I've just booked Cabana Bay suite for September so I was pleased to hear you enjoyed it. Like you it cost more off site so feel like I have a bargain.

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