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Review Part 1 – Universal Orlando Resort, travel with Virgin Holidays and Arrival at Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Thinking about a trip to Universal Resorts Orlando? Come and see inside Cabana Bay resort, one of the resorts 5 themed hotels perfect for families.

We were transported back to the iconic beach resort era of the 50s and 60s at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Orlando.  A fantastic base within Universal Orlando Resort for 4 days of immersing ourselves in all that the epic Universal parks and resorts have to offer families, thanks to Universal Orlando Resort, Virgin Holidays and Mumsnet Bloggers. Shimmering palm trees, blue skies, vintage cars, retro signage, 50s music and film clips, Jetsons-esque giant murals on the walls – step into our time machine, let’s go!

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Virgin Holidays partner with Universal Orlando Resort in the UK. Our holiday began with a rather fab flight with Virgin, an airline I can completely recommend for long haul flights as a family. You know when you reach the point on a long journey, where even as a grown up you find yourself saying, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Well that’s the moment when Virgin bring out the Fab lollies.

‘Oh YES indeed!’

Or the G and T trolley, ‘Hurrah for gin!’

Or afternoon tea, ‘Just the ticket!’

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What I also love about long haul flights, now that my kids are older, is the guilt free solo film binge watching. I get to watch films I choose and Virgin have the best in flight entertainment for all ages.

I watched Sing Street about an Irish teenager who sets up a band to win a girl’s heart, then Louis Theroux on alcoholism in Drinking to Oblivion which was incredibly moving. This was followed by Jim Chapman, super star vlogger, investigating the Rise of The Superstar Vloggers, which got a bit deeper and more interesting as it went on.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how and why we travel too. Listening to a travel themed Headspace meditation via the entertainment system helped me float my stresses off on a cloud and prepared me for that Orlando blue sky. There is a Headspace meditation for fear or flying, sleeping on a plane, for kids, for parents.

Holidays really start on the plane for me. I’ve never enjoyed airports that much, but as soon as I am in the air there is that sense of no looking back and of an adventure beginning.

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The staff were friendly and looked after us brilliantly.  There are all the little bits you get to make your flight easier, the kids rucksacks and eye masks on the day flight out and then toothpaste, brush, eye mask, ear plugs for all on a night flight home. When I fainted on the plane home –  something that happens to me every now and again, and a pretty extreme length to go to, to review a holiday I know – their care for the whole family was really incredible.

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Cape Cod coming into view was a highlight of the trip, the pilot pointed it out. (I once travelled to Boston for two weeks and while I was visiting Cape Cod I failed to work out the pay phones and didn’t phone Mr A. He was worried sick at home, he’s never forgiven me.)

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Arrival at Orlando airport is exciting, it’s huge and full of palm trees. You immediately get a sense of the scale changing.

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The car pick up is so white, bright and shiny and the cars so big, it makes you feel very Men In Black – one of Universal Studios Park’s fab rides I will come to – or like being a celebrity.

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We sat in the car staring out at the palm trees against the blue skies, the palm trees almost look like they are made of plastic, the way they shimmer and ripple in the light.

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Universal Orlando Resorts have 5 themed hotels close to the parks. Cabana Bay Beach Resort offers prime value for money of the five, still with all the stunning design, fun and spotless themeing you can expect from Universal Resort Orlando. You can also enter the parks before everyone else. Some of the other ‘premier’ and ‘preferred’ hotels give you the ability to skip the ride queues too, worth weighing up against the cost of fast passes, you can compare hotels, I will pop the link at the end.

The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is themed around the great American road trip family vacations of the 1950s. It’s bright, airy and fun. The scale of it really blew us away on arrival. The signage is gorgeously retro and the sweeping entrance and palm trees whisk you into a 50s holiday world, but with all the modern convenience of wifi and Starbucks.

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Outside Cabana Bay Beach Resort vintage cars which have starred in Universal films are parked, which really help to set the scene. The lemon 1958 Chrysler Imperial below, apart from being credited with the introduction of cruise control, also starred in The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, starring Alison Hayes and William Hudson. What a delicious colour!

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Step inside with me, into a riot of colour and 50s design.

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Our two interconnecting rooms, each with two queen beds, were really fun and colourful. Although we had a view of the car park, the sunrise over the palm trees and feeling of space was amazing.

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We loved the bright colours, our large rooms were spotlessly clean and there was not a speck of wear and tear, everything felt brand new. Each room led into a spacious open area with a sink and lots of space for stuff, and a door into a bath/shower and toilet – a really convenient set up which allows you to get ready more efficiently.

We were lucky to have a bed each, they were a little snug for sharing. There were lots of easy to open colourful drawers which encouraged the kids to keep their stuff tidy.  The resort also has family suites with kitchenettes, if you fancy doing a bit of self catering.

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By the time we recovered from the flight enough to leave our room and wander round, the resort was moonlit, which really brought out a whole new level of magic. Around a fire pit people were toasting marshmallows for smores, and down by the pool it felt like stepping into a film set.

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The kids were blown away, none of us could quite believe the scale and extent of the themeing. I entered Orlando a little hesitantly I have to admit, but we’d been booked into the hotel’s Galaxy Bowl for dinner – dinner served to your bowling lane. We were soon getting strikes, and high fiving while tucking into a massive plate of nachos. The kids were full of smiles.  This is ‘epic’ and ‘awesome’ was all we heard.

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I will be back in part two next week, to tell you lots more about the resorts, dining and enjoying the pools and lazy river in daylight, plus in part three, our two days having an absolutely awesome time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks.

Keen to know more about Universal Orlando Resort?

Reviews part two and part three are now available. To start planning your trip to Orlando checkout Virgin Holidays and Universal Orlando Resort.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. 

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56 Comments

  • Reply Becky

    Your pictures are fabulous and I love the theme of the resort – oh those cars!

    31/10/2016 at 10:06 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      I thought of you a lot, you would have loved the theme!

      31/10/2016 at 11:56 am
  • Reply Angela

    Universal is on my list of places to visit. We seem to keep visiting Disney World and not hopping across to Universal. I definitely agree about flying Virgin, and also if you fly in the Bubble upstairs, the window seats have so much more room with storage compartments.

    31/10/2016 at 10:46 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      This really appealed to us as a film loving family, with slightly older kids. The Harry Potter stuff was mind blowing! Virgin are so good aren’t they!

      31/10/2016 at 11:57 am
  • Reply Lucy

    Looks amazing! Love the 50’s theme!

    31/10/2016 at 10:56 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      The scale of it is mind blowing!

      31/10/2016 at 11:57 am
  • Reply Alice

    It looks amazing Penny – that hotel is incredible!! I can’t wait to read your next installment (and wish I got to go bowling with you)

    31/10/2016 at 11:03 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      Me too, such a giggle! And yes, haven’t seen a hotel like that before!

      31/10/2016 at 11:58 am
  • Reply angela hamilton

    Virgin really do go that extra mile to make your experience fabulous!! If we ever go to Orlando it will be Virgin we fly with!
    Love your photographs, the hotel looks amazing!! Would certainly look at staying there.

    31/10/2016 at 11:13 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      Thanks Angela and yes, Virgin really know how to make the holiday start!

      31/10/2016 at 11:58 am
  • Reply Coral- Way Too Much Luggage

    Looks great , I love the theme of the hotel… I know my 3 would love this. Look forward to reading about the rest of the trip.

    31/10/2016 at 11:20 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      I can’t wait to write this up, really exciting to relive this one actually!

      31/10/2016 at 11:59 am
  • Reply Louise Fairweather

    Love the themeing of this resort. I am looking forward to taking mine to Florida in a few years.

    31/10/2016 at 11:36 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      Can’t recommend Universal enough, although I haven’t been to other parks, I kind of knew it was the one for us!

      31/10/2016 at 11:59 am
  • Reply Jodie

    Wow your post is beautiful!! I best get writing mine 🙂

    31/10/2016 at 11:51 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      Can’t wait to see your hotel – looked ace on instagram!

      31/10/2016 at 12:00 pm
  • Reply Daisy

    This all looks so brilliant! I’ve loved following it all on Instagram too, as always your pics are fab!!
    Love the vintage cars and great to know about the Headspace for flying.
    Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
    #MondayEscapes

    31/10/2016 at 12:51 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      Thanks for saying so Daisy, that means a lot, def checkout headspace!

      31/10/2016 at 10:26 pm
  • Reply Molly

    This place looks right up my street! I love all the colours and the retro vibe. Incredibly Instagrammable!

    31/10/2016 at 2:18 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      It really was very instagrammable! Although I keep trying to get the right shot with that cool collage, it’s just so vast, the scale is bonkers!

      31/10/2016 at 10:25 pm
  • Reply Megan - Truly Madly Kids

    I love your description of the car! My kids would just love this. Can’t wait for the next instalment X

    31/10/2016 at 3:13 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      They definitely added to the retro feel, and the video clips too!

      31/10/2016 at 10:24 pm
  • Reply Slummy single mummy

    I’m so impressed with this and all the photos I’ve seen on Instagram. You get the feeling that the attention to detail is immense.

    31/10/2016 at 3:14 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      It really is, and it is all so shiny and immaculate too, not seen anything like it over here!

      31/10/2016 at 10:24 pm
  • Reply Katie @mummydaddyme

    We were so impressed with our Virgin flight to Orlando last week, especially on the way there. I have flown with them a few times before but not since we have had the children. The cabin crew were so chatty and lovely, they did a competition for the children over the loudspeaker and they kept chatting and making the odd joke. She did a funny one at the end of the flight where she said ‘it would be great to have some volunteers to help stay behind and clean the plane, we will take it you are keen if you stand up before the seatbelt signs have been switched off!’ It tickled me!
    The hotel looks amazing. We were only at Universal one day but we really want to go back and explore more one day. x

    31/10/2016 at 4:20 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      Love that, they def had a “FAB” sense of humour, did you get fab lollies too? I saw you got on the Hogwarts Express – be brill to go back to again when yours are a bit older still 🙂

      31/10/2016 at 10:23 pm
  • Reply Mini Travellers

    We loved flying Virgin in April too. It makes the flight feel so special with all the little treats too. Lovely to catch you in the airpot. The styling and theming in that hotel looks incredible. Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

    31/10/2016 at 9:18 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      I love the little things and fab to see you too! So funny 🙂

      31/10/2016 at 10:21 pm
  • Reply Nikki Thomas

    Such wonderful photos, it looks and sounds amazing and I can’t wait to read more. We went to Orlando this summer to Walt Disney World but I would love to go back and visit Universal.

    31/10/2016 at 9:19 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      Thank you Nikki, loved reading about your trip!

      31/10/2016 at 10:21 pm
  • Reply Tracey Williams

    We have flown with Virgin 3 times to Orlando and they really are the best airline. Sorry you fainted on the way back, and glad you were well looked after. Cabana Bay looks amazing and I love how each of the Universal hotels offer something different. We stayed at Royal Pacific hotel back in 2011, and loved being so close to the parks. Can’t wait to read about the rest of your holiday #mondayescapes x

    31/10/2016 at 9:30 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      It was our second trip with them too, and they really deliver. I love the look of al the hotels, can’t wait to read the other blogger’s posts.

      31/10/2016 at 10:20 pm
  • Reply Cass Bailey

    That looks amazing and really makes me want to visit.

    I’m pleased to read about the Virgin flight as I’m taking my teen to New York next year and torn between Virgin and BA x

    01/11/2016 at 10:46 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      Wow New York? Cool! Helen is going at XMAS – see how she gets on!

      02/11/2016 at 1:38 pm
  • Reply Kara

    I have to admit that long haul flights fill me with dread but I remember back when I flew out to Florida and California as a child and remember being entertained by the cabin crew so perhaps we should bite the bullet. Mine are desperate to go to Orlando and we saved up to go a couple of years ago but hubby was made redundant so we never got there……..best start saving again!

    01/11/2016 at 11:42 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      I look forward to Virgin ones, have done a couple and you know you will be well looked after and the entertainment and treats make it fun. Funny, despite the fainting, which was yuk, I would still do it again without hesitation. I really hope you get there, lots to save with a bigger family I guess xx

      02/11/2016 at 1:37 pm
  • Reply Otilia

    Oh my…everything looks so amazing! I don’t know how my girls will manage a long flight but it looks like its definitely worth it! So amazing@

    01/11/2016 at 12:40 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      Mine are 7 and 10 now, they also did one at 5 and 7, that wasn’t bad at all but this was very very easy!

      02/11/2016 at 1:35 pm
  • Reply Sonia

    Looks like you had an amazing time! We travelled to Orlando in the summer using Virgin too and it was amazing! I watched about three films and the kids never moved from their seats! x

    01/11/2016 at 1:03 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      It’s a proper treat isn’t it!

      02/11/2016 at 1:34 pm
    • Reply http://www./

      Lieve Annie en Nous,weer superleuk om te lezen! We missen jullie hier echt nu al! Britt en ik hebben vandaag weer aan onze po gewerkt maar zoals gwnlijk ging het niet vlekkeloos^^kuss nog veel plezier!

      01/03/2017 at 7:07 am
  • Reply Jen Walshaw

    Universal really is out Happy Place. We were not big lovers of the House of Mouse, but adored everything about Universal when we went and this just makes me want to go back.

    01/11/2016 at 7:58 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      I think we are similar in that respect Jen, I hadn’t got my head around Universal until recently, and it blew us away as video game, film lovers with older kids!

      02/11/2016 at 1:34 pm
  • Reply Anne

    I love the 50s theme and those vintage cars are amazing. Everything looks so huge out there, except maybe for the beds, but at least you had one each 🙂

    01/11/2016 at 10:57 pm
    • Reply parentshaped

      Yes, I wondered if that was the idea, huge bed for one?

      02/11/2016 at 1:33 pm
  • Reply Sarah Christie

    I havel loved following your trip Penny I LOVE Universal so much and plan to stay there next time we visit for a few nights. This look incredible, all am totally in love with all thing retro so this would be so up my street it looks cool. so glad you all had a fab trip, and totally agree that the older kids get the more enjoyable flying gets x

    02/11/2016 at 11:11 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      This was a great place to stop for a few nights, parking, convenience, all the fun of a resort on a road trip!

      02/11/2016 at 1:33 pm
  • Reply Sarah Christie

    ooh thanks so much for linking up too x

    02/11/2016 at 11:12 am
  • Reply laura redburn

    i’ve never been on a plane let alone a flight that long, so congratulations to anyone that can do that! this isn’t typically the type of holiday i would choose to go on ..but this place looks ace! big fan of 50’s style ..and oh that signage!!

    02/11/2016 at 11:36 am
    • Reply parentshaped

      I wasn’t sure it was for me Laura either, but I do love my films and Harry Potter, and that alone was awesome!

      02/11/2016 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply Susan Mann

    This looks and sounds amazing. I would love to take my kids here. I think they’d love it so much. That sounds good about the flights. I just need to save hard and one day… Looking forward to reading more about your trip xx

    03/11/2016 at 1:02 pm
  • Reply Kate Williams

    I think I could quite easily live in that hotel?! I’m a bit scared about flying with my kids, because kids but the thought of a fab lolly makes it sounds pretty achievable!

    03/11/2016 at 8:00 pm
  • Reply Loren

    What a beautiful adventure! Looks so fun! xo Loren // http://www.thinkelysian.com

    04/11/2016 at 10:07 pm
  • Reply P.S. - Review Part 2: Welcome to the world of Universal Orlando Resort - P.S.

    […] my first post on our journey to Florida with Virgin Holidays and our arrival at Cabana Bay. To start planning […]

    08/11/2016 at 7:51 am
  • Reply Jennifer Howze

    I didn’t know about this hotel in Orlando. You really do get the premium treatment with Disney and everything is done to such a high quality. Love your pics!

    18/11/2016 at 8:19 am
  • Reply P.S. - 10 Awesome Moments from Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando - P.S.

    […] my first post on our journey to Florida with Virgin Holidays and our arrival at Cabana Bay and my second post on […]

    23/11/2016 at 1:47 pm
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