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!
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!’
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.
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.
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.)
Arrival at Orlando airport is exciting, it’s huge and full of palm trees. You immediately get a sense of the scale changing.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Step inside with me, into a riot of colour and 50s design.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.