One Night at a Universal Orlando Hotel
On January 22, Don and I spent a night at one of Universal Orlando's, 8 resort/hotels.
We didn't have children with us and we weren't interested in the theme parks. But we were childishly giddy about staying in the Mid-Century Modern Hotel!
There it is!
Don and I learned about Cabana Bay, when searching the internet for hotels between St. Augustine and St. Petersburg.
When I saw pictures of the whimsically mod hotel, I got pretty excited. When I saw it on the map, I said, "Perfect!" When I saw it with my eyes from the exit off 1-4, I squealed. You would have thought I was a kid, spotting Cinderella's Castle!
Colorful Hotel on a Colorful Day
We arrived before noon, just as the clouds were breaking up. The blue sky and green palms fit in perfectly with the bright-tropical style... waiting just inside.
We entered the lobby and I felt as if I'd walked into my childhood television set. Of course the future-istic, world that I loved in The Jetsons, was all black and white. We didn't have color TV until I'd outgrown cartoons.
The crazy-mod lobby looked totally out of this world! When I used to watch episodes of The Jetsons, I assumed this is how my life would look when I grew up!
Don and I stepped up to the counter, just past the stack of vintage suitcases. A young man in a yellow, "bowling" shirt greeted us.
His color fit in nicely, with the 2-story, mosaic wall. He seemed a little surprised that we were staying only one night and that we had no plans to visit Universal's theme parks. "We're just excited about the hotel!" We told him.
Under the lobby's skylight, tall palms happily thrived. Sprawled out on couches surrounding the oasis, there seemed to be numerous families who were not happily thriving.
I spotted piles of luggage, snoozing teens, bickering sibs and one very fussy baby. I was glad to not be a part of that "Last day of Theme Park Vacay with Kids" Club! I was also glad it was not family travel season, or we would have seen a lot more this kind of scene.
I didn't spot any parents sneaking over to the nearby lounge for a bit of liquid relief.
Did George Jetson ever stop for a martini on his way home from work? I guess not, but I could picture him lounging beneath that starburst chandelier.
Our room was located in the Americana, one of 4 large hotel buildings. The retro colors and geometric shapes were a soothing throwback to the dreamy motels I adored as a kid.
Of course we never stayed at anything so large, but I saw them in movies... mostly Elvis or Las Vegas focused movies.
Even the halls were a hoot. Our elevator opened up to carpeting and light fixtures that delighted me.
Who needs a theme park? I could have just played on the elevator all day and checked out all the different retro posters.
Each elevator, on each floor had a circular window, that lured me over for a look. I didn't check out every one, but I liked this window on the pool side.
The view of the nearby Volcano Bay Waterpark, was a fun surprise. Guest rooms that overlooked the volcano, paid for that perk.
The hallway seemed to go on forever, but we didn't have to walk far.
We opened the door to our room and grinned at the nostalgic decor! We didn't fork out extra bucks for a pool view room, but our floor was high enough to avoid staring at the parking lot. In fact, the view of distant hotels and parks was pretty interesting.
What Year Is It?
Cabana Bay's moderate rates and kid friendly atmosphere, appeals to families.
But I felt like they had created this hotel specifically for me... and my Boomer peers, who grew up in the '60's and '70's. Oh how I loved sliding into those smooth plastic chairs when I was a kid!
Gotta Love the Bathroom
For most of my growing up years, my family of 6 shared one bath. It never looked as clean as this one!
No one had wall-mounted hairdryers back then, but many of us had Zest and VO5 Shampoo!
After finding our room, we headed for the Bayliner Diner, with its classic-curvy entrance.
The bus stop sign actually had a purpose... for shuttle buses. The purpose of the retro cars, was to confuse us about what year we were living in.
I was able to get a photo without people. If I'd taken this picture in busy March or June, my photo would have included 2019 tourists, snapping cellphone pics.
Retro Diner on Steroids
This was the main dining area for the hotel. Looking down at the huge space, made me think of the Tokyo Airport at 6 am... huge, modern and empty.
If the dining area had been filled with summer crowds, it would have looked just like I remember the 1964 New York World's Fair. The fair seemed overwhelmingly large, modern and crowded, when I was 6.
Cartoons and Lunch
Don and I grabbed lunch in a gigantic food court and carried our trays to the entertaining dining room.
The food court setup was obviously designed for crowds, but I would have loved a good old cafeteria better. I didn't get to slide my plastic tray past displays of jello and fruit salad and pieces of pie... but I carried my tray into a magical room where I could stare at cartoon tourists on the wall, or giant projection screens.
The dining room was practically empty at 1:00. I think every guest was at the theme park.
We chose a cozy round booth and sat on one side, so we could watch old TV commercials and sitcom clips on the big screen!
I loved the colorful plates and the squiggly design on the table.The hot dog was a hot dog, but at least it was something I would have chosen to eat in the 1960's.
Don's Cuban sandwich and pasta salad was not a bit retro, but his palm tree covered shirt, fit the scene.
After lunch we explored the second level, connecting the diner and lobby areas. The colorful bowling alley was calling to us with its neon.
Dining at the Alley
We could have eaten lunch at the bowling alley for a different kind of meal experience! There was bar and restaurant service, plus a choice of mod table options.
It was tempting to make use of the quiet lanes, with their neon bowling pins. But it wasn't free and there was so much more to explore.
If we'd had more than one day, we could have come back for bowling and then hung out with a deck of cards in one of the lounging areas... or ordered some kind of retro cocktail at the Galaxy Bar. Next time!
Jack La Lanne Phusical Fitness Stuido!
Instead of bowling, we headed next door to the fitness center with the neon sign!
Jack LaLanne! I know him!
Best Hotel Fitness Room!
I'm one of those people who actually uses hotel fitness rooms, so I was blown away by the size and quality of this space!
Me and My Buddy
I wasn't dressed for a workout, but I posed next to the fine Fitness Legend, Jack LaLanne.
The next morning, I came for a work out and noticed only a few thirtysomethings, working out with the equipment. I was tempted to ask, "Do you have any idea who Jack La Lanne is?"
Godfather of Modern Fitness!
A lot of gym space was devoted to the TV star, who once motivated housewives to grab chairs and exercise with him.
Oh how my siblings and I groaned, when cartoons went off and Jack La Lanne came on. But many a time we were bored enough, to roll our eyes and playfully follow his instructions. I spent some time looking over the little museum, which spotlighted Jack's fitness history. I'm no longer laughing at this guy and his 70+ year, fitness & nutrition career.
The weather was breezy and cool, but far too nice to stay inside. We took some time exploring both sides of the resort.
Thunderbird and Starlight
There are over 2,200 rooms and suites at Cabana Bay, in 4 colorful buildings. Thunderbird and Starlight buildings surrounded the larger pool area.
At first I was fooled by the faux diving platforms. Really, the intimidating tower was just the finale of a water slide.
Over by our building, a few guests made use of the heated pool. The meandering, lazy river only had one guest, who floated by in an inner tube.
You could tell the temps were cool, by looking at the quiet pools... or the overdressed lifeguards. At first I thought the pacing lifeguards were trying to keep warm. Eventually it seemed clear that the always moving guards, must have been following some kind of strict guidelines. Nobody was going to drown at Cabana Bay, where every swimmer had at least one rescue-tube-hugging lifeguard, staring at them. That was enough to keep me out of the pool.
Tropical Posing Time
Sometimes our Notable Nights are worthy of a costume. I made sure to pack my 11-dollar parrot and palm dress, for the trip. I also wore my cat-eye sunglasses for a little extra retro fun.
Don wore his palm tree shirt and we ordered drinks at the Hideaway bar, next to the pool. But after the photo op, I threw on my sweater and the sunglasses came off. The breeze picked up and the temps dropped some more...
Royal Pacific Hotel
Don and I took our tropical outfits & drinks, into the warmer lobby. We ended up chatting with a woman who encouraged us to explore the other nearby properties.
We grabbed jackets and left our hotel, following the lovely pathways that connect Universal hotel properties. It felt like we were sneaking away from summer camp, when we left our moderately priced, family hotel and ended up at Universal's upper end Royal Pacific Hotel. It was exciting to escape the cartoons and sparkles of CB for a bit and sip drinks in a classy lounge with quiet adults. Then happily headed back to our friendly hotel.
We managed to squeeze a theme park's worth of fun, out of our one night stay at Cabana Bay. It helped that we stayed on a weekday in winter. It helped that Don and I happen to love a little retro throwback time. It helped that the weather was pretty and we were able to check in early.
We loved our little escape to the adult world at Royal Pacific. That was an added treat. But our 1-night stay was still just the right amount of time. In the morning we saw buses and school groups... it was time to leave!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!