A Theme Park Hotel for a Cautious Traveler?

Since the parks reopened in the summer of 2020, I have made a few trips to the Orlando area. During these trips, I’ve stayed at different Disney and Universal hotels as well as at some other chains. Room rates have been cheaper than usual and it is a good time to travel if you are comfortable with doing so. During my travels, I’ve noticed a few aspects about hotel design and I think there is one property that fits the current situation better than the others. I believe that even the more cautious travelers could feel comfortable there. That hotel I’m recommending is Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort, specifically the motel side.

Motel design generally includes room doors that open to the outside, which a section of Cabana Bay does. This allows guests to not have to worry about how many other guests are in their building or about walking past other people in a hall. Motel design also tends to be shorter and Cabana Bay’s motel side is only 4 stories. This allows for easier avoidance of the elevators, if the enclosed spaces bother you. This, in comparison to the hotel side which has 7 and 11 stories. That’s too many stairs for most folks’ comfort. Disney also has a few resorts with exterior entry so why didn’t I choose one of them?

2017 Hurricane Crew helps show how large the Cabana Bay lobby is.

Besides the great difference in price point the main reason is in the public spaces. The lobby area at Cabana Bay is massive. The large square footage allows everyone to easily spread out. Beyond that, the lobby also has high ceilings that can allow for better air quality if they have it circulating properly. This wide open feeling also exists in the food court in case you need to pick up food or eat there. With the lower occupancy rate there are plenty of tables to spread out. Even if it looks a little too crowded for your personal tastes, eating a little early or a little late can let you eat without even seeing anyone but the cleaning team members. 

Cabana Bay is the largest of the Universal resorts allowing them to rotate the rooms, which I suspect they are doing. Judging by the low occupancy I saw, it should be easy to allow a room to remain unoccupied for a day or two before a new guest checks into it. Surface spread doesn’t seem to be an issue with current mutations, but that extra turn over time just would add an extra layer of protection for staff and guests. 

While there are a few drawbacks, they are easy to plan around. The first is the temperature checks. The checks themselves are not a bother but they do limit the number of entrances into the building. The hotel provides guests with a daily wristband so you won’t have to get checked repeatedly. However, if you get wet, plan on having to get another check. Second would be transportation. The buses are running but they can still get too crowded for some people. Cautious guests can choose to walk to the park (or drive if they have that option). Once again waiting for a non-peak time to travel to the park can often result in an empty or near-empty bus. The final drawback, room cleaning, depends on your length of stay. Hotel staff will not clean your room while you are staying in it but you can request extra towels or other things to be dropped off at the door. 

Given all these little benefits, Cabana Bay might be the best option if you are looking to travel to Orlando but want to maintain a bit of caution. If you don’t think that is the resort for you, consider some of the features pointed out when looking for an alternate place to stay. Exterior entry to your room (also AC intake), open public spaces, and transportation concerns. This is a unique time to travel and those wishing to go to the parks will find them at lower capacity for a while. 

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