Loews Hotels and Universal Orlando Resort hosted a grand opening celebration at their new 1,800-room Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort on June 20. The event, capping the largest hotel construction project of 2013-14 in the U.S., erupted into a raucous pool party in the hotel’s Lazy River Courtyard for hundreds of guests with the surprise onstage arrival of the Beach Boys, the iconic American rock ‘n roll band of the 1960s.
The surprise concert took place around the 8,000-square-foot Lazy River Courtyard pool, a zero-entry facility with sandy bottom access. The area also affords hotel guests dozens of loungers on acres of soft white beach sand, two fire pits, a lazy river pool with waterfall, and a rollicking poolside bar and grill called the Hideaway where burgers and beers are the specialties of the house. Prior to the introduction of the Beach Boys, welcome remarks were delivered by Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts and Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of Loews Hotels & Resorts. Tisch’s remarks partly reflected on the iconic name of one of the Cabana Bay Hotel buildings called “The Americana.”
“We at Loews Hotels have been fortunate to be partners with Tom [Williams] and his team for the past 15 years,” said Tisch. “The Americana was my father and uncle’s first hotel in Bal Harbor, Florida, opened in 1957. To be here under a sign saying ‘The Americana’ is very moving. Loews Hotels was opened by two guys from Brooklyn who didn’t exactly know what they were doing. But it has worked out pretty well. To think that this Cabana Bay Beach Hotel was built in 16 months is a credit to Tom Williams and his team.”
Tisch also commented on the value positioning of the Loews Cabana Bay. “They said this is a value-oriented hotel. This is the most value I have ever seen in a hotel of this category and I have been in the hotel business for a very long time.” The Loews chairman ended by declaring the Loews Cabana Bay “officially open,” setting off a brief fireworks display over the pool area, followed by a roar of guest approval as the Beach Boys took the stage without introduction.
The Beach Boys, far from appearing as the typical tired oldies oldies band, sounded as good as new during a pulsating, nonstop 90-minute set behind original members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Mike Love along with fellow current group members Bruce Johnston and David Marks. For baby boomers in the audience who grew up to the sounds of “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” “Surf City.” “Surfin’ USA” and dozens of other hits, the presentation by the Beach Boys made the Cabana Bay Beach Resort opening an experience unlikely to ever be forgotten.
The Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort had its soft opening on March 31, when the first 600 suites in the Cabana Courtyard side of the resort opened to the public. The July 20 grand opening brought an additional 300 suites and all 900 standard rooms of the hotel online, as well as the public facilities surrounding the Lazy River Courtyard on the opposite side of the resort from the Cabana Courtyard. The Cabana Courtyard has its own 10,000 square-foot pool with a family-friendly waterslide, a children’s splash play area, the Atomic Sonic poolside bar and the Flamingo Park picnic area where Universal executives have promised that food and ice cream trucks will make periodic appearances. There are fire pit seating areas in both of the resort’s courtyards.
Standard room rates at Universal’s Cabana Bay start at $119 per night, but go down on a discount plan for each night from the fourth through seventh night of a guest stay to as low as $93 per night. Suite rates begin at $174 per night and packages including hotels stays, park tickets and airport transfers are available from Universal Vacations and other tour operators partnering with Universal Orlando.
Other popular public spaces in the Loews Cabana Bay include the 10-lane Galaxy Bowl, where lane service for a variety of casual meals and beverages is available, a Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio, a popular late evening lobby bar called the Swizzle Lounge and a self-service food court called the Bayliner Diner where breakfast, lunch and dinner items are served from early morning to late evening.
In conjunction with the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, which is opening July 8 on the heels of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort opening, travel agents can now offer their clients a special Cabana Bay four-night package. This new Wizarding World of Harry Potter package from Universal is priced at $155 per adult per night for travel from June 29 through Aug. 16, or $135 per night from Aug. 17 to Oct. 2, or Nov. 10 to Dec. 18. The four-night deal includes the following:
• Accommodations at the new Loews Cabana Bay Resort.
• A three-day park-to-park ticket.
• Breakfasts in both the Three Broomsticks Restaurant in Hogsmeade and the new Leaky Cauldron Restaurant in Diagon Alley.
• Universal’s transportation between the hotel and both the two Universal theme parks and the CityWalk enterainment area.
• A themed welcome parcel.
• One hour early admission each morning to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
According to Dennis Quinn, Vice President of International Sales for Universal Orlando Resorts, guests who purchase the package for travel starting June 29 will get access to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, even though the park is not officially scheduled to open until July 8.
Guests who stay at the Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort and purchase Universal theme park tickets receive a one-hour early gate admission to the parks but, unlike the other three Loews hotels at Universal Orlando, they do not automatically receive the Universal Express Access feature that takes Universal’s luxury hotel guests to front-of-line line entry on many rides. Express passes, however, may be purchased separately at the parks.
“It has been a tremendous year for us,” said Alice Norsworthy, Executive Vice President of Universal Orlando Resorts. “Most guests will want to experience all we have to offer. Since the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010 we have opened Transformers, Despicable Me, the Nightime Parade and Springfield, just to name a few. We now have experiences for every member of the family.”
Quinn noted that “with the opening of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort we will now have many more guests staying on site…This helps to create the ideal interactive guest experience.”
All photos by Maureen Stone