|One of the new harbor-view guest rooms at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort.|
The evidence is everywhere at Universal Orlando Resort that NBCUniversal and Loews Hotels & Resorts are aggressively cultivating loyalty in the family market. Meeting groups, including delegates accompanied by family members, are also being targeted. The latest development was the ground breaking this past summer for Loews’ fourth onsite hotel at Universal Orlando. The 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort is scheduled to open sometime in 2014.
From what Travel Agent observed during the recent media weekend at Universal Orlando, the new property’s opening can’t come too soon to help accommodate the hordes of families and groups of young people seen rushing through the resort’s two theme parks to experience the variety of new attractions added in this past year. Whether immersing themselves in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Islands of Adventure theme park, enjoying waiting-line character entertainment while awaiting the riotous new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3-D ride in Universal Studios, lining the streets of little old New York to view the Universal Superstar Parade, or surrounding the park’s lagoon at sundown to watch “100 Years of Movie Memories” on cinematic waterfall screens beneath a fireworks sky, the family crowds were everywhere.
According to Universal Orlando’s Vice President of Resort Sales Vincent LaRuffa, the 900 planned suites and 900 standard rooms within the Cabana Bay are being created specifically for families whose budgets have not previously allowed them to enjoy the onsite experience delivered by Loews’ three luxury hotels on the Universal Orlando Resort campus. The 1,800 new rooms are the first to open onsite at Universal Orlando Resort since the Loews Royal Pacific opened in 2002.
The Cabana Bay will offer moderate- and value-priced accommodations as an alternative to the more upscale experience delivered in the 2,400 units at Universal Orlando’s existing properties, including the 750-room Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the 650-room Loews Hard Rock Hotel, and the 1,000-room Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
“The [Loews Cabana Bay] will take people back to the throwback vacations of the late 1950s and early ’60s, to the Miami Beach of that era,” says LaRuffa. Universal describes the property as a re-creation of the expansive motor court hotels near the highway “where families relaxed and played after a long day’s drive.” While this makes it a natural for the Florida drive-in family vacation market, it should attract its share of fly-in travelers as well.
|A rendering of the ‘throwback’ Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which is slated to open at Universal Orlando sometime in 2014.|
The hotel’s value proposition for family guests is found in its suite floor plan accommodating up to six guests. This mini-apartment space includes a divided room bisected by a privacy screen, a bathroom with closed-door toilet room separated from a tub and shower with two sinks, and a living space with a wet bar fronted by two stools, two flat-screen TVs, microwave, fridge, pullout couch, and two queen-size beds. In the hotel’s public spaces, families will enjoy a convenience store and two themed pool play areas.
The opening of Cabana Bay Beach Resort will enhance the already strong partnership between Universal and Royal Caribbean International. According to Dennis Quinn, Universal Orlando Resort’s vice president of destination sales, guests will be able to combine a three- or four-night stay at the resort with three-, four- and seven-night cruises on Royal Caribbean. Transfers between Orlando International Airport, Port Canaveral and Universal Orlando Resort are included in these packages.
Loews Portofino Bay
The Loews Cabana Bay complements a total renovation of the 750 luxury rooms at the Loews Portofino Bay, now in the final stage of completion. The new harbor-facing room in which we stayed at Loews Portofino Bay had arched windows providing a panoramic view of the “port” side of the resort. It had a roomy entertainment credenza topped by a flat-screen TV, a minibar fridge, two rows of dresser drawers, and a wide closet with sliding louvers.
The beige and green colors in the space were accented by three framed color photos of Portofino, Italy; twin gold-framed mirrors with wall sconce lights; a marble-topped desk; a roomy armchair and hassock; and stylish silver floor lamp. A special feature was a Keurig coffee maker in the entry foyer on a wide counter placed beneath a large silver-framed oval mirror.
Hard Rock Hotel
The Loews Hard Rock Hotel’s Director of Conference Management and Catering Thyag Satgoor showed Travel Agent a newly renovated Avalon Ballroom and adjacent breakout rooms. Being that it’s the Hard Rock, it’s only natural that the new carpeting is accented by designs of musical notes in the floor carpets.
Speaking of music, all guests can download their own playlist onto their personal mobile device to enjoy “the sound of their stay,” or rent a guitar in their room to learn how to play from an in-room video tutor.
As with the Loews Portofino Bay, Keurig coffee makers have been installed in every room. The hotel’s lively Beach Club Bar & Grill adjoins the Hard Rock Hotel’s sand beach swimming pool–the hotel’s social center.
Royal Pacific Resort
New at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort is a 42,000-square-foot pavilion tent for outdoor receptions. The hotel’s 80,000 square feet of meeting space have also been completely refurbished.
Whether clients are here to work or play, they’ll have a choice of dining options including the Asian fusion restaurant, Tchoup Chop—the first and only Asian restaurant created by Chef Emeril Lagasse.
Travel agents can get vacation package quotes by contacting their Universal representative (800-224-3838), or from their preferred wholesaler selling Universal Orlando vacations, or through the VAX VacationAccess booking program.
Universal Orlando Resort has preferred partnerships with several agency networks and consortiums, including AAA South, Ensemble, Vacation.com, Virtuoso, and TravelSavers. Additionally, says Quinn, the resort company works with all the major U.S. wholesalers selling Orlando vacations.
|Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop Restaurant at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.|