Cabana Bay Beach Resort: Retro Inspiration Meets Modern Design
I’ve always been a fan of 1950s and 60s aesthetics, so when I got my first look at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, I was immediately excited by the sweeping vistas, bold colors and nostalgic details (all the way down to the V05 shampoo and cream rinse in the bathrooms!). After stepping into the fourth (and newest) on-site hotel, I just couldn’t help it: I was in full summer vacation mode.
I flipped off my sandals and settled in by the great pool with a fun cocktail in hand (my personal favorite is the Atomic Tonic). After some quick R&R, I actually got to spend some time touring the hotel to really take in all the little details that make the retro theming so immersive.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort does exactly what it was designed to do—it takes you back to the late 50s and early 60s with a whimsical and retro design, while providing every modern hotel feature you need and want. And even some you didn’t know you wanted in the first place, like a 10-lane bowling alley complete with cool neon lighting, a smartly-designed family suite that sleeps up to six people, a quick walk to Universal’s two amazing theme parks, a huge zero-entry pool with an awesome waterslide and an iconic dive tower design, and even a swanky yet casual lobby bar that’s the perfect place to relax after a day at the parks.
To learn more about the inspiration behind the value and moderately-priced hotel, I chatted with Russ Dagon, vice president and executive project director with Universal Creative, the team that brought this retro creation to life.
SP: What was the hotel’s original design inspiration?
RD: The original concept started with the idea of the family vacation, and quickly evolved to the station-wagon family-vacation of the late 1950s and 60s. We looked at compelling architecture that spoke to this concept and landed at mid-century motels and hotels. The process then involved extensive research, both architecturally and culturally, in order to determine what elements were worthy of refreshing for today’s guests.
SP: So, now that you had a direction, how did you get to this really fun design?
RD: The team was inspired by the Loews Americana in Bal Harbor, Florida, and numerous other mid-century designs. There was a good deal we could take from the era that was once again relevant to today’s guests. Many of the design elements, all of the colors, and even some of the material selections are period-specific. Yes, our pools are a bit of a departure from the roadside motels…We are every bit the modern resort when it comes to the pools and the amenities that we offer to our guests, and it was really easy to get excited during the design process about what we were creating. To see new interpretations of some really fun elements was very rewarding.
SP: The rooms really feel 100% retro, while also being totally modern. How did you balance the two?
RD: Everything in this hotel is about the guest first. The guestrooms in particular are all designed with the utmost in modern conveniences and comfort, with ample power outlets, storage room and even a plush foam pull-out mattress that you would not expect in a hotel at this price point.
SP: Now that Cabana Bay Beach Resort is open, do you see guests experiencing the hotel as you had envisioned? Any surprises?
RD: The bowling alley and game rooms are huge successes thus far, but that is really not a surprise at all. When you are building a late 50s hotel with families in mind, a family bowling alley is a must have!
SP: There are some happy guests around here, so I imagine this goal has been met. But what feeling do you want guests to take away after they leave?
RD: This hotel is all about family time. Our hope is that as guests experience the hotel they engage in conversations related to what they have come across in the property. We’ve already seen plenty of grandparents explaining certain design elements to grandchildren. A good deal of “back in my day” talk!
SP: What is your favorite design element of the hotel?
RD: I really get a kick out of the Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio. It’s such an honor to pay tribute to the individual that was such an amazing innovator. We discovered that so many elements from the late 50s and early 60s are still appealing and relevant today, but I would really encourage everyone to take a look at Jack LaLanne’s “Cooking with Jack” cookbook in the Universal Gift Shop. Virtually all of the recipes in the book are in line with diet trends of today. Again, LaLanne was so ahead of his time in virtually all of aspects of his life.
Cabana Bay is a total blast from the past and definitely a must-see that the entire family will enjoy. You can book a stay at Cabana Bay Beach Resort now to check it out for yourself!
Want more? Take a look at this video playlist for a closer look at the hotel’s nifty, nostalgic design details and modern amenities.