Review: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT
Update June 2014: as part of a refurb that began in late spring 2014, the old full beds are being replaced with queen beds in at least some Caribbean Beach rooms. The first such building opened to guests in early June, and more will open as time passes. I’ll have photos and a re-review after my August visit.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is still the best Disney World moderate resort for first time family visitors who may never return, despite its absence of queen beds.
You can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort hotel.
However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World who can afford it should stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a deluxe resort, and that those who can’t should stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.
Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the moderate resorts are distinguished by having nicer settings and landscaping, and much bigger rooms, than the value resorts, while being less comfortable than and having not nearly as good dining as the deluxe resorts.
Among the moderate resorts, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort’s positives in kid appeal outweigh its negatives in convenience, and give it the first ranking among the moderates for first time family visitors.
(Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is second, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside is third, Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter is a very close fourth, and The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are last.)
(See this for much more on resort distinctions by price class–value, moderate, deluxe, etc.)
FLOOR PLANS AT THE CARIBBEAN BEACH
While many websites and books (but not all) claim that Caribbean Beach rooms have 340 square feet, every room I have measured at the Caribbean Beach has come out at just about 314 square feet–the same size as the rooms of the other moderate resorts (except the cabins.)
Even so, Caribbean Beach rooms are quite spacious. The bedroom area is particularly ample, and is bigger than the bedroom spaces at several of the deluxe resorts. (See this.)
The rooms sleep four in two full-sized beds.
DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT
On this basis, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is the best moderate resort for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.
- Three of the deluxe resorts–the Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Polynesian Resort, in that order–have spectacular kid appeal.
- None of the moderates has strong kid appeal, but Caribbean Beach has the most
- All of the value resorts–Disney’s All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies, and its Pop Century Resort and Art of Animation–have strong kid appeal.
The kid appeal of the Caribbean Beach Resort comes from
- The vibrant and playful colors that form the basis of its Caribbean theme (the other moderates are dull to a kid’s eyes)
- The beaches that ring the lake it is built around (Coronado Springs is the only other “traditional” moderate with any beaches, and those in only one of its three sections; the Cabins at Fort Wilderness also have a beach, about a mile away)
- The kid friendly theming of its rooms, mostly based on Finding Nemo, but with rooms in the not-recommended (because too distant) Trinidad South section themed around pirates (for a review of the pirate rooms, see this). No other moderate has theming designed to appeal to kids in every one of its rooms
- The quality of its main pool—for example, no other traditional moderate has such a fully themed little kid pool.
This distinctive level of kid appeal is sufficient to make up for the resort’s inconvenience—among the moderate resorts, only the Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are more inconvenient.
The Caribbean Beach Resort was Walt Disney World’s first moderate, and Disney made one mistake that led to this inconvenience: designing the resort with seven bus stops. This is 2 or 3 more than it could have had, and almost doubles the amount of time it takes for buses to get around the resort compared to the other large moderates which, designed later, have 4-5 bus stops.
For what Disney could do to fix this, see the end of this review of Caribbean Beach’s Pirate Rooms.
Other distinctive features.
The Caribbean Beach Resort is the only moderate with no elevators at all, and with no indoor bar/lounge (there’s a bar at the pool).
It is also the only moderate other than the Cabins to have full beds, rather than queen beds. The absence of queens isn’t enough to knock it from the top of the moderates, because its kid appeal is still so much stronger than that of the other moderate resorts.
This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms (because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms, or going to the main resort food area often; the single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views).
Given that, standard rooms on the ground floors (no elevators) in the southern part of the Aruba section (buildings 51-53) and the northern part of the Jamaica section (buildings 44, 45 and 46) are the best balance between cost, tranquility, and closeness (via the Parrot Cay bridge) to the main pool and food area.
Avoid Trinidad South and Barbados (too distant).
Any typical first time visitors who insist on staying, or only can stay, in a moderate
Families with mobility issues (lack of elevators, multiple bus stops); families that need queen beds
This review continues here.