Review: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS
Note: as part of a refurb that began in late spring 2014, the old full beds that were at Caribbean Beach are being replaced with queen beds in standard Caribbean Beach rooms.
Pirate rooms are not part of this refurb, and thus will retain their full beds. “They will get their own refurb, at a different time,” I was told.
As of the beginning of November 2014, Jamaica and Aruba are done, Barbados is almost done–just one one more building to go–and Martinique has just started. Rooms cannot yet be booked for 5–speculation is that such booking will be available after the first of the year.
I got different answers from Caribbean Beach cast members on when the renovation would be complete–ranging from “November, we hope” to “by the end of this year” to “mid-2015.”
Based on the current pace, the end of 2014 is possible, if the refurbs continue through the holiday season–and they may not.
To get a refurbed room, for a stay in November, request Jamaica or Aruba. For a stay in December, you could add Barbados to this list…but Barbados is not one of the better places to stay at Caribbean Beach, because of its distance from central resort services. In later November, refurbed preferred rooms in Martinique will begin to be assigned–but plenty of non-refurbed rooms will remain, so getting a refurbed one will be a crap shoot.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is the best Disney World moderate resort for first time family visitors who may never return, especially those who avoid the Trinidad South (“Pirate rooms”) and Barbados sections.
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. The rankings of the first four are very close, and sensible people can differ on them.)
(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 close to 314 square feet–nearly 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 floor plan above is for a room not yet refurbed–Pirate rooms are similar.
This floor plan is for a two queen refurbed room…
The refurbed rooms have a new look, and, as you can see at the back right, also now have sliding “barn doors” separating the bath area from the bedroom, rather than the fabric curtains here in un-refurbed rooms.
And for many, the key feature of the refurb is the addition to many queen rooms (not king rooms, so far as I can tell) of a Murphy Bed, which gives another sleeping spot and a new option for five-person families.
I measured the Murphy Bed mattress as 30″ wide by 64″ long. The way it is positioned on top of the bedframe and related to the back framing means that, unlike many such beds, it does not sleep shorter than this. I’d put a five foot tall kid on this and expect great results. The cushion is 5 inches deep.
Rooms right now can only be booked for four, and you can add to this capacity of four a child younger than three who sleeps in a crib. Bookings for five are expected to open after more refurbs are complete.
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, in the not-yet refurbed rooms based on Finding Nemo, Mickey and Goofy in the five person refurbed rooms, and rooms in the not-recommended (because too distant) Trinidad South section themed around pirates. No other moderate has theming designed to appeal to kids in so many of its rooms
- The quality of its main pool, the best among the moderates—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.
Moreover, a couple of the areas at Caribbean Beach–Barbados and Trinidad South–are quite a hike from the main central services, and the check-in building the Customs House isn’t really convenient to anything except Barbados.
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).
Best places to stay.
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).
See the map (as always on this site, click it to enlarge it.)
Standard rooms on the ground floors (because 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 Caribbean Cay bridge) to the main pool and food area.
Avoid Trinidad South and Barbados (too distant).
Here’s the current online check in form. Look at the map carefully before you click “Near Transportation.” At Aruba, that will put you distant from the bridge; at Martinique, it’s not necessary as there’s two nearby bus stops.
Any typical first time visitors who insist on staying, or only can stay, in a moderate.
Families with mobility issues (lack of elevators, spread out; multiple bus stops).
PHOTO TOUR OF A NEWLY-REFURBED QUEEN AND MURPHY BED ROOM AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT
This review continues here.