By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Category — p. News and Changes

Perspectives on the Caribbean Beach Construction


Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort is undergoing a major redo.

Nine accommodations buildings have closed and are surrounded by construction fences.

Closed are all six buildings of Barbados, and the three northern buildings in Martinique. The other three buildings in Martinique used to be priced as “preferred,” but are not anymore.

All rooms at Caribbean Beach were refurbed recently, and many had a fifth sleeping spot added. The furniture for this fifth spot is being taken out of the rooms in the closed nine buildings and added to the 18 remaining queen bed buildings.

What this means is that in the remaining queen rooms (that is, in all villages except Trinidad South), it will be much easier to get a five person/three bed room.

The nine closed buildings are gone from the map, and are expected to be demolished and be replaced by a new DVC resort–although as usual, this has not been announced. The absence of these ~562 rooms—more than 25% of Caribbean Beach’s pre-construction capacity—has already reduced crowds on the buses and at the main pool.

Construction is also happening at the Custom House area, including the addition of a large temporary building (the image shows its short side). This building has not been widely discussed, but while it could be the office for the new construction, it seems poorly located for that and to be too large to be anything but a temporary replacement for the Custom House…

The shops, concierge services, table service restaurant, quick service restaurant, and other amenities at Old Port Royale are closed. They will be rebuilt near the same area but along the water. What this means is that the remaining buildings in Martinique will have demolition and construction at both their northern and southern ends, and should be avoided.

The bar was also expected to be closed and replaced, but at least as of my mid-May visit, it was still open, accessible through the pool.

Temporary replacement for the gift shops comes from a shopping truck near the main pool…

…and also from small “Island Markets” in converted rooms in one each in Martinique (2509), Jamaica (4308), and Aruba (5524). (The first two digits of the room number indicate the building number.)

Concierge services are still available in the Custom House, and also in a converted room in Trinidad North, room 3109.

There’s a couple of replacements for the closed dining—current dining options at Caribbean Beach are covered in great detail here.

  • The Island Markets have a narrow selection of breakfast supplies, cold sandwiches/wraps/salads, and snacks
  • A food truck by the main pool offers breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • An air-conditioned tent offers breakfast and dinner buffets with somewhat limited menus
  • A second food truck may be outside the quiet pool at Trinidad South
  • Pizza delivery to the rooms is also available


There’s three major issues that come with this refurb:

  • Visual blight from construction
  • Noise from construction, once demolition kicks off
  • Limited dining options until the new venues are built and running

The visual blight is inescapable, as it is present along the bus routes and, if you have a car, at the main entry. That said, this sort of thing happens at Disney World all the time and doesn’t matter a lot unless you are staying in Martinique.

Construction noise during demolitions, and to a lesser extent construction, will be particularly a problem in Martinique, quite minor in the distant Pirate rooms in Trinidad South, and present elsewhere. Noise will be limited to the day, but may interfere with afternoon naps, or otherwise intrude into an otherwise peaceful afternoon in the main pool.

The limited dining is probably the most acute issue. While it could be made a little better with more options at the buffets, and the expansion of the breakfast and dinner buffet offerings to include a lunch buffet as well, unless that happens Caribbean Beach will not be a great choice for those planning more than one or two lunches or dinners at the resort.

To be clear, dining at Caribbean Beach is NOT a disaster—it’s not a lot worse than that at Port Orleans French Quarter, there’s still more counter service than at the Epcot resorts, and one no more should pick a Disney moderate based on dining than one should pick a spouse based on sock color…

…but the current state of dining, when combined with the noise and visual blight, makes it hard to recommend Caribbean Beach when for just a little more money one could book one of the other Disney World moderates—especially Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside (Coronado Springs is also seeing construction, though with no dining implications).

My advice? Well, unless effective prices go down or dining options are strengthened

  • If you have any qualms, change your resort. The potential for you to second-guess yourself is too high.
  • If you are one of the seven people worldwide who chose Caribbean Beach specifically for Shutters or the food court, change your resort.
  • If you never felt strongly about staying at Caribbean Beach anyway, change your resort.
  • If you picked Caribbean Beach for its tranquility, consider how construction noise might affect that.
  • If you plan more than one or two lunches or dinners at the resort, consider changing your resort


The traditional issues with Caribbean Beach have been the number of bus stops, the distance of most of the resort from the check-in area at the Customs House, the distance of two villages—Barbados and especially Trinidad South—from the central services and pool, and the somewhat awkward layout of the quick service dining here.

This refurb holds the promise to fix almost all of this—particularly so if the a. the main lobby is moved to join the other central services in Centertown and b. in addition to the elimination of the Barbados (and Custom House) bus stops, the three stops serving what are now six accommodations buildings at Martinique, Centertown, and Trinidad North are combined into one.

Note that there is also much rumor of a gondola system that, among other things, might connect Caribbean Beach with Epcot and Hollywood Studios via a station between Jamaica and Trinidad South.

While this would require another bus stop (or maybe moving south both Jamaica’s and Aruba’s bus stops), the combination of Caribbean Beach’s current loveliness and playfulness and its great main pool with a gondola, new waterfront dining, fewer rooms, and a net smaller number of bus stops, would really make Caribbean Beach stand out among the moderates.

I have invented the material on the map below to show the potential here:

Even if there’s no gondola, there’s great promise here. But at least until dining options—or effective room prices–improve, I would advise most who plan more than a lunch or dinner or two at Caribbean Beach to stay elsewhere.

Have you stayed here since the refurb started?  Let me know what you think in the comment form below!

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May 23, 2017   3 Comments

Dining Options at Caribbean Beach During Its Refurb

The counter service area and Shutters table service venue in Centertown at Caribbean Beach closed earlier in May for replacement.

I’ll have more to say about the dining alternatives after my multi-night stay at Caribbean Beach in early June, but during an unexpected trip in mid-May I checked most of them out, including three meals—although not any breakfasts.

Here’s the initial version of the scoop with more to come after my June visit. I’ve also supplemented my own experience with info from a ton of helpful posts on the Caribbean Beach thread.


The principal substitute venues are temporary fixtures just south of the main pool, between the pool and Trinidad North.

All day dining is available from a food truck. You order from the kiosk on the right above…

…and pick your food up at the truck itself. You can then eat outside, bring it to your room, or enter the air-conditioned buffet tent and eat there.

The menu is limited (click it to enlarge it)…

…but the burger was much better than most Disney food court burgers. The sliders and fish tacos look good, too.

I have no image of the breakfast menu, but you can find it here.

The food truck serves breakfast from 7-11.30a, and lunch and dinner (same menu) from 11.30a to 9p.


The main option, however, is the buffet. It’s open for breakfast and dinner. The breakfast menu is here.

Here’s the dinner menu. Frankly, there’s a little less here than meets the eye, so I strongly suggest that early on a stay at Caribbean Beach you go inside and inspect the actual offerings, so that if you later decide to have dinner here there’s no surprises.

You pay for the buffet at the same area where you pay for the food truck. Prices are $20.99 for those ten and up, and $11.99 for those 3-9 years old, or one quick service credit.

You then get an wrist band, which is what allows you into the buffet line—and allows the buffet tent to also serve double duty as an air-conditioned area for eating off the food truck, and/or filling your refillable mugs.

Here’s a couple of views of the buffet tent, which seats on the order of 250-300 people.

The buffet is all-you-can-eat if you dine in, and you can dine in or do it as a takeaway. However, you can’t both do a sit-down all-you-can-eat buffet meal and then also fill up a to-go plate. One or the other, bucko.

My main issue with the buffet is how limited the options are. Frankly, for a quick service credit, it’s nicely priced if you can find meal items you are in the mood for, but the adult cash price is high for the range of options available.

The first station combines some kids offerings with what the menu calls the “Pasta with a Selection of Sauces.” You’ll find here chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, meatballs, sausage, pasta alfredo, and pasta marinara.

Next are a couple of soups—on my visit, tomato and Island Conch Chowder. I had the chowder—it was very mild.

The salad section has precisely one greens option—mixed lettuce, mostly garden variety—well you know what I mean, it’s exactly the opposite of the variety of greens in our salad garden—six dressings, mixed fruit, and a couple of slaw-style options.

The entrée station includes the carving station—at my dinner, it was carved turkey. Other options include roast pork, jerk chicken, and shrimp curry. No beef—even though beef is common at carving stations at moderate and value food courts. If you want beef, get a burger at the food truck.

The turkey and the pork were dry—though the turkey gravy helped with that. However, I had some of the first turkey and pork of the evening—I arrived just after opening—and logistics needs may have meant that these were “older” and thus drier than what would be served later. I’ll check that out in June.

The image is of my second run through the buffet—my first plate was turkey, pork, jerk chicken, mashed potatoes, a roll, and salad. My second run included the chowder, shrimp curry, rice, and collard greens. All these were delightful, expect for the greens, which were far too sweet.

Vegetables available my visit included broccoli, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, rice, and collard greens.

There’s also a bread service area that I did not photograph adequately even by my low standards, and a dessert selection.

Off to the side is the beverage station, which is also accessible to those with refillable mugs. (You can get the mugs in the Island Markets, covered next.)

Service is incredibly attentive—I must have had three cast members ask me how the food was, and two others ask if they could get me a drink. Others have commented on nightly live music here as well—such was not playing during my early dinner, but I’ll keep my eye out for music on my June trip, likely to avoid it.

An expansion in offerings would make me not hesitate to recommend this buffet. Another pasta, another soup, one or two more leaf salad leaf options, some salad toppings, a beef entrée and one or two more “casserole” or sauced entrees, and a couple more vegetable options would round it out nicely.

But without that, unless what’s on offer works exactly for your group, it’s more of an emergency option than something I’d count on for a nice dinner at Caribbean Beach.

The buffet is open for dinner from 5-10p, and for breakfast from 6.30-11.30a.


“Island Markets” are in three converted rooms—one each in Martinique (2509), Jamaica (4308), and Aruba (5524). (The first two digits of the room number indicate the building number.)

They offer

… ice cream (above, in the box at left), pastries, coffee and tea, cereals and pop tarts (with a microwave above)…

… drinks, yogurt, fruit, salads, sandwiches and wraps…

… and refillable mugs, bananas, and snacks.

The wraps/sandwich/fruit/salad choices are thin, and have sold out at times by early evening. I expect that problem to be largely fixed shortly as Disney learns more about patterns of demand.

Regardless, the offerings of these spaces work better for snacks and for breakfast supplies than they do as a place to grab lunch or a light dinner—unless you are thinking very light.

The Island Markets are open from 7a-10p.


Refillable mugs can be refilled in freestyle coke machines—where you get to design your own drink, like my favorite, peach Sprite.

These machines are available in one or two buildings in each village, replacing in those buildings the old-style Coke machines—which remain in the rest of the buildings. Find the right building, then follow the signs for Ice and Vending.

Buildings with the freestyle machines are marked on the resort map–note what I’ve circled in red.


The overview of dining at Caribbean Beach Disney provides does not include a food truck at Trinidad South.

But on my mid-May visit, one was there, on the parking lot side of the quiet pool…

…specializing in gyro and pita sandwiches (click the image to enlarge it).

I quite enjoyed my lamb and beef gyro. Lots of sauce…

I imagine that the absence of it being listed means you can’t count on it being there.  But if it is, it’s a handy option for those staying in the otherwise distant-from-food Pirate Rooms in Trinidad South.


Another option is ordering off of the limited delivery menu, which features, pizza, wings and such. I’ve never had delivery pizza at Disney World, but will try it on my June visit and report out then.


Finally, a post on the disboards thread noted above reminded me that there’s a vending snack machine in the quiet pool laundry rooms!

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May 22, 2017   No Comments

Review: Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom


Happily Ever After is the evening show at the Magic Kingdom, and is the best of Disney World’s evening shows.

Debuting in May 2017, it is dominated by fireworks, song and projections, and also features lasers and other pyrotechnics.

It shows almost every night—at a time varying with sunset and park hours—from late December into August, and then several times a week during the Mickey’s party season from September into mid-December.

(During the party season, on the three to four nights a week* when Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are on, no evening show is available to those without party tickets.)

Happily Ever After is themed to the concept of “unlocking the magic within” to achieve dreams

Dreams are grouped into themes: Wishes, Adventure, Friendship, Love, [Overcoming] Adversity, and Triumph.

Each theme vignette presents Castle projections and songs from Disney and Pixar films—mostly from the Little Mermaid and later releases—supporting the theme.

Astonishingly effective, and with the latest generation of firework shapes and colors, projection technology, and lasers, Happily Ever After is also sweet and charming, and a tremendous crowd-pleaser—spontaneous applause followed most of the vignettes the nights I saw it.

Happily Ever After is a wonderful capstone to a Magic Kingdom day. Don’t miss it.

*Except the first week of November and Thanksgiving week.


Happily Ever After is designed to be seen with the Main Street railroad station at your back and Cinderella Castle in front of you.

Because of the projections on the Castle—and how fleeting, small and/or subtle many of the images that make them up are—the best results will come from being closer to the Castle.

The ideal position is in the circular hub right on front of the Castle.

(The projections are not shown on the back or side of the Castle).

Positions further back on Main Street towards the station will yield less impact, as the effect of the projections will be reduced.

And positions elsewhere in the park, although they will yield views of the higher fireworks and include the music, will lose most of the impact of the show.
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May 21, 2017   No Comments

Refurb Update

I had an unplanned–no, that’s not right, otherwise I would have been in Omaha or Osaka, not Orlando–unexpected visit to Disney World this week, through the combination of a client meeting being canceled and some subsequent creativity on the issues of where I would pick up my connecting flight, and how long my layover would be.

The main thing it let me do was see this, which I’ll write more about next week:

But I also took the opportunity to run around and check in on a bunch of resort refurbs. More on the basics of these refurbs is here, and I’ll write more about each soon, but here’s the quick scoop.


The replacement dining at Caribbean Beach is at best adequate, more so at breakfast than lunch or dinner.

The cast members, however, are spectacularly attentive.

Perhaps the most interesting news is that furniture from the five-person rooms in the now-closed Barbados and half of Martinique areas is being installed in previously four-person rooms in the remaining non-Pirate villages, so the extra bed will be much more available.


The refurb at Pop Century began with Building 8–the refurb of this building is not yet complete.

However, Building 9 has now begun its refurb.


At Coronado Springs, the refurb of Rancho 7A is complete.

The next building to have kicked off is Cabana 8A.


The re-done Wilderness Lodge quiet pool looks like it could re-open any minute.

The official word is July 17, but I would not be surprised to see something earlier.


Rooms on the 4th floor of the Yacht Club are done, and the 3rd floor is being worked on.

The new Yacht Club counter service, The Market, opened Monday. I’ll have more to say about this soon, but additional counter service options have been badly needed at the Epcot resorts.

OK, that’s it for now, but more to come soon!

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May 17, 2017   No Comments

To-Do List: Disney World Higher Crowd Itinerary

This To-Do List is for the Disney World  Higher Crowd ItineraryFor To-Do-Lists for other itineraries, see this.

(Note that a good travel agent, such as Kelly at Destinations in Florida at 980-429-4499 or at can do almost all of this for you, for free. If you use Destinations in Florida as your travel agent and tell them you came from this site, then they share a bit of the pixie dust they get from Disney with me.)


1. Confirm your budget, planned dates, intended hotel, kids’ development and heights, and your transportation choice and its availability for your planned dates.

2. Make your plane reservations, if flying. Make any other needed transportation arrangements.

3. Create your My Disney Experience account here and add your family members to it

4. Set up your hotel and tickets. Call 407-939-7675 (preferred, because this allows you to tell the reservationist which building at your resort you wish to be in), or click here to use Disney’s online system.  (Note: if your dates are later than what the online system permits, see this.)

  • If you are following my itinerary, you want the hotel you’ve picked for 8 nights, nine day no hopper tickets, the Dining Plan, and Disney’s Magical Express if you are flying
  • Itineraries other than mine will have different requirements here


San Angel Inn at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netDecide whether on your first night you’ll be dining at Akershus or the San Angel Inn. Akershus is a princess meal–you’ll have another princess meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table on Thursday.  If you really like princesses, do Akershus; otherwise, San Angel Inn is the better choice.

Login to your account, click the “Things to Do” tab at top right, under Dining hit “Make Reservations,” and practice trying to reserve restaurants (hint: use the search box at the upper right).

This may well drive you crazy, but the site works better than it used to…and is likely the only way you can get your Cindy reservations done! (as the site opens up a new reservable day at 6a, whereas the phone reservation line opens at 7a).

Collect your restaurant reservations together. You will want to do them online in order of hardest to reserve first. This is how they are listed below.


(For an 180 day calendar, see this).

Be on the restaurant website by at least 5:50am EST, and have your Cindy reservation all set up on the page. Keep refreshing, as you will be let in as soon as Disney’s system decides it is 6a.

Make as many of the following as you have patience for (try to get through at least Tusker House), in the exact order listed–but note that sometimes the Rivers of Light Dining Package is not available until 90-120 days before:

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table Lunch (dining plan, two credits): Thursday at 11a or later if you can; earlier than 11 only if your sole option…
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (dining plan, two credits): Tuesday 6.15p show. The later time will keep you up later than you need to be, OK if all you can get. Avoid the earlier time–it’ll cut into your park time too much
  • Chef Mickey’s (dining plan, one credit) Tuesday 11a.  Later is OK, but not a whole lot earlier–no earlier than 10.30a
  • Tusker House as Rivers of Light Dining Package (dining plan, one credit). First Sunday 5.30p. You can schedule for as late as Disney will allow you to do so, but not earlier.
  • Crystal Palace (dining plan, one credit): Second Saturday 6p if you can; earlier OK, but not later
  • Akershus Banquet or San Angel Inn (dining plan, one credit): First Saturday 6p.  No later than 6.30p, but earlier is OK if your travel plans allow for an ealrier arrival at Epcot.

For those you don’t make online, make them by calling call (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463)


Liking the Name on This MagicBand1. Be on your MyDisneyExperience account by 7a and set up the following FastPass+

  • First Saturday afternoon and evening at Epcot: Tier One: Frozen Ever After. Tier Two: Spaceship Earth. The Tier One FastPass+ is your priority. Set the Tier Two times for when your travel plans permit you to be in the park. If you van book just one because of your travel schedule, choose Frozen Ever After
  • First Sunday at the Animal Kingdom: Na’vi River Journey, Finding Nemo: The Musical, and Kali River Rapids. Set Na’vi for 10-11a, Nemo 11.30 to 11.45 for the noon show, and Kali River Rapids at 12:40p
  • Monday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Tier One: Great Movie Ride. Tier Two: Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones. Set Tower of Terror for 9-10a, Great Movie Ride for 10-11, and Indiana Jones for the noon show time.
  • Tuesday at the Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Jungle Cruise. Set Space Mountain for 9-10a, the Speedway for 10-11a, and Jungle Cruise for 3-4p.
  • Wednesday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Tier One: Toy Story Midway Mania; Tier Two: Star Tours and the Frozen Sing-Along. Set Toy Story for 1.10 to 2.10p, Frozen for the 2.30p show, and Star Tours for 3.15-4.15p
  • Thursday at the Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and the Haunted Mansion. Target Seven Dwarfs for 1-2p, Belle for 2-3p, and the Haunted Mansion for 3.30-4.30p.
  • Friday at Epcot: Tier One: Test Track. Tier Two: Mission: SPACE and Turtle Talk with Crush. Set Mission: SPACE for 9a-10a, Test Track for 10a-11a, and Turtle Talk with Crush for 12.30p to 1.30p.
  • Second Saturday at the Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, and a third ride. Set Big Thunder for 9-10a, and Pirates for 10-11a
  • Second Sunday at the Animal Kingdom: Avatar: Flight of Passage and Festival of the Lion King. Set Flight of Passage for 9.30 to 10.30a, and Festival of the Lion King for 10.30-10.45a for the 11a show.

2. Do online check in, requesting as you do special location points

3. Customize your MagicBands


1. Bring your MagicBands in your carry-ons

2. If you use Disney’s Magical Express, you do not need to collect your bags at the Orlando airport unless you arrive late in the evening/at night or are an international traveler. Disney will get them for you and, eventually, deliver them directly to your room. Your bags may arrive hours after you do; so, depending on the weather forecasts, have a carry-on with an appropriate change of clothes for Orlando weather on Saturday, as you will almost certainly go to Epcot on Saturday before your checked bags arrive.

3. Follow the instructions in the Magical Express packet you will receive in the mail regarding both tagging your bags pre-departure, and where to go at the Orlando airport to find your transport to your resort.

4. Bring a copy of your room reservation, confirmation numbers and any tickets for special events you may have received in the mail.

5. Pack breakfast utensils, as they are not always available in the gift shop: bowls, spoons, napkins

6. When you arrive at the hotel, look for the special “On-line Check-in” line, and get into it.

The 2017 easy Guide

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May 11, 2017   No Comments

Disney World Higher Crowd Itinerary

Below is my FastPass+ based Disney World itinerary for higher crowd weeks.

Updated in May 2017, it includes guidance for the new Avatar: World of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  On its first Animal Kingdom day, it uses a Rivers of Light Dining Package to save a FastPass+. If your visit is so soon that you aren’t able to book one, use this for the first and second Sunday! Note that this package is available sometimes only 3-4 months ahead, rather than the 180 days ahead that most dining is available.

This itinerary does not work all dates, and some dates that it mostly works it may need some little adjustments. Check your week here.

As in all images and tables on this site, click it to enlarge it.

The recommended dining reservations and FastPass+ that make it work are in the To-Do List.

Daily agendas are in the links:

The 2017 easy Guide

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May 11, 2017   No Comments