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.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — q. Reviews

Review: Avatar Flight of Passage in Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

REVIEW: FLIGHT OF PASSAGE

Avatar Flight of Passage, otherwise known as Flight of Passage or “The Banshee Ride,”, is a new ride that opened in the Animal Kingdom’s new land, Pandora: World of Avatar in late May 2017.

Flight of Passage is a motion simulator set in front of a 3-D screen that imitates the experience of flying on the back of a living banshee (think Dragon) through the wildernesses of Pandora, the moon on which Avatar is set.

A technological tour-de-force, Flight of Passage is the best ride at Disney World. The sense of motion is uncanny and thrilling; the visuals are incredibly sharp from edge to edge and just as incredibly interesting (even if you don’t care about, have never seen, or don’t remember the movie); the other effects—from sea spray to the fragrance of an old-growth forest after rain—are expertly carried off.

Some have compared the ride system to a combination of Soarin’ Around the World and Star Tours. This gestures towards the neighborhood of the truth, but underestimates the power and quality of the ride—like saying that Splash Mountain is based on the ride system of it’s a small world.

Flight of Passage has instantly become the hottest ticket in Disney World, with standby waits exceeding five hours early on and still not uncommonly hitting three hours.

The best way to see it is via FastPass+, but they have been hard to find even for those who can book their FastPass+ 60 days ahead. Those eligible for morning Extra Magic Hours and trying to see it then will be competing with thousands of others aimed at the same concept, so should arrive at security well before open. Ditto for those attempting to see it first thing on a non-EMH day.

The standby queue is long, lovely, and interesting.

Some photos from it:

My co-author Josh has dozens more photos from it here.


The FastPass+ queue is brief and uninteresting. This is the point where the two lines merge.

Once you are through the queue you are sectioned off into one of several waiting areas, and then go through two pre-shows.

One pre-show introduces (or re-introduces) you to the concept of the banshee and “links” you to an Avatar (only Na’vi and Avatars can ride banshees, right?).

There actually three variants of this pre-show

  • The standard one
  • A longer one with variable timing that goes on if guests in another pre-show area headed to the same ride system as you are delayed, and
  • A third that shows during the first ride of morning EMH, and skips major parts of the standard or alternate pre-show because the cast member at 6.30a forgot to light the can of sterno that warms up all the computers running the pre-shows.

I saw all three.

The matching to an Avatar is pretty cool. Among other things, you can see a stylized version of your party on the screen ahead of you as you are “matched.” In the shots, I’m on spots 7, then 12, then 16 (our ponchos add to the mystery of these shots).

On the other hand, frankly it gets a little old after you’ve ridden a few times. I found myself yearning for the simplicity of Space Mountain, where you go from the queue to the stars with no intervening 20 minutes of explanations…

The second pre-show introduces you to more of the ride concept and the ride system.

It ends with the request that there be no images or videos on the ride. This is partly because you kinda need both hands to hold on, and partly because the ride’s swoops and turns create a fair degree of likelihood that you’ll drop your phone or camera. In honor of that, I have no photos from the actual ride experience–and still have my camera! But trust me—don’t miss it.

Not everyone will fit the ride restraints—and those in chairs need to be able to transfer themselves. There’s a test version of the ride seat outside. If you are at all concerned, see if you’ll fit the restraints on the test version before you get into line.

Getting on the ride vehicles is like boarding a motorcycle, in rows of eight. After you are on the vehicle, restraints will capture your back and the back of your legs (leg shape seems to be the key issue when people don’t fit).

And then you are off on your banshee ride through the skies and forests of Pandora!

I have a slight degree of motion sickness, and a slight fear of heights—both of which at times can make, for example, Tower of Terror a bit of a trial. Despite the motion and drops of Flight of Passage, I found no issue with either of my troubles.

The minimum height for Flight of Passage is 44 inches. The youngest of kids who are tall enough to ride it may be frightened by the ride, and because of the distance between individual ride vehicles, it may be difficult to comfort them.

But for those tall and mature enough to enjoy it, it will be one of the best things they do at Walt Disney World.

The 2017 easy Guide

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June 11, 2017   4 Comments

Review: Na’vi River Journey in Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

REVIEW: NA’VI RIVER JOURNEY

Na’vi River Journey, a new ride that opened in the Animal Kingdom’s new land, Pandora: World of Avatar in late May 2017, is a boat ride that takes you through the flora and fauna of Pandora, the moon on which Avatar is set.

Here’s what Disney World’s website says about the ride:

“Glide down a gentle, mysterious river and feel a sense of wonder as the full beauty of Pandora reveals itself. Located within the Valley of Mo’ara, Na’vi River Journey offers explorers an experience that has to be seen—and heard—to be believed!

“As your expedition begins, climb aboard a reed boat and drift downstream. After coasting through a series of caves, and passing by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures of the rainforest, you’ll soon find yourself face-to-face with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs.

“The adventure comes to a conclusion as the Shaman demonstrates her deep connection to the life force of Pandora—and sends positive energy out into the forest through the power of her music!”

Disney’s second paragraph is dead on; the accuracy of the first and third will vary by person.

The standby queue is uninteresting—although the FastPass+ return queue is lovely at night (I’ll post photos of it after my July visit; the ones I took during my June trip were unusable even by my low standards).

You board boats with two benches—holding in theory six…

…although sharp eyes will see seven in this one.

And then you are off.

Especially for those who know and appreciate the film, Na’vi River Journey can work as a gentle, lovely and poetic tour through the distinctive plant and animal life of Pandora, picking up on many themes that are not so present in the land’s other ride, Flight of Passage.

For those who don’t know, don’t remember, or don’t care to remember the movie, reactions will be mixed, especially among youngsters.

  • Some will leave it finding it skippable. While the ride system sets a new standard for a dark boat ride, for many the great ride system will not be adequately matched by its content—kinda like how great music can be paired with weaker lyrics (think of the Beatle’s “Paperback Writer”).
  • Others will be delighted and intrigued by what they have seen and heard—and the music really grows on you from ride to ride, unlike the music of some other Disney boat attractions I could name.

For those who don’t know the movie, Na’vi River Journey at its best is like an excerpt from a poem—an excerpt that makes you eager to read the entire work.

This potential intrigue is awfully hard to communicate—especially since my photos are principally of poorly-focused blueness.

So by way of example, here’s two excerpts from a couple of different poems. If either makes you want to read the entire poem it was taken from—well, then that’s potentially the reaction you could have to Na’vi River Journey:

Excerpt 1
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Excerpt 2
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Lines for Na’vi River Journey have been quite long since it opened—though not nearly as long as those for the other ride that opened at the same time, Flight of Passage.

Because of the very real chance that some in your posse won’t find it worth much of a wait, use FastPass+ to avoid the lines, or, even better, so you can save your FastPass+ for another ride, if you are eligible see it via Morning Extra Magic Hours.

The 2017 easy Guide

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June 8, 2017   1 Comment

Dining Options at Caribbean Beach During Its Refurb

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

The counter service area and Shutters table service venue in Centertown at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort closed in May 2017 for replacement.

Alternate dining arrangements have been made, and during my May visit and June stay at Caribbean Beach, I had eight meals here.

A full report follows later on this page, but here’s the short review of  temporary dining at Caribbean Beach:

  • Breakfast: Fine. Supplies for cold in-room dining are easily available, and the hot buffet and food truck offerings are entirely adequate.
  • Lunch: Weak. Both hot and cold offerings are limited. The quality of the hot food is good, but options and capacity are each slim. Cold food is widely available in limited options and while the fruits and salads are OK, the cold sandwiches are weak.
  • Dinner: Adequate for a meal or two.  Between the buffet, food truck, room service, and other options, most will find something to like, but the offerings at each option are limited, and capacity is tight except at the buffet.

A couple of general points before diving into the details

  • Disney has not consistently met demand in its smaller venues, so outages have happened–the Centertown food truck was out of sliders when I wanted them, and I’ve seen reports of the Trinidad South truck being out of lamb and the Island Markets selling out of sandwiches.
  • Waits at the Centertown food truck and buffets may “feel” long at busy times. By my stopwatch, in both cases the entire cycle wait (from committing to starting to eat) is comparable to what you’ll find at other Disney World moderate and value resort food courts at busy times, but don’t expect these to be “quick” options.
  • The buffets may use two holding lines–one to enter the tent (for fire marshal/egress safety issues) and a second before the buffet line (to allow those who have already eaten to get in line for seconds without going back out of the tent to the beginning of the line).
  • While you are in these lines, others may enter the tent simply to use the air conditioned tables or access the beverage station. Neither these people nor those returning to the buffet line for “seconds” are cutting in line, though it may feel like that at times.

OK, everything else I know is covered below.  If you want to see a specific venue, click the links:

THE CENTERTOWN OFFERINGS

The largest range of dining options is in Centertown, between the main pool and Trinidad North.

Here’s you’ll find a food truck offering all-day dining, a buffet serving breakfast and dinner, a bar, and, at times, a mini-truck with snacks.

I’ll get to the food truck and buffets in a minute, but to cover the minor Centertown entries, here’s the mini-truck…

…and a closer shot of its menu (click it to enlarge it).

The bar is visually horrible but with two bartenders, it operates just fine.

The bar menu.

Bar seating is available along a rail and at tables by the beach.

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THE CENTERTOWN FOOD TRUCK

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, typically being given a pager so that you can wait for your meal in the air-conditioned buffet tent.

You can then eat outside, bring it to your room, or enter the buffet tent and eat there.

The food truck runs two menus, one for breakfast and one for lunch and dinner. My image of the truck’s limited  breakfast menu, above, has a bit of a Jungle Cruise feel. For a more readable version, click here.

I had the bacon egg and cheese sandwich with a side of potato casserole. Both were fine.

Morning coffee is available outside (later in the day sees a shift to a lemon-water service here) and also inside the tent, which also has a refillable mug station.

The lunch/dinner food truck menu is also limited (click it to enlarge it)…

…but the burger was much better than most Disney food court burgers.

The fish tacos were good, too.

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

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THE CENTERTOWN BUFFET–BREAKFAST

The main option, however, is the buffet. It’s open for breakfast and dinner–but not lunch. The buffet is open for dinner from 5-10p, and for breakfast from 6.30-11.30a.

You pay for the buffet at the same area where you pay for the food truck. Breakfast prices are $13.99 for those ten and up, and $8.99 for those 3-9 years old, or one quick service credit. Dinner 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 a 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.

The breakfast buffet menu is above and also here.

First on offer is the waffle station, with waffles being made in the background.

The waffle station includes waffles, syrup, and blueberry and strawberry toppings.

Next is oatmeal, grits, and some more toppings.

Around the corner you’ll find butter and cream cheese, a variety of fruits…

…and several yogurts.

The hot station is next, with eggs, sausage, the same potato casserole you can get at the food truck as a side…

…veggie fritattas and “Island Crepes.”

Next is  a station with biscuits, sausage gravy, and pastries.

Then the bacon and ham station, with ham glaze.  This is the only station where a cast member portions the offerings–which, after you’ve tried the sausages, will make perfect sense to you.

Finally,  there’s a selection of breakfast bagels, pastries and breads.

Here’s what I assembled.  All was fine except the sausages, which looked unappetizing, were cold, and had little flavor. Bacon is the way to go! (The potato casserole looks weak but was quite good, as was the frittata.)

See below for the drinks station.

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THE CENTERTOWN BUFFET–DINNER

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.

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 one of my visits, tomato and Island Conch Chowder. I had the chowder—it was very mild.

On another visit, instead of tomato, the second soup was collard green soup.

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 pasta salad and slaw salad.

The entrée station includes the carving station—at both of my dinners, it was carved turkey. At one dinner, other options included roast pork, jerk chicken, and shrimp curry.

At another dinner, the same roast turkey, pork, chicken and shrimp was available, with “Island Glazed Fish.”

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 meats were all adequate–mildly flavored (even the curry) and with a tendency to dryness–although the turkey gravy helps with this. The baked chicken and the shrimp curry were probably the best of the lot.

The image is of one of my dinners–the chowder, shrimp curry, rice, and collard greens. All these were delightful, expect for the greens, which were far too sweet.

Vegetables available my visits included broccoli, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, rice, black beans and collard greens.

There’s also a dessert selection…

…and a bread service area.

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

Service is incredibly attentive—at my first dinner, 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 either of my dinners.

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, if exactly what’s on offer works exactly for your group, it’s fine; otherwise, it’s more of an emergency option than something I’d count on for a nice dinner at Caribbean Beach.

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THE ISLAND MARKETS

“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.

A couple of closer looks at the salad side of the cold case…

…and the sandwich and wrap side.

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.

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THE FREESTYLE COKE MACHINES

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.

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THE TRINIDAD SOUTH FOOD TRUCK

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

But on both my mid-May and June visits, every day 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.

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IN-ROOM DELIVERY OF PIZZA AND SUCH

Another option is ordering off of the limited delivery menu, which features, pizza, wings and such. The menu (click to enlarge):

I’ve never had delivery pizza at Disney World. I tried to order one on my June visit, but a lizard-drowner of a storm meant everyone was sheltering in their rooms and ordering pizza, so after 15 minutes on hold I gave up and got a salad from an Island Market instead.

This option is available from 4p till midnight. Don’t use the dining plan for these options–way too many credits will be charged.

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SNACKS AT CUSTOM HOUSE

There’s a small selection of snacks available for sale at the Custom House.

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A BREAKFAST BAG IN YOUR ROOM

As a “thank you” for staying here during the construction, you’ll find a small soft-sided cooler in your room (if you don’t get one, call from your room phone for one).

The bag includes a couple of bottles of water and a selection of shelf-stable breakfast items.

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THE VENDING MACHINE IN THE QUIET POOL LAUNDRIES

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

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THE MAIN FUENTES DEL MORRO POOL AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

This review continues here.
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June 7, 2017   No Comments

Review: The New Market Quick Service at the Yacht Club

THE MARKET AT DISNEY’S YACHT CLUB RESORT

A new quick service venue opened at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort in mid-May. I checked it out then, and then again in my June visit.

Part of a renovation (not yet complete) of the Yacht Club’s gift shop area, the new venue provides shelf stable snacks and breakfast goods, frozen treats, fruit, pastries, drinks, a coffee bar, cold packaged food, an eating area, and hot food. All are successful except the hot food, which is quite limited.

Traditionally the biggest weakness of Disney World’s Epcot resorts has been their quick-service offerings. There’s a bit at the back of the Beach Club gift shop, more at the Stormalong Bay pool bar and grill, Hurricane Hanna’s, and a bit more at the Bakery along the Boardwalk. (Links are all to overviews on Disney’s site.)

The opening of the new Yacht Club venue, the Market, adds one more minor option among a bunch of other minor options. It’s better than nothing, but still quite limited.

On one side as you enter is the coffee bar and the area where hot food is prepared heated.

The coffee bar—Joffrey’s coffee—has the full range of coffee options.

Beyond the coffee and grill space is a seating area.

Deeper in the Market is a mix of shelf stable snacks, fruit, pastries, and breakfast items. Other than maybe the fruit, this is comparable to what you’ll find in many resort gift shops, but better merchandised.

Along a wall are freestyle refillable mug machines…

…and coffee, hot chocolate, tea, a toaster, and such.

Around the corner is a microwave and frozen treats.

On the opposite wall is the cold case and hot case.

A closer view of the cold case, with drinks on the left and sandwiches, salads and such on the right.

The hot case has a small selection of ready-to-eat cooked food.

This feta and spinach pastry came from it—it was delicious.

The same hot food can also heated to order behind the counter. The limited hot food menu is above.

My Ham and Cheddar Sandwich came from behind the counter looking like this.

Here it is out of its wrapping. This is likely a good choice for kids, as there is no particular taste for them to object to. I mixed hot sauce and mayonnaise together into a sort of gesture towards horseradish. With that it was fine.

The limited set of hot food means that, other than the drinks, there’s not much here beyond what you might find in a Disney World gift shop anyway. As an addition it is welcome, but it does little to make up for the general lack of quick service offerings in the Epcot resorts.

Note that Josh has a longer and more detailed review of the offerings at The Market here.

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June 6, 2017   2 Comments

Perspectives on the Caribbean Beach Construction

THE BASICS OF THE REFURB AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

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.

I spent some time on my June stay here (my 9th stay here) evaluating the buses. 80% of buses (the gold line) departed 20 minutes or sooner after the last bus to the same park had departed. The median (red line) time between buses was 15 minutes, implying a 7-8 minute average wait.

Your results may vary, and bus routes will be changing shortly, with the new sequence being Martinique–>Old Port Royale–>Trinidad North–>Trinidad South–>Jamaica–>Aruba then a turn around and exit after passing Aruba and Jamaica again.

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/or construction at both their northern and southern ends, and should be avoided.

The bar has been converted to this weak-looking thing, but functions just fine.

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 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

See this for much more on the dining options during the refurb at Caribbean Beach, but its summary is as follows

  • Breakfast: Fine. Supplies for cold in-room dining are easily available, and the hot buffet and food truck offerings are entirely adequate.
  • Lunch: Weak. Both hot and cold offerings are limited. The quality of the hot food is good, but options and capacity are each slim. Cold food is widely available in limited options and while the fruits and salads are OK, the cold sandwiches are weak.
  • Dinner: Adequate for a meal or two.  Between the buffet, food truck, room service, and other options, most will find something to like, but the offerings at each option are limited, and capacity is tight except at the buffet.

Note that heavy rain can impede Disney’s ability to supply the buffet, force the closure of the food trucks, and overwhelm room service.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE REFURB AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

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.

This is the path from Martinique to the dining and pool area.

The view from near Aruba 5641. The near part of this area used to be wetlands between Aruba and Barbados, and the far part Barbados.

Construction noise during demolition, 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 except in heavy rain—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).

There are some minor new perks.

You should find a gift bag in your room..

…with a couple of bottles of water and a selection of shelf-stable breakfast items. Loved the waffles..

Mickey and friends visit at the main pool–I missed this, but did get evidence of their presence.

And bands have been playing in the evening–rained out my visits.

My advice? Well, unless you have a pin code, 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

WHAT MIGHT BE NEXT AFTER THE REFURB AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH 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 Custom 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!

VILLAGES AND THEMING AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

This review continues here.

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May 23, 2017   19 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 disboards.com Caribbean Beach thread.

THE CENTERTOWN FOOD TRUCK

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 CENTERTOWN BUFFET

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.

THE ISLAND MARKETS

“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.

THE FREESTYLE COKE MACHINES

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 TRINIDAD SOUTH FOOD TRUCK

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.

IN-ROOM PIZZA

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.

THE VENDING MACHINE IN THE QUIET POOL LAUNDRIES

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   5 Comments