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



Perspectives on the Caribbean Beach Construction



By Dave Shute

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.

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 have changed, 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 seems to be offices for the new construction.

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.

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 a gondola system is being built that, among other things, will connect Caribbean Beach with Epcot and Hollywood Studios via a station between Jamaica and Trinidad South. Don’t expect this to be operational before late 2019.

While this might 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:

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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34 comments

1 Chandra { 05.23.17 at 11:50 pm }

I just returned from 4 days at Caribbean Beach. I stayed in Barbados in just December in one of the extra bed; corner rooms.
I was Stunned at the lack of Disney feel to the rooms in Aruba. Not to mention the cleanliness of the room; after all this is Disney and they expect me to pay top dollar, I therefore expect top accommodations in return. Instead we were greeted at a late 10pm check in to a hair covered bathroom floor and tub, the ceiling fan was Coated in cobwebs and there was NO color in the room; no bright bed spread; just White. It looked like the room was being stripped of any Disney detail. The dining was horrible in the makeshift tent; but that was to be expected and they did warn us and accommodate us with a gift card. The buses are not crowded, but there are also Less of them. Once again understandable, Disney is a business and with fewer people there they would run fewer buses; however, again Disney wants top dollar from me, then they shouldn’t change the level of service.

2 Angie { 05.24.17 at 9:50 am }

We are booked for this resort in December of this year. Have you heard of any ETA of completion? We hope it is all done by the time we go. And I was told you don’t get your room assignment until day of, is there any particular place we should ask to stay if available? We will have a 1 1/2 year old and 4 adults in our group. Thanks for the information!

3 Maggie { 05.24.17 at 10:09 am }

Thank you for your detailed review. We got standard rooms with free dining on last years bounceback offer. We are forced to stay because we have 3 rooms and need 1 with a roll-in shower. Our room is only $219 a night plus the $75 gift cards at check in. I am hoping the standard room will keep us farther from the noise. That is my only concern. We may end up eating at the resort some because of the breakfast buffet. We are going to make the best of it. My only other concern is food allergies. Do have any ideas on food options or allergy menus? If we have to skip eating at the resort, we will make do. It is ending up being so cheap.

4 Dave { 05.25.17 at 9:20 am }

Angie, I’ve heard rumors the dining may re-open this year, but have no real insight. Jamaica will be the best village, and the preferred village Trinidad North next best.

5 Dave { 05.25.17 at 9:24 am }

Maggie, they are usually pretty flexible with allergy issues. See this.

6 Kimberly Carey { 06.21.17 at 2:09 pm }

any updates on the dining at Caribbean Beach?

7 John { 06.22.17 at 7:23 am }

We stayed May 3 – 11 at that time Barbados was all fenced off, the food court was still open. We stayed in Matiniqye building 24 corner room king bed, the room was clean but the decor was dated. When we left the day before the food court closed and they set up the food tent, with the gift card provided we ate at the parks so I can not comment on the food tent. I can say the overall feel of the resort was not of being at Disney but we spent most of our time at the parks and the resort was just a place to sleep so for us it was not a big issue. It was just my wife but I if we had kids I would recommed staying at another of the resorts for the Disney feel. In my opinion with the amout of construction going on the rooms should be greatly discounted. The $75/day goft card offer which we received, however now discontinued should be continued or just close the resort completely until construction is completed (they won’t do). I am looking forward to seeing the results when completed in 2019 and will consider returning then

8 Dave { 06.22.17 at 7:25 am }

This is updated after my June stay here.

9 Dave { 06.22.17 at 7:25 am }

Thanks, John

10 JaJacqueline Elias { 06.25.17 at 12:35 pm }

HI we are a family 2 adults and 2 kids we make the reservation for Caribbean we go ending august I ask to Disney about the gift card they said is only for the people who reserved before march…
I’m worry about the construction there do you recommend change our reservation?
Thanks

11 Dave { 06.26.17 at 2:23 pm }

As I note in the post, if you have worries I suggest you change.

12 Tammy { 07.04.17 at 7:23 am }

Is the bicycle riding no longer available? (Not seeing it on the new map.)

13 Dave { 07.04.17 at 8:10 am }

Tammy, I’m not sure. I recall seeing some chained up bikes near the gift shop truck, which may have been for rent or may have belonged to families…

14 Jackie { 07.09.17 at 12:00 pm }

Hi! Do you know if they have food trucks located through out the resort? How about soda refill stations? I heard there would be a food truck outside of the Jamaica building with the soda station?

15 DD { 07.10.17 at 12:21 am }

We just returned from a 2 night night trip. The staff was super nice and accommodating, but the resort was disappointing. Of course the $75 credit per night, the short stay and that we were in the parks all day made it tolerable. I felt bad for any unfortunate first timers. The resort did not look good the tent and food trucks were unatractive. I did like the pirate room, it kept me away from all that and was a quick walk to busses. Although I’m sure it will be a terrific resort one day, I can’t imagine I’d go back even after renovations. I’m happy to say we spent the remainder of our trip at another Disney resort.

16 Dave { 07.10.17 at 7:59 am }

Jackie, the food situation at Caribbean Beach is covered in detail here. Links near the top will let you go straight to the food truck and freestyle refill sections. I’m not aware of a Jamaica food truck…

17 Dave { 07.10.17 at 8:01 am }

Thanks, DD!

18 Joy { 07.18.17 at 7:46 pm }

Hi! Were planning on going in September 2019. Do you know if all construction be completed by this time?

19 Dave { 07.19.17 at 11:03 am }

Joy, it’s expected to be complete as soon as the summer of 2018, so I’m sure you’ll be OK in September 2019!

20 Amanda { 08.05.17 at 9:58 am }

Has there been any communication about the timelines for construction? Will things open progressively? We are thinking of going at the end of June 2018 (possibly some of July). I understand that the construction is scheduled through June 2018, but I would have to imagine that all demo was long done and likely things would be reopening. Any thoughts?

21 Dave { 08.05.17 at 10:44 am }

Amanda, nothing official. Demo is already done. It is hoped that new dining will be open by then–but nothing official.

22 Grandma Barb { 08.08.17 at 4:36 pm }

We have reservations for early December at Caribbean Beach. We got free dining and the$75 gift cards per each room (we have booked two for a party of 7). Will we receive the gift cards at check in for the entire week. Or will we have to travel back and forth to checkin everyday to receive them. Online sites vary on this answer.

23 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 08.09.17 at 11:46 am }

Hi Grandma Barb – Wow, what a way to save. Most reports suggest that they have been giving them all at check in. (There can be some inconsistency with that. If you do not get them all at check in, just kindly request that you get them all then so that you do not have to travel back and forth). The purpose of these was to compensate you for inconvenience, so they shouldn’t inconvenience you more by making you come back and get them each day. Have a magical vacation.

24 Dave { 08.09.17 at 3:46 pm }

Hi Grandma Barb–I agree with Kelly!

25 Amber { 09.13.17 at 8:45 pm }

So we are going in November. I booked during free dining promotion so I can’t remember if it was March or April. I don’t recall seeing anything about the $75 gift card. Do you think I will receive one as well? Is it per day or just one?

26 Dave { 09.14.17 at 10:20 am }

Hi Amber, free dining came out in late April, so you would have missed the deal. The deal varied a bit, but most got $75/night.

27 Lauren { 09.20.17 at 9:39 pm }

Thanks for the update we are going there next week it was great to hear about the construction impacts, photos and a few pros about it. We were able to double up with the $75 gift cards and free dining so we couldn’t really pass up the value but wondered if we would regret it.

28 Dave { 09.21.17 at 7:10 am }

Lauren, as long as your expectations about on-ground dining are low, you should be fine!

29 Doug { 09.23.17 at 12:36 pm }

Hi Dave
Thanks for all the information about the construction. We booked for December this year with the free dining. It was the only moderate resort I could get and we knew it was because of the construction. We have stayed here before and liked it but the food court was not the best. We are taking our Granddaughter on her first trip here. We get up early and grab a snack and head out to the parks for the day and return late. We eat in the parks or other resorts. Do you think we will be okay and what building should we try to get for our stay?

30 Dave { 09.24.17 at 8:24 am }

Doug, if you didn’t pick a “pirate” room, and don’t care about dining (or much about the main Pirate-themed pool) then any village will do, and just select “close to transportation” for the best building.

31 Cathy { 10.03.17 at 10:18 am }

Stayed at Caribbean Beach for 2 weeks from 2nd September 2017, this is our 8th visit to this hotel and never thought to stay anywhere else. Getting the gift card on arrival was fantastic, we hardly had to spend any other money as we also had the free dining plan which is an incredible saving. The food options are a bit limited, especially for me as I am vegetarian but the only time it caused any problem was during hurricane Irma as it was pasta for 2 days at lunch and dinner, but the hotel staff could not have been more helpful. We were in a lake view corner room in Trinidad North and never were we disturbed or bothered by the construction. It seemed a shame to see Barbados and part of Martinique gone, we had stayed there many times but I hope that the changes will be an improvement as the cast members tell us they will be and we will look forward to coming back to this hotel many more times.

32 Dave { 10.04.17 at 7:12 am }

Thanks, Cathy!

33 John { 10.13.17 at 7:01 am }

We have planned to go end of April 2018, will construction be coming to an end in the Carbean resort, what can we expect on arrival, any advice would be good as were flying in from the UK

34 Dave { 10.13.17 at 7:03 am }

John, there’s no official word, but the situation will be roughly similar in April as it is now–I don’t foresee much material improvement until late summer.

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