By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Review: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

Until recently, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has had strong pros and almost equally strong cons. Its loveliness, playfulness, great main pool and kid appeal were in the past offset by its overly complex bus stop set up, awkward check-in arrangements, the distance of some rooms from central services, and average dining.

A major construction largely concluded here in October 2018.  The results of it have been

  • A smaller, simpler, and more sensible resort footprint–although Trinidad is still distant
  • Two fewer bus stops, and
  • More amenities–and fewer guests spread out over these amenities, as Caribbean Beach lost more than a quarter of its capacity during these changes

Still to come later in 2019 is the Disney Skyliner gondola service, which will make Caribbean Beach the only moderate resort with gondola access to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As a result, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is even more so the best Disney World moderate resort for first time family visitors who may never return.

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.

It also suggests that first time visitors should avoid the moderate resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. See this for why.

Main Pool at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the moderate resorts are distinguished by having nicer settings and landscaping, nicer pools, 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 now minor 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.)

Because of the three very different room types at Caribbean Beach, this review has eight pages:

Note that the long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B., can help you book your Disney World vacation at Caribbean Beach or anywhere else–contact her at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com or 980-429-4499. Tell her you came from me and she’ll sprinkle me with a bit of pixie dust.

ACCOMMODATIONS AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has 24 two story (no elevators) accommodations buildings divided into five villages–Jamaica, Aruba, Martinique, Barbados (formerly Trinidad North), and Trinidad (formerly Trinidad South).

While there are some variants (like a few king bed rooms), most room are one of three basic room types–four person queen bed rooms, five person queen and murphy bed rooms, and four person full bed Pirate rooms.

While many websites and books (but not all) claim that these rooms have 340 square feet, every room I have measured at the Caribbean Beach has come out at pretty close to 314 square feet–nearly the same size as the rooms of the other moderate resorts (except the cabins.)

Four Person Queen Room Floor Plan Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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 two queen refurbed room…

Five Person Queen Room Floor Plan Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and this is for a five person two queen and Murphy Bed room.

Murphy Bed in Refurbed Rooms at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

I measured the Murphy Bed mattress as 30″ wide by 64″ long.  The way it is positioned on top of the bed frame 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.

New for 2019, these three-bed rooms are a separately bookable class–so you don’t have to be a family of five to be guaranteed one.

Pirate rooms have full beds and a cloth curtain between the bedroom and bath areas, rather than a sliding wooden door, and sleep four. A floor plan of one of these rooms is above.

Bed Side Pirate Room Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The beds of a Pirate room are above.

A photo tour of a four person queen room is here; a photo tour of a five person queen and murphy bed room begins here; and a photo tour of a four person full bed Pirate room begins here.

DINING AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

The principal dining options at Caribbean Beach are in Old Port Royale, the central area of the resort, most convenient to Barbados and Martinique–and most distant from Trinidad.

(c) Disney

Here you’ll find the new table service restaurant Sebastian’s Bistro, the food court (curiously, open at the moment only for breakfast and dinner) and a grab and go option.

Spyglass Grill opened in Trinidad in March 2018, and offers counter-service breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is limited but impressive, but capacity is small, and the venue is distant from Martinique, Aruba, and most of Jamaica.

Additional options elsewhere include in-room dining and snacks and shelf stable and cold breakfast offerings and sandwiches in two “Island Markets” in Aruba and Jamaica.

There’s more on dining at Caribbean Beach here.

THE POOLS AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

Each of the villages has a small quiet pool within easy walking distance of guest rooms.

They are almost identical–above is the small pool at Martinique.

In addition in Centertown is the main pirate-themed Fuentes Del Morro pool.

The main pool at Caribbean Beach is the best at the Disney World moderates, and its adjoining kids water play area (below) is bested among the moderates only by the water play area at Port Orleans French Quarter.

For more on the Fuentes Del Morro pool at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.

KID APPEAL AND CONVENIENCE AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

Resorts are ranked on this site for first time visitors based first on their kid appeal, and then on their convenience.

On this basis, based on my nine stays here, most recently in June 2017, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is the best moderate resort for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.

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 many of its rooms, with Mickey and Pluto in the five person rooms, and rooms in the not-recommended (because too distant) Trinidad section themed around pirates. No other moderate has theming designed to appeal to kids in so many of its rooms

Splash Play Main Pool at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

–The quality of its main pool, the best among the moderates

Convenience.

This distinctive level of kid appeal is sufficient to make up for the resort’s inconvenience—among the moderate resorts, even after the recent changes 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 too many bus stops.

While two bus stops have disappeared because of the refurb, there’s still six remaining—with perhaps another to open when the Skyliner opens–and the large number in effect nearly doubles the amount of time it can take for buses to get around the resort compared to the other large moderates which, designed later, have 4-5 bus stops. This is moderated at busy times of the day, when buses focus on one side of the resort or the other.

Moreover Trinidad is quite a hike from the main central services.

As part of the refurb, a new set of bus stops has opened at Centertown/Old Port Royale. I hope this also leads to closing of the Martinique and Barbados stops, with the guest in the six accommodations buildings of these two areas being served by the Centertown/Old Port Royale stop.

Disney’s Skyliner Gondola system, expected to open in mid-2019, will connect Caribbean Beach to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, much improving the convenience of Caribbean Beach. The Caribbean Beach Skyliner station will be south of Jamaica, making Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad nicely located for visits to these two parks.

Other distinctive features.

The Caribbean Beach Resort is the only moderate with no elevators at all, and the only one with no indoor bar/lounge.

BEST PLACES TO STAY AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

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.

Caribbean Cay Bridge Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

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. 

At least until the Skyliner opens in mid-2019, avoid Trinidad unless you are too charmed by the Pirate rooms to avoid them–they are too distant, although Spyglass Grill now makes up for some of this.

Here’s the current online check in form. It’s not much help, as it offers only Martinique as a village to be selected.  You are better off calling in your requests (407-939-7675). And 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.

BEST FOR:

Any typical first time visitors who insist on staying, or only can stay, in a moderate, and don’t mind the issues created by construction–especially the limited dining.

WORST FOR:

Families with mobility issues (lack of elevators, spread out; multiple bus stops).

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B., can help you book your Disney World vacation at Caribbean Beach or anywhere else–contact her using the form below!

THEMING, ACCOMMODATIONS, AND VILLAGES AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

This review continues here.

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