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Massive property and dated rooms: Why I didn't love Disney World's Caribbean Beach hotel

Sept. 05, 2021
11 min read
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Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort opened its doors for the first time in 1988. In a past review, TPG Director of Content Summer Hull talked about how her first and only childhood trip to Walt Disney World included a stay at the resort — and that it hadn't changed much in the years since.

During a recent trip of my own to Disney World in Orlando, I also stayed for two nights at Caribbean Beach. While Disney has made some upgrades over the years (and more construction is happening now), its original character remains the same.

I've only stayed at two different Disney resorts in recent years — Caribbean Beach and Disney's Boardwalk Villas — and my expectations weren't sky-high for the trip. While my room was fine, the resort experience as a whole was lackluster.

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Booking

I stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach resort for two nights, and I used Mouse Counselors to book my stay. My hotel reservation was made as part of a larger package that included two-day ParkHopper tickets. My total for the tickets and resort reservation was $946.01.

If you're booking just the resort, you can expect prices in the mid-$200s per night range depending on your room type and size and when your trip is planned. Disney is a moderate resort, so it's certainly not as expensive as some of the other Disney resort options. However, you can certainly find more budget-friendly resorts if you're looking for the most bang for your buck at Disney World.

Related: Yes, you can visit Disney World on a budget: Here's how I did it

Because I went through Mouse Counselors, the booking process itself was a breeze. I gave Mary Helen my Disney login information, the dates of my trip, where I wanted to stay and what tickets I wanted for the parks. From there, she was able to book both of my hotel reservations (I resort hopped during my trip), secure my ParkHopper tickets and set up my park reservations for which parks I would visit first — which I picked based on her recommendations.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Location

Disney's Caribbean Beach is located near Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Both parks are connected to the resort by the Skyliner, which makes visiting those two parks from the resort relatively easy.

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The resort itself is sprawling — 200 acres total. And unfortunately, that makes getting around (even getting from the lobby or pool to your room) a hassle. In fact, Disney's Caribbean Beach has its own bus system to cart guests between resort areas.

I, thankfully, had a rental car that made it easier to get from check-in to where my room was located in the Aruba area of the resort. But it took a solid 10 to 15-minute walk to get back to the Old Port Royale area for food and the pool. Had I been carless, I would have either had to lug my baggage across the bridge on that walk in the sweltering mid-afternoon Florida heat, or I would have had to wait for the internal bus system to swing by to bring me to the Aruba stop.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Additionally, where your room ends up being within the resort will determine how easy the external transportation options to the parks are, too. My room was near one of the bus stops, but Aruba was one of the last pick-up stops on the list. Even though I was among the early risers outside and ready for the Magic Kingdom bus before 7 a.m., we didn't end up actually making it to the park until close to 8:30 a.m. when the park was already starting to get crowded before rope drop.

If you have a car and plan to drive to the parks, this matters less. But I found staying at Caribbean Beach a bit of an inconvenience.

One of the benefits of staying at a Disney resort is proximity to the parks and more transportation options. But the size, layout and overall location of Caribbean Beach negates that benefit in my opinion.

Related: The best hotels at Disney World in 2021

Check-in

Disney World is one of those places where check-in and checkout times are often exactly as stated. My room wasn't ready in advance, and I ended up having to go to the front desk for an old-fashioned check-in because the app wasn't displaying my room number for me to skip the lobby. Though check-in starts at 3 p.m., my room wasn't available for me until closer to 3:30 p.m.

I had ordered a Magic Band prior to arriving (they no longer come complimentary with your stay), but it wasn't waiting for me when I arrived. Something must have misfired with my order, because I was left without a band. The My Disney Experience app was supposed to act as a Magic Band replacement to let me get into my room (the front desk cast member didn't offer me a physical key), but after trekking across the resort to my room, I couldn't get the app to let me in.

After calling the front desk, they said they would send someone out to let me into my room. About 10 minutes went by before a member of the housekeeping staff saw me and offered to let me in upon seeing confirmation of my reservation and room number in the app. I was dripping sweat at that point and more than ready for a cool shower. Another 10 minutes, someone from the front desk came by my room and gave me a physical room key. She told me that the app had been finicky at best at letting people in their rooms.

So word to the wise: Either make sure you have a Magic Band, or ask for a physical key at the front desk.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

To be fair, the My Disney Experience app not working wasn't the fault of Caribbean Beach. The app wouldn't work for my room at Boardwalk Villas later during my trip, either. However, if Magic Bands are no longer given because the app is supposed to be a replacement, I would expect for the app to work to let people into their rooms.

Thankfully, the physical key worked throughout my stay (it has the same functionality as a Magic Band, just in card form), and I had no other issues. While waiting outside in the heat wasn't fun, they did send someone out instead of forcing me to trek back over to the lobby and the cast member who stopped by was helpful and friendly.

Room

I booked a standard room, which came with two double beds.

The room was clean, though a little dated and dark.

There's a small Cuisinart coffee maker, tea bags and an ice holder. And a small mini-fridge is located in the center of the dresser.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

The bathroom area has a double vanity and a separate tub shower and toilet area for privacy.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Disney provides all guests with complimentary H2O bath products.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

There was construction going on nearby, but it never disrupted me and I was able to get a decent night's sleep.

Food and beverage

Caribbean Beach does offer a handful of dining options, but they may be a significant trek from your room depending on what area you're in.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

I used the mobile order functionality on the My Disney Experience app to pick up Centertown Market for dinner my first night. I got fish tacos and a key lime tart for dessert. The meal was fine, but not great. I personally enjoyed my late-night McDonalds run the following night more.

Sebastian's Bistro is the only other dining spot at Caribbean Beach (Spyglass Grill is temporarily unavailable). It's table service only, serving Latin style dishes in the moderate price range ($15 to $35 for adults).

There's also a pool bar and lounge called Banana Cabana.

Amenities

To be honest, I didn't spend a ton of time at the resort overall. On this Disney trip, I was on a mission to visit all four parks in two days, so I was out from sun-up to well past sun-down both days.

However, I did do some walking around my first night to get the lay of the land.

There are beach areas that surround the lake where you can relax in a hammock or play in the sand.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

And the resort is home to multiple pool areas. The main pool near the Old Port Royale is pirate-themed and pretty large. It features a zero-entry zone and a separate splash pool area for the little ones.

There are also smaller pools spread out across the property so that those staying at the edges of the resort have a spot to take a dip and relax closer to their rooms.

In the middle of the lake is a small island called Caribbean Cay, accessible by bridges on either side (it's actually how I got from my room to the lobby area). There are a few activity areas — including a place for outdoor movies and a playground. However, the playground was temporarily closed while I was there.

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Service

As is expected at Disney, everyone I interacted with while at Caribbean Beach was helpful and friendly — including the housekeeper and front-desk concierge who helped me get into my room that first afternoon.

Keep in mind that Disney currently offers a light housekeeping service every other day during your stay. Because I was only there for two nights, there was no housekeeping service provided. However, the room was clean when I arrived, and Disney has signage in the room that gives an overview of the advanced cleaning procedures between guests.

Related: What to expect at reopened Disney World hotels

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Overall impression

I'll be honest — I wasn't overly impressed during my stay at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort.

It's one of the middle-of-the-road Disney resort options, so you aren't paying an arm and a leg for your stay like you will at some other resorts. But its location and size make it inconvenient depending on where your room is located.

If you're looking to save money on your Disney trip, I would look into the value resort options, such as the newly renovated Disney's All-Star Movies. For families who plan to spend more time at the parks and less time at your room during a shorter stay, you'll likely get a better value.

However, for families who plan to spend time at the pool, take advantage of dining options at the resort (or the nearby Riviera Resort) and drive to to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom rather than rely on the bus service, Caribbean Beach is a solid choice to consider.

Featured image by (Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
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  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more