Massive property and dated rooms: Why I didn’t love Disney World’s Caribbean Beach hotel
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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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The bathroom area has a double vanity and a separate tub shower and toilet area for privacy.
Disney provides all guests with complimentary H2O bath products.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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