Every time we visit Walt Disney World, we stay at a different resort. Our first trip as adults, we stayed off-site. It’s a good, economical solution – especially if you’re planning on visiting multiple parks and such in the area. In 2018, we dove into the Disney bubble and stayed at Port Orleans Riverside. We really liked it – the Royal Rooms are beautiful – but its only direct connection was Disney Springs by boat, and we’re just not Disney Springs people. Last autumn, we went full in and tried Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is remote and has a gorgeous building… but the room itself was a bit subpar.
This time, we stayed at the resort I’ve been wanting to stay at since 2018 (there was construction at the time)… Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort in the Hollywood Studios/EPCOT resort area. I knew I wanted to stay at this resort for a reason. To quote Toy Story, we’ll be “sailing no more”. My loves, I think we’ve found our home base resort.
Caribbean Beach is a huge resort. Stretching across 42 acres and sporting over 1500 rooms, you’d think it would be impossibly loud and crowded and chaotic, but it’s not. The resort is split into six different sections: Martinique, Old Port Royale, Barbados, Trinidad, Aruba, and Jamaica. There’s a bonus to staying in any of the corners of the resort. Some are picked up earlier on the bus route, others are quiet and remote, others are closer to the big pool while yet others are still closer to the Skyliner stations. We were assigned Barbados, and it was perfect for us. Barbados is only a short walk to the Hollywood Studios Skylines. It’s a short walk to Old Port Royale, the heart of the resort. It’s quiet. I loved it. We loved it.
Because we’re go-go-go Disney people, we don’t spend too much time at the resort, but if we wanted to there is plenty to do. There’s six pools on property, a marina with movies under the stars. There are various activities, a quick service restaurant (Centertown), a table restaurant (Sebastian’s Bistro), a store (Calypso Trading Post), and a pool bar (Banana Cabana) with some menu items I regret not trying. For me, there are two resort-level things that make Caribbean Beach particularly appealing.
First, the transportation. I could not ask for better, easier transportation. You can take the new Skyliner directly to Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. And, once at EPCOT, you can jump the Monorail to Magic Kingdom. Being able to hit 3/4 of the parks without needing to rely on Disney’s bus system is a huge plus for me. As for Animal Kingdom… there are pretty frequent Animal Kingdom buses. Since the only park with trams as of writing this is Magic Kingdom (UGH WHY), being able to jump on reliable transportation to the entrance to the parks was absolutely amazing. And, not for nothing, the Skyliner is pretty cool. Conversationally, a child at Hollywood Studios shared that their favorite ride at all of Disney World was the Skyliner. So yeah. It’s that cool. It was also really interesting entering EPCOT via the International Gateway in France!
The other thing I really loved about Caribbean Beach was the outdoor aesthetic. The resort is set around a large lake and from certain places on the perimeter, you can see Spaceship Earth or the Tower of Terror. The view over the lake is particularly beautiful at dusk and dawn. On the last morning of our stay, I took a leisurely walk to Centertown Market for breakfast and ate outside, admiring the view of Spaceship Earth across the lake and it was stunning. I also loved that each of the sections is painted a different color. It reminded me of sailing into Bermuda on our honeymoon, both beautiful and nostalgic.
Of course, not everything is perfect. The rooms are nothing special – a very basic setup that doesn’t inspire you to want to tuck in and stay in your room. The bed is comfortable. I found the pillows fluffy and heavenly, but that is all opinion – one of our friends missed her firm, supportive pillow. The table in the room was exactly the same as the one we had in Port Orleans. The bathroom is small but sufficient – I liked the shower better than Animal Kingdom Lodge. In general, the figures and design in the room resembled Animal Kingdom Lodge, but for a much lower price point.
Our issues with the room were generally service-related. Only my phone and none of our connected MagicBands opened the room door. The batteries in the television remote were dead. The air conditioner didn’t work (fortunately, it was 40-60 degrees when we were in the room and manageable). One morning a cast member knocked on our door and asked if we were moving rooms. Room Service at Disney resorts is already every other day. On a ten day stay, we only had our bed turned down once. Room Service also came at inconsistent times – one time someone knocked on our door at 9am, another day is was 2pm. The USB chargers on the far side of the bed didn’t work. The coffee maker was a mess and dripped all over the place. When things were refilled, they were sloppily done (coffee packets tossed haphazardly in the container, trash can liners only half installed. The installed conditioner spout in the shower fell off the first time I tried to pump it. All these were little things that lowered the magic.
Generally, I think this comes down to two things: our room shouldn’t have been assigned to anyone, and something was amiss with our room service stewards. There was enough broken in the room that in all fairness, we probably should have asked to be moved, but we didn’t want the hassle. The room needed a few different repairs before renting it out to guests. But oh, I liked the location. Second, either the cast member servicing the rooms didn’t care, or the section was understaffed. I sympathize with the employees, but at this point… not the company. Disney’s prices are going up (more on this in a much later post), and into year three of the pandemic, the corporations need to accept that folks are getting awfully tired of the “it’s a pandemic, we can’t get help” excuse. Disney as a corporation may not be making the profits it wants, but cutting corners and understaffing and underpaying staff is not the way to go about dealing with that. I’m still a bit mad at the fact corporate heads took big fat bonuses the last couple years, but didn’t trickle that wealth down. The parks were better staffed this time, but not the resorts.
In theory, I absolutely loved Caribbean Beach. When/if we return to Walt Disney World, it’s the resort I want to stay at. It’s well situated, beautiful on the outside, and quiet. If you’re planning a trip, Caribbean Beach is a great “compromise” resort. It’s not as exciting as the All-Star, Pop Century, or Art of Animation resorts for the kiddos, and it’s not as posh as the super deluxe resorts. But Caribbean Beach is beautiful, welcoming, and a good place for the adults and “older kids” who want to spend most the time at the parks.