We normally stay at the Disney Port Orleans Resort because it’s economical and one of the very few Disney resorts that allows 5 family members in one room. This year there were 4 of us so we had an opportunity to try out the Caribbean Beach Resort.
Disney divides their resorts into categories and this one is considered a moderate. Most of our time is spent at the park so the extra luxuries are not as important to us when we go to Disney. The biggest drawback for us is the distance from the theme parks and distance to the hotel food court. This location was really close to Hollywood Studios and not too far from Epcot. The most grueling ride is to Magic Kingdom due to the distance and the extra amount of people heading to that location.
The Caribbean Beach is the largest resort on Disney’s property with 2,112 rooms. The villages are divided up Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, Aruba, and Trinidad. I can not help but think our experience was so wonderful because we were close to Old Port Royale Centertown which includes the food, gift shop, main pool and marina. Our room was in Martinique which was a very short walk to the center and seemed to always have empty buses. We were thankful to have such a close room because we went to the center at least 3 times a day. We were also conveniently located between two pools with a beach between. There is an internal bus that drives around the complex but it can be a 20 minute wait to catch one then a very long slow trip around. I think the location of your room could really make or break the experience here.
A preferred location means closer to the pool and food so I think it may be worth considering at this resort especially if someone in your group has trouble walking distances or if you do not want to waste any time. There is also an upgrade option for the pirate beds which are structured differently than regular beds.
Our room was located in Martinique and had the Nemo décor. The bedspread was bright with fish and mickey print on it, wall border, and the furniture was green and had extremely spacious drawers. To the right of the bathroom sink is a long shelf and open space for hanging clothes and storing things. The room felt inviting but in no way luxurious.
The bath and toilet are separate from the sink which makes it a little easier to get ready in the morning.
The room has a window air conditioner so the guests have complete control over the temperature of their room. It was indeed extra hot outside during our trip but the room was chillin’. We did not hear the air conditioner cycling at night and never had to get up to change the temperature setting. There was no indication of mold or mildew in the room.
The bed however was another story. Our bed seemed to be slanted and my back ached to the point I could hardly walk by the last day. The bed had a sheet, thin blanket, and a bed spread. There were 4 extra soft pillows per bed. There are no extra linens in the room but room service is just a button away.
TV seemed to have improved this year with a few more channels to watch. Internet access is now free for all guests but it did not work worth a hoot. A small refrigerator suitable for beverages is also included.
The main pirate themed pool was interesting. The large pool in the center of the complex has two water slides and various water depths. It is designed for bobbing around in and not so much freestyle swimming. Free to use life preservers were available for youngsters wanting to go down the water slides. There were several lifeguards on duty in the evening and the pool can get pretty busy.
The smaller kids had their own pool area completely separate from the main pool which looked really cool, like a playground.
There are smaller basic pools around the resort with a steady flow of people visiting them. We enjoyed the smaller pools just as much as the main pool because the other guests were friendly. The smaller pools were not very large but were not very busy either since there were so many.
Towels are provided at the main pool, but not the smaller pools around the resort. Room towels can be used for the nearby pools; just ask housekeeping for extras if needed. There is nowhere to dry large beach towels so it is nice towels are provided at the resort.
The laundry facility is attached to the pool which makes that chore a little easier.
The resort has a small game room next to the dining area. We were surprised to find a nice variety of new modern games.
Complimentary Transportation to and from the Airport
One of the benefits of staying on Disney property is the complimentary Magic Express bus that takes air travelers from the airport to the Caribbean Beach resort. It is worth the time to research this process if it is the first time using it because early planning is needed to schedule the ride and luggage transportation. Transportation is pre-assigned based on flight numbers so missing the cut off or your scheduled ride results in finding your own way. It is a great money saver for anyone flying because the airport is 22 miles (at least 30 minutes) away from the resort. It can be 3 hours or more before the luggage is delivered to your room so be sure to pack whatever is needed for the day in the carry on as there is no need to sit and wait for the checked luggage to be delivered.
The Customs House is where guests can check in and out of the rooms and pick up and drop off luggage. This is all that they do in this particular building.
Early check in can be done up to 10 days in advance online. Check in to the hotel room is at 3 p.m. but you can check in much earlier to get your park passes and start using dining plan if your room is not ready yet. Check out is at 11 a.m. which just means vacating the room. The pools, parks, and dining plan can continue to be used for the rest of the day if desired.
Complimentary Bus Shuttle to the Parks
There are several Disney bus stops on the complex to shuttle the guests to the parks and arrive every 20 minutes and drops the guests at the park’s door. The benefit of this service is no car is needed and allegedly provides more time for relaxing. This is great at first but at the end of the week we never want to see another bus again. It takes forever to get around on the busses and by the end of the week we spent more time on buses then in some parks.
Parking Pass for Parks
Guests can park for free at the hotel. The Caribbean parking pass also gets you free parking in the 4 parks ($14/day savings).
No Boat or Monorail Transportation
There is a lot of water at this resort but no transportation boats to the parks or even to the other side of the resort. The resort also does not have any monorail service. Other resorts do offer the monorail or boat service so we did miss the other options while staying at this resort.
Magic Hours Perk (remember to bring all of the room keys)
A perk for staying at the Caribbean Beach is being eligible for the extended magic hours at the park. Each day one park usually has magic hours so guests staying on property can get into the park one hour before the park opens to the public, or for a few hours after it closes depending on the day. The calendar with magic hours noted can be found on Disney’s website months in advance. Be sure to bring the door key for everyone in the group, even the little kids, as showing the card for every rider is the only way to get on the rides during magic hours. A lot of the park like food carts and restaurants still close up at the normal closing time; it is mainly for the rides that stay open. This is an awesome perk because the lines are generally much shorter during this time and the outdoor temperature is usually more comfortable during magic hours.
Dining Plan Option Perk (add on elective when booking)
The dining plan is only available when staying on a Disney property and buying admission tickets at the same time (Magic Your Way Vacation Package) and cannot be added upon arrival. The dining plan can be a perk for some families. Since Caribbean Beach is a moderate resort it qualifies for the regular dining options and even free dining during occasional off season promotions. (Value resorts only qualify for quick service dining plan and sometimes excluded from discount promotions.)
On Site Food
All of the food options can be found at Old Port Royal Centertown. There is a sit down restaurant called Shutters that serves dinner only. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Meals start at $20 and will be the only choice for a nice dinner at this resort.
The food court is in the same area and offers a variety of stands serving an assortment of things. I was a little disappointed with the selections at this resort. It seemed mostly fast food sandwiches and I was dying for fruit and vegetables by the time I left.
A few stations open at 7 a.m. for breakfast and they are all open by 8 a.m. There is an assortment of breakfast platters for around $8 each. It is nice to have this option because not much is open for breakfast in the parks.
Lunch and dinner is the same menu with primarily sandwiches. There were hearty sized deli sandwiches, hamburgers, and chicken sandwiches. One station served various pastas. There was also a pizza shop. The full pepperoni pizza is $16 and has 8 slices and tasted pretty good. The stations close by 11 p.m.
I was disappointed with the bakery selection of muffins, cupcakes and pastries. The same things were offered every day and once they were gone they were not replaced so there were very slim pickings as the day goes on. Next time I will bring snacks and a box of cereal because there’s nothing to eat when the food court is closed.
Resort mugs can be purchased for $15 each which includes unlimited refills for your stay. The drink bar has coffee, tea, hot tea, hot cocoa, and lots of soft drinks. We were not a fan of their version of coffee.
Safety and Relaxation of the Disney area
Cars must go through the security check point to get into the parking area of the resort and while anyone can get in, the ID of the driver must be shown first. The resort is nestled on Disney property and it seems only vacationers are hanging out in the area. Staying on Disney property has a different all around feel than staying in a non-Disney hotel. A car is not needed if staying on property. It is nice to avoid the hustle and bustle of traffic and everyday sights so it can feel like a real get away.
There were some compromises for staying at this resort. I thought the hotel had a Caribbean look to it but not really the feel entertainment wise. I was a little disappointed that there was not a livelier atmosphere in Old Port Royale Centertown, the main activity area. There was not any music playing on most days, and never a live band or structured group activities. Most resorts we have stayed in the past have some kind of planned activity especially for the kids but we did not see anything. We had planned on doing some things on our own at the marina like riding a bike and renting a boat but it was never open and we could not get an answer for what the actual hours were supposed to be. We could not get on those 4-seater bikes we were dying to ride and we could not cruise around in boats. The marina is one of the reasons we booked the resort so it was disappointing.
The beach was not all that exciting. Obviously this is a man-made beach, but it is in no way as inviting as a real one. It looked pretty, but not particularly useful. There were a few hammocks out in the open with no shading. It was rare to see anyone on the beach.
We wanted to spend more time lounging at the resort but there was not a lot to do and the rooms were not comfortable for hanging out in. There was not a designated lounging area in the main area either. Outside was the only place to hang with a group of people which is only an option if it is nice outside.
We felt it took forever to get to Magic Kingdom on overcrowded Magic Kingdom buses which will probably be the same at any resort that requires a bus to that park. This hotel is right next door to Pop and Art of Animation so it is not any closer to the parks than the value resorts.
This resort is comfortable so long as the weather is nice outside. Add rainfall and the tune changes. The rooms are accessed from the outside but the ambiance of the heavy tropical landscaping and man-made beach downplays the fact this is just a motel structure. The walk to the center is enjoyable on a nice day but if the weather is unfavorable the short walk will be eternity and inclement weather closes the pools which is the best thing to do there.
This is equivalent to a 3 diamond hotel in my opinion. The room felt primitive to me and if we were not going to the parks I would have wanted something nicer. I was ready to go home by the end of the week.
Our Overall Feeling
All of our family enjoyed the visit to the Caribbean Beach Resort. The room itself was very basic but clean. There is no pampering at this resort which is a result of choosing a moderate category. The added Disney benefits, particularly the transportation, made this a good choice for us. The landscaping was very nice and we had a few options for dining. The swimming pool was interesting and we enjoyed hanging outside.
This was a great place to stay since the parks were the main focus of our trip.
Another moderate resort to consider is Port Orleans Resort
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