Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Review – A great choice!

| March 17, 2010

Caribbean Beach Resort Review
by Pete Werner

Date of Review:  March, 2010
(Video of the resort is at the bottom of the review)

I’ve never been a fan of the Caribbean Beach – I’ll state that up front.  I don’t hate it – but it has always been one of those resorts that never really inspired me, or hit that “magic” spot the way some of the others have.  Nonetheless, I do try and make a conscious effort to go into these reviews with an open mind.  Especially in this case, I’m glad I did.

Given that the resort is so popular, I thought this would be a good way to kick off the next round of hotel reviews we’re doing for our podcast (The DIS Unplugged).

Reservation Details:  I booked a 4 day / 3 night stay in mid March.  I selected a ‘pirate’ themed room and utilized an available Florida resident discount.  Total cost for the 3 nights was $559.41 which included all taxes.

We checked in on a Wednesday afternoon at 12 pm, and had already entered our check in information on line, so our keys and resort info were waiting for us when we arrived.  Check in literally took 5 minutes (and yes, I timed it – it was actually 4 mins 57 seconds if you want to split hairs).

The grounds of the Caribbean Beach Resort represent Disney theming at its best.  Tranquil if not sprawling grounds give you plenty of places to walk, bike (available for rent), or just sit and relax in one of the many out the way places you’ll find as you explore.  A large lake sits in the middle of the resort and watercraft are available for rent.  The lake doesn’t actually lead anywhere, but it offers a nice boat ride if you’re so inclined.

I decided to get a pirate themed room, just because they’re popular, and I wanted to see if they were better in some tangible way over a standard room.   The only possible reason to book one of these rooms if you have a young boy who is REALLY into the pirate genre – then it’s a no brainer.  Outside of that, these rooms do not compare well to other premium rooms at the resort.

The first thing we noticed was that our ‘pirate room’ wasn’t exactly clean.  A piece of clothing from the rooms previous occupant was left in the bathroom.  Housekeeping had cleaned the bathroom, but for whatever reason, the article of clothing was left behind.  The rug was dirty, with built up dust clearly visible in the corners and around the baseboard.  Dust was also thick over the headboard of the bed, on the TV stand and on the shelf above the iron and ironing board.  There was also dust and debris beneath the vanity.  Now, some dust here and there is to be expected – but this room was clearly not being properly cleaned and hadn’t been in some time.   Given the cleanliness issues that this hotel has had over the years, there’s really no excuse for this.

But what really got me were the beds.  The pirate ship motif is cute enough to be sure – but these are ‘half beds’ at best, and by that I mean there’s no mattress.  There’s a box spring, and a 4-inch thick pillow top lying above it, but no mattress in between.  Lying on this bed was like lying on a cement slab – hands down the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever been on.  At $163 per night, this was really unacceptable.  I knew there was no way I’d be able to sleep here, so I called the front desk, politely explained the situation, and within minutes I had a new room assigned (this one a “Nemo” themed room).   According to the housekeeping manager, this was a ‘design issue’ with the beds.  He explained that they could not fit both a mattress and box spring together on the bed, so this was the workaround.  Now, whether that’s accurate or not, I don’t know – but it seemed to make sense when we looked at the beds design.  I suggested that the designers should be made to sleep on these then think long and hard about ever pulling a stunt like that again.

At first, given the condition of the room I was in, I was thinking I was going to title this review “Caribbean Beach needs some Caribbean Bleach” – but after checking into my new room, I realized that would not only be unnecessarily harsh, but also very unfair.

With that said, I have to be honest and tell you that the way the staff at the Caribbean Beach handled the complaint was brilliant.  From the time I called the front desk, until the time I stepped foot in a new room – it was a total of 15 minutes.  No back and forth – no attitude, just a front desk manager and a housekeeping manager who were very dedicated to making sure their guest was happy.  They did such a good job I briefly entertained leaving the entire “Pirate” room experience out of my review – but that’s not being fair and unbiased so I’m including it here, but also want to stress the context:  it’s not that a problem or issue arose – that’s going to happen in the best of resorts – it’s how it’s handled, and this was handled brilliantly.

Our new room was a Nemo themed room with a preferred view in bldg 32, just a short walk to the resorts epicenter, Old Port Royale (where the food court and shops are located).  This room was immaculate – in fact, the room looked as though it had not been used before.  Colorful bedspreads (with comfortable mattresses), and bright open feel made the room comfortable and welcoming.  The furniture was a mixture of light woods (on the beds and table) and a Caribbean green entertainment center.  The entertainment center also had connections for the flat screen TV built into the front that would allow you to hook up any external devices you prefer (HDMI, Computer, video game, video camera).  The beds and bedding in the moderate resorts are what I would consider above average.  Beds are ‘pillow top’ which makes them a bit more comfortable than standard mattresses.  The pillows we had were hypo-allergenic (meaning no feathers) and since I’m used to sleeping with feather pillows, it took me a little while to get comfortable.
Overall, this was a very comfortable room both in terms of size, amenities and aesthetics and in my opinion, absolutely worth the price point (preferred view rooms are roughly the same price as the pirate themed rooms).

Transportation at the Caribbean Beach seemed to be running to all the theme parks about every 15 to 20 minutes.  Also, due to the enormous size of the resort, there are ‘internal buses’ to take you to both Old Port Royale and the Customs House.  Again, these buses seemed to run on a schedule of every 15 to 20 minutes.  Unless you plan to visit attractions off site, there is no reason to rent a car here.  Yes, Disney transportation will take a little longer, but it’s consistent and will get you where you need to go.  I will stress that if you need to go to another resort (for dinner reservations for example), you need to give yourself about 2 hours of travel time.  You’ll need to take a bus from the resort to one of the hubs (Transportation and Ticket Center or Downtown Disney) and then transfer from there to a resort bus for your destination.
Now, on to the food.  As previously mentioned Old Port Royale is really the center of this resort.  It’s where all the food and retail venues are located.  Also, watercraft and bike rentals (as well as the main pool) are in this area as well.

We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the resort’s food court.  I wanted to get a good idea of the food quality over the course of different meals and over different days.  Among the offerings here is a quick service store for pastries, fruit, and snacks, the Royale Pizza and Pasta shop, Old Port Royale Hamburger, Bridgetown Broiler (serving breakfast and dinner), Montegos Deli, and the resorts table service restaurant Shutters (click links for visitor reviews).   Prices range from $6 to $10 per dish and the food was good – not great – but also not offensive.  My standard line regarding the food for the three days was “it’s not terrible” – and that about sums it up.   There are options available to accommodate most dietary needs – and I found the chef in charge of the area very helpful and accommodating when I had questions about foods with added sugar.

I’ve found that the food courts at Disney’s moderate resorts are a good option when you’re trying to reign in spending.  A dinner for two consisting of a half chicken, a choice of two sides, a piece of cornbread and a bottle of water was a total of $25.  It’s hard to eat dinner anywhere for $12.50 a person.  Again, this was not a culinary masterpiece, but the chicken was fresh, as were the vegetables – not overly greasy, flavorful and filling.  We had similar experiences at lunch and dinner (in fact the Deli makes an awesome turkey BLT).

There is also an option for pizza delivery to your room.  I ordered a cheese pizza and 1.5 litre water, which came to $22.  Again, it wasn’t terrible.  If my local pizzeria delivered this to my house, I’d throw it back at them – but I’ve learned to REALLY tone down my expectations when “Disney” and “Pizza” are mentioned in the same sentence.

Of course, there is the pool – arguably one of the more important aspects of any resort, and this one is certainly one of the better themed pools on property.  The pool is large, has a decent amount of lounge chairs all around, is very close to the food court and of course, has a full bar nearby.  There are two hot tubs located here as well, again – both of a decent size, and a play area for the kids.

This would be a good time to discuss the cast members at the Caribbean Beach Resort.  They’re not good.  They’re terrific – and terrific on a level that often reminded me of Disney service the way it was years ago – when every cast member you came across was ready to do cartwheels to make you happy.   Every cast member I encountered during my stay greeted me with a smile, and not a fake “I have to smile because it’s Disney” smile, but a real, genuine smile that makes you feel as though they’re really glad to see you.  You could tell that making the guest happy was a priority here, and I can’t underscore how much ‘value’ that type of service adds to a vacation experience.

Even in spite of the issue we had with the Pirate themed room, I found the Caribbean Beach a comfortable, friendly and thoroughly “Disney” experience.  My final grade for this resort is 95 out of a possible 100 points.  The points lost were due to the condition of the first room.  Had the next room been as poorly maintained, the grade would be substantially lower.  However, given the overall maintenance of the property, the quality of the service, and the nearly immaculate condition of our second room, I consider the initial housekeeping issue an anomaly and not indicative of a broader problem.  I can wholeheartedly give a very strong recommendation that you check this out for yourself if you haven’t already.  I wasn’t a huge fan of this resort walking in,  but I certainly was on the way out!!


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Category: Disney World, Editorials

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  • Chad D

    Pete,

    Great review! I haven’t stayed at the CBR since the new rooms were introduced, so I was anxious to hear about the details. Too bad about the pirate rooms.

    I wanted to comment on your observations about the cast. When I was bartending at WDW, I picked up a few extra hours bartending for Shutters. I must say that the management I worked with in CBR’s food and beverage were the absolute nicest and most positive management team that I have ever encountered during my time as a WDW castmember. I am so happy to know that what I experienced reaches far beyond the f&b department to the whole resort staff. The magic is sill there; we just need to look a little harder to find it!

  • JustJoan

    I stayed here in October with my daughter and her family. We chose this resort because of the pool. My 2 grandsons ages 4 and 2 absolutely LOVED it. I would recommend it to anyone with young children and plan to stay there again the next time I visit WDW. My only suggestion is to get a preferred room which are located near the main pool and dining otherwise you really are dependant on the bus transportation.

  • TurkA77

    I just stayed there in December myself, from the 16th-23rd. I definitely agree with most of the stuff you said, but I wouldn’t stay there again if I had the choice. I was planning on staying at the All Stars or Pop century which have gotten the job done for me in the past, but the special they were running only made it about $100+ to stay there instead.

    The Pros for me were: The food. My girlfriend and I only ate there a few times, but when we did, we were happy. They had a ton of options for breakfast and lunch and the prices were very reasonable. A couple times we just grabbed a bagel and jumped on the bus, that was enough to hold us over til lunch.

    The bedrooms were good size. Obviously bigger than the All Stars, it was very comfortable for the two of us. If there were four of us it would start to get tight, but I don’t think uncomfortably so. I also like how all the buildings were painted a different pastel color. It made everything so bright and cheery.

    The pool situation is great. Every building area has their own pool. I believe there are six areas, so six smaller pools. This was nice if you were a little far away from the main pool and didn’t want to walk. The main pool was well decorated in true Disney fashion. It also had two hot tubs in the area, which we used a couple times after long days in the park.

    The Cons for me were: The buses. Plan on doing a lot of waiting. I am use to waiting for the buses, but this got out of hand. First of all this is the biggest resort, so even when the bus pulls it in, it takes around 20 min just to make all the stops in your resort, then the 20+ min drive to wherever you are going. Thats just too much time wasted. COmpared to the All-Stars where they pick you up in one spot and go. An example is we had tickets to La Nouba one night. We figured hour at the most, so we went to the bus at 6:30 pm for a 8pm show. Bus for Downtown Disney didn’t show up for 30 minutes, then it has to do the entire hotel. Then it made the 20 minute drive to Downtown DIsney. Next thing I know my girlfriend and I are in full sprint trying to make it to the show. Thats unacceptable.

    The main building is really far away for half of the resort. If you were like me and stayed in Jamaica or the buildings next to it, you were doing some walking. If you wanted to go to the Pool or get some food, it was at least a 15 minute walk there and 15 minutes back. It wouldn’t be so bad, because you can just jump on a bus right there, but if you are like me and purchased a drink mug, you had to walk all the way back to your room to drop it off. This was a huge pain and another waste of time.

    I wanted to like this resort, I really did. With all the bright colors and pirate ship motifs it looks amazing. But for practicality reasons, I can’t recommend it. The cons outweigh the pros for me. I’d give it a 70 out of 100.

    This resort is perfect for people that are going down for 7 days, but only spending 2 or 3 at the parks. You have plenty of outside space to enjoy, you don’t mind waiting for buses. You can take your time walking around and eating at the resort. If you are like me and plan on spending 5 or 6 days at the parks, you can find a resort that will save you more time.

  • irishtigger

    I stayed here a few years ago and that was enough for me. The resort itself is beautiful but that isn’t enough to bring me back. When we checked in after a long delay filled travel day we were told we had adjoining rooms which we did not and we requested them. My room smelled like sweaty gym socks we called and complained and the front desk just offered to refresh the room. Trust me they would have to knock it down and rebuild it to get that smell out of there and finally when our luggage arrived the gentleman got our rooms switched for us. The wait for the buses is awful and we paid the extra money and stayed in Martinique which helped in the morning but on the way back from the parks we almost always had to stand. The resort is just to big for its own good. I will say that the maid service was very good and they made awesome towel animals for us every night. If you can look past the wait for the busses, the wait of riding around to all the stops than go for it. If not I would suggest Coranado Springs as a good moderate resort to say at.

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  • lamacki1

    We stayed at CBR twice in 2009 – for spring break in April and then again in September for the free dining promotion. In April we were in a preferred location and then in September (although we booked a preferred room we didn’t get it).

    Both times, I thought the front desk staff left a lot to be desired and if this was our only interaction here, we would never have returned. They were not knowledgeable, gave us consistently incorrect information regarding a variety of topics, and were rude when we argued about what room we had booked and couldn’t correct it because they were booked – which I sort of understand but it was their attitude that really bothered me. It was not good and it was not the greatest start to the vacation – which is never cheap.

    One more issue we had last spring was that they were having landscaping work done and the walkways outside our building (where we parked) was covered in mud – for the entire week. So we either had to walk completely around in a different direction or get in our car (and the room) with mud covered shoes.

    However…with that said, I like this resort. Especially if you get the preferred location room. The pool is great, the quick service food is actually not bad for a quick meal or snack and the buses were mostly OK (although often we stood). Timing to get out of the resort is an issue as someone pointed out but we learned to live with it.

    Our room was clean and fairly comfortable – especially for the amount of time we’re actually in it and not asleep!

    We’ll be back there next week – after I researched all of our options for spring break – we chose to stay with what we knew.

  • TurkA77

    With so many options at WDW, why would you go back to a place that you weren’t a 100% happy with? Im just curious.

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