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Walt Disney World

Caribbean Beach Resort

 By Amy Paulshock

 

Disney’s description of the Caribbean Beach Resort begins “Take the plunge and immerse yourself in a tropical paradise at one of five island villages at this 200-acre, Caribbean-themed Resort,” and it is telling.  The Caribbean resort is nicely landscaped and designed, and at 200 acres it is HUGE. The largest of the moderately priced resorts, it has 2112 rooms.  They are scattered in unconnected villas around a lagoon with white sand beaches and a tropical island, connected by bridges in the middle.

 

Check-in: The check-in area is in a separate building called the Customs House. It’s very far away (I mean driving distance!) on the opposite side of the property. According to online reviews, there are times when the wait to check in can be especially long here. When we were there, it was not, but there was an ominously complicated rope set up. It was so long that it looked similar to the snaking lines set up in prime theme park attractions. As in most of the Disney World resorts, the check in lobby area has a little area set up with a television, playing Disney movies (what else?), and small chairs to keep wiggly children occupied during the wait, thank goodness!

 

There is no valet service, but there is really no place for it: if you brought a car you would only be at the Customs House area long enough to check in, and then you would park right near your room, motel style.

 

Layout & Getting Around the Resort: The Caribbean Beach Resort is made up of five “villages” named Martinique, Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, and Trinidad North and South. Once you check in at the Customs House building, you will drive quite a distance to your room. It would be an unreasonable distance to walk with luggage. If you don’t have your own car, you can take a resort bus. This resort has its own internal bus system that makes the loop with reasonable frequency, and there are wheelchair and ECV accessible buses.  Of course there are also buses that will take you to the parks and entertainment locations around Disney World.  Both of these bus systems share the same bus stops within the Caribbean Beach Resort. Keep in mind that some of the bus stops can be quite a distance from the rooms.

 

The Old Port Royale building, which is also called Centertown, contains all of the activities including eating, shopping, the main water park pool, boat rentals, etc. This is clustered in one side of the building.  There are no guest rooms in this building. The doors into the Old Port Royale all have buttons for automatic openers, and the floor is level with the outside and everywhere inside, although a stone paver floor may make it a little rough in places for wheelchair riders.

 

The villages are arranged around a lagoon with white sand beaches.  Each village has its own heated pool. There is a walking trail around the 42 acre lagoon that is about a mile and a half long.  Get the picture?  This place is big. Compare it with the 15 acre lake at the Coronado Springs Resort, or the 0.7 mile trail around the Port Orleans Riverside Resort. These other mid-priced resorts are similarly laid out and fairly large as well, but the Caribbean is still the most spread out. If you are staying at the far end of Trinidad South, or Barbados, you may wish to take an internal bus to get to the resort Old Port Royale building.  If you choose to walk, get ready for a serious hike to your meal!

 

There is a lovely bridge and island that crosses the lagoon making for a quicker walk from either Jamaica or Aruba. All of the walking is outside, as are the bus stops. If mobility, heat or sun is an issue, this may not be the best resort for you.  On the other hand, if you crave privacy, or have children who want to run, run, run, (without disturbing the other folks down the hall) this could be just the spot.

 

Rooms & buildings: The brightly painted buildings are two stories, and there are no elevators. If stairs are a problem, you will want to specify that you need first floor. There are no internal hallways, so all of the walking is potentially in the sun.  There is a lot of tropical foliage, and in a few places it actually obscures the room windows. This can be a plus or minus, depending on your point of view! We noticed that these rooms tended to be ones with courtyard or parking-lot views, so specifying a water view (more expensive!) would probably solve the problem. You can specify that you want a room that does not have foliage blocking the view, and they will do their best to honor your request.  Keep in mind that the foliage height and density may change somewhat depending on the season, most recent trim job, etc.

 

The rooms are approximately 314 square, and are brightly decorated.  Most of them contain two double beds. There are some kings as well. Internet reviews about cleanliness are mixed, but so they are at every hotel, everywhere.  On the whole, they are positive, like every Disney property.

 

The rooms have irons, ironing boards, coffee makers, hairdryers, safes, and make-up mirrors. Refrigerators and Pak-n-Play cribs are available free of charge, and high speed Internet access is available for a fee. The television gets the Disney Channel(!) and ESPN. There are coin-operated laundry facilities in each village.

 

One fairly new note: There are no longer ANY smoking rooms throughout all the Disney resorts.  Keep in mind that even balconies are off limits, and there is no smoking allowed anywhere indoors.  There is a steep fine added to your room bill if they detect even a whiff. Smoking areas are limited to a few designated outdoor spots.  This might help allergy sufferers, keeping not only smoke but also hopefully harsh deodorizers out of rooms.

 

Handicapped Rooms: There are 22 handicapped accessible rooms, but they are scattered throughout the property. They are not necessarily in the villages closest to the Old Port Royale. You’ll have to ask for that, and you may need to pay extra if you want a room in the more convenient “preferred location” of Martinique or Trinidad North. (The staff will tell you that there are some “handicapped” rooms on the second floor, but upon closer questioning it turns out these are rooms with just shower and toilet grab bars.)  With no elevators to the second floor, full handicapped accessible rooms are limited to the first floor. They have roll-in showers, roll-under sinks with lever handles, handheld showers, double peepholes in doors, and of course also appropriate grab bars. Some wheelchairs are available for loan at the check-in desk, with a deposit.

 

Tip: the closest rooms are in Martinique building numbers 26-24, followed by Trinidad North building numbers 31-33. These are considered “preferred locations” and cost extra.  If you want to be tricky, Jamaica 44-46 and Aruba 51-53 are probably almost as close, but over the bridge on the other side of the lagoon and therefore less expensive.

 

External Defibrillator Devices: There are well-marked external defibrillator devices scattered throughout the hotel grounds. This includes one by each pool and one by each bus stop. Their locations are marked on the map that you will get when you check in. You can always pick up a copy at the concierge desk either at Customs House or Port Royale.  There are also public restrooms at every pool.

 

Dining: There are two places to eat at the Caribbean Beach Resort, located right next to one another in the Old Port Royale Building.

 

Food Court: You’ll find pretty standard food court fare. You’ll find choices including pizza, hamburgers, and the like.  It’s not huge, but there are some grilled options like chicken and salmon, salads, fruits, yogurt, a bakery etc., with Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, pastries and such for breakfast.  A healthy or vegetarian meal could be had here, with a little effort. It would be hard to find a week’s worth of varied healthy choices.  We were impressed to find a gluten-free brownie (labeled as such) in the bakery and some egg and peanut free treats as well.  We tried to get ingredient and calorie sheets at a few of the stands; they were not available, but in each case the server quickly offered to have the chef come out to talk to us.

 

In general though, the fast food venues at Disney are not the best places to get special treatment if you have food issues.  The selections are often made up ahead of time.  Obviously, you can always ask for the bun to be left off the burger (if you can’t tolerate wheat, for example). Except for the basics, you can’t really direct exactly what will be in your food there.  Although at least some of the counters (not all) are open all day, the food court can get crowded, to the point that it can be hard to find a place to sit. The lines can get quite long, especially during peak dining times. 

  

Note: At the Caribbean Beach the shopping area is partly open and directly adjacent to the food court, and the bright toy displays can’t be avoided.  If you have kids, this can be either a blessing or a curse. It can keep them occupied while they wait for food, or over-stimulate them, provoking them to tantrums every time you go for a meal. (We’ve been there!)

 

Shutter’s: This is a full service “casual dining” restaurant.  You enter from inside right next to the food court in Old Port Royale. It is open for dinner only, from 5:00 until 10:00 pm.  This restaurant allows advanced dining reservations. According to the folks at Disney Dining it tends to be a last-minute type of place, so advance reservations should not be too much of a problem. However you can’t necessarily depend on a walk-in as they do fill up at times. The décor is casual, it’s small, and it is a definite “kid spot”; yours won’t be the only (noisy?) ones. If you are looking for a quiet, romantic getaway, this probably shouldn’t be your first choice!

 

There is an un-alarmed outside exit directly from the restaurant to the plaza near the pool: it’s one-way. A few kids meandered out there while we were eating and then had to bang on the door to get back in because it locked behind them. All of the tables have reasonably large wooden chairs with vinyl padded seats. Most of the chairs are armless. There are a few booths available. The carpeted restaurant is on two levels. Approximately half is on the same level as the food court, and the other half is up a couple of steps. Even though the restaurant is small, there seemed to be enough space between most of the tables to negotiate a wheelchair.

 

The menu is American with a mildly (no surprise!) Caribbean flair. It is mid-priced for Disney. (Entrees are $16 - $30.)  The menu is not extensive though, and there is only one vegetarian option, which is pasta. There is a children’s menu (of course, this is Disney!). They serve alcohol with a nice wine list, but more interestingly, they serve a fun selection of non-alcoholic drinks.  On the Internet it gets mixed reviews from posters, most of which cluster around “okay”. We found our meal tasty, attractively served and HOT (temperature-wise).  The portions were adequate, with generous main dishes, but there could have been more vegetables. Really, the biggest problem we had with the restaurant was the limited menu: while we enjoyed our one meal, we would have been hard pressed to find a week’s worth of appealing options.

 

Like everywhere in Disney, this full-service restaurant is very amenable to special requests.  All you have to do is ask. The chef comes out and chats with you so he can find out exactly what your needs are. They prefer that you note your food preferences when you make your reservation and again at check in, and they will keep it at the restaurant on a special card. We had not done that on our last visit. When we asked about a gluten free take-out meal, the accommodating server was quick to tell us that it would be no problem, and that the chef would cheerfully talk to us.

 

Even though there are undoubtedly more exciting choices in the World, after a long day at the parks, if you are already back at the hotel and you are tired, you could do worse.

 

See the Shutters menu here. 

 

Getting Around Disney World: The Caribbean Beach is one of the Epcot area resorts, situated right off of Buena Vista Drive. Like all the moderate resorts, it is not connected to any of the theme parks.  To get back and forth, you’ll need to drive your own car, or use the Disney bus system.  This can involve long and/or crowded waits during peak times.  There are very few places to sit down at the bus stops, so if it is really crowded be prepared to stand. This is true both at the resort and at the bus stops at the parks. At the resort there are little shaded station areas, but again it is possible that with big crowds you could be left out in the sun.

 

The buses circle the resort making stops at all the villages and at the Port Royale and Customs House. You can find the closest stop to your room on the map that they will give you at check in, but depending on where your room is located within your village, it can be a surprisingly long (sunny, and hot in the summer) walk. The buses circle the entire property, stopping at every bus stop before heading out to their destinations. There are eight stops within the Caribbean Beach Resort, so depending upon which bus stop you’re waiting at, it can take quite a long time to get where you are going.

 

Resort Activities: There are seven pools at the Caribbean Beach resort, including a large water park pool at the Old Port Royale. This pool is themed to look like a pirate fort, complete with cannons. There are waterslides, waterfalls, and a wading pool, and there is about to be a brand new zero entry, but at the time of this writing (August 2008) the pool is closed for “refurbishment”, ostensibly due to be finished sometime in the middle of September. A concierge announced proudly to us that, once it was completed, the Caribbean would have the “coolest pool of all the mid-priced resorts”.  We peeked through the fencing to see and it looked potentially cool to us!

 

Each of the six villages has its own smaller, “quiet” pool, and small water slides have been added temporarily to the pools at Barbados and Jamaica while the Port Royale pool is undergoing refurbishment.  We were told that all of the pools are heated to a comfortable 85o year round.  Except for the large pool at Old Port Royale, you must bring your own towels from your room, but they can be left at the pool and will be replaced in your room. Although only the Port Royale pool normally has lifeguards on duty, while there are slides at Barbados and Jamaica there are lifeguards there too.

 

Each village has its own white sand beach replete with chairs and hammocks strung on palm trees for sunbathing. However, as with all of the Disney resorts with natural water, swimming is not permitted.  The reason for this is different depending on who you ask: either the boat traffic is too dangerous, or there are troublesome critters (alligators, snapping turtles and snakes come to mind here) or the water is full of bacteria/algae. Whatever the case, it’s probably best to mind the restriction, and cool off at a pool.

 

There is a neat little tropical jungle island (think “Gilligan”) right in the middle of the lagoon called “Caribbean Cay”; it can be accessed by a bridge (which is also the shortcut that connects Old Port Royale to a spot between Jamaica and Aruba on the opposite shore).  There is nothing to do on the island but stroll around and hang out. But oh! What superb hanging out!  There are hammocks strung from swaying palm trees, little paths leading to secret spots with picnic tables, and so much lush vegetation that you could get lost. It is a reasonably smooth walk or ride over the bridge to the island and all the way across, although the bridge has aging wooden planks.  On the side going to Jamaica/Aruba the bridge makes a little arch. Most of the “secret” island paths are accessible by wheelchair or unsteady walkers.  Although they are a bit hilly, they are mostly paved and smooth.  You will find occasional steps, but there are always alternate, smooth paths. A few spots are covered in sand, and there are a few little raised gazebos which might be troublesome for some.  

 

There is over a mile and a half of paved trail winding around the lagoon along which you may walk, jog, or ride bicycles and surreys that will carry 2 or 4 adults, which are available to rent. Along the way you’ll pass little playgrounds located next to the beaches of Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad. If you want to explore the lagoon, visit the Barefoot Bay Boat Marina next to Old Port Royale. You can rent small motorized boats such as Mercury boats, canopy and pontoon boats, or non-motorized boats such as sailboats, pedal boats, and canoes. The marina is handicapped accessible and although they don’t disallow anything, they encourage wheelchairs on their pontoon boats only. You are welcome to transfer from wheelchairs to a boat, but keep in mind that they can’t help you.

 

There is a volleyball court for impromptu games on the beach right in front of the Port Royale. Last, there is a video arcade inside, right near the food court, which is accessible.

 

Along with the attractions available on the grounds, every day a chalkboard goes up near the Barefoot Bay Boat Marina listing that day’s recreational activities, ranging from a supervised children’s board game and coloring hour on a little cove of the Caribbean Cay Island, to a water balloon toss, to a live Calypso band on the deck next to the (temporarily closed) Port Royale Pool. 

 

Check in at 3:00 pm - Check out at 11:00 am

 

These are general rates; more specific rates depending your needs may apply, so it is best to call.  There are also deals to be had, especially if you are a Florida resident or a Passholder for example.

 

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