Yarr Going to Want to Avoid the Pirate Rooms: A Review of Disney Caribbean Beach Resort in Orlando
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My first and only trip to Walt Disney World as a child included a weeklong stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. The Caribbean-themed resort opened in 1988, so it was just a few years old when I visited in the early 1990s. I remember it being pink and large with a lake and a big pool. Turns out, my almost three-decades-old memory was basically correct.
In many ways, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort remains true to its roots, but in other ways it’s undergoing a transformation that has rates down a bit because of construction and temporarily reduced amenities (many of which have already improved in the weeks since my visit).
Having been spoiled on recent trips to Walt Disney World by staying at monorail resorts such as Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, I tried to go into this stay with recalibrated expectations, knowing that comparing deluxe resorts to moderate resorts, especially ones known to be undergoing renovations, wouldn’t be fair for anyone.
While you can book Walt Disney World Resort hotels using points via the Citi ThankYou program (though sadly not Chase Ultimate Rewards), we booked this $500 two-night stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach via Hotels.com using a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. By doing so, we earned not only 10x points on the Venture Card but also two nights’ worth of credit toward the 10 nights needed to get a Hotels.com award night. All told, that was 20% back in rewards, which was not shabby at Disney World. You can generally expect to pay around $150 to $250 per night for a room at Caribbean Beach, with the pirate-themed rooms (more on that later) charging a $50 premium over the non-pirate-themed ones. With well over 1,000 rooms spread out across multiple “islands,” availability at this Disney resort wasn’t as tight as at some of the others with just a few hundred rooms.
If you decide to book directly with Disney, you can earn 3 points per dollar by paying with your Chase Sapphire Reserve. You can also buy discounted Disney tickets through MickeyVisit.com.
The closest two Disney World theme parks to Disney’s Caribbean Beach were Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, both connected by bus. At 200 acres, though, the resort itself wasn’t actually all that close to anything — even to its own lobby. In fact, Disney’s Caribbean Beach had its own bus system because it was that massive.
When I checked into the lobby, my friend Ed Pizzarello (who was giving me a ride and competing in the “Ride All Disney Rides in One Day” challenge with me the following day) told me to leave my bags in the car. I naively thought I’d walk to my room from the lobby after check-in was complete, but it was a several-minute drive in the car from the lobby to my room in the Trinidad section of the resort.
It won’t make the resort any less massive, but a cool feature coming to Disney’s Caribbean Beach will connect the resort to Hollywood Studios and Epcot by air, courtesy of the under-construction Disney Skyliner gondolas.
Check-in and Lobby
Disney World is one of those places where check-in and checkout times are often exactly as stated. So I did not expect my room to be ready for my arrival 90 minutes before my official 3pm check-in time. But this time I got lucky, and my room was ready — and the check-in agent didn’t even look at me funny when I confirmed I only needed one key for my solo stay in a pirate-themed room.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach very cleverly turned some of the rooms in one of the furthest “islands” from the heart of the resort, Trinidad, into pirate-themed offerings and jacked up their rate. On average, a pirate room will cost about $50 more per night than the cheapest room at the resort, which I could forgive if the pirate rooms weren’t cursed with double beds instead of queen beds and located at the furthest possible southern spot.
Those drawbacks noted, the rooms did a good-enough job with pirate theming for kids. The small beds were decorated as pirate ships, with lanterns as your overhead reading lights.
The pirate theming continued to the carpets, crates under the TV, a barrel to hold the coffeemaker and a curtain that separated the vanity from the sleeping portion of the room.
I’m all for a good themed experience, but this one just didn’t do it for me. If your kids are absolutely nuts for pirates and you don’t mind the small beds, then enjoy it, matey. Otherwise, book the standard rooms with bigger beds and save your $50 per night.
Ed spent his stay in a regular Caribbean Beach room without the pirate theming and provided the photos below.
Those larger beds with cleaner lines looked much more appealing to me at the end of a theme-park day than the small ships.
More importantly, families with multiple children will want to note that standard rooms at Disney’s Caribbean have the “magical” fold-down bed under the TV that could turn the sleeping arrangements into a room for five, assuming one is a young enough child to sleep in that small space.
You could hear construction going on during during the day from the Disney Skyliner, and to a lesser extent from the nearby Riviera Resort. This was not a problem for me, but could be an issue if you have sensitive sleepers who need to return to the resort and nap in the afternoons.
The rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach weren’t bad, but they also weren’t great. Frankly, even rooms at Disney’s deluxe-tier resorts aren’t always great, so not great at $200 was much more palatable than not great at $500. However, I’d certainly skip the pirate theme unless your kids are just exceptionally pirate-obsessed.
Food and Beverage
Remember how I said I arrived to my room in the early afternoon? I left out the part that I hadn’t eaten lunch quite yet. My plan was to grab some food at the hotel to try out one of their on-site restaurants, but one thing led to another and I got sucked into a few hours of work in the room. Not a problem, since I could simply order room service, right? Wrong.
Apparently I didn’t fully recalibrate my Disney expectations, because many Disney World Resorts, including Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, don’t have true room service. There was evening pizza delivery available, but that won’t help you during other times of the day.
The best option for lunch would have been to walk to the relatively new and nearby Spyglass Grill.
This open-air restaurant near the Trinidad South pool area was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As an added perk, it accepted mobile food orders.
Since my visit, Caribbean Beach has finished renovations at Sebastian’s Bistro, Centertown Market and Banana Cabana. These restaurants are now fully operational and open up a much more complete resort experience for Caribbean Beach guests.
In fact, in the weeks since my stay, the reimagined Old Port Royale has begun to act as a port of entry that gives guests access to check-in, concierge services, hotel amenities and dining in a more centralized location, which was sorely needed.
This particular trip to Disney World was the one where I tried to ride every single Disney World ride in one day to raise money for Give Kids the World, so I didn’t really sample most of the hotel’s amenities this time around. However, we did take a quick look around to see what the resort had to offer families.
In addition to the large lake and smaller pools spread throughout the 1,000-plus rooms, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort had an old Spanish-citadel-themed zero-entry pool with two waterslides and water cannons.
Like most Disney resort pools, this one did not disappoint. It is here you also found a water feature for the smaller buccaneers who weren’t quite ready for the larger slides.
If you didn’t feel like walking all the way to the main pool area for a quick dip, there was the smaller pool closest to Trinidad and the Spyglass Restaurant.
In the evenings at Disney’s Caribbean Beach, you could roast marshmallows by a fire or watch outdoor movies at Caribbean Cay. In fact, they put out a weekly calendar of events, with plenty to keep you busy during breaks from the parks.
If the kids had some energy left over from the parks, they could use it on the playground, which is not a given at all Disney resorts, so this was a great inclusion.
Continuing the pirate theme, a really cool activity for the kids from 4 to 12 years old was a daily kids-only pirate adventure that sailed, weather permitting, from 9:30am to 11:30am from Caribbean Cay. Prices for this adventure were $39 to $49 per child.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is already better today than it was on my visit earlier this fall, as more amenities and restaurants have opened following a long period of construction. If the price is right, staying here is a way to get Disney perks and theming for a potentially reasonable price. This is not my favorite Disney resort, but I think the resort is probably worth $200 per night. That said, I would avoid the pirate rooms like the plague unless you don’t mind the smaller beds, extra expense and you have kids who are the world’s biggest pirate fans.
When the construction on both the new Skyliner and nearby Riviera Resort finishes in the coming year, staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort may become an even more interesting option for families visiting Disney World.
Read on to learn more about maximizing your time, points and money at Disney World:
- TPG Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- Disney World Without Kids: 10 Ways to Enjoy an Adult Trip to Disney
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- How to Eat Healthy at Disney World
- Best Restaurants at Walt Disney World
- Best $69 You Can Spend at Disney World
Featured image courtesy of Disney