Walt Disney World’s largest hotel construction project, the re-imagining of Caribbean Beach Resort, is nearly completed! In this post, we’ll share photos of the new Old Port Royale area, including Sebastian’s Bistro, Banana Cabana, and Centertown Market. We’ll also offer thoughts on the new waterfront area and share insight as to whether it’s “safe” to book a stay at Caribbean Beach now.
We have a lot of ground to cover, but before we get started, some background is probably in order for those of you joining these updates already in progress. Caribbean Beach’s re-imagining began last spring, and was originally scheduled to finish about 6 months later. Here we are 18 months later, and the project is finally starting to wrap up–with the new check-in at Old Port Royale and dining opening officially on October 8, 2018.
In our September 2018 Caribbean Beach Resort Construction Update, I remarked that I was really excited (a little too excited, perhaps) when I saw the construction walls were down. I also closed by saying that we were really eager to return to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and we’d likely book a return stay in January or February.
I lied. Well, lie is probably a bit strong of a word, as that was my intent at the time. To make a long story short, we “needed” to book a short stay, Caribbean Beach was a good option, so we decided to roll the dice. At the time, we didn’t have any intel that Old Port Royale would be open, but I was holding out hope in the back of my mind.
I was really optimistic, having heard rumors that the internal goal was a quiet opening of Old Port Royale on October 1, about a week before our stay. That date came and went, and then Walt Disney World announced the official opening date of October 8, 2018. That meant we’d miss everything by a day, but I still figured there’d be a few days of soft openings for the restaurants.
In about the worst twist of luck possible, that didn’t happen before we checked out. On a positive note, we were upgraded to a preferred room in Martinique (I believe this classification for those rooms just returned, but I could be wrong). This location near the beach was perfect for me to obsessively check whether the planters “guarding” the walkway to Centertown had been removed.
Those planters were practically taunting me–just a couple of them standing between me and the new area. I could’ve easily walked right around them and had an up-close look at the finished Centertown dining, but I restrained myself. (Ironically, during our last visit, this walkway had been open with some actual construction walls up around Centertown Market.)
The bigger disappointment was having to use Custom House. I guess it was nice to see it “one last time” but I probably could’ve done without that. On the morning of check-out, I had to drop off luggage at Bell Services before going to the park. That meant taking an internal bus to Custom House, taking a bus back, and then switching.
This may not seem that tedious, but the whole process took 78 minutes from the time I exited the room until getting on a park-bound bus. If Old Port Royale were open, it would’ve taken ~15 minutes.
That aside, it was really good to be back at Caribbean Beach Resort. In addition to the upgrade to Martinique, we received a first-floor corner room, which meant two windows. We got lucky with this same configuration at Port Orleans French Corner this summer (I wrote about it here) and I’m a big fan.
I spend a decent amount of time working in the room, and having two windows while sitting at the table is nice. It makes the room airier and less claustrophobic.
The new-look of Old Port Royale, at least on the exterior, is nice and meshes perfectly with the existing atmosphere of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.
It remains to be seen if that holds true inside. The concept art has a bit of an overly ‘modern chic’ style to it, but everything else with the style of the re-imagined resort has looked good.
Same story with Banana Cabana and Sebastian’s Bistro. The exteriors look good, but how well the interiors work in person remains to be seen. From concept art, Sebastian’s Bistro appears to have a pretty generic vibe.
Likewise, the exterior for Centertown Market looks nice.
Lots of nice detail-work and texture to these facades–hopefully it has a nice marketplace vibe inside, too.
Another thing that was great about the visit was being there over the weekend. With no construction on the Skyliner or Riviera Resort, sitting in a hammock on the beach was once again serene.
Only the faint sound of background music was audible, and this was exactly the relaxing tropical vibe I came to love about Caribbean Beach in the first place.
The jury is still out for me on the long term impact of Disney’s Riviera Resort next door and the Skyliner overhead.
For us, the transportation upsides of the Skyliner far outweigh the visual blight it adds, but the Riviera is a potentially different story. At least it’s not as tall as the Coronado Springs tower, I guess.
As we noted in the last update, the Skyliner pillars are all now up, and landscaping around them is mostly restored. This means that the ground around these is no longer all torn up, which is a plus.
We’ll have an update soon on the Skyliner station construction progress.
Signage is in the process of being replaced–several trucks from a local sign company were present on Friday and by Saturday afternoon a lot of new signs were already up.
One sign that had been installed but not yet “revealed” is the new entrance marquee on Victory Way. We saw this beginning to go up and later covered with black tarps.
I know you’re sitting on pins and needles, unable to wait until tomorrow to know what this new entrance marquee looks like. Based on the glimpses I saw, the logo in the top right corner of the welcome paper above is likely the resort’s new logo and marquee.
We’ve commented on it before, but the letter on the left is something that greets guests in every resort room now, and is a nice touch in terms of soliciting guest feedback.
I have a ton more sunrise, sunset, and night shots of Caribbean Beach, but I’ll save those for a future post as I still need to comb through and edit them all. So stay tuned for that if you want some non-construction photos.
Finally, we’ll conclude this update the way we always do, answering whether you should stay at Caribbean Beach Resort? So long as you aren’t bothered by work continuing on the Disney Skyliner gondola stations and Disney’s Riviera Resort, both of which will remain under construction through at least Spring 2019. However, the gondola stations and Riviera Resort are on the perimeter of Caribbean Beach, and should not be all that intrusive to the guest experience.
Accordingly, we think it’s safe to book Caribbean Beach Resort now for all future travel dates from a perspective of construction. The Old Port Royale and Centertown projects are wrapped up, and that will significantly improve the ambiance and guest experience at Caribbean Beach Resort. With the new food court, table service restaurant, and Spyglass Grill, Caribbean Beach has excellent dining options.
The only downside is that the Skyliner gondolas won’t be running until Summer 2019 (our prediction–Walt Disney World has not made an official announcement). Even that has an upside, in that you won’t be paying higher room rates that are an inevitability once the gondola system debuts.
Overall, it was a great stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, even without the new dining and Old Port Royale being open. Not only do we once again recommend staying here, but unless something goes terribly wrong with the new restaurants, Caribbean Beach is likely to once again reclaim its throne as our favorite Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World. This was a position it held (shortly) following the resort’s “Polynesian-Lite” room refurbishments, but lost during this construction.
Are you excited to check out the new Sebastian’s Bistro or Centertown Market? Do you agree or disagree with our take on the construction impact on Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort? Have you stayed here since the work began? How did it affect your stay? Planning on staying at Caribbean Beach in late 2018 or early 2019, or will you wait until the Skyliner is operating? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!