It’s been a few months since our last visit to Walt Disney World’s biggest hotel construction project, so we headed over to Caribbean Beach Resort to check in on the re-imagining of Old Port Royale, and the construction of the Skyliners and Disney’s Riviera Resort. In this post, we’ll share photos of the construction, and offer some thoughts on staying whether you should stay here in 2018.
Right now, Caribbean Beach Resort is very much an active construction site, with multiple projects being worked on simultaneously. This began last May, and was originally scheduled to be completed by late last year. At some point, the project became more ambitious in scope, and around Christmas, offered a revised completion timeframe of Late Summer 2018.
April 7, 2018 Update: Spyglass Grill, a quick service dining spot adjacent to the quiet pool in Trinidad South, is now opened. While normally a quiet pool dining option (we’d stop short of calling it a restaurant) wouldn’t merit coverage on the blog, this is the first phase of Caribbean Beach’s refurbishment to open, and the food is reportedly pretty good. It reinforces our recommendation to request a room in Trinidad if you’re going to stay at Caribbean Beach in the next few months, too.
Note that this anticipated Summer 2018 timeframe for completion still applies to the Old Port Royale “port of entry” and Centertown projects (consisting of the all-new waterfront dining for Shutters, counter service dining, shopping, and pool bar). If current progress is any indication, it’ll be more like late summer or early fall that the work is done.
Those completion dates most definitely do not apply to the adjacent Disney’s Riviera Resort or the Skyliner projects, neither of which will be finished before 2019. After walking through some of the work, we’ll assess whether guests planning late 2018 vacations should book stays at Caribbean Beach.
Before we get to that, let’s provide context for what you’re going to be viewing, for those of you unfamiliar with the layout of Caribbean Beach Resort or who haven’t seen the construction in person. For a basic primer on CBR, read our comprehensive Caribbean Beach Resort Review.
One thing we do have to add about dining at Caribbean Beach Resort right now is in-room pizza delivery. Prior to our visit, a friend had told us this was an ongoing “issue” at CBR because they didn’t have the kitchen facilities on-site to prepare pizza.
Instead, all pizzas ordered were being driven over from Pop Century, and in some cases, took over 2 hours to arrive. During our visit to Caribbean Beach, sure enough, we saw a golf cart with the Pop Century logo on it. Knowing that, I’d probably skip in-room pizza delivery, but that’s just me.
Actually, I’d probably go a step further and skip eating at Caribbean Beach Resort entirely. The temporary buffet and food trucks look like they leave a lot to be desired. If you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation in the near future, the temporary dining set-up is something you should look at, to see if it’s serviceable for you.
Above is a 2018 map of Caribbean Beach Resort from DisneyWorld.com, with my notes about current projects added. If you look at an older map, you’ll notice the Barbados section and part of Martinique of Caribbean Beach Resort have vanished, as has part of Old Port Royale.
Pardon my rudimentary Photoshop work here, but in blue above is the work being done on Old Port Royale and Centertown, which stretches from the parking lot to waterfront, and abuts Martinique. In green is the former Customs House check-in area for Caribbean Beach Resort, which is being demolished.
In yellow is (roughly) one of the Disney Skyliner gondola station plots. There will also be another Skyliner station down by Jamaica, in the bottom left corner of the map. Work has also now started on this second plot, and it’s a surprisingly large area.
Here’s a quick video of progress on Disney’s Riviera Resort as of early 2018:
We already know that Disney’s Riviera Resort won’t open until Fall 2019, because Disney has announced that. Since our last visit, Disney’s Riviera Resort has progressed quite a bit. It’s now gone vertical and is several stories tall, with huge crews actively working on it.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney’s Riviera Resort is actually ahead of schedule, ready to debut by late Summer 2019 to start filling rooms for the busy fall and Christmas seasons. This makes sense–with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge scheduled to open in late 2019, having these hotel projects wrapped up well before then is going to be essential to meet increased hotel demand.
By contrast, not much progress is apparent on the work occurring at the Centertown and Old Port Royale complex since our last visit in September.
It’s certainly possible that some of the biggest strides have been made in areas that are not visible, but my reaction to seeing this was, “that’s it?”
Given that Centertown and Old Port Royale are integral amenities to the resort that is currently operating, finishing those projects in an expeditious manner should be Disney’s priority–not getting the new DVC resort built. Of course, new DVC means new membership dollars, and Caribbean Beach doesn’t seem to be having problems filling its rooms, so there’s that.
This is not to say that the Centertown and Old Port Royale project won’t wrap up by late Summer 2018. I’d hazard a guess that this work could be finished in the span of a few months if there was a sense of urgency about it, so finishing in ~7-8 months (still technically summer) by moving at a snail’s pace is entirely possible.
That brings us to the question of whether you should stay at Caribbean Beach Resort in 2018? I’ll start by giving you my personal answer, as to what we’d do (and will be doing), and then follow with some factors to take into consideration since there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
There is no way we’d book a stay at Caribbean Beach Resort between now and August 2018. The negative impact of the work is too high for us, there aren’t currently enough incentives to get us to stay in an active construction site, and the likelihood of things getting dramatically better between now and then seems pretty low.
There is very little chance we’d book between August and October, as even if the Centertown and Old Port Royale project finishes in that time (and it probably will), the Skyliner and Riviera Resort projects will still be noisy and visible. However, a good promotion–Free Dining availability here but not elsewhere, for instance–could sway us.
We will likely stay at Caribbean Beach Resort for a few nights during our Christmas 2018 trip, in part because we want to review all of this new stuff at Centertown and Old Port Royale. Also, in part because we anticipate the Skyliner and Riviera Resort projects being far enough along that they will no longer negatively impact the guest experience at Caribbean Beach.
All of those ‘answers’ are specific to us, and obviously, your mileage may vary. With that said, here are some things to consider if you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World in 2018 and are on the fence about Caribbean Beach Resort.
First, a big selling point of Caribbean Beach Resort is its “Polynesian Lite” rooms and relaxed tropical ambiance, and scenery to explore. During this construction project, that tropical scenery is impacted and the previously relaxed ambiance is filled with the sounds of bulldozers and cranes.
We expect this significant negative impact on the resort’s ambiance until late 2018. It will get better once Centertown and Old Port Royale reopens, but the big offenders in this regard are the Riviera and Skyliner work. If you want a Moderate with ‘resort’ ambiance right now, I’d recommend Port Orleans Riverside.
If you like to enjoy meals at your resort, steer clear of Caribbean Beach right now, and until at least “late summer.” The makeshift dining options are literally a giant tent and several food trucks in a parking lot. It all feels a bit like something that might pop-up on the far corner of a Wal-Mart parking lot for the Fourth of July. Definitely not what you’d expect from Walt Disney World.
Without question, the impact on the resort’s tropical serenity and the dining options are the biggest downsides of staying at Caribbean Beach Resort right now. If for some reason these things don’t matter to you, by all means, book a stay…at Pop Century, and save some money. (Because if dining and ambiance don’t matter, what’s the difference between a Value and a Moderate?)
If you’re a Caribbean Beach Resort fan, the downside of postponing a stay here for too long is that the nightly rates will undoubtedly increase once all of this work is done. We doubt this will occur once the Centertown and Old Port Royale ‘up-scale’ waterfront areas open, but it certainly will once the Skyliner debuts and offers non-bus transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
This basically leaves a window of Fall 2018 until Late 2019 as the sweet spot for enjoying improved amenities at current prices. If you can swing it, that’s what we’d recommend doing, and requesting a room in Trinidad, buildings 44-46, or buildings 51-53. I just hope that once the dust settles, Caribbean Beach Resort once again has the heart and tranquility of the resort I fell in love with when we first stayed there.
Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of 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 anytime soon, or will you wait until work is done? 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!