Some of the construction walls are down at Caribbean Beach Resort! With the removal of walls around Banana Cabana and Sebastian’s Bistro, the waterfront dining is almost ready to debut, and the main component of Walt Disney World’s largest hotel improvement projects is nearly finished.
Work on the new lobby and Centertown Market is not quite as close to being completed, but significant strides have been made even since our last visit about a month ago, suggesting that the pace of work has rapidly accelerated, perhaps with a desire to be ready by the busy holiday season. The Skyliner gondola stations and support poles are also inching towards completion, although those likely won’t open until Summer 2019.
In this post, we’ll share construction photos from the new waterfront walkway around Sebastian’s Bistro (among other construction at Caribbean Beach), offer thoughts on the new Centertown waterfront district that’s taking shape, and share insight as to whether it’s “safe” to book a stay at Caribbean Beach now…
Unlike our last few Caribbean Beach Resort construction updates, this one is almost exclusively good news. Progress is clear and moving at a fast rate, and Centertown is really starting to take shape.
I’ve gotta admit that when we arrived at Caribbean Beach Resort and those waterfront construction walls were down–something I was not expecting as I haven’t seen this reported elsewhere–I was a little too excited. More on that a bit later, though.
Within the next couple of months, the main Caribbean Beach projects starting to wrap up with the fruits of this highly-awaited project (at least among CBR fans!) available for Walt Disney World guest consumption. We are in the home stretch!
If you’ve missed our past progress reports, you might want to read our Summer 2018 Caribbean Beach Resort Construction Update, which was our most recent update prior to this one. It covered things like the new Spyglass Grill (which we reviewed in full here), and a look at the Skyliner pillars and their proximity to hotel rooms.
For an even more basic primer on Caribbean Beach, including a look inside the guest rooms (all of which were refurbished only a few years ago), read our comprehensive Caribbean Beach Resort Review.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start with a look at the latest news and concept art from Disney, which is that the new table service restaurant along the Old Port Royale waterfront will be named Sebastian’s Bistro. This restaurant will feature beautiful views and a menu blending Latin and Caribbean flavors from market-fresh ingredients.
Sebastian’s Bistro and the Banana Cabana Pool Bar will both be located in the new building adjacent to the pool. This replaces an open-air courtyard that used to provide outdoor/overflow seating for the Old Port Royale Food Court. This area was pretty brutal in the Florida heat, so I can’t say it’ll be missed too much (although I did like the fountain in the middle).
The redesigned counter service restaurant will be Centertown Market, which sounds like it’s basically an expanded version of Old Port Royale Food Court. Per Disney, guests will enter under a large palapa-like structure, accented with glowing, colored light pendants made from glass bottles.
Centertown Market will feature open shutters, wooden light posts, awnings, ornamentation, and unique seating areas. It will also have a Grab n’ Go market for specialty coffee and quick bites. This description and concept art is very reminiscent of Old Port Royale Food Court.
Although I don’t believe Walt Disney World has officially announced it, the porte-cochere and lobby are moving to Old Port Royale, which is evident from concept art on display at the resort. The remote location of Customs House was always awkward, so this consolidation makes sense.
Walt Disney World fans who have been watching this project closely will recall that the Old Port Royale “port of entry” and Centertown projects have already been delayed a couple of times, but it appears that things are finally moving at a fast pace.
Above is a current drive-by look at the porte-cochere construction, which looks worse than it actually is. A lot of progress has been made here since our last visit, too.
In our last update, we noted that there was no chance Caribbean Beach Resort would make its (revised) summer completion date, which was accurate doubt on our part. We went further and questioned whether Old Port Royale/Centertown would open in 2018, period. Based on progress from our last visit to this one, we’d say it’s all but certain that both Sebastian’s Bistro and Centertown Market will open in Fall 2018.
A couple weeks ago, Disney Parks Blog indicated that the two dining spots would open “in just a few months” and that would appear to be a conservative timeframe based upon what we could see while circling the building. It’s still too early to pinpoint a precise date, but debuting in time for the Christmas 2018 season is a sure thing.
In fact, I’d be surprised if these restaurants are not open before the end of October 2018. The construction walls are down and only planters are blocking the entrances. While it’s tough to ascertain how much work needs to be done inside Sebastian’s Bistro, we could see inside Banana Cabana and it looks close to being in finished form.
Not that we think this is going to happen, but it’s potentially in a state where it could soft open this month. Walls are still up around Centertown Market, so it’s tough to get a read on current progress on that, but light fixtures are up and painting is done, so we’d assume it’s not far behind Sebastian’s in terms of progress.
Perhaps the Florida heat was getting to me or maybe I’ve just done too many of these Caribbean Beach construction updates that have included the words “appears behind schedule” but I was downright ecstatic to walk up to the Centertown area and not be met with a construction wall past the pool. I have no clue how long these walls have been down, but I was like a kid on Christmas morning. (That might be sad, but it’s true!)
Anyway, enough of my excitement–let’s take a walk around the waterfront dining area for a closer look at some of the progress:
The other good news is that work elsewhere around the resort in erecting the Skyliner pillars appears to be pretty much complete. This means that the ground around these is no longer all torn up, which is a plus.
Moreover, the beaches have mostly reopened after being closed during our last visit. Not that you’d want to lie out and be cooked by the Florida sun in September, but it’ll be a nice option in about another month or so.
That brings us to the question of whether you should stay at Caribbean Beach Resort? Presumably, if you’re reading now, you’re planning a trip for January 2019 at the earliest. To be honest, the progress we witnessed makes me want to book a stay at Caribbean Beach in November, as it appears to be that far along.
Suffice to say, you’re safe for 2019 when it comes to the bulk of construction. The Skyliner and Disney’s Riviera Resort (DVC) work will remain ongoing at the beginning of the year, but both are getting to the point that they soon won’t intrude upon the Caribbean Beach Resort guest experience with visible exterior work, constant noise, etc.
More importantly, the Old Port Royale and Centertown projects will be wrapped up, which will significantly improve the ambiance and guest experience at Caribbean Beach Resort. Between those two restaurants and the existing Spyglass Grill, it’s possible–if not likely–that Caribbean Beach will have the best dining scene of any Moderate.
The downside is that the Skyliner won’t be running until Summer 2019 (our prediction–Walt Disney World has not made an official announcement). The upside is that you won’t be paying higher room rates that are likely to gradually roll out once the Skyliner debuts. Caribbean Beach Resort room rates for 2019 are already available and there hasn’t been much change yet–but offering decreased or no discounts is another means of increasing the effective room rate.
Personally, we are now ready to return to Caribbean Beach Resort. It’s been too long since I enjoyed a sunrise stroll around Barefoot Bay, evening swim at Fuentes del Morro Pool, or just sat in a hammock on the beach. I know some of the serene ambiance that I loved most about those early mornings and late nights is probably gone forever, but it’s not entirely gone. If we can find a good rate, we’ll aim to do a stay at Caribbean Beach in January or February.
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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!