The re-imagining of Caribbean Beach Resort continues at Walt Disney World, as construction continues on Old Port Royale/Centertown, the Skyliner gondola stations and support poles, and other areas of the hotel. The resort-wide enhancements have now been in progress for over one year, with at least another 6 months before everything is finished.
In this post, we’ll share construction photos, thoughts on the new restaurant, and offer our insight as to whether it’s “safe” to book a stay at Caribbean Beach in late 2018 or 2019. As of today, Caribbean Beach Resort is still very much an active construction site, with multiple projects being worked on simultaneously.
The bad news is that construction today at and around Caribbean Beach Resort is more noticeable than at any point since this project started. The good news is that within the next few months, Caribbean Beach should start to turn the corner, with projects starting to wrap up (or at least be better concealed) with the fruits of this long project available for Walt Disney World guest consumption. There is light at the end of the tunnel…
Before we get to that, let’s provide context and a bit of background about the project. It started last spring and was originally supposed to be done by the end of last year. Then by July 2018. Now? Who knows. (More on that later.)
If you’ve missed our past progress reports, you might want to read our Spring 2018 Caribbean Beach Resort Construction Update as we won’t be retreading ground we covered there (such as the current pizza delivery “situation”). For a basic primer on CBR, read our comprehensive Caribbean Beach Resort Review.
We actually scheduled our visit strategically so we could do both breakfast and lunch at Spyglass Grill. We often joke about eating delicious meals ‘for the sake of research’ but that was really the intent here. While we could’ve been gliding around on the PeopleMover or watching Carousel of Progress, we were taking construction photos and eating at a glorified pool bar.
Actually, calling Spyglass Grill a glorified pool bar is a disservice. We were prepared for the worst from this new quick service restaurant adjacent to the quiet pool in Trinidad South. As we wrote in our full Spyglass Grill Review, we were pleasantly surprised by this restaurant and consider it a huge addition to Caribbean Beach. No joke–if you’re considering a stay at CBR soon, you should definitely read that review. This is one such “fruit” of the Caribbean Beach project that’s now available.
Our meal at Spyglass Grill–coupled with work observed elsewhere around the resort–underscores our current belief that the best area of Caribbean Beach Resort during construction is Trinidad. (Unfortunately, we dislike the Pirate Rooms and don’t think it’s worth paying ~$75/night extra to stay in this area, so that may not be a practical option.)
If you’re going to stay at Caribbean Beach between now and when the Centertown project finishes, being close to Spyglass Grill will give you access to the best food currently available at the resort. Plus, the only construction impact you’ll have is the Skyliner station across the water (pictured above), which is minimal as compared to the rest of the resort.
Previously, we advised those staying at Caribbean Beach Resort to skip the parking lot food tent, and have food and alcohol delivered following our Tips for Grocery Delivery at Walt Disney World post. We always think grocery delivery is a good money-saving option, but we enjoyed our breakfast at Spyglass Grill so much that we’d consider just eating there if your budget allows. That’s a rare Walt Disney World breakfast endorsement from us!
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) were supposed to be done this month.
Unless more hours are suddenly added to the day, there’s no chance of that happening. Even if a day does become 72-hours, it’s still highly unlikely.
You can see many of these buildings taking their final shape but the overall project seems to be moving slowly with a lot still to finish.
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?”
The pace of construction has been pretty consistent throughout this project, and if things continue along the same trajectory, we’ll be lucky to see the Old Port Royale/Centertown projects finish at the end of the year. Even that might be ambitious. Progress is being made, but it’s really slow going.
The cynic in me questions whether the pace is currently going slowly to spread the project out over 3 fiscal years, in which case we could see work slow to a crawl towards September, and the pace pick up again once the new fiscal year begins on October 1. If that occurs (and that’s certainly an “if”), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Old Port Royale/Centertown not reopen until February 2019 or later.
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 Summer 2019. We really don’t have a concrete date for either of those projects.
Both of those projects are moving fairly quickly, but it’s unlikely that there’s any sense of urgency to debut the Skyliner before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which will open in November or December 2019. Unless the Skyliner figures into next summer’s promotional campaign (which would be sort of odd given that it’s transportation), we think a logical time for it to debut is October 2019. That’s just a guess, though.
As previously shown in concept art the Skyliner gondolas will travel directly over guest rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort. What wasn’t so clear from the art was just how large and close the Skyliner support pillars would be to guest rooms.
In some cases, these are only feet away from buildings in Jamaica. It seems unlikely that they’ll be painted ‘go away green’ as that probably would’ve happened before they were erected. Ultimately, there’s no hiding them. They’re right there.
Prior to seeing them in person, I was hoping the pillars would be spaced farther from guest buildings. I assumed palm trees and other foliage would be planted around the support columns to blend them in a bit, but it’s highly doubtful that can occur given where they’re located.
The Skyliner going over guest rooms doesn’t bother me–it should be quiet and not intrusive. I think it’s a bit unfortunate the placement of the pillars wasn’t done with more regard to how it would look from around the resort (the monorail support beams are better-integrated at those resorts, but those were also built simultaneously with the monorail). Still, it’s a net positive.
The work around each of these Skyliner pillars is why we noted at the top of this post that construction is more pronounced right now than at any other point during this construction project. Areas that were previously quieter, such as some parts of Aruba, now have work being done around the Skyliner support pillars. This makes room requests tricky, save for Trinidad, which is away from everything (and has Spyglass Grill).
This is what the beach looks like presently in Aruba.
Ahead to the left is another Skyliner Station and to the right is Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Here’s a closer look at the Skyliner Station.
We’ll have another update that covers progress of all the Skyliner stations.
One cool detail we noticed while wandering around Caribbean Beach is that the boat rental lighthouse is currently being repainted.
It looks ‘distinctly patriotic’ in isolation, which is kind of peculiar at Caribbean Beach Resort, but pretty nice in the larger context of the resort.
That brings us to the question of whether you should stay at Caribbean Beach Resort? As we’ve said before in this space of other updates, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Presumably, if you’re reading now, you’re not planning a trip for August or September. You’re looking further out, maybe to November, December, or January.
Right now, the construction work is at its peak. Skyliner, Riviera, and Centertown are all very obvious projects with visible exterior work, noise, etc. As in Gotham City, “it’s always darkest before dawn.” This is to say, work on all three of these things will be turning a corner within the next few months, and the amount of visual blight and noise each will produce will go down considerably.
Between that and the introduction of Spyglass Grill, which provides a bona fide dining option even if the new dining options at Centertown don’t debut until sometime in Spring 2019, would make me far less hesitant about booking at Caribbean Beach Resort. Spyglass Grill alone really moves the needle for us, as silly as that might sound.
Dining at Spyglass Grill yesterday and then making a point to walk around some of the few areas that aren’t blighted by construction made me excited and eager to see this all finished and some sense of normalcy restored. As evident in the photos above and below, this is still a vibrant, beautiful resort. It’s not all construction.
Still, 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.
Personally, we still won’t book Caribbean Beach Resort until this is all done. We love the “Polynesian Lite” rooms and relaxed tropical ambiance (although a little bit of that will be gone forever due to this project), but we want to wait until all of the new stuff at Centertown and Old Port Royale is open so that we can review that.
With the Port Orleans Resorts both looking great, we don’t see much of a reason to book Caribbean Beach Resort until work is totally finished, especially given that no special discount is being offered. However, if you’re dead-set on it for one reason or another, construction will probably be minimally intrusive from November and beyond. We remain cautiously optimistic about the Centertown project and are unequivocally excited about having improved, non-bus transportation at the resort. We’re not so optimistic about Caribbean Beach Resort’s ambiance, which was once so serene and tropical, but we hope Disney finds a way to mostly restore that, too.
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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 before the end of 2018, 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!