Regular readers know we’re big fans of Caribbean Beach Resort. For the last few years, it was our most-visited hotel at Walt Disney World. With new health safety protocol, potential crowd issues, and reader questions, we booked a weekend stay at CBR to assess its changes. In the first part of this quasi-trip report, we’ll cover rooms & pools and also share photos of the incredible Florida sunrises and sunsets we’ve had recently.
Our previous stay at Caribbean Beach Resort was the night before Disney’s Riviera Resort opened, making this technically our first time experiencing CBR with all elements of the massive overhaul and reimagining totally completed. That’s not long in the grand scheme of things, but considering that we were at Caribbean Beach Resort every few weeks to monitor construction and changes for the last couple of years, it’s a comparative eternity.
For that reason, we were both excited about booking a return to Caribbean Beach Resort…but also apprehensive. On the one hand, we love the property, have a ton of nostalgia for it from our trips over the years, and are enjoying its evolution. On the other, Caribbean Beach is currently the only Moderate Resort operating at Walt Disney World, and we were a bit concerned about some recent reader reports…
As you’re undoubtedly aware, Walt Disney World’s phased reopening is underway with all four theme parks and many resorts now open. Most of these now-operational hotels are actually Deluxe Villas–or Disney Vacation Club properties. On the lower end of the spectrum, only one Value Resort (Pop Century) and one Moderate Resort (Caribbean Beach) have returned.
Consequently, the vast majority of reservations booked for the two lower tiers have been consolidated into only these two hotels, resulting in some troubling reports coming out of both properties. As Caribbean Beach is one of the top recommendations in our “Temporary Abnormal” Walt Disney World Planning Guide, we wanted to see for ourselves just how things were going.
As such, we booked a weekend stay–optimal for a stress test of sorts. Weekends are when Floridians doing staycations and those from nearby Southern states would most likely be doing quick getaways, so they should be the busiest days at Walt Disney World now that locals are the disproportionate demographic. Let’s start with a look at our room, located in Jamaica…
This was a great location for accessing the main Skyliner station.
We’re fans of Caribbean Beach’s corner rooms because they have two windows as opposed to one. We find it makes what can otherwise be a dark room a tad more light and airy.
Given that Caribbean Beach’s rooms don’t have balconies, this is a seemingly small thing that makes a big difference.
Guest rooms have extra linens and towels, individually wrapped paper cups, double-cased pillows, and additional items that have been cleaned and wrapped in single-use packaging.
Housekeeping performs a light cleaning service every other day, which includes removal of trash and used towels. They’ll also replenish amenities throughout the room and bathroom, cleaning various surfaces, etc.
The television remote comes wrapped in package to verify that it’s clean. Same goes for the refillable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in the shower.
The coffee maker is still present in the room, too. We had over a half-dozen pods for using in it–significantly more than normal.
There are several reasons we’re recommending Caribbean Beach Resort right now. One of the other things we really is the exterior hallways and air-conditioners located in each room.
Another is the lack of elevators. This is more due to capacity restrictions, than health safety. At other hotels, reduced capacity on the elevators has resulted in long waits during the morning rush. A total non-issue at Caribbean Beach Resort.
Let’s move along to the pools at Caribbean Beach Resort.
We’ll start with the Fuentes del Morro feature pool complex, which is located at Old Port Royale near the Centertown complex.
This pool was unquestionably busy at times.
In the late afternoon and evening, particularly after the parks started closing, Fuentes del Morro would close to capacity and there was an informal queue outside this entrance. We never waited to enter, but saw a max of around 4 parties sitting on the benches in this area.
A couple of things are worth noting here. First, “closed to capacity” is to reduced capacity. This pool was still less crowded and busy than it would be on a normal day.
Second, we only ever observed this at the feature pool and during the peak hours.
Even at the same times when Fuentes del Morro Pool was near or at capacity, the quiet pools were…fairly quiet.
Obviously, if you have kids there is no substitute for the feature pool at Old Port Royale.
Even as an adult, it’s pretty awesome. You might as well call it Old Fort Royale, as it’s reminiscent of the Spanish forts under seize at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Fuentes del Morro Pool is also convenient to the Banana Cabana bar, so adults can do some Pirates of the Caribbean role-playing of their own. (But here, the rum is never gone.)
However, if you’re just looking for a place to relax and unwind, the quiet pools are unquestionably better options.
There were times when these pools were busier, but never even remotely as bad as Fuentes del Morro Pool.
It’s also worth noting that even Fuentes del Morro Pool is not this busy all day.
In the morning, it’s also pretty peaceful. Probably not a huge surprise, as this is when most guests are getting ready and heading to the parks.
Even when more crowded, physical distancing was pretty good at Caribbean Beach’s pools.
Note that guests are not required to wear face masks while lounging, which is an unofficial rule. We noticed Cast Members reminding guests to put on masks when they left the gated pool area, but not within its bounds. That’s fairly consistent with what we’ve observed at other resorts in the last few months.
If you really desire low crowds, you might consider “quiet pool shopping.”
There are 4 quiet pools currently open at Caribbean Beach Resort, and we found that Barbados consistently was least busy. (That one being least crowded might’ve been a total fluke, but the idea of scouting different options holds true if you don’t mind walking.)
Unfortunately, the fifth quiet pool is not an option because the entirety of Trinidad is still closed due to lack of demand.
That alone should speak volumes about the current “crowds” at Caribbean Beach Resort.
There are definitely times when aspects of the resort are strained due to the significantly reduced capacity of some offerings, but Caribbean Beach Resort as a whole is not particularly busy right now–even on the weekend.
Going forward, we’d expect the hotel to remain less busy during the week, with weekend crowds also decreasing in the next two months during the off-season.
The parking lot wasn’t particularly full during our stay, but there were a lot of AP magnets on cars with Florida and other Southern state plates.
As more schools go back into session, we’d expect some of the current crowds to fizzle out in September and October. (November and December will likely be a different story–but keep in mind that Coronado Springs will also be open by then.)
It’s also worth noting that even when Caribbean Beach’s feature pool was busy, other areas of the resort were not. Lots of places to lounge if you don’t want to swim. Hammocks were never above 5-10% usage during our highly scientific studies conducted on strolls around the grounds.
Ultimately, our stay at Caribbean Beach Resort was certainly the most “crowded” hotel experience we’ve had at Walt Disney World thus far post reopening. This is definitely the “worst” we’ve seen any feature pool since the reopening, too. However, given the totality of the circumstances and as compared to how things would normally be this time of year, Caribbean Beach Resort wasn’t even remotely “bad.” (Hence all of the air quotes.) Just busier than you might expect with things amplified by capacity reductions and our heightened awareness of crowding. We still had a great stay and found it very simple to sidestep most potential issues. We discuss more of those woes with the Skyliner, buses, and restaurants in the second part of this report: Caribbean Beach Resort Stay Report – Dining & Transportation.
Have you stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort since it reopened? What do you think of all the modifications? Have any anecdotes of your own to share with regard to the pools or rooms? Will you be booking a resort reservation for Walt Disney World this year, or are these rules/restrictions/policies going to cause you to postpone? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!