It’s been nearly two months since our last Caribbean Beach Resort update, which was an unplanned one we stumbled into while checking out progress on Disney’s Riviera Resort. This continues our Walt Disney World Construction Updates & Photo Reports, and is hopefully the last time we’re at this hotel to report on future.
The good news here is that Caribbean Beach’s reimagining is finished. We covered the good and bad of the changes in our Photos & Thoughts: Re-Imagined Caribbean Beach Resort post. Suffice to say, the redesigned Old Port Royale lobby area is open, as are Centertown Market, Banana Cabana, and Sebastian’s Bistro.
The bad news is that construction continues in pretty much all of the spots where it was occurring in early March, and aside from soil being torn up and replanted in some different spots, it’s tough to ascertain to what degree progress has been made. The other bad news is that we don’t expect this to end anytime soon…
To recap, the Skyliner pillars were installed last summer at Caribbean Beach Resort, a process that was completed by September. Grass was replanted and the beaches had been largely restored. The grounds around the pillars was once generally looking good, aside from the eyesore of the pillars themselves.
Seemingly out of the blue, fences went up earlier this spring around those same Skyliner pillars and large areas of the grounds all around Aruba and Jamaica. Being far from a construction expert, this all seemed pretty inexplicable to me.
Through my powers of deduction (basically looking at the construction signs and the locations of the work), I determined that it was Skyliner related and surmised that something was done incorrectly during the initial installation of the pillars.
Reader comments to that last Caribbean Beach Resort construction update provided further elucidation. Apparently, the areas of ground around the resort needs to be reinforced for Skyliner evacuation points and some irrigation lines have to be rerouted. This explanation can be further corroborated by land work elsewhere that appears to be for the same purpose.
While this has not yet been confirmed, it would also not be surprising to see larger pathways created for the vehicles and equipment that’ll be necessary in the event of an evacuation. One of the reasons obnoxiously large pathways have been installed at the Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge during those resort’s redevelopment projects is because Reedy Creek has mandated that walkways can provide access to emergency vehicles.
The other bit of bad news is that readers have also reported receiving construction notification emails at Caribbean Beach Resort for stays through early August 2019. Several readers also indicated that it was occurring outside of the 9 a.m. to dusk timeframe.
To make matters worse, this construction is not listed on DisneyWorld.com’s Caribbean Beach page, so you wouldn’t know about it even now at the time of booking.
As with all Walt Disney World email correspondence, these are hit or miss. Not all guests will receive them. Likewise, contacting Walt Disney World won’t necessarily yield reliable information. Calls made “directly” to the hotels are routed to off-site call centers (this is true even when you’re at the hotel and call from your room).
The representatives with whom you speak may have no clue about what’s going on at a particular resort–it’s entirely possible they’ve never visited Caribbean Beach Resort, period.
On a tangentially related but illustrative point, this has been a frustrating issue with the ongoing work at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The official word there is that it’s all in-room work that in no way impacts the guest experience. Some guests are even being told there are no refurbishments happening or scheduled. This is despite numerous first-hand reports to the contrary.
This isn’t isolated anomalies–the same frequently occurs with All Star Movies and Port Orleans Riverside, which I guess are phantom projects. In other words, you can choose to believe Disney’s reps who are not on-site, likely haven’t seen the work in person, and are reading from a script that has a vested interest in downplaying the scope of work…or you can believe third party reports and photos to the contrary. Your call.
Note that aside from this new Skyliner evacuation route work, other projects continue adjacent to Caribbean Beach Resort. Along the northern perimeter of the resort, construction continues for Disney’s Riviera Resort, the newest Disney Vacation Club property. Over there and on the other side of the resort, there are two Skyliner gondola stations also under construction.
Technically, these projects are either outside the current boundaries of Caribbean Beach Resort, or on the far perimeter of the resort. You’re not going to actively encounter construction walls for these projects while strolling around Caribbean Beach Resort, but you can see the work and sound does carry. This is especially true across the large bodies of water at Caribbean Beach.
With all of this in mind, we have revise our answer to the common question of which building(s) we recommend at Caribbean Beach Resort right now. At present, that’s a tough question because many of our favorite non-preferred buildings are eliminated by this work.
The good news is that there are still a couple of areas that are minimally impacted by the ongoing work in and around Caribbean Beach. For the remainder of the time that the Skyliner and Riviera are under construction, we recommend Barbados. This location benefits from being far enough away from the construction on the stations and Riviera to not notice any of that, and there aren’t any Skyliner pillars over there, so the likelihood of “surprise” construction is (hopefully) minimal.
Moreover, Barbados is roughly equidistance from the Fuentes del Morro Pool, Centertown, and Spyglass Grill. As we noted in our full Spyglass Grill Review, that restaurant is a far better dining option than it has any business being (many of you will prefer it to Centertown Market).
Building 26 is another good option if you want a room in Martinique. With this new work being a wildcard, I personally would err on the side of caution and avoid Jamaica and Aruba until the Skyliner is scheduled to open.
The Pirate Rooms in Trinidad are another option–above is what the room currently looks like. We just revisited these since many readers pointed out that our critical Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort Review is now outdated in terms of room decor.
Our opinion of these rooms is definitely a bit more positive now, but that’s in large part to changes made outside the rooms. Having Spyglass Grill right there, plus a nice view of the gondolas gliding overhead across the water is pleasant and relaxing. This area no longer feels quite as isolated, and the rooms are a modest (but not outcome determinative) upgrade.
With all of that said, your best option right now might honestly be just to look at a different Walt Disney World resort hotel between now and August 2019. If you want minimal ‘construction blight’ during your vacation, there are plenty of good options.
On the Moderate Resort level, our top alternative recommendation is Port Orleans Riverside. It’s thematically quite different, but the approach is similar with sprawling, beautiful grounds and a charming atmosphere. We recently stayed at Riverside, and the experience was serene and relaxing with nary a construction wall or vehicle in sight!
Anyway, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s how Caribbean Beach Resort is looking right now. To be honest, this does make us more hesitant to stay here, as there’s no guarantee of a Barbados room request being granted. If you’re a frequent Walt Disney World guest, you might consider waiting until the Skyliner debuts, but the downside of that is it’s also likely to increase room rates at Caribbean Beach Resort once it does open.
Booking strategically for a Fall 2019 stay remains the best course of action. We are personally inclined to gamble on Caribbean Beach Resort for stays after mid-August 2019. While nothing is guaranteed, it seems likely that the Skyliner will debut in time for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. In order for it to be running smoothly by then, it needs to begin regular operations a couple of weeks before the land. Booking for stays beyond then gives you the benefit of no construction and access to the Skyliner without paying more for it, which will likely happen next year once Walt Disney World prices the amenity into its room rates.
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Have you stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort since this new work began in February? Did it impact your stay? If you have an upcoming stay here, have you received a notice about the construction? Do you agree or disagree with our Caribbean Beach Resort building recommendations? Have a favorite area of CBR? Least favorite room location at the resort? 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!