Following Part 1 of our Caribbean Beach Resort Stay Report, we continue here with a look at the hotel’s restaurants and bus transportation. We’ll also share rope drop lines and wait times for the Skyliner to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and our race against the clock to arrive in time for a spot in the virtual queue of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
By way of quick recap, we booked a weekend at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort because that’s when occupancy is the highest and crowds at the hotel are likely to be highest. In essence, this is a ‘worst case scenario’ look at CBR, which should prepare you for what to expect (and how to avoid most problem points) if you’re staying here in the next few months.
Digging right into things, dining is one of the biggest woes at Walt Disney World right now. Not all restaurants are open, and the operational ones are all seating guests at a significantly reduced capacity. In the parks, this is mostly a non-issue. Lower crowds coupled with shorter hours results in much less demand for table service restaurants. Most are not even hitting their reduced numbers.
At Walt Disney World’s resorts, we’ve noticed it’s a different story–especially at dinner. Also due to the shorter park hours, more guests are waiting to eat dinner until arriving back at their resorts. Once at the hotels, the same issues also exist with reduced capacity and fewer restaurants being open.
Caribbean Beach Resort has two restaurants that currently are not operating–Sebastian’s Bistro and Spyglass Grill. The latter makes complete sense, as this entire area of the resort is not yet open. However, the status of Sebastian’s Bistro is a bit more puzzling and, frankly, irritating. There’s more dinnertime demand at Caribbean Beach than normal this time of year, and the lack of options pushes guests to Disney Springs or off-site.
Consequently, Banana Cabana has seen a surge in popularity. This lounge has offset the increased spacing between tables by expanding its seating area. Even after doing that, it’s often totally full.
There’s also a to-go line for Banana Cabana (visible on the far right side of the photo above), which often had 3-6 guests waiting in line.
Inside, Centertown Market is requiring Mobile Order, and you’ll regularly find guests congregating here waiting for their food. There’s no reason to do this as a notification is sent when orders are ready, but guests linger anyway.
As with most counter service restaurants, the menu at Centertown Market has been dramatically scaled back. This is normally one of our sleeper picks, but not currently.
Instead, we’d recommend walking over to Disney’s Riviera Resort and dining at Primo Piatto.
The menu there has also been significantly reduced, but solid options remain. We like the burger (it’s not the normal Walt Disney World counter service patty), Croque Monsieur, Sausage & Pepperoni Pizza, Tuna NiÃ§oise Salad, Spicy Italian Sandwich, and Grilled Vegetable Skewer (above).
On the plus side, after getting past the initial crowd congregating in the Centertown Market food court’s entrance, we found seating to be abundant at Centertown Market, both inside and outside.
We’d strongly recommend avoiding indoor bars & lounges around Walt Disney World, and choosing restaurants with open air seating if you want to mitigate some risk while visiting the parks. See our Best Outdoor Dining Options at Walt Disney World for recommendations on that front.
We didn’t otherwise find the lobby at Centertown Market to be particularly busy.
There are guests lounging in here to cool off or wait for Disney’s Magical Express, but that’s always the case. Whenever we popped in, it was quieter than normal.
Disney’s Magical Express drop-offs and pick-ups are still occurring with regularity.
Due to pre-arrival info pushing more guests towards online check-in, these drop-offs don’t really result in traffic jams in the lobby. There are more than enough Cast Members to handle new arrivals, and most are bypassing the front desk.
Turning to the topic of transportation, we had heard reports of problems with the buses at Caribbean Beach.
It’s always difficult to assess the credibility of complaints about Walt Disney World bus service. Two parties staying at the same resort for the same dates could have dramatically different experiences simply by virtue of luck. That has always been the case.
This is especially true at Caribbean Beach Resort. Due to its internal loop, buses have been a source of guest frustration at Caribbean Beach for as long as I can remember. Search on any forum and you’ll find angry messages dating to the advent of the internet. Even before that, Walt Disney World fans probably circulated complaints via courier pigeon (or courier parrot, to be more on-theme).
The point is that this is nothing new. The internal coupled with “normal” inconsistencies means some guests can have really bad experiences with transportation at Caribbean Beach. We’re not discounting that–it definitely happens.
It’s also worth noting that bus service has generally improved at Caribbean Beach in the last couple of years by virtue of a reduction in rooms (due to Disney’s Riviera Resort replacing several buildings at Caribbean Beach) and the Skyliner now servicing Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
We’re less concerned with anecdotal bad luck and more with what’s normal during times of peak demand. Our fear was that due to reduced capacity on the buses, existing issues with Caribbean Beach Resort’s bus service would be exacerbated, with delays, skipped stops, and headaches becoming the norm. That’s not at all what we found.
To the contrary, in making the rounds between 7:30 am and 9:15 am, when demand should be heaviest to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, we observed no shortage of buses bound for these two parks. On separate occasions, one partially-full Magic Kingdom bus departed because another Magic Kingdom bus was arriving behind it.
It was a similar story throughout the day with the internal buses, which take guests to Old Port Royale/Centertown.
If you don’t want to walk, this is certainly an option, but even with prompt bus service you will often beat these buses in a foot race.
Two things we can’t speak to are bus frequency later in the day, and bus lines leaving the parks at closing. As for the former, we never saw large crowds congregating at any bus stops throughout the day (but we also didn’t sit around to monitor like we did in the morning). As for the latter, we never took the buses from any of the parks.
It’s also worth noting that the bus wait times both in the My Disney Experience app and on the boards at the bus stops are turned off. We began noticing reliability problems with these late last year, and it appears this is the “solution.” Hopefully it’s only a temporary thing.
We also monitored the morning rush at the main Skyliner station at Caribbean Beach Resort. This hub station offers direct service to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and connects to Pop Century/Art of Animation, Riviera Resort, and Epcot.
At 7:30 am, no one was here. By 8:30 am, there was a modest line starting to form. The photo above was taken at 9:01 am–the line is totally inside the station.
There are markers on the ground leading over the bridge back to Trinidad that indicate the estimated wait times.
With arriving at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 10 am being imperative for anyone who wants a shot at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, this is a potential source of concern.
Closer to the Skyliner station, we see another wait time sign. We also see the operating hours, which help explain said frustration. This has been a problem since last December, and our advice in those pre-closure months was to take an Uber or Lyft from these resorts.
Running the Skyliner even 15 minutes earlier would resolve so many guest headaches.
Above is the 5 minute wait sign (photo shot at 9:03 am). If we were smart, we would’ve lined up then, but we were still finishing up with the bus research. If you’re vacationing at Walt Disney World, you presumably will not be monitoring bus stop wait times, so instead line up for the Skyliner before 9 am.
While this looks crowded, the wait was actually under 5 minutes for the Disney’s Hollywood Studios line. Even operating at reduced capacity with only one party per gondola, the Skyliner is incredibly efficient.
We finally got in line for the Skyliner at 9:25 am, at which point the line was just in front of the 25 minute wait sign.
The reason the line is significantly longer than at 9:01 am is because guests have started to arrive from Pop Century and Riviera Resort (if you’re staying at the Riviera, you’re far better off walking over to this station). Additionally, many guests at Caribbean Beach probably don’t realize how long this will take, and wait to get in line under the erroneous assumption that Skyliner lines will be short.
Our total wait ended up being 17 minutes and 12 seconds. Not bad given the length of the line, but also not great considering the urgency of being inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 10 am.
As we’ve stressed repeatedly, Walt Disney World should really drop the requirement of being in the park for attempting to obtain a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Validate against the Park Pass, rather than entry. There’s literally no good reason for not changing this.
Arriving to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 10 am is totally doable as a guest of Caribbean Beach Resort–just get in line for the DHS route at like 8:55 am; you’ll be among the first to board and you won’t be “competing” with Pop Century or Riviera Resort guests in line.
Unfortunately, it’s a different story for anyone staying at Pop Century. Even being towards the front of the line at your resort could mean cutting it close with the line at Caribbean Beach’s hub station. (We’ll book a stay at Pop Century to test this as soon as we can find a good deal.)
It’s also worth noting that if you’re using the Skyliner at literally any other time of the day, there’s no wait whatsoever. The problem is exclusively with Disney’s Hollywood Studios at rope drop.
On a tangential note, we’d recommend keeping an eye on the weather forecast. The Skyliner can go down due to lightning, which is a daily occurrence in Florida this time of year. Alternate bus service is offered in that case, but it can be horrendous if you’re trying to get back from BoardWalk to Caribbean Beach or Pop Century.
Back to the topic of our morning commute, we boarded the Skyliner for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 9:42 am and arrived there shortly before 9:50 am. With the temperature screening, bag check, and the turnstiles still to get through, we’d still be cutting it really close. We’ll pick up there with the dramatic conclusion of this story in Disney’s Hollywood Studios Rope Drop Report: Low Crowds & Luck.
Overall, the issues of dining and transportation at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort are something of a mixed bag. Unlike the pool situation, which we found to be generally better than the complaints suggested, there are real issues with restaurants and Skyliner service at Caribbean Beach. Even more frustrating is the fact that Walt Disney World could easily address both problems.
Even with that said, there are still plenty of silver linings–bus service is surprisingly good, walking to Riviera Resort greatly expands restaurant options, and lining up at the Skyliner station a few minutes before opening solves that. On balance, Caribbean Beach is still a great resort option right now–almost certainly worth the upgrade cost from Pop Century–you just need to know how to work around these issues.
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 Skyliner, bus service, or dining options? Will you be booking a resort reservation for Walt Disney World this fall, 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!