Caribbean Beach Resort has newly reimagined rooms inspired by The Little Mermaid, which replace the most infamous accommodations in all of Walt Disney World. This shares photos & video of the redone ‘Under the Sea’ rooms, plus our thoughts on how these compare to their pirate predecessor and DVC studios at WDW.
This is the latest upgrade at Caribbean Beach, which has become the most popular Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World thanks to a number of additions. For those who are unfamiliar with Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), its advantages basically boil down to three things. First, it’s the hub for the Skyliner gondola, with two stations offering access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, plus Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Riviera Resorts.
Finally, proximity to Disney’s Riviera Resort, which is the newest Disney Vacation Club property at Walt Disney World. That Deluxe Villa Resort brought luxury-caliber amenities to Barefoot Bay, meaning that a wealth of dining options–from an awesome character breakfast to a rooftop fine dining experience for dinner–are all within walking or gondola distance to guests staying at CBR.
Although not relevant to guests of Caribbean Beach, Disney’s Riviera Resort also debuted a new style of guest rooms. These married form and function, with a posh and Disneyfied European sensibility, plus practical features that offer plenty of utility and space-saving design.
The rooms at Disney’s Riviera Resort have proven such a hit with Walt Disney World guests that it has since become the template for room redesigns at other Disney Vacation Club resorts–including the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs, and Beach Club.
Now that style is being exported to Riviera’s next door neighbor. The new ‘Under the Sea’ rooms inspired by The Little Mermaid at Caribbean Beach are the first DVC-Lite style rooms at a Moderate Resort!
This is especially significant, as these new ‘Under the Sea’ rooms replaced the infamous Pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort. While we loved the idea of the Pirate rooms, the execution was awful. Our original Caribbean Beach Resort Pirate Room Review called them the worst rooms at Walt Disney World. This was for a number of reasons–they’re location far from everything else at Caribbean Beach Resort, the small size of beds, and thin mattresses that literally felt like sleeping on an uneven pile of plastic.
Over the years, we cautioned readers against accepting an “upgrade” to the Pirate rooms. Even though these rooms had a higher rack rate, they would be a functional downgrade for most guests due to the aforementioned location and (dis)comfort level. Disney would often overbook the rest of the resort and hand out free “upgrades” to the Pirate rooms, which is the equivalent of being given a free copy of the Cats DVD–sometimes you lose by “winning.”
To be fair, the Pirate rooms did have their fans. While guest feedback was mostly negative, there were also positive reader reviews. And as this section of Trinidad became more attractive thanks to Spyglass Grill and the Skyliner station across the water, Walt Disney World made one last ditch effort at a soft goods refurbishment to improve the rooms and (literally) soften up the mattresses. Unfortunately, that didn’t do enough to move the needle on guest satisfaction.
Enter the new Little Mermaid rooms. Before we explain all of the pros & cons of these new DVC Lite rooms, here’s our video tour of the new ‘Under the Sea’ rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort:
Gone are the clunky pirate ships, crates & barrel (not to be confused with retailer Crate & Barrel–this was a literal barrel for a fridge and crates for a dresser), and swashbuckling styles. The room was totally gutted for the redesign, with all new aquatic decor, flooring, walls, panels, curtains, furniture, and beds.
The cramped quarters have been entirely opened up, with the most notable change being that the two pirate ship beds have been replaced by a raised queen bed and a pull-down Murphy sleeper that is somehow both a comfortable couch and a comfortable queen bed. A pull-down 5th sleeper has also been added, which offers more seating when not in use.
These 5th sleeper rooms offer accommodations for a party of 5-6 people, depending upon ages. The rooms have 2 queen beds that can each sleep 2 guests (of any age or size), plus a pull-down bed for a small adult or child. There’s no hard and fast rule about who can sleep in the 5th sleeper, but we’ve noted in the past that it’s “suitable for Sarah.” In general, you’d probably want to have a child under 5’6″ and 120 pounds use that bed. Even that is pushing the bounds of comfort for a longer stay.
Basically, these rooms are suitable for up to 4 average American adults, plus one atypical adult or child, and an infant in a crib. At least, on paper–the square footage of the room and only one bathroom might make housing that many people a non-starter. At least there’s more breathing room in these CBR rooms than the average 5th sleeper accommodations. It’s really amazing how much more spacious these rooms feel as compared to their pirate predecessors. Those felt too tight with just the two of us, whereas these Little Mermaid rooms are fantastic.
In terms of functionality, there’s no question—these beds are far superior to what was there before. The regular queen bed is far more plush than the pirate ship! Even the pull-down Murphy bed is more comfortable despite using a thinner mattress.
While reasonable minds may differ about pretty much every other aspect of room designs, there’s near unanimous agreement about this new style of pull-down Murphy beds. They’re much more comfortable that sofa sleepers thanks to having a normal mattress, and the space freed up when converted into a couch makes the room feel larger.
The pull-down 5th sleeper serves as a seating area when not in use, with drawers below adding to the storage space. Above the bed, there’s a ledge for devices and two grounded power outlets, plus two USB ports (A and C).
For a while, Walt Disney World hotel rooms had not “caught up” to the proliferation of devices that need to be charged each night. That hasn’t been the case in a while, and remains true with these Little Mermaid rooms. There are plenty of power outlets and USB charging ports. Even more are conveniently located on the nightstands flanking each side of the bed.
Totally a matter of personal preference, but I favor the rooms that put the 5th sleeper below the television (see standard CBR 5th sleeper, above). The Little Mermaid room does not have any table or desk space, which is its biggest shortcoming for me. From what I understand, Walt Disney World found that families were not using desks, so they’ve started cutting those from rooms that aren’t at convention resorts.
But no table? That’s a more conspicuous omission for families. It seems like some of the dresser and sleeper space could’ve been consolidated to allow for a 2-person table in the corner. (Even as is, they probably could’ve crammed a table into the corner–there’s some dead space there.)
Speaking of storage space, this is another thing the new Little Mermaid rooms do exceedingly well. There’s storage below the 5th sleeper, in the dresser below the television, under the elevated queen bed, in a closet, under the coffee table, and other places I’m probably forgetting.
Honestly, this seems like overkill to me, but we generally travel light. I’m guessing a party of 5 would feel differently. Given the ever-increasing storage in the new rooms, Walt Disney World has likely received feedback requesting more places to put stuff.
The bathroom has also been totally updated, with a modernization consistent with other resorts around Walt Disney World.
Here you have two vessel sinks, illuminated bathroom mirror, and make-up mirror. A lot of shelf space and storage has also been added. Personally, I’d be willing to trade those shelves for more counter space. There’s also an actual sliding door separating the bathroom area from the main room (instead of a thin curtain with a skull on it).
As before, the toilet and bathtub are in a separate room, also separated by a pull-out door. More Little Mermaid art is above the toilet, and this area has also been redone. There’s now a glass door in the shower, and rainfall shower fixture in addition to the standard one.
Many parents of small children find the glass door and its track uncomfortable–or downright painful–come bath time (see the comments below). This has been an ongoing issue starting with the New Rooms at Pop Century, and is now increasingly standard. It’s unclear why Walt Disney World hasn’t found a better solution for this.
The tile in the bathrooms is new, replacing a grungier (IMO) look that was fitting for the pirate rooms, but nothing special. This pattern works with the tropical style, and adds another punch of personality and color–a good addition.
Another addition that’s both thoughtful and fun is the stool for kids to reach the sink. There’s a purpose-built space for this next to one of the drawers under the sink. Clever.
Next to the drawers below the television, you’ll also find a safe and trash/recycling bins. There’s also a beverage cooler, which is technically not quite cold enough to be called a mini-fridge, but I use them in the same way because I like living on the edge. (I put leftovers from Sebastian’s Bistro, snacks stockpiled from Karamell-Küche, and yogurt in there…and lived to tell the tale!)
Above that, there’s the beverage station with shelves and more art from the Little Mermaid behind that. This includes a Cuisinart coffee maker, which is standard in the non-Deluxe Resorts. Single-serving Joffrey’s coffee packets and Twinings tea are both provided.
These new rooms are the culmination of a lot of lessons learned by Walt Disney World over the last decade–iterating on past successes and disregarding past failures–into something that coalesces perfectly. We’ve heard that the guest response to this room style has been resoundingly positive.
Disney Vacation Club has even indicated that guest satisfaction scores have increased by 20% among guests who have stayed in new rooms. If anything, this undersells the improvement these Little Mermaid DVC-Lite rooms offer over the Pirate rooms–they’re much more than 20% better than their predecessors. (That’s not quite how guest satisfaction scores work, but still.)
Stylistically, we really like these new ‘Under the Sea’ rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort. There’s been criticism on social media that they’re dull and sterile, with only splashes of the Little Mermaid here and there. This criticism seems to come up with every single new Walt Disney World room redesign. In some cases, it’s totally true–including when directed at the redesigned regular new rooms at CBR.
Other times, it’s off-base. There’s a huge middle ground between bland and busy, flavorless and garish. We think that these new Little Mermaid strike the perfect balance, with the right amount of color, detail, animated artwork, and fun flourishes. Some of it is on the subtle and understated side, but we’d take this ‘Under the Sea’ room any day over the Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation. Those are over-the-top and impractical for us. To each their own, though; tastes differ and variety is the spice of life!
Thankfully, this is not just another Little Mermaid character room, like those found at Art of Animation. In addition to the ‘Under the Sea’ artwork, there are touches that evoke the Caribbean. The end of the coffee table, bathroom door, and dresser drawers all appear Caribbean-inspired, as do the color choices. Same goes with the floral curtains, which feature starfish, seaweed, and even hidden Mickeys!
It’s definitely more on the subtle side, and not over-the-top like the previous Pirate rooms or current Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, but not everyone wants that. These new Little Mermaid rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort are subtle and slightly sophisticated, aimed at an older audience (or at least a better balance of interests and needs).
By contrast, the rooms at Art of Animation are more in-your-face and kid-focused. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, and there are audiences for each. The Little Mermaid is an animated classic that has stood the test of time, so more rooms featuring its characters makes perfect sense to me–and this is definitely the right resort for this type of room!
We like both approaches. While we love the idea of immersively themed rooms like those at Art of Animation or the Royal Rooms at Port Orleans, we’d rather stay in this room. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised at the quality and style of these ‘Under the Sea’ rooms. I’m even more shocked that they used this type of pull-down bed; I assumed that was going to be a DVC-exclusive feature to distinguish those.
To be sure, the studios at Disney’s Riviera Resort are more sophisticated, spacious, and just generally higher-end. They also have balconies, which is a big deal for many. It’s really the “bones” that are similar here, with a lot of the finishing and features differing–and being better–at the Deluxe Villa Resorts that offer similar room types.
However, if I were primarily concerned with location, amenities, and price–and the room were a bit lower on my list of priorities–it would be difficult to book the Riviera over its next-door neighbor given the colossal cost differential. These new Little Mermaid rooms should close the gap between the two resorts for many families.
Ironically, almost a decade ago we dubbed the then-new Caribbean Beach rooms as “Poly-Lite” since they were the budget-friendly alternative to staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. That was based on the rooms alone, as Caribbean Beach and the Poly are nowhere near one another, and offer few of the same other upsides.
These new “DVC-Lite” or “Reasonable-Riviera” rooms (still workshopping the name) offer not just a very similar style, but many of the same advantages in location, transportation, dining, and more by virtue of both options being located around Barefoot Bay. If it’s a choice between paying ~$250 per night or ~$700 per night, I’d book the reasonably-priced ‘version’ and opt for the DVC-lite rooms every single time. A balcony and slightly nicer finishings don’t make a room worth almost triple the price to us.
Speaking of the location on Barefoot Bay, we’ve become growing fans of the Trinidad section of Caribbean Beach in the last several years. We already touched upon Spyglass Grill and the Skyliner, but the latter is really worth emphasizing.
The hub gondola station is directly across the water from the Trinidad section of Caribbean Beach where these Little Mermaid rooms are located, providing non-stop access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and 1-stop service to EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance.
I did Early Entry twice at DHS during our stay in these Little Mermaid rooms–it took less than 15 minutes from the time I left the room until I touched down at Disney’s Hollywood Studios each time, with brief waits (<15 minutes) for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Slinky Dog Dash as a result. Early Entry to EPCOT took a bit longer, but I still managed to be one of the first people on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure one morning. The strategic advantage and efficiency for Early Entry cannot be overstated.
To that point, you won’t just want to make a room request when booking the Little Mermaid rooms at Caribbean Beach…you must make one. For whatever reason, the ‘Under the Sea’ rooms are not a distinct booking category despite being dramatically different from the regular rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort. This means that there’s technically no way to guarantee you’ll get the Little Mermaid rooms right now or in 2024.
In order to obtain these Little Mermaid inspired rooms, you need to start by booking the 5th sleeper category. That’s not all, though, as there are a number of 5th sleeper rooms all around Caribbean Beach Resort. (It’s also possible that you can request this room upon arrival even if booking another category, but the results are going to be very hit or miss–we would not recommend that approach.)
During the online check-in process, you’ll need to make a room request, and will have the option to choose between Old Port Royale or near the Skyliner–pick the Skyliner. Follow that up with the in-app chat feature and request a room in building 34 or 35. To really cover your bases, drop by the front desk upon arrival to confirm your location. (That’s probably overkill, but exactly what I did–this room was too expensive to leave anything to chance!)
Buildings 34 and 35 are going to be the shortest walk to the Skyliner station and Old Port Royale, whereas buildings 36-39 are much more of a hike. (Building 39 is literally across from the other Little Mermaid rooms…the ones at Art of Animation!) See our post on the Best & Worst Rooms & Buildings at Caribbean Beach Resort for comprehensive request recommendations.
It’s always a good idea to use a travel agent for Walt Disney World vacations, but that’s especially true for “trickier” bookings like these Little Mermaid rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort that require request. We recommend requesting a quote from Be Our Guest Vacations, a no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, so they can do the work for you and advocate on your behalf.
Their services don’t cost extra, they’ll reserve your room, help you with dining reservations and itineraries, and apply the best discounts to your reservation once they’re released. Using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner is the win-win option if you’re overwhelmed by the complexities of Walt Disney World, don’t want to do all of the “homework” yourself, or want someone to monitor your reservation so you save money.
Admittedly, this “objective review” has mostly been us gushing about the new Little Mermaid rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort. That’s in large part because these are perfect for us, a night and day difference from their dreaded pirate predecessors, and better than their counterparts over at Art of Animation. All, of course, in our opinion. As with anything subjective, tastes differ and your mileage may vary. These might be awful for you, either in terms of style or personal preferences.
There are also objective shortcomings of the Trinidad section of Caribbean Beach, which is why it needs the draw of unique rooms in the first place. If you’re stuck in buildings 38 or 39, it is a hike to Old Port Royale, the Fuentes del Morro Pool, Sebastian’s Bistro, Banana Cabana, etc.
Because it’s out in no man’s land, Trinidad also has spotty WiFi (and even cell coverage for those of us who use T-Mobile) signal. It’s also the last stop on the bus route, and we’ve been skipped entirely on multiple occasions during peak transit times because (presumably) the bus to Magic Kingdom had already filled up.
Almost all of that can be minimized by requesting buildings 34 or 35. (Even the bus issue–it’s not that much longer of a walk to the Barbados bus stop from building 34.) Those two buildings still feel relatively close to the heart of Caribbean Beach Resort, and have all the benefits of Trinidad. Best of both worlds.
Ultimately, if you’re a family focused on kid-centric accommodations, will be spending most of your time at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, and plan to use the feature pool and main lobby dining options often, these Little Mermaid rooms are not a good fit for you. You’ll find better options elsewhere at Caribbean Beach or, better yet, at Art of Animation or Pop Century Resorts.
We love the new Little Mermaid rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort and highly recommend them with the above asterisks in mind. If you’re a larger party that wants whimsy alongside highly functional, more spacious, and somewhat upscale rooms, the ‘Under the Sea’ rooms are a great option. Same goes if you’ll be more focused on Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, and won’t be regularly using the amenities in the Old Port Royale area.
In our view, these ‘Under the Sea’ rooms solve one of the biggest outstanding problem points at Caribbean Beach and complete the transformation of the hotel into a Moderate-Plus Resort. The only real disappointment and complaint we have is that Walt Disney World is confining this room type to Trinidad–it’s going to be tough to go back to the regular rooms after getting a taste of the nicer Little Mermaid ones! It would’ve been fantastic to see different aquatic characters and movies represented in each section of Caribbean Beach Resort.
What are your thoughts on the new ‘Under the Sea’ rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort? Pleased by the The Little Mermaid replacing Pirates of the Caribbean, or did you prefer the swashbuckling style? What do you think of the functional design of the new rooms? What about their aesthetics? Think these are too bland or just right thematically? Does the nearby Skyliner hub change your perspective on the Trinidad section of CBR? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!