Construction work at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has finally begun – here’s how it will affect your holiday
When you start planning a trip to Walt Disney World, as with any holiday, there is a strong desire to make sure everything is absolutely perfect. Often people see their trip to Florida as a ‘once in a lifetime holiday’ and staying in a Disney World hotel certainly doesn’t come cheap so you do expect the best.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is currently under construction and this is where we had chosen to say for our first ever Walt Disney World trip.
In this post I am going to talk about the reasons we decided to stay despite the construction work, how it could affect your holiday if you’re staying there in the next year or so and our overall impressions of the resort.
Big Birthday Trip
The original plan for my 30th Birthday was actually to visit Disneyland Paris. We’ve visited once before a few years ago and I’d always wanted to go back. I’d always written Florida off as somewhere we couldn’t afford to go. That was until I looked up prices for a week in Disneyland Paris during May half term (when my birthday falls). I’d never really thought about actually staying onsite at Disney-world – I’d always assumed we’d need a villa, hire car etc and that’s not really something we wanted to do.
When I did some research I found that staying in a Disney World hotel in Florida would actually be cheaper than Paris and there is so much more included in the price. Yes, flights are more expensive but we decided it was worth it. After browsing hotels we decided to go for Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, a moderate hotel which looked absolutely stunning. We took advantage of the free dining plan, memory maker and free $200 gift card offer all of which we felt offered good value for money.
So, you can imagine my disappointment when I had an email, 8 months after booking our ‘trip of a lifetime’ to say that there would be ongoing construction work at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort during our stay. This hadn’t been mentioned when we booked and was obviously only a recent decision by Disney.
Now, this wasn’t just going to be a bit of updating here and there – the entire resort is being demolished and rebuilt block by block. This included the demolition of the entire eating and entertainment area of the resort, which meant food options would be limited during our stay.
However, Disney were willing to give us two options to make up for the inconvenience.
- Move to another resort of a similar value with no admin/rebooking fees.
- Stay and be compensated with $75 each night in Disney gift vouchers.
We chose to take the gift vouchers and stay at the resort as this would mean taking much less spending money – saving us money on an already very expensive trip. With six Disney parks to explore we didn’t expect to be in our room very much. We also already had a $200 gift card included with our package so this meant that we would need to take hardly any dollars with us.
We arrived in Florida and hopped onto the Magical Express without any issues. The first thing I will say is that there is a lot of construction work going on around the entirety of the Disney area – there seems to be diggers and pipes and builders everywhere on a lot of the roads around the parks and the resorts. I think it’s easy to expect the whole of the Disney complex to be picture perfect at all times and obviously this is not always the case. Also it does hopefully mean improvements and upgrades are being made which is always a good thing.
First impressions of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort are that it is absolutely stunning. There are plenty of areas the construction work has not yet affected and these remain beautiful and unspoiled. Unfortunately we were placed in Martinque Block (Room 2428) which lies between both of the current major construction works – with Barbados Block being demolished on one side and the Food Court area, Old Port Royale being demolished on the other.
Blocked off pathways meant we had to take a much longer route to get to the temporary food options and main swimming pool. These things aside though the resort is very pretty and all of the construction is blocked off so you can’t actually see it other than when on the buses to and from the parks.
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Did the Construction Affect our holiday?
Yes and No.
The construction didn’t actually affect our holiday in the sense that it stopped us doing anything we really wanted to do. Most of the resort is still functioning as normal including the pools and activities such as ‘movies under the stars’ (although some activities have moved to a different area) There are also characters at the pool each day. Disney are trying hard to make up for the inconvenience with free breakfast snack bags being provided on arrival and small market shops and a coke freestyle machine in each block.
The biggest way it did affect us was the food options. Having not visited the resort previously I have no idea what the food offerings were like before, but I sincerely hope they were better than what they are at present. There were no snacks or options we liked for breakfast and the one morning we tried the breakfast buffet (which is a QS) we sincerely wished we hadn’t.
While the old food court is out of action it has been replaced with a food tent and food truck. We had the evening QS buffet (in the food tent) on our first night as we were too tired to go anywhere else. It was perfectly adequate but not amazing.
On our last day we had the breakfast buffet to use up our last QS credits before moving to another hotel. It was awful. In total we must have queued for over half an hour before even getting near the food. We had queue to pay, queue to be let in the tent, then queue again to get to the food. While several families behind us just quit the line and went and helped themselves (this was not people who were going back for seconds or getting drinks, it was people who had been stood behind us and got bored of waiting their turn). When we did get up there the plates we were given were wet and dirty and we got through four or five before getting one we were happy to eat from. This was one of the worst dining experiences we had in Disney.
Old Port Royale/Center Town also housed an arcade and gift shop – there is now a gift truck which sells a few gifts but is a limited choice. We had a lot of unexpected rainy evenings during our stay where we chose not to venture away from the resort – having somewhere to go for a wander and to entertain ourselves for a bit would have been nice – but it didn’t ruin our holiday.
There are also some benefits to the construction such as the resort being much quieter and guests being more likely to get the room and location at they request.
Is the Construction Noisy?
The only time we heard noise from the construction work was when we were using the quiet pool at Martinique in the afternoons. Even though it was going on both sides of us we never once heard it from our room – although we were out enjoying the parks during most of the day. I think if you were staying in one of the blocks furthest from the current construction you would be very unlikely to hear anything.
I can also see why there is the need to refurbish the resort – while pleasant enough the rooms were very dated and the air con was extremely noisy. We also felt the room was missing some of the smaller touches you would expect from a nice hotel such night/reading lights.
Would we stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort again?
There were certain things about Disney Caribbean beach resort that we loved and I can see why it’s so popular, construction or not. Firstly it is just so beautiful – it really does feel like you are on a Caribbean Island, in particular we loved the beaches and hammocks. Part of me wishes our stay had been longer so we could have a taken a day just to hang out and enjoy the scenery at the resort.
We also loved being able to open the door straight outside every morning to see what the weather is doing (Is this just me? Is this a British thing?) as far as I can see most other Disney resorts are big hotel blocks with rooms going several floors up. It was also nice having the bus stop and quiet pool just 30 seconds from our door.
Our biggest bug bear with this resort, however was the buses. Not even the buses themselves, more the time it took to get everywhere. Having to block out almost 90 minutes to get anywhere within Disney seemed a bit bonkers and ate into a fair bit of our holiday time when we only had a week.
Example: Wait 20 minutes for a bus at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (if you’ve just missed one). 10 minutes going around the resort to other stops. 20 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom. 20 minutes queuing to get through security and the queues to get in the park. 10 minute walk to the restaurant for dinner. Okay, so I know that’s only 80 minutes but you get the idea. And that’s without needing to get a bus/monorail to a different resort if that’s where you happen to be dining. Also I think there was only one restaurant we went where our table was actually ready when we arrived. Considering you book restaurants 180 days in advance this did annoy me a little, especially after going through so much effort (see above) to get there on time.
There is then the water parks which have no direct buses – you have to change at either Disney Springs or Animal Kingdom – and then do the same on the way back. There was one day we ended up taking seven different buses to get where we needed to be in and around Disney.
There was also our last night where we made the mistake of leaving the park around half an hour after closing. We waited an hour and four buses before there was room for us to get on. Hot and overtired this put a massive dampener on what had otherwise been an amazing evening.
I realize this isn’t an issue that is entirely the fault of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, but I still think it is something to be aware of. I would happily pay more money to be closer to one or two of the parks – I’m eyeing up Disney’s Yacht Club for our next trip. If you have your own transport then obviously you can drive to the parks – parking is free for Disney resort guests so no extra charges to worry about.
Should you take the $75 a night or should you move resorts?
Okay so the big money question. . .
Should you stay or should you go?
Here’s what I think.
If you plan to eat at the resort more than once or twice during your vacation then stay elsewhere.
If you love Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, it’s where you usually stay AND you don’t plan eat there then you will probably enjoy your holiday just as much as usual, although may feel a little sad to see bits of it in such a state. There is also the added bonus of the $75 a night gift card.
If this is your first trip to Disney World and the $75 a night gift card is going to make a huge difference to what you can afford to do while in the parks then stay. If it means being able to do extra magical things that you wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise then that should make up for some of the magic that is missing from the resort.
If this is your first trip to Disney but spending money is not an issue – perhaps as we did, you already have a dining plan and $200 gift card from booking in the UK you may prefer to stay somewhere else.
If this is not your first trip and you’ve stayed elsewhere in Disney you may prefer to stay somewhere without construction that would be deemed up to the usual Disney standards. Again it depends if the Gift-Cards are incentive enough for you to stay.
Please note the $75 a night gift cards are only available to those who booked before construction was announced on March 20th this year. They are not available to new bookings made after that date as a reduced room rate is now in place.
Getting the most out of your Gift Card
Gift cards can be spent in any of the parks and at any Disney shops at Disney Springs. They can also be used towards your next holiday and towards dining events such as the wishes dessert party. Gift Cards with the full amount for your stay are issued at check in.
On arrival at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort we set up an account (using our 0% credit card) and then charged everything to our room during our stay, including tips and purchases at ANY shops in Disney Springs. We then used our gift card to pay this off before checking out. Make sure you do this at least 24 hrs before your check out time as Disney usually charge your credit card the night before you check out. There is also a limit of $1500 before they automatically charge the card so it’s worth keeping a note of your spending each day and popping in to pay off the balance midweek if you need to.
All in all we did have an amazing holiday and Disney are doing what they can to make up for the construction. If you think it will bother you then it probably would be best to change resorts. If you think you’ll love it anyway and would enjoy the $75 a night more then stay and make some magical memories.
Also I must say a huge thank you to Tammy and everyone in the CBR facebook group – they answered questions while we were there almost immediately and were super helpful before and during our stay. If you are worried about your stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort then they may be able to answer anything I have not covered here.