One of my goals is to stay in each of the Walt Disney World resorts at least once, and surprisingly enough, I'm checking them off one right after the other lately. In January of 2015 I stayed at Saratoga Springs for the first time, in June 2015 it was Wilderness Lodge, in August I'll finally stay at the Polynesian (if only for one night), and in September I'll stay at Art of Animation for the first time as well. This January, however, I checked another of the resorts off my list: Caribbean Beach.
This moderate resort is currently in the process of being renovated, but when I was there not long ago it was calm and quiet, at least as calm and quiet as it gets when you're staying at one of the largest resorts on property. Since I grew up staying at primarily Old Key West, the spaced out buildings and multiple bus stops did little to confuse me, but I have to say that perhaps Caribbean Beach was a little too big for me to handle.
The rooms themselves are nice, very similar to the accommodations I enjoyed while staying at Coronado Springs last July, which fits two people well and is situated much like a typical hotel room. I feel as though it might be a bit cramped for four people, but it's certainly doable and really, what hotel room isn't a bit cramped with four people in it?
But it wasn't really the rooms that bothered me. Used to five bus stops at Old Key West, the eight or so bus stops that didn't seem to have a consistent order was overwhelming. It took me a couple of days to figure out which bus stop was actually closest to my room, mostly because not one of the bus stops was actually all that close, meaning that if you're using the bus as your primary mode of transportation you'll probably want to request a room close to the bus stop (we did and still had to walk quite a distance to catch the bus).
In addition, where Coronado Springs, which is probably the best comparison resort to Caribbean Beach, included building locations that felt thought out and purposefully placed, the main buildings at Caribbean Beach seemed scattered. Typically with the Disney Resorts, everything you need - check-in, food court, main restaurant(s), gift shop, etc. - is in one building or location, and typically this area is situated in a central location in comparison to the rest of the resort buildings. I've included the Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach Maps below to give you a better idea the layout for each:
On the Coronado Springs map above, note that while it's a further walk to the convention center and main building, the Rachos area of the resort is significantly closer to the Dig Site Main Pool, and regardless, it's roughly only a half hour walk to get all the way around the lake (or about a 10-15 minute walk from Casitas to the Dig Site). Everything is easily accessible to all guests regardless of where your room is, and additional pools are placed strategically to provide additional options for guests.
On the other hand, at Caribbean Beach, the resort is so big that you pretty much have to take a bus from some of the resort rooms to get up to the main building in a decent amount of time (and even then you may be waiting a considerable amount of time for an internal bus if your bus stop is in the wrong location on the stop schedule). Likewise, the main pool is hardly walking distance for most guests of the resort (although the same could be said for Old Key West here), and the distance of these amenities to most rooms is hardly efficient if you're looking to grab a bottle of water before heading to the parks or head to the pool at the conclusion of a long day. Additionally, Check-In is mysteriously off in a corner, which creates a bit of a hassle on its own, and the sheer number of bus stops means that your bus may take upwards of 20 minutes just to get through the resort stops, much less to the park of your choice or back to your own stop at the end of the day.
Of course, it's all a matter of personal preference. Obviously many guests enjoy staying at Caribbean Beach, as is evident by the plans for expansion and the number of rooms that already exist. Like every Disney resort, the design of the resort is phenomenal, the cast members are spectacular, the rooms are nice, and the amenities (once you get to them) are up to the Disney standard. But for me, I'm just not sure that Caribbean Beach is my type of resort, and that's alright. We all have our preferences, and that's why some resorts are better suited to some people and not others, but I honestly don't think I'll be staying at Caribbean Beach again anytime soon...if only because I have more resorts to stay at for the first time!
If you've ever stayed at Caribbean Beach, what were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!
Have a magical day!