2.07.2010

Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Caribbean Beach Resort


I have previously mentioned my issues with transporting via bus at Walt Disney World. This isn’t an indictment of Disney itself but more of an issue I have with that mode of transportation while on vacation. Having spent my entire life just outside of New York City, I’ve either had to drive behind polluting buses commuting on the congested highways of New Jersey OR ride one of those very busses into Manhattan. To me, this is the mark of an urban existence and I’ve lived it in the epitome of urban America. So when I attempt to transport myself to a magical vacation destination, ideally I avoid all the typical trappings of the real world. And that includes the type of public transportation Walt himself was trying to avoid.

Unfortunately, this now stands out as my most prominent experience with the Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. My family and I visited this resort not long after it first opened. It was our first experience in a hotel outside of the monorail loop. After four such trips, we were clearly spoiled by the monorail as solitary mode of transportation. Now with a new hotel and a third park (Disney-MGM Studios) off the loop, not to mention Typhoon Lagoon and Pleasure Island, there was no escaping the bus as a necessity for travelling around the World.

My recollections of that first trip to Caribbean Beach Resort are fairly vague as I just sort of went with the flow, still an awe struck teen eager to revisit all my favorites. However, 14 years later I returned with friends, intent on staying at a moderate resort to keep costs down. I had remembered the theme of the resort as colorful and original to WDW and despite my hopes to go elsewhere, I went in with fresh expectations.

It seems these larger, sectional resorts like Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs tend to be more problematic with bus transportation as the guests not only must deal with the bus’s arrival at the actual resort, but its loop around to all of the stations. This can make for incredibly lengthy waits in a slightly average-themed bus depot, typically in sweltering heat. Perhaps I’m spoiled by all of those monorail-centric trips of my youth, but if I’m about to spend my day in a theme park waiting on lines, it’s pretty difficult to stand at a bus stop essentially waiting on a line just to even get to the front gate of said theme park.


The lay of the land is scenic and appealing, with the various areas of the resort surrounding a lake. The grounds include a walking path that circles the lake as well as intercuts it in the middle over a scenic cay. The areas of the hotel are named after various Caribbean destinations like Martinique, Aruba, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. Though each has some distinguishing qualities, they are ultimately just variations on a theme. Each of the villages has their own quiet pool, which is definitely one of the plusses of the resort. The main pool has more theming and features and is thus more crowded and rowdier. As you might expect, the pool theme takes it cue from pirates. (In fact, it looks like a continuation of the exterior theme of Pirates of the Caribbean.)

The rooms are fairly standard sized, with the typical amenities. Many visitors are just looking for a bed, a toilet and a shower as they spend most of their time taking in the theme parks, water parks or Downtown Disney. But if you do want that extra pizzazz in (or just outside of) your hotel room, this probably isn’t the place. Though admittedly the resort has recently added Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo-themed rooms. The designs are subtle but would probably dazzle the minds of young children. Thankfully you don’t have to worry about being pilfered in the middle of the night by drunken buccaneers!

The Caribbean Beach Resort's marketplace eatery ended up becoming the template for similar locations at the subsequent moderate and value resorts, and it’s one of the lazier ideas that Disney has instituted at its resorts. This cookie-cutter Imagineering goes against the foundations they laid down at the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts. Unfortunately now you have to pay Deluxe prices just to get the higher-end theming and dining variety that used to be the standard of the resorts. Granted, I understand that a large segment of America is looking for that quick, easy bite to eat and might point towards the multitude of finer dining options throughout the whole of Walt Disney World but I truly feel it does so at the cost of a wonderful opportunity to actually present more compelling Caribbean-themed dishes.

One night we decided to dine on the premises instead of venturing to a theme park eatery which turned out to be as fairly a bland experience as most of the other experiences at the resort. Shutters at Old Port Royale isn’t magnificently themed and the dining area felt very constricted and plain. The food wasn’t much of an upgrade over the options in the food court. Sadly, my entire party had all felt some regret for not having been more creative with our dining choice that night. Unfortunately, convenience won out over creativity and meant one less country in World Showcase to enjoy a meal at!

And that really is my issue in a nutshell with the Caribbean Beach Resort. It’s a nice place, located relatively close to Epcot, the Studios and Downtown Disney. And as only one of three moderate resorts, it’s priced within an atmosphere that most can afford and consider over the pricier deluxe resorts. It appeals to the convenience and affordability that many visitors are looking for in a trip, particularly those visitors with larger families. But in the process, a lot of the creativity that made the first three WDW (and many later) resorts so popular seems to have gone by the wayside. And with the transportation situation putting you at such a disadvantage, the theming isn’t exciting enough to make this an ideal destination.

As I plan my next trip to the resort, I know one thing for certain…I will stay in an Epcot resort or on the monorail loop so that I could reduce my reliance on busses significantly and experience the magic not only the way it was intended by the man behind the magic, but also the way we all once felt that magic before the greater expansion.

TRAVEL TIP

If pricing is still an issue, consider staying at one of the lodges (Animal Kingdom or Wilderness) in a value season as they are not as highly priced as other Deluxe resorts yet contain high quality amenities. Wilderness Lodge also gives you the benefit of boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center (where you can get a monorail to Epcot). Also, consider how much time you might save altogether by avoiding a resort so dependent on busses. You might subtract a day from a Deluxe stay in much closer vicinity to the theme parks and still see the same amount of attractions!

3 comments:

Over Yonder said...

Wow awesome description. We have never been but I think the children are at a perfect age to enjoy it. We are hoping to go this year. I will have to look through your blog to decided where to stay!

Cecilia said...

Jason,
Your blogs are works of art! Is Disney paying you for this homage?!? I am not planning a trip to Disney (not at my age!), but if I hear of anyone going, I will certainly recommend tht they stop by for a read!

Cecilia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.