Some Pros & Cons – Staying at a Moderate – Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

For visit #19 to WDW last week, my family spent 3 nights at the Caribbean Beach moderate resort, and 3 nights at the Grand Floridian deluxe resort. I’d stayed at the Grand Floridian 4 times previously, so I knew I loved it, and knew what to expect. However, this was my first time staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), and I was looking forward to getting a “fuller” appreciation than my previous onsite visits and training could capture.

First up, the pros :

a.) The CBR is a beautifully laid out resort, and it takes its design and theming inspiration from an actual place (like all moderate hotels) – you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. The resort is composed of 6 villages/islands of Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, Jamaica, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South; and each has its own Caribbean vibe. I’d done a blog previously that is relevant here.

b.) The Disney bus transportation can whisk you from the CBR, which is in the Epcot resort area, to the various Disney parks and Downtown Disney.  Like all Disney hotels, you have free transportation onsite, plus have Disney service, are surrounded by the magic 24 hours a day, can purchase the dining plan, can use the free shuttle to and from the airport, and have access to the Extra Magic Hours.

c.) The CBR offers onsite recreation including a pool with a waterslide. There are quiet pools in each village/island, in addition to a large pool by Old Port Royale. The quiet pools give you lots of opportunity to get away from the bustling crowds, if you’d rather a more sedate swim time. But if you want to be around a lot of folks, the waterslide area of the main pool will certainly fill your needs!  See earlier blog post here:

d.) The CBR is one of Disney’s moderate hotels, and it offers a good balance between amenities and price. It offers great value for folks looking for stays longer than a couple of days. It can also serve as an appealing move up from a value hotel for repeat Disney guests (especially if they think they might spend more time around the pool). There are lots of accommodation options for multi-generational families to gather (so each can have their own space, but still be close enough to visit back and forth as well).  Staying at the CBR, you will be aware that you are vacationing with many other young families, and there will be raucous laughter and fun aplenty happening on the hotel grounds.

e.) There are plenty of quick service dining options in Old Port Royale and the Marketplace (pizza, sandwiches, burgers, salads, beverages, etc), as well as shopping opportunities. And there is also a sit down, or table service restaurant onsite, called Shutters.

f.) The CBR has perhaps the largest rooms in the moderate category hotel.

Now, for the cons:

a.) The CBR is beautifully laid out, but it is really spread out. The CBR is so large that it has its own internal bus system. If you’re not staying in a preferred room, you will spend a long time walking to get to Old Port Royale to the dining and main pool areas. 

b.) Part of choosing a resort is balancing what works for your family in terms of amenities and price. Staying at a moderate (instead of a deluxe hotel) means you save on price, but sacrifice location and convenience of access. At CBR, my family stayed in a preferred room in Trinidad North, so we were at the prime location at this resort for being close to transportation and dining options. However, we hadn’t appreciated how different the convenience factor would be from a monorail hotel.

Let me give you an example in terms of travel time to Magic Kingdom (MK) by bus. The first night at CBR, we lined up to catch the bus in Trinidad North at 7:00 pm, boarded the bus at 7:10pm, and at 7:25 pm, our bus was exiting the CBR grounds. (Did I say the resort is spread out?) We finally arrived at the bus station at MK park gates at 7:45 pm. So, it took us 20 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom, once we had left the CBR grounds, but it had taken 35 minutes from the time we’d boarded the bus, and 45 minutes from the time we stood in line in terms of wait and transport time.

Managing expectations may be key, of course, because if you know about this upfront, you can plan around it; and if the balance of convenience and price makes this the right resort for you, then you can definitely make it work. However, the wait and transport time is significantly more than the 5-10 minute period I know from staying at a deluxe monorail hotel.

A bus trip home to CBR from MK later that night had us boarding at 12:18 am, and back at the resort at 12:40… so 20 minutes seems to be pretty standard ride time (with a 10 minute or so wait at the front end). Being a preferred building, our Trinidad North was one of the first stops coming home, which was nice. 

However, the ride home from MK had also involved a much longer walk to get to the CBR bus station than I’d anticipated. Having previously stayed many times at the Contemporary, I knew well the walk home from MK. So, I was surprised that we had to walk almost back to the Contemporary from MK to catch our CBR bus, as this shaky photo from our CBR stop line shows. 

Bus transportation from CBR to Epcot and Hollywood Studios was about 10 minutes faster, as the CBR is located closer to those parks than it is to MK, but we found MK transport usually took longer than a half hour. 

The location and bus transport time also meant we didn’t zip back and forth between our hotel and a park, as we would often do at a monorail hotel – once we left the CBR, we were usually gone for longer periods of time. (It isn’t as easy to head back to your hotel for a swim, and then go out again.)

c.) As with any vacation choice, you make a decision about resort based on the level of service, price, amenities, location, etc…. and the CBR does offer a good balance of price and amenities. However, if you are a power internet user while on vacation (as I am), it’s possible that the CBR may not be the resort for you. My time there had been plagued by connectivity and intermittent access issues (even after replacing the cable, and dealing with their onsite help desk). At one point, the onsite help desk advised me to step down my internet connection speed to 10 megabits/second half duplex, which, for a travel agent needing fast access, was awfully slow. I was also hampered by the fact that the internet plug in was behind the bed, and the cord wasn’t long enough to reach the desk (and no extensions were available), which meant that the work I did do on vacation had me plunked on the bed (which wasn’t ideal for me or my family).  

I had been assured by onsite staff that my connection issues were most unusual, and perhaps I just had a bad port/ area of the hotel. They apologetically refunded the $9.95/day connection fee I’d been charged to access the internet. However, it’s worth  noting that I had none of these connection issues when we later moved over to the Grand Floridian (and there, we had extremely fast, and free, wireless access during my stay in the concierge area). If you don’t need internet access on holiday, this isn’t an issue, of course, but if you need to work, even a little, this access can put a damper on your stay.

d.) While the main pool area of the CBR is terrific, my heart lies with the canyon-themed waterslide and beach of the Grand Floridian (GF).  My own personal preference is for the finer dining options of the GF, the queen beds (rather than the doubles at a moderate), more sedate surroundings, the gorgeous pastel shading and Victorian surroundings of the GF, more room service options, having access to the character meals and even childcare (if needed), a different level of service, and more spacious rooms (deluxe rooms are much larger). But these are the differences between a moderate and deluxe hotel category, rather than cons of the CBR per se. 

The differences between hotel categories should be discussed and considered before choosing your Disney resort. It’s obviously important that we match your family’s needs and expectations to the proper resort. Disney has over 22 onsite hotels, so we should talk to discover what’s most important to you. I’m here to ensure your family can create the memories that will matter most to you!

Give me a call!  Sheila 613-837-0699 or email me [email protected]