Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
About three weeks ago I returned from yet another fantastic Walt Disney World vacation. Like most of you readers out there, I never grow tired of the place and certainly don't anticipate doing so anytime soon. In fact, I've been missing it in a big way ever since we drove underneath those arches and re-entered the "real world." I know I just got home, but quite simply put... I can't wait to go back.
This trip, in particular, will go down in our family history as a very unique one. I've mentioned in my last few articles that this time around, I traveled to the most magical place on Earth with just my twin 10-year-old boys. My wife and daughter were on their own magical journey through Germany with my wife's father. While they were standing in awe in front of real life castles, the boys and I were standing in front of Cinderella Castle and catching a glimpse of the spires of Beasts' Castle in the soon to be opened Fantasyland Forest. While we were swigging beer, well… while I was swigging beer in The Biergarten in Epcot's Germany pavilion, they were sitting in real, honest to goodness beer gardens in Bavaria. We were apart on family vacations for the very first time and although we were each having wonderful trips, it was strange not being together.
Being the solo parent made for a very different experience this time around. There was no splitting up. There was no quiet time. I was on full time Daddy detail. Sounds daunting to some I'm sure. Truth be told though… I loved every minute of it. Now, before my beloved wife and daughter get all offended, I must emphatically say that I missed them terribly. It was hard to be on vacation without them. I missed watching my daughter's head pop up in the pool. She loves to swim so much, at times I feel she must be part mermaid. Taking pictures in Disney's Animal Kingdom or meeting Eeyore at the Crystal Palace without her was strange. And walking through Germany in Epcot without my wife on my arm felt… very wrong. I couldn't even bring myself to walk through our favorite romantic spot in the Magic Kingdom's rose garden. Without her… what's the point?
So, they were sorely missed. But the boys and I bonded on a whole different level on this trip as I watched Disney World completely unfold in their eyes. They were the total focus. We did it all together and had an amazing time. We did lots of different things on this trip. We ate primarily counter service food aside from a few sit-down character meals. Most of the crazier rides were completely skipped. No Tower of Terror. No Space Mountain. Not their style. They're not into the big thrills. They're not very big on fireworks, but they did oblige me one viewing of Illuminations, which they ended up truly appreciating for the first time. It was definitely different.
One of the biggest differences was our choice of Disney resort. The Caribbean Beach was the first place our family ever stayed together. On that trip it was just my wife and I and our little four-year-old daughter. We loved it, but once the twins arrived, we needed bigger digs. For a few years that meant Port Orleans and the trundle beds of the Alligator Bayou section. We fell in love with Riverside and stayed there four years in a row. After our grown-ups only trip to The Wilderness Lodge, which we absolutely loved, we got a great deal on four nights at The Yacht Club and were permanently spoiled by Disney's Deluxe resorts. Two more trips to the Polynesian in a row made me swear I would always stay at a monorail resort. No matter what the cost, I'd scrimp and save for that luxury. It's totally worth it.
While I still stand by that statement, this trip was, as I've already mentioned, different. I didn't need the bigger room or the extra bed. I began to look at rooms that only had two beds and stumbled across an excellent deal on an old friend… Disney's Caribbean Beach. Sure, it meant going back to bus transportation back and forth to the parks and probably a bit more walking within such a huge resort, but I had fond memories of our trip there nine years ago and was enthusiastic about returning.
And what was the outcome? Well… let's take a look with my Top 5 Things I Love About Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort.
One of the great memories of that first trip was coming back to the room and finding my daughter's stuffed animals all arranged in different poses on the bed, or waiting at the window. I've had great Mousekeepers since then. My rooms are always clean and well taken care of. Towel animals have been pretty consistent over the years, but for some reason… we've been missing out on that extra touch. As you can see from these pictures, we came home to find animals in the windows and toys on the bed in various set-ups consistently. It's great to see these little magic touches haven't left the property.
I'm not such a big fan about the… how should I put it… "over-Disney-fication" of the resorts that has been taking place over the last few years. I kind of feel that the resorts should be expressive of their individual themes like the Caribbean in this resort, the deep south of Port Orleans or the Pacific Northwest of the Wilderness Lodge. I don't see a need to hit you over the head with Disney when you're at the resorts. You know where you are. The royal rooms at Port Orleans Riverside and even the recent addition of Louis the Alligator from "The Princess and The Frog" on the folding beds in Alligator Bayou kind of turn me off. I prefer a more subtle approach. In that respect, the pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach were definitely not an option. I'm not sure I could relax in a pirate ship bed staring at a huge skull and crossed swords privacy curtain. That's just my opinion. Nemo is subtly represented on the bedspreads and a tasteful border around the ceiling. I think it was just enough without going overboard.
Since we were there last, the main pool has been completely redone. A zero entry area was added. We all loved the two slides, the water cannons and the Spanish fort theme. I liked the two hot tubs, one of which is tucked away behind the main slide and was consistently quiet. The kiddie pool has a great pirate ship play area with a big dumping bucket of water. My guys were too big for the play area, but we did make sure to get dumped on at least once. On top of that, as with all of the Disney Moderates, there are quiet pools in each section of the resort. Our pool in Jamaica was perfect. It looks out on the beach and across the water to the main pool complex, and was always empty.
If you're not familiar with the layout of the Caribbean Beach Resort, it's divided into five villages named after Caribbean islands, Jamaica, Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, and Trinidad. Trinidad is further split into North and South. The villages surround 45-acre Barefoot Bay. Each has its own merits. For my money, Jamaica is the best place in the resort to stay. It's not the closest to the food court, shopping and main swimming complex known as Old Port Royale, but that gives it a certain amount of peace and serenity. Request building 45. It's nestled right next to the bridge over to Caribbean Cay, the resort's own tropical island in the center of Barefoot Bay. Walking over the bridge each day and night makes you feel like you're at a Caribbean resort. Jamaica is usually the first stop as buses enter the rear of the resort, which tends to mean they are almost always close to empty. We always got a seat. The lush gardens and mustard yellow color of the buildings certainly made Jamaica my favorite place to be in the resort.
As I mentioned above, Caribbean Cay, formerly Parrot Cay, is truly one of Caribbean Beach's best-kept secrets. I would imagine that most guests staying in the Martinique, Barbados, and Trinidad villages don't even visit Caribbean Cay because they don't have to walk through it to get anywhere. It's something you have to seek out from those villages. If you're staying in Aruba or Jamaica, Caribbean Cay and its two charming bridges are your daily pathway to and from Old Port Royale, the resort's main building. That's reason enough to request the latter two villages. The island itself has a fantastic playground.
There are old Spanish cannons, picnic tables, and some surreal hammock spots.
There are several paths to take. One such path, ironically the one seemingly least taken, leads you around the shoreline of the island and is dotted with covered pavilions that contain wonderful bench swings to while away your time. Caribbean Cay is one of those slices of Disney Imagineer magic that makes you forget you're sitting in the center of the most popular tourist destination on the planet. It makes you want to stop, relax, and soak in the atmosphere. It has become one of my favorite spots on all of Disney World property.
So there you have it—five reasons to make Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort your next stop in Walt Disney World. The only negatives I could find were two minor things. The resort's check-in building, The Customs House, is located separately and quite far away from the main buildings of Port Royale. This has the possibility of being inconvenient. Then again, I checked in and checked out there and never had the need to visit Customs House again, so maybe this complaint is moot. The other problem is that due to the resort's size, number of bus stops, and distance from the Magic Kingdom, bus service to our favorite park was sometimes a long trip. Conversely, the ride home from Hollywood Studios, which is pretty much around the corner from the resort, was about seven minutes one night. The same can be said for Epcot, which is also right next door. It's a trade-off for sure.
Regardless of these two minor complaints, the resort was beautifully landscaped and immaculately kept. The theme is perfectly executed throughout the property. The pools are wonderful. Caribbean Cay is a pure joy and the cast members there were all top notch.
On our last evening there, we were thoroughly enjoying the main pool. We wanted to head to the Magic Kingdom that night to catch Wishes and some of our favorite attractions. As we left the pool and began to walk towards Caribbean Cay to head back to our room in Jamaica, the cast members were setting up the inflatable movie screen. The boys asked which movie was being shown. When they heard that it was Lilo and Stitch, a recently discovered favorite of theirs, they begged to stay and watch the movie instead of heading to the Magic Kingdom. My first response was, "Guys, we can watch Lilo and Stitch back at home, we can't see Wishes every night." They reluctantly agreed.
As we began to walk over the bridge to Caribbean Cay, the sky was full of color. The reflections on Barefoot Bay were amazing.
It was a beautiful night. I was suddenly struck by the whole place. I didn't want to leave. I turned to them and said, "Hey guys, you know what? Let's go back there, find some seats, get a pizza, and spend the night here." Their eyes lit up and we about faced and ran back to the plaza. Soon enough, we were sitting there, eating pizza laughing at Lilo and Stitch. I have to admit, I've never enjoyed this movie as much as I did at that moment. 'Ohana, as the movie says, means family—and my guys and I were definitely having a great family moment.
Later as the Illuminations fireworks were going off over the rooftops of Aruba and reflecting on the still waters of Barefoot Bay… I knew we made the right decision. I was thrilled to be there with my boys under the stars. It was one of those great, unplanned Walt Disney World moments that we all live for.
I'm so glad we rediscovered the Caribbean Beach Resort. It's definitely earned a special place in our collective Walt Disney World memories.
So those are the Top 5 things that I love about the Caribbean Beach Resort. Do any of you out there feel the same way? Do you have your own Top 5? I'd love to hear what you have to say. Click on the "Discuss this article on MousePad" link below and let us hear your thoughts.
(Send an email to Chris Barry)
Chris Barry lives on Long Island in New York with his wife and three kids. He has had a lifelong love of cartoons, comics and animation. Those who know him well say he has truly, "earned his Disney PhD." Chris has been involved with Television Production for 20 years and began his career working with The Muppets at Jim Henson Productions in NYC. Currently teaching TV Production to high school students, Chris has been writing about many different facets of The Walt Disney Company for several years now.