As many of you know, last month we took the kids to Walt Disney World for a week. We’d been planning to go for some time, but it took some work for me to convince my husband that we needed to spend the week inside the resort. After all, hotels outside of the resort are much cheaper and many of them look really nice.
I had gone to Disney on a mom blogging press trip a few years ago, though, and I was convinced that we needed to stay inside the resort at least once, while the kids were small. “Once you’re inside the bubble,” I told Dennis, “the Disney magic really is non-stop. I want them to experience that.”
I knew from my own informational trip that Disney had special savings weeks, so we planned six months ahead and signed up for one of those weeks. We decided on a six-night stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort and because we bought two park-hopper tickets, our entire meal plan was free. This ended up being a GREAT deal for us, because as I’m about to tell you, the meals themselves were often a fabulous part of our vacation experience, and we never would have eaten at so many wonderful restaurants if we’d had to foot the bill ourselves.
First- The Caribbean Beach Resort.
The grounds are gorgeous. The rooms? Well, we were a bit disappointed when we arrived. They are fairly expensive, yet I’ve stayed in Holiday Inn Expresses that were nicer. These rooms, though clean and recently remodeled, had the feel of a bargain motel, right down to windows with views of the walkway outside. That was probably my least favorite thing about the room. Letting in sunlight meant also letting in the stares of strangers as they walked by. Also (and I believe this is true for all Disney resorts), bring plenty of DVDs- Disney only has two children’s TV channels in its lineup and there wasn’t much on TV for the kids to watch in the mornings and during rest times (which your children will need because it is HOT in Florida!). Fortunately, I had brought every Disney movie we owned for the long car trip- I ended up playing those on my computer in our room and the kids were thrilled.
Despite the room’s shortcomings, we decided at the end of the trip that we would TOTALLY consider staying at the Caribbean again. Why? Well, the amenities for children at the Caribbean are about as good as it gets, even compared to the other Disney hotels.
For one thing, we paid a little extra to stay in one of the resort rooms that had beds shaped like pirate ships (and bedspreads silk-screened with gold coins and jewelry– Nice touch!), dressers that looked like treasure chests, and a privacy curtain with the Jolly Roger insignia on it. Consequently, my children spent much of our room time joyously pretending to be pirates. They loved the room.
The real reason I would stay there again, though, was the grounds. We visited many Disney hotels, some of which were far more expensive than our own, and I think it’s safe to say that the Caribbean has the absolute best swimming pool area for kids.
Not only does it have a fabulous main pool with several water slides resembling a Caribbean grotto, but it also has a water play area for smaller children with a huge pirate play house, complete with an enormous bucket at the top that dumps water every minute or so.
The resort also has a jacuzzi, a kiddie pool, and several smaller pools throughout the resort. We spent a LOT of time here at the main pool. The days were quite hot, and this pool became an integral part of our trip. We had scheduled a no-park day and spent most of it here, and the parks were so crowded during the day that we often went to a park for a few hours in the morning, came back and went to the pool for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon, and then returned to the park in the evening, when the crowds had abated and it had cooled off outside.
Children’s activities take place here at the pool every hour of the afternoon, from dance competitions to arts and crafts. At 6pm each evening, there was a marshmallow roast down on the beach. And each night at eight, there was a Disney movie playing on a veranda overlooking the bay. We went one night and watched Tangled in comfortable lounge chairs. The night was cool, the kids were overjoyed, and it was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
The main building off the pool holds an enormous dining hall, which met our needs for snacks, breakfasts and some lunches. As part of our deal, we also received four thermal cups that we could use for unlimited beverages at the resort during our stay. These were also a lifesaver, holding coffee and hot chocolate in the mornings, soft drinks for the pool during the day, and Powerade for nights in our room.
One of the things we most looked forward to about staying inside Walt Disney World was being able to take shuttle buses to and from the parks. As it turned out though, the bus situation was NIGHTMARISH. Buses ran to and from the Caribbean Beach Resort every 20 minutes or so- and they were often so full that we had to stand like sardines throughout the duration of what was sometimes a 15 minute ride. At the end of a long day at a park, with two exhausted children, this was SO NOT FUN. However, we happened upon a perfect solution.
We took the bus in the morning at around ten, after the crowds of people leaving early for the parks had left. We stayed at the park 2 or 3 hours, then returned by bus to our room. When we went back to the park that evening at around six, WE DROVE. What most people don’t know is that parking is FREE if you’re staying within the resort. By 6pm, so many people had left the park that we easily found a spot in the very first aisle of parking, right beside the park entrance. At night, we were able to quickly return to our car and drive to our room, getting back a full 45 minutes sooner than we would have if we had taken the bus.
In the future if we stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort again, we’ll request to stay as close to the main building and pool as possible. Our room was at the edge of the resort, and we had to either drive to the main pool or take a 12-minute walk to get there- something my little ones often weren’t up for. I can’t imagine what an inconvenience this must have been for people staying there who didn’t have a car. It would have definitely put a damper on the experience.
So that’s my take on the Caribbean Beach Resort. While I was on the mom blog trip to Disney a few years ago, we visited the All-Star Movie Resort and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed. I wouldn’t recommend staying at their “Value” hotels unless you REALLY want to stay inside the resort and you’re on a strict budget. I stayed the last time at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, which was nice and very comfortable, and I have friends who stayed at the BoardWalk Inn and said the same. While on our most recent trip, we visited the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort, the Wilderness Lodge, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge— All were very nice, but the Animal Kingdom Lodge was our favorite by far- with an amazing restaurant and views of the wildlife park from certain guest rooms. We’re talking about staying there next.
I’ll be covering meal options and the parks themselves over the next few days, but in the meantime, I’d love to know where you’ve stayed at Walt Disney World, what you thought of it, and whether you learned any tips or tricks while you were there!
Images via Disney