This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the recent changes to OLD PORT ROYALE at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort!
For a while now, pretty much the entire Caribbean Beach Resort was under construction with the building of the Riviera, two stations for the Disney Skyliner, and a massive overhaul to Old Port Royale, the “hub” of the entire resort. The main entrance to Caribbean Beach was even moved from Buena Vista Drive over to Victory Way (the same road you enter Pop Century and Art of Animation from.) While the Riviera and Skyliner are still heading towards their openings in 2019, the “new and improved” Old Port Royale is now open for guests, so the SAT SIX Squad went back to one of our favorite resorts to check it out.
# 6 – The Check-In Experience
In the past we found Caribbean Beach to be one of the most relaxing and tranquil resorts at Walt Disney World, but the area did have its issues. Thankfully pretty much all of those “problem areas” have been fixed in the last year, including the debut of the Spyglass Grill quick service restaurant back in March. The check-in experience of Caribbean Beach needed a major change, as previously guests first had to stop at the Customs House, which was completely separated from the rest of the resort. The check-in desks are now located at Old Port Royale, and the waiting area has been designed with the guest experience in mind. There are plenty of comfortable chairs and couches, along with a whole bunch of outlets and USB ports to charge your phones and laptops.
Like many of the newer check-in areas at both Disney and Universal, instead of one long desk lined with Cast Members, Caribbean Beach has several smaller stations that allow for the CMs to come out and introduce themselves to the guests.
# 5 – Calypso Trading Post
The video game arcade that was previously in Old Port Royale is now completely gone, and the Calypso Trading Post gift shop has been moved to another location in the building. When you are walking into Old Port Royale, the check-in area would be on your left, while the gift shop would be the first thing on your right. There was a good selection of Caribbean Beach-themed items, although not many of them seemed all that unique. I do like the new logo of Caribbean Beach – featuring Mickey Mouse in a hammock outside the Fuentes del Morro pool – much more than the old logo.
The rest of the store features a large variety of Disney merchandise, including t-shirts, hats, and plush. I’m a huge fan of these notebooks that are made to look like VHS tapes, but I’m secretly betting on them making the Outlet Stores because I just don’t think there’s a huge market for notebooks in 2018.)
There was a surprisingly large amount of snacks and cold beverages available, including 2 liter bottles of Coke, beer, and bottles of wine.
# 4 – Grab N Go
Directly next to the gift shop was a small Grab N Go area. Here there was a similar selection of cold beverages, along with a mix of prepackaged snacks, fruit, ice cream, and some “hot” items like pizza.
# 3 – Centertown Market
Those who remember the old food court at Old Port Royale are in for a big change with the debut of Centertown Market. In the past, guests would line up at different stations, get whatever they wanted, and then check out at a register (similar to how most other Disney hotel food courts operate.) Now guests order all their food and drinks at the same time, and are given a device which allows the CMs to bring the food to you. There is a ton of indoor and outdoor seating in the area.
Centertown Market has Coke Freestyle machines for guests with refillable cups.
It’s a small thing, but it was nice to see actual silverware instead of plastic forks and knives.
The menu for Centertown Market was varied and contains several options for vegetarians and vegans outside of just a “house salad.” Like Satu’li Canteen in Pandora and Universal’s Urban Pantry at Aventura, guests can create their own bowls with a variety of proteins, bases, and sauces. With pasta dishes, pizza, sandwiches, and burgers, you should be able to find something from the picky eaters in your family up to the ones with more adventurous palates.
Like Be Our Guest Restaurant, orders are placed in these carts and brought directly to the your table by the Cast Members.
Our food arrives.
In case you don’t get your own silverware or napkins, the cart is also loaded with them.
This is the “Cheese Steak” Griddled Seitan. A vegan friendly sandwich that included seitan cheese, vegan mayonnaise, peppers, onions, and pickle relish. It comes with yuca and plantain chips. Very tasty.
Many times when we go to Disney restaurants we will get foods that either sound interesting or look visually cool (please refer back to our Special Investigation on Theme Park Photography for the official rules.) So when we saw this picture on the menu screen for the Banana Leaf-wrapped Fish as part of the Create-Your-Own-Bowls option, well of course we had to order it. How often do you see a giant banana leaf in a dish?
Turns out, you don’t see it very often. In fact we had to pull it out of the dish in was tucked into just to see it at all. For this bowl the base was Brown Rice and Red Beans. Serving size was decent for the cost and there was a good amount of spice but not too overwhelming.
Here is another bowl with Chipolte Seitan as the protein, Brown Rice and and Red Beans as the base, and Chipolte dressing on top.
When placing your order there is also the option of getting the food to go. For this you’re given a device that will alert you when the food is ready, similar to what you’d receive while waiting for a table at a place like the Olive Garden. You then take the device up to the Take-Out window, which is located directly next to the Grab N Go shop.
To try this out we ordered a piece of the Deep Dish Pizza. The menu says that it is served with a side salad, but the Cast Member asked if we wanted a piece of garlic bread instead. Like that’s even a choice.
# 2 – Banana Cabana
Banana Cabana and Sebastian’s Bistro are the new pool bar and table service restaurant for Caribbean Beach. Both are located in a brand new building situated next to the signature Fuentes del Morro pool. The open air seating and general ambiance of Banana Cabana is a great setting to have a drink in and it immediately became one of the best pool bars at Disney. There is a large variety of unique seating in the area, including several hanging couches. The bar also continues with the theme of gorgeous lighting fixtures, to the point where it is worth coming back to the area in the evening just to see everything lit up.
# 1 – Sebastian’s Bistro
Sebastian’s Bistro is the brand new table service restaurant at Caribbean Beach. The resort’s former restaurant, Shutters, was never on anyone’s Must Do list. The new restaurant is actually smaller than I would have imagined it would be, with a max capacity of just 134 guests. It may become hard to secure an ADR during busier times, especially if they keep up the food quality, but the good news is that Banana Cabana offers the Sebastian’s menu for both lunch and dinner.
There are basically two small rooms that make up the venue, with a variety of tables and booths for guests.
You are definitely not hit over the head with Little Mermaid or Sebastian the crab theming once inside the restaurant. In fact, there are minimal references to Sebastian, and overall has a nice clean look with more of a “coastal” feeling than anything related to Mermaid.
Generally we try to avoid eating at many Disney restaurants during the first couple weeks because we like to let them “work the bugs out,” so to speak, but we were pleasantly surprised by the level of service and food quality throughout the meal. To start off the Caribbean Pull-Apart Rolls just may be the best bread plate at Disney outside of the iconic bread service at Sanaa. The rolls themselves taste incredible, but the plate comes with three sauces (mango chutney, guava butter, and Jamaican jerk oil) that are out of this world. An instant hit.
The Seasonal Tropical Fruit appetizer wasn’t all that impressive, with a few slices of pineapple and mango. This was $9 if you can believe that.
Surprising to see Crab Cake served in a restaurant which in story is operated by a crab. Served with a watercress salad, the crab cake was good but the winner here was the herb mayonnaise it comes with. The mayonnaise was like a spicy Big Mac sauce and was an amazing compliment to the crab cake.
The Grilled Jerk Chicken Wings were a much bigger success. Six bone-in wings with a nice glaze that isn’t overly spicy. The wings were served with a cilantro-lime crema that was also really good.
Sebastian’s House Salad contained mixed greens with black beans, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and topped with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. One of the better house salads we have had dining at Disney.
There was an interesting option to get a Caribbean Rum Flight, where you can choose 3 types of rum from 6 that were offered. We went with Angostura 1919, Cruzan Disney Select Single Barrel, and Plantation XO. The other choices available were Bacardi Gran Rerserva Diez, Appleton Estate Rare Blend, and Mount Gay XO. For $15 this was not a bad deal at all.
For dinner entrees we started with something we’ve never had before, Caribbean Goat Curry.
We’ve traveled the Caribbean several times on sailings with the Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, so we were looking forward to the Jerk Chicken dish as it is one of our go-to’s when on the islands. Chicken was solid, and served on top of a black beans and cilantro rice combo that tasted fantastic.
The Jerk Butternut Squash was a vegan option and became the only “miss” of the night but it was more because of the kitchen than anything else. The squash was overcooked, while the rice was undercooked and crunchy. It was also served with black beans and collards that were fine. We did return the plate pretty much un-eaten, explaining to the server the issues with each component. They didn’t offer to do anything.
Time for dessert, which began with Joffrey’s Jamaican Blue Mountain Press Pot Coffee.
The menus for both dinner and dessert were on a board that worked using magnets to hold the actual paper in. Not sure I have ever seen that before.
The Mile Marker Zero was a hit. The menu lists this as “iced key lime pops with sea salt and a tropical fruit sauce.” I guess “iced” means “covered in chocolate” now? These were really good and we loved the presentation.
The Floating Island was not as successful, with two small scoops of sorbet (guava and guanabana flavors) served on top of fresh fruit and meringue. Apparently I’ve never had meringue before as I always imagined it as a pie filling and would be soft, but this was hard as a rock. My tablemates just said I was an idiot for not knowing what meringue is, which also makes sense.
Overall Thoughts: The new additions to Caribbean Beach are wonderful. Overall, Old Port Royal looks great. The check-in experience is much better and more convenient for the guests, Centertown Market blows away the old food court, and the new Banana Cabana/Sebastian’s Bistro combo beats the old Banana Cabana/Shuters combo by a factor of about one million.
The next couple things on our list didn’t debut with the opening of the new and improved Old Port Royale, but were all new to us since the last time we stayed at Caribbean Beach.
Honorable Mention – Coke Freestyle By The Guest Rooms
Each group of buildings at Caribbean Beach now has at least one Coke Freestyle machine for those using the Disney refillable cups. These are located in the areas that are labeled “Ice/Vending” when you are in the actual building. When we stayed in the pirate themed rooms at Caribbean Beach, one of the only negatives was that we were so far away from everything, even the minor stuff like soda refills for our cups. With the new Spyglass Grill (which also offers Coke Freestyle machines) along with each grouping of buildings having a refill option, recommending Caribbean Beach to families became much easier (especially for the person who has to take everyone’s cups to fill up with soda!)
This is the normal soda machine and ice maker you find in the rooms labeled “ice/vending” at the resort.
Triple Threat Honorable Mention – Using Your Phone To Unlock The Door
I’m normally not an “online check-in” type guy, as I tend to like to deal with people, especially front line Disney Cast Members at the resorts. However for this trip I decided to not only use online check-in, but to try out the new My Disney Experience feature that allows you to unlock your room door in the app.
On the drive up to Walt Disney World we used the online check-in feature. We were sent a text at 2:30PM alerted us that our room was ready. Now that we knew what room we had, it was time to pull the app out and see if this stuff actually worked.
This actually worked out much better than I thought it would. It has taken seemingly a decade and who knows how many Billions of dollars, but the MagicBand I was already wearing opened up the door along with my phone. There’s probably still two MagicBands with my name on them at the guest check-in at Caribbean Beach as we never went to pick them up (sorry Disney!)
Four Horsemen Honorable Mention – Bonus Stuff!
Last year my family stayed at another one of our favorite hotels, Coronado Springs. As it so happens, that is the other resort that has a ton of construction going on as they are adding a giant tower to the front of the area. We were pleasantly surprised to find a small pin set in our room featuring the Three Caballeros as a nice make good from Disney for the inconvenience. Checking into Caribbean Beach we found another pin set, this time featuring Goofy, Donald, and Minnie Mouse enjoying the Fuentes del Morro pool! These pin sets are so cool that I would go out of my way to stay at Disney hotels having construction just to get one. They are fantastic!
A while ago a friend of mine sent me a photo of what he found waiting for him during a recent stay at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas. It was a piece of chocolate from The Ganachery in Disney Springs that had the Disney BoardWalk logo on it. I thought that was really neat, and showed Disney giving a little something back to returning guests. This is something that happens a lot more at the hotels at Universal (run by Loews) than at Disney, at least in my experience.
Imagine my surprise when there was a knock at our door at around 7PM and a Cast Member delivered a small package. Inside was a note from Caribbean Beach welcoming us back along with this chocolate from The Ganachery. Stuff like this is what I consider to be The Disney Difference, and why my family and I prefer to spend the money to stay onsite when it makes much more financial sense to stay at some “no tell motel” off 192.
So there you have it: A Look at Disney’s CARIBBEAN BAY BEACH RESORT! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to our spirit animal Brandon Glover, theme park blogging’s rookie of the year Blog Mickey, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!