Friday, January 22, 2010

Well, So Much For Swinging On The Hammocks

When Walt Disney was originally planning "the Florida project", part of the logic was that the warm weather was perfectly suited for what would amount to an all-inclusive year-round resort. The Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, The Magic Kingdom theme park, and multiple waterfront resort hotels would provide the Disney World guest with a complete vacation experience. And one of the main parts of that experience was to enjoy the water-related activities at the hotels: pools, water skiing, sunbathing, etc. Unlike Disneyland, this place had the space enough so that nobody would have to leave for any reason. Everything was right there. And beautiful, warm weather had everything to do with it.

Walt laying down the law in Florida.

This is why pools and related activities are so important to most of the Disney World resort hotels. Many are themed so well that they're close to being a water-based attraction unto themselves. This aspect helps to lend these hotels their theme and personality. When the theme park is closed, or if it isn't an option, there's something fun to do outdoors at the hotel other than sitting in your room watching TV. It's the benefit of being located in Florida.

The awesome newly renovated pool in Port Royale.

Keeping that in mind, the Caribbean Beach Resort at Disney World is supposed to provide an experience that's similar to a Caribbean Island vacation. Replete with beach sand, hammocks, water sports, beautiful pools, surrey bikes, paddle boats, bright colored buildings and a light and festive atmosphere.

A lonely hammock trying to sway in the 20 degree wind.

It's just that the Caribbean Islands don't ever experience 20 degree weather. That's definitely not swing-on-the-hammock-with-a-frosty-beverage conditions. It wasn't built for that, and neither was Walt Disney World.

Two watercraft that would make CBR a great place
to play almost any other day of the year.

Unfortunately, for marathon weekend at The Mouse, the frigid (for Florida) conditions put a damper on experiencing what the Caribbean Beach Resort has to offer. Of course, that has nothing to do with the resort itself; obviously Disney can't control the weather, no matter how powerful they are. And it won't stop us from going back to the Caribbean Beach Resort, because we did see first hand what you could do there, if the weather is right.

But that also taught us a little lesson: if you are visiting Walt Disney World in the winter months, you may want to go with another option outside of CBR, as the weather may render much of what makes it great as useless that time of year.

Now, 20 degrees in Lake Buena Vista, Florida is not normal, like Walt Disney understood when planning all this. And next winter, there may be no cold spell quite that cold at all. But there may be 30 degrees or 40 degrees, or even 50 degrees - which would still make many of the water and beach related activities very uncomfortable. It's enough of a risk that you may want to opt for Port Orleans or even a cheaper value resort instead of something like Caribbean Beach (why spend the extra money on a resort if you can't take advantage of what it has to offer?). For something like Marathon weekend or the week between Christmas and New Years, you'll just have to book much earlier in the year before it fills up.

All this being said, we really like this resort. We could tell it has great potential and in the right season, it would be an absolute blast. We have experienced little bits of the resort before as non-guests. We've taken an afternoon or two to walk the grounds, swing on hammocks and rent paddle boats. It was a LOT of fun. It would be even more fun if you're staying there and can retreat back to your room and take the recreation as you want it, when you want it. So we can definitely see the value here, especially with their newly refurbished and pirate-themed main pool at Port Royale.

Hope and the kids enter the check-in area at CBR.
A fireplace would've been nice.

As for our stay, let's start with the check-in. It was marathon weekend, so the situation was a little different than most times of the year. We arrived at about 2:30 or so in the afternoon on Saturday and was hoping that we could potentially get an early check-in. If we didn't get it, no big deal, it was just a half hour or so until it was officially check-in time, so we'd simply wait it out. We didn't realize until having gotten there that during marathon weekend, they allow runners to have a late check-out to accommodate for if they needed more time to rest post-race in the early afternoon. They informed us that check-in could be as late as 5:00 p.m. That was a little surprising, but we couldn't complain - Hope was running the marathon the next morning and we may very well need that generous service. So we said, "OK" and went on our way.

We needed a couple of hours to take up - but it was already cold. About 34 degrees. The family took a vote as to what they wanted to do, and it voted for DisneyQuest. It's indoors and the kids love it. Hope wanted that too, as she didn't want to expose herself the day before the full marathon to getting a cold from too much frigid outdoor exposure. I was indifferent, so DisneyQuest it was.

I did get a text message from Disney at about 3:45 or so telling us that our room was ready! That was a pleasant surprise, as it didn't take as long as we thought. We took off from DisneyQuest and found our room.

Home sweet home for the next two nights.

We had room 2324 in the Martinique area. Not bad at all - it was adjacent to Port Royale (the center hub with the shopping, dining, main pool and marina) which was a short walk away around the lake. Our room was also very close (probably 50 yards or so) from the closest bus stop - which was a HUGE break at 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning when Hope had to be there to catch the ride to Epcot for the race. With some other hotels on property, the bus stops are MUCH further away and can be quite the walk to get there - which would have been harsh this particular morning (wind chill gave the weather an 11 degree "feels like" temperature).

Katie trying to decide which sink to use.

The Nemo theme didn't go much further than
the comforter and trim at the top of the walls.

The chest almost made a perfect bed for Chance.

A wider shot of the room. Check out the Nemo
trim along the top of the walls.

Chance and Katie having lunch.
Katie obviously has nefarious plans for something.

We ended up with one of the newly refurbished "Nemo" rooms - over the last year or so they refurbed a chunk of the resort to have themed rooms - either Nemo or Pirates of the Caribbean. It was a nice touch. It wasn't anything Earth-shattering, but it was nice. The trim along the top of the walls were murals of Nemo, Dori and other characters from the movie, as was the comforters on the beds. The curtains had a water/wave pattern to them, lending to the overall theme of the room. Even though the depth of the theming wasn't quite to the level of rooms such as those in the French Quarter, it still gave the room a novel charm and some personality.

The room was very much spacious enough. No complaints there at all. The bed was comfortable and the double sinks with the privacy curtain was definitely a welcome perk of this moderate-level hotel room.

It included a refrigerator, a sizable dresser and the standard coffee-maker (which was well-used the morning of the marathon). We also packed several meals for the 3 days and the fridge came in very handy.

This is what a beach looks like at 20 degrees.

Caribbean Beach has absolutely beautiful grounds.
The bright colors of the buildings are perfect for the Caribbean theme.

This was the little plaza/courtyard just outside of our room in Martinique.

A small, cute pool closer to our quarters.

We did brave the cold a couple of times to take a look around the grounds, but it was short-lived. The grounds are very well themed and there are tons of little secluded areas that I'd love to just relax in. The hammocks definitely looked lonely. So did the pools. And watercraft. Unfortunately, we happened to pick the coldest week central Floria has seen in decades for our weekend getaway to Caribbean Beach Resort. Oh well. However, we saw enough to make us want to come back in warmer weather and do it the right way the next time.


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