Today in Disney History, 1988: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Opens

by | Oct 1, 2023 | Disney History, Walt Disney World Resorts, WDW Blog

Today in Disney history, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort opened! The hotel was notable for being the first Moderate Resort on Disney property.

Exactly 17 years after the opening of Walt Disney World, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort opened to guests. The hotel was notable for being the first moderate-price resort available on Disney World property, and at its opening, it was one of the largest hotels in all of Florida. The expansive property features five island villages where guests can stay, including Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, and Trinidad. Today, the hotel is also noteworthy for being the hub for the Disney Skyliner.

Disney World Resort Renaissance

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort was part of a major expansion of accommodations offerings around Walt Disney World that took place while the company was being led by former CEO Michael Eisner

From the mid-1980s and well into the 1990s, Eisner led several major initiatives around Disney Parks and Resorts. Perhaps most notably, several of these changes focused on new thrill rides like the opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios) in 1994 and even greater expansions like the addition of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the launch of Disney Cruise Line, both in 1998. 

A Focus on New Hotels

Along with new rides and experiences, however, the Eisner years focused on increasing the quantity and variety of accommodations available for Guests staying at Walt Disney World. You may not have realized this if you have only visited Disney World in recent years, but the majority of the Resort’s hotels opened in 1988 or later.

When the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, the only hotels at the time included Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground opened about one month later, and Shades of Green (then the Golf Resort) came in 1973. All of the other Disney resorts we know today, however, would not open for another 15 years. 

Opening Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

In 1988, Caribbean Beach became the first moderate-level resort at Walt Disney World. As a moderate resort, Caribbean Beach continued the top-notch service guests had come to expect from Disney’s existing deluxe accommodations (and Fort Wilderness), on a more affordable budget. 

At the time, Caribbean Beach was one of the largest hotels in the state of Florida. The resort is designed with a check-in area somewhat separated from the main guest facilities housed in Old Port Royale, which include merchandise shops and dining. Outside of Old Port Royale, Guests stay in rooms in several different buildings and areas around the property themed to five Caribbean locales: Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, and Trinidad. 

A Massive Resort

Due to its sprawling layout, Caribbean Beach also operates an internal bus system to move Guests between buildings, recreational offerings (including six pools), and restaurants. 

how far in advance can i book my disney trip caribbean beach resort

Photo by Brett Svenson

With the exception of regular maintenance work, Caribbean Beach Resort remained largely unchanged until 2009 when almost 400 guest rooms in the Trinidad South building were converted to pirate-themed rooms. Drawing inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean (both the Magic Kingdom attraction and the film series), these guest rooms were refurbished with beds that resembled ships and furniture and decor to fit the theme.

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Today

In 2018, Caribbean Beach underwent major updates. Among these were a redesign of the front desk and concierge spaces at Old Port Royale and the addition of Sebastian’s Bistro, a new (and still underrated) restaurant that serves up a delicious Caribbean-inspired feast.

By the following year, the Disney Skyliner had officially opened offering even more reason to consider a stay at Caribbean Beach, along with Disney’s Riviera Resort, and value resorts like Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Caribbean Beach actually serves as the main hub of the Skyliner with easy access to all of the above resorts plus Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT via the International Gateway entrance. 

signage_caribbean-beach-resort-skyliner-station_disney-skyliner-map_sapp

Signage at the Caribbean Beach Resort Skyliner station. Photo by Laurie Sapp

The pirate rooms were recently discontinued at Caribbean Beach to prepare for a new theme inspired by “Under the Sea” to take over Trinidad South. The new rooms are set to open sometime this year, and we can’t wait to see the latest addition to Caribbean Beach!

 

Posts by Brittany DiCologero

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Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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Authored by
Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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