Deluxe

Wondering how Animal Kingdom Lodge stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

2901 Osceola Parkway
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-938-3000, Fax: 1-407-938-4799, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Animal Kingdom Lodge (occasionally referred to as The Lodge) is a Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are ten different room, suite, concierge class, and view configurations.  The Standard rooms are much cheaper than other Deluxe Resorts, except for the Wilderness Lodge which is similarly priced.  A Standard room with a parking lot view runs $240 during Value Season which is $45 less than the cheapest room at the Contemporary Resort and $170 less per night than the Grand Floridian’s least expensive room.  Compared to the Moderates, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is about $90 more per night.  The Lodge also offers several suite configurations that sleep up to eight and Kilimanjaro Club Level rooms with Concierge service.  In addition, there are the Jambo House and Kidani Village Villas, which will be covered in full in the Villas section.

Location: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is located adjacent to the Animal Kingdom theme park.  It is the furthest resort from the Magic Kingdom and a good distance away from Epcot and the Hollywood Studios by bus as well.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only Deluxe resort that is not located on a body of water, so there are no watercraft rentals or beaches.

Size:  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a long, narrow resort with a “kraal African-village landscape design—a semi-circle design popular in Africa which offers expansive views of the surrounding savanna and its many animal inhabitants.”  Basically, this means that Disney designed The Lodge to have as many rooms as possible overlook savannas.  There are 1,307 rooms in total, almost all of which have full balconies or patios.  About 1,000 rooms overlook one of the three savannas, leaving only 300 or so rooms with less desirable views.  Because of the long length of the buildings, rooms at the end of both Kudu Trail and Zebra Trail are about ten minutes away from the main building and bus stop.  In addition, as you approach the Animal Kingdom Lodge from the road, you will have no idea how large the resort actually is because the front looks like a small village, rather than a 1,300 room complex.

Room Amenities and Quality: Most of the Standard rooms are about 344 square feet and can accommodate up to four people.  Note that the size of the rooms is only 30 feet larger than those found at the Moderates and about 100 square feet less than comparable rooms at the Grand Floridian.  This is one reason why the resort is cheaper than the other Deluxes.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: two queen-size beds or one queen size bed and a set of bunk beds or one king size bed and a daybed, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with single sink, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.

Standard rooms have an African theme with handcrafted furniture, carved wooden headboards, colorful patchwork quilts, and hanging artwork.  There are rooms available with a queen bed and a bunk bed for two.  These rooms cost about $40 more per night than a room with two queen beds and are available with either a pool or savanna view.  Rooms with this setup may be beneficial for families with two children (or parents???) who do not want to sleep in the same bed.  This room setup is also available at the Wilderness Lodge.

The biggest complaint about the Animal Kingdom, other than its lengthy transportation times, is the poor lighting in the rooms.  While the dark ambient lighting fits the theme, it’s too dark, especially in the bathroom.  My recommendation would be to bring a makeup mirror with a light if you’re planning to apply makeup, otherwise it will be hard to see what you’re doing.  Overall, the room amenities, quality, and size are on par with the Moderate resorts more so than the other Deluxes.

Theme and Layout: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is like no other resort in the world.  Set on 43 acres of African savanna, The Lodge is home to more than 30 species of African wildlife, over 100 Sand Live Oak trees, and 35,000+ shrubs.  There are about 250 animals spread out over the four savannas.  Disney constructed the savannas specifically for the Animal Kingdom Lodge and they are entirely separate from the Animal Kingdom theme park.  Each of the animals makes it home on the savanna and they sleep, roam, and eat many of their meals right on the land.  They are fed and checked on by staff in separate buildings as well, but the animals are usually available for viewing.

Jambo House, the Animal Kingdom’s main building, is one of the most magnificent lobbies at Disney World.  If you have seen the lobbies at the Polynesian or the Grand Floridian then you know this is no small feat.  Jambo House is six stories tall and features a gigantic 50-foot tall curved picture window that spans the entire back wall of the lobby.  There are comfortable lounge areas, magnificent carved wooden sculptures, beautiful African art, and a large mud fireplace as well.  It is truly amazing and it’s worth taking a trip to see even if you aren’t staying at the resort.

Pool: At about 11,000 square feet (equivalent to eight Olympic size pools put together), the Animal Kingdom’s Uzima pool is the second largest single pool of any resort.  Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club is a larger overall complex, but it’s technically more than one pool.  Uzima features a 67 foot long slide, zero-depth entry, and is surrounded by large canopy trees and Florida palms.  It’s a beautiful area and fits in with the overall theme of The Lodge perfectly.  However, this is also the only resort without a quiet pool.  On the plus side, it does have two hot tubs.

Transportation: Of the Deluxe resorts, the Animal Kingdom has the most limited transportation options.  Service is by bus only.  On the plus side, it does not share buses with any other resort so all trips are direct.  The problem is that The Lodge is the furthest resort away from the Magic Kingdom and not much closer to either Epcot or the Hollywood Studios.

The times below are calculated after the bus leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios: about 15 minutes
Epcot: about 15minutes
Animal Kingdom: less than 10 minutes
Magic Kingdom: about 20 minutes

Best Rooms: Of course, suites located in the Jambo House are the best rooms at the resort, but that doesn’t do most of us any good because they cost upwards of $3,000 per night. As far as Standard Rooms are concerned, my recommendation would be to try to get the third floor of either the third or fourth building on the Zebra Trail side looking inward at the savanna.  I know that sounds a little complicated, but let me explain.  First of all, if you’re going to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge then you should strongly consider upgrading to a Savanna View.  I don’t usually advocate view upgrades, but the whole purpose of staying at The Lodge is to view the animals, not overlook the parking lot.  The upgrade cost is a minimum of $70 more per night, but in this case it’s worth it.  You’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful savanna and the many animals whenever it’s convenient.  It’s difficult to beat waking up in the morning, preparing a cup of coffee, and watching giraffes stroll across wide open savanna.  Outside of Africa it just isn’t possible anywhere else.

Second, looking inward at the Arusha Savanna is the best of the Savanna Views.  Some of the rooms in Ostrich Trail are technically Savanna View rooms, but they overlook a much smaller piece of land and are not preferable.  Third, Zebra Trail rooms are on the same side as the pool area and restaurants, which means shorter walks.  Fourth, rooms on the third floor have the best overall view.  Fourth floor rooms are Concierge Level and Fifth and Sixth Level rooms are reserved for Disney Vacation Club Members which means there are no Standard rooms on those floors.  The third floor is actually ideal because it will allow you to get a nice panoramic view of the entire savanna while still being low enough to the ground so you can see the features of the animals and shrubbery better.  Rooms on the second floor have an even more detailed look at the ground, but are too low to get a nice overview of the entire savanna.  Fifth, the view from rooms in the third, fourth, and fifth buildings away from the Jambo House are not hindered by the Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook which clips the view from the first and second building on either the Kudu Trail or Zebra Trail sides.  The view from the fifth building out is actually the best if you don’t mind walking the extra distance to the Jambo House, bus station, and restaurants.

Check out http://new.disneyecho.emuck.com/pics/AKLMap.jpg for a great quality map.

On-Site Dining Options: The Animal Kingdom has a variety of outstanding dining choices, including the Boma Buffet, Jiko Signature Restaurant, and the newer Sanaa located in the Kidani Village.  Boma is one of the most popular buffets at Disney World and serves a variety of traditional African dishes as well as more Americanized dishes for breakfast and dinner.  Be sure to check out the excellent soups and a zebra dome for dessert.  If you aren’t staying at The Animal Kingdom Lodge then you might try Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom Park instead.  Tusker House serves similar food and is more convenient than Boma.  On the other hand, a meal at Boma is an excellent excuse to visit this beautiful resort.

Jiko – The Cooking Place is the Animal Kingdom’s Signature Restaurant and costs two table service credits on the Dining Plan.  It’s not outrageously priced, with most entrées in the $30-$40 range.  Food and service are both excellent.  The emphasis is on beef, chicken, fish, and pork rather than distinctly African dishes.  I would suggest the barbecue chicken flat bread, either the short ribs or filet mignon, and Jiko Trio for dessert.  The wine list is extensive and many of the serversare also sommeliers so be sure to ask about wine pairings if that’s of interest.  Like most other Signature Restaurants, Jiko is only open for dinner.

Sannaa is the newest restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and is located in the Kidani Village, which is about a 10 minute walk away from the Animal Kingdom lobby.  The restaurant overlooks the savanna so I would suggest requesting a window table.  Sanaa, which means “work of art” in Swahili, “serves African cuisine with Indian flavors,” but it seems like the emphasis is on the Indian flavors rather than authentic African cuisine.  Food is freshly prepared and service is usually attentive.  I would suggest the Indian-style bread service for an appetizer and any of the Tandoori entrées if you don’t like your food spicy.  If you’re staying at the Animal Kingdom then I would definitely consider a trip over to Sanaa as it is one of the best new restaurants at Disney.

Mara, the resort’s counter service, offers several more interesting options than other resort counter services, including a variety of flatbread pizzas, pita sandwiches, and salads.  Waits for food are longer than average, especially during peak meal times.  While nothing particularly special, Mara is a convenient meal if you find yourself at the resort and in the mood for a quicker and cheaper meal than you would get at Sanaa or Jiko.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who upgrade to a savanna view and plan to spend time enjoying the animals from their balcony.  People who will appreciate the remoteness and tranquility of the resort.

Worst For: Those who want to be close to the action.  People expecting the same amenities and room size as the other Deluxe resorts.  Those who enjoy water recreation activities.  Families of five.

Summary of Key Points: Along with the Wilderness Lodge, the Animal Kingdom is one of the more “Moderate” Deluxes.  The room size, at 344 square feet, is only about 30 feet larger than the Moderates and about 100 feet smaller than the Deluxes on the monorail system (Polynesian, Contemporary, Grand Floridian).  At about $90 more per night than the Moderates and $170 less per night than the Grand Floridian, the prices reflect its more Moderate status.  Also like the Moderates, Standard rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge only sleep four people, compared to five at most other Deluxes.  Finally, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is connected to the World via bus only and it is the furthest resort away from the Magic Kingdom and almost as far to Epcot and the Hollywood Studios.

The comparisons to Moderate resorts cease when we begin to examine the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s theme, architecture, and savanna views.  Jambo House, The Lodge’s main building, is absolutely spectacular and one of the best at Disney World.  The expansive five-story tall picture window overlooking 30+ acres of African savanna is like nothing else in the world.  The feature pool, at 110,000 square feet, is the largest of any resort at Disney.  While there is no quiet pool, the feature pool’s size is adequate and there are fewer “pool hoppers” here due to The Lodge’s remote location.

Undoubtedly, the most compelling reason to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the view of the savannas and animals.  With 40 acres of land, 250+ animals, and 35,000+ shrubs, there is plenty to see.  A Savanna View room is almost a requirement.  If you aren’t interested in the $70 per night upgrade from a Standard View then I would suggest saving the $160 per night and staying at a Moderate resort or paying a similar rate and staying closer to the Parks at the Wilderness Lodge.  You can visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge and enjoy the views of the animals from the observation decks for free.  In fact, this is exactly what I would recommend doing if you’re staying elsewhere.  Since the Animal Kingdom usually closes at around 5pm, getting on a bus and traveling to the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a quick trip that offers spectacular views several outstanding dining options.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 7th out of 8

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Wondering how the Beach Club Resort stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

1800 Epcot Resorts Boulevard

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-934-8000, Fax: 1-407-934-3850, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Beach Club is a Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are nine different room, concierge, suite, and view configurations with prices ranging from $340 per night for a Standard Room with a Standard View during Value Season all the way up to $2,610 per night for the Newport Presidential Suite during Holiday Season.  There are two available views for Standard Rooms.  Standard View rooms have a view of the parking lot, roof, or garden and cost between $340 during Value Season and $550 during Holiday Season.  Water or Pool View rooms have a view of Crescent Lake or the resort’s quiet pool and cost between $420 and $615 per night.  Club Level with Concierge Service starts at $470 per night.

Location: The Beach Club is to Epcot what the Contemporary Resort is to the Magic Kingdom.  In other words, the Beach Club is within an easy ten minute walk of Epcot’s World Showcase entrance (also known as the International Gateway).  In addition, the Beach Club is just a quick boat ride away from the Hollywood Studios, within walking distance of the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, within walking distance of the Boardwalk with its restaurants and activities, and within walking distance of its sister resort, the Yacht Club.  Guests can also walk directly to the Hollywood Studios, but that is about a 20 minute walk.  The Beach Club sits on man-made Crescent Lake and features a beautiful beach.

Size: With only 576 rooms, the Beach Club is one of the smallest Disney resorts.  All rooms in the Beach Club are inside one building that stands five stories high.  The walk to the lobby or bus stop should not exceed ten minutes from even the most remote rooms.

Room Amenities and Quality:  Most of the Standard rooms are about 380 square feet and can accommodate up to five people.  This is about 70 feet larger than Moderate rooms and 40-60 feet smaller than Standard rooms at the Monorail Deluxes.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with double sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.  There are a number of possible bed configurations.  Your room will either have one queen bed and one day bed, two queen beds and no day bed, two queen beds and one day bed, one king bed and no day bed, or one king bed and one day bed.   I would note your preference when you make your reservation and follow up with the resort by phone or fax about three days before your stay.  Unlike the Yacht Club, not all rooms have balconies or patios.

The Beach Club completed a room refurbishment project at the end of 2008.  All rooms were upgraded with new beds, linens, televisions, and furnishings.  The rooms are tastefully decorated in “salmon” and light green with a beach club themed bedspread, headboard, and decent wooden furniture.  The rooms are not as elegantly themed as the Grand Floridian or as modern as the Contemporary, but they are relatively large and laid out well.  Housekeeping is also excellent at both the Yacht Club and Beach club, which is even more important than fancy furniture or artwork.

Theme and Layout: The Beach Club is styled to look like a New England seaside beach resort at the turn of the 20th century.  The familiar architecture, coupled with the pleasant soft blue and white color palette, makes the Beach Club one of the most aesthetically pleasing resorts to look at from the outside.  However, the inside of the resort is not particularly awe-inspiring, with minimal details and a smaller than average lobby and check-in area.  The lobby is also busy during meal time because the entrance to the popular Cape May restaurant is located inside of it.

Unlike most other Disney resorts, all of the guestrooms are located in one building.  The advantage is that the walk from your room to the main building or bus stop will be primarily inside and air-conditioned.  The downside is that rooms near the end of either wing are about 10 minutes away from the bus stop, which is above average for a Deluxe.  In addition, the guestrooms are down halls that are somewhat maze-like in nature.  It’s not just a single hallway with rooms on either side.  All of the twists and turns can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for most guests to find their way.  The resort shares many of its amenities with the Yacht Club, including its feature pool, counter service restaurant, and marina.  Although the marina is officially “shared,” it’s much closer to the Yacht Club and guests will have to walk five to ten minutes to get on the boat.

Generally speaking, the Beach Club is considered to be more “kid-friendly” and relaxed than the Yacht Club and you will see more families staying here.  Considering the prices, size, and themes are similar, there really isn’t much of a difference between the two.  Nonetheless, for one reason or another, families tend to prefer the Beach Club and adult couples or families with older children tend to stay at the Yacht Club.  Both resorts welcome kids and adults just the same and you shouldn’t feel out of place no matter which resort you choose.

Pool: Stormalong Bay, the feature pool complex that the Beach Club shares with the Yacht Club, is far and away the best pool area of any resort at Disney World.  Stormalong is a three acre, 750,000+ gallon water park, complete with an authentic sand bottom pool, several water slides, a lazy river for tubing, kiddie pools, and a life-size pirate shipwreck.   Guests are required to show their resort key card to gain entry, so there are no “pool hoppers” from other resorts.  If you’ve ever been to the Polynesian then you know how crowded the Volcano Pool can get when people who don’t belong fill it up.  In addition, there is a quiet pool on the other side of the resort that’s available for swimmers who would rather enjoy a more relaxing swim.

Transportation: Arguably, the Beach Club has the best location of any resort at Disney World (along with the Yacht Club and BoardWalk Inn).  While it’s difficult to rate it above the Monorail Resorts, it’s true that the Yacht Club is less than a ten minute walk to Epcot, less than a ten minute boat ride away from the Hollywood Studios, and within walking distance of the Swan resort, Dolphin resort, Yacht Club resort, Boardwalk, and Boardwalk Inn resort.  It’s the perfect location for anyone planning several meals at Epcot or those who enjoy the Hollywood Studios.  It’s not particularly far from the Animal Kingdom or Magic Kingdom either.  The downside is that there is no bus transportation to the front entrance of Epcot so guests will need to enter from the International Gateway, nearest to the World Showcase.

The times below are calculated after the bus or boat leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios by Boat: about 15 minutes (including the wait for Swan and Dolphin guests to board)

Hollywood Studios by Walkway: about 20 minutes

Epcot by Foot: about 10 minutes

Epcot by Boat: about 15 minutes (including additional stops)

Animal Kingdom: about 15 minutes

Magic Kingdom: about 20 minutes

Best Rooms: As you are probably aware, Disney charges more for “view upgrades,” like a lake or garden view instead of a parking lot view.  The problem is that their definition of a “water view” is a view of any body of water, including a swimming pool or hot tub.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider my condo in Las Vegas to have a “beautiful view of the water” because there’s a community swimming pool in the middle of it.  Water View rooms can cost as much as $100 more per night.  Since you won’t be able to guarantee what room you will be assigned until you check in at the resort, Water Views are in essence a $100+ per night gamble that you won’t be stuck on the second floor of the resort looking out at a kiddie pool.  This is the primary reason why I rarely recommend paying to upgrade to a better view.  You just don’t know what you’re going to get.

I bring this up now because the Beach Club offers a surprisingly few number of rooms with an actual view of Crescent Lake, considering the resort was built right on top of it.  Of those rooms with a view, many either don’t have balconies or have an extremely small balcony.  Paying $70+ per night to upgrade to a room with a view of a quiet pool and no balcony seems a little silly to me, so I wouldn’t recommend upgrading until you get to the resort and see what’s available.  Remember, even if you know what rooms are the best and request them, you aren’t guaranteed to be put there.

The best rooms at the Beach Club, with full balcony and a lake view, are: 2641, 2643, 2645, 2647, 3501, 3503, 3505, 3507, 3509, 3511, 3683, 3685, 3687, 3689, 3691, 3725, 3737, 3729, 3731, 3733, 3735, 3777, 3739, 3741, 3743, 3745, 3747, 3749, 3751, 3753, 3755, 3757, 3759, 3761, 3763, 3765, 3767, 3769, 3771, 3773, 3775, 3777, 3779, 3781, 3783, 3785, 3787, 3789, 3791, 3793, 3795, 5607, 5609, 5611, 5613, 5615, 5617, 5619, 5621, 5623, 5683, 5685, 5687, 5689, 5691, 5725, 5737, 5729, 5731, 5733, 5735, 5777, 5739, 5741, 5743, 5745, 5747, 5749, 5751, 5753, 5755, 5757, 5759, 5761, 5763, 5765, 5767, 5769, 5771, 5773, 5775, 5777, 5779, 5781, 5783, 5785, 5787, 5789, 5791, 5793, 5795.

The first number is the floor number and the second three digit number is the room number.  For example, room 5785 is room number 785 on floor five.  Rooms on floor five are Concierge level and cost extra.  When requesting a room, it’s best to request what you want, rather than specific room numbers.  If upgrading to a Water or Pool View room, request a room with a full balcony that directly overlooks Crescent Lake at the time of booking and follow up with the resort directly about three days before you check-in.

On-Site Dining Options: The Beach Club features a buffet restaurant, a casual sit-down burger and ice cream parlor, a counter service with a limited menu, and a poolside counter service that isn’t usually open after 6pm.  The Beach Club Marketplace is the best spot to refill your mug and grab a quick sandwich, but there isn’t much available other than that.  Hurricane Hanna’s Grill, located near Stormalong Bay, serves hamburgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, salads, and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks.  It’s okay for a quick bite, but I certainly wouldn’t plan a day around eating here.  You can also refill a mug at Hurricane Hanna’s, but the staff will fill it because there is no self-service dispenser.  Also, note that Hanna’s usually closes around 6pm.

Cape May is a Character Meal buffet for breakfast and features Minnie, Goofy, and Donald (no Mickey).  At $18.99 for adults and $10.99 for kids 3-9, it’s a relatively inexpensive Character Meal.  The selections are rather basic, but everyone should enjoy the Mickey waffles, breakfast pizza, and other traditional offerings.  Character interaction is generally above average and characters should spend enough time with your party to take photographs, sign autographs, and work their Disney magic.  Dinner has a “clam bake” theme and no characters are present.  The cost is $26.99 for adults and $12.99 for kids age 3-9, which is about average for Disney buffets.  The buffet features several seafood entrées, such as snow crab legs, peel and eat shrimp, clams with garlic butter, and Prince Edward mussels.  There is also prime rib, steak, BBQ ribs, a variety of salads, and other side dishes like corn on the cob and mashed potatoes.  The food is above average and there is a large and diverse selection so everyone should be satisfied.  The downside is that it may take longer than usual to be seated and service is not always the most attentive.  Since it’s a buffet, this means your glass might be empty for a while or old plates won’t be immediately removed.  It’s hit or miss, so you might also get an excellent server.  It depends more on how many tables the server is responsible for, rather than purposeful neglect.  Cape May is actually one of few traditional buffets I would recommend for both breakfast and dinner.  The crab legs, fried shrimp, and desserts are all excellent and everyone should find plenty of food to enjoy.  While it would be nice to have Mickey present for breakfast, I understand he can’t be everywhere.

Beaches and Cream is the resort’s casual sit-down restaurant.  It’s small, inexpensive, and wildly popular, mostly because of the fantastic ice cream selection.  Don’t be surprised if your wait time exceeds an hour.  Luckily, you can also get ice cream cones, sundaes, and milkshakes from a to-go window, so you can enjoy a limited selection without having to wait for a table.  Beaches is one of the most inexpensive sit-down restaurants at Disney, with a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and salads in the $8-$14 range.  This makes Beaches and Cream a good deal out of pocket, if you’re willing to wait, but not a terrific use of a table service credit on the Dining Plan.  The featured dessert here is the “Kitchen Sink” which is eight scoops of ice cream, a whole can of whipped cream, and some of every ice cream topping they carry.  It costs $23.99 and would probably be best to share (although I don’t judge if you want to try to consume it yourself).  The other desserts are fantastic as well, but I’m not sure I would wait the hour plus it takes to be seated unless it was late at night and I had nowhere else to be.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who plan to spend considerable time at the resort enjoying Stormalong Bay, the beaches, and watercraft rentals.  People who want to take advantage of the Beach Club’s location within walking distance of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Yacht Club, Swan, Dolphin, and Boardwalk.

Worst For: Those on a budget.  People that don’t swim, don’t plan to take advantage of the location and dining options, or have children that will not appreciate the theme.

Summary of Key Points The Beach Club’s location is one of the most convenient at Disney World, which is a key advantage if you plan to spend a lot of time enjoying what Epcot has to offer.  The rooms have been recently renovated, and while not particularly eye-popping, are themed tastefully and housekeeping is usually excellent.  All of the guestrooms are in one building, which makes walks through the resort more pleasant when the weather is poor outside.  The downside is that rooms at the end of the wings are relatively far away from the restaurants and main lobby.  Also, rooms sometimes have an odd bed configuration.  Some rooms have daybeds while others do not.  It’s best to request a daybed if it’s a feature you want or need at the time of reservation and follow up with the resort directly via phone or fax three or so days before you’re scheduled to check in.  Finally, many of the “Water or Pool” view rooms do not have a view that justifies the increased cost.  See above for rooms with the best view, but since it isn’t possible to guarantee the room you will be staying in until you arrive, paying for the upgrade is a gamble.  You might want to hold off until you check in and see what rooms are available before you commit to the costly upgrade.

Other than its location, the resort’s key asset is its feature pool complex, Stormalong Bay.  Stormalong is like no other resort pool area at Disney World and probably one of the best resort pool complexes in the United States.  Spanning three acres and filled with over 750,000 gallons of water, Stormalong offers several pools, water slides, Jacuzzis, kiddie pools, and a lazy river for inner tubing.  On top of that, the pool has a sand bottom and there is a life-size replica of a ship wreck with a kiddie pool inside of it and a giant waterslide that feeds back into the main pool.  Since guests are required to show their room key to gain admittance, there are also no “pool hoppers” from other resorts unfairly hogging space like there is at the Polynesian or other popular pool areas.

The Beach Club is generally considered to be the Yacht Club’s more casual neighbor.  It’s a beautiful resort and its location and pool complex are hard to beat.  I would recommend it to any family that plans to eat several meals at Epcot and the surrounding resorts as well as spend some time relaxing and enjoying the resort’s amenities.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 3rd out of 8

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Wondering how the Boardwalk Inn stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

2101 Epcot Resorts Boulevard
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-939-5100, Fax: 1-407-939-5150, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The BoardWalk Inn is a Deluxe resort, Disney’s most expensive resort class.  There are nine different room, suite, concierge, and view configurations with prices ranging from $340 per night for a Standard room with a Standard View during Value Season to $2,780 for the two-bedroom Presidential Suite during Holiday Season.  Overall, the pricing is almost identical to the nearby Yacht and Beach Club.  There are only two view types for Standard rooms – Standard and Water.  Water View rooms cost an additional $85 to $110 per night and provide views of Crescent Lake and the BoardWalk.  Club Level with Concierge Service starts at $470.

Location: The BoardWalk Inn, along with the Beach Club and Yacht Club, has one of the best locations at Disney World.  It’s within walking distance of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Beach Club Resort, Yacht Club Resort, Swan Resort, and Dolphin Resort.  In addition, there is a free boat ride to all of those locations as well.  Another key asset is that it’s located right on the BoardWalk, which is a quarter mile stretch of land that features a variety of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.  The Boardwalk Inn is also centrally located in the middle of the Walt Disney property, which means bus rides to the Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are relatively short as well.

Size: The BoardWalk Inn is actually the smallest resort at Disney World, with only 380 rooms.  That’s 2,500 less than the Pop Century and about 500 less than the Polynesian.  There is also a 20,000 foot convention center attached to the resort and the BoardWalk Villas add another 532 studios and suites to the mix.

Room Amenities and Quality: Most of the Standard rooms are about 390 square feet and can accommodate up to five people.  This is about 80 feet larger than Moderate rooms and 30-50 feet smaller than Standard rooms at the Monorail Deluxes.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with two sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.  All Standard rooms either have two queen beds or one king bed and many also have a day bed.  I would recommend requesting a day bed at the time of reservation and then confirming your request with the resort directly about three days before your check-in date if you would like a room with one.

The Boardwalk completed a room refurbishment in 2008.  The odd flower and plant bedspreads and drapes are gone, in favor of classier furnishings similar to those found at the Grand Floridian.  While the room décor doesn’t fit in well with the “colorful” atmosphere of the resort, I think most guests will appreciate the more subtle and relaxing white and yellow color palette.  The bathroom counters are marble, the headboard and armoire are made of high quality light and dark woods, and the old tube televisions have been replaced by new flat-screens.

Theme and Layout: According to Disney, the BoardWalk Inn “captures the charm, whimsy and elegance of 1940s Atlantic City.”  Indeed, the resort’s façade faces the Boardwalk area and features gorgeous architecture, bright colors, and a touch of class.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the fun immediately after setting foot outside on the BoardWalk promenade.  The interior of the resort is less colorful, but the lobby is still well appointed with hardwood floors, colorful rugs, and fine furniture.

The BoardWalk Inn sits on top of several restaurants and shops and blends in perfectly with the overall Disney BoardWalk area.  Unfortunately, the resort features a similar layout to the other Epcot resorts.  This equates to long, maze-like hallways that can be somewhat confusing to traverse.  Luckily, with so few rooms, the walk from the lobby to the furthest rooms out should only be about five minutes.  Although it doesn’t look like it from the front, the BoardWalk Inn and Villas are actually connected to one another and share amenities, including pool areas.  Luna Park Pool, the resort’s feature pool, is actually behind the BoardWalk Villas rather than the Inn.  The transportation dock, where guests board boats to travel around the World, is situated in the middle of the two resort areas.  Finally, the BoardWalk Inn is closer to Epcot by foot than the Villas and the Villas are closer to the Hollywood Studios by foot.

Pool: A quick word of warning to those with a fear of clowns: the 200 foot water slide sends guests plummeting through the mouth of a large clown face.  If that sounds like a panic attack waiting to happen, you might be better off staying elsewhere.  With that out of the way, the slide is modeled to look like a wooden roller coaster and is one of the best slides at any Disney resort.  As a whole, the pool isn’t as extravagant as Stormalong Bay at the Yacht or Beach Club, but it’s more of a relaxing swimming experience which may be more appealing to adults who aren’t interested in dodging hundreds of kids.  The two quiet pools are pleasant and less crowded than the ones found at other resorts as well.  The BoardWalk also does a good job of keeping “pool hoppers” out, which means more rooms for guests.

Transportation: The BoardWalk Inn is less than a ten minute walk to Epcot, less than a ten minute boat ride or 20 minute walk to the Hollywood Studios, and within walking distance of the Swan resort, Dolphin resort, Beach Club resort, Yacht Club resort, and right on top of the BoardWalk.  It’s the perfect location for anyone planning several meals at Epcot or those who enjoy the Hollywood Studios.  It’s not particularly far from the Animal Kingdom or Magic Kingdom either.  The downside is that there is no bus transportation to the front entrance of Epcot so guests will need to enter from the International Gateway, nearest to the World Showcase.  It’s also common for the Boardwalk Inn to share buses with several of the other Epcot area resorts which can add significant additional transit time as well.

The times below are calculated after the bus or boat leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios by Boat: about 15 minutes (including the wait for Swan and Dolphin guests to board)
Hollywood Studios by Walkway: about 20 minutes
Epcot by Foot: about 15 minutes
Epcot by Boat: about 15 minutes
Animal Kingdom: about 15 minutes
Magic Kingdom: about 20 minutes

Best Rooms: The quietest rooms at the BoardWalk Inn are generally Standard View rooms overlooking the gardens.  If a view overlooking the BoardWalk is of little interest or you plan to spend little time on the balcony, then you should request a room in that section.  Few rooms overlook the parking lot, so chances are good you’ll have a garden or pool view.  Other than Magic Kingdom View rooms at the Contemporary or Savanna View rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the BoardWalk Inn is really the only other view I would strongly consider upgrading.  Sitting out on the balcony gazing out over the lake during IllumiNations at Epcot is wonderful and watching people have fun on the BoardWalk and lake is nice as well.  Unfortunately, there are few rooms that look out directly over the BoardWalk and it is impossible to guarantee you will be placed there.  If you do reserve a Water View room, at the time of your reservation make sure to request a room directly facing the BoardWalk and looking out over Crescent Lake.  About three days before your arrival follow up with the resort directly by phone.  If you do check-in at the resort and you’re placed in a different location, you can always request to be moved.  Although they can’t always accommodate you, it never hurts to be persistent.  The downside to these Water View rooms is that guests will be out enjoying the BoardWalk area (and making noise) late into the night and they may be loud.

On-Site Dining Options: The biggest downside to dining at the BoardWalk Inn is the fact that it doesn’t have its own counter service location.  Although Epcot is close and there is plenty of casual and fine sit-down dining available, sometimes guests may just want a quick burger and a Diet Coke.  This isn’t a convenient option at the BoardWalk Inn.  The BoardWalk Bakery does have some fantastic breakfast options, but it’s tiny and service is slow.  The best casual restaurant in the BoardWalk area is the ESPN Club, which has many sandwiches and burgers in the $10-$12 range.  It does get loud and busy, but so do most Disney restaurants.  The Big River Grille also serves inexpensive (more so for lunch) food and has a nice location with tables outside near the BoardWalk.  I wouldn’t recommend Big River for dinner, but it’s fine for an inexpensive lunch.  If it were me, I would prefer to walk to Epcot with my Park Hopper ticket and have lunch or dinner there, but the BoardWalk may be more convenient.

“Kouzzina by Cat Cora” replaced Spoodles on the BoardWalk.  It’s open for breakfast and dinner and features a Mediterranean (Greek) menu.  Prices are moderate for breakfast, in the $11-12 range, and dinner entrées are between $20 and $30.  You might recognize the chef’s name, Cat Cora, from the Food Channel’s Iron Chef Television show or the fact she was invited to cook at the White House for President Obama.  Unfortunately, her restaurant is not quite as spectacular as I’m sure the chef is.  Be sure you allot enough time for the meal as well because service is usually slow.  If you like Greek food then this will probably be a better meal, but if you’re unsure or know that you don’t like Greek then there are better options.

Flying Fish Cafe is the BoardWalk’s Signature Restaurant and it costs two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan.  Only open for dinner, Flying Fish is expensive, with most entrées in the $30-$40 range and most appetizers over $15.  Flying Fish is one of the better Signature restaurants at Disney World and it should be considered right along with other favorites like the California Grill and Narcoossee’s.  It’s also far and away the best restaurant on the BoardWalk.  As you might expect, the menu emphasizes fish and seafood, but there are also chicken, steak, and pasta dishes available.  The Potato Wrapped Red Snapper is a favorite and arguably the best entrée on the menu.  The restaurant’s décor evokes a more fun and noisy atmosphere, which is somewhat surprising considering the quality of the items on the menu and high cost of the meal.  This makes Flying Fish less of a romantic or intimate experience.  The open kitchen is fun and if you like watching chefs prepare the food then consider requesting a seat overlooking it.  Overall, Flying Fish is a pleasant meal with excellent food and service – just don’t bank on a fine-dining atmosphere.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who plan to spend considerable time at the resort, pool, and the BoardWalk area.  People who want to take advantage of the location within walking distance of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, and Dolphin.

Worst For: Those on a budget.  People with an irrational (or rational) fear of clowns.  Those who plan to spend most of their time at the Magic Kingdom might want to stay at one of the Monorail Resorts.

Summary of Key Points: The BoardWalk Inn has a terrific location right on the BoardWalk.  It’s hard to beat a five minute walk to Epcot or an easy boat ride to the Hollywood Studios.  With street performers in the evening, several lounges and clubs, and numerous restaurants, the BoardWalk is one of the most fun areas at Disney World outside of the Parks.  The Inn’s exterior and theming are gorgeous and the rooms overlooking the BoardWalk are some of the best at Disney.  Unfortunately, there are only about 40 rooms with that view and it’s impossible to guarantee you’ll be placed in one.

The BoardWalk Inn has several nice pools, although the clown at the end of the slide may frighten a few people.  The 200 foot long water slide, designed to look like a wooden roller coaster, is one of the best slides at Disney.  The quiet pools are also less busy than those found at other resorts, which is beneficial if you actually want to swim around, rather than just stand in water near other people.  There is no counter service location at the BoardWalk which can make it inconvenient if you want a quick meal or snack.  The ESPN Club and Big River Grille serve relatively cheap burgers and sandwiches, but service won’t be as fast or inexpensive as a good counter service.  The nearby bakery serves excellent breakfast items, but lines are long and it’s a tiny location which makes it a poor choice if you’re in a hurry.  Kouzzina serves a tasty breakfast, but dinner service is slow and the menu may not appeal to those who don’t like Greek food.  Flying Fish is an excellent, albeit expensive, Signature restaurant that specializes in seafood.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for a casual meal with higher quality food than “regular” restaurants.  It’s not a particularly intimate or romantic location so I wouldn’t recommend it if that’s what you’re looking for.

I should also take a moment to say that the service isn’t as friendly or knowledgeable as it is at other resorts.  While I don’t usually make sweeping negative generalizations like this, it’s worth pointing out that more guests than usual report sour experiences when dealing with staff members.  While it’s unlikely that you’ll run into serious problems, it’s something to take into consideration when choosing the BoardWalk Inn over the Yacht or Beach Club.

Overall, I usually recommend the Beach and Yacht Club over the BoardWalk Inn.  The Beach and Yacht Club have the better pool, friendlier service, and are generally quieter and more relaxing.  The BoardWalk Inn is great for those who want to be right on the BoardWalk or aren’t interested in Stormalong Bay. There just isn’t anything particularly special about the BoardWalk Inn that makes it better.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 8th out of 8

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Wondering how the Contemporary Resort stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

4600 North World Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1-407-824-1000, Fax: 1-407-824-3539, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Contemporary is a Disney Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are 18 different categories of rooms, suites, and views with prices ranging between $285 for a Garden Wing room during Value Season all the way up to $2,950 for the Presidential Suite during Holiday Season.  The Garden Wing rooms at the Contemporary are $80 less per night than the Polynesian and $125 less than the cheapest room at the Grand Floridian, making the Contemporary the least expensive Monorail Resort.  On the other hand, Tower rooms at the Contemporary cost a minimum of $400 per night, which is right in line with the other Monorail Deluxes.

Location: The Contemporary is the only resort where you can actually walk to the Magic Kingdom via a direct walkway.  In addition, the Contemporary also shares Bay Lake, the only natural body of water at Disney World, with Fort Wilderness Camp Ground and the Wilderness Lodge.  Along with the other Monorail Resorts, the Contemporary is about 30 minutes away from the Animal Kingdom by bus.

Size:  The Contemporary is actually three buildings: the 14-story Tower, the three-story South Garden Wing, and the new “Bay Lake Tower” which opened on August 4, 2009.  “The Tower” is the 14-story A-Frame building that most people envision when they think of the Contemporary.  The monorail actually passes through and stops at the resort on the fourth floor concourse.  All of the restaurants, shops, and the check-in area are located inside of the Tower.  The Tower houses about 500 rooms, all of which have balconies.  The South Garden Wing is a separate building and houses about 250 rooms.  Only a couple of the Garden Wing rooms have full balconies; all other rooms either have a patio or a small terrace about one foot wide that guests can step out on, but it is not enough room for a chair or much else.  The new Bay Lake Tower is attached to The Tower and is only accessible via a key card given to Disney Vacation Club guests staying in that section.  There are an additional 295 two-bedroom equivalent villas in the Bay Lake Tower.

Room Amenities and Quality: There are a variety of room types available in both the Garden Wing and Tower.  The Garden Wing offers Standard View, Garden View, Deluxe (there are only three of these), Hospitality Suite, and One Bedroom Suite.  The Tower offers more than ten Concierge level room and suite types along with the more common Lake View and Theme Park View  Standard rooms.  All of the rooms were renovated in 2007 with an all new color palette, large mounted flat screen television, wood panel accents, and upscale bathrooms with a sliding pocket door, marble countertops, and flat-bottom sinks.  Although the Contemporary is just as old as the Polynesian, the quality and style of the Contemporary’s rooms far exceeds those found at the Polynesian.

Standard rooms average about 420 square feet, which makes them some of the largest on property.  Most rooms can accommodate up to five people, with the exceptions being the Garden Wing Deluxe room which sleeps four and the Standard King rooms which sleep only three.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: two queen-size beds or one king size bed, day bed, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ( $10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with two sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.

Lake View rooms in the Tower start at $400 per night during Value Season and go all the way up to $595 during the Holiday Season.  For an additional $40-$60 per night, you can upgrade to a Tower room with a view of the Magic Kingdom.  These rooms have a fantastic view of Wishes, the evening fireworks show, as well as any other fireworks shows that may occur during your stay (be sure to turn on the television to channel 20 to hear the Wishes soundtrack as the fireworks go off).  Generally, rooms on higher floors have better views, but since there are no obstacles in your way, the view from the sixth floor is 98% as good as a view from the 11th floor (the 12th and 14th floor are only for concierge level guests).  I usually don’t recommend upgrading to a “better view,” but the Contemporary is one exception.  While the view of Bay Lake is pretty, there are few more magical places at Disney World than watching the fireworks with your loved ones from the balcony of your room at the Contemporary.

Garden Wing rooms have interiors just as nice as the Tower rooms, but the views are much less spectacular.  Standard View rooms overlook the parking lot or trees.  Garden View rooms feature views the swimming pool, garden, marina, or a limited view of the Lake.  Garden Wing rooms are the most economical choice at the Contemporary, at more than $100 less than the Tower.  If you don’t plan to spend much time at the resort, but want to take advantage of its location, then the Garden Wing may be your best choice.

Theme and Layout: The biggest complaint guests have about the Contemporary is its lack of a theme.  Although it remains one of the largest A-Frame buildings in the world, nothing about its exterior is particularly “contemporary.”  It basically looks like a tall concrete structure built at a slant.  On top of that, the pools are entirely void of a theme and the common areas inside of the resort aren’t much more exciting.  The lack of a coherent theme is unfortunate, because it’s really the only thing holding the Contemporary back from being the favorite resort of more guests.

Guests staying in the Tower are just a short walk and an elevator ride away from the monorail station, check-in area, restaurants, and shops inside the Tower.  Guests will have to ride the elevator down to the first floor and exit the Tower to get to the marina or pool.  On the other hand, the Garden Wing is detached from the Tower and rooms found inside of it are further away from the monorail station and check-in, but also closer to the pool and marina.  The Garden Wing is generally quieter and less busy because there’s no reason to visit it unless your room is located inside.  The fourth floor of the Contemporary Tower can get loud and busy, but it rarely disturbs guests in their room.  I would recommend requesting a room on the highest floor possible to minimize noise.

Pool: There are two pools at the Contemporary, both of which are in back and adjacent to the marina.  The main pool features a water slide that begins 17 feet in the air and the quiet pool is shallow all along the outside and gets deeper moving into the center. Unfortunately, the pool area isn’t themed and neither pool is more than “just a pool.”  The large size is nice, but it’s a far cry from the Polynesian and its 40 foot tall volcano and waterfall or the three acre pool complex found at the Yacht and Beach Club.  I’m not sure why Disney hasn’t done more with the space since 1971, but I suppose they would rather have it open instead of close it down and make it more exciting.  On the plus side, there are two hot tubs and a newly opened play area for children.

Transportation: The Contemporary is the closest resort to the Magic Kingdom and is on the Disney resort monorail line which easily connects it to the Ticket and Transportation Center, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Magic Kingdom.  There is also a direct walkway to the Magic Kingdom as well as boat service to the Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and Magic Kingdom.  Travel to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios is via bus.  Most of the time, the bus service will be shared with the other Monorail Resorts.

The times below are calculated after the bus, monorail, or boat leaves for its final destination.  If there are additional pickups at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian then it can take an additional 15+ minutes.

Hollywood Studios via Bus: about 15 minutes
Epcot via Resort Monorail then switch to Epcot Monorail: about 25 minutes, depending on how long it takes for the Epcot Monorail train to arrive.
Animal Kingdom via Bus: about 20 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Walking: about 10 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Monorail: about 15 minutes

Best Rooms: The Deluxes are a little bit different than the Moderates and Values because room location is less about knowing which room to request and more about paying extra for the additional benefits of a “good” room.  For example, Tower rooms with a Magic Kingdom View are much more preferable than a Garden Wing room with a view of the parking lot.  However, the price of the Garden Wing room is $285 and the price of the Tower room is $440 during the cheapest season.  That’s a difference of $155 per night, or $930 for a six night stay.  The question then becomes, is it worth upgrading?

My recommendation would either be to go “bargain basement” and book the Garden Wing Standard View or “go big” and get the Tower room with Magic Kingdom View.  It costs $45-$50 per night to upgrade from the Garden Wing Standard View to the Garden Wing Garden View and that upgrade isn’t really worth it since there’s no balcony to enjoy the slightly upgraded view.  On the other hand, it costs $40-$60 per night to upgrade from the Tower Lake View to Tower Magic Kingdom View.  That upgrade is more desirable because you’ll be able to watch Wishes, the evening fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, from your balcony.  The Lake View Tower rooms are fine too, but if you’re going to spend $400+ a night, you might as well spend 10% more and get a much more magical experience.

On-Site Dining Options: Like the other monorail resorts, the Contemporary Resort has some great or otherwise popular dining choices.  Chef Mickey’s is the most sought after character meal at Disney World.  I’m not entirely sure why that is, considering it’s expensive, character interaction is poor, and the food isn’t particularly good, but I assume it’s because people aren’t aware of the superior options (Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom, and Akershus at Epcot to name a few).   If you’re going to do Chef Mickey’s, I would recommend it for breakfast if you’re not in a hurry to get to the Parks one day.  Otherwise, there are better character meals and much better sit-down restaurants.

The Contempo Café is the resort’s counter service and it’s largely adequate.  Although it’s small and gets crowded during meal time, the menu is diverse enough that it should satisfy most guests.  There are better counter services at the Parks, but the Contempo is perfect if you need a quick meal or snack and don’t want to travel elsewhere.

The Wave is the Contemporary’s newest casual table service restaurant.  It focuses on sustainable agriculture and healthy, fresh food.  It’s on the expensive side with dinner entrées in the $20-$30 range, but the prices seem reasonable considering the high quality of food and excellent service.  Lunch is slightly cheaper and features more common entrées, like salads, sandwiches, and burgers.  Breakfast is served as well.  The décor in the check-in area is cool, but the theme is not carried into the main seating area.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at The Wave, but it’s an above-average restaurant, especially if prefer substance over style.

The Signature Dining restaurant at the Contemporary is the California Grill.  Located on the 15th floor, the restaurant is only accessible from a special elevator on the second floor to those with reservations.  The restaurant is popular because it overlooks the Magic Kingdom from the highest point at Disney World.  It’s best to request a window table at check-in, although they will tell you that they can’t promise anything.  Even if you don’t get a window table, there is a special platform for California Grill diners with an excellent view of Wishes, the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show.  Guests who finish their meal before Wishes may return with their receipt if they’ve left the restaurant and will be allowed back up.  Otherwise, you have to eat at the Grill to be able to access the platform.  I would suggest trying to get reservations for about an hour before Wishes is scheduled to start so you can be sure you are seated prior to the fireworks starting.  Unfortunately, the food and service at the California Grill are not as outstanding as they once were.  The restaurant also tends to be louder and less intimate than other Signature restaurants.  I would still recommend it because the view is outstanding and the food and service are well above average, but it’s not necessarily as special as it once was.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who want to take advantage of the resort monorail and close proximity to the Magic Kingdom.  People who prefer sleek room décor and Deluxe amenities to an extravagant theme.

Worst For: People who plan to spend most of their time at the Parks and don’t plan to dine at the Contemporary or monorail resorts.  People who prefer an exotic theme.

Summary of Key Points: Unfortunately, the Contemporary Resort is not particularly “contemporary.”  There’s nothing exciting about the architecture unless you have an uncle going on about how rare A-Frame buildings are and the fact that all of the rooms were built off-site and raised into position by cranes.  Now that you mention it, that is sort of cool, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the Contemporary is one of the least themed resorts on property.  Considering the exoticness of the Polynesian or the prestige of the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary is downright boring.  Luckily, the lack of style is only skin deep.  The guest rooms have been refurbished with more modern décor and furnishings, giving the Contemporary a more up-to-date feel.

Despite the lack of a theme, the Contemporary has several substantial advantages.  First, it is the most inexpensive of the monorail resorts.  Rooms start at $285, compared to $365 at the Polynesian and $410 at the Grand Floridian.  The Contemporary also boasts some of the best resort views in all of Disney World.  You may enjoy Wishes, the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, every night from the comfort of your Magic Kingdom View balcony or the 4th floor observatory.  On the opposite side of the resort, relish the magnificent sunrise or sunset over the water from your Lake View room.  Tower rooms are also just a short walk and elevator ride away from the resort’s restaurants, shops, front desk, and transportation optiona, making the resort one of the most convenient.  The Garden Wing, detached from the main Contemporary building, offers quieter rooms off the beaten path.  The walk to the monorail station or Chef Mickey’s is longer, but the Garden Wing is close to the pool and marina.  Finally, the Contemporary offers several of the most popular restaurants at Disney, including the exclusive California Grill and Chef Mickey’s, one of the most sought after character meal reservations.

I would recommend the Contemporary to anyone who appreciates substance over an elaborate theme.  If being whisked away by the exoticness of Polynesia or being surrounded by 50 foot tall statues of Buzz Lightyear is more important than convenience, large rooms, and elegant furnishings, then you might be better off trying a different resort.  Although the Contemporary’s Garden Wing is cheaper than other monorail resorts, prices for Tower rooms are in line with the Polynesian and Grand Floridian.  The convenient location of the Contemporary, coupled with the easy navigation of the resort, make it an attractive choice to anyone who plans to take advantage of what it has to offer.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 5th out of 8

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Wondering how the Grand Floridian Resort stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

4401 Grand Floridian Way
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-824-3000, Fax: 1-407-824-3186, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Grand Floridian is a Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are 20 different types of rooms, suites, views, and categories with prices ranging between $410 per night for a Garden View room during Value Season all the way up to $2,965 per night for the Two-Bedroom Grand Suite during the Holiday Season.  During Holiday Season, the Grand Floridian has 14 room types that cost more than $1,000 a night, making it the most expensive Deluxe resort.  The Grand Floridian is also the newest of the Monorail Resorts, having opened in 1988, 17 years after the Contemporary and Polynesian.

Location: The Grand Floridian was actually built on top of a man-made peninsula on Seven Seas Lagoon, near the Polynesian.  On the monorail, the Grand Floridian is the most convenient resort to the Magic Kingdom because it’s only one stop away.  Although the Grand Floridian is close to the Magic Kingdom, it is relatively far from Epcot and Hollywood Studios and one of the furthest resorts away from the Animal Kingdom.

Size:  The Grand Floridian is made up of the main building and five outlying guestroom buildings.  You will find the check-in area, restaurants, shops, suites, and concierge level rooms in the main building.  The Sugarloaf building also houses Concierge level rooms and has a separate Concierge lounge.  The other buildings, Sago Cay, Conch Key, Boca Chica, and Big Pine Key are made up of Standard guest rooms.  There are 900 rooms in all, which is about the same as the Contemporary and Polynesian, but relatively few compared to the nearly 3,000 found at the Pop Century Value resort.

Room Amenities and Quality: Most of the “Standard” rooms are about 440 square feet and can accommodate up to five people. Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: two queen-size beds or one king size bed, day bed, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, and bathroom with two sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.  Rollaway beds are available for free, which is cheaper than the usual $15 per night charge at other Deluxes.  Microwaves should also be available by request.

The rooms at the Grand Floridian are much more elegantly appointed than those found at the Polynesian.  Plus, almost all rooms have balconies or patios and all rooms have double sinks.  At an average of 440 feet, about 130 feet larger than the Moderates and 180 feet larger than the Values, the rooms have plenty of space for five people.  I prefer the newly refurbished rooms at the Contemporary because of their modern look, but there’s nothing wrong with the Victorian themed Grand Floridian and the room furnishings fit the overall theme of the resort well.

The most inexpensive rooms at the Grand Floridian are Garden View, which look inward at the resort and offer a view of the pool, marina, or courtyard.  Located on the opposite side of the hall are Lagoon View rooms, which overlook Seven Seas Lagoon.  The cost to upgrade from a Garden to a Lagoon View is between $65 and $95 per night depending on season.  As usual, the most expensive view type is the Magic Kingdom View, which cost $105-$155 more per night than the Garden View.  The Grand Floridian is considerably farther away from the Magic Kingdom than the Contemporary, so the view is not nearly as extraordinary.  Plus, at only five stories tall, the views form the Grand Floridian pale in comparison to rooms on the upper floors of the Contemporary.

Personally, I can’t justify the cost to upgrade from a Garden View to the Magic Kingdom View.  During Value Season, the Magic Kingdom View rooms cost $515 per night, compared to $530 for a Standard Concierge Level room in the Sugarloaf building.  For $530 (only $15 more) per night, you would get all of the additional Concierge benefits, including itinerary planning, increased chance of securing dining reservations, turndown service, in-room DVD player, newspaper delivery, and most importantly access to the lounge with “free” food and beverage service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  In my opinion, this is a much better way to spend the extra money.  If you want a view of the Magic Kingdom then you can walk down to the beach and relax in a lounge chair for no additional cost.

The Two Levels of Concierge Service: As if 20 different room categories wasn’t confusing enough, there are also two levels of Concierge service at the Grand Floridian – “Sugarloaf Club Level” and “Royal Palm Club Level.”  All guests staying in the main building receive access to the Royal Palm Club Level and all guests in the Sugarloaf building are limited to the Sugarloaf Club Level Lounge.  The two levels are basically the same, except the Royal Palm offers a larger, more luxurious lounge area.  Both lounges serve similar food and the rooms have nearly identical furnishings.  The price difference is mainly due to the convenience and exclusiveness of staying in the main building.  The Sugarloaf Level used to offer fewer food and drink options, but that has recently changed and the level of service is almost identical.

Theme and Layout: The Grand Floridian is Disney’s Flagship Resort and no expense was spared in its planning, construction, or decoration.  The inspiration for the resort came from the famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California and the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel in Belleair, Florida.  In addition, the buildings are named after islands in the Florida Keys.  The resort is extravagantly Victorian themed with red-gabled roofs, intricate gingerbread woodwork, and a five-story main building that features stained-glass domes, glistening chandeliers, and upscale Victorian era furnishings.  Like the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian features a gorgeous white sand beach where guests can relax and watch the Magic Kingdom’s evening fireworks.

The Grand Floridian has a reputation as being stuffy and not particularly kid friendly.  While it’s true that the Polynesian and Contemporary are more overtly friendly, the Grand Floridian doesn’t turn its nose up at children and they are perfectly welcome.  While some kids enjoy the Polynesian’s exotic atmosphere or the Contemporary’s fourth floor concourse, many other kids love the Grand Floridian’s opulence and the way the resort makes guests feel extra special.  It’s simply a matter of personal preference.

Pool: There are two pools at the Grand Floridian.  The quiet pool, which used to be the resort’s feature pool, is 300,000+ gallons and the largest of its kind.  The Grand Floridian’s feature pool has zero-depth entry, which is nice for kids, as well as a water slide and rockery with a waterfall.  The location near Seven Seas Lagoon is pristine, but overall it’s not as “cool” as the Volcano Pool at the Polynesian or even the pools at most Moderate resorts.  Nonetheless, the sheer size of the quiet pool and the elegant surroundings of the feature pool make it a pleasant and relaxing place to spend an afternoon swimming.

Transportation: The Grand Floridian is on the Disney resort monorail line which conveniently connects it to the Ticket and Transportation Center, Polynesian, Contemporary, and Magic Kingdom.  Located in the back of the resort is a marina with a scenic boat ride to the Magic Kingdom and Polynesian resort.  While not necessarily as fast as the monorail, it’s a fun ride that I would recommend trying at least once.  For Epcot, guests ride the resort monorail to the Transit Center and then switch monorail lines to the Express route.

Travel to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios is via bus.  Most of the time, bus service will be shared with at least one other resort.  The Grand Floridian is usually picked up and dropped off last which can equate to longer transit times coming back from the Parks and the strong possibility that it will be standing room only on the way to the Parks.  It isn’t so bad when the Grand Floridian shares buses with the Polynesian, but plan to spend an extra 15 minutes on the bus if it’s sharing with the Wilderness Lodge.  The Grand Floridian is about as far away as possible from the Animal Kingdom and not particularly close to Epcot or the Hollywood Studios either.  Unlike the Polynesian, it is not possible to walk to the Transit Center to get on the Express Epcot Monorail and there is no walkway to the Magic Kingdom like there is at the Contemporary.

The times below are calculated after the bus, monorail, or boat leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios via Bus: about 20 minutes
Epcot via Resort Monorail then switch to Epcot Monorail: about 35 minutes, depending on how long it takes for the Epcot Monorail train to arrive.
Animal Kingdom via Bus: about 25 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Monorail: about 5 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Boat: about 10 minutes

Best Rooms: The suites in the main building are the best rooms, but they’ll run you anywhere between $1,310 and $2,965 per night which is out of most people’s budgets.  Of the Standard rooms, I would recommend requesting a room in Big Pine Key.  It’s located nearest to the beach and quiet pool and about as close as the other buildings to the restaurants, monorail station, and buses.  There really isn’t a tremendous upside to any particular Standard room location since Disney charges extra for any upgraded furnishings or view.

Lodge Tower rooms cost almost as much as Magic Kingdom Views, sleep four instead of five, and have views of the courtyard or pool.  They are more expensive because they have a separate seating area, along with additional furniture, an extra television, and a private balcony.  At a minimum of around $500 per night, the extra space probably isn’t worth it.

On-Site Dining Options: The Grand Floridian has the most dining options of any resort at Disney World.  1900 Park Fare is a character buffet and serves breakfast and dinner.  Like most buffets, breakfast is generally better as far as food is concerned.  The characters at breakfast include Alice from Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, and Mary Poppins.  Dinner characters include Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and, Drizella (The Wicked Stepmother and her daughters from Cinderella).  Character interaction is usually great and most of the characters can’t be found at any other character meal.  Adults are $25 for breakfast and $36 for dinner, which makes this one of the most expensive buffets at Disney World.  Unfortunately, the food isn’t particularly good at dinner.  I would recommend it on the Dining Plan, but I would only visit for dinner if you’re particularly keen on meeting the characters.

Citricos and Narcoossee’s are both Signature Dining restaurants and cost two table service credits each on the Dining Plan.  Both are expensive, with entrées in the $30-$60 range.  Narcoossee’s is more expensive, with a menu predominantly made up of expensive seafood and cuts of steak.  Citricos is less expensive and features a variety of fish, steak, and chicken.  I would recommend Narcoosee’s on the Dining Plan, but it is one of the most expensive restaurants at Disney World out of pocket.  The food, service, and view are excellent.  If you’re looking for a special meal then Narcoossee’s would be a fantastic choice.  Citricos, while expensive, isn’t necessarily worth two table service credits based on the price.  However, the service and food are also excellent at Citricos; the menu just features less expensive options.  Overall, either would be a great choice, but Citricos makes more sense out of pocket and Narcoosse’s would be the better choice on the Dining Plan unless the Citricos menu is particularly appealing.

The Grand Floridian Café is the resort’s casual sit-down restaurant.  Breakfast and lunch are reasonably priced with a number of $11 breakfast entrées and sandwiches in the neighborhood of $12 for lunch.  Dinner is more expensive with most entrées over $20.  While a perfectly decent option, I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here and prefer it for a late lunch rather than dinner.

Gasparilla Grill and Games is the resort’s counter service.  It’s similar to the standard Disney counter service in the Parks with burgers, chicken nuggets, and a variety of sandwiches.  The Grand Floridian also serves afternoon tea between 2 and 4:30pm.  There are a variety of teas, pastries, and other options.  You can spend as little as $6 for a cup of tea or as much as $25 per person for tea, sparkling wine, and a variety of sandwiches, scones, and tarts.  Afternoon tea is a fun and relaxing way to spend an afternoon break from the Parks.

Finally, Victoria and Albert’s is the fanciest restaurant at Disney World.  I could write several pages about it, but for now I will just say that it is unrivaled by anything at Disney World and it’s on par with some of the best restaurants in the United States.  Dinner runs at least $125 per person and wine pairings are an additional $60 or more.  Jackets are required for men and women are required to dress fancy as well.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who have the money to stay at Disney’s flagship resort.  People who want to take advantage of the resort monorail and plan to spend a considerable amount of time relaxing and enjoying the resort.

Worst For: Those on a budget or people who would otherwise have to make sacrifices to afford it.  People who plan to spend most of their time away from the Magic Kingdom and plan to rely on Disney transportation.

Summary of Key Points: The Grand Floridian is one of Disney’s finest resorts.  Suffice to say, all of your friends will be jealous when you tell them you’re planning to stay here.  The resort has tremendous upside with only a few minor detractions.  First, let’s quickly consider potential problems.  At a minimum of $410 per night, the Grand Floridian is the most expensive Deluxe resort at Disney World.  Second, although it is close to the Magic Kingdom, it is one of the furthest resorts from the Animal Kingdom and not particularly convenient to Epcot or the Hollywood Studios either.  While the monorail ride to Epcot is usually fun, it can routinely take 45 minutes to ride to the Ticket Center, walk over to the Express Monorail, wait for a train, and ride to Epcot.  The Grand Floridian potentially shares bus service with the Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge, so buses may be standing room only on the way to the Parks and it will take even longer to return from the Parks due to the extra stops.  Finally, while kids are certainly welcome, the Grand Floridian is not as overtly kid-friendly as the Polynesian or Value resorts.  Nonetheless, plenty of children love the luxurious atmosphere.

With that out of the way, we can consider the resorts many positive features.  The Grand Floridian is far and away the most elegant Disney resort with beautiful architecture and outstanding service.  There will be no doubt that you are staying at Disney’s flagship resort.  While the resort has six separate buildings, none of the rooms should be more than a 5-10 minute walk to any point of interest at the resort.  At about 440 square feet, the rooms are large enough to sleep five people comfortably.  The furnishings, beds, and bathrooms are all top quality.  The beach on Seven Seas Lagoon is gorgeous and a fantastic spot to relax or enjoy the evening fireworks from the Magic Kingdom.  The quiet pool, at over 300,000 gallons, is the largest of its kind at Disney World and is plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the cool water on a hot day.  While the feature pool is not extravagantly themed, it is still in an excellent location and it feels like it fits in the overall atmosphere of the resort.

The Grand Floridian also excels in terms of dining options and quality.  It’s connected to the Polynesian and Contemporary resort by monorail, which puts you only a few minutes away from Kona Cafe, Chef Mickey’s, ‘Ohana, California Grill, The Wave, and more.  Citricos, Narcoossee’s, and Victoria and Albert’s are all amazing and 1900 Park Fare is a fun buffet with unique characters.  The Grand Floridian Café, while not particularly special, is a nice alternative when you want a more casual sit-down meal and afternoon tea is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon away from the Parks.  The resort’s counter service is nothing special, but it’s adequate as well.  With all of these dining options, the Grand Floridian is an excellent choice for those who plan to eat several meals away from the Parks.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend the Grand Floridian to anyone who can afford it.  The resort is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.  The downsides, other than the price, are all minor compared to the many advantages.  Whether or not it’s worth the price is up to the individual.  I never recommend straining financially to afford Deluxe accommodations because many people who stay at Value or Moderate resorts enjoy their vacation just as much, if not more.  Remember, once you leave the resort everyone is in the same boat, no matter where they’re staying.  Nonetheless, the additional resort amenities, convenience, and elegant theme make the Grand Floridian a favorite resort of many Disney vacationers and it should be on the short list of anyone considering a Deluxe or Villa level resort.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 1st out of 8

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Wondering how the Polynesian Resort stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

1600 Seven Seas Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-824-2000, Fax:  1-407 407-824-3174, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Polynesian is a Deluxe, Disney’s most expensive resort type.  Rooms start at $365 per night during Value Season and go all the way up to $3,005 per night for the King Kamehameha Suite during Holiday Season.  The Polynesian has 11 different room categories including Concierge level, several suite sizes, and two view upgrades.

Location: Along with the Contemporary, the Polynesian opened in 1971 as one of the original Disney World resorts.  It is one of the three resorts on the monorail line and the only resort in walking distance of the Transit Center with the Express Epcot Monorail station.  The Resort Monorail conveniently connects the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Magic Kingdom, and Ticket and Transportation Center.  Located in the back of the resort is a dock that offers a free boat ride to the Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom.

Size:  The Polynesian is one of the larger Disney Deluxe resorts with 857 rooms and suites.  Each guestroom is located in one of the 11 two or three story buildings called “longhouses.”  The longhouses are scattered throughout the property and each one is completely detached from all other buildings.  Despite its size, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to walk between any two points at the resort.

Room Amenities and Quality: Most of the Standard rooms are about 410 square feet, which is about 100 square feet larger than Moderate rooms and 150 square feet larger than Values.  Standard rooms can accommodate up to five people.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: Two queen-size beds, day bed, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, high-speed internet access ($10 per 24 hours), LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, and bathroom with single (or double) sink, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.  There are also microwaves available upon request.  Rooms in the Tahiti and Rapa Nui longhouses have two sinks instead of one.  All rooms on the first floor have patios and all rooms on the third floor have balconies.  Rooms on the second floor of Tonga, Tokelau, Tahiti, and Rapa Nui also have balconies.  Rooms on the second floor of the other longhouses do not have balconies.

This is the oldest resort on property.  Although the rooms and buildings are kept in top shape, they remain nearly 40 years old.  The biggest complaint about the rooms is their lack of lighting.  While the dark atmosphere lends itself to the resort’s theme, it isn’t convenient for those wanting to read a book or apply makeup.  I would recommend bringing a lighted makeup mirror.  Other than that minor detraction, the rooms are themed well with gorgeous headboards, marble countertops, and Polynesian themed bedding and artwork.

There are three different view types.  The first and least expensive is the Garden View, which offers a view of the parking lot, garden, monorail, pool, or marina.  Lagoon View rooms have a view of Seven Seas Lagoon, the large man-made body of water the Polynesian shares with the Grand Floridian.  The third and most expensive is the Magic Kingdom View with a view of the Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom out further in the distance.  During Value Season, Garden Views cost $365, Lagoon Views cost $470, and Magic Kingdom Views cost $510 per night.  On a weekend night during Peak season, Garden View rooms cost $520, Lagoon Views cost $650, and Magic Kingdom View rooms cost $705.  I don’t usually recommend view upgrades because the additional cost is so great and the same view is available for free to those who walk down to the Polynesian’s beaches.  A Magic Kingdom View room during Peak Season would cost $925 more than a Garden View room over a five night vacation.  I can’t justify the additional cost, but if watching the fireworks from the comfort of your balcony is worth the cost then by all means, upgrade.  Just be aware that you can sit in a lounge chair on the beach and watch the same fireworks for free.

Theme and Layout: Disney describes the Polynesian as a “relaxing tropical paradise, featuring lush vegetation, thatched roofs, koi ponds and white-sand lakebeaches.”  The Polynesian is one of the most beautifully themed resorts at Disney World.  The “Great Ceremonial House,” which houses the resort’s restaurants, check-in area, and shops, also features more than 75 indigenous species, a two-story waterfall, and plentiful vegetation.  The beaches are gorgeous and the lake is pristine.  The Polynesian is generally considered to be the most “kid-friendly” of the monorail resorts.  The theme appeals to children and the service is especially friendly.

The downside of the Polynesian’s layout is that it can be confusing to walk around.  The walkways are like a maze winding their way around the resort and the longhouses all similar.  While you shouldn’t get lost forever, you may have to pay extra attention to what path and landmarks take you back to your room.  Luckily, there should be plenty of staff around to help you find your way.

Pool: The Polynesian has two pools.  The main pool features a 40 foot tall volcano, waterfall, and 142 foot long waterslide.  It is probably the second or third best themed pool on property.  Unfortunately, the Polynesian’s convenient location near the Magic Kingdom brings in “pool hoppers,” which are guests from other resorts that use the Polynesian pools.  Even though this is against the rules, many people do it anyway and the staff doesn’t always actively remove them.  Since the Polynesian’s feature pool isn’t large to begin with, this can make for some crowded swimming areas.  Luckily, the resort’s quiet pool is usually underappreciated and should be less busy.

Transportation: The Polynesian’s location and access to the resort and express monorail are its biggest assets.  Travel to the Magic Kingdom is available by monorail or boat.  Both are efficient and much more fun than a bus ride.  For travel to Epcot, I would recommend walking over to the Ticket and Transportation Center, which is a 5-15 minute walk away depending on your location.  The Transportation Center has an Express Monorail that will take you directly to Epcot without any stops.  Otherwise, you will have to ride the resort monorail and get off at the Transportation Center and then switch monorails to get on the Express Monorail.  If you see a monorail train go by and it doesn’t stop then it isn’t because it’s full; it means that it’s an Express Monorail train.  Transportation to Disney’s other Parks is via bus, usually shared with the Contemporary and/or Grand Floridian.

The times below are calculated after the bus, monorail, or boat leaves the resort.

Hollywood Studios: about 15 minutes
Epcot via Epcot Monorail from Ticket/Transportation Center: about 15 minutes
Epcot via Resort Monorail and Transfer to Epcot Monorail: about 35 minutes, depending on how long it takes the Epcot monorail to arrive.
Animal Kingdom via Bus: about 20 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Monorail: about 10 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Boat: about 10 minutes

Best Rooms: The resort is small enough that most rooms are within five or so minutes of the main building and either the feature or quiet pool.  The “best” room depends on what you want a view of, whether you want a balcony or a patio, and what you want to be close to.  My favorite rooms are located in the Tokelau longhouse because all rooms on the second and third floors have balconies and the building is centrally located to just about everything, including the Transit Center and Great Ceremonial House.  The rooms have also been recently refurbished.  Since most of the other longhouses do not have balconies on the second floor, Tokelau guarantees some extra space outside as well as the best location at the Polynesian.  Aotearoa, Fiji, and Tuvalu are closest to the main building, but are the furthest away from the Transportation Center.  Samoa, Niue, and Rarotonga are near the main building and about five minutes away from the Transportation Center.  Tahiti and Rapa Nui are closest to the Transportation Center, but farthest from the main building.  Also, remember that the Tahiti and Rapa Nui rooms have two sinks instead of one and balconies on all second floor rooms.  Tonga contains all of the suites and is located right next to the main building, but is a good ten minute walk to the Transit Center.  The concierge rooms, found in the Hawaii building, are also centrally located and about five minutes to either the Transit Center or main building.  In closing, I would request a room on the third floor of Tokelau and if that is not available then I would request a room in either Tahiti or Rapa Nui because of the extra sink and balcony availability.

On-Site Dining Options: The Polynesian has several fantastic dining options, including the Kona Café, ‘Ohana, and the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Luau Cove.  Captain Cook’s, the resort’s counter service, is the only detraction.  Cook’s is small, lines are long, and the food is nothing special.  On the positive side, you can order Tonga Toast from Captain Cook’s at breakfast and it’s cheaper than the Kona Café.  For those unfamiliar, Tonga Toast is a thick French toast stuffed with bananas and topped with cinnamon and sugar.  It’s delicious and a favorite among many Disney vacationers.  Cook’s is also convenient for those wishing to refill their refillable resort mugs.  Considering two Deluxe resorts don’t even have counter services (Yacht Club and BoardWalk Inn), we should be happy that at least something is available.

The Kona Café is one of the most consistent sit-down restaurants on property, both in terms of service and food quality.  It’s a casual restaurant that doesn’t offer much privacy because it’s located along the main building’s concourse.  In addition, the restaurant is “open air,” meaning there are no walls to keep guests that are passing by from overseeing the entire restaurant.  While the atmosphere isn’t particularly intimate, Kona is the perfect spot if you’re not in the mood to travel to the Parks, but want a nicer meal than you would find at a counter service.  Kona serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is moderately priced with lunch entrées in the $12-$15 range and dinner entrées in the $17-$28 range.

‘Ohana serves a family style all-you-care-to-eat buffet for breakfast and dinner.  Breakfast is a character meal featuring Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Pluto with traditional breakfast items.  For dinner, ‘Ohana features a variety of appetizers and entrées, including salad, pork potstickers, chicken wings, grilled turkey, BBQ pork loin, marinated steak, peel and eat shrimp, and bread pudding for dessert.  No characters are present during dinner.  The food is cooked at a grilling station in front of the seating area and servers bring the meats to the table on long skewers.  In addition, there are a number of activities for children that should keep them occupied during the meal.  ‘Ohana has an excellent location with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom.  I would recommend requesting a window table at check-in.  The cost for adults during breakfast is $18.99 and dinner costs $30.99.  While expensive, it isn’t a bad value considering the quality and variety of the food, excellent view, and fun for the kids.

The Spirit of Aloha Polynesian is an all-you-care-to-eat dinner and luau show that is offered at 5:15pm and 8:00pm Tuesday through Saturday.  The Luau is a Signature Dining Experience, so it costs two table service credits per person or a fixed cost between $51-$60 for adults and $26-$31 per child age 3-9 depending on how close you want to be to the stage.  Theoretically, the dinner includes all-you-can-drink Budweiser, Bud Light, and wine, but they have a tendency to “run out” before the show is over, so I wouldn’t go just for the binge drinking (or drink heavily early in the show).  The menu is similar to what you would find at ‘Ohana and includes BBQ ribs, roasted chicken, salad, and delicious pineapple-coconut bread among other entrées and appetizers.  The show follows a story line that is a bit lame, but the food is great and the fire-dancing is fun, especially if you’ve never experienced anything similar.  The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at the Fort Wilderness Cabins is probably the better dinner show, but the Spirit of Aloha is a fun experience to do once, especially if you have some extra Dining Plan credits.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who plan to spend considerable time at the Magic Kingdom or at the resort relaxing.  People who will be eating several of their meals at the Polynesian or the other restaurants on the monorail.

Worst For: Those on a budget.  People who spend all of their time at the Parks and don’t plan to spend much time relaxing or eating at the resort.

Summary of Key Points: For many, the Polynesian is the quintessential Disney World resort.  Its beauty, location, dining, and recreation options make it one of the best resorts on property.  The Great Ceremonial House, with its 75 varieties of indigenous plants, is impressive and the rest of the resort is themed just as extravagantly.  In addition, the Polynesian sits right on top of Seven Seas Lagoon, one of the largest and most pristine bodies of water at Disney.  The Polynesian’s location on the monorail is ideal for anyone planning to visit the Magic Kingdom or Epcot often and the most convenient way to move between the Monorail Resorts.  The resort’s feature pool, complete with 40 foot tall volcano, is a fun place to swim and the quiet pool usually has plenty of extra room to swim around.  The resort’s beaches are beautiful and I would recommend grabbing a lounge chair and watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from across the lake.

The biggest downside to the Polynesian is its price.  Without a discount, the minimum nightly cost is around $400 a night after taxes.  That’s about 2.5 times more expensive than the Moderate resorts or 4.5 times more expensive than a room at the Values.  That’s simply out of most people’s budgets.  The Polynesian is also the oldest resort at Disney World and even though it’s kept in top form, there’s little that can be done about improving soundproofing in rooms or adding additional pool space.  While the rooms are nicely appointed and relatively large, the furnishings simply aren’t as luxurious as you would find at a $400+ per night hotel outside of Disney World.  When you’re staying at the Polynesian, you’re paying for its fantastic location with monorail and boat service, extra-friendly staff, and excellent recreation options rather than what you’ll find in your guest room.

Overall, the Polynesian is a fantastic resort, especially for families.  Most kids love the theme and it’s one of the most low-key, casual Deluxe resorts available.  Overall, I would recommend the Polynesian to anyone who plans to spend most of their time at the Magic Kingdom or enjoying what the Polynesian has to offer in the way of dining and relaxing.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 2nd out of 8

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Wondering how the Wilderness Lodge stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

901 Timberline Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-824-3200, Fax: 1-407-824-3232, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Wilderness Lodge is a Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are ten different room, suite, concierge class, and view configurations.  The Standard rooms are much cheaper than the other Deluxe Resorts, except for the Animal Kingdom Lodge which is similarly priced.  A Standard room with a Standard View runs $240 during Value Season, which is $45 less than the cheapest room at the Contemporary Resort and $170 less per night than the Grand Floridian’s least expensive room.  Compared to the Moderates, the Wilderness Lodge is about $90 more per night.  Unlike most of the other Deluxe resorts, the Wilderness Lodge does not offer many suites.  The largest suite, the Presidential, is only one bedroom and sleeps just four people.

Location: The Wilderness Lodge is officially a Magic Kingdom area resort that shares Bay Lake with the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Camp Ground.  While it is in close proximity to the Magic Kingdom, the Wilderness Lodge is a good 20 minutes away from Epcot and the Hollywood Studios and a solid 30 minutes or more away from the Animal Kingdom.

Size:  At 727 rooms, the Wilderness Lodge is a relatively small resort.  The main building is seven stories tall and houses the resort’s restaurants, check-in area, shops, and some of the guestrooms.  Attached to the main building are two wings that jut out opposite of each other with the pool and a large courtyard in the middle.  The majority of the guestrooms are found in these two 6-story wings.  All of the rooms are located under one roof, which means long hallways and potentially long walks if you find yourself at the end of one of the wings.  Nonetheless, it shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to get from your room to any point of interest at the resort.

Room Amenities and Quality: The Wilderness Lodge offers Standard rooms with three different views – Standard, Woods, and Courtyard.  Like the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can also book a Standard room with one queen bed and a bunk bed.  Bunk Bed rooms are available with Woods and Courtyard views and cost about $35 more per night than rooms with two queen beds.  Bunk Bed rooms are ideal for families with two children who do not want to share a bed.  Concierge level service is also available from $410 per night.  Deluxe rooms are only available with Concierge Service and start at $540 per night.  These rooms are comparable in size to rooms at the Grand Floridian and have extra space that includes a queen-size sleeper sofa and an extra television.

Most of the Wilderness Lodge’s Standard rooms are about 340 square feet and can accommodate up to four people.  Note that the size of the rooms is only 30 feet larger than those found at the Moderate resorts and about 100 square feet smaller than Standard rooms at the Grand Floridian.  This is one reason why the resort is cheaper than the other Deluxes.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: two queen-size beds or one queen size bed and a set of bunk beds, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with double sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.  All rooms have a balcony or a patio.

Wilderness Lodge rooms have a Native American theme with dark wooden furniture, rustic artwork, gorgeous wooden carved headboards, and colorful bedspreads and seat cushions.  Bathrooms feature two sinks, marble countertops, and slightly better lighting than the Polynesian or Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Bathrooms are still dark, so you may want to bring a lighted makeup mirror if you plan to apply makeup.  Although the resort completed a room refurbishment project in early 2007, rooms and fixtures are beginning to show signs of wear again, especially in the shower/bathroom area.  Significant problems are rare and if you have a problem with a shower head or damaged furniture then you should have no problem getting a replacement.  Overall, the rooms are furnished well and the only real problem with them is their small size when compared with the other Deluxe resorts.

Theme and Layout: The Wilderness Lodge is modeled after the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park.  It’s one of the best themed resorts at Disney World, on the same level as the Polynesian and Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The resort’s lobby features an 82-foot tall stone fireplace, two 55-foot tall totem poles imported from the Pacific Northwest, large tepee chandeliers, timber pillars, and expansive hardwood floors.  The rest of the grounds are themed just as extravagantly with lavish gardens and plentiful wooded areas with native northwest plant and tree species.  The resort is truly a destination unto itself and is worth a visit even if you aren’t staying here.

View upgrades cost about as much at the Wilderness Lodge as they would cost at other resorts.  However, there isn’t as much of a payoff as there might be upgrading to a Magic Kingdom View at the Contemporary or Savanna View at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  At the Wilderness Lodge, an upgrade to a “Woods View” costs at least $35 extra per night.  Since trees are tall, you probably won’t be overlooking a large wooded area from your balcony.  Instead, the trees will be at eye level and it will be difficult to see much other than more trees.  “Courtyard View” rooms face the interior of the resort and most have a view of the pool.  While it is a nice view, I don’t think it’s worth spending $300+ on it over a five night vacation, since you probably won’t be able to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks or have an outstanding view of Bay Lake.  For the “best rooms” at the resort, read on to that section below.

Pool: “Silver Creek Springs” is the Wilderness Lodge’s feature pool.  Located at the back of the resort, Silver Springs is a gorgeous pool that is surrounded by dense wooded areas and Bay Lake.  One neat feature is that the water that fills the pool actually starts inside of the Wilderness Lodge’s main building and you can follow it down to the pool area where it transforms from a small stream into a full size pool.  There is also a kiddie pool attached to the main pool and two hot tubs to enjoy as well.  The Wilderness Lodge also has a quiet pool, Hidden Springs, located near the Wilderness Lodge Villas.  There is a third hot tub available there.  The feature pool can get busy, especially during summer months.

Transportation: The Wilderness Lodge usually shares bus service with Fort Wilderness and occasionally the Grand Floridian and Polynesian as well.  This can add 20-30 minutes or more to your trip, especially if you’re picking up from both Fort Wilderness and the Grand Floridian.  There is also a marina in the back of the resort with boat access to the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, and Fort Wilderness.  This is a convenient way to get to the Magic Kingdom and to the many restaurants and recreation opportunities at the Monorail Resorts and Fort Wilderness.

The times below are calculated after the bus or boat leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios: about 15 minutes
Epcot: about 15 minutes
Animal Kingdom: about 15 minutes
Magic Kingdom via Bus: less than 10 minutes

Magic Kingdom via Boat: about 10 minutes

Best Rooms: The great majority of rooms at the Fort Wilderness Lodge look directly out at trees or into the middle of the resort.  Generally, higher floors are better because they offer better views and should be less noisy.  I would recommend requesting a room in one of the wings because rooms in the main building, while more convenient, also have to deal with the rowdiness of the Whispering Canyon restaurant and general noise from people in the lobby.  You also don’t want a room overlooking the loading/unloading zone where trucks drop off supplies to the resort.  Even if you do manage to be placed in a room overlooking the service area or on top of Whispering Canyon, you still shouldn’t have much of a problem with noise.

If you’re requesting a room with a view, I would recommend rooms 6004, 6006, 6008, 6010, 6012, 6014, 6016, 6018, 6020, 6022, 6024, 6026, 6028, 6030, which all have views of the evening fireworks.  Rooms with a 5 as the first digit and the same last three digits as the rooms above also have a good view of the Magic Kingdom, but they are just one floor lower (i.e. rooms 5004, 5006, 5008, etc).    Rooms 6169, 6168, 6167, 6166, 6003, 6002, 6001, 6000, 5169, 5168, 5167, 5166, 5003, 5002, 5001, 5000, 4169, 4168, 4167, 4166, 4003, 4002, 4001, 4000 all have a balcony that directly overlooks Bay Lake, making them desirable as well.  The great majority of rooms at the Wilderness Lodge don’t have a breathtaking view, but it’s always pleasant to spend some time sitting out on the balcony and enjoying the fresh air anyway.

On-Site Dining Options: The Wilderness Lodge features a decent counter service, Signature Dining restaurant, and a fun sit-down restaurant.  Roaring Fork, the counter service, features many of the items you’ve come to expect – burgers, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and salads for lunch and dinner, as well as the usual hot and cold breakfast items.  There is a yogurt buffet where you can add your own granola and fruit which is fun for breakfast.  Roaring Fork is not particularly large and gets crowded, especially with the extra Villa guests.  My recommendation would be to eat at off-peak times or be prepared to take the food back to your room.  For breakfast, you’ll want to be there well before the 8am rush.

Whispering Canyon Cafe is a fun restaurant along the same vein as the 50s Prime Time Café at Hollywood Studios.  Your server may have several tricks up his or her sleeve during your meal.  For example, if you ask for ketchup, don’t be surprised if 30 or more bottles show up.  The atmosphere is meant to be fun, but some guests don’t appreciate the extra fanfare.  My suggestion would be to bring your sense of humor hat because the antics are meant to be fun, not bothersome.  On the Dining Plan, you can order a bottomless milkshake as your beverage which is a nice plus.  The most popular item on the menu is the all-you-care-to-eat skillet, which includes pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, salad, coleslaw, and warm cornbread.  At $26.99 per person it’s in line with other buffet meals.  Breakfast features its own skillet, with eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, waffles, biscuits, and gravy for $14.99 per person.  Overall, the atmosphere is fun and I would recommend it if the skillet and a milkshake sound good.  Since it’s just a short trip from the Magic Kingdom, I would also recommend making a reservation here to give you an opportunity to see the Wilderness Lodge up close even if you aren’t staying at the resort.  The lobby and grounds are amazing and it’s a nice way to enjoy a meal and get a chance to see the resort.

Artist Point is the Wilderness Lodge’s Signature restaurant, which means it costs two credits on the Dining Plan and is a little nicer than your standard Park restaurants.  It’s also one of the least popular Signature restaurants, which makes it relatively easy to get a late or unplanned reservation.  Its unpopularity isn’t necessarily due to the quality of food or service, but Artist Point isn’t a particularly exciting or interesting restaurant, nor does it have a great view or anything else that makes it stand out from the pack.  Nonetheless, the menu features some delicious entrées, with an emphasis on Pacific Northwest flavors.  The restaurant is usually calmer than most other restaurants which makes it a good choice if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Park restaurants.  The grilled buffalo is a favorite and the side dishes are excellent and large enough to share.  Entrées are in the $30-$45 range, which is high considering the cost of the ingredients.  If you’re staying at the Wilderness and find yourself without a reservation or little energy to leave the resort, then I would recommend Artist Point if you have the wallet for it.  Otherwise, I don’t think I would put it on the top of my list unless you also wanted to check out the resort’s lobby and grounds.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who want all of the Deluxe amenities at a slightly lower price.  People who prefer to be close to the Magic Kingdom, but far enough away to feel removed from the hustle and bustle of the Parks.

Worst For: Those who plan to spend most of their time away from the Magic Kingdom and will rely on Disney Transportation.  People expecting the same room size as the other Deluxe resorts or groups of five who want to stay in a Standard room.

Summary of Key Points: Along with the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Wilderness Lodge is one of the more “Moderate” Deluxes.  The room size, at 344 square feet, is only about 30 feet larger than the Moderates and about 100 feet smaller than the Deluxes on the monorail system (Polynesian, Contemporary, Grand Floridian).  At about $90 more per night than the Moderates or $170 less per night than the Grand Floridian, the prices reflect its more Moderate status.  Also like the Moderates, Standard rooms at the Wilderness Lodge only sleep four people, compared to five at most other Deluxes.  The other major complaint is its shared bus service with Fort Wilderness, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian.  While Fort Wilderness isn’t too far out of the way, the Grand Floridian is at least a ten minute drive and usually in the opposite direction of the bus’s final destination.  This can add a significant amount of time when traveling to the Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios via bus.  Finally, the resort’s counter service does not have adequate seating, especially during peak meal times.  You can pretty much forget about getting a table if you arrive at 8am for breakfast.

Luckily, the Wilderness Lodge has many positive traits that far outweigh the negatives.  First, the resort is beautiful.  From the grounds, to the lobby, to the pool, to the rooms, everything about the Wilderness Lodge is themed perfectly and the stellar attention to detail makes guests actually feel like they’ve left Florida and entered a wooden lodge in the Pacific Northwest.  There are a number of different locations around the resort to relax including the beach area, poolside, and in various nooks around the resort.  The Wilderness Lodge is convenient to the Magic Kingdom and offers a free scenic boat ride to the Fort Wilderness, Contemporary Resort, and the Magic Kingdom.  This makes it easy to travel to the Contemporary and transfer to the other Monorail resorts or Magic Kingdom.  Silver Springs, the resort’s feature pool, is a pleasant area and the quiet pool is rarely busy for those who prefer more space to swim.

The views from most rooms at the Wilderness Lodge are nothing to write home about.  Unlike the Monorail Resorts or the Animal Kingdom Lodge where there are magnificent views of the lake, Magic Kingdom, or wildlife savannas, most Wilderness Lodge rooms look out directly at trees or only have a side-view of Bay Lake.  While this shouldn’t be a make it or break it problem, it’s worth noting that you probably won’t have a view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from your balcony or look out over Bay Lake directly.  For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to a better view unless you can guarantee one of the “best rooms” listed above.

Overall, I would recommend the Wilderness Lodge to anyone who likes the architecture, theme, and plans to spend a considerable amount of time at the resort and the Magic Kingdom.  If the theme is of little importance, then you might consider a Garden Wing room at the Contemporary for about $45 more per night.  Garden Wing rooms are much larger, sleep five people, and have better furnishings and amenities than Wilderness Lodge rooms.  The Contemporary is also more convenient and has better transportation options.  If theme is important, then the Wilderness Lodge wins hands down.  Even if you’re not staying at the Wilderness Lodge, I would try to catch a boat ride over to check out the lobby and grounds and have lunch or dinner at one of the two sit-down restaurants.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 4th out of 8

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Wondering how the Yacht Club stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

1700 Epcot Resorts Boulevard
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-934-7000, Fax: 1-407-934-3450, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Note, this overview is similar to the Beach Club because they are sister resorts that are fairly similar.  The main differences are in the theme, best room, and dining sections.

Resort Class: The Yacht Club is a Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are 11 different room, concierge, suite, and view configurations with prices ranging from $340 for a Standard Room with a Standard View during Value Season all the way up to $2,790 per night for the two-bedroom Captain’s Deck Suite during Holiday Season.  There are two available views for Standard Rooms.  Standard View rooms have a view of the parking lot, roof, or garden and cost $340 in Value Season and go up to $520 during Holiday Season.  “Water or Pool View” rooms have a view of Crescent Lake or the resort’s quiet pool and cost between $420 and $585 per night.  Club Level with Concierge Service starts at $470.

Location: The Yacht Club is to Epcot what the Contemporary Resort is to the Magic Kingdom.  In other words, the Yacht Club is within an easy five-ten minute walk of Epcot’s World Showcase entrance (also known as the International Gateway).  In addition, the Yacht Club is just a quick boat ride away from the Hollywood Studios, within walking distance of the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, within walking distance of the Boardwalk with its restaurants and activities, and within walking distance of its sister resort, the Beach Club.  The Yacht Club sits on the man-made Crescent Lake and offers a variety of water recreation activities and beach areas.

Size:  With only 630 rooms, the Yacht Club is one of the smallest resorts at Disney World.  All Yacht Club rooms are located inside one 5-story building.  The walk to the lobby or bus stop should not exceed ten minutes from even the most remote rooms and the hallways are nicely air-conditioned which makes walks within the resort more pleasant.

Room Amenities and Quality: Most of the Standard rooms are about 380 square feet and can accommodate up to five people.  This is about 70 feet larger than Moderate rooms and 40-60 feet smaller than Standard rooms at the Monorail Deluxes.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with double sinks, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.  There are a number of possible bed configurations.  Your room will either have one queen bed and one day bed, two queen beds and no day bed, two queen beds and one day bed, one king bed and no day bed, or one king bed and one day bed.   I would note your preference when you make your reservation and follow up with the resort by phone or fax about three days before your stay.  All rooms have balconies or patios.

The Yacht Club completed a room refurbishment project at the end of 2009.  All rooms were upgraded with new beds, linens, televisions, and furnishings.  The rooms are tastefully decorated in blue and white with a nautical themed bedspread, headboard, and decent wooden furniture.  The rooms are not as elegantly themed as the Grand Floridian or as modern as the Contemporary, but they are relatively large and laid out well.  Housekeeping is also excellent at both the Yacht Club and Beach club, which is even more important than fancy furniture or artwork.

Theme and Layout: The Yacht Club, as you might expect, has a nautical theme.  According to Disney, the Yacht Club “transports Guests to the summertime Shingle Style hotels of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”  The staff is dressed like they’re the crew of a ship and it seems like the goal of the resort is to make you feel like you’re actually on a boat rather than inside of a swanky clubhouse.  Either way, the resort features an elegant main building with expansive wood flooring, ship memorabilia, dark wood furniture, and simulated captain’s wheels.  The main building isn’t as amazing as the ones found at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian, or Polynesian, but the building is tastefully decorated and I don’t think anyone will leave feeling underwhelmed.

Unlike most other Disney resorts, all of the guestrooms are located in one building.  The advantage is that the walk from your room to the main building or bus stop will be primarily inside and air-conditioned.  The downside is that rooms near the end of either wing are about 10 minutes away from the bus stop, which is above average for a Deluxe.  In addition, the guestrooms are down halls that are somewhat maze-like in nature.  It’s not just a single hallway with rooms on either side.  All of the twists and turns can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for most guests to find their way.  The resort shares many of its amenities with the Beach Club, including its feature pool, counter service restaurant, and marina.  There is no counter service at the Yacht Club, only a self-service area.  This means that you will have to walk to the Beach Club or Hurricane Hannah’s at the feature pool if you want to refill your refillable mug.  Although it’s usually a pleasant trip, it’s not always convenient, especially in poor weather.

Like the Grand Floridian, the Yacht Club is thought of by some to be a “stuffy resort” that is less kid-friendly than other Deluxes like the Beach Club or Polynesian.  While I don’t agree with this assessment, it’s true that families with children tend to stay at the Yacht Club’s sister resort, the Beach Club. Some guests prefer the casual atmosphere of the Beach Club while others enjoy the refined elegance of the Yacht Club.  Either resort is perfectly kid-friendly.  The fact that fewer children will likely be present may also make the resort more appealing to couples or families with older children.  When it comes to the Beach Club and the Yacht Club there really isn’t a wrong choice, especially because they share so many amenities and are so close to each other.

Pool: Stormalong Bay, the feature pool complex that the Yacht Club shares with the Beach Club, is far and away the best pool area of any resort at Disney World.  Stormalong is a three acre, 750,000+ gallon water park, complete with an authentic sand bottom pool, several water slides, a lazy river for tubing, kiddie pools, and a life-size pirate shipwreck.   Guests are required to show their resort key card to gain entry, so there are no “pool hoppers” from other resorts.  If you’ve ever been to the Polynesian then you know how crowded the Volcano Pool can get when people who don’t belong fill it up.  In addition, there is a quiet pool on the other side of the resort that’s available for swimmers who would rather enjoy a more relaxing swim.

Transportation: Arguably, the Yacht Club has the best location of any resort at Disney World (along with the Beach Club and BoardWalk Inn).  While it’s difficult to rate it above the Monorail Resorts, it’s true that the Yacht Club is less than a ten minute walk to Epcot, less than a ten minute boat ride away from the Hollywood Studios, and within walking distance of the Swan resort, Dolphin resort, Beach Club resort, Boardwalk, and Boardwalk Inn resort.  It’s the perfect location for anyone planning several meals at Epcot or those who enjoy the Hollywood Studios.  It’s not particularly far from the Animal Kingdom or Magic Kingdom either.  The downside is that there is no bus transportation to the front entrance of Epcot so guests will need to enter from the International Gateway, nearest to the World Showcase.

The times below are calculated after the bus or boat leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios by Boat: about 15 minutes (including the wait for Swan and Dolphin guests to board)    Hollywood Studios by Walkway: about 25 minutes
Epcot by Foot: about 10 minutes
Epcot by Boat: about 15 minutes (including additional stops)
Animal Kingdom: about 15 minutes
Magic Kingdom: about 15 minutes

Best Rooms: As you are probably aware, Disney charges more for “view upgrades,” like a lake or garden view instead of a parking lot view.  The problem is that their definition of a “water view” is a view of any body of water, including a swimming pool or hot tub.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider my condo in Las Vegas to have a “beautiful view of the water” because there’s a community swimming pool in the middle of it.  Water View rooms can cost as much as $100 more per night.  Since you won’t be able to guarantee what room you will be assigned until you check in at the resort, Water Views are in essence a $100+ per night gamble that you won’t be stuck on the second floor of the resort looking out at a kiddie pool.  This is the primary reason why I rarely recommend paying to upgrade to a better view.  You just don’t know what you’re going to get.

I bring this up now because the Yacht Club offers a surprisingly few number of rooms with a fantastic water view.  You would think that a resort built right in front of a 25 acre lake would have a lot of rooms with beautiful views, but that just isn’t the case.  Most of the “Pool or Water View” rooms overlook the quiet pool or look out at an angle where you would have to crane your neck to see the Lake.  For that reason I will have to get a little more specific than usual on my room recommendations.  Remember, although you can request a particular room, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.

The best rooms at the Yacht Club are 5201, 5203, 5205, 5207, and 5209 followed by 5163, 5161, 5081, 5079, 5077, 5075, 5073, 5071, 5069, and 5067.  These rooms are all Concierge level and cost extra.  Of the Standard rooms, 4209, 4207, 4205, 4203, 4201, 4163, 4161, 4081, 4079, 4077, 4075, 4073, 4071, 4069, 4067, 4065, 4063, 4061, 4059, 4057, 3209, 3207, 3205, 3203, 3201, 3163, 3161, 3081, 3079, 3077, 3075, 3073, 3071, 3069, 3067, 3065, 3063, 3061, 3059, 3057, 3025, 2023, 30121, 3019, 3017, 3015, 3013, 3011, 3009, 3007, 3005, 3003, 2081, 2079, 2077, 2075, 2073, 2071, 2069, 2067, 2025, 2023, 2021, 2019, 2017, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003 all have full balconies and look out over Crescent Bay directly.  The first number is the floor number and the second three digit number is the room number.  Higher three digit numbers are closer to the main building, restaurants, and Stormalong Bay.  For example, room 4209 is room 209 on floor four and is closer to Stormalong Bay than room 3061, which is on floor three, room 061.  Rooms on higher floors are usually quieter and have a slightly more panoramic view than those on lower levels.    When requesting a room, it’s always better to do it at the time of reservation and then follow up directly with the resort about three days before you’re set to arrive.  Instead of listing the room numbers above on your request, it’s more helpful to tell the resort why you’re making the request.  Instead of requesting room 4209, request a room with a full balcony and a direct view of Crescent Bay.  The resort will then have a better understanding of where you want to be placed and you will be more likely to have your requests granted.

On-Site Dining Options: Although the Yacht Club is close to the many excellent restaurants at Epcot, the Swan, Dolphin, Beach Club, and Boardwalk, it only has two restaurants of its own.  The Yachtsman Steakhouse is the resort’s Signature Restaurant and costs two table service credits on the Dining Plan.  The Captain’s Grille is also a sit-down restaurant that costs one table service credit on the Dining Plan.  There is no counter service location at the Yacht Club, which means you will have to go to Hurricane Hannah’s or the Beach Club to refill your mug or order a hamburger.

The Captain’s Grille is primarily a seafood/steak restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The food and service are both above average and it’s rarely busy.  The décor is nothing special, but it’s a nice alternative to the more expensive Yachtsman, especially if you find yourself back at the resort during meal time with little energy to travel elsewhere.  Breakfast offers egg and pancake fare, along with more interesting options like the Crab Cake Benedict or Steak and Eggs.  There’s also an all-you-care-to-eat breakfast that costs $15.99 per person and features the usual suspects – fruit, yogurt, pastries, pancakes, smoked salmon, cereal, bacon, sausage, eggs, and potatoes.  Lunch features several inexpensive sandwich and hamburger options, along with seafood-inspired dishes like Classic New England Lobster Roll and Grilled Ahi Tuna.  As usual, dinner is the most expensive meal, and includes options like the Snow Crab Legs, Lump Crab Cakes, and Grilled NY Strip.  For breakfast most entrées are in the $10-$15 range, lunch entrées are in the $13-$20 range and dinner entrées are in the $20-$30 range.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat a meal here, but it’s a relaxing and convenient option if you’re staying at the Yacht Club.

The Yachtsman Steakhouse is only open for dinner and features a menu rich in expensive cuts of meat.  There is a 20 ounce bone-in rib eye, 8 ounce fillet mignon, as well as a chicken, tuna, and lamb entrée.  Entrées are expensive, with most on the upper end of the $30-$50 spectrum.  The restaurant is themed like an elegant New England steakhouse with hardwood floors, leather cushions, and an open kitchen where you can view the chefs cutting the meat and preparing the meals.  The beef is better here than most restaurants at Disney World, including more popular choices Le Cellier, Brown Derby, and Kona Café.  The cost is also higher, both on and off the Dining Plan.  If you’re looking for an excellent steak in a slightly more upscale atmosphere then I would strongly recommend the Yachtsman.  It’s also much easier to get a reservation than most Epcot restaurants.  Since the Yacht Club is so close to Epcot, anyone visiting Epcot can easily leave through the International Gateway and walk the ten or so minutes to the Yachtsman as well.  If a steak is on your mind and everything at Epcot is full, then this might be your best bet.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who plan to spend considerable time at the resort enjoying Stormalong Bay, the beaches, and watercraft rentals.  People who want to take advantage of the Yacht Club’s location within walking distance of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Beach Club, Swan, Dolphin, and Boardwalk.  Adults looking for more elegant surroundings with a chance of fewer children around.

Worst For: Those on a budget.  People who don’t swim, don’t plan to take advantage of the location and dining options, or have children that will not appreciate the theme.

Summary of Key Points: The Yacht Club is a classy Deluxe resort along the lines of the Grand Floridian.  Its location is one of the most convenient at Disney World, which is a key advantage if you plan to spend a lot of time enjoying what Epcot has to offer.  The rooms have been recently renovated, and while not particularly eye-popping, are themed tastefully and housekeeping is usually excellent.  All of the guestrooms are in one building, which makes walks through the resort more pleasant when the weather is poor outside.  The downside is that rooms at the end of the wings are relatively far away from the restaurants and main lobby.  Also, rooms sometimes have an odd bed configuration.  Some rooms have daybeds while others do not.  It’s best to request a daybed if it’s a feature you want or need at the time of reservation and follow up with the resort directly via phone or fax three or so days before you’re scheduled to check in.  Finally, many of the “Water or Pool” view rooms do not have a view that justifies the increased cost.  See above for rooms with the best view, but since it isn’t possible to guarantee the room you will be staying in until you arrive, paying for the upgrade is a gamble.  You might want to hold off until you check in and see what rooms are available before you commit to the costly upgrade.

Other than its location, the resort’s key asset is its feature pool complex, Stormalong Bay.  Stormalong is like no other resort pool area at Disney World and probably one of the best resort pool complexes in the United States.  Spanning three acres and filled with over 750,000 gallons of water, Stormalong offers several pools, water slides, Jacuzzis, kiddie pools, and a lazy river for inner tubing.  On top of that, the pool has a sand bottom and there is a life-size replica of a ship wreck with a kiddie pool inside of it and a giant waterslide that feeds back into the main pool.  Since guests are required to show their room key to gain admittance, there are also no “pool hoppers” from other resorts unfairly hogging space like there is at the Polynesian or other popular pool areas.

The Yacht Club isn’t a well known resort, both due to its small size and the fact that it isn’t new or visible from the Magic Kingdom.  If you were to ask a casual Disney vacationer if they’ve even heard of it, chances are most people would look at you funny and ask if you’re mistaking it for “that white resort with the red roofs.”  Luckily, if you’ve made it this far then you’re well versed in its many advantages.  I would recommend the Yacht Club to any couple or group of adults who are looking for a relaxing, elegant atmosphere in close proximity to Epcot and the Hollywood Studios.  The resort is also fine with children, just be sure that they won’t be too disappointed when they find out there’s no 40 foot tall Mickey Mouse standing outside.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 6th out of 8

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