Review: Disney’s Contemporary Resort Tower Room

After spending some time in the Crescent Lake area, we move back over to Bay Lake for a look inside a room at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

The Contemporary has a lot going for it – principally, its location makes it the only walkable resort to and from Magic Kingdom. Anyone that’s ever been at the mercy of waiting for a Disney bus, monorail, boat, etc. knows how important it is to have the freedom to be able to walk the ten minutes back to the Contemporary versus dealing with the hoards exiting Magic Kingdom after something like Happily Ever After. After watching the fireworks from Main Street, it should take about 15 minutes to arrive back inside your room at the Contemporary Tower. Those staying at the Beach Club Resort will have to walk nearly as far out to their bus stop that’s shared with the Yacht Club. Then it’s 10-30+ minutes for a bus to arrive that actually has room on it and the high probability that you’ll find yourself standing for the duration of the 20-minute trip. A stay at the Contemporary eliminates those long waits and uncomfortable bus rides, which can make for a much more magical end to the evening. Of course, you can mitigate those crowds and lines by hanging out at Magic Kingdom after the fireworks end. It’s a good opportunity to shop and enjoy the nighttime atmosphere with fewer and fewer people around.

But let’s ignore those facts and focus on what else the Contemporary offers.

When considering a stay at one of the original Walt Disney World hotels, you’ve got a couple decisions to make. The first is whether you want to stay in the Garden Wing or the Tower. The Garden Wing is an addition next to the A-Frame building that most people consider to be “The Contemporary.”

The rooms in the Garden Wing are virtually identical to those found in the Tower, but they’re considerably less expensive. They’re also much less convenient to the monorail/restaurants/bus stop, but slightly more convenient to the marina and feature pool. Note that the Garden Wing is not attached to the Tower.

Being just three floors tall, views from the Garden Wing are much less spectacular. And while it might look like the rooms have balconies from the outside, none actually do.

In 2018, with tax, Garden Wing rooms start at $450/night. On the most expensive night of the year, that same room is $708/night. You can expect a view like the one above and a location that puts you two or three minutes away from the back entrance into the Tower.

In the Tower, Bay Lake View rooms like the one above start at $639/night with tax and go up to $867/night or an increase of between $159 and $189.

Also in the Tower, Theme Park View rooms like the one above start at $711/night with tax and go up to $962/night during the most expensive time of year.

That’s between $72 and $95 more per night than the Bay Lake View and a whopping $254 to $261 more per night than the Garden Wing room.

That’s a considerable amount of money. With that $250 difference, you could easily stay in the Garden Wing and have dinner at California Grill every night and still potentially “save” money compared to springing for the view/location upgrade.

At a minimum, you could at least afford two cocktails.

The question then becomes, “Is it worth it?” And as always, the answer is yes, no, and maybe. Typically, it’s the more-expensive views that are available with standard Disney discounts. So while a Theme Park View Tower room may ordinarily be $800/night and a Garden Wing room may be $550 on the same night, the $800/night room is the one that’s more likely to be available with a 25% discount, bringing the cost down to a more palatable $600/night. The same is typically true during the “Free Dining” promotion, where the Tower room is available with that discount, but the Garden Wing is showing no availability. It’s easier to rationalize that $250/night extra when “it’s basically paying for the Disney Dining Plan.”

Otherwise, I think there’s something to say for staying in the Tower if the additional cost is bearable and you plan on taking advantage of the benefits of the location.

Waking up to the beautiful sunrise over Bay Lake is priceless and there’s something to say for the convenience of being able to ride the elevator down to the Contempo Cafe for a snack, in addition to the intangible “feeling” of staying in such an iconic resort. I’m not sure I would always pay the rack rate difference between the Bay Lake View and the Garden Wing, but I think I would always prefer to be in the Tower. Whether that preference is worth $200/night at any given time depends on whether or not I value my savings account in that moment.

The Contemporary bills itself as an “ultra-modern Disney Resort hotel,” which may be a stretch for a resort that opened 45+ years ago and hasn’t seen a serious room redesign in nearly five years.

I may be in the minority, but I actually like the look of the rooms.

At 394 square feet, standard rooms are among the largest on property.

Polynesian Village rooms come in around 415 square feet with Grand Floridian rooms arriving at 440 square feet.

You’ll find the standard pair of queen beds without the bedrunner or throw pillows, which is par for the course these days.

Here’s what the same room looked like with the bedrunner and pillows a few years ago.

I liked the cheese wheel Mickey Mouse pillows, but I think the room has enough splashes of color to be bright and airy without them, unlike something more sterile-looking like the redesigns at the Yacht Club or Pop Century.

Otherwise, the elegant glass desk sits in the corner of the room.

It’s a comfortable space whether you find yourself writing a BREAKING news blog post or drafting the resignation speech for your presidency.

Sometimes I stand up from my computer, look in the mirror, and say, “Who’s the eighth best Disney blogger? And falling fast?”

According to Dave’s in-depth Contemporary Resort review, the couch flips into a bed that measures 72″ by 32,” compared to a standard twin bed that measures 80″ by 39.”

That might sleep half of my ego.

The view comes into play again here.

But it’s a livable space and I think you’ll appreciate the extra 50-square feet compared to something like the rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

There’s a small bedside table in between the beds.

Standard lamp, phone, and charging ports.

The couch is comfortable enough, though I prefer when it faces the television. But it served its purpose when hosting some visiting friends.

The Smart TV is more intelligent than the light underneath, which should probably be a set of drawers instead.

Perhaps during the next refurbishment.

Otherwise, the living area at least “feels” luxurious to those of us that didn’t spend last week at the Four Seasons Marunouchi.

Looking back at the entry with some closets on the left and the bathroom on the right.

Inside the first closet with some drawers, the safe, slippers, robes, ironing board, iron, and hangers.

As long as you hang up almost every one of your possessions, there’s plenty of room for your clothes.

In between the closets, you’ll find the Keurig with a selection of Joffrey’s coffee and Twinings Tea.

It’s still the old-style fridge, which may or may not be a good thing. The shelves in the door are much appreciated.

Style begins to trump substance once we visit the bathroom.

The shallow, flat sinks might look nice at first blush, but they are terrible at draining. Like, if you wash your hands in the morning because you are not a heathen, then that same water will probably still be sitting there pooled along the flat surface when you return.

It looks good though.

The toilet is located in an alcove behind a sliding door in the same space, but I didn’t think it offered much privacy.

The door doesn’t quite shut all the way and does nothing to reduce any potential noise, so you’ll want to be extra cozy with whoever is hanging out doing their makeup on the other side of the door. No matter how hard I try not to, I always seem to let out a small yelp as I curl my eyelashes. It’s embarrassing.

The shower/tub combo is serviceable, but we don’t enjoy the rainfall showerhead that we’ve seen with recent resort updates. The marble is an attractive touch though.

Standard toiletries.

Paying excessively for Club Level does add some additional amenities. I review the “free food and drinks” Atrium Club Level experience in this review.

The sunscreen inside the box turned out to be Coppertone Sport. About $5 worth.

Not to mention the image of the monorail passing through the Contemporary pressed onto the folded-flap of the toilet paper. I framed it and it currently hangs above my television at home.

Speaking of A-frames, you’ve got to love the curtains. I’m going to stalk Property Control/Cast Connection during the next refurbishment to try and score a set.

The worst panorama of all time offers another glimpse of the back of the resort.

Overall, the Contemporary is the Disney Resort for you if its strengths outweigh those offered by other possibilities. Its location is undeniably the best for Magic-Kingdom-centric trips. There is no overstating the convenience of being a short walk away from Magic Kingdom, particularly at the end of the day. The restaurant lineup is among the best on property and the monorail/marina add the ability to visit more than a dozen excellent choices at other resorts with relative ease. Views from the Tower are among the most sublime on property, particularly from higher floors. Rooms are spacious and appointed well, though there are some instances when utility should have been considered over style.

But the pool is nothing to write home about. And the resort is among the least convenient to Epcot. To get back to the resort, you’ll need to wait for the Epcot monorail to arrive, depart, and travel to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Then walk down the ramp and over to the Resort Monorail, where you’ll need to wait for that to arrive and depart. Then it’s stops at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Magic Kingdom before arriving back at the Contemporary. Bus service is also commonly shared and the resort seemed to be under-serviced during our stay. We ended up using Uber to go to Animal Kingdom one morning because it looked like 75 people were waiting and the monitor wasn’t showing when the bus would arrive.

Service was also among the worst that we’ve ever encountered anywhere. From the snide Club Level staff to the degrading treatment by management, I don’t think I can remember the last time that I felt like a Disney employee was actively trying to make my stay unpleasant. It seems like cast members realize that they could actively try to stab anyone and everyone that enters and still fill the place up at $500 a night. I rarely mention service because my personal experiences are largely irrelevant, but I think indifference is a systemic problem at the resort. Of course, if you don’t run into any problems then you probably won’t have any problems.

But other than that, the Contemporary may be the resort for you. I’ll close things out with a few more pictures:












We’ll see where Bay Lake takes us next.

Comments

  1. Robert Hale says

    My wife and I splurged on a theme park view in the tower for our 40th anniversary and enjoyed the stay. Very nice to be able to walk to the Magic Kingdom. Watching the fireworks from the balcony was an added bonus. We may not stay there again because of the cost but it was worth it for our 40th.

    • Heather says

      That stamp is as hilarious as two $100 drinks! Spending a good chunk of your retirement fund to stay in the iconic monorail pierced hotel for the week hurts less when you can wipe yourself with the embossed image.

      I can’t wait to go :) Really. Without the runner/throw pillows the beds do look awfully plain but we usually end up throwing them in a corner anyway. Pop Century looks worse without them- looks like a patient room at Hackensack Hospital.

  2. Michelle says

    Thanks Josh. We’re staying in a Garden Wing view for a couple of nights next August because we’re cheap, but good to get an idea of what to expect in the room. I didn’t realise it had been 5 years since the last major room updates…I guess we will feel the difference when we arrive at the Contemporary from a shiny and new Yacht Club room. Still, can’t beat that quick walk to Magic Kingdom 🙂.

  3. Dorliss Chambers says

    Factor a couple of week long stays at $600-$800 per night and you’re at a sum equal to a nice down payment on a DVC contract at Bay Lake Tower. Also appreciation for photographing the two clearly empty beds a la Lucy/Ricky.

  4. Frank says

    Booked garden wing room this past August and was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a lake view tower room when I received the text message from online check-in.

    Room was very comfortable for 2 adults and 3 children 10 and under.

    Unfortunately, my family is now spoiled and expects a tower room for our next visit.

  5. Not that Josh says

    “From the snide Club Level staff to the degrading treatment by management, I don’t think I can remember the last time that I felt like a Disney employee was actively trying to make my stay unpleasant.”

    What in the world happened?

  6. Snoozin' says

    Congrats on your one year anniversary! $100.00 per drink means the best guidebook in the world is a profitable endeavor.

  7. Emma says

    We stayed at Bay Lake Tower in September and loved it, very polite, gracious CMs. Awesome to walk 10 mins back to our room after the MNSSHP! Really can’t beat the location and the monorails going overhead in the Contemporary tower.

  8. John says

    My wife and I stayed at the Contemporary in 1995. I had a weekly seminar there. The room cost was normally $300 a night, but we got a discount so it was $150 a night. We would watch the light show on the lake at night. At that time a dragon would go across the lake and they would play “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

    We ate breakfast most mornings and dinner one evening where the Wave is now, not sure what the name of the place was then, but they had Disney characters at every meal. Also Chef Mickey’s did not exist, but they had Mickey’s Birthday Party behind closed doors and you could hear kids screaming with excitement as you passed by.

  9. says

    We’ve stayed twice–Garden View and Tower–enjoyed both. Definitely my favorite resort for nostalgic reasons (and location). However, pool was so disappointing that we’ve been staying at Yacht/Beach Club more recently. Fingers crossed they upgrade the pool–doesn’t need to be fancy, but not gross!

  10. Abharmagic says

    My family- DH, myself, and two kids aged 10 and 13 at the time stayed here for one night at the end of our Universal trip for MVMCP and found the price to be well worth the convenience for one night. We had a blast. Loved the room and I slept on the pull out bed comfortably (I’m 5’3”). We loved being able to walk to the MK for the party and my DH even raced the monorail on foot back to the resort after the party. It was very fun and the monorail driver even got into it and congratulated DH on his win to all the monorail passengers when we very clearly lost . Lots of fun and wonderful memories. Very magical. I dint know if we could afford a week- but we could afford a night and that made the party extra special.

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