Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Walt Disney World Resort - A tour of the resorts

I had the opportunity to stay at Walt Disney World recently while TravelGirl was there on business.  My goal was to visit as many Disney resorts as possible during the three days, and I managed to hit 10 of them.  We also spent one day at three of the parks, with the sole purpose of going on as many rides as possible (which will be part of a separate blog post).  As always, it’s still a blast to experience Disney parks. 

Disney’s Deluxe Resorts
We arrived around 11am on Wednesday at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.  Check-in was a breeze and the front desk was very friendly.  We had the option of valet parking or self-parking, and we chose the latter.  The self-parking lot wasn’t that far away, but it could be a bit of a trek if you’re carrying a lot of stuff.  If you’ve got a big family, you may want to opt for the valet option.

The room was spacious and mostly clean, except the refrigerator had a leftover dried liquid of some sort (click HERE to view the room tour).  Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and wired internet was available in the room, both for a fee of $9.95 per 24 hour period.  They were not interchangeable, however, so if you purchased Wi-Fi in the lobby, you needed to purchase it again in your room.  Deluxe resorts come with a refrigerator, dual sinks in the bathroom, and microwaves are available on request.

I then toured a standard room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom resort, The Jamba House.  Recently upgraded, the room’s layout was very similar to that of the Yacht Club (click HERE to view the room tour), and came with all of the same amenities.  The staff was extremely friendly and helpful.

Finally, I was able to see three rooms at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (opened in 1988 as The Grand Floridian Beach Resort).  Of all the resorts I toured, this Victorian themed resort was closest to the Magic Kingdom, with some views of Cinderella’s Castle, Space Mountain, and even Epcot in the distance.  While not within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom, it’s a very short monorail ride from the main entrance.  I found the cast members extremely friendly, the rooms very clean and the grounds very well kept. The only possible negative I encountered was how far away the self-parking lot was from the resort’s entrance.  This resort also has the oldest and most cheerful bellhops I have seen at any accommodation I’ve ever visited anywhere! (Click HERE to view the room tours)

Disney’s Value Resorts
The first Value resort I visited was Disney’s All-Star Sports resort, but unfortunately they were unable to give me a room tour.  I did not enjoy my time at this resort, as I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes while I counted 10+ cast members chatting behind the counters. Of the 10 resorts I visited, this was the single worst lobby experience.  I will not be recommending this resort to my clients.

The second Value resort I visited was Disney’s All-Star Music resort.  The staff there was friendlier than the previous resort, but I didn’t really get that great “Disney customer service experience” that I’ve come to expect.  The room felt older, and while I’m not 100% certain, I’m pretty sure it hadn’t been refurbished anytime recently.

I visited the All-Star Movies resort next, and it was definitely the best of the All-Star resorts. The people were friendly, the manager took a minute to introduce himself to me, and the room had been refurbished recently, so it looked great! 

Disney’s Pop Century resort was the fourth and final Value resort that I visited, and was my favorite of the Value resorts.  As with the previous one, this resort was clean, the people were very friendly and accommodating, and it’s also the newest of the Value resorts.  The over-sized artwork from the various decades were captivating.  Pieces like the huge foosball table, a giant Big Wheel, and mammoth 8-track cassette tapes really brought me back to memory lane even if for just an hour.

Other notes regarding the value resorts:
  • None of the rooms include a refrigerator, but one can be rented for $10/night
  • The rooms will have either one king bed or two double beds
  • The maximum occupancy in any one standard room is 4
  • The layout of the lobbies are nearly identical for the Sports, Music and Movies resorts
  • Click HERE to view tours of the All-Star resorts
  • Click HERE to view a tour of the Pop Century resort

Disney’s Moderate Resorts
The first Moderate resort I toured was Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort.  The lobby was open and inviting, and again, the cast members were very friendly and accommodating.  The good news/bad news about this resort involved the beaches.  The good news was that each area of the resort, known as “islands” (Aruba, Jamaica, etc), featured a sandy beach area with chaise lounges.  The bad news was that the water is unswimmable since it is swampland.  The good news is that just above each of the beach areas is a pool, so you’re not that far from the water. 

All of the rooms had been recently refurbished, so you have the iHome radio with a docking station for your iPod or iPhone as well as updated furniture and fixtures.   Rooms in Moderate resorts also include a refrigerator, so if that’s something you’ll definitely want during your stay, I would recommend at least a Moderate resort. 

I toured two different types of rooms: The standard room and the Pirate themed room.  Both rooms will accommodate 4 people, but the biggest difference is the absolute, over-the-top d├ęcor of the Pirate themed rooms.  The beds are shaped like pirate ships, the refrigerator is in a barrel, the dressers are shaped like shipping crates and the curtain that you can draw for privacy in the bathroom area has a giant pirate skull and cross-bones.  If you and/or your kids love pirates, YOU MUST STAY IN THIS ROOM (click HERE to view the room tours). 

Next, I visited Disney’s Coronado Springs resort, a southwest-themed Moderate resort.  Again, nice lobby area, plenty of cast members available, and the wait in line wasn’t bad at all.  Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication among the cast members regarding my tour.  After requesting the tour, I waited nearly an hour for a cast member.  Not really a big deal, but surprising nevertheless.

The rooms had been refurbished recently and were very nice and spacious.  There really isn’t a ton to add about the rooms, as the layout among the two moderate resorts were very similar (click HERE to view the room tour).  The cast members were polite and friendly, just as I would expect from Disney. 

Finally, I had a chance to tour The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort. This was the last resort that I toured and also included a somewhat… different tour guide.  What was so different, you might ask?  He was cranky and chose to give me some of his opinions on Disney as an employer!  I was shocked, but I must admit that I found it rather amusing. 

If you prefer to unwind away from all the action in a cabin that can comfortably sleep a family of six, this is the resort for you.  Each cabin includes one set of bunk beds, one double bed, one pull-down double bed, a full kitchen, a sizable deck and a barbecue.  This is also a great option for families looking to save a few bucks by preparing some meals in the cabin versus dining out every night.  Also at Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort are full campsites with RV hookups as well as standard tent sites -- a neat option if you want get your Disney on during the day and “rough it” at night (click HERE to view the cabin tour).

In summary, I found the vast majority of resorts clean, spacious and the cast members very friendly and helpful.  The difference between the Value, Moderate and Deluxe resorts were noticeable and I walked away with a clear understanding of which level to recommend to my clients when they’re considering a trip to Walt Disney World.