Off the Beaten Path at BoardWalk Inn’s Garden Cottages

When discussing Club Level options at Disney World, BoardWalk Inn (BWI) tends to be a really popular choice among those with a lot of CL experience under their belts for several reasons. First and foremost, the EPCOT resorts are beloved by many. Second, the Innkeeper’s Club lounge offerings at BWI are consistently some of the best at WDW. Third, the view of the boardwalk, particularly from the club rooms, is pretty great if that’s what you’re after. Lesser-known, however, are the somewhat-elusive Garden Cottages BWI has tucked away around the inner courtyard, hidden behind little white picket fences and framed with cute french doors. Not everyone knows they’re even there. If you’re standing on the balcony of the club lounge and look straight down, you’ll likely remain unaware that these rooms are right below you. Located on the first floor and only accessible from the outside (there’s no interior corridor for them), the Garden Cottages are a nice choice if you’re in the mood for some seclusion but still want to be steps away from EPCOT and the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk area.

IMG_0709
Check out the birdhouses. That’s where the room numbers are.

The Garden Cottages are adorable, in case you couldn’t already tell. There are several of them, so odds are you’ll be able to book one without too much difficulty unless you’re heading to WDW at a peak time, and they’re bookable on the website. They boast two storeys, a front porch and garden area (hence the name), and half of them have an upper balcony off the bedroom on the second floor as well. Most importantly, all the cottages are Club Level rooms, thus you have full access to the lounge, nightly turndown services, and the upgraded toiletries.

But here’s the catch.. or rather, if you’re the target demographic for this blog, the huge, enormous plus: these rooms allow a maximum capacity of TWO.

No, you can’t drag grandma/the kids/weird cousin Joey along to camp out on the sleeper couch, even though these cottage rooms have loads of extra room and could feasibly accommodate well more than two people in them. We heard a couple Cast Members during our time at BWI referring to these rooms as “honeymoon cottages,” so you get the idea. We personally loved this, since so many WDW resort rooms seem targeted toward the “cram as many people as we possibly can before we violate fire safety codes and get into a fistfight over who can take the next shower” crowd nowadays. It was all couples while we were there. What this means is that these rooms are unusually quiet and peaceful compared to the sometimes chaotic nature of the regular BWI rooms, particularly if they’re facing the Boardwalk itself. Those get a bit noisy. You could book a Garden Cottage and feel like you’re on a calm, leisurely couples getaway, then hop on a friendship boat over to EPCOT and binge-ride Spaceship Earth before enjoying a nice glass of champagne in the Club Lounge and calling it a day. It’s our kind of Disney vacation.

IMG_0706
Even the most rousing game of Marco Polo in the pool over there isn’t gonna ruin the relaxation potential on this balcony.

The room itself is more like a suite. It features a downstairs living room with a desk, couch, big TV, a wet bar with microwave/coffee maker/all that stuff, and a half bathroom. Stairs lead up to the second level, which is the bedroom and main bathroom. All the Garden Cottages have king beds. The windows are huge and let in a lot of light during the day, yet at night it’s plenty dark and cozy when you want to get some sleep. There’s a large garden tub in the bathroom, plus a full shower and twin sinks.

Take a look:

The Disney touches in these rooms are pretty great, too.

IMG_0690
Minnie hanging out on the lamp.
IMG_0713
My favourite part: Mickey and Minnie joyriding in an old-timey car. Ever noticed that Minnie’s eyes are closed? That seems like a major driving hazard, but who am I to judge?

Overall, the relative solitude that the Garden Cottages offer is well worth the price of the rooms, but it’s important to note before you rush off to book that the solitude comes with a few trade-offs.

  1. The Innkeeper’s Club lounge is located on the third floor of the resort. The Garden Cottage rooms are on the first floor, and as mentioned above, have no interior corridors. They open up to the outside. To get to the rest of the resort, you need to go outside, walk down the sidewalk for a little bit, and go back inside to the first floor elevator lobby. To get to the club lounge, you’ll take the elevator to the third floor and trek down the extremely labyrinthine hallway corridors quite a ways to finally reach the concierge desk and the lounge proper. This is one of the biggest downsides, in our opinion, to the BWI as a whole: the hallways. are. SO. long. Even if you’re staying in a regular club room on the third floor, you’ll more than likely have a hike ahead of you if you want to dash down to the lounge and grab a drink. Be ready to walk. For those in the Garden Cottages, however, this means it’s really not that huge of a detriment to have to head up the elevator and snake down the maze of hallways to get to the club lounge since everyone else is having to do virtually the same thing, minus the elevator ride. It’s something to keep in mind, though.
  2. The walk to the elevator lobby itself isn’t laborious or anything, but I noticed immediately that the path to the building goes straight through a designated smoking area, so if you’re like us and are extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke, you’ll need to be prepared to hold your nose.
  3. In our experience, housekeeping was hit-or-miss in the Garden Cottages. Some of the surfaces in the room were dusty and remained so throughout the duration of our stay. The housekeepers came around 11AM each morning, and they were very insistent about getting into our room. Since the only entrance to the cottage room is downstairs, and the bedroom/bathroom are upstairs, it’s not always easy to hear a knock at the door, thus more than once we were getting ready to go out for the day upstairs and the housekeeper would unceremoniously barge right on in after the first knock. Be alert. They were usually friendly, though, so there’s that.
  4. A “secret staircase” of sorts leads directly up to the hallway nearest the club lounge that’s fairly close to the Garden Cottages. I’d read about this staircase on Disboards prior to us heading to BWI for the first time, so when we got there we sought it out. It’s a fire exit, basically. Three flights of plain, industrial-looking fire stairs that takes you out of the fantastic theming of the resort. Yes, it cuts down on the time you’d spend walking to the first floor elevator lobby and going up the elevator, but we didn’t feel it was worth using in the grand scheme of things.
  5. Taking food or drink back to your room from the lounge is basically pointless in the Garden Cottages. You’ll want to eat and drink in the lounge area. Even a slow drinker would have their glass of wine finished off with little trouble during the walk back to their room. Either that, or you risk spilling it and wearing it the rest of the day. No wine deserves such a fate, especially complimentary CL wine.

Lastly, what about the Innkeeper’s Club itself? We liked it, but we didn’t love it. We would stay again, although we aren’t rushing back.

The food offerings were fantastic. A chef from the Flying Fish comes up on certain nights and prepares fresh items for the evening service, and there was a bloody mary bar on the weekends for breakfast. They had the most impressive breakfast options of all the CL stays we’ve enjoyed. Items were replenished fairly quickly. Dessert options at night rotated regularly and weren’t boring. You could tell they were putting a lot of effort into making their food offerings high quality and plentiful.

Concierge staff were friendly for the most part, but not overly helpful at times. Some seemed like they didn’t want to be there, while others were super nice and wanted to get to know guests. They did a great job of keeping the lounge clean and neat. The food service staff were extremely efficient. We never had a glass of wine or champagne get too low before they were offering us more. With as many guests they have at one time (this is a huge club level floor, plus the cottages), the level of attentiveness was surprising.

The biggest disappointment for us about the Innkeeper’s Club was the lounge itself. It’s way too smallYou could fit two of the BWI lounge areas into the one at Yacht Club, yet they have relatively the same number of guest rooms. You could tell the staff tried to make some more room by placing the morning coffee serving area outside the lounge doors, which was a smart idea, but unfortunately led to them getting distracted by what was going on inside the lounge itself and letting the coffee server sit empty for far too long. The Nespresso machine and tea area was in the little hallway just inside the lounge doors, facing the door that led to the cast member kitchen. This created even more chaos. If the lounge were larger and better laid out, the cast members would be able to much more efficiently manage things and it would undoubtedly be less stressful on them overall.

The lounge felt cramped most of the time. At breakfast it got chaotic when it was even half full, let alone when more than three or four people were lining up for food or coffee. There’s a balcony off the back of the lounge where you can see some of Illuminations over the tree line. It’s the same view as some of the Garden Cottages have, just a few floors higher.

IMG_0704
Looking into the upstairs bedroom from the balcony. The Club Lounge is two floors overhead.

We enjoyed our stay in the Garden Cottages, we really did. Yes, there are some downsides, but the good far outweighs the bad here. Keeping these rooms as a 2-person maximum capacity ensures that they’re both 1) usually available to book, even on short notice, and 2) are super quiet and have a unique ambiance that you just won’t find anywhere else on property. If you’re looking for some quiet time with plenty of room to spread out and relax, without having to give up all the great perks of staying Club Level, this is your best bet.

IMG_0710
What’s not to love?

A Not-So-Stellar Yacht Club Update

We usually aren’t big fans of posting about experiences we flat-out didn’t like. Yes, this is *technically* a review blog, but when thinking of topics to cover about Disney World, there are so many wonderful (or at least relatively enjoyable) things we could talk about that it seems silly to take the time to write about something overwhelmingly negative. But since the bulk of our blog visitors over the past several months have found us because of our Yacht Club renovated room stay last year, we think it’s important to post this follow-up based on our most recent stay.

Summary: it didn’t go well.

What the heck are you talking about, you ask in disbelief? This blog raved about how amazing and spectacular and life-changing your first stay at Yacht Club was, how great the rooms were, how above-and-beyond the Club Level staff went to make everything perfect. Why the change of heart?

Let me start by reiterating that yes, the rooms are still some of the very best on Disney property. We had a double queen room this time, and it was just as nice as the king room we had the first time. Overall we prefer having a king room since the double queen rooms tend to have less available space due to the two beds and pull-out couch, but kings aren’t always an option at WDW resorts. The rooms have been kept up quite well. The shower is fabulous, and the beds are insanely comfy.

That, unfortunately, is where the list of “good things at Yacht Club” ends for us.

We booked only a few weeks in advance for this particular trip. We felt unbelievably fortunate to luck into a Club Level room at Yacht Club on such short notice, since we went during peak convention season and conventions are that resort’s bread-and-butter. Disney Signature Services contacted us within a day or two of booking, as they tend to do nowadays, and we chatted with them briefly. We asked if they could put in a request for a king room, knowing good and well that the likelihood of this being fulfilled on such short notice was probably impossible. We figured it was worth a shot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Fast-forward to the day we check in.

We got to the resort right at check-in time. To our surprise, the resorts seem to have reinstituted the Club Level cast member who greets you in the lobby and whisks you away to the lounge to check in there, which is a nice touch we think. We got to the 5th floor, were seated in front of a concierge to begin checking in, and the cast member who brought us up there offered us a welcome drink. So far, so good.

The concierge staff on the 5th floor we encountered from then on were almost all, with very little exception, either abrupt, somewhat rude, or just downright dismissive. This was over a three-day period, so unfortunately we can’t assume the best and chock it up to everyone simultaneously having a really bad day.  We asked while we were waiting to finalize our check-in if they’d seen our request for a king room. The concierge replied with something along the lines of, “Nope, no requests on your account. Typical Signature Services.” OK, I guess?

We got to our room and had our bags delivered. The bellman was super nice and seemed extremely proud of the resort. This was fantastic. After we unpacked, we headed to the lounge to check out the offerings. We noticed as we made the trek down the hallways that, while the lobby and the rooms themselves were pristine, the hallways looked tired and dated. There were lots of scuffs on the walls, there was a constant stream of construction people doing random projects, and the housekeeping staff left room service trays, plates from the lounge, and piles of dirty towels from rooms in the halls for a decent chunk of the day. It looked unsightly, and kind of took you out of the pleasant and clean feeling you got when you were in your pretty new room.

Now, about the lounge itself. It’s still very nice. But the food offerings were mediocre at best, especially compared to the kinds of stuff they offered a year ago when we first visited. Food wasn’t replenished very quickly, and on more than one occasion I had a concierge huffing behind me waiting for me to get out of the way so they could either clean the espresso machine or get something out of the cabinets which, inconveniently, always managed to be the cabinets near the coffee and tea service area (you know, the busiest area of the whole lounge?). None of them ever said “excuse me,” none of them smiled or acted friendly, nothing. We both felt like nuisances every time we entered the lounge. For the money you pay to stay there, you should at least feel comfortable making a cup of tea without fear of crossing an angry cast member the wrong way.

We had the best luck with the evening staff. Several of them were more friendly, and one or two were really great. I don’t know if the morning staff is just overworked?

Breakfast was the same each day, with only one item changing out. That’s not atypical for Club Levels, however. Evening appetizers were also almost entirely the same, though, which is out of the ordinary. We got tired of the food within two days.

What really soured our opinions the most was the fact that the most basic services the concierge staff do each day, such as making or canceling reservations and Fast Passes or giving you information about something specific you might need to know during your stay, were either not provided or, if they were, made to seem like they were a major, laborious task that we ought not to have asked for in the first place.

For example: when you check in, they give you a phone number on your welcome letter. That phone number rings directly to the concierge desk on the 5th floor. They tell you if you need anything while you’re in the parks (an extra Fast Pass, to rearrange your dining reservations, etc.), just give them a call. So we did. We called from EPCOT one day, wanting to cancel a dining reservation for later that afternoon and replace it with another at a different restaurant. We’d already done the hard part, which was getting the new reservation via the My Disney Experience app. So we ask the concierge who answered the phone if she could please cancel the first reservation. Now we’ve stayed at every Club Level on WDW property with the exception of Beach Club, and never once during any of our stays anywhere was this ever a problem. We weren’t asking for a table at Be Our Guest for right then, for a party of 8, and a private audience with the Beast afterward or anything. Just a cancellation of a reservation at an EPCOT restaurant that is never booked up anyway. The concierge says, “You’ll have to call the reservation line. And it’ll be $10.” End of conversation. Great, thanks! You only told us to call you for this. exact. reason.

We soon learned that it was worth the effort to go downstairs and talk to the concierge staff at the front desk when we needed to ask about something. The cast members down there were, without fail, all exceptional. We rarely ask for much when we stay at WDW, so I can only imagine what guests with more needs or requests might have to deal with.

Suffice it to say, we did not have the same stellar experience we had a year ago at Yacht Club. The resort itself is still very good. The Club Level is not. It was such a disappointment.

Would we stay there again? No. Do we still recommend everyone give it a try? The resort itself, perhaps, but the Club Level gets a big fat no from us. There are far better Club Level options at WDW.

Hopefully it’ll get better again. But for now, we’re going to steer clear.

The Disneyland Hotel Experience

This will be a very photo-heavy post, so get ready folks.

IMG_5064
Here we go!

Neither one of us had ever been to Disneyland before. This was an entirely new experience for us, and therefore it was a no-brainer for us to stay on property. We both preferred the theming of the Disneyland Hotel because it evokes classic Disney in the best possible way. We were not disappointed in this whatsoever when we got there. I suppose the closest hotel at WDW I can compare it to would be the Contemporary, but the service didn’t match up in any way to what we always receive at the Contemporary (more on that later). The theming, though, felt at least somewhat familiar. It’s both modern and classic at the same time, with tons of Disney everywhere you look, and plenty of reminders of the resort’s history as well.

IMG_5179
Some ticket booklets from way-back-when hanging in the E-Ticket Club concierge lounge, for example.

Now for those of you who, like us on this trip, are only familiar with WDW as your Disney experience, I will go ahead and let you know that Disneyland is very, very different from moment one. First and foremost, you’re right in the middle. of. downtown. Anaheim. I cannot stress this enough. Everywhere you look, you’re surrounded by a regular city, not by acres and acres of Disney-owned land as far as the eye can see. It was disorienting for us at first, but we soon got used to it, although during the fireworks at night it felt strange even by our last night there. It was kind of neat, though. The ease with which you can leave property is insane compared to WDW, where it’s an ordeal and a half to get anywhere that isn’t Disneyfied. You can go do other things and it doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re missing out on precious Disney time. We didn’t leave, of course, but I suppose you could if you wanted to.

IMG_5263
Why leave when you have everything you need right here?

I won’t go into too much detail about Disneyland itself, namely the parks or Downtown Disney, because you can find reviews of that stuff all over the internet with zero effort. Suffice it to say: Disneyland – A+, California Adventure – B-, Downtown Disney – C.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about what we like to talk about most: hotel rooms and club lounges.

So here’s the deal. We often see people on Disney boards and such complaining like mad about how difficult it is to book everything at WDW. It’s cumbersome, the website is wonky, etc etc etc. Well let me go ahead and tell you right now: booking at Disneyland is SO MUCH WORSE IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY Y’ALL.

You think the WDW website is full of bugs? Disneyland’s site has got so many bugs the walls look like they’re moving. Rooms disappear and reappear before you can book them. You can get all the way to check out, put in your credit card info, and POOF!, no room for you. It’s gone, off into the ether, never to be seen again. You can call, but the availability they’ve got over the phone looks legit nothing like what you see on the website at the exact same time you’re talking to the agent. Wanting to book a premium view room at Paradise Pier? You’re looking right at it online. It’s right there. You can click on it. The agent says nothing’s available on property at all except 1 suite at the Grand Californian at rack rate. You see no such suite online, but the whole damn hotel seems to have availability if you just reload a few more times. Yikes. Yikes x 1000.

Have patience and plenty of time on your hands to book at Disneyland. It’s the only way.

Also, if you’re wanting a Concierge room (this is what they typically refer to Club Level as at Disneyland resorts, FYI), you’re going to have to be even more persistent, or luck up online. Book far in advance, check the website a lot, and hope that Concierge room stays in your cart long enough for you to check out completely and get a confirmation email. Persistence, people.

They still give you a gold Key to the World card at Disneyland hotels, though, so maybe that makes it worth all that work?

Anyway, here’s a basic overview of the Disneyland Hotel:

  • The Disneyland Hotel is made up of 3 different buildings, called “Towers”: Frontier, Adventure, and Fantasy. Each of them are (obviously) themed in their lobbies based on the name of their building. There’s some pretty amazing stuff in each lobby, so check them all out while you’re there even if you aren’t actually staying at the hotel. It’s worth your time.
  • Suites are located in every building. Balconies only exist on the very top floor of the Frontier building, and that floor is made up almost entirely of suites.
  • Suites do not automatically include Concierge Level access in their price.  This is a big difference from WDW, where all suites in the Deluxe resorts include Club Level. You can add access for an additional fee, although we sadly did not learn what that fee is per night.
  • The Concierge lounge is located on the top floor of the Adventure Tower. It has a nice view of the fireworks from Disneyland each evening, but come early and snag a seat near the windows. There’s no balcony off the lounge, sadly, so much like the King Kamehameha Club lounge at the Polynesian Village at WDW, you’ll be watching the fireworks from behind glass, and there is a noticeable glare in photos.
  • All standard Concierge level rooms are in the Adventure Tower. You can book a Standard view, which is of the parking lot facing away from Disneyland, the Deluxe and Premium views, which are of the monorail pool (the difference is how high of a floor you get, in Deluxe vs. Premium), and the Premium Downtown Disney view, which is of course of Downtown Disney and the fireworks.
IMG_5187
The welcome letter you get when you check in and are staying Concierge.

As you can see from the letter above, the meal times and basic services offered to Concierge level guests are basically similar to those you’ll get staying Club Level at WDW. There are, however, a few differences that we learned about during our trip.

The cast member staff in the lounge is very different from the staff in CL lounges in WDW resorts. At Disneyland, they are clearly separated from one another based on duty. The Concierges sit at a desk right when you walk inside the lounge, and are there strictly to do Concierge-type things, such as get dining reservations or look up stuff for you. We sat in the lounge a lot throughout our stay, observing how things run, and I can honestly say I don’t think I ever saw any of the Concierges actually leave the desk. Then there’s the food service staff, who are strictly there to do food and beverage, clean up the lounge area, and get you drinks or whatever else you need from the kitchen. They do the big work and, at least while we were there, were the true stars of the Concierge lounge. We didn’t find the actual Concierges to be too helpful or friendly, truth be told. But the food service staff? Top notch. Fantastic cast members all around. At WDW, most of the Club Level staff tends to rotate between jobs, some manning the desk and others taking care of food and drink. While there are a few cast members who are solely there to do food service, most of them can do everything, and they do. We weren’t huge fans of the way they do things at Disneyland in this regard.

We also weren’t super impressed with the Disneyland Hotel resort cast members overall, with the exception of a few notable amazing folks who made our trip even more memorable than it already was. The resort staff was a huge contrast to the cast members in the parks, who were truly fantastic. The hype you hear about how much different and better the cast members are at Disneyland is true, although sadly not in the resorts. WDW resort cast has Disneyland beat tenfold.

Food in the Concierge lounge at the Disneyland Hotel was different than most anything we’ve had at WDW. It was great, although I can’t say it was necessarily better than some of the better CL lounges at WDW (namely the Contemporary and Boardwalk Inn!). The meal times and food selection was about the same as at WDW, so I won’t go too into detail about all that. I will, however, note the most important, crucial, mind-blowing thing that Disneyland Hotel has over all the WDW lounges: MICKEY WAFFLES.

IMG_5217
There for the taking, friends! Look at them! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

I took photos during each meal service. Here’s a sampling:

The desserts were truly outstanding, and you could tell the pastry team really put a lot of thought into what they created each night. There is a Nespresso pod machine, like at the WDW lounges, and a similar coffee and tea setup. Snacks included the fresh kettle chips you see at WDW, but also a few different types of salsa alongside tortilla chips since this is California. I was a fan of this. There were granola bars, Uncrustables, and a few other packaged snacks available throughout the day to grab and take with you. Beer selection wasn’t nearly as good or creative as at WDW lounges, and only included basic domestics like Budweiser and Bud Light along with Heineken. Wine selection, however, was very good, including several reds and whites. They also had a sparkling California wine that was excellent, and the food service cast member who served it to us knew a lot about all the wines they served. Unlike at WDW, there were no cordials served in the evening alongside desserts. They made mimosas by request in the mornings, too, just like at WDW. We took advantage of a number of those.

Throughout the day and evening the lounge could get quite busy. Luckily it’s a big space with a decent amount of seating, so there’s not too much worry over not being able to find somewhere to sit if you want to stay.

IMG_5169
Tinkerbell on the tables.

Just like at WDW, you have access to the lounge even after you check out of your room, so if you need to do like we did and hang out a while before catching a ride to the airport, you can feel free.

Now, onto the rooms!

We had an amazing corner room on the top floor of the Frontier Tower, which meant that we had not one, but two of the coveted balconies that are so scarce at this hotel. It technically connected via a connecting door to the suite beside it, but we didn’t hear too much noise from the family next to us. The doors were slightly less soundproof than at the Contemporary, but far better soundproofed than those at the Polynesian Village.

The rooms at the Disneyland Hotel are all decorated the same no matter which Tower you stay in, so I won’t go too into detail about them. Suffice it to say that they’re very beautiful and well-maintained, housekeeping was top notch, and turndown service was prompt every night (unlike at some WDW Club Levels, where it can be hit or miss). Here are some photos:

I included photos from our balconies so you can get an idea what the different views looked like. One was of “cars land,” as we called it, also known as the parking lot. The other was a dead-on view of Disneyland and California Adventure, the Grand Californian, and Paradise Pier. We could see parts of World of Color each night, as well as a perfect Disneyland fireworks view.

IMG_5083
Doesn’t get much better than that, even with the cranes chilling off to the side.

We found the rooms to be exactly on par with what we expect from a Deluxe resort room at WDW.

So, would we stay there again? Yes and no.

We’ll definitely be going back to Disneyland as soon as we can. It’s such a unique experience. We fell in love with the park itself, and it’s a must for any Disney fan. When we go back, however, we’ll likely choose another resort, namely the Grand Californian. We weren’t impressed overall with the cast members at the Disneyland Hotel (again, with some very notable exceptions), and we’d like to give the Grand Californian a chance to change our minds about the staff at the Disneyland resorts. We wouldn’t trade our time at the Disneyland Hotel, though. We’d recommend it to others. It was an experience we’d always wanted to have, and we can see ourselves eventually returning sometime in the future. If we can once again decipher the enigma that is booking a Disneyland resort room, that is..

‘Ohana Polynesian Twilight Feast at the Polynesian Village

One of the experiences that has taken on an almost mythical status on Disney-related message boards and blogs is the infamous “Polynesian Twilight Feast,” the room service version of a meal at ‘Ohana. It costs $40 per person, and results in the entire spread of dishes you’d be served in their main dining room being delivered to your resort room where you can enjoy them minus the loud music and random kids activities that so many folks love about eating at ‘Ohana.

Now please keep in mind, we have never actually eaten at ‘Ohana, so this was a first for us.

Yes, we are the minority in the sense that we have no interest whatsoever in stalking the My Disney Experience app for months prior to our trip searching for that coveted, perfectly-timed fireworks reservation at the Polynesian Village Resort’s primary table service restaurant. Perhaps if we had kids, or were big fans of Hawaiian-themed things, maybe we might feel differently. But the live music, big crowds, packed-together tables, and general chaos that we’ve always witnessed every time we walk past ‘Ohana have sent us fleeing. Your mileage, of course, may vary. There’s a reason the reservations book up so far in advance, and it’s because people LOVE this place. It’s considered a “must-do” at WDW, and it very well could be for all we know.

When we stayed at the Tonga building in the Polynesian Village a few months ago, we had the opportunity to actually try the food from ‘Ohana without having to wade through the stroller graveyard that typically forms outside the restaurant’s main entrance each day. We decided to give it a go, so we ordered the Twilight Feast.

You can order the Twilight Feast if you’re staying anywhere at the Polynesian Village, be it the DVC units, the Club Level resort rooms and suites, or the standard resort rooms. It’s considered regular room service, so there will be an additional delivery charge on top of the $40 per person price tag, but for the amount of food you get and the fact you didn’t have to go to all the trouble of snagging an ‘Ohana ADR it’s a great price.

When we talked to our concierge about placing the order, she promptly asked us if we wanted it for 1 person or 2, then immediately added “you’ll want it for 1. Trust me.”

She was right, friends. However many people you’ve got in your in-room dining party, order for half that number. It is a ton of food.

IMG_1011
This is a serving FOR ONE PERSON. One. ONE. (Wine not included, unless you’re staying in Tonga where they give those bottles away like they’re cheap dollar-store water)

We scheduled a time for the food to be delivered to our room, and it was pretty much spot-on. The cart they wheel through the doorway is quite intimidating. Even before they pull off the cloche to reveal each dish you’ll already be wondering how in the heck you’re going to be able to eat all of this. Since we had a nice dining table in our suite, the room service person set everything up all fancy for us, so all we had to do was sit down and start getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of food.

The menu is exactly like you’d get at ‘Ohana:

  • Salad with a sweet vinaigrette dressing
  • Hawaiian rolls with honey butter
  • Dumplings with sauces to dip in
  • Lo Mein-style noodles
  • Sautéed vegetables
  • Rice
  • Chicken wings
  • Meat skewers: shrimp, chicken, steak
  • Slice of bread pudding with caramel sauce (no ice cream, sadly, since it’s room service)
  • Carafe of POG juice
IMG_1009
Dumplings, noodles, and vegetables.

Everything was the proper temperature and was cooked well. My favourite part was definitely the salad and noodles, and my husband was pleasantly surprised by the tenderness of the steak. We’d read some ‘Ohana horror stories online about overdone or undercooked steak and chewy chicken, but our plate was fine. The shrimp were especially good and flavorful. The dumplings were OK, but essentially like anything you’d find at any other pseudo-Asian restaurant. The dipping sauces added a nice touch, though. Vegetables were well-seasoned, the salad had the right amount of dressing (we loved the crispy noodles and the cabbage mixed in), and the bread and butter were seriously delicious.

Neither one of us had ever tried the much-coveted ‘Ohana bread pudding before, so we dug into it at the end of our meal expecting our lives to never be the same again. It was.. good, not great. It might’ve been more enjoyable with the ice cream. Maybe you can request it? By the time we thought about it, we were so full we couldn’t string together proper enough sentences to inquire, so perhaps someone else might try in the future and let us know.

IMG_1008
Meat.

Our overall impression of the food from ‘Ohana was “decent.”

Was it worth the $40 for the in-room experience? Yes, but probably only once. We wouldn’t do it again, mostly because it wasn’t the most mind-blowing food we’d had on Disney property. Everything, including the bread, is very sweet. That’s totally fine, especially if you’ve got kids whose palates are more prone to wanting sweet over, say, spicy or sour, but to us the whole meal just read a bit more one-note than what we’d have preferred. It was a lot of fun to eat such a massive meal in the comfort of our room while staring out the patio window at the resort’s marina, and honestly that made the whole meal especially awesome for us. We don’t regret ordering it. For us, it’s still the only way to do ‘Ohana. Quietly.

So next time you’re staying at the Polynesian Village and want a last-minute ‘Ohana fix, the Twilight Feast is the option for those of you in-the-know. Give it a try.

Vice Presidential Suite at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

I’m going to let everyone in on the best-kept Club Level secret at Walt Disney World. I do this with some trepidation, to be honest, for purely selfish reasons: I don’t really want everyone to know about it, because then.. well, everyone will know, and they’ll want to stay there, and it might make it harder for us to get the reservations we want. But so long as you promise to not book this place up solid for the next 5 years, I’ll proceed.

Most folks have no idea that there are two Club Levels at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. There’s Atrium Club, on the 12th floor, which houses standard resort rooms that are decorated like all the other standard rooms in the resort. There are a couple King rooms on 12, but they are difficult to get because they’re by request only, so keep that in mind. The Atrium Club lounge is fairly large, and quite beautiful. It has balconies where you can stand and get the best view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks on Disney property. Now, the 12th floor is the very top of the “atrium” floors in the Contemporary, meaning it’s the top floor you can see if you’re standing in the Grand Canyon Concourse (you know, where the monorails are) and looking straight up. It has a killer view of the concourse area. But, as any proper fan of the California Grill at the Contemporary knows all-too-well, that top atrium floor is not the top floor of the hotel itself. California Grill is on the 15th floor, perched atop the hotel with long viewing decks on either side where patrons can see fireworks or stunning panoramic views of Disney property. Beneath the California Grill and above the 12th floor, however, there’s the 14th floor (yes, the Contemporary technically has no 13th floor). 14 is home to Tower Club, our consistent pick for the best Club Level at WDW.

Now, I’ll save my gushing review of the Tower Club experience itself for a future post. We’ll be there in a few months, and I want to get some really great photos to share with everyone. For this post, we’ll focus on one of the crown jewels of Disney Deluxe hotels: the Vice Presidential Suite, located on the 14th floor on the Bay Lake side of the resort.

IMG_0625.jpg
Look at this panorama. I’m awful at taking panorama photos, and it’s STILL breathtaking.

The 14th floor houses 16 total rooms. Yes, you read that correctly. 16 rooms. Total. What does that mean for you if you stay in one of these rooms? Well, a lot of things, but one of the biggest is that you get an entire Club Level lounge, and an entire concierge staff, essentially to yourself. The lounge is empty most of the time, except breakfast on weekends mostly, so you can sit in there for a solid hour and not see another soul, besides the 3 or 4 concierge staff who will constantly make sure you have everything you need. The most interesting and informative conversations we’ve had with cast members at Disney have been with the concierge team at Tower Club, since the service is so individualized and there are so few other guests for them to tend to. It’s fantastic, and they will always remember you if you go back in the future.

Full disclosure here: we did not pay for the VP Suite. We could never pay for the VP Suite. It was the definition of “pixie dust” for us from the Tower Club CMs on a trip a few months ago. Whether or not you actually fork over the enormous $$ to buy this suite or you get surprised by it as an upgrade, though, it’s about as much luxury as you’ll find at WDW. We hear a lot of folks claim that Disney hotels simply don’t measure up to non-property luxury resorts, but I can honestly say that, as someone who has stayed at a lot of luxury resorts and Disney Deluxes, this suite, and the entire 14th floor at the Contemporary, 100% measures up to any luxury resort I’ve ever visited. I’m sure not everyone will agree, of course, but that’s for them to explain on their own blogs.

The first thing you’ll likely notice in these photos is that the decor in this suite looks different than the decor in the rest of the hotel. That’s on purpose. The entire 14th floor is decorated in lighter, brighter colors. Instead of the dark browns and saturated colors on the other 12 floors, 14 is filled with tans, light greys, and more muted colors. It’s really beautifully done, and definitely enhances all the natural sunlight that pours into the floor during the day.

IMG_0596.jpg
Hey look, you get your own foyer, complete with your own fancy contemporary art!

The VP Suite takes up a total of 7 balconies worth of rooms. It’s bigger than our house, I’m pretty sure. It’s essentially a gigantic living room/dining room/kitchen, a foyer with a bathroom to the side, a massive master bedroom with two bathrooms in it, and an additional king bedroom that is the size of a standard room. If you’re really rollin’ in the dough, though, you can theoretically rent out the entire Bay Lake or Magic Kingdom block of rooms on 14, since they all connect, and have your own penthouse. This suite has 4 full, large bathrooms (2 with bidets, 2 with full tubs), two sleeper sofas, and a lounge sofa in the master bedroom. I have no idea how many people could sleep in it, but it’s a lot.

Here’s the “extra” bedroom:

You get a kitchen in this suite, which is pretty standard for all the suites at WDW. I don’t know why you’d need it, considering the amazing food at the Tower Club lounge is literally a step across the hallway, but hey.

IMG_0602.jpg
Check out the fridge. It’s programmable, if that’s your thing.

The living room area is gigantic, and incredibly comfortable. All the furnishings in this suite are super modern, but they don’t feel cold at all like a lot of your more sterile modern decor tends to feel. You can easily get settled in, prop your feet up, and chill to the soothing sounds of WDW Today on the TV with no trouble.

The couches are super comfy, too. That doorway you see near the TV is the entry to the “extra” bedroom.

You also have a big dining room area with a long table in it that can seat six people. If you’re like us and are a party of two, it’s disorienting and hilarious at the same time to sit at it. Sit at either end and yell across the table at each other. Pretend you’re rich people. Maybe reenact that dining scene from Beauty and the Beast. Go ahead, you’re on vacation.

The best part of this suite, however, is the master bedroom. It’s enormous, has two full bathrooms, tons of seating, and really feels insanely luxurious. The bed faces the beautiful view of the lake directly. There’s not much that captures that “Disney” feeling more than laying in bed and watching the boats ferry folks across Bay Lake in the morning. We loved opening the balcony doors and hearing the horns echoing up.

Here’s a close-up of that amazing lounge-couch thing past the bed:

IMG_0622.jpg
I could legitimately live on this thing.

Then there’s the view. The VP Suite sits right in the middle of the 14th floor, so you get a perfectly centered, dead-on view of Bay Lake. If you walk out onto the living room balcony area at night, it’s like the Electrical Water Pageant is performing just for you.

The 14th floor does not connect to the atrium area of the resort, meaning you can’t look down and see the monorail from the hallways. It’s completely closed off. I realize that’s not everyone’s jam, particularly if the main reason you’re wanting to stay at the Contemporary is to be able to see the hustle and bustle of the Grand Canyon Concourse and the monorails from outside your room, but for us it’s a real plus. We love how quiet the 14th floor is. You honestly have no clue that there’s a monorail and a mile-long line of strollers with screaming children in them impatiently waiting for their Chef Mickey’s reservations right below you. You also never hear a peep from California Grill, which is sitting right above your head. That’s a huge advantage in general of an older hotel like the Contemporary over some of the newer-constructed Deluxes: the Contemporary is solid steel (haven’t you seen that old US Steel commercial about the Contemporary from the 70s on YouTube yet? If not, go watch it right now, it’s fantastic), the doors and walls are thick, and the 14th floor is like an oasis from it all. It would probably seem very boring for children, I’m not going to lie. But for a couple, or two adults seeking a relaxing WDW vacation, it’s heaven.

So there it is. You’ve seen the Vice Presidential Suite, and you’ve heard about the awesomeness that is Tower Club at the Contemporary Resort. As I promised above, I will be dedicating an entire future post to the Club Level experience up on 14. But for now, I hope this glimpse will suffice.

Should you find yourself looking to splurge majorly on a once-in-a-lifetime luxury WDW trip, I would recommend the VP Suite at the Contemporary at the very top of my list. You won’t find a more peaceful view, or a nicer suite, or a better Club Level lounge and staff. You’d pay more for a suite at Royal Palm at the Grand Floridian and at Tonga at the Polynesian Village, and to be perfectly honest you won’t get nearly as great of an overall experience as you will at the Contemporary. Plus, you can step across the hallway at night, grab a glass of champagne, stand on the enormous Club Lounge balcony, and watch the fireworks from there. Most nights, you’ll have the whole place to yourself. It’s truly the best of both worlds.

The Underrated Awesomeness of Animal Kingdom Lodge

It’s really a shame that one of the best all-around resorts on WDW property is often overlooked by so many people. I say this because we, too, were once guilty of automatically excluding Animal Kingdom Lodge from our resort “must-stay” list simply because of its location.

IMG_0846
There’s no way a room with a view like this could possibly still be convenient to a theme park. Right, giraffe?

Animal Kingdom Lodge is quite literally off the beaten path. It’s tucked away in its own resort area, there are no parks within walking distance, and the only WDW transportation option is the bus. We hate the buses with a fiery passion. Thus, AKL automatically had a major strike against it before we ever set foot on its grounds. But we’d enjoyed meals at both Jiko and Sanaa in the past, and I’m a total sucker for the African theming that’s so perfectly maintained at this resort. So eventually we knew we were going to have to give it a try despite our misgivings (and fear of the buses). We finally stayed there in March of 2017.

We will be back.

IMG_0887
I mean seriously. Look at this place.

With that being said, AKL is definitely a bit different than the other Deluxe resorts on property. It’s a very distinctive experience, and it isn’t necessarily ideal for every type of WDW trip. So before I go into more details about our impressions, I’ll go ahead and give a few important pointers to keep in mind when considering staying here.

  1. Animal Kingdom Lodge is isolated. It’s supposed to be that way. It’s part of the theming. Does it feel “Disney” still? Absolutely. But you are separated from the parks when you’re at the resort, so if you’re wedded to the idea of being able to see Magic Kingdom or EPCOT from your room, this might not seem like a good option. I would beg you to keep an open mind, though, and consider AKL anyway. The atmosphere is honestly second-to-none.
  2. You will have to drive or take a bus anywhere else on property. This includes a short 3-minute (or so) bus ride over to Animal Kingdom itself. You’ll need to factor in far more significant travel times than if you were staying at other Deluxes. Yes, in  today’s day and age where Disney trips are meticulously calculated and planned down to the last second, this might seem like a nightmare and a half. It’s really not, though, if you remember that AKL is designed to be very self-contained and immersive. Yes, all the WDW resorts are designed this way, too, but AKL takes it to another level. The dining here is exquisite. There is so much to do at the resort. Instead of planning most of your evening meals elsewhere, consider staying at the resort this trip. It’ll save you the headache of bus travel and you really get to enjoy all the special things AKL offers.
  3. Animal Kingdom Lodge is made up of two separate resorts. This is very important to know. Jambo House is the name for the main resort building, where all the guest rooms are located. It’s the first building you see when you enter the resort gates. There is also Kidani Village, an additional building that is made up entirely of DVC units. There are no resort rooms in Kidani Village. If you book a resort room at AKL through the Disney website or reservations line, you’ll be in Jambo House. There are DVC units in Jambo House, too, for some reason, but they’re restricted to the fifth and sixth floors. Kidani Village is worth visiting for Sanaa, their table service restaurant, but otherwise everything else you’ll need will be in Jambo House.
  4. The rooms at AKL are smaller than at the other Deluxe resorts, with the exception of Wilderness Lodge. A standard room here sleeps a maximum of 4 people. This includes Club Level rooms, too (besides suites, of course). All the King rooms are handicapped-accessible, as well, so plan on a double Queen instead. You can technically rent a DVC unit that sleeps more than 4 and still be in the “main” building (Jambo House), but that will entail going through all the not-so-fun stuff you have to deal with to rent DVC points. I’m not going into that in this blog post. I’ll save it for a later time.
  5. Club Level rooms at AKL are located on the 4th floor. There are suites with Club Level access located on other floors, too, but all the standard Club rooms are on 4. The lounge is on the 6th floor. You’ll need to take the main elevator up to 6 (which is a restricted access floor) in order to visit the concierge desk, grab a snack or drink, etc. Some people dislike this layout and therefore avoid AKL’s Club Level. We thought we’d hate it too, but it surprisingly didn’t bother us. It’s something to keep in mind though.
IMG_0896
The 6th floor elevator lobby. If you take a left, you’ll meander your way right into the Club Lounge.

The resort rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge all look the same, for the most part, so I refrained from taking pictures (well, good ones anyway). If you want to see some, Google Images can assist you. They’re very beautiful and definitely nail the African theme without being too in-your-face. You feel like you’re transported to Africa, you really do. We both agreed, however, that the rooms are well overdue for a refresh. They were immaculate and very well maintained, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think the rooms here have changed since the hotel was built back in 2001. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with them next. For now, though, they’re still extremely comfortable, warm, and feel both upscale and “Disney” at the same time. All the rooms here have balconies.

Room types are classified by view, with three categories:

  • Standard, which includes everything from a straight-on parking lot or bus stop view to barely-obstructed savanna views. You can really luck up in this category and get some great animal viewing, but don’t assume.
  • Pool. I think you can figure this one out on your own.
  • Savanna, which has a direct view of, well, you guessed it.

The most ideal savanna viewing floor is the 4th floor, because it’s the perfect height to be able to see the whole expanse of the animal areas. That’s why the Club Level rooms are on the 4th floor. Oh, and all Club Level rooms have a savanna view! It’s one of the many perks AKL Club Level offers that makes it really stand out among the WDW Deluxe resorts.

From the moment we first checked in, we immediately realized that AKL is probably the perfect choice for couples looking to have a more quiet and subdued Disney World trip. As with all WDW resort common areas, the lobby had some hustle and bustle, but we were shocked by how relaxing it felt despite it all. Maybe it’s the super high ceilings or something, but any noise in the lobby seemed to immediately turn into ambient background noise that suited the atmosphere. There are African drummers throughout the day who perform and sing, too, which only adds to the experience. There’s really something special about sitting up in the gorgeous Club Lounge hearing the drums while enjoying a glass of wine. There’s nothing else like it on property.

AKL is designed for guests to spend time there. You could easily spend several days just taking in the resort grounds, watching the animals from your balcony, doing the free restaurant tours or the wine tasting at Jiko, and just relaxing. Doesn’t sound like a typical Disney trip, does it?

 

Club Level here takes things to another level, literally. (See what I did there? It’s on the 6th floor and your room is on the 4th..?)

IMG_0900
I should skip the jokes and stick to posting pictures instead. Here is a seating area and a window.

The Kilimanjaro Club lounge itself overlooks the gorgeous lobby. You can’t really see out to the savanna, but since all the Club rooms have a savanna view you don’t miss it too much. It’s a large lounge with two side-by-side concierge desks, a main seating area, two side seating areas, and a children’s area with its own TV. Like all Club lounges at WDW, it can get crowded, particularly at breakfast, but it never became unmanageable while we were there. There were a lot of cast members working at any given time, everything was kept clean and replenished, and we rarely had to wait more than a minute or two to find someone if we needed something.

IMG_0925
Part of the afternoon snack service.

One unique thing about the Club Level experience here is that all alcohol is by-request only. If you’re familiar with how Club Level works at other Disney resorts, you’ve seen the assorted wines, beers, and cordials set out in the evenings for guests to choose from, either with a cast member serving them or just available to take on your own. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, you simply ask a cast member for whatever you want, they pour it in the back kitchen (which is right behind the serving area in the picture above), then they deliver it to you. Sure, it’s always nice to be able to go grab a beer or a glass of wine yourself, but we surprisingly weren’t bugged by the setup here at all. In fact, we liked it most of the time because we often asked for either Jungle Juice mimosas or sangria (red wine mixed with Jungle Juice — a delicious concoction that is basically the same thing as the infamous POG juice over at the Polynesian Village). Those are a lot better when someone else makes ’em for you. You’re on vacation, after all.

By far the greatest aspect of Club Level at AKL is the food. I could write poetry about it, it’s that good. There is a chef from Boma who prepares dishes in the lounge during the evening meal. AKL is also one of only two WDW resorts that offers an afternoon tea in the lounge (the other being Grand Floridian). The scones are amazing.

Luckily for me, the Club Lounge had an electronic menu of their food and drink options. So instead of trying (and inevitably failing) to remember everything myself, I can just do this:

Magic!

The whole food setup in the lounge is really well-implemented. There’s the usual Nespresso machine and coffee/tea/juice/water service area, a snack area, and then the rest of the expansive service bar is dedicated to hot and cold items.

Yes, before you ask: the food here is definitely African-inspired. That can turn some folks off. It shouldn’t, though. Most of the dishes they serve here sound exotic, but the taste is pleasing to all but the most unimaginative palates, I swear. In a lot of ways, AKL’s food options tend to skew more toward adult tastes. Yet another reason why couples and adults traveling without kids in tow should consider staying here.

Here are some more lounge photos so you can get an idea what the space itself looks like:

 

With everything the Kilimanjaro Club at AKL offers, it’s really shocking to know that it’s consistently one of the cheapest Club options on WDW property. The same goes for standard non-Club rooms, too. AKL is cheaper largely because of its location. But considering the fact you can see animals from your balcony, get food and drink options that are some of the best of any Club lounge, and enjoy a fully immersive and unique African experience yet still be at Disney World, it’s really difficult to convince us to stay elsewhere.

IMG_0902
See the hidden Mickey?

We’ve stayed at almost all the Club Level Deluxe resorts at WDW, and Animal Kingdom Lodge ranks right up there among the best. There’s a real sense of pride and care that’s palpable among the cast members who work there. You can tell they love the resort and they want you to, as well. Does it have its downsides? Yes, albeit very few. But if you’re willing to go out on a limb and take a slightly different kind of WDW trip, one that isn’t as scheduled and hurried, skip the jumping back and forth from park to park and resort to restaurant and give AKL a try instead. You won’t think of Disney World the same way again. We promise.

Honeymoon Suite at the Polynesian Village Tonga Building

First off, full disclosure: I’ve held off writing about Polynesian Village for several reasons.

This Club Level seems to be the hands-down #1 pick of most folks who frequent the Deluxe resorts at Disney World, and I’ve been extremely hesitant to write anything that would seem remotely negative toward such a fan favourite. So let me say before we go any further that yes, we enjoyed our experience at Polynesian Village overall.

Would we go back? No.

But wait! Hear me out before grabbing the pitchforks and storming my door!

I get the appeal, I really do. This resort is tropical. It really nails the whole “Hawaiian island” vibe. It’s one of the two original WDW resorts, holding that important distinction alongside the Contemporary Resort. It’s on the monorail loop, which is a super-mega-plus. The pools are nice. The grounds are lush. You can buy Dole Whip swirls right outside the lobby building. What’s not to like?

IMG_0997
This guy looks really charming, too.

When we booked a room at Polynesian Village, we did so on a whim. In our quest to stay at all the Disney Deluxe resorts, it seemed like a no-brainer to jump at the chance to experience a place we hadn’t experienced before. We’re glad we did. We met a couple truly wonderful Cast Members, and we learned that there are a lot of things to love about this resort. We don’t really love it, though. We’ll explain why.

The room we stayed in is called the “Honeymoon Suite,” but as you’ll soon see, it isn’t a true suite in the sense that it’s only one room. It’s still very nice, though, with lots of space and a beautiful design.

Polynesian Village is one of three resorts on property that has two different Club Levels. Grand Floridian has Royal Palm Club in its main building and Sugarloaf in an outer building, the Contemporary has Atrium Club on its twelfth floor (made up of standard rooms) and Tower Club on its 14th floor (made up mostly of suites), and Polynesian Village has the Hawaii building and the Tonga building. What’s really unique about PV is that both the Hawaii and Tonga buildings are considered part of the “same” Club Level, the King Kamehameha Club.

It’s confusing, I know.

So, the Hawaii building is where the standard Club Level resort rooms are located. If you book a regular CL room at PV, this is where you’ll be staying. It’s also home to a very large, two-storey club lounge. The Tonga building, however, is an entirely separate, smaller building that houses only suites. It’s two stories, and has a small, limited lounge upstairs strictly for Tonga guests. Hawaii guests have access to the lounge in the Hawaii building only, while Tonga guests can use both lounges. This is important because the Tonga lounge has very limited selections for food and drink, mostly comprised of snacks, fruit, and basic cokes and alcohol, while the Hawaii lounge serves hot food like all the other club lounges. For example, if you want a cup of coffee while staying in Tonga, you can either use the Nespresso machine to make a cappuccino or walk over to Hawaii to get freshly brewed coffee (or use their new ultra-fancy Nespresso maker which looks like it belongs on a spaceship!).

Here’s some images to give you a better idea what the Tonga lounge looks like:

Now compare those images with the ones from the Hawaii lounge:

Big difference.

It might seem at first like the folks over in Tonga are getting a raw deal. But here’s the thing: the Tonga building has its own, 100% free room service menu. It’s a small menu, but it includes some great stuff delivered right to your room for absolutely no charge as part of your Club Level service. We were told the reason for this is because the Tonga lounge is unable to offer hot food items and the walk to Hawaii is a bit of a hike, so they implemented this room service menu as a way to alleviate some of that.

IMG_0986
One of everything, please.

The food items are similar to what’s available at Kona Cafe, including Tonga Toast and sushi. Now I’ll be the first to argue that Kona Cafe is egregiously overrated, but they do make pretty good sushi. And it was nice to get it sent directly to our room and avoid the permanently-crowded and hectic Polynesian Village lobby.

Here’s a look at our snacks and breakfast: tuna rolls, crab cakes, Tonga Toast, fruit plate, and the Aloha Eggs.

Everything tastes better when it’s free and delivered to your door!

The wine and beer selection at Tonga is about the same as it is over in Hawaii. There was a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon, some type of white (sorry, we aren’t white wine drinkers so we didn’t note what kind!), and several beer options including Heineken, Bud Light, Yuengling, and Kona Brewing Co’s Longboard Ale (which is great). No sparkling wine, though. None at Hawaii, either, which meant no POG juice mimosas. Such a bummer. All the alcohol is entirely self-serve. There were also cordials and a few desserts each night in the Tonga lounge.

In case you’re wondering, the walk over to Hawaii isn’t too bad. You go through the Great Ceremonial House (aka the lobby), past the pool, and you’re there.

IMG_0958
The stairway leading up to the Tonga lounge.

We didn’t find the Cast Members at Hawaii to be overly friendly, but the CMs in Tonga were exceptional. Literally some of the best we’ve encountered on WDW property. The Hawaii lounge quickly became something we avoided, to be perfectly honest. One of the main reasons is because it is always loud and hectic, more so than any other club lounge we’ve experienced by a long-shot. To be fair, we’ve never stayed in the Hawaii building so we can’t comment firsthand, but we both agreed that, were we to have booked a room there, we would have likely been looking to change resorts after a day or so. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. There are zero king rooms in the Hawaii building. None. Every room is a double queen. This makes the rooms there perfect for families, or even friend-trips and mom and/or dad + an older kid trips, but not ideal in any way for couples.
  2. As I said above, the lounge is seriously the most stressful we’ve encountered. If you’re looking for a relaxing and quiet trip, this would be the last place we’d recommend. You’ll see lots of kids running around, lots of lines for food and drink, and general noise throughout the day with little relief. The close proximity of the Hawaii building, and thus the CL lounge, to the pool makes it that much easier for excited kids to run in in their wet swimsuits to grab snacks, which adds to the commotion.
  3. The Cast Members work to keep things stocked, but it’s gotta be pretty damn hard. The Hawaii building is large with a lot of rooms. Add in the folks who come over from Tonga and you’ve got tons of people to take care of. While we were always able to find a CM to ask for something if we needed it, they were typically short with us. Not rude, just.. not very engaging.
  4. The food. I’m gonna be real here, y’all: the food at the Polynesian Village’s CL is the worst on property. It’s boring and doesn’t seem very high quality. Considering the amazing upgrades other CLs at WDW are doing in terms of imaginative food offerings (I’m looking at you, Boardwalk Inn!), Polynesian Village’s selections are a huge disappointment. When you pay for CL, part of what you’re paying for in the higher room rate is food and drink offerings. A room in Hawaii building is already more pricey than all the other Deluxes besides the Grand Floridian (and sometimes it’s the same price). They should and CAN do better, but they don’t.

 

Let’s talk about our room now, and the Tonga building in general.

IMG_0957
Club Level reception desk right when you walk through the doors of the Tonga longhouse.

Tonga is the smallest of the longhouses at the resort. It’s only two floors, while other longhouses have three. It sits right behind the marina docks overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon. To get there, you walk through the lobby, turn left like you’re heading to Captain Cook’s quick-service dining area, wade through the ocean of people standing around crowding the bathrooms, and follow the hallway outside. You’ll see a sign that says “To Tonga” or something like that. The short walkway is entirely covered, so you don’t have to worry about rain or anything.

The building houses all the suites at Polynesian Village. There are several one- and two-bedroom suites, called “Ambassador” and “Princess” rooms, respectively. There is also the presidential “King Kamehameha” suite, which is two floors. The single Honeymoon Suite is located next to the King Kamehameha, at the very end of the first floor hallway.

Here’s what the room looks like:

As you can see, it’s a gorgeous room. It’s not technically a suite, but it’s huge, so I’ll give them a pass on that. The bedroom has a coffee station right as you enter the room, a large dining table, a desk, a lounge chair next to the sliding glass door, a dresser/TV stand, and that big canopy bed that makes you want to go jump on it. There are also sliding shutters between the bathroom and bedroom, so you can open those up if you wanna say hi to the person in the shower or whatever.

Here’s the bathroom:

It features a nice glass walk-in shower with a fantastic shower head, as well as a jetted tub. I wanted to try the tub really badly, but it didn’t work. It only gave scalding hot water, no cold. It was a disappointment since I love baths, and at the price per night of this room everything in it should work. There is also no makeup mirror in this room, which is weird because every Club Level room on property nowadays seems to have one.

The patio and view:

The view is lovely, isn’t it? Before you ask, no, you can’t see the castle from this room because the roof of one of the other longhouses just barely manages to cut it out of frame. We did see some of the fireworks, but your best bet for firework viewing is to walk down to the dock or beach. It’s not that great of a view compared to the Contemporary’s or Grand Floridian’s (mostly because of the DVC bungalows), but it’s the best at the resort. You can also go watch them from the lounge in Hawaii. The lights from the lounge reflect against the big glass windows, however, so it does detract a bit from the show.

Because Tonga is situated alongside the main walkway to Luau Cove, where they do the luau show each night, there will be a lot of foot traffic in front of the room. As you can see in one of the photos above, there is shrubbery that blocks the patios off from the walkway, so it’s not like someone can just walk right up to your door or anything. Keep those curtains closed at night, though!

The Honeymoon Suite is very comfortable. The bed is one of the best we’ve slept in. Housekeeping was on point and friendly. The Cast Members in Tonga went above and beyond to answer any question we had. It was nice to just sit at our huge dining table in the morning, eat our free room service breakfast, and watch the people walking by our patio door. I’ve never found the Polynesian Village to be remotely relaxing, mostly due to how hectic the lobby always is, but this room in Tonga managed to create that atmosphere for me.

There was one big downside, though, that has to be mentioned here. The Honeymoon Suite has a connecting door. Normally that isn’t a huge deal, and most older hotels have them. In fact, the entire 14th floor of the Contemporary is connected via connecting doors, so you could in theory rent out the whole thing if you want to spend obscene amounts of money like there’s no tomorrow. But the connecting doors at the Contemporary are fairly soundproofed. The one we had in Tonga was definitely NOT. There was a large and extremely loud family in the King Kamehameha Suite next to us, and we were treated to every single conversation almost as clearly as if they had been in the room with us. There were several kids in there, and they weren’t very happy most of the time, to say the least. We got screaming, yelling, crying, shrieking.. you name it. I’m not familiar with the layout of that suite, but it seems like the living area might be located right next to the connecting door? That’s all we could figure, since we heard all about the family’s fastpasses, dining plans, arguments, etc. from early in the morning until well into the night. If we’d been a couple on our honeymoon, we’d have been extremely unhappy with the situation.

 

So that’s our take on our stay in Tonga at the Polynesian Village. Would we recommend it? Honestly, not really. It’s very expensive to stay anywhere at this resort, and the Tonga rooms are exorbitant even by Disney Deluxe standards. You do get a lot of perks, such as the extra lounge and the room service. The Tonga staff are great. But the negatives really do outweigh the positives here. Tonga might be a good choice for a large family who has always wanted to stay at the Polynesian, but that’s really the only scenario we can come up with that makes it worth it. There are much better Club Level experiences to be had at WDW. There are much better suite options at WDW. For a couple, especially, Polynesian Village isn’t a good bet.

We’re glad we stayed here so we can say we have. It was worth it for the experience. But we doubt we’ll be headed back through this door again.

IMG_0962
It was good while it lasted, Tonga. Sort of.