Please don’t be put off by the title of this post.
We, like many other Disney Deluxe resort fans, used to have a tendency to regard Sugarloaf as somewhat second-rate when compared to Royal Palm Club. You see, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has not just one, but two Club Level options, one of which is located in the main building (the lobby, with the band and the shops and such in it), and the second of which is located in an outer building. The main Club Level is known as Royal Palm Club, while the outer club is known as Sugarloaf, the name of the building itself. We never really gave Sugarloaf much thought, to be honest. The Grand Floridian wasn’t even a resort we were particularly thrilled to stay in, thus we put it off until we had already stayed everywhere else Deluxe-wise. Something about it didn’t draw us in. Maybe it’s the theming. Regardless, when we ended up with a few nights booked at Sugarloaf last-minute, we were reluctant, but ready to go in with an open mind.
We joked with some of the Sugarloaf staff when we checked in that we were more Contemporary people. They replied that we’d be leaving Grand Floridian people, and they’d make sure of it.
Sugarloaf is only a short walk from the main building and is only accessible by MagicBand, meaning you have to be staying in Sugarloaf to actually enter. This is a good thing, because right inside the doorway is the club lounge. You step into an anteroom of sorts, where there’s a sitting area, podium, and water/tea/coffee station. Beyond that is a large, open atrium area with the food service on one side, tables on the other, and a big concierge desk in the centre of it all.
There’s a lot of room in Sugarloaf, which is good, because as with any other Club Level on WDW property, things can get a bit crowded during peak service times, particularly breakfast and early evening. We had read some horror stories prior to our trip about how hectic and loud Sugarloaf can be, but I’ll go on record saying we didn’t experience any of that. Yes, there are lines for food or alcohol sometimes, but you’ll get that anywhere. If you think Sugarloaf is crazy, try the King Kamehameha Club over at the Polynesian Village any time of the day or night and get back to us. Sugarloaf was nothing compared to that mess. You’ll also never have to look too far for a staff member or two. Sugarloaf was excellently staffed, probably better than any Club Level we’ve been to, with the possible exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The lounge is lovely, I’ll just put it bluntly. It’s comfortable and has a functional layout without loads of wasted space. If you want to chill and hang out there’s plenty of room to do so, and if you want a quick bite to eat before heading to the parks for the day you can get in and out without any hassle. We enjoyed sitting and having a drink while chatting with the concierge staff during the afternoon, and most of the time we were the only people in the whole lounge.
Food offerings were top-notch overall, although I failed to get decent photos of the services besides snack time. You’ll have to use your imagination here.
Breakfast was standard Disney Club Level offerings for the most part, with one major, huge, insanely big exception:
Yes, you read this correctly. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. They make Mickey waffles for you. Every other morning. In the Club Lounge. As many as you want. With mimosas.
It’s OK to admit you’re already planning your trip to Sugarloaf now. We understand.
Beyond the waffles, though, we’re talking the usual cereals, meats and cheeses, pastries, etc. Snacks were more creative and plentiful than some other Club Levels offer, with lots of vegetables, breads, crackers, and dips alongside some sweets. Then there’s the afternoon tea. The Grand Floridian is one of only two resorts at WDW to offer an afternoon teatime in their Club lounges, the other being Animal Kingdom Lodge. Both Sugarloaf and Royal Palm Club have this, and their tea snacks are much more elaborate than those at AKL. Stuff like jam tarts, homemade scones, clotted cream and jam, etc. It was our favourite part of the day. During our stay there weren’t many folks who were in the lounge during teatime, so the extra quiet made it even nicer.
Evening appetisers rotated nightly. There was usually a hot food station with a chef, which is the new thing across all the Club Levels. Wine, beer, and cordials were served for you by a concierge staff member, but we can personally attest to their more-than-healthy pours. You won’t leave wanting.
The building itself is three storeys, and the resort rooms line the atrium area on either side and all around. If you’re concerned about potential noise wafting up from the lounge, we’d recommend requesting a room on the second or third floors, further down the hallways. Our room was on the third floor at the very end of a hallway and we never heard a peep from the lounge, even during breakfast. It was peaceful and quiet, which is a true gem of a find at Disney.
We booked a standard view room and were pleasantly surprised by what we got.
Being on the top (third) floor, our room was a dormer-style room with tall, slanted ceilings. We loved it. Grand Floridian rooms aren’t small anyway, but the high ceilings made the room feel even bigger than it was.
King rooms are available in Sugarloaf by request, but they aren’t bookable. There are several suites in Sugarloaf, as well. Most rooms are the double-queen type with a pull-out sofa, like the one we got. They’re very spacious and luxurious, with marble sink tops and wood flooring and a small foyer when you walk in. Oh, and bathrobes and slippers with the “GF” logo embroidered on them. Extra fancy.
Some of our favourite features of the room design in Sugarloaf, and the Grand Floridian in general, were all the little touches they added. The pillows, the little Mickey heads in the curtains, and the towel Mickey on the bed (something that has died off at every other Deluxe resort, sadly). Even the artwork is adorable and perfectly Disney. You can tell they go above and beyond here, and it shows.
So then, the questions remains: why stay in Sugarloaf? What’s the difference between it and Royal Palm over in the main building?
More than anything: price. Sugarloaf will always be consistently cheaper than Royal Palm. We’re not talking a huge, deep discount or anything, but you’ll definitely pay at least $100 a night less to stay Sugarloaf, any time of the year. Part of the premium you’re paying at Royal Palm is for the luxury of being in the main building, of hearing the sounds of the band wafting up into the lounge area as you have your evening glass of wine, and the general hustle and bustle of the lobby throughout the day. It’s really an experience. There are also a few other perks to being in Royal Palm, like a multi-storey lounge, more suites (including the Walt Disney and Roy Disney Suites, which are the Presidential and Vice Presidential), views of the fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant from the lounge, a bit more staff, and a couple extra food/drink options.
Sugarloaf also has a tendency to be a bit easier to book, especially on short notice. We noticed also that Sugarloaf attracts more families with children, at least when we were there. This might be due to the fact that Royal Palm is simply more expensive, and thus folks who book there are often celebrating something or wanting as upscale an experience as they can have at WDW, which, as we here at this particular blog know all-too-well, usually doesn’t involve dragging a few kids along. But that being said, Sugarloaf is not a daycare. There will be children, sure, but nothing out of the ordinary for Disney. We spent time in both Sugarloaf and Royal Palm during this trip, and both seemed about the same crowd-wise. There were more couples in Royal Palm, but several (besides us) in Sugarloaf as well.
Between the two Club Level options at Grand Floridian, we don’t think you can go wrong either way. Try them both. You’ll like them both, for different reasons. We’ll save our review of Royal Palm for another post.
Were the concierge staff right when we checked into Sugarloaf? Did we become Grand Floridian people? Maybe so. We still love the Contemporary. It’ll always be our favourite. But we only have one trip booked for next year, and you can probably guess where we’ll be staying.