There are very few WDW experiences that have the same aura of elegance surrounding them like a stay at the Grand Floridian’s premier Club Level, the Royal Palm Club. Ever since the Grand Floridian was built back in 1988, it was intended to snatch the title of Disney World’s “Flagship Resort” from its original owner, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and if you ask a lot of the Disney Deluxe Resort fans out there, the Grand Floridian is far more deserving of said title anyhow. It’s designed to look like a classic Florida beach resort from the Victorian era, with grand staircases, an opulent lobby complete with an in-house band, and sprawling grounds that certainly evoke a sense of having gone back in time to when Florida’s beaches were a playground for the wealthy instead of a more affordable family vacation destination.
If Grand Floridian is indeed WDW’s flagship resort, then the Royal Palm Club is the flagship of the flagship. Grand Floridian boasts two Club Levels, as anyone who read our Sugarloaf post from a couple years back will recall, but only one of those Club Levels resides in the main building of the resort. Sugarloaf is located instead in an outer building, just a short walk from the main building and lobby. Royal Palm is quite a bit more expensive than Sugarloaf, as well, however we’ll note that a standard room at Royal Palm will cost you around the same price as a garden view room at King Kamehameha Club over at the Polynesian Village (and, if you ask us, Royal Palm is a much better Club Level experience overall).
If you wish to book a Club Level room at Grand Floridian, you’ll need to know the difference between the two Clubs and how they’re listed in Disney’s reservation systems to make sure you get where you want. Here’s the rule of thumb:
- If the Club Level room is listed as Club Level – Outer Building, it is Sugarloaf.
- If the Club Level room is listed as Club Level – Main Building, it is Royal Palm.
- If you book a suite, you will notice both Outer Building and Main Building as options, although the latter are not fully bookable on the reservations website (you’ll have to call for some of them, I believe). Note that with suites, just because one is listed as Outer Building, it does NOT mean it will be in the Sugarloaf building proper. There are suites in every outer building at Grand Floridian, and although all suites come with Club Level access, you are not guaranteed that your suite will be in a Club Level building unless you book a suite in the Main Building. We’ve received different information from Cast Members about which Club Level lounge you have access to with suites that are located outside the main building—some say it’s Royal Palm, others Sugarloaf, and still others both/either(?).
Now that that’s out of the way, we’ll dig into the specifics.
To start, the Royal Palm Club takes up the top three floors of the Grand Floridian’s main building. There are no non-Club Level rooms in the main building. Technically, there are also some Royal Palm rooms on the second floor of the main building, too, but we’ll talk about those later in this post. The lounge itself is three storeys, with the first storey being a reception and check-in area with plenty of seating (as well as a killer balcony that overlooks the monorail station at the front of the hotel—we spent a lot of time out there watching the monorails and enjoying a glass of wine). The second storey is the lounge proper, with the food service area, a bar, a tea and coffee station, both adult and kids TV-viewing areas, and even more seating. The third storey is the top floor, composed of more – you guessed it! – seating areas. The top floor is perfect for a quiet out-of-the-way place to sit during the day or to watch the fireworks at night. It’s always peaceful up there.
Told you there were lots of chairs, didn’t I? The first two images above are on the second floor of the lounge, and the third image is on the top floor.
As you might be able to tell from the photos thus far, each floor wraps around the lobby, giving you a 360-degree view of everything. You’ll have gorgeous views of Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom out one set of windows, and perfect views of the front of the resort and the monorail tracks out the other set. There are no bad spots to sit at in Royal Palm. Another big perk is that you directly overlook the lobby on every floor, meaning you get to hear the Grand Floridian Band up-close and personal when they play each evening. It’s like they’re playing just for you and all your buddies in Royal Palm.
The room we stayed in on our first trip to Royal Palm was a coveted “turret room.” We did not request it, we simply lucked into it. And lucky we were indeed, because it was a fabulous room, one of the best on property as far as we’re concerned.
These rooms are exactly what you’d expect: located in the corner “turrets” of the Main Building, and shaped like hexagons for amazing views all around. There are no balconies due to the odd shape of the rooms, but we didn’t miss that at all. The windows do open for you to hear all the various Disney sounds you love.
The room features a king-sized bed, a pull-out couch (meaning the capacity is 3 total occupants, I believe, but why the heck would you want that?), a desk, a lounge chair, a wet bar area, a dresser and TV, a foyer with a lovely window, an enormous bathroom area with separated sink and vanity, a soaking tub/shower combo, and a walk-in closet that might just be the same size as a standard room at one of the All Stars.
All the turret rooms are located on the corners of the Main Building. Some of them overlook the Magic Kingdom and the back of the resort, and others overlook the front of the resort, the monorail line, and one of the pools. We can’t imagine any of them have a bad view, so you won’t be missing out no matter where you are in these rooms.
We knew as soon as we walked in that this was going to be one of our favourite experiences at Disney, and we were not disappointed.
But like everything else at Grand Floridian, we learned, there are some disclaimers you must know about the turret rooms beforehand that could definitely put a wrinkle in your plans. Most importantly, you cannot book one of these directly. Instead, you have to book a “Deluxe King – Club Level – Main Building.” Doesn’t sound all that great, does it? Well, it can be. Or it can definitely NOT be. Here’s what I mean:
There are two types of “Deluxe King – Main Building” rooms at Royal Palm. The first are the “turret rooms,” the second are the “second floor” rooms. What’s the difference, you ask?
- Turret Rooms are located on the edges of the third, fourth, and fifth storeys of the Main Building. Those are the three floors that make up Royal Palm Club proper.
- “Second Floor” Rooms are located on – surprise! – the second floor. But don’t think you can get to them by just taking the regular Royal Palm elevator, hitting the 2, and waltzing on to your room. Nope. To get to your room, you’ll have to take the Royal Palm elevator in the lobby, hit the 3, get off the elevator, walk down a hallway, walk down another hallway, get on another elevator, hit the 2, get off, go down another hallway, and there you are. How do you get to the lounge, you ask? Well, you’ll leave the room, go down the hallway to the elevator, get on and hit the 4, get off, walk down a corridor, walk through the sitting area of the lounge, and you’re there. These rooms are slightly larger standard King rooms, with a big soaking tub and balconies that overlook the Magic Kingdom fireworks directly.
Full disclosure: we know some folks like the second floor rooms. When we got one on our second stay at Royal Palm, we went in with an open mind. Yet the experiences between the two “Deluxe King” rooms were so vastly different, we ended up counting down the days until we got to go to the second part of our trip at the Tower Club at the Contemporary.
The second floor rooms are converted office space, we were told, and even if we didn’t know that for certain from a Cast Member, we would’ve simply assumed this was the case anyhow due to the lower ceilings, weird hallway, and overall lacklustre vibe the second floor room area gave off. It felt like an afterthought. Our room was more run-down than the other few Grand Floridian rooms we’d stayed in, as well, including the one at Sugarloaf (which was pristine). It felt.. forgotten. If it tells you anything, we didn’t even think to take photos for the blog while we were there. It was one of the few times at Disney World where we didn’t feel like we got what we paid for.
One thing the second floor King rooms do have, though, is a Magic Kingdom fireworks view. If you want to guarantee a good fireworks view from your room, these might be your best bet at Royal Palm (unless you book one of the suites). Please note, however, that the balconies for these rooms sit directly over the Gasparilla Grill quick service restaurant, which make them noisy during peak service hours, not to mention your balcony always smells like corn dogs.
Should you take a chance on a Deluxe King room? It depends, to be truthful. We had such a great time staying in the turret room, and such a sad time comparatively in the second floor room, that we don’t think we’ll chance it again. You can request one room type over the other, but understand these requests are not guaranteed. If we had to recommend a Royal Palm experience, we’d suggest booking a standard King room instead. It won’t get you into a turret, but it’ll definitely guarantee you won’t get stuck in the second-floor Dungeon of Despair.
Now onto the Royal Palm Club itself, and happier times!
The lounge is truly stunning. It feels fancy yet comfortable, and the sunlight streaming in through the windows lights everything up in such a way that you absolutely feel like you’re on the beach in Florida. It never failed to be relaxing, especially when, even during peak service times, you could easily steal away to another floor of the lounge to sip drinks and chat in privacy. Taking food or drinks back to your room was very easy, too, despite the multi-storey lounge setup and the number of rooms on each floor.
Royal Palm boasts the largest lounge of any Club Level at WDW. The food offerings are fairly standard Club Level fare, but well-prepared and with a few fun additions that are specific to Royal Palm, such as a fresh-baked ciabatta bread during snack time. Like Sugarloaf, Royal Palm also offers an afternoon tea service, as well, with light snacks such as scones with clotted cream, cupcakes, and jam tarts. Tea wasn’t super popular both times we were at Royal Palm, thus we typically had the place mostly to ourselves. We looked forward to it every day.
Breakfast features a hot station with a chef every other morning, although on our second trip we noticed them there both mornings so that might be subject to change. The chef served Mickey waffles, crepes, fresh-made donuts, and other fun things, and you can have as many as you like. I managed to snap a few photos of the snack service during mid-day above. For evenings, there were several hot items along with salads, sides, kids options, fruit, breads, cheeses, etc. We found the hot items overwhelmingly meat-heavy, however, so vegetarians will likely not find much for them, unfortunately. We asked some of the Cast Members if they had some vegetarian options, and we were accommodated a few times, but not every time. It depended on who you talked to, it seemed. One night our favourite food service Cast Member took the time to let us chat with the chef, who was so nice, while other nights we were given a flat “no” when asking about non-meat options.
Beer, wine, and cordials are, like at all the other Club Level options except two at WDW nowadays, served by a Cast Member for you by request. Healthy pours are the norm here, so don’t worry. You won’t go away wanting. The selection is larger than at most other Club Levels we’ve seen, with a sparkling wine option and an occasional whisky sighting. It was an excellent selection. We had no complaints.
The Cast Members at Royal Palm will often remember you from previous trips if you’ve stayed before. Some of the concierge staff have been at the Grand Floridian since the resort first opened, and you get a sense from virtually all of them that they love the resort and are proud of Royal Palm’s tendency to welcome back returning guests at an impressive rate. There are a lot of Royal Palm regulars, we learned. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you are. The good is that if you’re so impressed with Royal Palm that you can’t wait to come back ASAP, you’ll be remembered on subsequent trips, and after a while you’ll probably end up becoming a regular yourself. The bad is that, if you aren’t a regular, you’ll notice that Royal Palm can quickly feel like a meritocracy, at times. We were told by concierge staff on several occasions that their regulars often had outlandish requests, demanded specific rooms every trip, wanted certain extras, etc. It showed tremendous attention to detail on the part of the Cast Members to be able to recall these things so easily, and to accommodate them. Yet those of us who are first- or second-time Royal Palm visitors couldn’t help wondering, especially on our second trip which was so lacking, what kind of difference it would’ve made if we’d known the “right” person or been to Royal Palm the “right” number of times. Call us crazy, but we highly doubt the regulars get placed in the Dungeon of Despair too often.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the fact that Cast Members at the different Club Levels remember returning guests and show them some extra “magic” to welcome them back. We’ve been happy recipients of such things more often than we can count, and it’s always been such a wonderful surprise. But something was different about Royal Palm that we couldn’t quite put our finger on. It felt less like special magical extras for the regulars, as at any other Club Level, and more like two wildly disparate experiences for regulars versus the average visitor. Your mileage may vary, of course, but we noticed it on both trips.
As frequent WDW Club Level guests, we were excited to stay at Royal Palm the first time we went, and even more thrilled to do so the second time as part of a split stay with our favourite Club Level, the Contemporary’s Tower Club. We have a lot of excellent things to say about Royal Palm, but we don’t see ourselves becoming part of the cohort of regulars there. For our time and money, we’ll continue to be contrarian and put our vote behind the Contemporary as Disney’s “hidden flagship.” You’ll almost certainly have a lovely time at the Grand Floridian, and it will undoubtedly feel grand, but in our opinion, it still can’t boast the best Club Level experience, unless you happen to be a regular.
The Cast at Sugarloaf told us when we stayed there that they would make us Grand Floridian people before the end of our stay, guaranteed. Will we stay at Grand Floridian, be it Sugarloaf or Royal Palm, again? Surely we will.
But.. we still aren’t Grand Floridian people.