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 12th 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 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.

The Queen Victoria Room at Victoria & Albert’s

Writing about a place like Victoria & Albert’s is difficult.

I say this because it’s one of those meals that goes so far beyond just “good food” or “nice ambiance” that it’s hard to really explain once you’ve done it. So let me start off by saying that Victoria & Albert’s is an experience. It’s not the kind of thing you do on a regular basis, nor is intended to be so. No one should be throwing down upwards of $1,000+ on a single meal for two on a regular basis. But if you decide to take the plunge and go to V&A’s, know that the money you do spend on that evening will reap a lot more than just a full belly. It’ll be one of those experiences you talk about for years to come.

Because of the nature of a place like V&A’s existing at Disney World, a resort area made up of theme parks that most folks assume are geared solely toward young children and their frazzled parents, there are definitely a lot of misconceptions about it. Yes, Victoria and Albert’s is legitimate fine dining. There’s a reason it’s been ranked one of the top restaurants in the country for so many years, and it’s not just because you can walk out the doors from your super-expensive meal and enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant mere steps away (although that’s enough to catapult V&A’s to the top of the list regardless, in our opinion). Yes, Victoria & Albert’s is expensive. Fine dining is expensive. But it’s not extravagantly more expensive, considering what you’re being served, than any other highly-ranked fine dining restaurant simply because it’s on Disney property. The “mark-up,” if you will, is for the quality and care put into the menu and the overall experience you get while you’re dining there, not because it’s at the Grand Floridian.

But the biggest misconception we’ve seen is that so many people think they shouldn’t go to V&A’s.

“It’s too fancy for us.”

“We won’t feel comfortable there.”

“We’ll stick out like sore thumbs.”

Basically, many folks assume that V&A’s is a place for people who aren’t them. Fancy people. Rich people. Stuck-up people who eat like this all the time. The fact is, however, that V&A’s is for anyone who wants to go there and is willing to pay for the privilege.

The people eating at Victoria & Albert’s are exactly like you. Typically they’re celebrating something, whether it’s an anniversary, birthday, honeymoon, whatever. That’s one of the main catalysts for people forking over that much money in a single sitting. They’re there for the same reasons you are, and for many it’s their first time visiting. They’re just as awed by their surroundings as you. They’re not-so-discreetly peering around at other tables for guidance on whether or not they’re eating their caviar properly. They’re taking photos of their food and posting them on Instagram because they’re just as excited to be there as you are.

Please don’t let the fear of “not fitting in” get in your way of an amazing experience. V&A’s is not pretentious. You won’t be looked down upon. The staff is wonderful, they encourage you to take photos, and they’re super eager to give you tips on how to best enjoy your food. Don’t worry.

IMG_0451
This place is beautiful and you deserve to be there! Go team!

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk more about V&A’s in general.

There are 4 different dining options:

  • Main dining room 7-course meal
  • Main dining room 10-course meal
  • Queen Victoria Room 10-course meal
  • Chef’s Table

The lowest-priced option is the first one. “Lowest price” is, of course, a relative term when speaking of V&A’s, so if you opt for this don’t feel like you’ll be getting a lesser experience because of it. Everything at Victoria & Albert’s is great. You aren’t missing out. For many years, the only way to get the 10-course menu was by booking a room in the Queen Victoria Room. That has changed, however, and now you can order the exact same meal you’d get in the QVR in the main dining room. This is good news because the Queen Victoria Room has a grand total of 4 tables. They only serve 4 tables a night in there. So if you can’t score a reservation for the QVR, never fear. The food tastes just as amazing in the main dining room, and you’ll get a lot more ambiance since you aren’t cloistered off in a separate room behind closed doors. The Chef’s Table is the most exclusive of experiences, so naturally this isn’t something we’ve done. You get your own menu designed specifically for you and cooked in front of you by the chef. We’d love to do this someday.

I sadly do not have photos of the main dining room, but they’re easy to find. There is a harpist who plays off and on throughout the evening. It’s just lovely, and definitely makes you feel all fancy.

The menus are all prix fixe, and there are optional add-ons (for an additional cost, of course) if you’d like to enhance your meal with additional courses. We felt so full at the end of our meal that we were afraid we’d need to contact landscaping to wheelbarrow us out of there, so approach these add-ons with some restraint. There is also the option for wine pairings. We loved this option and recommend it highly. The sommelier at V&A’s is sent directly from heaven.

The night we went, we were lucky enough to get one of the four tables in the Queen Victoria Room. It’s a smaller, more intimate room at the back of the restaurant, located behind a set of beautifully-engraved wood and glass doors. When we initially booked, we were on a waiting list for the QVR. We got a call about a month before our trip asking us if we’d like to have the table. So if you’re wavering on whether to book the main dining room or wait to see if the QVR becomes available, don’t. Go ahead and get the main dining room reservation, and ask to be put on the waiting list for the QVR. There’s a decent chance someone will cancel and you’ll get in. And if not, you still get to eat at V&A’s. Win-win.

The QVR staggers their reservation times. The first starts around 5pm when the restaurant opens, then they continue hourly after that until each table is filled. That’s it for the night in there. Why? Because the whole experience of having a 10-course meal at V&A’s takes at least 3-4 hours. Our reservation was at 6pm and we left around 11pm. We loved every minute of it.

IMG_0450
Our menu for the night. Dear lord it was amazing.

If you look at the menu, you can see some items have a price listed next to them. Those are the extras. Don’t worry, your waiter/waitress will very clearly point these out as optional, and there is zero judgement if you choose to not do any of them. We didn’t. We don’t feel we missed out. We wanted to try the menu exactly as it was.

You get to keep the menu page, by the way. It’ll be personalised for you with your names and, if you’re celebrating something, a special greeting.

IMG_0449
You get to eat while Prince Albert stares stoically at Queen Victoria’s ear.

Probably one of the coolest aspects of the Queen Victoria Room is the wait staff. There were a grand total of two waiters the night we went, and believe it or not, they’re actually husband and wife. It was adorable. They were honestly the most knowledgable and attentive waiters we’ve ever encountered. They have the service down to a science. We loved asking them questions and picking their brains on various aspects of the restaurant. We never once felt intimidated by the surroundings or afraid to ask a question, no matter how silly it might’ve been. That’s part of the Disney charm, I guess.

I’ve written enough for now. I’ll just post the photos of the food and let them speak for themselves. They’re posted in the order they were served, which is the same as the order on the menu above.

So yeah. The food was as beautiful as it was delicious. As was the wine.

 

Some of the more interesting experiences you get when you dine at V&A’s are the butter tray, cheese cart, truffle chest, and the famous coffee service.

IMG_0461
A chef hat made entirely of butter. Congrats, you’ve officially seen everything.

The photo above is the butter tray. The waiter brings it to your table and carves some of the super-creamy butter into a dish and presents it to you to spread on your assortment of breads served throughout the meal. Do NOT miss out on trying the breads and butter. It’s well worth losing some precious stomach real estate for.

IMG_0468
Cheese, all prettied up and ready for the ball.

The cheese cart is also a thing of beauty. Your waiter will spend what might seem like way too much time talking up a bunch of cheeses, but trust me, this cheese deserves it.

IMG_0474
Not part of a chocolatey dream sequence, I swear.

This specialty-made wooden box filled with truffles comes to your table at the very end of your meal. Like the cheeses, you can choose as many as you want. You’ll be lulled sufficiently into a food coma by now, but give these a try anyway. They’re all wonderful.

VAcoffee
Coffee tastes that much better when it’s brewed by magical contraptions.

What Disney fan hasn’t heard about the coffee service at Victoria & Albert’s? The videos are all over YouTube. Let me go ahead and dispel the myths here: yes, the hype is very much deserved. It’s exceptionally cool, not to mention delicious. There’s also a really neat-looking tea service they’ve added, as well, if you aren’t a coffee drinker. We asked (sadly, after the fact) if you can order both services, and we were told that was perfectly OK. So do that. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and did I mention you won’t find any children under the age of 10 here? It’s the only place on WDW property with that rule. The night we were there, we didn’t see any kids at all. I think there was one family with a teenager out in the main dining room. Otherwise, it was all parties of adults or, most often, couples by themselves. It’s an escape.

 

IMG_0476
Every woman leaves with a rose.

Overall, we feel like Disney has perfected the fine dining experience with Victoria & Albert’s. In many ways, Disney removed the pretentiousness and stuffiness one normally associates with a place that serves this kind of meal without sacrificing anything in the process. It’s a magnificently gorgeous restaurant. It’s the kind of place that could exist on its own in any major city and do crazy amounts of business. Yet it also feels distinctly Disney in all the right ways. Anyone can eat here and feel at home, something Disney excels at. We paid with our MagicBands at the end of our meal and somehow it felt normal to do so. We rode the monorail to and from. Victoria & Albert’s essentially transports all the great things about the finest of fine dining to the Grand Floridian, removes all the elitist crap, and inserts some amazing Cast Members who truly love their job and the restaurant itself. It’s quite an accomplishment.

We hope to go back someday.

Why Stay Club Level?

One of the most frequent questions we get asked by family and friends with whom we’ve shared our WDW addiction is why do you always stay Club Level? It’s cheaper not to. You could go more frequently if you skipped that extra expense. It seems like a waste. There’s really not that much more you get for what you’re paying compared to a regular non-CL room. Yep, we’ve heard it all.

But we always, always continue to book Club Level. It’s part of the overall WDW experience for us now. It’s hard to imagine a trip without it.

IMG_0678
Welcome gift of truffles and a chocolate Contemporary Resort. What a delicious hotel.

That being said, however, Club Level isn’t the right choice for everyone, and we’ll be the first to tell you as much. Let’s start out by explaining the differences between booking a regular room and a CL room.

First, Club Level is only available at Disney Deluxe resorts. The exception to that was the now-defunct Coronado Springs “Business Class” rooms, but the lounge offerings and other options available to those rooms were less than what you’d typically get at Deluxes. We never stayed at Coronado Springs’ Business Class, although I’ve heard good things from those who did. The new refurb/redesign going on over there meant Business Class got the axe, at least for the time being.

It’s typically around $100+ more per night to book a CL room, depending on time of year, of course. Most resorts offer several different types of CL rooms, ranging from standard double-queens and kings to two-bedroom suites. If you’re booking a room online, you’ll see “Club Level” or “Club Level Access” in the room type, along with the kind of view you’re getting. Keep in mind that some CL rooms are only available by calling the reservation line. These are typically the rooms that resorts have very few of, like the honeymoon rooms at Wilderness Lodge, the standard 14th floor Tower Club rooms at the Contemporary, and in many cases the Presidential and Vice Presidential Suites at each resort. Odds are, however, the room you want is easily bookable online.

Each Club Level reservation gets you:

  • Access to the Club Level lounge at your resort starting the day you check in until the day you check out. Yes, you can still hang out and partake of food and drink offerings after you’ve officially checked out of your room.
  • Complimentary food offerings in the lounge each day of your stay. These include continental breakfast, mid-day snacks, a light dinner and appetizer selection, and evening desserts.
  • Complimentary drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. There is always a nice pod-based espresso machine available, as well as cokes and waters, lemonade, iced tea, milk, and juices. Alcoholic beverages are unlimited, too, and include wine, beer, and cordials. No mixed drinks except mimosas or, in some lounges, sangria.
  • Concierge staff on-hand from around 6:30am until 10:00pm each day to help with most anything you need during your stay. More on this later.
  • Pre-trip itinerary planning from the new Disney Signature Services (DSS). These folks can help with booking your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), booking events or tours, planning special extras like in-room celebrations and such, etc. We haven’t dealt with DSS yet, but we’ve heard positive reviews.
  • Special check-in. You get whisked away to the Club Lounge for your check-in, instead of doing it at the front desk. It’s more intimate and welcoming, plus you typically get a nice tour of the lounge as well.
  • Nightly turndown service in your room. Housekeeping comes by in the evenings and draws your curtains, turns down your bedsheets and rearranges your pillows, empties your trash, lowers the lights, and leaves a chocolate on your pillow.
  • Upgraded toiletries. The ones you get in CL rooms are the insanely-great-smelling Sea Marine H20 Spa products.
  • Robes and, in some CLs, slippers.
  • A chef from one of the resort’s restaurants planning different menu items for CL guests each evening for dinner.
  • One of our favorite perks: packages and bags of stuff you purchase in the parks or Disney Springs are delivered directly to your room. You don’t have to go down to the resort gift shop to pick them up. It’s so convenient!
  • An unadvertised perk, but a valuable one: CL concierge staff are able and willing to cancel an ADR less than 24 hours before the reservation time, so you can avoid the $10 cancellation charge. Just ask.
IMG_1025
The morning drink station at Polynesian Village’s King Kamehameha Club. This one has chocolate milk as well as their much-beloved POG Juice, in addition to the usual offerings.

Besides the amenities listed above, some CLs have a few extras, such as:

  • A welcome gift either in your room or given to you as you check in. These can include chocolates, a small gift basket, or, at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a beautifully-packaged bag of homemade trail mix.
  • A signature welcome cocktail, typically offered when you first check in. The Contemporary does a “Monorail Mule,” Yacht Club a strawberry-infused sparkling wine.
  • A chef during evening dinner hours preparing food in the lounge. Boardwalk Inn and Animal Kingdom Lodge both have amazing chefs cooking each evening.
  • Restricted access to the Club Level floor, accessible only by MagicBand. Yacht Club, Grand Floridian’s Royal Palm Club, Wilderness Lodge, and the Contemporary (both Atrium Club and Tower Club) have this.
  • Better views from Club Level rooms than non-CL ones. Some resorts keep their CL rooms on higher floors for optimal views, such as Yacht Club, Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Inn, and the Contemporary. Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village have separate, CL-only buildings with awesome views. Animal Kingdom Lodge CL rooms are all savannah view with prime spots for animal-watching.
  • A prized viewing location for one of the park fireworks shows from the Club Level lounge. The most notable of these is the Contemporary’s view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Polynesian Village also has a view of these, as well, and each lounge pipes in the music to go along with the show. Boardwalk Inn’s lounge balcony has a slightly-obstructed view of Illuminations. One of the least-known is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s balcony right off the elevator bay from the lounge: it has a view of the fireworks at Hollywood Studios!
IMG_0922
See the balcony just beyond those doors? Stand out there and watch the Star Wars fireworks with a glass of wine. You’re welcome.

Perhaps one of the best amenities Club Level at WDW affords you is the concierge staff themselves. Each resort has a fantastic concierge team who can help you with so many things during your stay. Need to cancel an ADR last-minute? Done. Need to know what time the Electrical Water Pageant goes by Narcoossee’s tomorrow night so you’ll be sure to see it? They’ll make a phone call and get you the answer. Need a bandaid? No problem. Want a beer at 11:30 in the morning just for the hell of it? Here ya go.

IMG_0794
Not that we’ve ever had a beer in our room at 11:30 in the morning or anything..

Keep in mind, however, that the concierge staff cannot (at least in most cases) perform miracles. Want a 6:30 dinner reservation for 8 at Cinderella’s Royal Table tonight? If it’s booked solid, there’s likely not much they can do. The myth that restaurants “hold back” certain tables at high-priority restaurants each night for Club Level guests is just that: a myth. We’ve had several CL concierge staff confirm this. So please, for your own sake and for the sanity of the awesome concierge staff at your resort, do not expect the impossible from them. Sometimes, sometimes, pixie dust happens. It never hurts to ask if, say, they could be on the lookout for cancellations for that Be Our Guest reservation you’ve been stalking for months. It’s possible! But don’t assume, otherwise you very likely will be disappointed. In our experience, the concierge cast members almost always go above and beyond to try to make your experience extra-special. It’s well worth talking to them and taking advantage of their advice. It’s not easy to get to be a concierge working on Club Level, so these guys and gals know their stuff. They’re also often really fun to talk to. We’ve had some awesome conversations in the past.

IMG_3959
Some evening appetizers and champagne at the Contemporary’s 14th-floor Tower Club.

So now that you know more about what you’re getting when you pay for a Club Level room, the question arises: is it worth it? For us, yes. We’re a couple. We are not “park commandos” who spend all day and night in the parks. We love relaxing at the resort. We drink alcohol and don’t make a ton of ADRs. We’re willing to spend a bit extra for a good view and a nice lounge because we use those things.

Who would we not necessarily recommend Club Level to, you ask?

  • Park commandos. Unless you just want the extra amenities and can afford them without really using them to their fullest (hey, good for you! no judgement here), it’s probably not going to be worth it overall. You’d be better off saving the extra cash for snacks, drinks, and fun in the parks, so you don’t end up feeling like you’re missing out on the lounge offerings.
  • Parents with infants. While we’ve definitely seen some parents with tiny babies taking full advantage of the club lounge (especially the alcohol, cause let’s be honest..), it’s probably not going to be worth it for you. The babies won’t eat the food offerings, and sitting in the lounge might be more of a chore than it’s worth (particularly manoeuvring through with a stroller). Once the kids are a year or so older, however, Club Level might well be a perfect match. This blog is obviously geared more toward couples, but we figured we’d mention this anyway.
  • Non-drinkers. Let’s be real here: a decent chunk of the “value” in Club Level stays comes from the fact you’re not having to fork over top dollar for expensive drinks in the parks and in the resort lounges. This is entirely subjective, of course, and I’m sure many non-drinking CL regulars will disagree. We’ve just found in our own experience that it makes CL seem less of a major splurge when we factor in the beer and wine we won’t have to buy while we’re there. It’s very nice.
  • Guests with lots of must-do ADRs. If you have a list of places you’re dying to eat at each day of your stay, you might want to think twice about booking that CL room. Another big factor in the price of CL is the food that’s included. Breakfast, a light dinner, and desserts are part of your room cost. It can get really pricey eating on property, so in a case like this we’d likely recommend saving the difference in price between the regular and CL room for a nice dinner or three.

Other than these few exceptions, Club Level can really be a great addition to a WDW trip, especially for couples. We’ve found it helps us pace our days. For example, we get up, take some coffee back to our room to enjoy on our balcony, get ready, head to the lounge for breakfast (and more often than not, mimosas), then make our way to whatever park we’re visiting. We do our park stuff, then go back to the resort for a break in the late afternoon. We’ll have a snack or, if it’s later, eat a light supper in the lounge. We take some wine back to our room and hang out on the balcony, then figure out where, if anywhere, we want to go that evening. If a leisurely, more relaxing Disney trip is what you’re seeking, we can’t recommend Club Level enough.

IMG_0787
Valentine’s Day macarons at Boardwalk Inn’s Innkeepers Club. Check out that adorable plate.

It’s really impossible to quantify the “value” or perceived benefits of staying Club Level vs not. If you’re sitting there planning your trip and want to see a breakdown of how much money or time you’ll save by booking CL, you’re unfortunately wasting your time. The biggest question to ask yourself (after “can we afford this?” of course) is “what do we want our of this trip?” You can get a deluxe experience at WDW simply by staying at a Deluxe resort. Club Level adds on an additional layer of comfort in a lot of ways. Particularly if it’s a special occasion, like a birthday or anniversary, Club Level will take a fantastic trip to Disney World and make it that much more special. But be warned: once you’ve stayed Club Level, you’ll probably always want to stay Club Level!

Are we spoiled by what Club Level at WDW has to offer? Yes. Should you and your significant other be, too? Yes.

 

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment with your own experiences. We’d love to hear them.

A Stay in a Renovated Yacht Club Room

2018 UPDATE: For details of our latest stay at Yacht Club, please check out this post.

We recently had the great luck to check in to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort for a short Club Level stay there. We’d never stayed at YC before — in fact, the only time I’ve ever set foot in the resort at all was for a meal at the Yachtsman Steakhouse a few years ago.

I’ll admit that I didn’t have very high hopes for this stay.

Here’s the thing: the two of us aren’t real big fans of the EPCOT resorts in general. I dislike the theming and weird mini-balconies of Beach Club, and after a less-than-stellar experience at Boardwalk Inn last month I don’t know when we’ll ever be back over on that side of Crescent Lake. So when we booked Yacht Club last-minute, we went in with low expectations, hoping to maybe come out of it not hating it. It was the only deluxe resort with Club Level availability for our dates. That didn’t give us much hope.

Let’s just say we were so, so, so very wrong about Yacht Club.

Basically everything we experienced there was stellar. Not just stellar in terms of Disney resorts, but stellar in terms of being on par with high-end hotels anywhere. They’re really trying hard over at YC, and it shows.

One of the perks of booking a Club Level stay at a Disney resort is a curbside greeting from a concierge, who takes you immediately up to the club lounge to do all your check-in stuff. Here’s the thing, though: it rarely happens anymore. At least in our experience. Out of all the CL stays we’ve had the past two years, we’ve only been greeted curbside once, and that was at the Contemporary Resort. The no-curbside-greeting trend continued at YC. We’re OK with this, so it’s not a huge deal. We went inside, did a partial check-in at the main desk, then got whisked upstairs to the 5th floor Regatta Club.

The lobby at YC is really beautiful. I can see why it wouldn’t necessarily appeal too much to children, however, so keep that in mind. It’s very adult, in the sense that it’s meant to look like the grand lobbies of old steamliners. Lots of leather, nautical details, a huge globe, etc.

IMG_1073

Check out that globe!

The 5th floor itself is all Club Level rooms. It’s secure-access, meaning you’ll need to scan your MagicBand to be able to select “5” in the elevator. This is pretty standard at Disney resorts. When you walk out of the elevator, you see two concierge desks. That’s where they’ll check you in. We were immediately asked if we’d like a drink while we sat, so naturally we obliged.

IMG_1056

The welcome drink at YC is a strawberry-infused champagne. It was delicious. The trend of special Club Level welcome drinks is sadly dying at many other resorts, so I was thrilled to see it alive and well here. We had two apiece, cause vacation.

The Regatta Club lounge itself is very beautiful, having been renovated only a year or so ago.

Some photos of the seating areas:

The lounge itself isn’t enormous, but they utilize the space extremely well. It never felt crowded even when a number of the tables were taken. There is also some seating on the balcony overlooking the entrance to the resort.

IMG_1054

The serving areas were nicely laid out, too.

They had the standard CL espresso maker (Nespresso pod-based), as well as fresh coffee dispensed next to it. Iced tea, lemonade, and water were also available all day. The lounge closed briefly in between the posted serving times, typically for around 30 minutes total, but if you needed anything you just asked one of the folks at the concierge desks and they’d get it for you. I did this twice and they were very kind about it.

Snacks included Old Bay seasoned potato chips (THESE WERE HEAVEN), make-your-own trail mix, cookies, and fruit.

Breakfast was ample, with pastrami-style salmon with capers/onions/eggs, delicious cheese grits, cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, pastries and breads, and tons of fresh fruit.

Dinner selections included shaved roast beef on toast with horseradish cream and onion jam, a chickpea salad, quinoa salad, a large cheese assortment, vegetables and hummus, and some kid choices like fancy PB&J and pigs-in-a-blanket. There is a chef from some of the restaurants on property that prepares the food now, which has become standard across all the CLs. This one was very creative. We loved the food he put out.

But here’s the most important part: the alcohol selection! For beers, they had Bud Light, Yuengling, Sam Adams Winter Ale, and Longboard Lager (the kind they also have at the Polynesian Village). Wines included a Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sparkling, and our favorite: a South American Carmenere. You don’t see those every day, and this one was delicious. Nightly cordials included Grand Marnier, Kahlua, and Amarula (the kind with the elephant on it, in case you’re familiar).

The staff in the lounge were some of the best we’ve encountered on property. You could see the pride they took in keeping that lounge spotless and beautiful. We were truly impressed.

 

So you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the room yet. There’s a reason for that.

The rooms here are all freshly renovated. When I say “freshly renovated,” I mean we were legitimately the first human beings to stay in this room since it was finished. Talk about smelling fresh and clean.

We’d initially booked a standard Club Level room, which includes two Queen beds and a pull-out sofa. We asked the concierge who checked us in if they had King rooms on the Club Level floor, since we had no idea and we’ve been to several CLs that don’t (I’m looking at you, Polynesian Village). She said they did, picked up the phone, and literally ten minutes and a strawberry champagne later we were in a brand-new King room with a lagoon view. That’s some serious pixie dust! Thank you, Yacht Club! We love y’all!

I could write a book about how amazing the renovated rooms are, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves for a moment.

That bed might’ve been the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever slept in.

A few notes on the room renovation:

  • There is a ridiculous amount of storage in these rooms. We had a King room with a maximum occupancy of 2, and I swear we could’ve stored enough stuff for 3 large families in here and still had drawer space left over. The bed also had space underneath, since Disney’s going in the no-box-spring direction now, which I love.
  • The countertops are all real marble. They’re impressive. I was impressed.
  • There are little book-lights hidden in the headboard of the bed.
  • The shower was legit. You’ll wanna camp out in there.
  • It felt like staying in a really nice, very large stateroom on a ship. Obviously that’s the theme Disney is going for here, but I can attest to the fact that they got the theme immersion down 100% on this. It’s nautical, but doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping in a Long John Silvers circa 1989.

Are there Disney touches in the rooms? Yes. They’re subtle, but super adorable.

Here’s one:

IMG_1102

And here’s my all-time favorite: the curtains. It took me a few minutes to notice it, but once I did, I was in love.

IMG_1082

IMG_1081

Our overall impressions of Yacht Club are incredibly positive. We went in expecting to be disappointed. We left hoping to come back and stay again soon. Yacht Club is officially our one and only when it comes to EPCOT resorts now.

As of this post, only the 5th floor rooms are fully renovated. That means if you want a renovated room and you’re staying at YC within the next month, you’ll only guarantee yourself one by booking Club Level standard rooms. The suites are NOT finished, but they’re located on other floors. We saw them working on one while we were there.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed our first post. We’ll be adding a lot more soon, so please check back! If you have any questions or comments, let us know.

Getting Started

Hey folks! We’re in the process of getting everything up and running right now in the hopes that this blog will end up being a source of information for adults looking to take a different kind of Disney trip. Since this is the very first post, I thought I’d take a moment to introduce ourselves and elaborate on why we decided to start blogging.

As I wrote on the About Us page, we’re a married couple in our thirties who loves Disney. Both of us took trips to WDW back in the 80s when we were very young and it’s been a place that’s always stuck with us in our memories. Our first trip together was in January of 2014, about six months after we got married. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge in a beautiful “Honeymoon room” on the Club Level floor and we were blown away by our entire experience. When we booked it, we booked the room over the phone with Disney Reservations at basically rack rate, with the deluxe dining plan, and had absolutely no clue what we were doing beyond that.

Since that first trip, we’ve learned a lot.

We love Disney Deluxe resorts. We adore Club Level at those resorts. We love dining at Disney, particularly what Disney refers to as “Signature” dining (although we don’t do the dining plan anymore for reasons we’ll discuss on a future post). Essentially what we discovered on that first trip set the tone for all our subsequent visits. We have, however, learned how to do these kinds of deluxe experiences smarter than before.

This blog won’t be for everyone, and we understand that. If you’re a park commando couple who only sleeps and showers in their hotel room, our resort information won’t likely be helpful. If you’re a big fan of renting DVC points and staying in a villa with a kitchen so you can cook meals while at Disney instead of eating out a lot, our restaurant reviews won’t be required reading for you. But we do hope that we can assist those of you who, like us, have had trouble finding the kind of adult- and couple-oriented information on Disney World that you’re seeking for your trip. Whether you’re going to WDW on your honeymoon, for an anniversary, a romantic weekend, a getaway with a best friend or sibling, etc, our tips and reviews will be oriented toward fun, unique stuff to do together. We also hope we can help dispel the myths surrounding WDW as a place suitable for vacations only if you have a young family in tow. Enjoy Disney as an adult sometime! The beauty of WDW is that there’s plenty of room for everyone, adult and kid alike, to have an amazing experience.

We’ll be adding more content soon. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have questions or want to suggest something for us to write about in the future. You can email us here. Also, please follow us on Twitter and Instagram!