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.
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
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
Everything was the proper temperature and was cooked well. My favorite 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..?)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 favorite. 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?
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 only 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 ax, 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. Mousekeeping 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.
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!
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.
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.
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 maneuvering 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.
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.
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 literally 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.
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.
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.
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, 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). 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 honestly 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.
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.
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.