Locked Doors at Wilderness Lodge’s Old Faithful Club

The Old Faithful Club at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was our very first Club Level experience almost six years ago. A lot has changed since then. We’ve become far more savvy Club Level travellers (Pro Tip: don’t do the Dining Plan when you’re staying Club Level unless you really love wasting money or have a bottomless pit for a stomach), and Wilderness Lodge itself has become an almost entirely different resort than it was when we initially visited. Our stay back in 2014 was fantastic, and we owe a lot to Old Faithful Club for selling us on Club Level, and Disney resorts as a whole, from the moment we first walked in the club lounge and smelled the distinctive, vaguely-pine Wilderness Lodge smell wafting up from the lobby.

I wish this photo was scratch-and-sniff.

The resort is absolutely breathtaking, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of strolling its grounds for a few hours to relax and recharge, you owe it to yourself to do so on your next trip. Even the drive up the road to the resort is peaceful, although I suppose that peacefulness is somewhat dependent on whether you’re taking a packed bus versus driving your own car. If neither of those are your thing, you can get there our personal favourite way by taking the Monorail to the Contemporary, heading down to the dock, and catching the boat that parks on the right side for a pleasant, direct route via Bay Lake. The whole idea behind Wilderness Lodge is to evoke a Pacific Northwest National Park feel, and while neither of us have ever been to that part of the US before, we can say with absolute certainty that Disney pulled off the woodsy, rustic, far-away-from-the-Florida-swamplands vibe perfectly.

But all is unfortunately not well at beautiful Wilderness Lodge.

This bear has a secret.

You see, something happened here several years ago, shortly after our first trip to the Old Faithful Club. Cue the suspenseful music. The lights suddenly flicker out.. You pick up the phone, and it’s disconnected. Why don’t they just get out of the house..?!

That’s right, folks. It’s DVC.

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) happened to Wilderness Lodge, and it’s a damn shame. The Lodge building itself, a resort hotel since its construction in the 1990s, was handed over to DVC several years ago almost entirely in order to become timeshare rental units. That means if you want to stay at the Lodge, you’ll need to fight for one of the remaining traditional resort rooms, or go the DVC route and book someone else’s timeshare. There are several ways to do the latter, including some shady and frankly cumbersome third-party point rental services, but I won’t go into those here because 1) we’ve never done it, and 2) we don’t care. DVC is loved by many, and we don’t want to rain on those folks’ parade, but we are not fans, and one of the major reasons for this is exactly what has taken place at our beloved Wilderness Lodge. They added on a whole additional DVC building next to the Lodge a number of years back, and recently completed a row of gaudy cabins along the lake for large groups forking over premium DVC points, but that wasn’t enough. They had to take over most of the Lodge itself, too. Because of this, the number of traditional hotel rooms has dwindled significantly at Wilderness Lodge.

Who knows how long this view will be available without signing a timeshare contract or trusting a complete stranger on the Internet with your credit card number to book a unit for you with their points?

One thing that has remained, however, is the Old Faithful Club, Wilderness Lodge’s Club Level. It sits on the top floor of the resort, and underwent a massive expansion and revamping after our first visit there. On our trip in 2014, the Club Level rooms took up the entire top floor as well as some deluxe-sized rooms on lower floors. The lounge was very small, and seating was limited to the atrium areas surrounding the lobby overlook. Still, it was well-maintained and gorgeous, and we found our second trip there to be the same. Disney removed two of the Honeymoon Rooms (one of which we stayed in our first visit) that flanked the lobby overlook and replaced them with a much larger, infinitely more functional lounge space.

The balcony you see in the photo above was once the balcony to the Honeymoon Room where we first stayed. It’s now one of two balconies in the Club Lounge.

Disney did a fantastic job crafting the Old Faithful Club’s new lounge. It’s huge, comfortable, and there are many little nooks and crannies where you can sit and have a conversation or enjoy a few snacks without feeling like fellow guests are breathing down your neck. It’s also fairly empty most of the time, at least while we were there. During peak serving times, particularly breakfast, it can of course get busy. But overall it’s a relaxing space where you can listen to the low rumble of noises from the lobby below and take in your surroundings. Like other Disney club lounges, it has a kids area with a dedicated TV playing cartoons at a minimal volume. The food service area is separated from the seating areas, so unless someone walks into the food line and parks a stroller behind them to block the entrance (which happened several times to us, actually), traffic flows decently well.

All the photos above were taken during mid-day snack time, which included the standard Club fare such as homemade chips, hummus and other dips, vegetables and fruit, nuts, cookies, finger sandwiches, and drinks. The Pacific Northwest theme shows in some of the food and drink selections, with a nightly rotating cobbler, several different stews, a really good salmon dish, etc. They also feature appropriately-themed adult beverages like West Coast wines, a western Canadian whisky, and a beer lineup that was more varied than any of the other Club Levels we’ve visited (and we’ve visited all of them).

Oh, and about the beer:

Don’t worry, little Aidan can’t run up and stick his head under the tap. There’s a Cast Member stationed here during serving hours.

Yes, there’s draught beer at Old Faithful Club. They have two taps which we were told they rotate fairly regularly with new offerings, and the short list of beers on the sign in the photo actually doesn’t include a few additional unlisted options hiding in the fridge. We were impressed with the selection. Whatever your beer preference, you’ll likely have no trouble finding one you like here, or at least one that’s acceptable considering they’re free. Free always tastes best. A Cast Member will pour for you, including the draught beer.

This is where you check in, in case that wasn’t obvious.

With the relatively small number of guest rooms and hugeness of the lounge, finding a Cast Member is easy. We never had to look far for one. The lounge was well-staffed, and we were very pleased with how friendly and helpful they were here.

The Old Faithful Club concierge team is proud of their Club Level’s uniqueness among the others at WDW. They still send a real, personalised email to your family about a week in advance to see if you have any requests, food allergies, or are celebrating a special occasion. All the Club Levels at WDW used to do that, but this is the last to keep the tradition going. As we were told by one concierge, Old Faithful Club doesn’t serve a lot of guests at one time, and therefore they try to go above and beyond for the ones they have. The concierge on duty greeted us right when we pulled up to the resort, which is something not every Club Level still does consistently. They carry a sign with your family’s name on it so you’ll know they’re looking for you. When you check in, you’ll receive a business card with the direct phone number to the lounge on it. Unlike at some other Club Levels (ahem.. Yacht Club..), they actually want you to call. Really. If you need something or have a question, call the number. They pick up. They’re nice.

Another interesting thing you’ll notice immediately when you get off the elevator on the top floor is these doors:

Swipe your Magic Band and feel like a VIP, or something.

These doors prohibit non-Club Level guests from entering the lounge. Why, you ask? Because most of the top floor at Wilderness Lodge isn’t made up of Club rooms anymore. It’s DVC. The only Club Level resort rooms in the whole place are behind these doors, as well as a few of the deluxe resort rooms on other floors. That’s it. Because of the tiny number of Club rooms, the front desk will sometimes offer guests checking in to the non-Club Level resort rooms the option to upgrade to Old Faithful Club access for a per-night fee. This doesn’t always happen, mind you, and you certainly shouldn’t bet on getting to upgrade on-the-spot. If you want to stay Club Level here, the only sure way is to book a Club Level room. But the upgrade option does happen, and happens fairly regularly from what we were told. Please note, however, that the Club Level option does not apply to guests staying in DVC rooms, even if they booked directly through Disney. Only resort hotel rooms. It seems a lot of folks do pay extra to get lounge access, as there was always a steady flow of traffic through those doors during peak meal hours. If you don’t enjoy a stampede, it’s best to find a seat away from the entrance hallway during those times.

And yes, be aware of tailgaters. It may sound silly, but we personally had two different instances where non-Club Level guests were hanging around outside the big doors waiting for someone to badge in so they could follow and see what the fuss was about. The staff usually watches out, but they can’t see everything all the time, I suppose.

The Old Faithful Club’s food service area closes at certain parts of the day in order for the staff to set up for the next service. There are big doors that block off access to the food area during these times. They’re very good about posting what’s going to be on the menu each day, as well, so you’ll know what to expect. The menus are displayed right outside the food area. The lounge itself is always open if you want to sit and relax.

As for the rooms, they’re virtually the same as they’ve been for a decade plus. We don’t know if they’re planning a refresh any time in the near future. They’re perfectly themed, and comfortable to stay in, but they don’t have anything new to offer here currently. The views are nice, though, and many can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks over the Contemporary (which we, as the Contemporary Resort’s Official #1 Fans®, adored).

They’re pretty standard Disney Deluxe Resort fare, with the addition of bathrobes and a special welcome gift for Club Level guests. There are no longer any bookable King rooms  on Club Level here, much like Animal Kingdom Lodge. We don’t know for certain if there are any to request, either, so expect two Queens.

Don’t be fooled, there are three Wilderness Lodge-themed chocolate bars in there from the Ganachery at Disney Springs. Another delicious hotel.


Our return to Wilderness Lodge and our Club Level roots was one we won’t soon forget. It was great to see all the updates and interesting new features they’ve added. The Old Faithful Club is an oddity at Wilderness Lodge; it exists as a separate lounge and single hallway of rooms in a resort that has very few of those traditional rooms remaining throughout. If you have yet to experience Old Faithful Club, we suggest doing so soon. It can be difficult to find available Club Level rooms here, but it’s worth the hassle. Disney put time, money, and effort into renovating the Old Faithful Club in order to make it something unique for the few guests who get the pleasure of enjoying it. It really is a special space, and we sincerely hope it doesn’t disappear any time soon to the black hole of DVC-land.

Sugarloaf: The Grand Floridian’s “Other” Club Level

Please don’t be put off by the title of this post.

We, like many other Disney Deluxe resort fans, used to have a tendency to regard Sugarloaf as somewhat second-rate when compared to Royal Palm Club. You see, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has not just one, but two Club Level options, one of which is located in the main building (the lobby, with the band and the shops and such in it), and the second of which is located in an outer building. The main Club Level is known as Royal Palm Club, while the outer club is known as Sugarloaf, the name of the building itself. We never really gave Sugarloaf much thought, to be honest. The Grand Floridian wasn’t even a resort we were particularly thrilled to stay in, thus we put it off until we had already stayed everywhere else Deluxe-wise. Something about it didn’t draw us in. Maybe it’s the theming. Regardless, when we ended up with a few nights booked at Sugarloaf last-minute, we were reluctant, but ready to go in with an open mind.

We joked with some of the Sugarloaf staff when we checked in that we were more Contemporary people. They replied that we’d be leaving Grand Floridian people, and they’d make sure of it.

Sugarloaf is only a short walk from the main building and is only accessible by MagicBand, meaning you have to be staying in Sugarloaf to actually enter. This is a good thing, because right inside the doorway is the club lounge. You step into an anteroom of sorts, where there’s a sitting area, podium, and water/tea/coffee station. Beyond that is a large, open atrium area with the food service on one side, tables on the other, and a big concierge desk in the centre of it all.

There’s a lot of room in Sugarloaf, which is good, because as with any other Club Level on WDW property, things can get a bit crowded during peak service times, particularly breakfast and early evening. We had read some horror stories prior to our trip about how hectic and loud Sugarloaf can be, but I’ll go on record saying we didn’t experience any of that. Yes, there are lines for food or alcohol sometimes, but you’ll get that anywhere. If you think Sugarloaf is crazy, try the King Kamehameha Club over at the Polynesian Village any time of the day or night and get back to us. Sugarloaf was nothing compared to that mess. You’ll also never have to look too far for a staff member or two. Sugarloaf was excellently staffed, probably better than any Club Level we’ve been to, with the possible exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Fancified service schedule.

The lounge is lovely, I’ll just put it bluntly. It’s comfortable and has a functional layout without loads of wasted space. If you want to chill and hang out there’s plenty of room to do so, and if you want a quick bite to eat before heading to the parks for the day you can get in and out without any hassle. We enjoyed sitting and having a drink while chatting with the concierge staff during the afternoon, and most of the time we were the only people in the whole lounge.

Food offerings were top-notch overall, although I failed to get decent photos of the services besides snack time. You’ll have to use your imagination here.

Breakfast was standard Disney Club Level offerings for the most part, with one major, huge, insanely big exception:

Even with a slightly deformed face, Mickey waffles never disappoint.

Yes, you read this correctly. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. They make Mickey waffles for you. Every other morning. In the Club Lounge. As many as you want. With mimosas.

It’s OK to admit you’re already planning your trip to Sugarloaf now. We understand.

Beyond the waffles, though, we’re talking the usual cereals, meats and cheeses, pastries, etc. Snacks were more creative and plentiful than some other Club Levels offer, with lots of vegetables, breads, crackers, and dips alongside some sweets. Then there’s the afternoon tea. The Grand Floridian is one of only two resorts at WDW to offer an afternoon teatime in their Club lounges, the other being Animal Kingdom Lodge. Both Sugarloaf and Royal Palm Club have this, and their tea snacks are much more elaborate than those at AKL. Stuff like jam tarts, homemade scones, clotted cream and jam, etc. It was our favourite part of the day. During our stay there weren’t many folks who were in the lounge during teatime, so the extra quiet made it even nicer.

Evening appetisers rotated nightly. There was usually a hot food station with a chef, which is the new thing across all the Club Levels. Wine, beer, and cordials were served for you by a concierge staff member, but we can personally attest to their more-than-healthy pours. You won’t leave wanting.

The building itself is three storeys, and the resort rooms line the atrium area on either side and all around. If you’re concerned about potential noise wafting up from the lounge, we’d recommend requesting a room on the second or third floors, further down the hallways. Our room was on the third floor at the very end of a hallway and we never heard a peep from the lounge, even during breakfast. It was peaceful and quiet, which is a true gem of a find at Disney.

We booked a standard view room and were pleasantly surprised by what we got.

Seriously, I don’t think there’s a bad view in this place.

Being on the top (third) floor, our room was a dormer-style room with tall, slanted ceilings. We loved it. Grand Floridian rooms aren’t small anyway, but the high ceilings made the room feel even bigger than it was.

King rooms are available in Sugarloaf by request, but they aren’t bookable. There are several suites in Sugarloaf, as well. Most rooms are the double-queen type with a pull-out sofa, like the one we got. They’re very spacious and luxurious, with marble sink tops and wood flooring and a small foyer when you walk in. Oh, and bathrobes and slippers with the “GF” logo embroidered on them. Extra fancy.

Some of our favourite features of the room design in Sugarloaf, and the Grand Floridian in general, were all the little touches they added. The pillows, the little Mickey heads in the curtains, and the towel Mickey on the bed (something that has died off at every other Deluxe resort, sadly). Even the artwork is adorable and perfectly Disney. You can tell they go above and beyond here, and it shows.

So then, the questions remains: why stay in Sugarloaf? What’s the difference between it and Royal Palm over in the main building?

More than anything: price. Sugarloaf will always be consistently cheaper than Royal Palm. We’re not talking a huge, deep discount or anything, but you’ll definitely pay at least $100 a night less to stay Sugarloaf, any time of the year. Part of the premium you’re paying at Royal Palm is for the luxury of being in the main building, of hearing the sounds of the band wafting up into the lounge area as you have your evening glass of wine, and the general hustle and bustle of the lobby throughout the day. It’s really an experience. There are also a few other perks to being in Royal Palm, like a multi-storey lounge, more suites (including the Walt Disney and Roy Disney Suites, which are the Presidential and Vice Presidential), views of the fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant from the lounge, a bit more staff, and a couple extra food/drink options.

Sugarloaf also has a tendency to be a bit easier to book, especially on short notice. We noticed also that Sugarloaf attracts more families with children, at least when we were there. This might be due to the fact that Royal Palm is simply more expensive, and thus folks who book there are often celebrating something or wanting as upscale an experience as they can have at WDW, which, as we here at this particular blog know all-too-well, usually doesn’t involve dragging a few kids along. But that being said, Sugarloaf is not a daycare. There will be children, sure, but nothing out of the ordinary for Disney. We spent time in both Sugarloaf and Royal Palm during this trip, and both seemed about the same crowd-wise. There were more couples in Royal Palm, but several (besides us) in Sugarloaf as well.

Between the two Club Level options at Grand Floridian, we don’t think you can go wrong either way. Try them both. You’ll like them both, for different reasons. We’ll save our review of Royal Palm for another post.


Were the concierge staff right when we checked into Sugarloaf? Did we become Grand Floridian people? Maybe so. We still love the Contemporary. It’ll always be our favourite. But we only have one trip booked for next year, and you can probably guess where we’ll be staying.

Off the Beaten Path at BoardWalk Inn’s Garden Cottages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s not to love?

A Not-So-Stellar Yacht Club Update

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

Summary: it didn’t go well.

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

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

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

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

Fast-forward to the day we check in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Ohana Polynesian Twilight Feast at the Polynesian Village

One of the experiences that has taken on an almost mythical status on Disney-related message boards and blogs is the “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.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vice Presidential Suite at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

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

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

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

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

The 14th floor houses 16 total rooms. Yes, you read that correctly. 16 rooms. Total. What does that mean for you if you stay in one of these rooms? Well, a lot of things, but one of the biggest is that you get an entire Club Level lounge, and an entire concierge staff, essentially to yourself. The lounge is empty most of the time, except breakfast on weekends mostly, so you can sit in there for a solid hour and not see another soul, besides the 3 or 4 concierge staff who will constantly make sure you have everything you need. The most interesting and informative conversations we’ve had with cast members at Disney have been with the concierge team at Tower Club, since the service is so individualised 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 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 beautifully done, and definitely enhances all the natural sunlight that pours into the floor during the day.

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

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

Here’s the “extra” bedroom:

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

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

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

The couches are 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:

I could live on this thing.

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

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

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

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

The Underrated Awesomeness of Animal Kingdom Lodge

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

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

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

We will be back.

I mean seriously. Look at this place.

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

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

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

Room types are classified by view, with three categories:

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

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

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

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

Part of the afternoon snack service.

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

See the hidden Mickey?

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