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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

The Queen Victoria Room at Victoria & Albert’s

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

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

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

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

“It’s too fancy for us.”

“We won’t feel comfortable there.”

“We’ll stick out like sore thumbs.”

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

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

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

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

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

There are 4 different dining options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Cheese, all prettied up and ready for the ball.

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

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Not part of a chocolatey dream sequence, I swear.

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

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

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

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

 

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Every woman leaves with a rose.

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

We hope to go back someday.