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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.