Why Stay Club Level?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each Club Level reservation gets you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Stay in a Renovated Yacht Club Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Check out that globe!

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

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

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

Some photos of the seating areas:

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

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The serving areas were nicely laid out, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

A few notes on the room renovation:

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

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

Here’s one:

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

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

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

 

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