This is part 3 of what I think will be around a 6 part series on our Disney World trip. We took our trip in November 2015. The first two posts talked about the park experiences, and since this was the centerpiece of the trip, that was split into two posts.
This is a review of our hotel, and we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Disney breaks their on site lodging options into three different options: Budget, Moderate, and Deluxe.
- Budget – With these rooms, you get the basics. When my wife and I did a quick trip to Disney World in 2008, we stayed at a budget resort. That lived up to its name. It was no frills, small, and really is a place to sleep. It was not somewhere where you'd plan on spending a lot of time otherwise.
- Moderate – Never having stayed at a moderate resort, I can only go by the description that they are for the value minded who want more amenities and some additional room, and would have to be the most ideal choice when you have more than two people to a room if you don't want to be too cramped.
- Deluxe – These are the higher end properties where Disney tries to go beyond giving you a place to stay, and making it a true ‘experience'. Bigger rooms, more perks, and great attention to detail are the themes throughout.
Choosing And Re-Choosing Our Options
We initially had planned on staying at a moderate resort. I believe we were going to stay at the Port Orleans Riverside resort. It's a huge resort that people like and had some amenities that I know my wife liked, one of which I think was a fold out bed or some other option that would let the kids sleep apart and my wife and I to sleep together.
After we booked, Disney offered a free dining plan with a stay at some resorts. This basically means that they would pay for you to eat if you stayed at certain parks. Our moderate resort was not included, but the Animal Kingdom Lodge was included. Now, without a meal plan the Animal Kingdom Lodge never would have been within our price range, but even though we ended up paying more out of pocket, we decided to make the leap.
So, we contacted our travel agent and made the change.
Choosing Room Type
Not only did we upgrade the hotel but we decided to splurge on the hotel room. My wife had saved for the trip for over two years, and we really wanted to make this a ‘once in a lifetime' trip. We decided to pay a bit extra for a Savannah View room. Essentially, Disney built the hotel with rooms that are adjacent to a controlled savannah area, and you have the opportunity to see all kinds of different animals.
My kids are huge into animals right now. They love trips to the zoo and so we knew that this would be a big hit.
The room was definitely a huge improvement over our previous on-site experience at a budget resort. It was probably twice as big. It had two big beds (Queen size, I think), that were very comfortable. The room was decorated with a wilderness theme and was not at all gaudy but very tasteful. The room was clean, as were all of the common areas. The lobby area was magnificent with a huge lodge themed common area, an indoor fire pit, and comfortable seating throughout.
The room was equipped with a flat screen TV, 32″ I believe, a desk, two chairs, and a balcony. Finding drawer space for four of us to unpack was challenging, they could have used a bit more.
I really didn't know what to expect but I was really impressed once I saw the Savannah area. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but we saw a huge variety of animals. This included zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, a variety of birds, and quite a few others that I'm sure my son could name off. On top if that, they were often very close, probably 30′ away. It was very relaxing to get up in the morning or come back and have a little down time and watch the animals. With the days being short, we missed out on some evening time, and by the end of the trip, the novelty had worn off a bit for the kids, but it was definitely a really cool experience.
One thing we looked forward to was relaxing by the pool, either on days off or after spending time at the park. It was a very nice pool and the kids really enjoyed the pool and water slide. Most days it was sunnier while we were at the parks, and cloudier in the evenings. This meant that the pool time wasn't as warm as we'd have liked. But, that's not why we were there, so really that was a minor complaint.
The people that worked there and that helped us were very nice and accommodating. Our room was always cleaned to our satisfaction, with the only minor issue being that we had put our bathmat into the dirty towel pile, and found that they had put it back over the tub instead of giving us a new one, but we called down and specifically asked for a new one. I won't go into the why's but we have two young kids, and well, sometimes things happen 🙂
Quick Serve Restaurant
Every resort has a quick serve restaurant where you can get meals and snacks throughout the day. We were not impressed with the experience we had in 2008 at the value resort, and were hoping that the experience would be better here. While it was slightly better, unfortunately, it was still a disappointment to us.
It's pretty obvious that Disney knows that if you're eating at the quick serve, you're doing so out of convenience and not for a ‘magical' experience, and it shows. The options were rather limited, the lines to order were huge (most of the time between 5-8pm it was about a 20 minute wait), and another wait to get your food. It was telling that the checkouts never, ever had a line, simply because everybody was jammed up waiting for their food. The food itself, well it was OK but with the limited options, by mid-week when we had a dinner without plans, we looked at any other options except the quick serve place, as we just couldn't take it anymore.
Even though the quick serve was not up to par, it is what it is and it's definitely not what we'll remember about our stay. We really enjoyed our stay here. The upgrade to deluxe certainly provided our family with extra comfort, experiences, and satisfaction for our trip.
We have talked about another trip in the future. This would likely be around 2 years from now. Our thought is that we'd probably try out a moderate resort. If we do this, we would complete the trifecta for staying at each of the resort types!
Stay tuned for the remaining posts about our Disney World trip, with the next to publish in early 2016!
Readers, have you stayed on property at a Disney resort? What were your highlights and thoughts? Please share your experiences.