Showing posts with label deluxe resorts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deluxe resorts. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge - a Review

As a travel agent, I am often asked if I have a favorite resort.  It's like asking me to pick a favorite child.  I love them all - in their own way - for various reasons.  But.  If you ask my children which is their favorite resort - Animal Kingdom Lodge wins hands down every time.

Why is it their favorite?  Because whenever they want, they can go out on the balcony and see this:

I'll tell you that it was a great motivator to get out of bed in the morning to see what they could see!

And now I am going to tell you a secret.  There are a number of views you can reserve at AKL.  There is standard (which gives you a rooftop or parking lot view), pool view, savanna view, or the very best - Arusha savanna view.  And now the secret - our view that you see above - it's a standard view!  Let me try and explain this lucky circumstance.

Here is a map of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Our room was on the Zebra trail - facing the Uzima savanna.  And our room - well, it was 27 miles from the lobby to our room.  Down, down the zebra trail.  All the way to that fourth pod of rooms - and we were in the corner.  And that corner is how we got the standard room view - because the savanna is partially obstructed by the building.

Now, these savanna view standard rooms - there are very few of them - but if you book standard view - it's worth asking about when you check in!

Let's talk money for a moment.  Another well kept secret - Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the least expensive deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World (Wilderness Lodge is the other).  And if you want a deluxe, but a savanna view is not in your budget - there are still LOTS of places to view the animals from around the resort.  There are huge windows as you walk down the halls that overlook the Arusha savanna.  There are even "porches" on several floors where you can go out and look - some even have night vision goggles!

And there is the overlook - a place where even visitors to the lodge can go and see the animals.  And not only can you walk out - but there are guides from different parts of Africa there to answer your questions.

Another big draw to AKL is the pool.  It's a zero entry pool with a slide - hot tub - pool bar -and lots of shady spots to park yourself to read your book.  And not only do you have this fabulous pool, but you can go next door to the Kidani Village and use their pool, too.

1.  animals, animals, animals
2.  Two beautifully themed pools
3.  Gorgeous lobby and resort grounds
4.  Restaurants - counter service near the pool - the Mara, a table service location - Boma (and Sanaa next door at Kidani Village), and a signature dining experience - Jiko.
5.  large balconies
6.  If you stay club level, you have access to a special tour - the Sunrise safari at the Animal Kingdom park.
7.  Beautiful rooms - gorgeous carvings on the headboards and dresser.  Granite in the bathrooms.  African art on the walls. 
8.  Really unique offerings - like the night vision goggles or African story tellers by the fire pit.  Or even in the gift shop, there are African items - and even a large selection of African wines.
9.  Offers the option to have a room with a bunk bed.
10.  childcare onsite (Simba's Clubhouse)

1.  Location - as a resort near Animal Kingdom, it's really far from all the other parks
2.  Another resort that offers those thick, heavy, stiff comforters
3.  Potentially a really long walk from the bus/lobby to your room
4.  The rooms are the smallest of the deluxe resorts. 

So...what about you?  Is a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in your future?  If you've stayed there - what was your favorite thing?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

A review: Contemporary Resort - Club Level

Today, our post is being brought to you by my friend and fellow homeschool/public school mom - Gwyneth.  She and her family just enjoyed a great stay at the Contemporary Resort - Club level - and she has graciously agreed to write up a review for me.  Please check out Gwyneth's blog - and especially her "travels" tab so that you can find her accounting of her family's one month trip out west last summer while staying in their EuroVan!

Between school, travel time and cost, and work, there was just no way we could make it work. But then we heard that the cousins would, by some strange coincidence, be there too. And we just couldn’t pass it up. And I’m so happy that we didn’t. 

Rob needed to attend a professional society board meeting in Orlando. At Disney. At the Contemporary Hotel. And with his brother and family overlapping, we just had to make it work. We decided to have Camille fly down with Rob using a companion ticket. And I picked Chloe up from school at 4pm and drove like crazy to get down to Orlando as fast as possible. 

Chloe and I arrived at 11pm after negotiating the highways within the Disney complex. Apparently, not many people drive to Disney; the security gated parking lot at the hotel had lots of space. Unbeknownst to me, our room was actually on the “Atrium Club Concierge” level. Wow. Now that we’ve been there, I’m not sure that I can ever again go to Disney any other way. 

After meeting up with Rob and Camille, we used our key to get up to the twelfth level. As we walked along the “hall”, I suddenly realized that the monorail was right below us! Direct passage to the Magic Kingdom can’t be beat! From our room, the view of Cinderella’s castle was simply amazing. Unfortunately, we had arrived too late to see the fireworks … But we had time to get settled in the comfortable room … two queen beds and a lovely fold-out couch. Unfortunately, the wireless connection was terribly spotty; I’m glad I didn’t bring work along with me.

Being so late, we headed right to sleep in order to get up as early as possible. After showering, we headed down the hall to the concierge area and had our choice of yogurts, cereals, croissants, muffins, and more for breakfast. The coffee, even for me, a very picky coffee drinker, was good. Following our big breakfast, we hoped on the monorail and rode right over to the Magic Kingdom. We arrived just as the gates were opening and had no lines. We rushed on to the Pooh ride and then rode the tea cups a couple times before meeting the cousins at Space Mountain for Chloe’s first ever trip on Space Mountain!

During the two days we went to the parks, we split up, re-grouped, and rearranged. Having Park Hopper tickets and a hotel room on the property made the trip so, so, so much more relaxed than it would have been otherwise. We could get everywhere fast (except when the bus to Hollywood Studios was mis-marked and we had to wait over 30 minutes to get there from the hotel).

The club level was amazing. Every time we came by, there was some other set of food being served, including wine and after-dinner drinks for those who were so inclined. We spent a couple of hours at the pools. The lifeguards were friendly and attentive … we saw one jump in without hesitation when a kid was floundering in the pool.

I have now been spoiled. While I don’t generally go to Disney, we’ve been in Tokyo, Paris and Florida. And if I were to return to Disney in FL, I’d certainly want to stay at the Contemporary again.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Beach Club Resort review

The Beach and Yacht club resorts are on Crescent lake and located between Epcot and Hollywood studios.  This is a great location as you can either walk or take a boat into the parks.

My husband and I stayed at the Beach Club for the first time in February – we were celebrating our anniversary – and left the children at home!  We arrived late on a Thursday evening and checked in – discovering that our standard room reservation had been upgraded to a water view room.

We walked through seemingly never ending winding hallways to finally find our room.  We had a great balcony with two chairs overlooking a quiet pool and with a view of crescent lake and the Boardwalk.

We had left our bags in the car (my husband would rather schlep the bags in several trips than pay a tip to bell services!) and I decided to head back down to the lobby to see if it might be possible to switch to a room with a king bed.  The front desk was very accommodating and they let me know they could switch us – but just not tonight.  We would just check out in the morning and then check right back in to the room we’d prefer. 

The next morning, Michael went down to the Beachclub marketplace to get some breakfast – and we ate out on our balcony as we waited for bell services to store our bags til our new room was ready.  Poor hubby – would have to tip bell services after all!

We spent our morning and early afternoon at Animal Kingdom and then headed back to the resort to see if our room was ready.  And it was!

Here is our new king room:

We had a view of a garden – but for some reason, I didn’t take a picture.  Our balcony also changed – and it was a very narrow one with no room for chairs.  But the trek to the room was not quite as meandering as our original room.

The skies were rather overcast but today seemed like our only opportunity to check out the Beach Club’s famous pool complex – Stormalong Bay.  I walked around taking pictures while Michael went to check out the slide.  There are several hot tubs, swimming areas, and even a sand bottom beach area for the kids.  There were pool side activities for the kids as well.  Michael and I hung out in the lazy river – with the ducks – before I went to warm up in the hot tub.  Disney does heat their pools year round – but there had been a bit of rain recently so the pool was a bit chilly for my tastes.

I am so glad we got to use Stormalong Bay as the next day was the coldest day of the winter for Florida – with wind chills in the twenties – and yes, we still saw people in the pool.

Also, one night during our stay we ate at the Cape May Clam Bake for dinner.  It’s a delicious seafood buffet with crab legs, mussels, fish, fried calamari or shrimp (depending on the day of the week), BBQ ribs, prime rib, fabulous side dishes – and then the truly amazing dessert of oreo bon-bons.  (I think that a dining review of this restaurant is in order!)

Overall, we had a great stay at the Beach club and I’d highly recommend it!

Location, location, location
Stormalong Bay
Cape May Café
Childcare onsite
Beaches and Cream

No food court (there is a counter service, but they don’t make to order and the selection is very limited)
Winding, seemingly never ending hallways