Earlier in the month my wife, Cheryl, and I attended the Reunion 2011 event put on by the WDW Today podcast and MEI-Mouse Fan Travel. While we had booked an event rate stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort for 4 nights earlier in the year, once all was said and done and fans started tacking on extra meets we decided that we really wanted to be staying an extra night at the front of the trip. However, we decided this about 5 days before, so we relegated ourselves to finding a deal online. For this my wife went to what has become a last minute trip fallback for us, BookIt.com.
Like most booking sites, it’s fairly straightforward to use – just input your dates, destination, number of rooms and guests and then search. Pick an option you’re comfortable with, pay and you’re done. It is not an auction site like Priceline.com. For just under $80 +$15 resort fee for the night we ended up choosing the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort – one of the 7 Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels. These are a group of hotels that, while operating on Walt Disney World property, are not owned by Disney.
As the last time I’d stayed in this hotel it was still the Grosvenor Resort, I thought this would be an interesting adventure to see how things had changed. I’d not even set foot inside when it was renovated into the Regal Sun a few years ago, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This hotel has been around quite some time, dating back to 1972 as the Dutch Inn, and was originally just an exterior room hotel (door’s lead outside not to a hallway) before the center tower was added when it became the Grosevnor.
When we arrived we pulled up to the front of the hotel where we were greeted by a valet. I stated that we wanted to self park and he handed me a room key and directed me back around the front of the building and to a gated entrance that we had passed on the way in. It’s sort of nice as the hotel has a front service road, so we didn’t have to go back out to Hotel Plaza Blvd to do this. We used the key, got in, parked and made our way to the elevator so that we could get to the lobby and check in.
Having pre-paid we had no balance due and were not required to leave a credit card on file. Having worked extensively with hospitality systems, I much prefer this - I’m not a fan of putting my magnetic card data onto any hotel key. At all. Ever. It might be a convenience, but it’s not wise – in fact, it’s one of the easiest ways for your credit card information to be stolen. Even if a hotel has my card on file, I ask them not to put it on a room key.
While we didn’t get an indoor room in the tower, we did luck out a bit as our external room was on the same level as the lobby so it was just a matter of walking to it. No elevators or stairs involved. Once inside the room, I’d have to say my instant reaction was that there wasn’t much difference between this and a room at the Pop which I’d be staying at the following night. I’d say the main room was probably a little bigger than at Pop and the bathroom was slightly smaller, but not by much in either case. Our only real disappointment was that the refrigerator was not emptied out of a prior tenant’s food items – we opted to simply not open it again for the night.
The hotel itself has a number of really nice amenities available. Immediately to the left of the front desk is an area for local tour and attraction assistance, another for WDW theme park tickets, car rental desks, terminals for airline checkins, a small business office and some conference rooms. On the other side of the lobby, there’s also a very basic bar as well as a food court. As with most of the Hotel Plaza Blvd hotels, there is also a Disney Store in the lobby.
The one amenity I found most interesting was that a large area of the lobby was set up as a kids play area. It had a television, books, and toys, as well as seating for parents and their kids. The entire area is guarded by a Goofy statue. While I don’t have children, I really appreciate when a hotel or really any business goes the extra mile like this when they don’t have to. However, the one thing I found most surprising is that 3 times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m) the Lakeview Restaurant in the hotel is the host to a Disney Character Breakfast. They are the only hotel of the 7 hotels to offer this.
It’s also important to mention that this hotel is super close to Downtown Disney as you can walk there in less than 5 minutes. This is not just convenient for going shopping and dining, but it’s also a quick way to get to other Walt Disney World resorts like the Polynesian. You just walk over and catch a bus to where you want to go. And if you want to bus to a park (e.g., Magic Kingdom), you have two options. You could use the transportation system provided by the hotels of Hotel Plaza Blvd. However, if you were up for a 15 minute walk you could head over to the Congress Park bus stop at Disney’s Saratoga Springs and use the bus system provided by Walt Disney World itself.
Overall, while it wouldn’t be my first choice of hotels, as I mentioned above, I do feel that it is very comparable to the rooms at Pop Century. However I’ve noticed that it can cost as much as $30 – $40 dollars more per night than Pop. If you happen to catch the price just right like we did for one night it can work out well. But otherwise, for the same feel, but with a lot more Disney, you’re probably better off booking a night at Pop.
What about you? Have you stayed at this resort? In its current incarnation? Or a prior one? Would you stay here if you haven’t before? How about in a pinch? If so, then enjoy your stay.