Filed under: Resorts
Staying on Club Level at at Walt Disney World resort is a fun splurge. After doing some rearranging of vacations, my husband, daughter, and I found it approaching July 4th weekend and no hotel room for July 4th and 5th. With the help of our travel agent, we decided to splurge for Club Level at the Beach Club. We had previously stayed at Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and wanted to compare a stay at Beach Club, with access to the Stone Harbor Club lounge. Here’s what we found.
Beach Club Club Level Check-In Procedure:
One of the benefits of living around the corner is that it is easy to pop over to the resort, check in, and then run back home to pack while you wait for the room to be ready. After dropping Figment the cat off at Best Friends pet resort, my daughter and I headed to Beach Club around noon. We had done online check-in, so we hoped that check-in would be very fast. Because we decided to just park the car in the regular lot and weren’t walking in with suitcases, the welcome committee at the porte-cochere missed us coming in, and so we made it all the way to the regular check-in desk. A quick tap of our MagicBands and the Cast Member at the desk flagged down one of the lobby attendants to take us up to the fifth floor Club level. Once up at the Club level, we were finished with check-in within five minutes. To our surprise, the room was already ready, so we went down the hall and took a look.
Amenities in the Room:
Our room had two queen beds, sofa, a desk with chair, small table (which nests underneath the desk), and a dresser (with mini-fridge, TV, and DVD player). Outside was a small balcony with two chairs. The room also has bathrobes for use during your stay. There were also some neat touches, from the Mickey Mouse desk lamp to the “gas lamps” wall lamps (although it took us a few minutes to realize that the lamps had knobs to turn up or turn down like a gas lamp instead of wall switches to turn them on or off!). The bathroom is fairly standard with a room containing the toilet and shower and a double sink outside. We had a Lagoon/Pool view, which gave us a great view over a courtyard and out into Crescent Lake. The room also includes access to the magnificent Stormalong Bay pool area.
By far, the highlight of staying at Club level is the area is the “free” food and drink. For Beach Club, this lounge area is called the Stone Harbor Club. It is a fairly small room where food and drink offerings change throughout the day. Here are some examples of the offerings.
Breakfast (7 AM to 10:30 AM): A fairly typical continental breakfast that you’d find at any business-grade hotel with cereals, bagels and cream cheese, pastries and doughnuts (selection varies daily), mini muffins, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, tea, coffee, and juice.
Snacks (11:30 AM to 4:00 PM): Light nibbles including gummy fish, house-made potato chips, cookies, trail mix, breadsticks and dips, and yogurt covered pretzels are available. Non-alcoholic beverages (soda, iced tea, Stormalong Bay Breeze punch, coffee, tea, and still and sparkling water) are also provided.
Hors d’oeuvres and Wine (5:00 PM to 7:00 PM): Aside from breakfast, this is the most extensive offering in the day. Generally there are two hot offerings either from or inspired by food at the restaurants around the Yacht and Beach Club. For our nights, we had foods like chicken skewers, spring rolls, and some sort of warm cheese and phyllo bite. There also was a wonderful quinoa cold salad that I was so good that I had some of it again when I saw it a few days later at Cape May Café. Wine and beer are available in addition to non-alcoholic beverages. There are also fresh vegetables and dip, olives, rolls, peanut butter and jelly, apples and caramel, cheese and crackers, and more. While not enough to make a meal, it is a great way to have a light snack before a late dinner.
Desserts and Cordials (8:00 PM to 10:00 PM): A great way to wind down for the evening is the selection of desserts and cordials available. Cordials include potent potables like Amarula and Grand Marnier. The dessert selection varies, but included items like peanut butter mousse, strawberry cheesecake, and brownies.
One benefit of staying at Club level is turndown service. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, we not only had the bed turned down and the nightly chocolates, we also received lovely cards with African art and a quote on it. We were hopeful to get something comparable at the Beach Club, but turndown just meant turning the bed down, possibly arranging stuffed animals on the bed (which happened the first night, but the second night was just having the bed turned down), and the standard chocolates. On our second night, I was also astonished how early turndown happened for us. I know that with a young child, we do call it an early night, but a 4:00 PM turndown seemed surprisingly early. I don’t know if this is standard or if was because of staffing issues for a holiday weekend, however.
Bang for Your Buck?
Ultimately, the big question about Club level at any resort is “is it worth the extra cost?” For our stay, Club level was around an extra $175 per night over a standard view room. Here’s my impressions:
* Because we did very little time in the parks, we made good use of the Stone Harbor Club, but there is no question that we did not eat or drink an extra $58 worth of food and beverage per person each day during that stay. Because they did not have bottled water or juice or cartons of milk, we didn’t even have the option of carrying drinks with us in the morning, which is one way we got cost benefit in the past. The lounge room itself was frequently crowded, and because we had a young child with good listening ears, sometimes the patrons for the weekend we stayed had issues with “un-Disney-like” language, so we took our food and drink back to the room instead of relaxing in the lounge.
* In addition, because we are super planners, although the concierge desk was more than willing to help with any needs that we might have had for dining reservations or FastPass+ selections, we had no need of those services.
* My daughter enjoyed the turndown chocolates, but we wouldn’t have missed turndown service if it never happened, as it was pretty lackluster. We also never made use of the bathrobes in the room either, which is the only key difference we saw between a Club level room and a “regular” room.
* There’s something wonderful about the feeling of stepping on the elevator and tapping your MagicBand to head up to an exclusive area (and even better when other people are looking at you enviously). Splurging can be the spice of life.
* If you are not a frequent guest to Walt Disney World, if you are trying to coordinate a special trip (anniversary, birthday, etc.), having the concierge desk attendants ready to help with any sort of need, such as dining, special gifts, extra activities, or FastPass+ selections can make your trip much less stressful.
* If you enjoy potent potables, being able to grab free beer all afternoon during the big game (for instance, the World Cup during our stay) or free wine in the early evening helps justify the cost. While the lack of bottled juice and water and cartons of milk was disappointing, I do think that I drank at least $10 a day in Stormalong Bay Breeze, a non-alcoholic punch that tasted like a blend of pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and a splash of club soda.
The Bottom Line:
When comparing it with the Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge (the only other place where we have stayed Club level), there were a few disappointments with Beach Club. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, we got a “welcome home” set of chocolates and giraffe-shaped chocolate “lollipops” when we arrived in the room. We also got little decorative cards with African proverbs on them at turndown service. Although these are very minor things, they were an added touch that Beach Club just didn’t provide. Staying Club level at Animal Kingdom Lodge also provides access to the Sunrise Safari (albeit for an additional fee), but there was no special activity offered at Beach Club that I could tell. Room quality and food quality and quantity were largely the same, although the lounge at Animal Kingdom Lodge did have a small kid’s buffet of afternoon snacks that didn’t seem to be present at the Beach Club lounge. Because of its layout, the Kilimanjaro Club lounge feels like it is much larger than the Stone Harbor Club lounge. It just seemed that our other Club-level experience was one notch higher than this experience at Beach Club.
Would we stay at Club level at the Beach Club again? If we had a special occasion and got a good deal on the room, we would gladly do it again, as we had a good time and the concierge desk staff, Mousekeeping staff, Stone Harbor attendants were wonderful. We would not be likely to book it on a whim again, however, as it would make better sense for us to stay in a non-Club level room and spend the extra money on a nice meal each day or pool drinks at Stormalong Bay.