We’re starting a series on ways you can “plus” your vacation at Walt Disney World. If you’re not familiar with the term, “plussing” is Disney-talk for taking something great and wowing the guest by making it even greater. Our first article talks about options for larger hotel rooms.
Walt Disney once said that Florida had something special …the blessing of size. It is called Walt Disney World, after all. But with all that space and elbow room at Walt Disney World, wouldn’t you want the same for your accommodations? Today we’re talking about where to find larger rooms at Walt Disney World. Fortunately, several Walt Disney World resorts offer options for large families or anyone looking for some extra space during their stay. I’m comparing the pros and cons of the Fort Wilderness Cabins, the Art of Animation and All-Star Music Family Suites, and 1-Bedroom DVC Villas in pursuit of the best option for your family when looking to plus your stay!
There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of the Disney World Resorts!
Grand Floridian Wedding Chapel
The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa: Disney’s flagship resort is also home to Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, a fairy tale location with a view of Cinderella Castle! Even if you’re not getting married, you can still walk over to the pavilion area where the chapel and Franck’s Bridal Studio are located. Be sure to look up to notice a special detail: a heart-shaped weather vane of Mickey posing as Cupid!
Animal Kingdom Lodge: Throughout Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village you will find African quotes and proverbs on the walls and rock work; however, one of them is different from the rest in that it’s a quote from Walt Disney. You can find it around the Samawati Springs pool area!
The Contemporary: For years, guests have been reporting a small, metal Mickey perched on the edge of a rooftop at the Contemporary Resort. When riding the Express Monorail, keep your eyes open when you approach the entrance to the resort.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of Disney pools in general, let’s get into the specific pool situation at each resort. First up are the Disney value level resorts: All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Art of Animation, and Pop Century. Here’s the scoop on the pools at these hotels.
What is the pool themeing? The main Fantasia pool features elements from the film “Fantasia,” notably a Sorcerer Mickey statue which shoots streams of water into the center of the pool. The smaller Mighty Ducks pool features hockey themeing such as larger than life sticks and a faux goal net.
What’s the kiddie pool situation? There is one shallow kiddie pool with an adjacent water spray feature. This is located to the immediate right of the Fantasia pool, as you face the main Cinema Hall building.
Are there water slides? No.
Is there a nearby playground? There is a playground, located a bit away from the pool, near the Toy Story section of the resort.
What’s the nearest food option? The Silver Screen Spirits bar is next to the Fantasia pool. For a full menu, go inside Cinema Hall to the World Premier Food Court. There are no food options near the Mighty Ducks pool.
Are there showers at pool? Yes. There are locker rooms with showers next to both pools.
Are there hot tubs? No.
Are there towels available at the pool? No. You are welcome to use the towels from your room while you’re at the pool.
How deep is the pool? Both pools are five feet at their deepest point.
Is there are zero entry pools? No.
Are poolside cabanas available? No.
Are there poolside activities? Yes. All activities take place at the Fantasia pool area. There is one poolside ping-pong table. Schedules may vary seasonally, but recently there were planned events from 1:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. every afternoon, plus a movie under the stars in the evening. Events may include: Mickey Bean Bag toss, Twister, Musical Dots, Dance Party, Bingo, Treasure Hunt, and others.
Anything else? Laundry facilities are available next to both pools.
“I’m sorry. We don’t have a reservation under that name at this resort or any other Disney resort.” This was the rocky start to my relationship with Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. Baffled and sent away with my tail tucked between my legs, I found a seat in the lobby. I needed wifi to pull up my confirmation email (which admittedly I should have already had with me), but I quickly learned there was no wifi anywhere. I waited in the check-in line a second time to inquire about getting an internet connection but was told this was only available for an extra fee with (wait for it). . . a room reservation. Sent away with my tail tucked between my legs for a second time, I spent some time seeking wifi and tracking down my confirmation email.
Once I was armed with the proof that my clan did, indeed, have the right to occupy one of the resort’s family suites, I waited in the check-in line for a third time. The reservation was found under my last name with an incorrect spelling. I was relieved–that is until I was told I needed to pay the balance on the room. “This room should have already been paid for,” I explained to the lady behind the counter. She pleasantly explained that the first night had been paid off but not the second, and I was bewildered when she asked if I would please hand over my credit card for the $300 per night charge. I was certain it had already been covered. However, I thought it over for a few seconds and considered the fact that if I had to wait in that check-in line one more time I might hang myself. With that visual in mind, I gave the woman my sparkling Disney Visa. The matter would have to be figured out later as my family needed accommodations, and I knew we would not be able to find another room easily on the holiday weekend.
The papers were signed, and I was told that the room was available immediately. Dragging my luggage and family of five along, I approached and opened the door to our suite on the second floor. Bam! The intense smell of chlorine bleach hit me like a Mac truck. “Whoa!” I exclaimed, “Back up! No children may enter here yet!” My kids were tired. They were sweating. They were irritable, but there was no way I would let them in the room. I reasoned that mild perspiration never hurt anyone; however, inhaling chlorine bleach had, and I made them wait out on the balcony while I did my best to air out the room.
After a few minutes with the door held open, the smell abated enough for everyone to enter. This was when the course of our experience changed. Everyone “ooohed and ahhhhed” as we inspected our temporary digs. A living room featured a TV, table, a couple dining chairs, hidden beds in the sofa, stuffed chair, and ottoman. It was simply but tastefully accented with a musical theme. Equally simple and yet completely practical was a kitchenette with cabinets, sink, mini fridge, and microwave. Around a corner was separate bedroom with TV, queen bed, and desk. But clearly my favorite amenity was the set-up of two separate bathrooms, something of which even some DVC accommodations don’t boast. We immediately felt quite comfortable in its crisp and clean atmosphere.
When I ventured out to the food court after settling in our quarters, it impressed me as just as clever. It had separate stations such as a bakery, a grill, a pizzeria, an ice cream counter, waffle station, and beverage island. The service was quick and efficient. I sampled a burger and fries from the grill and sat amongst the colorful murals and posters of music celebrities in the court. It was a pleasant half hour for me. My little ones colored at a strategically placed table that was stocked with coloring sheets and crayons . I sat peacefully nearby and watched “Sonny With A Chance” on a mounted flat screen TV and finished my fries in peace.
“The grounds are somewhat eclectic and charming,” I noted when I scouted the area. As with every Value Resort, All-Star Music was dotted with garish structures establishing its theme. This style always creates a playful and energetic setting for families; however, hidden between the vivid musical monuments I found a rather serene environment–a fenced in rose garden with benches and a fountain. Had I sought out relaxation, this would have been my area of choice. But alas, relaxing is not my strong point when at Walt Disney World, and my family sought out action in these stomping grounds.
We followed the action trail to a central location of the resort. Here we found the primary attraction of All-Star Music–the pools. My family spent a large amount of time at the main pool on both days we were there. The unique guitar shape of the pool along with the water gun-shooting Three Caballeros fountain in the center drew my kids like a Pooh Bear to the hunny pot. Imagine our enthusiasm when we discovered that pool parties were a daily event with energetic DJs and a nightly pool-side movie. It is no surprise that this became the hot spot for the Knopps, and my kids returned from these pool events with bright smiles and tired eyes.
When our troop finally checked out of the family suite of Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, I conceded that it had been a great experience once we were actually permitted to set up camp. The price seemed a bit steep, but being a large family who had need for some kitchen space, the cost was possibly justified. Also, the second bathroom was appreciated on more than one occasion. After all when you have young ones that “gotta go” at the same time, no mom wants to be praying that one can “hold it” while the other is lolly-gagging on the latrine. With this arrangement we found ample places for everyone to be “relieved” as well as get ready to go without standing on top of one another. In addition to that, the resort pool activities did create some wonderful family moments for which there was no price tag. For my family with three younger children, it seemed a fantastic place to establish home base while running around the Walt Disney World Resort.
For months, our hotel team has had a June 4 reservation for the All Star Music Suites. When our team arrived in WDW to check in on June 4, they were told the suites were not quite ready for guests, and probably wouldn’t be ready until June 11. In the meantime, Disney’s offering families with AS Music Suites reservations a complimentary upgrade to a deluxe resort.
The problem with this trade is that everyone’s in the same room, so when it’s bedtime for one person, it’s bedtime for everyone. (Conversely, if it’s not bedtime for everyone, it’s bedtime for no one. Parents will understand better than anyone what this means.)
Our suggestion is to politely explain to Disney that you booked a suite in order to have some adult-only time to relax while the children slept. And we’d politely insist on a suite somewhere else, since it’s a “like-for-like” swap, whereas a single deluxe room isn’t like-for-like.
Disney’s surely known for days that these rooms would be unavailable, and they also knew the names and phone numbers of the families who’ve booked the rooms. If you didn’t get a phone call from Disney in advance of your stay to inform you that your room would not be ready, we’d also point that out to Disney, too. Had you known, you could have made alternate arrangements at a suite elsewhere, right?
Recently, Disney has begun offering their All Star Music and All Star Sports Resort through bids via Priceline for a mere $36 (plus tax and fees) when the rack rate for this period is $99 at these resorts.
Bidding on Priceline is always risky as you cannot see which hotel you will get in advance and could end up with something completely unexpected. Also, the bid itself is nonrefundable.
A new website called Magic Values (at www.magicvalues.com) strives to make the odds bidding for these great rates a little safer. There is still no guarantee, but this website did help many people bid successfully for these resorts.
Magic Values explains the exact booking process to win the resort and a calendar of bids from people around the web showing which days were won, and which days were not.
Again, it cannot be stressed enough that a bid through Priceline is not refundable, and you might end up at a non-Disney resort. However, if you’re interested, it might be worth the gamble.