My Stay at the Wilderness Lodge

If you’ve been following the blog, you might remember that my May trip split between Pop Century and the Wilderness Lodge. I’ve stayed at Pop several times and will probably blog about it another time. Today I’d like to focus on our few days spent at the Wilderness Lodge. While I had visited WL several times, I never stayed there. I was really looking forward to spending a few nights here. I had heard mostly good reviews, and it always seemed as though this resort had a lot going for it. The public areas of the resort are beautiful. It has a beach where guests lounge in the sun during the day or watch the Electrical Water Parade in the evening. And especially appealing is the boat ferrying guests directly to the Magic Kingdom’s gate.

With all of these things in mind, I thought these few days would be a highlight of our trip. So imagine my disappointment when we had a less than Disney-like experience. Now, before I delve into the negative bits I must admit that there were some good things about our stay. Like I mentioned, the amenities and the beauty of the common spaces were enjoyable. The Cast Member who checked us in was warm, friendly, and very helpful. But that’s where the pleasantries ended. Our room was ready late and the valets were less than friendly when we unloaded the car to move it to the room. When we made the long trek to our room, we were surprised at its small size. I knew WL was originally meant to be a moderate resort, but talk about tiny. After settling in a bit we discovered small bugs in the tub, holes in the towels, and refrigerator that didn’t work very well. It took two calls to actually get someone to the room to check out the fridge. The man who came was snippy with us and told us it was our fault it wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t believe the lack of service at a deluxe resort. Without yammering on about all of the bad details I’ll just say I will never stay here again. I will visit (especially to see the lovely Christmas decorations) and enjoy the resort’s restaurant offerings, but never make another reservation.

The results for the 2009 Unofficial Guide’s Reader Survey were recently posted on our website. It’s not surprising to see the Wilderness Lodge slid in this year’s ratings and only 71% of people would recommend the resort to friends. An interesting observation about the restaurant portion of this year’s results was that people seemed to be looking at the more expensive options with a more critical lens in these economic times. People are expecting more for their money since they are doling out so much on their WDW vacations. A lot of the reader comments about these establishments are beginning with “for what I paid…” I’m sure that the same can be said of the resorts. Before this observation was even published, my friends and I said exactly that about the Wilderness Lodge. For what we paid for the room, even with a UK resident discount, we were very frustrated with it and the service.

Next week I’ll start my series on drinking around the world…

photo by StartedByAMouse

Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

14 thoughts on “My Stay at the Wilderness Lodge

  • June 9, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I’m sad you had a non-magical time at the Wilderness Lodge. While I agree that it definitely has some detriments, the theming is simply hard to top.

  • June 9, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Sorry to hear you had so much trouble at WL. My wife and I have stayed there 15 times. It is by far in our opinion the best resort on Disney property. Check in, housekeeping, and concierge service has always been top notch. I hope you will try it again. I’m sure you will have a different feeling and response.

  • June 9, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I’m glad you love it so much. Its amazing how different everyone’s stay can be. I’m really not much that fussy, but these lapses in Disney service this time were too obvious to ignore. The people I traveled with felt the same way I did, and one of them previously held WL high on her favorites list.

    I went in knowing how much people love the resort and the following it has. I think my high expectations are part of the reason I was so upset by what happened during our stay. Maybe one day I’ll try it again, but at the moment I’m on a mission to stay at all of the resorts and have a lot to go before I start the cycle again. I still have my doubts that I’ll return to the WL though.

    Thanks for reading!

  • June 9, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Wow, does Kristen’s experience sound familiar. After 6 nights at Bonnet Creek ( loved it ), we booked 3 nights at the WL for some on site Disney magic. Rude valets, room ready late, indifferent cast members to start our stay. Small, dark rooms, and long hallways with banging doors, and bathrooms needing renewal. The common areas, pool, and beaches are beautiful and worth seeing as the overall themeing is great. Not a horrible stay, just not magical enough to want us to come back- especially considering the deluxe cost of the rooms.

  • June 9, 2009 at 9:36 am

    We ate dinner at the WL during our visit at the end of May. (Trout on a bed of sauteed greens – yummmmmm.) It was so pretty at the lodge, we thought we would ask to see a room, for future reference in planning trips. They were so PACKED at the front desk, it took forever to talk to someone. When we did, we learned that they were completely full. The concierge was very helpful and gave us information with room pictures and such.

    Not that it would be any excuse, really, for rude staff and inadequate housekeeping, but I wonder if part of the reason for the less-than-magical room is the huge number of guests who responded to the “buy 4 get 3” deal. If Disney did, in fact, cut staff to any extent — and then drew in more visitors than usual, you can see how things would start to slide.

    I try to pretend that everything happens at Disney by magic, but in my heart, I know it is really the efforts of hard-working people. Maybe the WL has had such great reviews, EVERYONE wanted to stay there at the same time.

    Now, ask me about our trip to CBR — be-awsome!

    • June 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      I thought you were asking me to ask you about Disney’s Best Kept Secret 🙂

  • June 9, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Sorry about your time at WL. We thought the same of the POLY last year and decided to give WL a try. WL was a much cleaner, friendlier environment IMOP, albiet noisy!! I agree with it being small but the rooms were much cleaner than the Poly! We had a great time there but next time we will go across the pond to the Contemporary or the GF. Our kids are spoiled and like the monorail system. As long as the kids are little we will stay close to MK.

    Our biggest problem was Concierge at WL! We only had 2 during the week that actually knew what was going on! Had we not been prepared we would have taken them at their word and been steered in the wrong direction.

  • June 9, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    One more thing….so far the 2 deluxe resorts we stayed in….we not deluxe resorts by standards in the “real world” they are WDW standards. I had this discussion last year with the VP of something or other…the biggest problem is so much is outsourced now. I keep looking for that premium resort but have yet to find it at WDW!!!

    • June 10, 2009 at 8:52 am


      Could you elaborate on what exactly is outsourced. I’d be interested in specifics if you have them. Thanks.

  • June 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I’m trying to think of why the WDW hotels provide (IMO) less value per dollar than offsite hotels.

    Are WDW overall pay/benefits significantly higher than the rest of the hotel and restaurant industry in central FL, and if so does this extra cost make it impossible for them to offer as much value as non-WDW competitors?

    The only other significant cost differences (in the non-WDW competitors’ favor) that I can think of is the free transportation system, the generally more elaborate pools and active landscaping (geysers, waterfalls, boats, etc.), and the extra magic hours.

  • June 11, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    We have never stayed at a Disney resort. I hear so many reports like this that frankly I am scared to spend all that money and be disappointed. Were I to spend several hundred dollars a night for my family to stay I would want and expect perfection. We are a party of ten and need at minimum two adjoining rooms. When I check the rates of a value it would cost me at least $200 a night for adjoining rooms. Contrast that to the five bedroom, four bath vacation home with private pool that I frequent and pay $110 a night all inclusive. The house is not perfect but it is perfect for us and we love our peaceful, quiet stays there. What is the Disney Magic that I am missing out on?

  • June 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Just wanted to share some news about my WL stay. I just got an email from one of the people I shared the room with who made the reservation with a UK discount. He complained to Disney about the “lack of Disney magic” during our stay after he got home and he just found out he’s getting 20% of the bill put back on his credit card! The same group is traveling together in December so we’ll put it toward our stay at the Boardwalk!

    Thanks for reading everybody!

  • June 11, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with my 4 1/2 year old on May 12-19. While I realize it’s not Wilderness Lodge, there are some similarities – ie., a “deluxe” resort with smaller rooms that does not have monorail access. If I’m not mistaken, WL and AKL are very comparable in price. With that said, Wilderness Lodge does have VERY close access to Magic Kingdom, while Animal Kindom Lodge is very close to Animal Kingdom. The only other hotels closer to MK are Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian, and if I’m not mistaken, the rooms there are substantially more expensive. We stayed at AKL on the 4/3 promotion in a Savannah view room. I priced the cheapest room at Contemporary (which I believe was the least expensive of the 3 monorail resorts), and I think it was well over $400/night. Our room at AKL was about $360 or $370/night, (but I only paid for 4 nights). I also priced a room at WL, and like I said, the prices were comparable to AKL. So, what you are getting is very close proximity to a park, but without monorail access and a smaller room (only sleeps 4 vs. 5), so the price is less. With that said, it’s no excuse for a dirty or sub par room and rude cast members. But, we did not have that experience at AKL! Our room at AKL was spotless…so much so that I only used Mousekeeping once during our 7 night stay (no need to waste resource when it was only two of us). All of the cast members were great. They honored my room request and gave us the most convenient room in the hotel (the first room off the lobby on the zebra trail…not the most private, but I got what I asked for!). The kids activities in the lobby and in the outdoor areas were fantastic! We never had a problem waiting for buses. I hadn’t been to Disney in 13 years, and it was my son’s first visit, so I’m not sure if would have been easy to please me or easy to disappoint, but I was absolutely amazed by the hotel. Granted, I would not pay full price for a Savannah view (get a parking lot view and see the animals in the public viewing area), but I loved the hotel enough to definitely stay here again. I don’t think the Disney Magic is gone, I just think it’s probably difficult to keep it up 100% of the time given the vastness of the WDW operation. That’s no excuse, though, and it’s to their credit that they gave you 20% back on their bill. Basically, they are admitting they can (and hopefully in the future will) do better! I’ve stayed at Caribbean beach, and there are other advantages to staying at the Deluxe resorts…they are just not as big! I loved the intimate feel of AKL. The line for our ME express bus at MCO was also much shorter than the others (I’m assuming because it only made one other stop at Coronado). The only other bus stop on the way to the parks was Kidani Village, so that kept those times to a minimum, and we didn’t have to walk as far to our bus stop when leaving the parks. Granted, it was not that crowded when we were there, so that may have also helped with some of this, but I’m assuming these are other perks that you enjoy staying at a deluxe resort. Overall, we really did have a magical experience and I can’t imagine staying at another hotel. I hope people realize that they are getting so much more than just a hotel room for the money that they spend!

  • February 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I realize this blog post is from 2009 and so are the comments. My thinking is that if I am reading it then others may be also.
    I stayed at the WL in Sept 2011 and am getting ready to stay their again in 8 days.

    My experience….
    I have stayed at The Poly, Pop,POFQ,The Contemporary, Bay Lake Tower, Saratoga Springs, The Beach Club, Animal Kingdom and The Grand. I worked at the WL as well as The Grand in 2007.

    I love the WL. I have had great service. The rooms were not disappointing at all and were clean. I found getting to an from my room easy and not a long walk from the elevators. At least not in consideration of how long some walks can be ( AK comes to mind) . I have eaten at the restaurants and enjoyed my meals and service. The store is nice, well stocked and friendly CM’s.
    The boat service is very nice. The bus service is slow.
    The only complaint I have is that one night I needed to get some info from Concierge and had to wait in line for about 20 minutes when there were only 2 people in front of me. 1 was being helped already when I arrived! Other than that everything was great! I used online check in and it worked fabulously!
    I am looking forward to arriving there again in 8 days for our anniversary trip!

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