by Jayship Earth
This year, I had the good fortune to visit Walt Disney World 3 times in a 14 month period. My wife and I usually visit every few years, but we had some opportunities come up this year that we couldn’t resist. And we also were able to experience staying in a value, moderate and finally a deluxe resort in that short time-span. Staying at these different levels back-to-back like that gave us the opportunity to compare them pretty closely.
Disney World guests, both first-timers and even those that visit multiple times a year, face a lot choices when it comes to accommodations. If you’ve chosen to stay on property at Walt Disney World (which I always recommend), deciding the resort level to stay at is a big decision and one that is effected by so many factors. To some, a hotel is just a place to sleep between the fireworks and rope-drop the next morning. For others, a Disney trip is about splurging and that starts with a deluxe room with a view of Cinderella Castle. So, I can’t speak for everyone’s tastes or Disney vacation preferences. But, I can offer some observations having experienced the 3 levels so closely together.
In early summer, we had our big 8-day Disney vacation and choose to stay at the new Art of Animation value resort. My wife and I love to travel, but as a young couple, we don’t always have a ton of money to spend on it. We’ve always chosen to stay at more basic accommodations, in favor of spending money on the experiences while we are there. Value resorts have always been fine with us, for a place to sleep, eat breakfast and maybe swim a couple times.
Obviously one of the largest pro’s of a value resort is the cost. They are generally very affordable, and still allow guests to stay on property and get that “Disney feel”. I also think the bus service at value resorts is pretty good. Since all the buses pick up guests at one general location, you don’t have to worry about a bus being full when it arrives. And due to the larger amounts of people staying at value resorts, it seems more buses are sent to those hotels and pick-up’s are more frequent. Speaking only for the Art of Animation, I also thought the food court had a good variety and the pools were pretty nice. The fact that the resort is so large, means it has multiple pools which is a plus if the main pool is getting to be too crowded.
On the con side, the main building, food court and bus pick-up location were quite a long trek from our room. Value resorts are pretty large, and depending on where your room is, the walk from the bus stop to your room after a long day in the parks can be feel like hiking Everest. Value resorts also don’t have sit-down restaurants. Most people don’t mind as they do the majority of their dining in the parks, but you do miss out on the having the option if you needed it.
On our second trip of the year, we decided to treat ourselves to an upgrade since we were running in our first Disney Marathon weekend. We choose to stay at Port Orleans French Quarter, and we luckily got a room that was about a one minute walk to the main building- definitely a big pro. One of the first things you’ll notice staying at a moderate resort is the upgraded theming. Where value resorts are basically a bunch of identical building with some cool giant icons outside, moderates start to have exquisitely themed buildings and room that compliment that aesthetic.
Other pros of the moderate resorts is the dining. All the moderates have some kind of sit-down restaurant. Port Orleans also has a great food court. Unlike a value resort, the moderates tend to have items in the food court that are consistent with the resort theming, such as the beignets at Port Orleans. The rooms in moderates don’t feel that much bigger or better than the values, but the décor is a little nicer. And since the resort is a little smaller, walking between the main building, pools and your room is a little less taxing than at a value.
One of the things I dislike at a moderate is the bus service. Here you’ll find buses that pick up from multiple locations around the resort, so guests don’t have to walk that far to find a bus stop. But I find the buses run less frequently and are usually half to completely full by the time they make their stop near your room. Also, we typically eat breakfast in the main building, so having the one central stop there is actually more convenient for us.
Lastly, thanks to my wife’s company having a work conference in Disney World, our last trip of the year had us staying at the Grand Floridian. This place definitely felt deluxe to me. The grounds were beautiful and expansive. The cast members seemed a little friendlier and more willing to go the extra mile. Our room faced the lake and the Polynesian Resort, and sitting on our balcony after a long day in the parks was one of the highlights of the trip.
The rooms here were massive and beautifully decorated. The bathroom was large and we had two sinks, great for getting ready in a hurry in the morning. The rooms are also enclosed inside a building, as apposed to having your door from your room leading right out to the blistering Florida sun. Oh, and each night there were chocolates left on our pillows. That’s about as classy as it gets.
The Grand Floridian also featured multiple sit-down restaurants and they were spectacular. One night we dined at Narcossees and walked out to the water-front patio just in time to enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant.
If you happen to stay at a monorail resort, like the Grand Floridian, riding the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot will spoil you from any other transportation mode at WDW. On morning I timed from the moment I stepped onto the monorail at the resort, to the moment I stepped off at the Magic Kingdom station, and it was 40 seconds. 40 seconds! You can’t beat that. The Grand Floridian had one central bus stop for the the other 2 parks, water parks and shopping district. A flat screen monitor would tell you how long until the next bus arrived, but I didn’t feel like they came any quicker than at a value resort.
Despite all the opulence, staying at a deluxe did have a couple drawbacks. The price is a big factor. My wife’s company covered our hotel expenses, otherwise I don’t think we would have ponied up the money to stay there. At the end of the day, it is still just a place to sleep between park visits. There were many days when I felt bad that I rushed through breakfast and out the door for rope-drop. I felt like I wasn’t truly enjoying all the resort had to offer. Now, other people may take the time to spend a day just at the resort, enjoying all its amenities, but when Space Mountain was a one minute monorail ride away, it was hard to do this. It almost seemed too nice to leave for the day. Also, I found both the pool and food court fairly basic. I actually preferred the food court at Port Orleans and the fabulously themed pool at the Art of Animation.
So, after this resort level hopping experiment, what was the conclusion? There were things I enjoyed about each place, and no one level is right for everyone. I guess it all depends on your touring habits. I would say that the more time one plans on staying at the park should be inversely proportional to the cost one should be spending on their rooms. For myself, the moderate seemed like the appropriate choice. A little nicer themed and with less walking than a value, but not as nice as a deluxe that I felt like I was wasting money by not being there during the day. Though I will miss those chocolates on the pillows…