Disney’s deluxe hotels aren’t the right fit for every trip, but there’s no doubt that these resorts deserve their place on pretty much every Disney travelers bucket list. In this post, we discuss the deluxe resorts, including the basic things to know about them, reasons to stay at deluxe resorts, and, of course, the ranking of all eight of Disney World’s deluxe resorts!
Disney World Deluxe Resort Basics
If want to skip this section and jump to the rankings, click here. The deluxe resorts are Disney’s most expensive (and thus theoretically “best”) resorts. There are eight deluxe hotels at Disney World.
Three—Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary—sit on the monorail, which connects them to Magic Kingdom (and, with a transfer, Epcot). Three—BoardWalk Inn, Yacht Club, and Beach Club sit around the Boardwalk, between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Wilderness Lodge is located near Magic Kingdom, but not on the monorail. Animal Kingdom Lodge is located next to Animal Kingdom (but has no special transportation to that park).
The standard rooms at the deluxe hotels range in post-tax nightly price from $406 to $1084. Each also has suites and club level amenities. And each has at least one “sister” Disney Vacation Club property that it more or less shares amenities with.
The rankings here aren’t impacted by club level accommodations. We have a post about Club Level (also called Concierge Level) at Disney World which also links to our individual club level reviews. This post also won’t take into account anything having to do with the DVC properties, except where the experience of an ordinary guest is impacted.
Every deluxe resort has (at least) a pool, fitness center, quick service restaurant, table service restaurant, bar, and activity schedule. For all intents and purposes, guests of all Disney resorts have access to the same set of perks—you won’t get anything special in that regards for picking a deluxe resort.
The deluxe resorts are the best Disney has to offer. You should know, though, that if you’re a frequent “deluxe” traveler, these resorts won’t compare to, say, Four Seasons or The Ritz Carlton. The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World is, for example, widely regarded as the best hotel at Walt Disney World.
Finally, while we’re not the type to have problems or make strange requests, we’ve never felt like the service is generally better at the deluxe resorts than the other resorts. We’re much bigger believers that your level of service is more likely to significantly vary by cast member than by hotel.
Reasons to Stay at a Disney Deluxe Resort
If you already are set on a deluxe hotel and just need to know how we rank them, click here to jump down to the rankings. Otherwise, here are a few reasons to consider a stay at a deluxe hotel.
1. Location and Transportation
With the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge, all the deluxe resorts have alternatives to bus transportation to at least one park:
Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian have monorail access to Magic Kingdom and (with one transfer) Epcot
Contemporary has walking access to Magic Kingdom
Yacht Club, Beach Club, and BoardWalk Inn have walking and boat access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
Wilderness Lodge has boat access to Magic Kingdom (bus see the counterpoint below)
Because the bus system is not incredibly reliable (though it is improving), and because the buses can be a little uncomfortable, having some other means to get to the parks can be a huge perk.
2. Best Restaurants At Your Fingertips
Many of the best restaurants at Disney World are located in the deluxe hotels. These include Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Storybook Dining at Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge, and Victoria & Albert’s at Grand Floridian.
Having these restaurants right at your hotel means you can schedule and early breakfast or late dinner and not have to deal with any extra transportation.
3. Resort Days
You definitely can do a resort day from any Disney resort, but they're likely to be much better at the deluxe resorts. The deluxe resorts have superior pools, most notably Stormalong Bay at Yacht & Beach Club. The deluxe resorts also have better bars, access to better amenities and activities, and (mostly) better lobbies and lounging areas.
4. Club Level
Besides Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, the deluxe resorts are the only resorts offering club level. While we mostly don’t find club level at Walt Disney World to be worth it, if you’re looking to have this bucket-list experience, your only choice is going to be a deluxe resort.
5. The Lobbies and Grounds Are Amazing
While there is some fun to walking around other resorts—particularly Art of Animation in the value group and Port Orleans Riverside in the moderate group—the deluxe resorts are just wonderful places to explore.
While nothing really beats the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the grandiose lobby of the Grand Floridian, the Boardwalk (outside the Boardwalk area hotels), and the wonderful indoor and outdoor spaces at Wilderness Lodge are some of Disney’s best spaces.
6. The Views Are Better
We have a separate post talking specifically about the theme park view rooms at the monorail resorts. Besides those views, you can get views of the Boardwalk at the hotels there, and savanna views at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
You’ll pay extra for the best views, to be clear, but there are also often common areas or restaurants where you can get something close to those amazing views without paying for them. If you’re interested, we have a post Comparing Theme Park Views at the Monorail Resorts.
7. There Are Ways To Save On Them
Besides most of the obvious ways (check out our guide on getting the best deal on your Disney hotel), one of the most popular, but still underrated, ways to save on a deluxe stay is to rent Disney Vacation Club points.
Renting DVC points usually won’t put your in a standard room—it’ll put you in a DVC room at the “sister” property—but in most cases you’ll be sharing the key amenities of the standard hotels.
Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts (Complete Ranking)
The first thing to know about this list is that we really don’t consider any of the deluxe resorts to be bad. Even the #8 slot is a good hotel.
While we call it a “ranking,” this might be more of a “flow chart” for what hotels to consider. The first three all come from different locations because we think location is the most important factor you need to consider. Then the list sort of proceeds with “well if the first option at this location didn’t work for you, maybe the second option will…”
As a result, for example, we put Yacht Club at #3 and Beach Club all the way down at #7. To us, if you’re not sold by the pitch for Yacht Club, you don’t need to think about Beach Club until you’ve considered some other options. This is despite there being next-to-no differences between the two. And as with all things, context is important. If you’re not visiting Magic Kingdom for some reason, then Contemporary won’t be a justifiable pick.
Finally, as with most of our ranking posts, we have more to say at the top of the list than the bottom. This is simply because we spend a lot of time justifying the top of the list over the bottom of the list. By the time you get to the bottom, you’ve already heard a lot about those resorts.
The room rates given below are for standard rooms (the lowest priced rooms), including tax, rounded to the nearest dollar. If you’d like a full rate table, visit Mouse Savers. The parenthetical after the prices compares lowest prices rooms, so Wilderness Lodge is (8/8) because it has the lowest priced room among the eight deluxe resorts.
1. Disney’s Contemporary Resort
2020 Standard Room Rates: $498 - $829 (4/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
We start with our pick of the monorail resorts—Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Over the past two years or so of revisiting and thinking critically about the hotels, we were a bit surprised to see Contemporary perform so well as to grab the top spot. One thing to note is that even though it only ranks fourth on the price ranking, Contemporary’s lowest-priced rooms sell out quickly.
We don’t plan too far in advance, and low-priced Contemporary rooms are just about the rarest rooms we see on property. Effectively, the hotel is probably in the top two or three if you’re only planning a few months out.
What really has changed for us since past visits to Contemporary is that we’ve come to see how important its location is. It’s not just about being on the monorail—but having a walking path to Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is easily the most difficult park to get to and from, and it’s also the park you’re most likely to need to visit twice. Having that walking path is a huge plus.
Aside from that, you have the rest of the monorail resorts a short ride away. The world class restaurants at Grand Floridian. (Contemporary’s California Grill is itself highly regarded, too.) The best bar in the resort at Polynesian. Heck even the stunning lobby of Wilderness Lodge is a short boat ride away.
Contemporary’s rooms strike us as…normal, good hotel rooms. Our first impression seeing them was that they must be somewhat new. But the details—carpeting, USB hub—reveal them to be last refurbished in 2013. Okay, a Google search also helped us identify that date.
In past years, I bet these rooms had a real “contemporary” vibe. But as tastes and trends have changed, the rooms actually just look nice now. Many of Disney’s post-2013 refurbishments missed the mark (see Polynesian, below), so we’re actually happy these rooms were finished before minimalism became trendy.
You can find fault in the resort. The pool area is uninspired. Chef Mickey’s, while being a classic, remains more functional than fantastical. And taking the monorail to Epcot is much more a burden than a perk. Nonetheless, Contemporary is an easy, strong pick for the top of this list.
2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
2020 Standard Room Rates: $417 - $705 (7/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
There aren’t two deluxe hotels at Disney World more different than Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge. That’s why, in this flow char—erm, rankings—it makes sense to tell you to consider Animal Kingdom Lodge next.
It’s hard to know where to start, there are so many differences. Price—Animal Kingdom Lodge is the second lowest-priced of the deluxe resorts, just more expensive than Wilderness Lodge. As such, it is immediately on the radar of people looking to make “the leap.”
Location—Animal Kingdom Lodge’s location is awful. You need to bus or rideshare to every other location on property. There’s no getting around this, but this is also why Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge are priced where they are.
Dining—Well, Contemporary does have California Grill, one of Disney’s best restaurants (it also has Wave and Chef Mickey’s, for the record). But Animal Kingdom Lodge has Jiko, Sanaa, and Boma, which are three heavy hitters. Obviously without the monorail resorts to back it up, it’s important for Animal Kingdom Lodge to have a more solid restaurant lineup in the hotel, which it does.
And then there is theming. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a savanna filled with real animals. It has one of the most stunning lobbies on property, filled with Africa artifacts.
The rooms themselves are heavily themed, but they’re definitely the weak point of the resort. The rooms are woefully behind the times, with an entertainment unit that looks straight out of my 1990s childhood bedroom.
There is some under-the-radar work being done to modernize them, which is much needed. Unfortunately, at a first look, I’m worried they’ve left too much of the theming behind. You can check out a video of a new room here.
3. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
2020 Standard Room Rates: $487 - $846 (T-5/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
I’ve you’ve been paying attention, you probably knew we’d be heading to the Boardwalk area next. Our pick for the top resort in the area seems to change more quickly than Florida’s weather, but at this moment we’re giving the spot back to Yacht Club.
Before we get to our “issues” with Yacht Club, let’s talk about why it deserves this spot. The Boardwalk area is within walking distance of two parks—Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Studios will be gaining a new land and three new rides in the coming months (August 29, December 5, and “spring 2020”). That walking path is valuable. If you don’t like to walk, you can also take the Friendship boats to both those parks.
Additionally, the Boardwalk is packed with restaurants and bars. Some of these are technically a part of the BoardWalk Inn, but we can’t ignore the fact that they’re a beautiful short walk from Yacht Club.
Yacht Club and Beach Club share the best pool on property—Stormalong Bay, with a sand-bottom, water slide, and (small) lazy river.
Yacht and Beach also have lower prices than BoardWalk, for reasons we don’t fully understand. Our best explanation is that BoardWalk is closer to Hollywood Studios, but that seems a weak hook for an extra $46 per night in value season.
And finally, Yacht Club has our favorite deluxe rooms on property. These are among the newest rooms on property, and they’re probably the only new rooms that we feel actually keep a sufficient thematic connection to their hotels. Is this maybe because “yacht” is an easier theme to modernize and minimize than Polynesia? Probably. But whatever the reason, we love these rooms.
Now—the uncomfortable part—why was Yacht Club high then low then high again on this list? We had a series of very poor experiences with service at the hotel in early 2019. Not “Pete Werner at Grand Floridian” bad, but not good.
These were mostly constrained to the bars and restaurants though, and our reaction to ding the hotel might have been more a personal reaction than in the best interest of our readers.
Again, the hotel isn’t on an island. Would I think twice about eating at Ale & Compass again? Sure. But there’s also a wealth of other options in the area. Scaring people away from the best rooms and best pool on property because of bad service at one (it was more, but whatever) of a dozen restaurants in the area was an overreaction.
4. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
2020 Standard Room Rates: $406 - $760 (8/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Like Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge is a “low”-priced deluxe option with a poor location. Some people tell us we’re wrong about thinking the boats are a poor option for getting to Magic Kingdom, but either way we don’t think they’re a clear “perk” of the resort.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has a short bus ride to Animal Kingdom. Wilderness Lodge has a boat ride to Magic Kingdom. Fine, these are about equivalent as far as value over the standard bus rides to the parks.
Like Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge does everything other than location right. The lobby is a place of legend and easily among the most beautiful spaces in Disney World, particularly at Christmas time.
The dining options also impress. Even before Storybook Dining Came to Artist Point, the resort had a great dining lineup. Now it has one of the best character meals on property, to boot.
The rooms are on the better end of the spectrum, but they are slowly dating. They’re very well themed, and I think they’re hanging on better than the rooms at Animal Kingdom. I’m hopeful they’ll avoid significant work for the next few years.
The grounds at Wilderness Lodge are probably my favorite place to walk at any hotel in Disney World, with the possible exception of Port Orleans Riverside. There’s a fantastic flow to them, and the indoor fireplace, indoor / outdoor stream, and rock features are exceedingly pleasant.
With the addition of two DVC properties—Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge—the resort has gotten a lot of attention from Disney over the past few years, including a new pool and the new (and awesome) Geyser Point Bar & Grill.
5. Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
2020 Standard Room Rates: $593 - $973 (2/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Polynesian, as our second choice around the monorail, comes in at the #5 spot.
There’s a lot we love about Polynesian. The dining options are good, with ‘Ohana being a favorite for many families and Kona Cafe being our favorite breakfast spot on property. Trader Sams Grog Grotto and Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace are arguably the two best spots to grab a drink at Walt Disney World.
The location along the monorail is obviously a huge selling point, though you’re multiple stops away from the park either direction (not a real problem). Boat access to and from Magic Kingdom is another good perk.
While the theming at the resort generally is almost (not quite) on par with Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge, we’re really not fans of the rooms.
I think it’s a tad harsh to call them “lifeless,” but it’s really the best word I have for how I feel about these rooms. They don’t speak to me. They just seem to be minimalism gone astray. You can look for yourself and decide how you feel about them, though. (More pics and a video in the review.)
The pool is fantastic, and a far more fun and themed space than the other two pools around the monorail. If you’re not depressed by the rooms, I could see the pool being enough for you to put this hotel at the top of your monorail loop list.
With an accessible location (it’s easily visited from any monorail resort, Magic Kingdom, and for any guests passing through Transportation and Ticket Center), the other (non-pool) big selling points for Polynesian—restaurants, bars, and resort-wide theming—are accessible without booking a stay at the hotel.
This makes the hotel particularly difficult to favor over the Contemporary, which has rooms (to our mind, better rooms) starting nearly $100 cheaper than the lowest-priced rooms at Polynesian.
We’re frequent visitors to the hotel, but it will probably be a while before we make the leap and stay there again. For a short visit that only includes one day at Magic Kingdom, though, I could see a low Polynesian price easily beating a high Contemporary price.
6. Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
2020 Standard Room Rates: $533 - $890 (3/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
The bottom of this “flow chart” is sort of our last grasp effort to find something appealing to you. We’ve covered best location, best price, best theming, best dining, and best rooms. Now we’re sort of left with alternatives to the above hotels.
Again, that’s not to say these are bad hotels. It’s more that if you pick these it will come down to “I just prefer the feel of X to Y” or “Z has been on my bucket list forever.” There’s no big selling point in these hotels that we haven’t covered earlier in the list. Anyways, back to it.
Beach Club (#7) is the more natural alternative to Yacht Club, but presumably if you passed over Yacht Club you’re looking for something different. BoardWalk offers much more whimsy than Yacht and Beach Clubs. It’s more “Coney Island” and less “Hamptons.” This is really fun, but also at times a bit…creepy.
Besides different theming and a different pool, BoardWalk puts you about five minutes closer to Hollywood Studios if you’re walking. It also puts you about five minutes closer to the bars and restaurants on the Boardwalk.
As we said earlier, we just can’t wrap our heads around the increased price for BoardWalk over Yacht Club / Beach Club. $46 per night isn’t a huge amount in this price range, but…it’s more than $0 with really no justification.
7. Disney's Beach Club Resort
2020 Standard Room Rates: $487 - $846 (T-5/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Beach Club falls into this spot sort of by default. If you don’t like the look of the new Yacht Club rooms, Beach Club allows you to keep the perks of Stormalong Bay and location while reverting to an older room type.
You could just as easily swap Beach Club and Boardwalk on this list with the reasoning that the rooms aren’t significantly different between the two, and Beach Club has Stormalong Bay and a lower price.
Because it is part of a larger complex with Yacht Club, covered a ton above, we don’t have much more to say about Beach Club. The theming is different, but (besides the rooms) this only matters for the three minutes per day you’ll have to spend in this building. If you really want to enjoy Yacht Club’s theming, just walk the three minutes over there.
8. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
2020 Standard Room Rates: $710 - $1084 (1/8)
Click here to read our full review of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Our review of Grand Floridian is one of our longest, because Disney’s most expensive (and flagship) hotel deserves an explanation for our generally negative view of it.
Our problem with the Grand Floridian is pretty simple—the hotel in no way justifies its high price. It’s not as if we think that price is unjustifiable for any hotel—we’ve paid more for hotel rooms, even for some Disney rooms—than we paid for our last Grand Floridian stay. Some are worth it, some aren’t.
We’ve never had a problem in the hotel per se, but we did take serious issue with the level of service in their club lounge. While that issue is more somewhat properly fit for our club level content specifically, it does reflect on the hotel. Relatedly, you should watch Peter Werner’s video review for Dis Unplugged, where he dealt with his own issues.
Beyond all that, the hotel isn’t higher quality than the other traditionally “fancy” hotels, like Contemporary and Yacht Club. In short, it’s an average deluxe hotel with way too high a price tag.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.
Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets. And of course everyone wants to know whether or not they should get a dining plan—check out our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans!
Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.
Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.