If you’re considering a Club Level stay in Walt Disney World, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the range of options and the range of opinions you’ll encounter online. In this post, we give an overview of Club Level at Walt Disney World. Not only do we discuss what the different clubs offer, but we explain the context behind our (and many other’s) opinions on Club Level to help you make better sense of all the reviews out there.
This post is based on (1) a handful of Club Level visits over the past 15 years and (2) visits we’re making to every club level in 2018 - 2019. That means this is a work in progress, and we’ll be updating it as such.
After our recent stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Club Level (Regatta Club), I faced a dilemma. I really wanted to give a straightforward, honest review of the Regatta Club. To that end, I’m a big believer in two principles of reviewing.
First, reviews should capture your impressions and experiences. If you haven’t experienced something, don’t review it. Be honest in your impressions—if you don’t like a food item, just say you don’t like it (and why). But obviously, give people the information necessary to understand where you’re coming from.
This takes us to my second principle—you should always provide necessary context. If you’re a vegetarian reviewing a steakhouse, call that out. If you’re writing about your experience at Magic Kingdom, note the crowd levels. If you’re reviewing Animal Kingdom, write about theme, don’t just compare the ride count to Six Flags.
So in reviewing Yacht Club’s Regatta Club, I had a problem. The necessary context is complicated. It’s a little bit long, and it’s worthy of its own post. In particular, one needs to understand Walt Disney World’s Club Level broadly to understand how commentary on Regatta Club can stand on its own.
In this post, we provide a broad overview of Walt Disney World’s Club Level offerings. We explain what they are and why they compare negatively to comparably priced chains (including why Disney might not care about making them better).
Disney World’s Club Level - Basics
We’ve stayed Club Level at Disney World multiple times over the last few stays and will be updating this post as we visit all the Club Levels over the next few months. There are some things that are true across Club Level experiences.
What is Club Level at Disney World?
“Club Level” is a room categorization at some Disney hotels that comes with access to a few perks, most importantly access to a lounge with small food servings throughout the day. We capitalize it throughout this post because it’s an official designation for a room type.
What is Concierge Level at Disney World?
“Concierge Level” is a misnomer used in place of “Club Level.” I’m not sure where it comes from. Maybe Disney used to use this term, but it no longer does, except for a few scattered references, like the elevator sign at Grand Floridian below. Nowadays, the term is used, however, for the highest room category on Disney Cruise Line. Also, the clubs all have a dedicated concierge, so you’ll receive communications from “the concierge staff” while staying Club Level.
What Hotels Have Club Level at Disney World?
As of this writing, all and only the deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World offer Club Level. In July 2019, the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, a moderate resort, will open and will offer Club Level.
Related, you might wonder what rooms have Club Level access. When booking, you will always need to book a room type with “Club Level” in the name to have Club Level access. As for room types, different hotels treat it different ways. At some, seemingly any room can be assigned Club Level access. In others, only a subset of rooms—in a specific building, on a specific floor, or with a specific view—can be Club Level.
What is Regatta Club? Kilimanjaro Club?
Complicating things further, Disney has named the different lounges at the different hotels. These are mostly just names for the lounges themselves, but people will often use them to describe the entire Club Level experience. Links are to our reviews (in progress through Feb. 2019):
Disney’s Beach Club Resort - Stone Harbor Club
Disney’s Contemporary Resort - Atrium Club
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort - Sugar Loaf Club (Outer Building)
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort - King Kamehameha Club
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge - Old Faithful Club
What Does Club Level at Walt Disney World Include?
The primary offering when staying Club Level at Walt Disney World is access to a lounge that includes beverages (including alcohol) and servings of small bites throughout the day. These servings vary greatly across the lounges, as do the physical lounges themselves, so you’ll want to read reviews of specific lounges for more information.
Club Level also includes access to a dedicated concierge staff, including a dedicated phone and text line. This is a huge “your experience may vary” part of the Club Level experience, but here are a few notes.
We’ve never heard of Club Level concierge’s getting people any special ride access, including special FastPass+ privileges. We have seen them book FastPass+ for people, though. Note that, as a Club Level guest, you can purchase a special set of FastPass+ reservations for $50 per person per day. Disney obviously wants people to use this option, so it’s not surprising the concierge staff can’t work magic on FastPass+.
We don’t cover this paid FastPass+ option on this site. If you’re really interested in paying $50 per person per day for extra FastPass+ reservations, you’ll definitely be served better working with a Club Level concierge than reading anything on our site.
Dinner reservations tend to be a different thing. We’ve heard stories of Club Level staff getting “impossible to get!” dining reservations. We’re skeptical of this, but it’s not wholly unreasonable.
The thing is, restaurant space comes and goes. Sometimes you’ll even get “lucky” and grab a one-hour wait just walking up to popular table service restaurants. Smaller groups will obviously have an easier time at this, too. That said, it definitely is helpful to have a dedicated Disney Cast Member working to get your reservation.
Beyond that, the staff can often help with miscellaneous issues. For example, when we needed to get to Animal Kingdom for an early morning tour, they provided us a taxi voucher. But we’ve also seen reviewers who report blank stares with simple questions like “Is [Character] going to be at [misc. character spot] today?”
Finally, while Disney advertises Club Level by saying you’ll be contacted by a Cast Member in advance of your stay to help you with anything, we can’t recall this ever happening. While we’ve booked some stays on incredibly short notice, we’ve also booked over 30 days out and never received a call. If you need assistance, you might try phoning in yourself.
Cost of Club Level at Walt Disney World
One common question people have is “How much does Club Level at Disney World cost?” The short answer: from $624 nightly in 2019. The longer answer: it depends. Let’s go over a few different ways of answering this question.
First, the cheapest Club Level rooms at Walt Disney World are at Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge, and they start at (including tax) $624 and $638 nightly in 2019. Using a deep discount of 30%, which Disney occasionally offers, Club Level could probably be had for around $450 per night.
That’s not the best way to look at Club Level prices. Instead, you want to look at how much additional Club Level costs over a regular room. For example, at Grand Floridian, the lowest priced room costs $657 but the lowest Club Level room costs $788—a $131 premium for Club Level access. The premiums at Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge for their cheapest Club Level rooms are higher—$250 each.
But wait, there’s more! Sometimes you’ll want to make sure you’re comparing equivalent room types. For example, we only would stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge with a Savannah View room, and all Club Level rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are Savannah View. Savannah View rooms start at $559 nightly, meaning you’re only paying a $79 premium to add Club Level.
The “Problem” With Disney World’s Club Level
To put it bluntly—the problem with Disney World’s Club Level offerings is that they aren’t very good. We’re hardly the first people to say this, but Disney World’s “luxury” options, particularly their Club Levels, simply cannot compare to the world’s best hotel chains. Here’s Disney Tourist Blog on the same issue, comparing to Hyatt. Here’s Luxe Recess mentioning Four Seasons as an alternative to Poly.
Our club level experience is mostly at Marriott chains, including the higher-end Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott chains. Club Level at Disney’s hotels is not anywhere near the quality of club level at those chains. Rather, Club Level at Disney World is closer to something like lounge access at an entry-level high-end hotel.
You might naturally protest that Disney shouldn’t be compared to these hotels. But Walt Disney World’s deluxe hotels charge prices in excess of the best luxury chains in the world. If you want to point to the perks of staying at a Disney hotel as justification, fine. But Disney also charges some of the highest premiums for lounge access.
Sure, the Disney hotels offer something different than, say, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, so comparing those prices is silly. But their club levels are offering similar enhancements, at similar premiums ($250 per night over standard rooms), so it makes sense to compare them directly. And Disney’s Club Level simply doesn’t compare.
We’re going to cover some specifics in a second. Before we do, let’s all take a breath. You might read some of these and think “that’s stupid and pretentious who cares about that.” Or “yea if you’re super needy I guess that matters!” But we’re trying to write for what people are looking for in Club Level service and what we’ve seen offered. If you don’t care about these things, fine, don’t include them in your analysis.
Food Quality. This is a big one that varies across lounges. We loved the food at Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level and were unimpressed with the food at Yacht Club’s Club Level. It’s pretty surprising how varied it can be—BoardWalk, for example, had a chef cooking steak and fish on hand.
Neither really compares to the top chains, though. In particular, you really can’t replace meals with the food at Disney’s lounges. You could replace a quick service breakfast, but that’s about it.
Lounge Quality and Space. Disney’s Club Level lounges are smaller than several lounges we’ve been in, with Grand Floridian’s Royal Palm Club Lounge being a notable exception. This is understandable as they often operate with no one in them. But when crowds arrive, we’ve seen Disney’s lounges actually completely fill up. Obviously this is a problem for people paying $250 for access to the lounge. These lounges typically have seating for 30 to 40 people, while there can be about 50 club level rooms. The math doesn’t quite add up there.
Lounge Variance. This is more a note about Disney’s club level than a comparison to major chains, but you’ll see a lot of variance in Disney’s lounges. For example, cleanliness was notably an issue during our time at the Yacht Club’s Regatta Club and Grand Floridian’s Royal Palm Club, where we frequently saw dirty dishes left out for 15 minutes or more (over an hour at Grand Flo, actually). Those lounges have a lot of corners, which can make it hard for staff to see dirty dishes, but we’re willing to say this is just unacceptable for any hotel that categorized as “deluxe,” let along in a club lounge.
Lounge Service. Another point of variance. We’ve had entire days in the club lounge (we’re talking 9AM to 5PM straight) where no one talked to us or asked if we needed anything. During evening servings, it’s common for a staff member to check whether you’d like a beverage. Outside evening servings, they may check on you, they may not. We recently noted BoardWalk’s Innkeeper Club for it’s excellent service, but even that was mostly constrained to evening servings.
Name Use. Related to personal service is name use. At the best of the best clubs in the world, service staff will know and use your name frequently. We don’t care much about this, but we’ve only ever had desk staff use our names at Disney’s lounges. Obviously if you take the time to get to know Cast Members, they’re more likely to use your name, but they’re not proactive in it. (Personally, I hate people using my name, so I don’t mind this.)
In “Defense” Of Disney
Disney doesn’t need me to defend them, but I wanted to at least balance out my largely negative opinion. If we put the price to the side for a second, Disney’s Club Level offerings make some sense.
Simply put, Walt Disney World is not a place where people are expected to sit in a lounge all day, or even half a day of their vacation. Club lounges (outside Disney) are typically targeted at high-income business travelers, it’s very rare to see children in them.
Those guests are going to spend hours in the lounge working or taking meetings. They want to eat their meals in peace before heading out on business. We would spend hours working in club level lounges when traveling the world, and we weren’t the only ones. At Disney, we’ve only ever seen one person spend more than an hour in a club lounge while we were there.
Disney’s Club Lounges are mostly just fancy pit stops. You stop in between all the other things you have to do—Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom, your ADR at Biergarten, your afternoon hanging out poolside. As we said, it’s hard to criticize the size of the lounge when we’re the only ones in it 90% of the day, even if it is nearly full 5% of the day.
Should You Stay Club Level At Walt Disney World?
There are three theoretical reasons to stay Club Level at Walt Disney World. The first is that it makes monetary sense. This is going to be rare, but not totally infeasible. If you’re trying to save $250 per day on dining and drinks by staying Club Level instead, you probably won’t get there.
But if you’re in a situation where the Club Level premium is lower, you might come close. For example, as I said, we would only stay Savannah View at Animal Kingdom Lodge—can we cover the $79 premium we’ll pay staying Club Level? Probably.
We don’t mind suffering through small bites instead of two quick service meals, so that’s $60 right there. Add in a conservative one beer each and we’ve easily covered the price of upgrading from Savannah View to Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The second reason you might stay Club Level is because some clubs really do offer “wow” moments. While you can get good views from hotel rooms, there’s something about being in a lounge with unlimited food and a brilliant view of fireworks, like the Atrium Club (Contemporary) or King Kamehameha Club (Polynesian).
The third reason is that you can afford it and want to try it. We don’t really begrudge people for this. We’ve heard plenty of people in the lounge say “Isn’t this amazing?!” Just because we don’t find it “worth it” in most cases doesn’t mean you won’t.
All we’ve tried to do here is provide you the context for how we view Club Level at Walt Disney World. We definitely know people have more positive experiences than us, and we hope anyone who books Club Level has a great time!
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
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