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Disney’s Club Level: What is it and Do I Want it?

The iconic Grand Floridian is just one resort that offers club level service
Spend enough time in the Disney universe (you know, at the parks, on Disney message boards, in chat rooms with other Disney fans, etc.), and you’ll hear a lot of chatter about “club level” at Disney resorts. There are lots of questions – What is it? What do I get with it? Is it available at all resorts? Does it cost a lot? And, there are an equal number of comments, on both sides of the fence, so it’s hard to wrap your head around all of it.

Club level is Disney’s version of concierge. While a number of hotels offer concierge services, especially those that cater to business travelers, the service and offerings themselves often vary. Disney is no different, so while their offerings may not be as extensive as what is offered at other hotels and resorts, it is still a very nice service. Do not confuse club level at Disney with the concierge desk in the lobby at each resort; while the cast member working the concierge desk at these resorts will do their best to assist you in getting tickets for the parks, or attractions and can answer many of your questions, club level services go far beyond that.

At Disney, club level rooms are available at all the deluxe resorts: Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Boardwalk and Animal Kingdom Lodge. At the Grand Floridian, guests even have two options for booking a club level room. They can choose to stay in Sugar Loaf, located in one of the outer buildings, or at the Royal Palm Club in the main building. The amenities are exactly the same, though some guests find the benefits of being in the main building of the Grand Floridian, with its shopping, dining and ease of access to transportation, worth the higher cost of the Royal Palm Club club level. The cost for a club level room runs approximately $100-$150 more per night, but that can vary by season. Rarely are these rooms discounted.

Club level rooms are generally located on a separate floor of each resort and have special keycard access. If you’ve ever stayed at a Walt Disney World resort and gotten into an elevator with a guest who pulled out a gold “Key to the World” card and put that into the elevator keypad, chances are they were a club level guest (it may even have been yours truly). Given their location within the resorts, many of these club level floors offer an additional cool perk -great views. For example, at the King Kamehameha Club at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the club level lounge is two stories with floor to ceiling windows that look out across Bay Lake and towards Cinderella Castle. That means club level guests can sit in the lounge and watch the fireworks every night (the music to “Wishes” is piped in) while enjoying a snack and their favorite beverage.  Similarly, the lounge at the Innkeeper’s Club at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort allows guests to sit on the balcony and catch a view of Illuminations.

Of course, not every resort can say the same thing. Club level guests at the Beach Club can spend time in the lounge where the view from the windows is of the parking lot. That’s okay though, staying here and getting to swim in Stormalong Bay makes it totally worth it.

Part of the club level lounge at Beach Club -love the chairs for the kids!
Of course, staying club level isn’t about the view from the lounge (or the lack thereof). When you book a club level stay, several weeks before your arrival, the Itinerary Planning Office, or IPO at the resort should contact you to confirm your stay and to help you arrange things like dining reservations, child care, shows tickets, and other entertainment. If you’re celebrating something special, make sure to mention that as well, as the IPO can provide you with helpful suggestions or ideas. My suggestion is not to wait for the IPO to call you – given the amount of guests they handle, it can be easy for them to overlook you; therefore, I’d encourage you to email them with your reservation number and any requests you have.

They of course will do their best to meet any of your needs. On the day of your arrival, club level stay will be aware of when you are coming in. Assuming you arrive between the hours of 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., they will escort you up to the club level floor and handle check-in for you, no need to wait in lines. You’ll find your club level room comes with a few other benefits as well, including nightly turn down service, robes to use during your stay, additional toiletries, and a DVD player in your room. The cast members working at the desk outside the club level lounge will also have DVDs available for you to borrow should you not pack any of your own. Another nice perk? Club level guests at every resort have the opportunity to schedule the special Wildlife Discovery Excursion Tour. For $45 per person, guests will take a climate controlled vehicle through the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a cast member who is an animal expert. The vehicle goes “off road” and doesn’t follow the same path as the typical tour, allowing you to get closer to the animals and a chance at some great photos. Additionally, because each vehicle only fits a limited number of people, you have an opportunity to ask a lot of questions, something you don’t get to do or the regular attraction.

Perhaps the best part for many club level guests is the food and drink offerings included with your stay. Each club level has a lounge where guests can partake in these offerings while enjoying comfortable seating. You’ll also find a couple of televisions in the lounge, one for the adults, and one for the kids, and usually, a newspaper or two to read. While offerings and times can change, the general schedule looks something like this at each club level lounge:
  • 6:30-7:00 a.m. Coffee and juices.
  • 7:00 – 10:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast with juice, coffee, tea, cereals, fruit, breakfast pastries and breads
  • 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Snacks and/or tea with sodas, iced tea, lemonade, coffee, tea, and snack foods like crackers, pretzels, cookies and nuts.
  • 5:00 – 7:00p.m. Appetizers with wine and beer and hot and cold appetizers from the resort’s restaurants and offerings like veggies and dip.
  • 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Desserts and cordials with a selection of cordials and desserts from the resort’s restaurants.

Guests at the Grand Floridian’s Sugar Loaf and Royal Palm Club can also look forward to having an afternoon tea service with a variety of teas and scones available. Note that the amount of food available is generally NOT enough to make a meal out of (unless you have a very small appetite). The foods available are meant as appetizers, or a tasting, so I don’t suggest skipping the dining plan or foregoing ADRs in favor of eating in the lounge. Conversely, I have heard from some guests that eating the evening offerings, and then heading off to dinner was often too much food; this is especially true if they were on the deluxe dining plan or otherwise eating in a lot of “signature” restaurants.

So, is it worth it? “Worth” is very subjective, and means different things to different people. But whether staying club level on your next visit is right for you or not depends a lot on how you tour and how many times you’ve visited. As regular readers to the blog know, I’m local, I visit the parks a lot. I’ve had three stays as a club level guest and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed each one immensely. But my wife and I aren’t the type to spend all day in the parks anymore. We spend lots of down time at the resort enjoying the amenities, so we have time to partake in the food and beverage offerings. If you are a theme park commando, who only uses the room to sleep and shower, it would be a waste. And you certainly don’t want to feel like you HAVE to come back to the resort to eat the appetizers, snacks or desserts to try and get your money’s worth. Unless you have a larger group, or are perhaps heavy drinkers who enjoy the beers and cordials available, you’re not likely to make up that extra $150 a night in food/drink. Lots of people will just get a bunch of snacks and beverages for their room instead, and make their own “club level lounge.” Similarly, since I spend much of my time making dining and entertainment reservations for other people, I enjoy the perk of having someone from IPO do it for me. But if you’re the type who likes to make their own reservations for everything, or you have a travel agent who is going to do that for you (for free), why pay for the privilege that you won’t use? 

Your “golden ticket” Key to the World card gives you access to the club level floor

Like some many other things in a Disney vacation, ultimately, you need to decide what will be best for you. If you’re taking a trip where you’re skipping the parks, or like me, you spend lots of time at the resort, and you have the money to spend, having the added perks of club level may be just your thing. But if you think you’d rather take that extra $150 a night and put it towards something else – a romantic dinner, a fireworks cruise, a private tour, or even another trip, then club level probably isn’t right for you, and you’ll be happy with a standard, but still very nice, resort room.

Thanks to Disboards for the YC concierge photo. For more pictures and information on Yacht Club/Beach club, check out this thread on the Dis.

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  1. Just an FYI, the Wildlife Discovery Excursion Tour was discontinued sometime in December 2010 or January 2011. Coincidentally (or maybe not), this was just before they started the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom. Last I heard, a replacement for the Wildlife Discovery Excursion Tour has not been announced, if there even will be a replacement.

  2. Really? I had not heard that, and I stayed concierge last year (but didn’t do the tour again). That’s too bad. It was well worth it.

  3. I agree, it is definitely a shame. I only know because my parents stayed concierge in December 2010 and were able to do the tour on their trip. When I stayed concierge in February/March 2011 and tried to book the tour, IPO told us that it was just discontinued and they weren’t aware of any plans to replace it. Hopefully that has changed or will change in the near future. My parents absolutely loved the tour so hopefully this is/was only temporary as I would really like to experience it as well.

  4. I went for club level solely for the opportunity to book the sunrise safari.

  5. we stayed at the club level of Yacht club (lagoon view) last Feb and intend to do the same next Feb. It was a fabulous experience and frankly we enjoyed the food/beverage offerings. It certainly made a breakfast for us and we enjoyed the evening fare.. Loved we could take it back to our room and sit on the balcony with a wine and appetizer.

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