Review: Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort



By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: BAY LAKE TOWER AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

Most room options at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (a Disney Vacation Club resort) are wonderful places for returning visitors to Walt Disney World to stay.

For typical first-time visitors, I don’t recommend the Disney Vacation Club resorts. That said, these “DVC” resorts can be a great choice for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Among the Disney Vacation Club resorts, Bay Lake Tower ranks fourth overall for first-time visitors, but specifics vary by room type.

Note: for a review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort itself, click here.

THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS

You can have a spectacular visit at any Walt Disney World resort. However, this site recommends that typical first time visitors to Walt Disney World avoid the Disney Vacation Club resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. (You can find extensive detail on the DVC resorts here.)

The recommendation comes from the simple fact that the distinguishing feature of these resorts–extra space and full kitchens–will not be of much value to first-time visitors following one of the itineraries on this site, as they won’t be used much.

That said, the Disney Vacation Club resorts represent more than 10% of Walt Disney World’s total rooms, and are very appropriate for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Because of this, I’m providing a series of up-to-date reviews.

BAY LAKE TOWER AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT

Resorts are ranked on this site for first time visitors based first on their kid appeal, and then on their convenience.

On this basis, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort comes in fourth overall of the Disney Vacation Club resorts. (See this for resort rankings.) However, there’s a little variability here depending on room type and family size. You’ll find more detail on this below, but the upshot is this:

Kid Appeal. Disney’s Contemporary Resort itself has moderate kid appeal based largely on the monorail running through the main building of the Contemporary Resort.

While the monorail does not run through Bay Lake Tower, families staying there will be in the Contemporary often enough to share in this kid appeal.

Convenience. Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary are the second-most convenient of the Walt Disney World resort hotels, beaten only by the Polynesian.

This convenience comes from several points:

  • It’s the only resort from which one can walk to and from the Magic Kingdom–a godsend on busy days, as this permits avoiding the line for the resort monorail
  • On the resort monorail, it’s the first stop when returning from the Magic Kingdom
  • The Epcot monorail is the first stop from the Contemporary

OTHER DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF BAY LAKE TOWER

Floor Plan One Bedroom Villa Bay Lake Tower from yourfirstvisit.netBay Lake Tower has a number of very strong positives.

  • It is one of only a few Disney Vacation Club resorts that can fit 5 people in a One-bedroom villa, or 9 into a Two-Bedroom although, as noted below, fitting 9 is a not-recommended tight fit in lock-off two bedrooms. (See this for more on large families, and this for more on beds and sleeping spaces at Walt Disney World resorts.)
  • Note that there is a difficult-to-figure-out but way cool 3-D floorplan viewer on the DVC Bay Lake Tower website–hover your mouse over the ”floor plan” box on the right middle of this page. Once the floor plans start to play, options to pick room types for viewing will show up.
  • Changes it reflects to the recent layout of the typical Disney Vacation Club villas makes it among the most livable of DVC one bedroom villas.
    • The kitchen/dining/living room area has been both widened and deepened.
    • This space has been used to add both a second full bath to One-bedroom villas, and enough living space in the living room that it can be used even if the fold-out sleeper sofa is being used.
    • (These kitchen/dining/living room features carry over to two bedroom villas as well.)

Compare the Bay Lake Tower’s One-Bedroom Villa floorplan (above) with that of a similar villa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (below, orange).

One Bedroom Villa Floor Plan Disney's Saratoga Springs from yourfirstvisit.net(Click the images to enlarge them.)

Bay Lake Tower also has some distinctive negatives.

Most significant of these is the layout of the studio room.

The larger bedroom of lock-off two-bedroom villa (which uses a studio floorplan for its larger bedrooms) also has issues.

The studio room is small in general.

At about 339 square feet (rooms size vary a bit at Bay Lake Tower), it is smaller than any other deluxe room.

Floor Plan Studio Bay Lake Tower from yourfirstvisit.netMore of an issue, the bedroom component, at about 180 square feet, not only is far smaller than those any comparable resort, but also has so little space along the wall with the beds that it is remarkably cramped if the sofa bed is opened.

The wall with the beds is two to three feet too short for comfort.

  • I measured about 12″ between the queen bed and the wall, about 16″ between the queen and the fold-out couch, and about 6″ between the couch and the balcony wall.
  • These measurements should be (at least) 15″, 30″, and 15″.  With the narrow spacing, the room is remarkably tight when the fold-out couch is open.

If you are fitting just three in the room, and the third can sleep lengthwise on the couch (4’6″ of space is here) this is a great room.

Otherwise, tower rooms at the Contemporary are about the same price, and, at 394 square feet–with two queens and a daybed–much more livable.  All you really lose is a microwave and a toaster.

Because the two bedroom lockoff villas share in their larger bedroom the layout of the Studio, this option has the same issues, ameliorated somewhat by the fact that there are other spaces here to go than the bedrooms.

BEST AND WORST ROOMS AT BAY LAKE TOWER

For those seeking a Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Disney Vacation Club experience, it is best–by far–to reserve a Magic Kingdom view room, and to request a higher floor. The Magic Kingdom view gives much more kid appeal, and avoids noise from the pool. The higher floor improves views and reduces noise even further.

The north elevator is more convenient to most Bay Lake Tower parking, and to the walkway to and from the Magic Kingdom.  The south elevator is more convenient to the bridge between Bay Lake Tower and Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Click the image to open a map of Bay Lake Tower.

BEST FOR:

Larger families, families seeking a bit of extra privacy or more beds, families looking for a more comfortable place to stay, families looking for particularly convenient DVC space.

WORST FOR:

Families looking for a DVC studio or two-bedroom villa (with the exceptions noted above), families on a budget, families looking for a particularly kid-appealing place to stay.

This review continues here.

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12 comments

1 Jessica { 05.31.12 at 12:43 pm }

Hi Dave, asking this on behalf of my cousin’s family with school-age kids and can’t take them off school for vacation: when is the best time for them to go to Disney World? Easter, Memorial Day weekend, summer, Thanksgiving, or Christmas? Would you please rank them in order of lower crowd / price /weather? Are Marin Luther king or President day busy at park too? When will be a good time to go if they just want to do water parks? Thank you so much!

2 Dave { 05.31.12 at 2:33 pm }

Hi Jessica, of the first group, Memorial Day weekend is best, very late August next best, then very early June, then Thanksgiving. The the weeks before and Easter are almost worst, and Xmas/New Years week the worst.

In the next group, President’s Day week is very busy, worse than Thanksgiving, but of all these Martin Luther King week is the best choice for crowds and prices. It is of course much cooler then, and ride closures are also an issue–see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/05/12/winter-ride-closures-at-walt-disney-world/

Crowding at the water parks follows about the same patterns, except no one should plan a trip around them between November and March.

See also http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/best-and-worst-times-to-visit/ and http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/09/19/2013-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

Hope this helps!

3 Jessica { 05.31.12 at 5:03 pm }

Thanks for your quick reply, Dave! I highly recommended your site to her and will pass the info and have her contact you directly! Have a great day!

4 Dave { 06.01.12 at 6:55 am }

:)

5 Jim Andersen { 06.19.12 at 9:22 pm }

Dave,

I’m planning to bring my 5 adults and 2 kids to DW in mid-June, 2014. We want
to stay at one of the DVCs, and my daughter has expressed a preference for the
Beach Club Villas. Do you have any other suggestions? We have stayed at Old
Key West and Saratoga Springs, and were very satisfied.

Thanks,

Jim

6 Dave { 06.20.12 at 6:53 am }

Hi Jim! The rooms at BCV are comparable to those at Saratoga Springs, but the set up is more compact and MUCH more convenient.. See also this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/05/06/review-disneys-beach-club-villas/

7 JoEll { 02.25.13 at 10:19 am }

Hi Dave! Love your site! My family is staying in a 1 BR at BLV this December 2013, with more family joining us, but staying at the Polynesian. Is it possible for our Polynesian family to visit us/our room at BLV? Will they be able to join us at the TOTW lounge at BLV to watch the fireworks?

8 Dave { 02.25.13 at 10:51 am }

Hi JoEll, your Poly family will be able to visit you at BLT! Depending on how the BLT locks are working, they may need you to come downstairs or to the skybridge from the Contemporary to let them into the building.

I don’t track access to TOTW closely. The last I’ve heard is that it’s only available to BLT guests staying there on DVC points.

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

9 risa { 10.05.13 at 5:29 pm }

hi dave, love your site! but i still need some info. we will be staying at BLT in jan 2014; 1 bedroom, lakeview. i want to make my room request but not sure what to tell them. is there a lakeview room(s) that u recommend? i don’t necessarily need to view fireworks from the room as we plan on going up to the lounge to view them while having a drink. we simply want a great view of the lake and whatever else might be on interest to view. thanks for your help.
risa

10 Dave { 10.06.13 at 9:15 am }

Hi Risa and thanks!!

The Lake view rooms at BLT have a view of Bay Lake, and you can’t see the magic kingdom (and thus fireworks) from them at all. I think all the Lake views are great, but the better ones are on the higher floors, so that’s what I’d ask for…

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11 Angela { 01.30.14 at 11:44 am }

hi Dave
We want to stay at a lake view at Bay lake tower but also wanted to be able to see the fireworks from our room. Last time we where there not sure what view we got but where able to see the fire works and see the night lake parade. Any suggestion on where to ask for as far a rooms with lake view. We want to be able to see both like last time

Thank you
Angela

12 Dave { 01.31.14 at 7:08 am }

OK Angela, I was at both BLT and the Contemporary in both December and January, and the pageant was on the Bay Lake side–in front of the pools. I’ve looked at the maps, and can’t be much help. Is it possible that you saw the Electrical Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon, when it was was playing to the Polynesian or Grand Floridian (or to MK, which it does on late close nights for MK)? If so, then a MK view gets you both…

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