By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Category — d. Where to Stay at Walt Disney World

Review: The Pools at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, see this.)

THE POOLS AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort has four pools. The main pool, full of amenities, is the Lost City of Cibola pool at the central Dig Site.

Three of the four accommodations areas at Coronado Springs–the Casitas, the Ranchos, and the Cabanas–has a pool as well, each much smaller than the main pool, and with no material amenities.

The new Gran Destino Tower between the Cabanas and the Casitas added (net) about 25% more rooms to the resort, but no new pool. From it, the main Dig Site Pool is a little more than 200 yards, and the closest quiet pool, outside Cabanas 8c, is less than 200 yards.

THE DIG SITE AND LOST CITY OF CIBOLA POOL AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

Review Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The Lost City of Cibola Pool is the main pool at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Themed to represent a lost Mayan ruin including a decaying pyramid handy for sun-bathing, it’s the second best family pool among the moderates, bested only by the more kid-appealing pool at Caribbean Beach. It’s by far the best pool for adults among the moderates.

For kids, the appeal is the exotic theming, the playground, and the 123 foot water slide. For adults, the appeal is the expanse of pool chairs, biggest hot tub at Disney World, and hot food at the pool bar.

The pool is centrally located in an area of Coronado Springs called in total “The Dig Site.” See the map below. The Dig Site area and pool is just above the words “Lago Dorado.”


This area is convenient to Gran Destino, the Ranchos and Cabanas, and some of the Casitas. Other Casitas rooms are a hike, although new bridges added in 2019 cut some of the walking. The Ranchos, Cabanas, and Casitas areas each also has a smaller pool, and this smaller pool is particularly convenient if you are in buildings 1-3 at the Casitas and you don’t need the amenities and fun of the Dig Site.

Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (4)

The pyramid dominates the pool.

Pool Slide Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Next to it is an 120 foot+ water slide.

Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (3)

The Dig Site pool is quite large, with plenty of varied lounging areas, but is more crowded after the added rooms of Gran Destino Tower.

There’s also a fairly weak kids pool…

…a fire pit…

…a hot tub–the largest at Disney World…

…a volleyball court…

Siestas Pool Bar Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and a bar, Siestas, that unusually among the moderates serves hot food.

 

The Siestas menu. The menu changes from time to time–see Disney’s website for the latest.

Siestas sometimes has live entertainment.

Next to Siestas is an extensive playground, with ping pong and cornhole games available.  The large sandbox that used to be here was removed in a 2018 renovation, kinda busting the “Dig Site” theme.

Slide Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s also a slide, and…

 

…in the background, a jungle gym.

The Dig Site Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The entire area is called The Dig Site…

Night Lost City of Cibola Pool Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and is particularly nice at night.

 

Each accommodations area except for Gran Destino has its own smaller pool as well–and those come next!

THE CASITAS POOL AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

Lap Lanes Casitas Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The quiet pool at the Casitas is the only pool at Disney World laid out for swimming laps.

The Casitas pool from the other end…

…and the side.

The Casitas pool at night.

THE CABANAS POOL AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

The Cabanas pool.


The Cabanas pool from the other end.

THE RANCHOS POOL AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

Quiet Pool Ranchos Disney's Coronado Springs Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s a quiet pool in the Ranchos area as well.

 

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August 14, 2019   No Comments

Photo Tour of a Gran Destino Standard Room at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, see this.)

A new accommodations building, Gran Destino Tower, opened at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in July 2019. It includes 545 new rooms in a 15 story building–50 suites, and the rest a mix of king bed and two queen rooms.

I stayed in a two queen Gran Destino room in late July, and these photos are from that stay. (A photo tour of a standard room in the other accommodations areas at Coronado Springs, the Casitas, Ranchos, and Cabanas, is here.)

The main differences in the Gran Destino two queen rooms compared to two queen rooms in the rest of Coronado Springs:

  • Interior, rather than exterior entries
  • No Disney theming in the rooms themselves
  • A larger overall space–but with most of the extra space absorbed in the hallway from the entry to the sleeping area, not adding any actual livability
  • A nicer and larger bath, but with an awkward layout for families and (I believe) no tub option–showers only
  • Nicer views

Room amenities otherwise are largely similar to those in the other Disney World moderate resorts, but like the rest of Coronado Springs rooms, there are a few key differences related to the importance of the convention and meetings market at Coronado Springs–especially offering a desk instead of a table and two chairs, and more drawer storage.

As you enter the room, you’ll find a somewhat sterile hallway, with the closet and connecting door (if present) on one side and the bath on the other.

This entry hallway from inside the room.

Back to the room entrance, the bath on one side is closed by a sliding barn door. If you leave the barn door open and shower in the glass shower, you may have an interesting effect if someone opens the entry door.

A closer view of the shower–note the rainfall and hand-held shower heads. So far as I can tell, no standard rooms in Gran Destino have tub/shower combos. This is a needlessly limiting design choice.

As is becoming common in hotels at Disney World and elsewhere, shampoo, conditioner and body wash is available in large wall-mounted bottles.

The sink area is between the shower and the toilet space.

More toiletries here.

There’s storage–and a hair dryer– underneath the sink.

The toilet is in its own separate space.

A better design would have 1. made a tub/shower combo available, and 2. (cut and pasted together above) put both the toilet and the tub/shower into one separate space, with the sinks outside of it.

On the other side of the entry is a closet.

Inside the closet. On the right, barely visible, is an ironing board. Also note the safe.

I did not measure the safe, but it is large–my book is 6 inches by 9 inches.

Deeper in the room on one side you’ll find a pair of queen beds.

The bed side from the back.

A closer view of one of the queens.

As has become common in recent Disney World room designs, the beds are a single mattress on a platform, and are about 30 inches high. Open underneath, there’s room for you to stick your luggage under the beds–there’s about 14.5 inches of clearance.

Between the two beds is a bedside table.

There are three unusually large drawers in this table, each easily big enough for your important books.

The other side of the room is dominated by a long mini-fridge/desk/dresser combo, and an easy chair.

This side of the room from the back.

Closest to the closet is an object that doubles as an uncomfortable bench seat and a luggage rack.

Next to it is the first part of the long object…

…with a glass-doored mini-fridge below…

…and a coffee service above.

Next is the desk area and beyond it a dresser with a 54″ TV above.

The three dresser drawers, when combined with the three drawers in the bedside table, the closet, under-bed space for luggage, and cubbies in the bath, provide plenty of storage for the four people this room will sleep.

The menu structure of the TV is new–see the bottom row.

Channel selection also has a new interface.

Here you’ll also find the room service menu, weaker than past Coronado Springs offerings–but better than what you’ll find at the other moderates…

…with an uninspiring presentation of food when delivered.

Next on this side is the easy chair with lamp and small table, near the window.

The view outside my room. There are two bookable room views–water views, as is this one, and standard views.  Gran Destino Tower water view rooms are, on average about $50 more per night than standard rooms elsewhere in Coronado Springs.  Standard view tower rooms are about $20 more per night on average than rooms elsewhere.  Some of these standard rooms also have views of the fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and even Epcot, but such views are not specifically bookable. A water view won’t give you them, but a standard view may or may not.

These Gran Destino standard rooms are about 86 square feet larger than standard rooms elsewhere in Coronado Springs (and at the other traditional moderates), but that’s misleading in terms of livability:

  • 76 extra square feet are dedicated to the entry hall, and not valuable
  • 20 extra square feet are in the bath–which is nicer than that in standard rooms, but less well laid out
  • The main living sleeping area is about 10 square feet smaller than that in other standard rooms, a difference that is not noticeable

The awkward bath design, absence of a tub, and lack of Disney theming in these rooms make these Gran Destino standard rooms best suited to solo travelers and to couples.  Dual occupancy conventioneers, and families, will find standard rooms elsewhere in Coronado Springs more livable.

AMENITIES AT DISNEY’S CORONADO SPRINGS RESORT

This review continues here!

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August 4, 2019   3 Comments

The Immoderate Moderate: Coronado Springs Today

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE CHANGES AT CORONADO SPRINGS

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort has always had—thanks to the demands of its convention and meetings guests—the best amenities among the Disney moderate resorts.

It has been the only moderate with concierge rooms, the only moderate with suites, the only moderate with a spa, the only moderate with workout facilities, the only moderate with a lap pool, and the moderate with the most extensive set of dining options and bars.

Appetizers at Toledo

With the opening in July 2019 of the new Gran Destino tower, its restaurant Toledo and two bars Dahlia Lounge and Barcelona Lounge (both serving appetizers and the Barcelona Lounge also functioning as a coffee shop in the mornings), and, in a different area, the Three Bridges Bar and Grill on Villa Del Lago, Coronado Springs has upped its game even more, and its level of amenities now far outpaces the other moderate options.

Appetizers at Three Bridges/Villa Del Lago

I stayed here in late July. While I will publish more about this stay later—updating my overall review of Coronado Springs, and including a photo tour of a Gran Destino standard room—I can affirm the quality of the new Toledo, Dahlia Lounge, and The Three Bridges/Villa Del Lago at Coronado Springs in particular. The Port Orleans resorts are now substantially outclassed in terms of amenities, and Caribbean Beach–which is closer to the new Coronado Springs than the Port Orleans resorts in dining and bar quality, and will become even better (in the totality of its amenities) after the Skyliner opens—is also behind Coronado Springs.

THE ROOMS AT GRAND DESTINO

I have more mixed feelings about the rooms at Gran Destino—in particular for family visitors.

At about 400 square feet, Gran Destino standard rooms have more square feet than any other traditional moderate rooms—and more, in fact than the majority of the deluxes.

Some of the hall in a Gran Destino room

However, compared to standard rooms elsewhere in Coronado Springs, much of this extra space is wasted from the point of view of livability, in the entry hall—about 76 of the extra 86 square feet.

(I’ve written elsewhere about how you need to incorporate this adjustment to your thinking about square feet when comparing rooms with outside entrances and baths in the back,to rooms with inside entrances and baths at the front—baths at the front require a hall area that baths in the back don’t need.)

The Gran Destino bath is both nicer and about 20 square feet larger than the baths in rooms elsewhere in Coronado Springs.

But it is less livable for families, being divided less well (instead of the tub/shower and toilet in one space, and the sinks in another, it has a glass walled shower and sinks in one space, and the toilet in its own space—leave the sliding barn door to the bath open while showering in the glass-walled shower, and if someone enters the room from outside, all will get a surprise) and offering—so far as I can tell–only showers, not a tub/shower combo that offers folks a choice.

Gran Destino Standard Room

If you are tracking with the math, you can tell that the living area in Gran Destino rooms is about 10 square feet smaller than the living space in regular Coronado Springs rooms—this is mostly not noticeable in livability.

While rooms elsewhere in the resort have a bit of Three-Caballeros-styled Disney theming, these rooms have no Disney theming that I noted. I do quite like the overall look and feel of the complete set of spaces of Gran Destino—but I don’t see much here that visually appeals to kids.

The easy access to Toledo, Dahlia Lounge, and Barcelona Lounge is a win, as is the room access from interior corridors, as is the location—the best at Coronado Springs—and the temperature-controlled enclosed walkway from the tower to the shops and dining at El Centro.

But on balance, for the typical premium of 18% more (on average over 2020, more than $50 a night) than standard rooms elsewhere at Coronado Springs, I’m still noodling over whether these rooms are the best choice for family visitors.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can help you book–or avoid!–one of these Gran Destino rooms. Contact her using the form below.

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July 31, 2019   No Comments

The Skyliner Price Premium: ~$60 Million in 2020

I’ve been curious as to what the premium might be for the Skyliner resorts in 2020–partly as a guide to what Disney sees the incremental value of the Skyliner to be, and partly to illuminate the question about whether bus service will continue at these resorts.

(The Skyliner resorts are Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century Resort, and Art of Animation Resort. These will all be served by a new gondola system that will connect them to two of Disney World’s theme parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The formal opening of the Skyliner has been announced to be September 29. Disney’s new DVC offering, Disney’s Riviera Resort, will also be on the Skyliner when it opens in later December, but is has no material 2019 prices for comparison.)

I’ve heard glib lines about this on podcasts, e.g. that “the Skyliner resorts will be $10 to $20 more,” but no percentage increases, nor comparisons of the full year of 2020 vs 2019.

Because every year I do charts like the below (from 2020 Disney World Resort Hotel Price Seasons) I have daily price data for 2020 vs 2019 for standard view rooms at all the Skyliner resorts.

So from this data I can calculate what it would cost to stay every night of 2019 and 2020 in one of these rooms, and from that (adjusting for the 2020 leap year) figure average nightly costs over the year, and changes year to year in that number. (I’ve also checked most or all of the higher priced room options at these resorts (see the note at the bottom of the page) and they all follow the same pattern).

So here’s the basics:

  • Skyliner value resort Pop Century standard room average 2020 prices are up 20.1% compared to 2019, and increases at Skyliner value resort Art of Animation spaces are similar–Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms are up 19.6%, and Art of Animation Family Suites are up 18.9% for Lion King and Cars suites, and 19.2% for Nemo suites. Meanwhile, prices at the non-Skyliner All-Star value resorts are up “just” 6.5%. There was already a substantial price gap among these resorts, and after the disparate price increases, Little Mermaid rooms are now ~$80 more, on average, than All-Star rooms, and $40 more on average than Pop rooms.
  • Skyliner moderate resort Caribbean Beach standard rooms went up on average 20.7% for 2020 compared to 2019. Other room types had similar increases. Non-Skyliner moderates Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter went up 9.4%, 8.4% and 8.4% respectively. The price premium between the Port Orleans resorts and Caribbean Beach on average over 2020 has almost disappeared, and Coronado Springs is now on average about $20/night less than the other three traditional moderate resorts.

The total 365 day price increase for 2020 for the three Skyliner resorts at 100% occupancy is about 19.7% compared to 365 days in 2019, which translates into more* than $117 million.

If you just use the $117 million figure, and then deduct from it what the other values and moderates went up in total for 2020 (about 6.5% and 8.6%, respectively)—on the premise that without the Skyliner, the Skyliner resorts would have gone up about this much—then you get about $75.5 million.

If you take 15% of this off for occupancy being below 100%, then you get to about $64 million. If you take 10% more off for various discounts and deals across the year, then you get to $58 million. For the reasons explained in the note at the bottom of the page, I know I am actually low in my numbers at Caribbean Beach and Pop Century, so I round this up to $60 million.

So that’s my answer for the value Disney World will gain from the Skyliner resorts–about $60 million a year in new top line revenue.

You will find online a vast number of claims that “the Skyliner is being done to reduce bus costs, so don’t expect buses on these routes at these resorts after it opens.” Well, the revenue premium for the Skyliner would pay for on the order of 1,200 full time bus drivers. Since it takes by my back of the envelope estimates about 20 full time equivalent bus drivers to cover each of the three resorts’ Epcot and Hollywood Studios routes, I’m not entirely sure that the ROI of this project depends on eliminating bus service and 60 jobs.

But I suppose we will see. Disney World has shown remarkable propensity to nickel and dime on costs while implementing  vast price increases.

*At Art of Animation, I modeled all three bookable types, so my number here—just over $50 million–is pretty exact. At both Pop Century and Caribbean Beach, I multiplied the price increase for lowest cost rooms across all rooms of every bookable type. I did this because I don’t have a good source for the number of rooms in each class, especially for Caribbean Beach, which has eight bookable room types. (I did check cross a sample of price seasons for all bookable Pop rooms, and most bookable Caribbean Beach rooms, to confirm that they also saw a comparable ~20% price increase—they did.) The numbers for Pop (~$38 million) and Caribbean Beach (~$29 million) are thus low.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can help you book–or avoid!–one of these Skyliner resorts. Contact her using the form below.

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July 30, 2019   5 Comments

Review: The Pools at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando

(For the first page of this review of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, click here.)

REVIEW: THE POOL COMPLEX AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has two pools, and guests staying at it can also use the pool complex at the nearby sister resort Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

One pool at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, visible above, caters more to adults, as it has no distinctive features other than cabanas.

The second pool in the middle of the image above (shot from my room, you can see my shirt) is a bit more family friendly, with a zero entry, and a turf play area that occupies the lower left of the image. There’s no slide nor any lazy river–for those you need to go to the next-door Hilton.

The second pool combines a long narrow area with a cross-shaped area.  This view begins our walk down the long narrow part of the pool. Note the zero entry.

Tables and pool chairs line the pool sides.  At least on my visit, there was plenty of room–and great service.

In this area you’ll also find a more private group of chairs, handy for introverts, that also present nice views of those parts of the Epcot and Hollywood Studios fireworks that are visible from here.

Continuing down to the cross-shaped area of the pool.

The most interesting part of this area is the presence of two firepits–the second is in the top center.

Fire is generally an unwelcome addition to a day at the pool in Florida, but becomes more interesting at night.

This end of the pool, seen from an upper walkway (the edge of the cabana pool is at the left).

Also at this end is the bar and dining option, Aquamarine (menu here).

Inside.

I had an undistinguished Greek salad…

…and some fine tuna tacos.

Heading back toward the longer end of the pool, you’ll find this hot tub between the larger pool and the cabana pool.

Further down–close to where we started our tour–is a turfed play area with toys for kids.

The cabana pool is probably meant for adults–although it saw little use during my stay.  This shot is from one end towards the pool we’ve just been looking around.

Cabanas are on two sides…

…but the far end–more attractive than this cloudy shot implies–has regular pool chairs.

The pools at night.

I was a bit disappointed overall with the Waldorf Astoria Orlando pool offering.  It’s uncrowded, has some positive features for both kids and adults, great service, and interesting dining.

But it’s not a lot of fun.  Families in particular (at the expense of crowding) will much more enjoy the pools at the next-door Hilton, which welcomes Waldorf Astoria guests.

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Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can book your Disney World vacation at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando–or at any other Disney World hotel!  Contact her using the form below.

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July 8, 2019   No Comments

Photo Tour of A Standard Room at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando

(For the first page of this review of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, click here.)

PHOTO TOUR OF A TWO QUEEN STANDARD ROOM AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO

In spring 2019 the Waldorf Astoria Orlando in the Bonnet Creek Resort (and its sister hotel, the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek) gained access to the two most valued Disney World perks: access to FastPass+ at 60 days, and access to Extra Magic Hours.

Because of this, I recently stayed in each, and this review of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is based on my stay there in May.

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has several room types in its mid-rise tower, including rooms with two queens, room with one king, and multiple suite types. Bookable categories include “Disney View,” and “Golf View.”

The Disney view rooms look towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot; Golf view rooms look in the same direction, except from a lower level; rooms without specified views look out over a nature preserve.

At the entry, the bath is on one side and the closet on the other.

The bath is spacious and includes both a tub and a separate shower, but has no extra help for family travelers–it has room for double sinks but offers just a single sink, and is not divided.

The tub.

The shower.

Some of the bath toiletries.

Back out in the entry hall, also on this side you’ll find an object with the coffee service above…

…and a mini-fridge below. Note the small freezer compartment.

On the other side of the hall is the small but likely adequate closet.

I have been in a lot of hotel rooms in my life, and this is the first one I can think of that included a flashlight.

Deeper in the room on one side you’ll find two queen beds and an easy chair.

The bed side from the back.

A closer view of one of the beds.

Between the beds you’ll find this bedside table.

It includes two sizable drawers, with plenty of room for your important books.

The last item of note on this side is this easy chair.

The other side of the room has a dresser with a TV above and a desk.

The TV side from the back of the room.

The dresser has a 54″ TV above and five drawers below.

The drawers are good sized.

In the space that would be the 6th drawer you will find a safe. My book is 6″ by 9″–showing how large this safe is.

The desk.

Standard rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando don’t have balconies (some of the suites do.) This limits the value of the fireworks views, but they are certainly more fun than not having such views.

At about 425 square feet these Waldorf Astoria Orlando rooms are comparable in size to the largest Disney deluxe resort rooms.

But with no balconies, no real concessions to larger families in the bath layout, and limited seating, they don’t have a lot to recommend them for typical families.  Couples, or families of three, should do just fine in these rooms–but other than the separate shower and bath (and the flashlight!!) I don’t see a ton to recommend them over rooms in the next door Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.  Suites, I imagine are something else…but they usually are!

AMENITIES AND DINING AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO

This review continues here.

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Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can book your Disney World vacation at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando–or at any other Disney World hotel!  Contact her using the form below.

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July 3, 2019   No Comments