Hey everybody, there’s a new itinerary out for arrivals 8/31 through 10/26/2019. You can find it here.

By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Category — q. Reviews

Review: The Pools at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando

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.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can book you in the Waldorf Astoria Orlando or any other Disney World room.  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

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!

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can book you in the Waldorf Astoria Orlando or any other Disney World room.  Contact her using the form below!

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July 3, 2019   No Comments

Review: The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek in the Bonnet Creek Resort Area

THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Bonnet Creek Resort is an enclave with four—soon to be five—hotels, surrounded by Disney World but not on Disney property.

Located adjacent to Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Pop Century Resorts in the area circled in the image, you’ll find in the Bonnet Creek Resort a Wyndham, Wyndham Grand, Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, and soon, a JW Marriott.

Earlier in 2019, guests staying at two of these five hotels—the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando—gained access to the two most prized Disney World perks, access to FastPass+ booking 60 days before arrival, and eligibility to use Extra Magic Hours.

Because of this, I’m starting to cover these two hotels, with this review of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek based on my March stay now complete, and a review of the Waldorf Astoria based on my May stay there coming soon.

Note that there are four other Hilton-flagged properties in or near Disney World that all have access to the same perks–the next door Waldorf Astoria (review to come soon), and over in the Disney Springs Resort Area, the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Hilton Buena Vista Palace and the Doubletree Suites by Hilton.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek offer rooms with a king bed, or with two queen beds, in a long mid-rise block.

The best features of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek are its pool complex, reasonably central location especially close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the broad range of strong amenities it offers.

Weaknesses include the un-divided baths, absence of balconies, and park transportation–its buses have too many stops, and run too infrequently.

My full review of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek has four pages:

ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

Rooms with a king bed and rooms with two queens are available in the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

There are also some bookable views–e.g. a fireworks view. You can see in the moderate distance the Epcot and Hollywood Studios fireworks, and far away Magic Kingdom fireworks.  The absence of balconies makes these views less fun.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is a major convention hotel, and as in all such hotels, suite options are also available.

The bed side of Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek two queen room.

The undivided bath includes in one space a single sink, a toilet, and a shower/tub combo. This makes the room less family-friendly than most Disney-owned options. There’s also no balconies.

A photo tour of a two queen room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is here.

DINING AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek has three table service venues, a snack/coffee shop, and both a lobby bar and another bar (and dining venue) at its pool complex.

Two venues, La Luce and Zeta, are more oriented to adults and the heavy convention crowds that you’ll find here. The downstairs Harvest Bistro is more family friendly, and you’ll find more of both high end and family-friendly dining at the next-door sister resort Waldorf Astoria.

There’s also a Disney gift shop offering souvenirs, park tickets and such off the lobby. Other typical amenities including a gym and a business center are also available.

There’s more on dining and the other amenities at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek here.

THE POOL COMPLEX AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek pool complex is in the top rank among the non-Disney hotels at Walt Disney World, clearly bested among them only by the pool complex at the Four Seasons.

The most distinctive feature of the pool complex at the Hilton Bonnet Creek is its lazy river, but it also has a pool slide–rare at the non-Disney hotels–a kids pool, two hot tubs, and a zero entry area.

For more on the pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, see this.

THEME PARK TRANSPORTATION AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek shares buses with the next-door Waldorf Astoria.

These buses depart too infrequently, and have too many theme park stops, to be a good option–although are better than most off-property hotel transportation options.

For example, in my last stay, Magic Kingdom buses left generally every thirty minutes (there were a few 60 minute intervals) and went next to the Waldorf Astoria.  From Magic Kingdom half went on to Epcot, then to Hollywood Studios, and the other half went on to Animal Kingdom. Buses to the Studios could take 45 minutes. Moreover as is the case with all non-Disney buses, Magic Kingdom buses dropped off at TTC, not the park itself.

Having a rental car, or using cabs, Uber or Lyft (or for a pricey variant of Lyft, a Minnie Van) is a better option.

In addition to the theme park buses, buses to and from Disney Springs run in the evening.

Having your own car or a rental is a much better option. Self-parking at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is $27/night and valet parking is $37/night. Parking at the theme parks is $25/day.

PRICING AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

Pricing at the non-Disney hotels is much less visible than that at the Disney-owned resorts, and multiple prices for the same room e.g. for non-refundable stays, stays by folk with AAA, etc. are common.  Discounts and deals are also common, and these hotels sometimes show up on the various hotel deal sites.

Pricing for most of them is also obscured by mandatory “resort fees.”  Resort fees are a mandatory extra cost added every night of your stay, whether you like or not. I personally find mandatory resort fees a misleading and unethical practice.  A fee that is mandatory, and charged each night, should simply be rolled into the nightly room price.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek resort fee is (after tax) $$50.63 per night–among the highest resort fees at a Disney World hotel.

Base prices at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (before any discounts you might find, but including resort fees and taxes) are generally ~$50/night higher than those for a Disney-owned moderate resort, and substantially less than those of a Disney-owned deluxe resort.

For families looking for queen beds, lots of dining options, a very strong pool complex, and other strong amenities, and ok with the absence of balconies, an undivided bath, and weak transportation, the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek can be a reasonable option, offering amenities somewhere between those of a Disney moderate and a Disney deluxe at a price commonly closer to that of a Disney moderate.

Among the five Hilton flagged properties at Disney World with access to FastPass+ booking 60 days before arrival, and eligibility to use Extra Magic Hours, for families I would rank it second, after the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, which offers balconies and a divided bath.

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

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PHOTO TOUR OF A ROOM AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

This review continues here.

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June 16, 2019   No Comments

Amenities and Dining at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

AMENITIES AND DINING AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is deep in the Bonnet Creek Resort Area.

You access this area from Buena Vista Drive, just east of the old Caribbean Beach entrance, soon to become the Riviera entrance, then drive a while and turn right at the stop sign. The intersection of the access road–Chelonia Parkway–is marked in yellow, and the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is marked in red.

You will first see the port cochere where you can valet; keep going and you will find a multistory parking garage.

Most amenities except the pool are just inside on the first floor, including the check-in area.

There’s lots of seats in this open area…

…and a fun lobby bar (another bar is at the pool).

Parts of the bar seating area are outside in screened-in spaces.

Most dining is also on this level, including La Luce…

…and Zeta.

Downstairs on the way to the pool is the Harvest Bistro, and there’s more dining at the pool. The full scoop on dining at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is here.

Back upstairs, you’ll find a shop focused on coffee, snacks and drinks just off the lobby…

…and further back a Disney gift shop.

More from inside the Disney shop.

You won’t find a traditional resort-wear shop, but there’s one in the next-door Waldorf Astoria.

You’ll find this business center.

And a workout area.

Outside, near the port cochere, is a stop for theme park buses.

Buses here run too infrequently, and have too many stops, for me to be able to recommend them.

For example, in my May stay, Magic Kingdom buses left generally every thirty minutes (there were a few 60 minute intervals) and went next to the Waldorf Astoria.  From there half went on to Epcot, then to Hollywood Studios, and half went on to Animal Kingdom. Buses to the Studios could take 45 minutes. Moreover as is the case with all non-Disney buses, Magic Kingdom buses dropped off at TTC, not the park itself.

Having a rental car, or using cabs, Uber or Lyft (or for a pricey variant of Lyft, a Minnie Van) is a better option.

Including the additional amenities in the next door sister resort Waldorf Astoria, the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek has as full a set of amenities as pretty much any non-Disney resort with similar perks. The pool complex and its lazy river is a highlight, and perhaps the biggest negatives for family visitors are the buses and the absence of any character meals.

THE POOL COMPLEX AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

This review continues here.

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June 2, 2019   No Comments

Review: The Pool Complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

THE POOL COMPLEX AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Bonnet Creek Resort is an enclave with four—soon to be five—hotels surrounded by Disney World but not on Disney property. Earlier in 2019, guests staying at two of these hotels—the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando—gained access to the two most prized Disney World perks, access to FastPass+ booking 60 days before arrival, and eligibility to use Extra Magic Hours.

I began my coverage of these with a photo tour of a standard room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.  This page continues my review of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, focusing on its astonishing pool.


The pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek lies between the main accommodations tower and the Waldorf Astoria golf course.

The distinguishing feature of the complex is a lazy river that sometimes is separate and sometimes flows into and then out of two larger pools, one best for adults and the other for kids.

Much of the lazy river has the traditional form of such waterways…

…but in other areas it widens out into more of a mini-pool.

It flows into a larger pool area which is best for adults as it has the bar, and no zero-entry area.

It is however plenty attractive to kids, as in this the area you will find the pool slide. The slide is a bit bare bones, but a rare amenity among non-Disney EMH/FP+ at 60 eligible hotels.

Next in this area is the bar…

…where you can find lunch and drinks. On the menu are appetizers, wraps, burgers, deserts, and such.

The lazy river then exits this area…

…with cabanas behind it.

It then makes its way into the second larger pool area, this one with a zero entry. You can see on the left part of one of the two hot tubs here, one on either side of the zero entry pool.

Here’s the full view of that hot tub…

…and the other hot tub here.

One side of the zero-entry pool…

…and the other side.

While there are pool chairs everywhere around the pool complex, the most concentrated masses of chairs are near the zero-entry pool. Introverts can find less populated corners.

You’ll also find pool games…

…water toys for rent…

…and a baby pool.

All in, the pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is nearly as fine a pool complex as you will find among the non-Disney hotels that are eligible for EMH and FastPass+ at 60 days.  Only that at the Four Seasons is clearly better, while those at the Swan, the Dolphin and three of the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels–the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista–are comparable.

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May 13, 2019   No Comments

Photo Tour of A Standard Room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

PHOTO TOUR OF A TWO QUEEN STANDARD ROOM AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek 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,” “Disney Fireworks View,” and “High Floor” rooms.

The Disney view rooms look towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot; rooms without specified views look out over a nature preserve; I’m not sure what “High Floor”  precisely means, but recreational marijuana is not yet legal in Florida.

This photo tour is of an upper floor, perhaps high, two queen room with a Disney view.

At the entry, the bath and closet are on one side.

The bath is  spacious, but has no extra help for family travels–it has room for double sinks but offers just a single sink, and is not divided.

Bath toiletries.

The tub/shower combo.

Back out in the entry hall, the small but likely adequate closet is right next to the door to the bath.

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, with what appears to be two drawers.

The lower item is in fact a drawer, with plenty of room for your important books.

Above it, what looks like a drawer front flips away to reveal this safe.

My book is 6″ by 9″–showing how large this safe is.

The last item of note on this side is this easy chair, with a small table on one side and lamp on the other.

The other side of the room has a mini-fridge, dresser, and desk.

The TV side from the back of the room.

The mini-fridge is below the coffee service.

Inside the mini-fridge.

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

The drawers are good sized.

The desk includes a rolling table which I’ve pulled out a bit that adds flexibility for actions ranging from typing to playing games with the kids–although seats are limited.

I can’t comment on how well the fireworks show up, as I was not in my room during any of them–that will be for another stay.

But here’s the view from my room, with the astonishing pool (a full review of the pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is here) below, the golf course beyond, and in the distance you’ll note the Tower of Terror and the Dolphin.  Lenses make these seem further away than in fact they are.

At about 370 square feet (some sources claim these rooms have 414 square feet, mine was not even close to that) these spacious Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek rooms are comparable in size to the middle range of Disney deluxe resorts.

But with no balconies, no real concessions to larger families in the bath layout, and limited (but not bad) 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.

And frankly, the color scheme and decor (how did you like that easy chair?) are at best uninteresting. Another Hilton property at Disney World that also has access to the two key perks, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, has better accommodations, with balconies and divided baths.

AMENITIES AND DINING AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

This review continues here.

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April 28, 2019   No Comments