Is the Disney Club Level Worth the Extra Cost?
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Disney Club Level. What is it? Until recently, all I knew was that it was a special room option that came with a bigger price tag.
So, do Club Level reservations include cast members to plan your trip for you and hand you a hot coffee each morning? Is there an actual clubhouse?
As it turns out, paying extra for a Disney Club Level room at Deluxe Disney Resorts does entitle you to some extra perks and services beyond that of a standard Disney room reservation, largely in the form of food and drinks offered in the club lounge. Note that the Club Level is not available at every Disney resort, but is available at these Deluxe Disney Resorts:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
We have stayed in Disney’s Club Level twice, at the Contemporary Resort and at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Our first stay happened as part of a trip to the Magic Kingdom to celebrate our youngest turning 3 years old and we decided to upgrade to a Club Level room with a theme-park view. Our second trip into Disney Club Level was pure luck — a complimentary upgrade when there was an issue with our reservation.
When staying at Disney’s Club Level, you are personally escorted up the elevator to the Club Level floors. I’ve never been escorted anywhere else in any other Disney hotel, so it was a good start.
On the Club Level, known as the Atrium Club at the Contemporary or the Old Faithful Club at Wilderness Lodge, there are employees to help guests settle in. At the Contemporary, there’s a large desk just off the elevators where we could sit and check in before being escorted to our room. The only other place I can recall being escorted to my room by someone who was not helping with luggage was at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Within 10 minutes of arrival to the world of Disney Club Level, I was a bit taken aback by the service.
Aside from being taken by the hand through check in, I couldn’t wait to sample the food and drinks included in the room rate. We’ve been known to spend a bit on food and drinks at Disney.
When I first booked Club Level at the Contemporary, the agent on the phone told me I was in for a treat and that I had to make myself a plate of dessert, grab some cheese and wine from the Club and retreat to my room for our own personal fireworks viewing party with the TV playing the same music as in the Magic Kingdom. He was right; it was every bit as much of a treat as he said it would be.
From Wilderness Lodge, the view of the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks isn’t quite as good as at the Contemporary, but it is still solid and the accompanying music is piped into the club area.
Evening Disney Club Level Offerings
The Disney Club Level food and beverage items at the Contemporary were our favorites. “Contemporary Flavors” are served from 5–7pm and cordials with mini desserts from 8–10pm.
Can you turn the included food options into dinner? The answer is likely yes — though I wouldn’t want to do it every day. However, if you’re spending the extra cash for Disney Club Level, you can cut meal costs to help offset the splurge.
In the evenings, the food offerings at the Contemporary’s Atrium Club come from the hotel’s The Wave kitchen, but this will vary in each Deluxe Resort’s Club Lounge based on their on-site restaurants. In the evenings, there were sliced meats, cheese, (delicious) rolls, cold vegetables, shrimp appetizers, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly jars, a hearty beef and potatoes dish and more. The options rotated a bit each evening we were there, so you could get some variety over a multi-night stay.
If you do want to turn the evening club options into dinner, don’t wait until just before 7pm to arrive, as you may find the scene looking something like this:
Assuming you don’t wait until the last minute, there’s plenty of food to create a dinner for kids or adults. But the problem is that Disney has so many great dinner experiences, you may not want to eat in the club lounge every night. But even if you don’t eat dinner at the club lounge, you should come back for dessert.
From cookies to cakes, macarons to mini-dessert cups, sweets were a strength of the lounges at both the Contemporary and Wilderness Lodge.
If you like an adult beverage with your mini-dessert cup, the Contemporary Club Lounge offered the following included beverages: La Luca prosecco, Franciscan chardonnay, Meiomi pinot noir, Chappellet cabernet, Bud Lite, Sam Adams IPA, Yuengling and Heineken.
They also had four different spirits on hand:
The Club Lounge at Wilderness Lodge also had spirits and wine on hand, as well as two beers on tap.
On our stay, the two beers on tap were a golden ale from Kona Brewing Company and an IPA from Elysian. There were additional options from 312, Rogue Brewery and Session available by the bottle.
Breakfast in Disney Club Level
Coffee service starts at 6:30am (and lasts all day), but continental breakfast doesn’t start until 7am (and lasts until 10:30am). This is a late start for food since some parks open as early as 7am on certain days.
With the exception of the warm oatmeal, Disney Club Level breakfast consisted only of cold items such as fruits, pastries, sliced meat and cheese, yogurt, bread and hard-boiled eggs.
Yogurt, granola, fruit and maybe a croissant was fine for me before heading to the parks, but breakfast isn’t very exciting in the club lounge and the options didn’t seem to rotate as frequently as dinner. Still, when time is money (and it is at Disney), being able to get your coffee and first meal of the day just steps from your hotel room is a treat.
Lunchtime Offerings at Disney Club Level
The Club Lounge at Disney’s Contemporary serves light bites from 11:30am to 4pm, but don’t get excited unless your palate is similar to my 9 year old’s. These light bites consisted of Skittles, pretzels and Goldfish-level snacks. Kids will like them, but this is in no way a lunch replacement opportunity.
On the plus side, you can visit the Club Level refrigerator throughout the day for soft drinks, juice, milk and more. There were no bottled waters in the fridge on our stay at the Contemporary but on our more recent stay at Wilderness Lodge, we found ample bottled water. And if the supply runs out, you can ask for more.
Disney Club Level Service and Extras
Our favorite aspect of Disney’s Club Level at the Contemporary may well have been a cast member named David who is known there for his on-point Mickey Mouse vocal impression. He can do several Disney impressions and our girls loved him. He was fun, gracious, knowledgable and a real treat to see each evening.
On the other hand, we didn’t have the best luck with requests of other Club Level cast members. We tried to set up a Minnie Van to the airport via the Club Level and after over 30 minutes of trying, they weren’t able to make that happen. I also inquired about purchasing extra FastPass reservations on Club Level and they couldn’t accomplish that either. On the flip side, we were able to get a late checkout at noon after “the computer” denied our initial request. I doubt that request would have been honored if we were not on Club Level and had staff advocating on our behalf with housekeeping. At Wilderness Lodge, we were given a 12:30pm late checkout.
Despite their lower-than-expected batting average on special requests, the staff on the Club Level were all kind and professional and a joy to see at the beginning or end of a long Disney day.
Extra FastPasses on Club Level
Staying on Disney’s Club Level makes you eligible to purchase three extra FastPass+ reservations at a cost of $50 per person, per day on stays of three nights or longer (everyone in the room must purchase that package). You can book these FastPass+ rides 90 days in advance without park or ride restrictions. This would virtually guarantee yourself prime time access to Avatar Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, Frozen Ever After or whatever rides interest you the most. That’s a ton of extra money on top of an already very expensive hotel stay, but it’s a way to guarantee yourself more top-tier rides without purchasing a VIP tour.
Is Disney Club Level Worth It?
So, is Disney Club Level worth it? If you want as much convenience and magic as possible while at Disney World, then it may well be. If it means you’re spending more in one area to save in another, then the answer is . . . “it depends.”
For a randomly selected date in late August, the Contemporary is selling its base-level Garden View Rooms for $353+ per night while a standard room on the Club Level is $623+ with theme-park view rooms running about another $50 per night above that price. Our July dates were similarly priced. I’ve seen the price differential between Club Level rooms and standard rooms to be a bit less at some other resorts, such as Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge, but Club Level will often cost $150 or more over an entry-level room.
Will your family save at least $150–$250+ in food and beverage costs per day by having Club Level access? Potentially, but only if your family typically enjoys a few beverages and pricier meals per day and is happy to shift their drinks, breakfast and dinners to Club Level and away from the other options. However, if you’re usually spending $200+ per day on meals and drinks at Disney, you’re probably enjoying at least one character or themed meal a day. Meals in Club Level are not a replacement for experiences like ‘Ohana, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Artist Point or Chef Mickey’s, so even if you’re saving some money on the cost of food, that may be coming at the expense of some pretty cool Disney experiences.
However, you’ll probably save at least some money by enjoying what the Club Level has to offer, so it’s fair to factor that into the equation — just be realistic with your estimates. We still ate at the Polynesian and Chef Mickey’s and had breakfast included with our Early Morning Magic package during our Club Level stay at the Contemporary. While at Wilderness Lodge, we still ate at Artist Point and in the Magic Kingdom. We enjoyed the included food and drinks at our fingertips in Club Level, but it didn’t replace all of our Disney meals. (It almost certainly won’t replace lunch since the midday offerings are sparse and you are probably at the parks anyway.)
I’d estimate that club access saved us about $50–$125 per day (depending on where we ate dinner). Obviously, the less you pay for Disney Club Level, the greater its value, so let’s look at some ways to reduce the cost a bit.
Saving Money on Disney Club Level Rooms
Outside of situations like our pixie-dust upgrade to Club Level at Wilderness Lodge, most Disney Club Level rooms aren’t going to come cheap. However, there are ways to save money.
One idea is to use Citi ThankYou points to book the room on Citi’s travel booking site. You can pay for the room entirely with points earned by cards such as the Citi Premier Card. Simply expand the room types at Deluxe Disney Resorts to see if any of them include Club Level, as shown below.
You can also book your Club Level rooms directly with Disney, pay with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, and then use the miles from those cards at a rate of 1 cent per mile to cover the charges.
Another good idea for a four-night stay would be to book via the Citi Concierge and pay with your Citi Prestige Card to get the fourth night of your Disney Club Level stay for free (other than taxes or fees).
It is also a good idea to check with sites such as Magical Vacations Travel as they sometimes offer exclusive discounts (especially around Labor Day). The club level discounts aren’t always as good as for standard rooms, but it pays to check and ask.
If you have an upcoming Disney stay, you may save 30% on a future Disney Resort stay (including in Club Level) by booking with a bounce-back offer while you are still at a Disney Resort. Look for a brochure in your room with details or ask the front desk. To get this discount, you must book while you are still on a current Disney trip. Occasionally Disney also offers discounts of up to 30% that can be booked by anyone, so that is a great time to start pricing a Club Level stay.
Disney World is expensive and a stay on Disney’s Club Level adds even more to your final bill. Club Level isn’t at all necessary for a great family trip to Disney World, but if you have the budget for the splurge and want the best that Disney has to offer, you may want to consider the Club Level. I don’t anticipate all of our future Disney stays happening on the Club Level, but I will appreciate the convenience every time we manage to make it happen.
To help your family maximize time at Disney World, here are some articles to get you on your way.
- How to Use Points to Buy Disney Tickets
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- Eating Healthy at Disney World
- Renting Disney Vacation Club Points: Saving Money at Disney
- 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World in 2018
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- Review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
All images by author.
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