A look inside Gran Destino, the new Disney Resort that will be home to top-ranked NBA teams
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Similar to the travel industry, the sports industry worldwide has taken a major hit due to the coronavirus pandemic — and now, several months after largely shutting down, is trying to get back to business.
In the sports world, this largely means playing games without fans, as most health experts agree packing tens of thousands of people into a stadium could undo any progress we’ve made in combatting the spread of this disease.
One league that’s ready to get back up and running — without fans, of course — is the National Basketball Association (NBA). Interestingly enough, the NBA’s return coincides directly with the return of the travel industry, as the league has chosen Walt Disney World in Orlando — specifically the ESPN Wide World of Sports — as the location at which it’ll hold its practices and games.
Part of the plan to hold the NBA season at Disney World is to have coaches, players and staff stay on Disney property in a “bubble” of sorts to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Disney and the NBA have identified three hotels — Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs — at which the players, coaches and staff will be staying for the several weeks they’ll spend on the property. The teams were given their respective hotel assignments based on their rankings in the league at the time of the shutdown. The top-seeded teams get to check into the new Gran Destino Tower that opened in 2019 at Disney’s Coronado Resort.
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While it’s not the priciest hotel at Disney World, it’s the only Disney property in the moderate (middle) tier that also has a club-level lounge. It’s also one of the newest.
Here’s what the NBA players will experience during their extended stay at Gran Destino based on intel from a visit shortly after the opening in fall 2019.
What it costs
Booking a room at Disney’s Gran Destino requires searching for Disney’s Coronado Resort. Within the Coronado, you then select the Gran Destino Tower. The new tower has standard rooms, standard rooms with a view, standard rooms with club access and suites. Not all rooms automatically get club-level access, so book carefully — and, of course, expect to pay more for club access. If your goal is to let your kids go to the club lounge without you, be aware that many of the rooms with club access are not on the club floor.
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Standard rooms with access to the lounge exist, but are scarce and so far haven’t been included in many sales or passholder discounts. When available, expect those rooms to start around $300 per night. Gran Destino Tower Suites with club access are more readily available, though those rooms often start around $500 per night. For our dates, we had to book a suite in order to have access to the club lounge — but having a true suite at Disney for around $500 isn’t a horrible thing, considering that standard rooms at Deluxe Resorts like Disney’s Yacht Club can cost that same amount without lounge access.
Disney’s Coronado Springs, and the Gran Destino Tower within it, are located nearest to the Animal Kingdom theme park and Blizzard Beach waterpark. This also places them near the three All-Star value resorts.
It’s a centrally located spot about 10 minutes from each of the Disney World theme parks, though none are within walking distance. The resort is connected to the rest of the Walt Disney World destinations by an included bus network and the pay-to-ride, on-demand Minnie Vans.
Although Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort has more than 2,300 rooms, the Gran Destino Tower has “just” 545 rooms, of which 50 are suites. The tower has a bright, modern and almost Las Vegas-y vibe that carries from the lobby to the hallways and into the rooms.
We were most surprised by the check-in process. With the opening of the Gran Destino tower, check in for all 2,300 Coronado Springs guests moved to the front desk of that building (with the exception of some large conferences). That means an even longer walk to some of the outlying buildings. And it should mean longer lines at check in, yet we found the lines quite short.
There was also a floating agent speaking with people in line. The agent periodically pulled a group out of line and checked them in with a mobile tablet while the family sat comfortably. This is by far one of the most relaxed check-in experiences at a Disney World resort.
Our room was on the seventh floor.
The living room was equipped with a bright rug, pull-out sofa, chair, storage space and a coffee nook.
There was also a small table for two with a nice view of Lago Dorado.
Should you wish to use the living space as a sleeping space in addition to the bedroom, the couch turns into a bed in seconds. Disney World has some of the best pull-out sofa beds in the industry. They’re as close to a real mattress as you can get, with a hinged design as opposed to the typical thin fold-over pad.
Separated from the living space with a real door, the king bedroom had a streamlined aesthetic with modern conveniences, such as bedside lamps with USB and charging outlets — something lacking in the older Disney resort hotels. We were impressed with the number of electrical outlets.
In lieu of an actual closet, the bedroom has a sliding glass door with a mirror. On one side, you’ll find a safe and some shelves for storage. Slide the door the other way and you’ll see hangers, robes and other necessities. The sliding door fits the décor but it does seem odd for a higher-end hotel to show off storage spaces that are normally hidden.
The bathroom was fresh and modern, with a choice of single-use Disney H2O bath amenities or bottles mounted in the shower. In keeping with the upgraded surroundings of the suite, there were also upgraded amenities you wouldn’t normally find.
Families with young kids should note there was no bathtub in this suite, which could be a deal breaker come bath time.
OK, here’s the coolest part for those who enjoy lounges. Located on the 15th floor, the Chronus Club lounge was absolutely on par with what you would find at a Disney Deluxe Resort. There are so many little touches in the lounge. And it’s much more than snacks and drinks — they do a great job feeding you as well.
Open for breakfast, midday snacks and evening appetizers (let’s be real and call that dinner), you can rely on the lounge to keep bellies filled and thirst under control.
The evening food selection, including shrimp “paella style,” Serrano ham, crab cakes, hummus and fire-roasted vegetables exceeded our (adult) expectations. With more than a dozen options, the variety of food meant most folks should be able to find something to eat. If you have kids who prefer plain food, you may struggle to find something they like. We mistakenly thought a tray of battered and fried fish were lumpy chicken nuggets. Our kids are all-in for fish, but we know many kids who aren’t.
We found small Ghirardelli chocolate squares, apples and Kind bars that were easy takeaway snacks. And you’ll also find Mickey hiding in plain sight in the form of sugar cubes and butter.
In keeping with the theme, you’ll find a selection of Spanish beers and wines. None of the choices are over-the-top expensive, but if you’ve tried Spanish wine, you’ll know you don’t need to spend a lot to find a good bottle. Spanish beer and strawberry cider round out the collection of parental beverages quite nicely.
If you have antsy little ones, you’ll find a treasure chest packed with toys to pass the time as well as a lending library of books, including some Disney favorites and even a few titles for adults. You can also trade pins with the friendly staff in the Chronos Club.
For seating, you can relax on a couch or get some work done on your laptop (which would be a sin with the food and the view).
There are a number of board games strategically placed throughout, and the club also has small touches that tie in the Spanish theme and the theme parks nearby.
The price differential for a room without club access and one with club access seems to hover around $70 per night, but we did find club rooms for as little as $15 more per night. Assuming your family of four enjoyed at least one full meal here per day plus snacks and drinks, the math can absolutely work in your favor. There aren’t many standard rooms with club access, something that clearly showed up in our search results. On many nights, there wasn’t any availability.
On the other hand, there are some excellent restaurants at Disney World, so you’ll have to decide if accessible heavy appetizers and cold beverages is a plus for your family.
The saddest part of our short stay at Gran Destino Tower was not having enough time for all the new food and beverage choices. The lobby of the Gran Destino is a sweeping two-story space with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. That makes a great backdrop for the colorful Barcelona Lounge, where you can enjoy a Spanish coffee or a glass of wine from the region.
If you’re looking for a view with your drink, the Dahlia Lounge on the 16th floor is the right spot. And we definitely have our eye on Toledo, a tapas restaurant located on the 16th floor. Late-night tapas with a view of the fireworks? Count us in.
The fitness center at Gran Destino Tower is much more reminiscent of a high-end conference hotel than a Disney resort.
We were also pleasantly surprised by Wi-Fi speeds at Gran Destino. This has been a challenge for many Disney World resorts, with some glacially slow Wi-Fi connections. We had no problem uploading these photos from the resort and download speeds were zippy.
Frankly, Disney had us at “new moderate hotel with a club lounge.” Staying in a fresh, debut property is always a treat. However, for those who want to be within walking distance of a park or who want to go all-in on Disney theming, the Gran Destino comes up short. However, that’s probably not a drawback for the NBA crowd who is there to play professional sports games — not go round and round on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
But generally speaking, this property is for those who want all of the Disney Resort perks but are OK with a toned-down version of Disney when they retreat to their hotel at night. If you’re used to luxury hotels and haven’t bought into the “Disney bubble,” this new tower is a great choice. The Disney influences in the décor are subtle, yet the excellent service you find elsewhere at Disney World is front and center. Call it a quiet retreat from the craziness of theme parks.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Here are some resources:
- TPG’s ultimate guide to Walt Disney World Resort
- Disney World without kids: How to enjoy an adult trip to Disney
- The best restaurants in Disney World in 2019
- What to do when it rains at Disney World
- How to get groceries delivered at Disney World
- 6 things to know about Disney World’s Minnie Vans
- 10 ways to save money at Disney World
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