Saturday, January 26, 2013

Disney v2.0 - Art of Animation Resort Review

Art of Animation is the newest resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando.  (I feel like I'm writing a travel brochure.)  There are three levels of Disney resorts:  value, moderate and deluxe.  Obviously, amenities and services increase as you move from a value to a deluxe.  So does price.  While most of the standard resort rooms only allow for four guests, some do accommodate five.

When Grammy travels with us, we have six in our party, which means that we have to book two standard rooms (and hope that our request for connecting rooms is granted) or a suite.  Not all resorts have suites and some of them can be quite pricy.  There are reasonably priced suites at All-Stars but I've refused to stay there as I've heard that it is need of a major renovation and this is the resort where all the groups (baseball teams, cheerleaders, dance groups, etc) stay so it can be quite noisy and rowdy.  No thanks.

I am by no means a hotel snob.  Growing up, my parents didn't have much for a travel budget but they wanted to show us a bit of the world.  All six of us would cram into one hotel room and some of these hotels were not so nice.  The '80s were a completely different world when it came to travel.  There was no internet so you really had no idea what the hotel was like and there weren't nearly the same number of hotels as there are today.  Even as an adult, I've stayed at some mediocre hotels/resorts.  My main concern now with kids is cleanliness.

Art of Animation is a value resort that is divided into four sections:  Cars, Finding Nemo, Lion King and Little Mermaid.  The Little Mermaid rooms are standard hotel rooms while the remainder are suites.  The suites contain three beds, two full size bathrooms, a small "kitchenette" area and can accommodate up to six guests. 

This is the first room you enter into.  The door to the hallway is behind me.  The table is really a Murphy bed and while I first questioned its stability, it really was safe and strong and of no concern. 

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To the right is a full bathroom.  While the sink is located outside the tub/toilet area, there is a pocket door, which allows you to close off that sink area from the main living space and have a regular bathroom. 

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There is one bedroom with an attached full bath, which allows for some privacy.

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The suite was smaller than I expected based on photos I had seen.  Most of those photos were from Disney's website and of course, it was photographed in a way to make it appear as large as possible.  Once we added all of our luggage, it felt a bit cramped.  Especially given that there were no closets.  Was it absolutely terrible?  Did it ruin my vacation?  No, just not what I thought it would be.  The suite was clean.

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For me, as an adult, I found the theming of the suite to be a bit cheesy.  BUT I knew this when we booked the suite.  It was really for the kids, who thought it was fabulous.  I thought that the theming outside was very well put together.  Everything, even the walkways and landscaping was made to match the theme.  (I do have some more photos that I will be sharing in upcoming posts.) 

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The main pool for the resort is the Big Blue Pool.  And yes, it is big but unfortunately, I was not a big fan. The girls can't really swim on their own (we're working on it) and prefer to be able to touch the bottom.  Most of the pool was well over their heads.  There is a zero entry area, which is where they liked to hang out and swim.  So did all the other little kids,which made it a bit crowded at times.  I can't imagine what that area was like during the hot weather months.  We were not allowed to move chairs anywhere near that area so if I wanted to watch my kids in the pool, I had to either stand or sit on the concrete.  About 20 feet or so behind the zero entry area of the pool is a sprayground.  The girls had absolutely no interest in it at all.

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I don't think I would have a different opinion of that pool even if my kids were good swimmers.  It's just so big that I can't imagine myself feeling comfortable trying to keep an eye on them.  There are two smaller, "quiet" pools at the resort, one located in the Cars area and one in the Little Mermaid area.  We tried to convince the girls to swim at one of those pools but it was a no go because they liked how the jellyfish things dripped water.  (sigh)

Another pool complaint from me was that you need to bring towels from your room to the pool.  There are no towels at the pool.  This will most likely leave you needing towels in your room so you will need to call housekeeping to request more.  Don't expect them to be delivered immediately either.

Here's the only picture I have of the pool and this is only part of it.  I meant to go back and take some from the other end but never had the chance.

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There's a small playground behind the pool that the girls really enjoyed.  It's basically a climbing type structure with some small slides but it was enough to keep them entertained.

As a value resort, Art of Animation offers a food court but no sit down restaurants.  The food court came in quite handy for us and we ate several meals there.  The food was decent but I did feel like the kids' meals were a bit limited.  My kids ate the pizza, mac and cheese and pasta.  For every meal, Allie requested chicken fingers but they didn't have any.  I even asked.  While the food was decent and I'm not a picky eater, after a few days of eating there, I was over it and wanted something different.  I don't know why I didn't consider walking over to Pop Century but keep that in mind if you stay here.  Pop Century is directly behind Art of Animation and there's a bridge connecting the two resorts.

While I applaud Disney's effort to be green, I had a few OCD moments in the food court.  We always share meals so we would ask for additional plates and more than once, we received a plate with old, crusty food on it.  And it seemed like every time I grabbed a handful of silverware for our table, there was at least one fork or spoon that was dirty.  

So let's discuss cost.  I don't know how much we paid per night or I would post it.  I had received a quote from Disney's reservation website, which was offering a discount.  While the quote was for a package that included park tickets, I did have the room rate.  When Rich called AAA, they gave him a better price than Disney's reservation system but they didn't break down the cost between tickets and room.

Unless you have your heart set on staying in one of the suites, it may make more sense financially to check out other resorts or to book two rooms.  As an example, let's look at the week of April 7, 2013.  This is considered a "regular" week and the rack rates listed below are for a weekday as opposed to the weekend.

Art of Animation suite = $309
Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation = $126
Pop Century standard room = $121
Beach Club standard room = $407

Typically, the beginning of December is a slower time at Disney.  Regardless, we were told by the front desk that the resort was at full capacity.  They have not been offering discounts on the Little Mermaid rooms because they been in high demand.

Now, for that same week in April, Disney is offering discounts on certain rooms.

Art of Animation suite = 15% off, for a rate of $263
Little Mermaid rooms = no discount, rate of $126
Pop Century = 20% off, for a rate of $97
Beach Club = 30% off, for a rate of $285

As you can see, it would be less expensive to book two standard rooms at Pop Century or two Little Mermaid rooms rather than stay in a suite.  There is always the chance that your request for connecting rooms will not be met though.

If you have five in your party, you can stay in a standard room at the Beach Club, which is a deluxe resort.  With the discount, a standard room at Beach Club is only $22 more than a suite at Art of Animation.  You would lose a bathroom by not staying in a suite but you would gain the benefits that a deluxe resort has to offer.  Just something to keep in mind when considering where to stay.

Overall, Rich and I agree on a B rating for Art of Animation.  Would we stay there again?  Possibly. The girls really liked it.  Kids don't know the difference between value and deluxe.  A pool is a pool to them.  There are some other resorts that I wouldn't mind checking out though.

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I want to thank you all for your TBB votes.  You're awesome!

11 comments:

Sarah said...

I appreciate all of the reviews you write!! We are hoping to go to disney in June 2014 and our girls will be 2 and 4 1/2. You have really helped me along with my research!! Thanks!!

Raspberry said...

I loved the differences between the two photos of Rich sitting on the couch. One angle makes the room look H U G E, while the other makes it look tiny.
Strange that there were no cupboards to store clothes, etc. Was this evident when you booked the room? Did you have the same trouble in your other Disney rooms?

Debbie said...

De-lurking. Our family went to Disney last spring. We, too, have three kids, so a suite was really the only way to go. We DID stay at All Star Music, and overall, I was pleased. There were several cheer teams staying there when we were there, but they were at the back of the resort, as we were at the front. The only thing that bothered me about the cheerleaders is there tiny, size 0 bodies rocking bikinis :) We had poolside rooms, which got a little noisy at night, but not too bad. We were 5 minutes from the food court, buses, and gift shop. For us, the worst thing about the resort was the location. It is about a 20 minute bus ride to the Magic Kingdom. So, if you have to wait for a bus,then spend 20 minutes travelling, it eats up a lot of time. I just wanted to provide you with a positive All Star experience, in case you ever go again, you can consider it. I would definitely stay there again.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is some interesting decor! HAHAHAHA. I'm sure the girls loved it though. And that pool is really awesome (although prob better for bigger kids). I love your Disney posts!

Erin

Sarah said...

You're welcome, Sarah.

Raspberry - There were 2 bureaus and those tiny racks to hang clothes on but without closets, I felt like we lost a lot of storage space. I didn't realize it when we booked the room. There was definitely more storage at Beach Club and Port Orleans Riverside.

Debbie - Thanks for your comment. It's good to hear a positive review of All Stars.

Anon - yes, the girls loved it!

The Lillichs said...

Hi, Sarah! I love reading your helpful Disney reviews. We stayed in a Universal Studios property last time we were there, and for what we paid, I was not impressed. On our next trip, we will be staying at a Disney property. I was wondering if you had any problems finding an open table in the food court at the resort. This was an ongoing problem for us when we were at Disney in the summer (in the park food court/counter service restaurants), and we ended up having to share a table with another family on several occasions or just eat our food standing up. I wanted to see if the hotel food court has a better seating situation or if there was a certain time that you recommend eating there to avoid the crowd. Thanks!

Stacey L. said...

As someone who frequents Disneyland quite often, I'm amazed at how reasonably priced the hotels in Florida seem. I was thinking we'd never be able to afford to go and take our four kids, but actually I think from your posts I'm seeing we might be able to someday. Although I'm sure the cross country flight is what would do our budget in.

Have you ever considered going on a Disney cruise? Just curious as to your thoughts on it.

Sarah said...

We never had trouble finding a table at the food court even when it was crowded. When we stayed at Port Orleans a few years ago, we did have trouble but that food court seemed smaller. Counter service restaurants were hit or miss. We found that eating early helped.

I've been on one cruise (non-Disney) and I was not a fan. Part of that is me and my quirks. So I don't think we would ever do a Disney cruise. My co-worker has been on a Disney one (I think they went twice) and his family loved it!!

Stacey L. said...

My main reason for not doing the cruise, besides the fact that I'd probably have to get a loan to pay for it, is I just don't think I'd be able to relax. I watch videos about disney cruises where they take the kids and have them doing all sorts of fun activities without the parents while the parents are getting massages or spa treatments. All I can think of is all those episodes of 20/20 or 48 hours where people go missing at sea.

Sarah said...

Stacey - I feel like most cruises are overpriced - no? But, yes, Disney probably more so. But your last comment is EXACTLY where my mind is. No way would I let my kids do those camps. Two of my co-workers have been in cruises with their kids and they have done the camps. I asked if they were worried that their kids would disappear and they thought I was crazy. I am really overprotective so I thought it was just me! And Rich and I watched some 20/20 thing a few months ago about that groom that disappeared on a cruise. That was enough for me.

Stacey L. said...

My husband and I took a cruise for our honeymoon, 5 years ago. For the length of time we stayed, plus all the food, it was actually pretty reasonably priced, BUT that was leaving from LA, there was no airfare involved at all.

I was thinking about the cruise and then saw that 20/20 episode, and then my husband made it worse saying that since the cruise was in international waters if there was a crime who knows how it'd be investigated....that was enough for me to say no, even if it's not true I would be a nervous wreck.