My Disney World Agent Education Program

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected for a Disney agent education program. Every couple months, Disney offers these programs to agents who are new to the business, or need a refresher on things. It was a whirlwind four days of learning more about the business, and visiting many hotels and even the Disney Cruise Line. Here are some of the highlights I got to experience:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Pretty soon I will write up an entire blog entry on this hotel. It was my first time staying at the Lodge and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was never one to really gravitate towards an African theme, and I was always turned off by the fact that you couldn’t walk to a park from the hotel. Now that I have stayed there, I can’t wait to go back. The hotel is beautiful, and there is something, or some animal hiding around every corner. My room looked out onto a small part of the savanna.

Disney's Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Throughout the day I could see different types of birds and grazing animals. The highlight of my room was seeing the giraffes every night. While having a savanna view was definitely awesome, I don’t even think it was necessary. Down every hallway, there are windows to see the animals. Every exit door you can open and peak out to the savannas. And right off the lobby, you can walk little trails to get better views of different animals. There was never a shortage of zebras. The hotel is kind of dark and quiet, making me feel like it was all for me. This hotel definitely has a lot of extra activities. You can sign up for safaris, and even use night vision goggles to see the animals in the evening. What you give up in terms of walking distance to parks, the animals and hotel more than make up for with amenities and scenery.

Disney's Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Disney’s Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Art of Animation 
Since I am usually visiting Disney World with just my mom or husband, there has been no need to stay in a family suite. Seeing them was just a treat. The Art of Animation resort has a tremendous amount of detail. Even the landscape and music will suddenly change as you move from the Finding Nemo pool to the Lion King building. You really feel like you stepped into the movies. I found the total immersive feeling more here than any other value resort. The suites are great and really well thought out. You can fit six in these rooms that have one stand alone bedroom with bathroom, and a separate pull out couch and drop down murphy bed / table with bathroom and kitchenette. We also got to eat lunch in the food court, and it was some of the best looking food I have seen at Disney. There was so much more to eat than the traditional burger. Pasta, salads, sandwiches, and different ethnic foods guarantee that there will be something for everyone.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Gingerbread houses

Since I was there around the Christmas holiday, I was able to see all the trees in the hotels, holiday decorations, and some beautiful gingerbread houses. The Contemporary Resort had a huge Frozen themed gingerbread house, complete with characters. The Beach Club holds a rotating gingerbread carousel. Both the Grand Floridian and Boardwalk Inn had Gingerbread houses so big, that they were selling gingerbread cookies from inside them.

Going onboard the Disney Dream
Even though I took my maiden voyage on the Disney Dream last August, getting to board on a day that they get the ship ready blew my mind a little bit.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

On the same day people disembark the cast members have only a couple hours to get everything ready for the next batch of people ready to board. This means total turnover of rooms, common areas, restaurants, and lounges. Something I also got to do this time that I didn’t do on my three night cruise was explore literally everything onboard the ship. I was able to see the kids sections, all the way from the nursery, to kids clubs, to teen lounges. I was able to check out all the adult lounges. I was able to see the two exclusive restaurants, Palo and Remy, that require advanced reservations. I also got to see every room category onboard. Even though I was completely exhausted after this action packed tour, I feel very comfortable with the Disney Dream, and am still amazed by how beautiful, clean, and well-maintained it is.

Illuminations Dessert Party

On our very first night, we had an exclusive area of the World Showcase just for the agents to eat some dessert and watch Illuminations. Even though I have seen this firework show a million times, I have never seen it with such an amazing, unobstructed view – while drinking beverages and eating delicious desserts. I know that dessert parties can be pricey, and it’s not something I would do every time, but maybe on a special occasion I would suggest splurging.

See Illuminations like never before.

See Illuminations like never before.

During this party, they gave us exclusive Mickey glasses that are only available for these dessert parties. They somehow polarize the light so every light source you look at looks like a Mickey head. It was both trippy and super cool at the same time. It added a little extra magic to an already great show.

While I was exhausted every night after my full day of conferences, site tours, and having some time at the park, it was an awesome experience. Although I am a Disney dork through and through, there is always something new to learn, and something new going on. My agent education program was a great experience. I hope to one day attend the program in Disneyland as well.

Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Deluxe Resorts Part 2

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Let’s continue on down that deluxe resort road, down the road to Epcot (and Animal Kingdom). The next batch of deluxe resorts continue to wow us with their theming, amenities, and park proximity. Characterized as the Epcot resorts are the Beach Club, Yacht Club and the Boardwalk Inn. These three resorts surround Crescent Lake. Then in a world of its own is the Animal Kingdom Lodge, located in close proximity to the Animal Kingdom. Each one of these resorts has something great to bring to the table.

The Beach Club/Yacht Club
These two resorts are like brother and sister. They are actually attached and share without question, Disney’s best pool, Stormalong Bay. Both hotels have very similar layouts and share the theme of being by the ocean. The theme of the Beach Club is turn of the century New England seashore. The Yacht has more of a boating, nautical feel. Some people say that the Yacht Club has a slightly more adult feel to it, but just like every resort on property, families of all ages are welcome, and shorts and Mickey shirts are the norm. These resorts share buses too, but you will have a nice relaxing covered bus stop to wait at.

Walkway to Epcot

Walkway to Epcot

Proximity
By far, the best perk of these hotel is the proximity to Epcot. In case you didn’t know, Epcot actually has two entrances, the main one by the monorail and spaceship earth, and one called the international gateway, located between England and France. You can only get to this entrance from the Epcot Resorts. The walk from the Beach Club to Epcot it literally 5-10 minutes depending on your pace. The Yacht club might be an extra 5 minutes since it’s situated on the farther end. This comes in handy if you want to drink your way around the countries, stay late at the International Food and Wine Festival, or want to make a quick getaway after Illuminations. Both hotels also line Crescent lake, the waterway that connects Epcot to the resorts and to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can definitely walk to Hollywood Studios from the Beach and Yacht Club, but it will probably take you 20-30 minutes. If that seems like too much, hop on one of the Friendship boats. Yacht and Beach club share a dock where a boat will pick you up and take you to your final destination. FYI, the boat makes a few stops and can take a while. The order of the stops is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Swan/Dolphin, Yacht/Beach, Boardwalk, Epcot, then reverse order. So remember, even though it seems close, I wouldn’t try to cut it too close with Fastpasses or dining reservations.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Pool
Let’s hop back to the pool situation. Stormalong Bay is a huge, sand bottom pool complete with lazy river, waterfalls, coves, bridges, kids sections, hot tubs, and water slide. This pool was becoming so popular, everyone wanted to go. Now it is for hotel guests only, and cast members will check you magic bands to make sure you are a resort guest. Also FYI, one of the only complaints I’ve heard about this pool is that the entrance to the water slide is actually outside the pool area, close to Crescent Lake. If you are alone at the pool with a young child, it might be difficult to constantly keep an eye on them. However not to worry, there are always tons of lifeguards everywhere.

Refill your mug by the pool

Refill your mug by the pool

Dining
Staying in the Epcot Resort areas opens up your dining options because you are in short distance of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach club, and the Swan/Dolphin. The Yacht club does not have any quick service dining options so you will have to go elsewhere if that is what you are looking for. And that brings me to a money saving recommendation if you are debating buying the Rapid Refillable Mugs. I would not buy them if I was staying at the Yacht club because there is no where to refill them. All the refill stations are located at the Beach Club (which has 3). Now they will work at any hotel so if you were staying by the pool all day you could refill them at the poolside grill Hurricane Hanna’s, but if that’s not the case, it’s not convenient for you at all. On the flip side, if you are staying at the Beach Club, I would highly recommend buying the mugs. You can even use them at the Beaches and Cream restaurant. Don’t forget they will also work at the participating Boardwalk refill stations if you are over there.

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Boardwalk Inn
The Boardwalk Inn captures the feel of a coastal 1920’s seashore boardwalk. Again you have the convenience of walking or boating to Epcot through the international gateway as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is a slightly closer walk to the studios from the Boardwalk since it’s across the lake from Yacht/Beach. The Boardwalk is a perfect place for families that enjoy more of a nightlife or bustling feel. All of the restaurant’s for this hotel are actually on the boardwalk, so you must go outside to access them. You will have a variety of dining options, from quick service, to casual, to ice cream, to more high end.

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

There is something for everyone. There are also two clubs on the boardwalk, Atlantic Dance Hall and Jellyrolls for some evening entertainment and dancing. You can also rent surrey bikes on the boardwalk and make the Crescent Lake loop. FYI, if you have a fear of clowns, this is not the resort for you. The pool is home to a giant (creepy) waterslide clown.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a room facing the lake because there are also very pretty gardens on the other side of the hotel for you to stroll though. This hotel is the smallest of the deluxe resorts in terms of available rooms so it can fill up fast, especially during the International Food and Wine festival. All the Epcot resorts tend to fill up during this time. Also, during certain times of the year, the Boardwalk might share a bus with the Swan/Dolphin and they usually drop at the Boardwalk last. If you are willing and able, I’d hop off and walk back to the Boardwalk. It’s such a pretty view walking around the lake anyways. If there are any runners reading, the Crescent Lake loop is approximately 1 mile, or the path along the water to Hollywood Studios would make a great out and back.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge
Situated close to its Animal Kingdom counterpart, the Animal Kingdom lodge brings the feeling of an African wildlife preserve right to central Florida. Definitely the highlight of this hotel is the savanna views of the animals. There are 3 separate savannas, Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima, and each one offers a different view and some difference in animals. Your room will come with a viewing guide, and there are many cast members that can answer questions about the animals. There are also special sunrise and sunset safari tours you can reserve. This is definitely not cheap, however you will have 3 hours of pretty much a private safari tour. This is another resort that has bunk beds available which could work well for certain parties. FYI, not all rooms face the savanna. This is something you must request when selecting a room category. This hotel has plenty of dining options for the more adventurous and the mundane.

View of the pool.

View of the pool.

The hotel offers one of the largest pools on Disney property but note to adults, there is no quiet pool at the Animal Kingdom lodge. This hotel also has the most rooms out of all the deluxe resorts. I have yet to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge simply because of it’s location. All of the other deluxe resorts allow you to walk, boat, or monorail to a nearby park or two. Animal Kingdom Lodge just seems so out of the way to me that I haven’t been able to commit to transportation only by bus for the price of deluxe. But that is just me, and if animals are your thing and you love the Animal Kingdom, this place should be a perfect fit.

The Epcot resort area is becoming one of my favorite places to stay for the convenience and proximity to two parks. Even getting to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom does not take that long. A few more FYI’s about all deluxe resorts, all hotels will have different room options, suites, and club level. One of the more annoying things considering the price you pay, not all rooms are guaranteed walk out balconies. You will definitely have a sliding glass door that opens, but there might not be an actual patio with chairs, just a railing. This is something you can request and hope for the best. As always, contact me if you have more questions or want recommendations for your next stay. That concludes the deluxe resorts but there are still plenty more accommodation options on property. Stay tuned for Disney Vacation Club villas.