Inside Mickey’s Penthouse Suite (+GIVEAWAY)

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Mickey’s Penthouse Suite is a Mickey Mouse themed room in Tokyo Disney Resort’s Ambassador Hotel. With a nightly rate of ¥300,000, it is one of the most expensive Disney hotel rooms in the world. This coupled with its Mickey Mouse meets pop-culture stylization, makes it one of the most interesting Disney hotel rooms in the world, too. I had the chance to tour this cool hotel room (no, unfortunately I didn’t spend the night!), and thought I’d give you a peak inside. At the end of this post, we’ll continue our series of Downtown Disney hotel-stay giveaways (sorry, it’s not in this suite!), so scroll all the way down for that.

Before we get to the suite itself, a little background about Disney Ambassador Hotel is in order. It was the first Disney-branded hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort, opening in 1996. While Tokyo Disneyland Hotel overlooks Tokyo Disneyland and Hotel MiraCosta is literally inside of Tokyo DisneySea, the Ambassador is located adjacent to Ikspiari, Tokyo’s version of Downtown Disney. Because overlooking a shopping complex isn’t quite as cool as overlooking a theme park, the Ambassador is the least popular of the Tokyo Disney Resort hotels, but it is no slouch.

Like approximately 50% (give or take) of Disney’s hotels, the Ambassador was designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern. He describes the hotel as having an art moderne that “looks back to an architecture that represented the promise, magic, and glamour of a time when travel and movies were a romantic escape.” This style is clear from the cool overall design of the hotel, although its presence in the design of Mickey’s Penthouse Suite is minimal.

With that said about Disney Ambassador Hotel, let’s head up to Mickey’s Penthouse Suite itself… (more…)

Disney World Hotel Reviews

Thinking about staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, but not sure which is right for you? In our Disney hotel reviews, we share the strengths and weaknesses of each hotel, give our opinion as to whether they are worth the money, and offer an idea of what type of guests (families, honeymooners, commando tourists, etc.) will like or dislike each hotel.

Each full Walt Disney World hotel review contains photos from the hotels, including room photos and photos of main areas of the hotel, to give you an idea of whether the decor of the rooms and the theme of the hotel will appeal to you. In addition to this, the reviews offer Walt Disney World resort hotel tips, information about amenities, and dining recommendations at the hotels.

We have stayed at every on-site hotel at Walt Disney World, so unlike many hotel review sites that crowdsource or aggregate information from other sources leading to inconsistent ratings or uninformed “opinions”, our reviews are all first-hand accounts of our personal stays at each of the hotels at Walt Disney World. You may totally disagree with our opinions, but at least you’re getting the actual opinions of the same two people who have stayed at each of the hotels.

We are missing full reviews for a couple of Walt Disney World hotels because we either forgot to take room photos of the hotel or last stayed at the hotel before we started taking room photos (hey, how many of you take hotel room photos?!). Additionally, Disney has been aggressively refreshing its hotel rooms in the last year or so, and we haven’t yet had a chance to stay in every new room and update the photos. Our goal is to have this completed by early 2015.

Off-site and third party hotels at Walt Disney World like the Swan & Dolphin, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels, and other similar hotels are next on our list of places to start staying at and reviewing, so check back regularly and stay tuned for those reviews.

Below we have blurbs with quick-hit pros and cons of each Walt Disney World hotel if you just want basic information. If you want to know more about each hotel and see Walt Disney World hotel photos, click the name of the hotel to go to its full review! (more…)

Disney’s All Star Music Resort Review

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Disney’s All Star Music Resort is a value hotel in Walt Disney World that is one of three All Star hotels, along with Sports and Movies. Music generally seems to us like the least popular of these (based upon our highly unscientific observations), and is also quieter as it generally sees fewer groups (this doesn’t mean it sees no groups). The All Star Resorts are typically the cheapest way to stay on-property at Walt Disney World, which many guests like because it allows them to take advantage of on-property perks. As you will read in this review, this comes with some trade-offs, but we are generally in favor of All Star Music, so long as you have reasonable expectations for it and are comfortable with what you’re getting–or aren’t getting.

Whether the All Star Resorts are right for you comes down to your goal and expectations. If you’re taking a commando-style, “the room is only for sleeping” trip during which you want to be in the parks as much as possible, the All Star Resorts are great because they’re (usually) less than $100 night. Essentially, the Value Resorts are all standard rooms that cater to parties looking to experience Walt Disney World on a tight budget while still enjoying the full on-site experience, including benefits like Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, and “free” Disney transportation. The All Star Resorts are each also good for those with kids who will be intrigued by the concept of the resort (music, movies, or sports) and will like the larger than life icons. As is the case with all Walt Disney World on-site hotels, All Star Music is fully integrated in the MyMagic+ system, which means that guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations. Learn more about this in our MyMagic+ FAQ.

By contrast, if you plan on spending a lot of time at your resort, and would like to be able to use a nice pool, eat at nicer restaurants, and enjoy other nice amenities, the Value Resorts may not be the best fit for your touring style. Likewise, if you want to save money and will not utilize those perks mentioned above (especially true if you’ll be renting a car), you will likely save more money in accommodations of similar quality off-site. This is true for all of the Value Resorts. For more on what might be right for you, check out our comprehensive On-Site v. Off-Site Hotels at Walt Disney World article.

If you’ve read our Disney’s All Star Movies Resort Review or Disney’s All Star Sports Resort Review, this review doesn’t really bring much new to the table, besides showing some minor differences. Like I mentioned in that review, the Value Resorts are incredibly divisive in the Disney fan community. Some people think they are tacky and cheap, offering worse accommodations than comparably-priced off-site hotels, while other people think they offer a cheap alternative to Moderate and Deluxe Resorts that allow Guests to take full advantage of on-property benefits (just read the comments from the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World that readers if you don’t believe me!). Although the Value Resorts are far from our favorite resorts, we come down on the side of liking the Value Resorts for what they are. We frequently stay at them on short trips when the parks are our main priority and we want the perks of being on-site. We also think they’re fairly fun in terms of their style, especially for kids.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at All Star Music… (more…)

Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a Deluxe Resort hotel at Walt Disney World, located within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom on the monorail loop. Ironically, it is the oldest hotel at Walt Disney World, but despite this fact, it does have a modern look and a general design-aesthetic that will likely appeal to affluent guests accustomed to luxurious real-world hotels, and not interested in the typical theming found at other Walt Disney World hotels.

This makes the Contemporary a fairly divisive hotel: guests visiting Walt Disney World in part to escape the real world and be transported to another time and place often are underwhelmed by the Contemporary, whereas guests interested in no-nonsense luxury who want a respite from the themed environments once they leave the parks but want Disney perks and a great location are likely to love the Contemporary.

If you’re unfamiliar with Walt Disney World hotels, most people—even first timers—will probably readily be able to identify the Contemporary as “the hotel with the monorail going through it.” That alone is going to be a big draw for many guests, and is what always drew me to it as a kid, but it’s important to know that many rooms at the Contemporary are not located in the central A-frame building through which the monorail passes. The cheaper rooms are in the Garden Wings (this is where we stayed), which are directly adjacent to the main A-frame building. (more…)

Aulani Resort & Spa Room Review: 1-Bedroom Villa

Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii has a wide variety of hotel room and Disney Vacation Club villas. During our recent visit to Aulani, we had the chance to stay with friends in a 1-bedroom villa. We fell in love with Aulani, and although we certainly will be back (probably just us in a studio next time), we thought we would share a review and some photos of the 1-bedroom villa in case anyone else is considering it.

In total, there were four adults in our party, and the 1-bedroom villa was perfectly suitable for us. I think it would work well for 2 couples sharing a single room (just agree in advance who gets the master bedroom!), and would be ideal for a family of 2 adults and 2-3 kids. While there are some layout issues that I think are less than ideal in the Aulani 1-bedroom villas (see below), I think overall they are an excellent room option if you’re looking for something more spacious than a standard studio room, or want the full kitchen and ability to do laundry in-room.

For us, the big appeal of the rooms at Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa is the well-rounded design. Disney has always been faced with the task of balancing theme and luxury in its more expensive hotel rooms, and often luxury takes a backseat to theme. The same cannot be said at Aulani, where Disney perfectly performs the balancing act. In our Aulani Trip Planning Guide, we theorized that this was out of necessity. Aulani doesn’t have the “crutch” of being an on-site hotel to a nearby Disney theme park, and it faces intense competition from real-world luxury hotel brands in Hawaii and generally more discerning travelers. Thus, Disney had to hit every high note in order for Aulani to be competitive among luxury resorts in Hawaii.

Since Aulani is a true resort, and not just a hotel masquerading as a resort, we aren’t going to attempt to lump the rooms themselves with the other amenities of the hotel. There are simply too many “other amenities” and the 1-bedroom villa has enough to cover in a single post, anyway. We’ll be back with additional posts to hit on some of the entertainment and amenity options at Aulani in a future post.

With that said, let’s take a look at the various areas of the Aulani 1-bedroom villa… (more…)

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Suites Review

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is a Walt Disney World Value Resort hotel consisting of family suites and standard rooms themed to popular Disney animated films. The majority of the hotel is the larger, family suites that can sleep up to 6 guests, with distinct areas themed to The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars. The standard rooms are themed to The Little Mermaid. This review is specific to the family suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. We will have a separate review for the standard rooms later.

In the sense that it mostly consists of family suites, Art of Animation is a bit of an anomaly as compared to the other Value Resorts. Granted, All Star Music has had family suites since before Art of Animation opened, but it doesn’t have many. Basically, the other Value Resorts are all standard rooms that cater to parties looking to experience Walt Disney World on a tight budget while still enjoying the full on-site experience, including benefits like Disney’s Magical Express and Extra Magic Hours. Art of Animation offers these same benefits, but the family suites push the envelope a bit with the Value Resort designation. We’ll cover this in detail later in the review, and offer comparisons to some other comparable hotels.

In terms of its theme and style, Art of Animation is pretty much exactly as described above. The main lobby has a strong animation motif, with details that suggest various stages of the animation process. Outside of the main lobby, the artistic process is mostly glossed over. There are some sketches of characters on the sides of the buildings, but other than that, each individual section is more about recreating environments from their respective films than about taking a peak behind the curtain at the underlying process. Design-wise, I think this was a good decision. Kids are the target audience here, and they probably care more about the animated film itself than taking a look behind the scenes. While the execution of some of these environments, particularly the Cars area, is well-done, it’s worth noting that these are still the “big box” Value Resorts you might be used to at Walt Disney World. Most of the ‘theming’ is window-dressing consisting of oversized characters and objects, and vivid colors on these large, big box hotel buildings.

Because of this, Art of Animation is one of those love it or hate it things. It seems like there is very little middle ground. I’d liken it to Crocs, those shoe-like things that were popular for a while a few years ago. The people who love Art of Animation love it because it just makes them happy. To them, it’s fun, whimsical, and reminds them of the magic of Disney animation. To the people who dislike Art of Animation, it’s tacky, loud, and abandons traditional means of nuanced Disney theming in favor of something that gets by on clunky looks and characters. Sort of the same idea with Crocs, and any of the above adjectives could be used to describe the footwear. For the record, I hate Crocs. (more…)