Disney’s Beach Club Resort is a Deluxe Resort hotel at Walt Disney World themed to the seaside resort cottages found in New England in the early 20th century. The hotel is regularly lumped together with its sister resort, the adjacent Yacht Club Resort (sometimes even referred to as “Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort”), but is distinguishable in that it has a light blue color scheme as opposed to the gray of Yacht Club, and is generally more laid back in theme. If you want to get technical, this review actually is more specific to the Beach Club Villas units in Disney Vacation Club, as that’s where we stayed in Disney’s Beach Club Resort (although we’ve visited regular hotel rooms at Beach Club, too). With the exception of similar, but different rooms, the rest of this review applies equally to both the villas and the regular hotel. If you’ve read our Disney Vacation Club rankings, you know that Beach Club ranks highly for us.
We feel that Disney’s Beach Club Resort is the most well-rounded resort-hotel at Walt Disney World, with a great location, wonderful dining, great theming, and top-notch amenities. The rooms are average for a Deluxe Resort, so this might be its one stumbling block, especially for those who spend a lot of time in the rooms, but otherwise, Beach Club fires on all cylinders to rank as one of our top Walt Disney World resort-hotels (it’s my #1).
On the exterior, the Beach Club looks great. It was designed by Robert Stern, who also designed the Newport Bay Club in Disneyland Paris, which is strikingly similar to Beach Club. Apparently, Disney was quite satisfied with Stern’s take on seaside cottages (that, or Michael Eisner was obsessed with his childhood summers in New England and directed the company to build a number of hotels in the late 1980s in this general style). In any case, the airy Victorian look of the trim against the blue siding of the resort along with the touches of theming give the hotel an element of whimsy.
Both inside and outside, this contrasts nicely with the more stately design of the Yacht Club. While the two hotels are more or less the same, we’ve noticed that the Yacht Club is a tad stuffier (not to the point that it’s actually “stuffy,” it’s just closer to that point than the laid back Beach Club). Inside the Beach Club, the beach motif continues, with paintings of New England and fixtures that evoke the beach feeling. The color scheme is generally cool, consisting primarily of light or pastel greens and blues.
The rooms also continue this theme, but here’s where we think the Beach Club stumbles a bit. The Beach Club is attempting to execute an early 20th century theme, so in theory the rooms should always have a timeless feel of that era, but they don’t. To us, the rooms feel dated. It’s as if they’re a mid-1990s take on the early 20th century.
We’ve only stayed in the Beach Club Villas and the rooms do differ there from the regular hotel rooms, but we’ve seen both, and this criticism applies more to the Villas than the rooms in the main hotel thanks to updated bedding and some more understated design choices in the main hotel rooms. The regular rooms still aren’t great, but they’re better. These Villas rooms are by no means terrible or even bad, they just are unimpressive and seem due for a refresh.
In fairness, this is a criticism we have for many of the rooms at Walt Disney World, and it’s very difficult to balance a themed environment with a modern feel and amenities in the rooms themselves. From what we’ve seen of New England, the Beach Club rooms nail the theme–it would just be nice if they could do so in a way that showcases an idealized/modernized take on New England seaside communities. We actually prefer the rooms in Disney’s Yacht Club Resort to the Beach Club rooms.
Still, the criticism of these rooms is essentially the only downside as there isn’t much else negative to say about Disney’s Beach Club Resort. There are several excellent restaurants on-site in every category except standard counter service with Beaches & Cream, Cape May Cafe, and Yachtsman Steakhouse (technically at the Yacht Club), putting it right up there with the best of the Deluxes in terms of quality restaurants. The resorts also have two excellent lounges, with Yacht Club’s lounge being our favorite of the two. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn doesn’t share amenities with the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, but it’s so close that the restaurants there might as well count as Beach Club restaurants, too, as it’s a 10 minute walk over to the Boardwalk. Same goes for the Swan & Dolphin, and arguably even for the World Showcase restaurants. If dining is going to be a highlight of a trip, staying at one of the Crescent Lake resorts is the best option as there are numerous excellent dining options all within walking distance.
This distance to Epcot is another major benefit to staying at the Beach Club, as it’s only a 10 minute walk to the International Gateway from the grounds of the Beach Club. Likewise, walking to Disney’s Hollywood Studios only takes around 15 minutes. Boat service is also available to both, and generally takes just about the same amount of time, although it can take a little less time if you’re lucky, or a lot more time if there are long lines for the boats. If you don’t mind walking, that’s by far your best option. For us, the ability to walk to both of these parks is huge. Disney bus transportation is unpredictable and often inefficient, so being able to avoid buses for two parks is a huge benefit.
The flipside is that bus transportation to Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom from Beach Club is downright awful. There is always at least some sort of shared bus service operating, but exactly how many buses share the service depends upon the season. One visit during a slow February weekend while staying at the Boardwalk, all of the Crescent Lake resorts shared a single bus to the Magic Kingdom. That’s 5 stops (Swan & Dolphin and Yacht & Beach Club each have separate stops, plus Boardwalk), which is beyond ridiculous. Other times, just Yacht and Beach Club share a bus. If you do take a bus when all five resorts are on the same loop, regardless of which hotel you’re staying at, get off at the first stop and walk. Even if you walk incredibly slowly, it’s far faster than waiting for all the stops. We have had better bus service when staying at Pop Century for less than $100/night, and it’s disappointing that the Epcot-area Deluxe Resorts don’t offer better service in this regard than a Value Resort.
Instead of taking a bus from Beach Club to the Magic Kingdom, we pretty much always start our day in Epcot, and then take a monorail to the Magic Kingdom. This workaround shouldn’t even be necessary, but it has proven acceptable to us. If you regularly do the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning, this solution probably won’t be workable for you. If you’re visiting for Food & Wine Festival or normally spend a lot of time in Epcot and the Studios, this probably won’t be as big of a deal. We usually do Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom later in the day, so it’s not as big of a deal for us–but it’s still frustrating.
Of course, the main draw at Disney’s Beach Club Resort is Storm-Along Bay. I had salivated over this pool for some time before we finally stayed at the Beach Club, to the point that my expectations were probably impossibly high. For those unfamiliar with it, Storm-Along Bay is a sprawling pool complex 3 acres in size with sand at the bottom (for a while, I mistakenly thought “SAB,” the acronym used for Storm-Along Bay, stood for “Sand At Bottom”). Not only does it have sand at the bottom, but it also has a lazy river, an amazing water slide, great places for relaxing, and an excellent poolside bar.
Although it might seem like just a big pool with a dirty floor, in reality, it’s about the coolest thing ever. In fact, it’s so stellar that it cannot be adequately described without making up a new word. Storm-Along Bay is awesometubtacularnesszing! Some people may tell you that some other pool at Walt Disney World is actually better, but unless that pool is called “Typhoon Lagoon” or “Blizzard Beach,” they are flat out wrong. Storm-Along Bay completely lives up to its hype, and is far and away the best hotel pool at Walt Disney World. It’s not even close.
There are other amenities, including a health club, business center, babysitting, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities, but none of these measure up to Storm-Along Bay. Everything else about Disney’s Beach Club Resort is nice, but Storm-Along Bay is the ultimate trump card that makes the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts stand out from the other Deluxe Resorts.
Overall, Beach Club scores highly for us because its theming perfectly conveys the relaxed feel of a seaside resort community, and this theming compliments a Walt Disney World vacation nicely. The one exception is in guest rooms, where it seems that the theme wears a little thin, even looking dated. Like all of the Epcot-area resorts, Beach Club scores highly for its dining options and its convenience to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This location makes it the perfect place to stay during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, Flower & Garden Festival, and Star Wars Weekends. Commuting to the Magic Kingdom is another downside, and guests who will be spending a lot of time at Magic Kingdom and don’t care much about a resort’s pool might want to think twice about Beach Club. Those who enjoy poolside relaxation, nice dining, and Epcot will likely agree with us that Disney’s Beach Club Resort is one of the top hotels at Walt Disney World resort!
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Do you agree with us that Beach Club is one of the best Walt Disney World hotels? Do you think Storm-Along Bay lives up to the hype? Share your thoughts in the comments!