Hotel refurbishments, resort construction, and room renovations are ongoing at Walt Disney World in 2019, 2020, and 2021! This updated resource will help you determine what to avoid, where to book, room requests, and what to expect in terms of hotel construction at Walt Disney World. (Updated November 14, 2019.)
While refurbishments are a normal part of the hotel business and the sheer number of resorts at Walt Disney World pretty much guarantees there will always be a project somewhere, the prevalence, scope, and scale of refurbishments right now is unprecedented. With that in mind, the goal is to do everything possible to increase capacity and undertake a bunch of projects not intended for today’s guests, but for guests visiting in 2021 and beyond for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
We do a Walt Disney World hotel stays every month, usually emphasizing resorts where there are new things, changes, or ongoing construction to see how that harms, improves, or otherwise impacts the guest experience. In addition to updating this resource, we share our latest experiences via our emails. If you’ve yet to book a hotel for your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation and want to be notified about all of the latest resort changes, sign up here for our FREE Disney newsletter here.
When booking a 2020 Walt Disney World vacation, we highly recommend taking into account recently-completed and ongoing construction projects at the various resorts, as these absolutely can impact the quality of your trip. Booking a hotel with a closed pool or construction noise and cranes right outside your window is obviously going to be a worse experience than a resort that just finished its big refurbishment and still has that fresh feeling and ‘new hotel’ smell.
Let’s start by going around the various resorts that have wrapped up projects recently, currently have major ongoing projects. Also, we want to place an emphasis on major, or work that has the potential to be felt by resort guests. Room renovations and changes around the grounds that won’t impact guests whatsoever don’t make the list simply because they’re likely to go unnoticed by 95% of hotel guests.
Suffice to say, a lot is happening on the hotel front at Walt Disney World. Let’s take a look at all of the current and upcoming major hotel projects that have the potential to impact guests…
Ongoing or Upcoming Hotel Refurbishments
All Star Resorts – Currently, All Star Resorts are receiving room redesigns akin to Pop Century. We stayed in one of these new rooms this spring, which you can read about in our Photos & Video: Newly Reimagined Rooms at the All Star Resorts post. This is a huge upgrade from the previous design, which was more minor leagues than all-star caliber. Suffice to say, we’re fans.
The order is this multi-year, multi-resort project is All Star Movies, then All Star Music, followed by All Star Sports (with minimal overlap). Currently, work is entirely finished at All Star Movies on buildings 1-4 and 6-10 at All Star Movies, which means you are almost certain to get a refurbished room. All Star Movies should wrap up entirely by January 2020. Work has started in the Calypso section of All Star Music, but no rooms are finished there yet.
Due to the unplanned delays, we have no reliable estimate of when all of the work at All Star Sports & Music will begin and conclude. We would anticipate construction pausing every time occupancy is high (such as during the holiday season), and it seems likely that work will continue into 2021. The room design is nearly identical to what Pop Century has received, with minor thematic flourishes differing, such as artwork. Work should be minimally intrusive to guests.
Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) – Room refurbishments are occurring throughout 2019, expected to be finished before Christmas. We recently stayed in a finished room and shared that experience in Awesome Animal Kingdom Lodge New Rooms. That title pretty much says it all, but we think this is Walt Disney World’s first home run room redesign.
Note that staging areas for this project occur in areas of the savanna. Impact on the guest experience is highly variable–some readers have reported zero issues while, others have shared horror stories. Point being, it’s a your mileage may vary scenario; recent feedback as the project is winding down and unlikely to be noticeable to most guests.
Once this work is finished in the regular hotel rooms at Jambo House, the Value Studio villas will be renovated from December 2019 through Spring 2020.
Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani Village) – Refurbishments of the common areas are also underway over at Kidani Village. This is apparent upon entering the lobby, which has the breathtaking savanna view out its floor to ceiling obstructed by large scaffolding that has been erected outside the entire outside window. Elsewhere outside, scrims cover much of the Kidani Village facades, as repainting, roof work, and thematic details are retouched.
Construction equipment sits in the grass between green construction walls and the savanna, and this area is being treated as a staging area. However, most of the work (at least at present) is confined to this area between the Kidani Village exterior and the savanna. If you walk outside a bit further, you pass this staging area and have unobstructed access to the fire pits and public savanna viewpoints at Kidani Village. It’s our understanding that this is routine maintenance that shouldn’t impact guest rooms, but the duration of the work is unclear.
Art of Animation – As you can read in our dedicated 2019-2020 Projects at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, there are a few things of which you should be aware if you’re considering a stay at this hotel in the next two years. The lobby overhaul and Big Blue Pool closure are the main ones that have the potential to impact the guest experience.
Additionally, rooms are quietly being refreshed in the Art of Animation Suites, with the carpeting being replaced with laminate flooring and other slight changes to furniture and furnishings. We attempted to get a new room during a recent stay to no avail. Above is a current look at the “old” Lion King rooms as of Fall 2019.
Caribbean Beach & Riviera Resort – Thanks to a trio of projects: Skyliner construction, Old Port Royale overhaul, and Disney Vacation Club expansion, Caribbean Beach was the major construction project last year. Thankfully, the Old Port Royale/Centertown reimagining is finished and the Skyliner is now operational. These are two huge improvements to the guest experience at Caribbean Beach.
We are huge fans of the finished product at Caribbean Beach Resort. The new lobby is chic but well-themed, and Sebastian’s Bistro and Banana Cabana are excellent dining options. Separately, work continues on the adjacent Riviera Resort, which does contribute to noise pollution and visual blight. Read more & see photos of the progress in our most recent Disney’s Riviera Resort Construction Update.
Fort Wilderness Campground – For the next 3 years, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground will be impacted by construction of Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, which is the next Disney Vacation Club property that’s slated to open in 2022. This new resort is being built on the former River Country water park site, and the construction area will cut away part of Fort Wilderness, as well.
At present, work on Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge is largely in the land clearing stage, with portions of the beach at Fort Wilderness and other common areas already closed. In fact, the Settlement (the waterfront area of Fort Wilderness where dining, boat docks, and many amenities are located) is currently a maze of construction walls. This is only likely to get worse as construction on Reflections goes vertical.
Port Orleans Riverside – After pausing refurbishment work from last Christmas through this Easter, Port Orleans Riverside has resumed its soft goods refurbishment project to the Alligator Bayou rooms. This includes the addition of Princess and the Frog thematic elements and other functional design changes.
Very few of these rooms are completed, and the only way to guarantee being in Alligator Bayou (period) is booking a room for 5 people. We stayed in these and wrote about the experience in our New Rooms at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside post.
Saratoga Springs – During last year’s Disney Vacation Club Condominium Association Meeting, DVC leaders released photos of the newly reimagined room concept for Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, which will feature a new style sofa bed similar to what’s being used at Disney’s Riviera Resort. The first of these rooms have already reopened (albeit in very limited supply), with more coming online over the course of the next two years.
As we reported in our new Photos & Report: 2-Year Overhaul to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, this project is now underway and will last through 2021. This is Saratoga Springs Resort’s first-ever hard good refurbishment, and will result in numerous changes throughout all categories of rooms, as well as the exteriors of the buildings. We’d expect more changes elsewhere at the resort, as well.
Beyond that, Coronado Springs saw a number of improvements and upgrades around the rest of the resort. The pool saw a refresh, regular rooms were remodeled, and a new over-the-water bar debuted. While Coronado Springs isn’t our favorite resort from a thematic perspective, these enhancements definitely improve the guest experience there.
Old Key West – A hard goods top-to-bottom refurbishment just wrapped up at the start of summer. This was the resort’s biggest aesthetic overhaul to its rooms since it debuted. Among Old Key West die hard fans, the results have been controversial.
Many have derided the overly modern, generic style. Others prefer the fresh new look to the old “grandma’s beach house stuck in the early 1990s” vibe of the previous design. You can judge for yourself by taking a look at our New Rooms at Disney’s Old Key West Resort Photo Tour.
Additionally, the Disney Skyliner station at Pop Century, which is shared with Art of Animation, is now completed. This gondola offers efficient and (critically) non-bus transportation to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Port Orleans French Quarter – Similar soft goods refurbishment project to the Port Orleans Riverside project discussed above. This made minor thematic and functional changes to the rooms, and concluded last year.
Yacht & Beach Club – Both of these resorts have finished their top-to-bottom hard goods refurbishments of guest rooms, and Yacht Club has similarly now opened all of its guest-facing public amenities with the debut of Ale and Compass Restaurant & Lounge.
As we previously shared, we’re fans of the newly-refurbished rooms at Yacht Club. The response from other Disney fans has been decidedly more mixed (and we are more mixed on the new rooms at Beach Club). In other words, your mileage may vary on the rooms, but don’t let the Convention Center construction discourage you from staying at either–it’s a nonissue.
One thing to contemplate if you’re a semi-frequent visitor to Walt Disney World is postponing a stay at Wilderness Lodge for a couple of years. Replanted vegetation around the Cascade Cabins and along the shore is still very young, and needs a few years to grow in. If Wilderness Lodge’s secluded vibe and scenery is really important to you, we’d recommend waiting to book a stay here.
Where at Walt Disney World are you staying in 2020 or 2021? Any resorts you’re intentionally avoiding? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!