Hotel Refurbishments & Construction at Disney World (2019-2021)

Hotel refurbishments, resort construction, and room renovations are ongoing at Walt Disney World in 2019, 2020, and even 2021! This updated resource will help you determine where to avoid, which are safe to book, room requests to make, and what to expect in terms of hotel construction at Walt Disney World. (Last updated August 9, 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.

In this post, we’re taking a look at what has happened, what’s going to happen, and how you should take that into account when booking a 2020 Walt Disney World vacation. There’s also the matter of what is not yet opened–the announced Star Wars Hotel is under construction, as is Disney’s Riviera Resort, and the Gran Destino tower at Coronado Springs.

Land has already been cleared and soon construction will begin on Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, which is the Disney Vacation Club resort that has been announced for the site adjacent to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and will encompass the now ‘extinct’ River Country water park. An expansion is being made adjacent to the Swan & Dolphin resorts. There are also rumors of one or two hotels potentially being announced for Epcot.

Let’s go 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.

Once renovations at All Star Movies are finished, All Star Music will be next, followed by All Star Sports. Currently, work is entirely finished on buildings 6-10 at All Star Movies and buildings 3 & 4 are underway. Buildings 1 & 2 have not yet started. This means that you can potentially get a refurbished room if you make a request for the Toy Story or Fantasia rooms. With around half of the resort finished, your request has a pretty good shot of being fulfilled.

Due to the unplanned delays, we have no reliable estimate of when all of the work at the All Star Resorts will conclude. At this point, we would anticipate construction pausing every time occupancy is high, 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 – Room refurbishments are occurring throughout 2019, expected to be finished in Fall 2019. The above photo demonstrates how the work is being done, with staging bases 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.

The point here is that it’s a your mileage may vary scenario, and feedback about Animal Kingdom Lodge (via the reader comments below) is all over the place. Some people weren’t impacted at all, others had horrible experiences. We’d love to hear about YOUR experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge in the comments, if you’ve stayed there this year.

Note that 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. We just finished up a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House in August 2019, and will have our own full report very soon!

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, construction of the Disney Skyliner gondola station remains ongoing, and will be finished by Fall 2019. During this time, mild construction noise may be heard in some guest rooms between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Realistically, the Disney Skyliner construction will have minimal impact on guests at Art of Animation and Pop Century.

The station is being built in the middle of the lake (alongside Generation Gap Bridge) between the two resorts; noise and visual intrusions should be fairly minimal. We’d stay at Art of Animation without hesitation. Read more & see photos of the progress in our most recent Disney Skyliner Gondola Construction Update.

Caribbean Beach – 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 project is finished, which was the major substantive issue for guests staying at Caribbean Beach.

As we reported in our latest Re-Imagined Caribbean Beach Resort Reviewwe 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 Skyliner and 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.

Pop Century We stayed in a new room at Pop Century (see our photo & video), and you should definitely look at that post before booking Pop Century, because now everyone who stays here will have a new room. The overall room renovation project is totally finished!

There’s also the Disney Skyliner construction between Pop Century and Art of Animation, which won’t be done until around Fall 2019. Nevertheless, we’d absolutely recommend staying at Pop Century. Prices do not (yet) reflect the upgraded rooms, and Skyliner construction is fairly un-intrusive. If you request a room in the 80s or 90s sections, you shouldn’t even notice the construction.

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.

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.

Recently Completed Refurbishments

Gran Destino & Coronado Springs – This multi-year project finally wrapped up in July with the debut of Three Bridges Bar & Grill as well as the 15-story Gran Destino Tower. (See our new Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort Review.)

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.

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.

We stayed in these last year and wrote about the experience in our Refurbished Rooms at Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter post. You can find before and after photos there.

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.

Wilderness Lodge – All of the work for the major Disney Vacation Club expansion is now finished. We stayed at the Cascade Cabins in the fall, and were generally pleased with the additions, although we noted that this definitely changes some of the character of the resort–at least in the short term.

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.

In terms of major projects that might cause you to rethink staying at a certain Walt Disney World hotel, we think that’s everything currently scheduled. Aside from Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs, we don’t view any of these projects as intrusive enough to merit looking elsewhere. If you have your heart set on a particular resort on this list, stay there.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

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!

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