This post reviews Kilimanjaro Club, the concierge level at Animal Kingdom Lodge in Walt Disney World. We detail our experience here, with photos and thoughts on the lounge food and other amenities offered in Jambo House. If any hotel at Walt Disney World is begging for the Club Level experience, it might be Animal Kingdom Lodge.
We’ve previously commented that this is the resort we’d pick if we were going to do a no-parks long weekend, and that remains the case. From watching the animals on the savanna to exploring the art galleries to enjoying the serenity of the design, there’s simply more to do at Animal Kingdom Lodge than any other resort at Walt Disney World. Since a huge part of the value in Club Level comes in being present at the resort, Kilimanjaro Club really benefits from the substance and allure of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
While our recent experiences are admittedly a limited sample size, we believe Club Level at Walt Disney World is improving. Hotel staff is more consistent about reaching out to guests before their stays, and providing guidance with Advance Dining Reservations. Lounge food is on the upswing, and is often created by chefs from Signature Restaurants at the resorts.
If you look at Walt Disney World’s direction as a whole, this makes sense. Disney has increasingly been targeting affluent demographics, and not just ones who are typical Disney fans. In the past, Club Level was often popular with WDW regulars looking for a splurge and exclusivity, but perhaps lacking real world reference points to judge the Club Level’s quality. Now, as with many of the niche luxury offerings at Walt Disney World, it has more appeal to well-heeled one time visitors wanting exclusivity and all things “the best.”
As much as we might grouse about this approach in other regards, when it comes to Club Level, everyone wins (well, except those who don’t book it). Affluent guests who are not Disney fans likely have a wealth of concierge level experiences, and expect a certain caliber of service and cuisine quality. Catering to this type of guests of late has caused Walt Disney World to elevate (and expand upon) its premium offerings.
This was true with our experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge, as we were contacted prior to our stay with an inquiry about assistance. We didn’t take the concierge up on this offer as our main priority was pigging out in the lounge and sit on our balcony watching giraffes stick out their mesmerizingly long tongues. Nonetheless, it’s a nice offer and something that is definitely useful for first-timers who book Walt Disney World and don’t realize just how much planning is required.
Upon arrival at Animal Kingdom Lodge, we were greeted by an Cast Member in the lobby who directed us upstairs to the concierge lobby for check-in. (We experienced this same type of greeting at Wilderness Lodge in December when we were not staying Club Level.) While this is a nice service touch, it also is a bit creepy in underscoring the degree to which Disney tracks your every movement.
At the concierge desk, the host once again inquired as to whether we needed assistance with dining, or any other form of planning assistance. We also received a ‘treasure bag’ and customized print-out of park hours, weather info, and more. Little touches, but ones that make you feel valued as a guest.
I still think Club Level concierges should have access to a reserved pool of ADRs as a booking courtesy. First-timers are often oblivious to Walt Disney World’s rigid planning requirements. Many of them are willing to spend extra to book Club Level on the (mistaken) assumption that concierge assistance will help them side-step the planning process. That isn’t the case, but probably should be.
The issue of price is not as pronounced at Kilimanjaro Club for a couple of reasons. While the surcharge over the resort’s lowest room rates can eclipse $250, it should be noted that regular Club Level rooms here all have Savanna views. When making that apples to apples comparison, the price difference is closer to $100.
More importantly, at least to us and anyone who follows the advice in our Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points post, Kilimanjaro Club is bookable with DVC points. It’s the only Club Level at Walt Disney World offering this, and going this route makes it the cheapest (by far) Club Level option.
We’ve focused a lot on generalized pros and cons of Club Level at Walt Disney World, but the main question for most people is going to be, “how’s the food in the lounge?”
At Kilimanjaro Club, it’s very good. Granted, this was our first stay here, so we cannot offer the proclamation that it has improved, as we did recently with Club Level at the Polynesian. To the contrary, we’ve been hearing for years that Kilimanjaro Club is among the best concierge offerings at Walt Disney World in terms of food.
There are 5 different dining offerings throughout the day, which is standard for Club Level, even if these ones have more exotic names.
The day begins with Macheo (“sunrise” or coffee hour from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.), followed by Miamko (breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.), Vitafunio (snacks from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), Chai (tea and drinks from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.), Kisikusiku (dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), and ends with Rehema (desserts from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.).
Breakfast is mostly fruits and other light (mostly cold) options. This is one continuing area of disappointment regarding Walt Disney World Club Level lounges.
This is the meal most guests will be able to take advantage of the lounge, and it’s perpetually the weakest–not even remotely on par with commensurately-priced real world concierge lounges.
On the other hand, lunch was a delightful surprise. The afternoon offering includes a variety of house-made hummus and spread, salads and soups, and other substantive offerings in addition to the normal fruits and vegetables.
This easily provided a full meal for each of us, and was a great way to fuel up for an intense afternoon of sitting on our balcony watching animals (unfortunately, none were giraffes, but they’re all good animals, Brent). I sure hope the delicious Berebere Goat Cheese is healthy, as I might have eaten an obscene amount of that.
The dinner service at Kilimanjaro Club lives up to the hype. While Disney won’t call it dinner because they don’t want guests to turn it into a full meal (especially with Boma, Jiko, and Sanaa in the hotel all seldom fully-booked), it unquestionably can serve that role.
There’s a decent amount of overlap with lunch in terms of hummus, dips, breads, soups, and other cold items. At dinner, there’s also a formidable charcuterie tray, and–most importantly–a chef’s station with freshly prepared hot items that changes on a nightly basis.
These items were on par with appetizers you’d order at Jiko, albeit in much smaller sizes. We were both very pleased with the assortment, although slightly disappointed that only two things were offered each evening.
During our recent stay at the Polynesian, there tended to be 4 small plated items per dinner.
Dessert was a mixed bag. The selection was limited, which alone wouldn’t have been a problem, but half the items also tasted stale and/or uninspired. This was a recurrent issue rather than an anomaly, so I’m not really sure what the deal was? Perhaps Kilimanjaro Club is stocking (multi) day-old items from Boma?
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kilimanjaro Club, which was a no-brainer with Disney Vacation Club points. If paying out of pocket, it’s potentially not that much of a surcharge over the Savanna View class (which we highly recommend) to justify the added cost. If you for some reason don’t want a Savanna View, it would be impossible to justify from a pure cost-benefit perspective. As with this sort of thing, there’s also a certain ‘your mileage may vary’ element. Having an exclusive lounge, concierge service, unlimited alcohol, and no-hassle food available throughout the day all have varying degrees of appeal, depending upon ones perspective.
Do you agree or disagree with our take on Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge? Have you noticed an improvement in Club Level at Walt Disney World? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!