Is Club Level at Walt Disney World worth the money? Our guide answers that, and covers the best concierge lounges in hotels, VIP services & extra FastPass+, pros & cons, and reviews Club Level Lounges at the various resorts. (Updated January 12, 2020.)
Without question, the biggest benefit of Club Level at Walt Disney World is the concierge lounges. We used to have mixed thoughts on these, but have endeavored to stay at every Club Level resort as our recent experiences have been much more favorable. It seems Disney is stepping up its game to better compete with real world luxury hotels. Here are our Club Level Lounge reviews thus far–click each to see lounge & food photos, plus full commentary about each:
These Club Level Lounges each serve coffee, continental breakfast, light afternoon snacks, hors d’oeuvres at dinner time, and dessert & cordials late at night. In our opinion, the lounge is the main reason to book a Club Level resort stay at Walt Disney World, with the food quality and concierge lounge atmosphere being the most important factors to consider. We cover these things in meticulous detail in each of our reviews…
Because the lounges are the primary benefit of staying Club Level at Walt Disney World, we strongly recommend not purchasing the Disney Dining Plan when staying Club Level. Even the lowest tier of the Disney Dining Plan includes a ton of food, with both the standard and Deluxe Disney Dining Plan offering more food than the average guest will be able to eat.
Consequently, the Disney Dining Plan plus staying Club Level is serious overkill. It might seem like the pinnacle of all-inclusive luxuriousness, but really, you’re just wasting your money. Even if money is no issue, it’s pointless to do both. Choose one or the other and find a different way to plus your vacation with the money saved.
This also applies when it comes to the Free Dining promotion, which is currently being offered for travel dates in 2020. In many cases, we’ve found that hotels only have Free Dining availability if you upgrade room categories. That can mean having to book Club Level rather than a cheaper room category. You might be thinking, “if the Dining Plan is free, what’s the harm?” In reality, the old adage that there’s no such thing as a free lunch applies here–in both a literal and figurative sense.
If you take advantage of the Free Dining deal, you’re forgoing other discounts. Specifically, you’re passing up a room-only offer of a certain percentage off your room. Without exception, room-only discounts are objectively better deals for those booking Club Level rooms. In that scenario, you should absolutely take the room-only discount on Club Level at a Deluxe Resort, forgo the Disney Dining Plan entirely, and pay out of pocket for the meals you end up eating outside of the concierge lounge at your hotel.
With that said, you’re getting the most bang for your buck out of Club Level if you make a point of eating multiple meals per day in the concierge lounge. Most people will take advantage of continental breakfast, but not lunch, dinner, or late night desserts. This is unfortunate as across the board, breakfast is the most meh meal of the day in Club Level lounges at Walt Disney World.
Breakfast is almost exclusively cold items, plus oatmeal and maybe one other hot dish. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some nice meats and cheeses that can be made into a sandwich for something substantive. Maybe an exclusive/unique item or two. It’s enough to fill you up and get you through until lunch, but it’s not exactly a luxurious spread.
The light afternoon snacks are exactly that–usually chips, hummus and pita, a variety of vegetables, and various other random things. This definitely should not be considered lunch, as there’s almost no way to make a meal of this service at any of the Club Level Lounges at Walt Disney World.
As a general rule, the evening hors d’oeuvres are the best offering, with numerous small plate dishes that are typically prepared by chefs from Signature Restaurants (Disney’s term for fine dining) located at the resort. These tend to be very good to great, and despite being ‘small plates’ and Disney deliberately avoiding the term dinner to describe this service, you could easily make a meal of them.
The quality of this service varies from resort to resort, but across the board, we think it has improved in the last couple of years. In fact, elevated hors d’oeuvres quality is one of the big reasons we’ve started revisiting all of the Club Level Lounges. If you can take advantage of breakfast (which should be a given) and dinner plus dessert service most nights of your stay, Club Level can be much easier to justify from a value for money perspective.
In addition to access to the Club Lounge, guests staying at each Club Level have access to the Concierge Resort Cast Members between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. These Cast Members are found at desks outside of the lounge or nearby, and can assist with tickets, dining, recreation, transportation, child care, and daily itinerary planning.
These Cast Members cannot get you into restaurants that are fully booked, or score FastPasses for attractions that have run out of their daily allotment. However, if you call or text a Concierge Resort Cast Member while you’re in the parks and ask for help booking a particular attraction for your fourth FastPass, they might just be able to work some magic. (No promises on that.)
Also in the “no promises” department, Concierge Resort Cast Members will usually email you prior to your trip to introduce themselves and assist with an itinerary. Whether you actually receive this correspondence depends upon how far in advance you book your trip. A lot of our stays are last-minute reservations booked with Annual Passholder discounts, so our ‘success rate’ of receiving these emails has only been around 50%.
If you want or need this type of concierge planning assistance, relying upon the Concierge Resort Cast Members at Walt Disney World would not be our recommended course of action. At best, they’re going to spend a couple of hours providing boilerplate advice and perhaps reserve you whatever’s readily available in terms of ADRs and FastPass+ at their convenience.
In the event that you do book Club Level and don’t receive an email before your 180-day mark, but want to take advantage of this, we recommend contacting Disney Signature Services. They will help you, so long as you’re proactive about it. We still think most people will be better off using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (travel agent).
Walt Disney World now offers enhanced VIP services for Club Level guests for $50 per person per day, which includes 3 extra FastPass+ entitlements bookable 90 days in advance. There are no park restrictions on these additional FastPass+, meaning you could use them for Avatar Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or Slinky Dog Dash. (Note that as of January 2020, the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attractions still do not have FastPass+, so this perk does you no good on Walt Disney World’s most popular attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.)
Booking these FastPass+ requires a minimum of three days, which means either a 3-night stay or 2-night stay and booking the FastPass+ on both arrival and departure days. Our personal view is that this cost is excessive, but we also have the luxury of visiting Walt Disney World multiple times per year, and have already done every single attraction more times than we can count. Suffice to say, we have no sense of urgency in terms of experiencing attractions at this point.
For you, the calculus might be different. If it’s your first trip to Walt Disney World, and you’re concerned about not being able to experience everything, these additional FastPass+ allotments could be appealing.
If you use these FastPass+ efficiently, you’re looking at a time-savings of around 2-3 hours per day versus waiting in line–perhaps even more during peak season. In other words, the value proposition might work out in your favor. It’s really a personal thing, depending upon how much you must ride certain attractions and how much you value your time.
Objectively, the cost of staying Club Level ranges from around +$100/night to +$275/night depending on the resort, room tier, and season. For a general rule, the more expensive the hotel and room category, the greater the added cost. However, this isn’t always true.
For instance, adding the Sugar Loaf Club Level at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa would “only” be an additional $228 on New Year’s Eve. That’s Walt Disney World’s most expensive hotel on its most expensive night of the year. The surcharge for Wilderness Lodge on that same night would be $274.
At the other end of the spectrum, the premium for staying in Chronos Club at Gran Destino or Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge is less than $100 for many nights. If you book with a room-only, Annual Passholder, or Florida Resident discount in the off-season, the difference can be even lower.
Assuming you cram 4 adults in the Club Level room–because nothing says posh hotel stay like 4 adults in one hotel room–you’re looking at around $25 to $50 per person per night for Club Level. If you do two meals per day (breakfast and dinner) in the Club Level Lounge, or even just breakfast plus dessert and a couple of beers when you return from the park, you’re already getting your money’s worth on the lower end of the pricing premium spectrum.
It should go without saying, but the larger your party and the more meals you eat in the lounge, the better the value proposition. Add the Resort Concierge service to the mix, as well as the views and ambiance in the lounge, and it becomes pretty easy to justify Club Level.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a party of 2 adults and will only do breakfast in the lounge before rope dropping the parks and staying until park closing (thus missing all subsequent food services in the lounge), it’s literally impossible to justify Club Level. In general, this is not something for “park commandos,” it’s for those wanting a more leisurely, luxurious, and pampered Walt Disney World experience.
In scenarios that don’t fall on either end of those extreme spectrums, there’s doing Club Level simply because you want to treat yo self to an excellent, once in a lifetime kind of experience. Maybe you want the best view in the house at Wilderness Lodge, or to strut around the Polynesian wearing your lei like a rockstar–a modern day Jon Bon Jovi. Sometimes it’s fun to splurge on a taste of luxury because it’s just something you flat out want to do.
Everyone makes purchases that would not pass muster if scrutinized from a value for money perspective. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason to feel bad about wanting what you think will be a cool or convenient experience for the sake of that experience. Anyone who claims every decision they make is 100% rational and 0% emotional is lying. If you want to stay Club Level at Walt Disney World for one of these reasons–or some other intrinsic sense of happiness–more power to you. Only you know what will make your vacation special to you!
We are a party of two adults, and we’ve made Club Level work for us. We discuss the specifics in each of those reviews above, but here’s the CliffNotes version of that: we do split stays, with the Club Level portion of our trip for 1-2 nights at the end of a trip.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a split stay, see our How to Do Split Stays at Walt Disney World Hotels. As you can see there, we are huge advocates of split stays for a number of reasons. When it comes to this, we highly recommend doing the Club Level portion at the end of your trip, rather than beginning.
In part, this is because it’s really tough to go from Club Level back to normal accommodations. More importantly, we recommend this because you’ll spend the first portion of your trip racing around the parks doing everything that you want to get done, exhausting yourselves in the progress. Then at the end, you’ll have a Club Level stay to relax, rejuvenate, and actually vacation.
When we stay Club Level at Walt Disney World, we seldom leave the resort. With this in mind, our least favorite is the Atrium Club Level at Contemporary Resort. Chronos Club is normally a great value and something we really enjoy, but we don’t like hanging around Gran Destino all day, so it’s out from this perspective.
Our two favorite Club Levels at Walt Disney World are those at Beach Club and Wilderness Lodge. We love taking advantage of Stone Harbor Club during breaks from floating around the lazy river in Stormalong Bay, or sitting in a comfy overstuffed chair in Old Faithful Club while gazing down at that glorious lobby. We like to unwind and make the most of the luxurious stay while doing Club Level.
For choosing the right Club Level for you–or getting the details right on a split stay, once again we recommended using a no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. They can help you come up with a split stay “hotel plan” like this that works for your needs. Your interests are going to differ from ours, but they can listen to your family’s interests and priorities and book something customized just for you. (Plus, they get their commission from Disney, so there is no charge to you for them to book your trip and help you plan!)
With all of that said, the math on Club Level only works out if you’re viewing this as such–a luxury experience. If you’re singularly value-oriented, Club Level is never going to make sense. You could simply do grocery delivery and have snacks at your leisure in your Walt Disney World hotel room and come out way ahead in terms of savings. Of course, nothing screams “luxury hotel stay” like having groceries delivered and preparing oatmeal in your room.
Not that we’re knocking that. We’ve done grocery delivery several times and Club Level several times. Some trips we want to travel as inexpensively as possible, other times we want to splurge and treat ourselves to luxurious experience. There’s certainly a place for both styles of traveling.
One thing to note here while we’re discussing a luxurious experience, is that this refers almost entirely to the Club Level Lounge, its food and atmosphere. Concierge Resort Cast Members are generally great, offering superlative service and being helpful with planning and questions you might have.
However, concierge service at Walt Disney World is not the same as it is in real world hotel counterparts. We have stayed at Grand Club level at several Hyatt hotels, among other chains, and the difference at luxury hotels is that the service there is truly above and beyond.
Real world concierges can pull strings and make coveted bookings, quickly have tickets delivered to a hotel, etc. Walt Disney World concierges can make the same bookings available in the My Disney Experience app in lieu of you doing it. This can be a nice convenience, but it’s usually nothing you couldn’t do yourself.
Additionally and more importantly, those real world resort concierges go out of their way to make you feel special and pampered. Their service is very attentive and proactive. Disney’s service is much more reactionary; if you need help, it’s there. If not, there’s a decent chance no Concierge Resort Cast Members will interact with you after check-in.
In general, this is a fundamental difference that really must be stressed for Walt Disney World first-timers who are used to real world 5-star hotels. If you pampered service is your paramount concern, you are better off booking the Waldorf Astoria Orlando or Four Seasons Resort Orlando.
With that said, one thing we should note here is that Disney has been improving by leaps and bounds on this front. Our suspicion is that Walt Disney World wants this audience of “whale” guests, and has lost market share to luxury hotels that have opened around Orlando. There are plenty of reasons to believe Disney is catering to more affluent guests, and improving Club Level offerings to capture this clientele certainly makes sense.
Overall, we’re generally fans of Club Level at Walt Disney World and, for us, it’s worth the money on some trips. The Club Level experience has improved in quality the last couple of years, which certainly makes it easier to justify, too. The lounge atmosphere and views are important to us, and having the services of the Resort Concierge Cast Members is a nice bonus for us. Still, we like to mix things up. Sometimes we do the Disney Dining Plan, sometimes we splurge on Club Level, and sometimes we focus on park time and simply book a cheap hotel and do quick, inexpensive meals. It varies from trip to trip–and can even vary within trips.
Ultimately, by staying Club Level as part of a split stay during our ‘resort days’, we are able to make the most of our Club Level stays, relaxing in the lounge, eating and drinking as much as we can. From this perspective, we think Club Level works well and is a compelling option. Your vacation plans may vary, in which case the value that Club Level offers to you will differ. Either way, we hope this introduction to Club Level at Walt Disney World has proven helpful for planning your trip, and determining whether the concierge experience is right for you!
If you’ve stayed Club Level at a Walt Disney World hotel, do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Do you think it is worth the money? Which Club Level Lounge is your favorite? Have you considered staying Club Level? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!