We recently spent a week at Disney’s Villas at Wilderness Lodge in a ‘deluxe studio’ which is, in fact, the only type of studio available at the property. Some studios are ‘dedicated’ and others are ‘lock-off’, ie they have a connecting door which allows them to become a 2nd bedroom thereby converting a 1-bed villa into a 2-bed villa, but essentially all studios have the same layout.
Having disembarked from a Disney cruise that morning, we arrived at Wilderness Lodge at 0930. Although the Villas are in a separate building, check-in is in Wilderness Lodge itself. I had checked in online so we duly reported to the separate Online Check-in desk. Check-in time for the Villas is from 4pm but I had noted our early arrival time online and we were hoping that we might be lucky and get an early check-in. However, it was not to be. So we put our bags into storage and spent some time in the public areas of both Wilderness Lodge and the Villas before heading out for lunch.
We went back at 1300 to ask about the room and I was told, “Housekeeping is in there, give them a little time”. I took this to be specific information about our particular room but it turned out that it was just that front desk lady’s way of saying “No it isn’t ready”. Tried again an hour later, then again at 1445 when I was told the room was ready. Which is when I discovered that we had been allocated room number 4533, the only studio at the Villas which does not have either a patio or a balcony. I said that I didn’t want the room without a balcony and politely asked if another was available. He told me that all rooms have balconies. I told him that I knew one did not and I believed it was this one, and asked him to check. He proceeded to speak to 2 or 3 other front desk staff – one, being dressed differently and located further back from the desk I thought might be a supervisor – but came back and said again, all have balconies. I said that I knew one did not, that I believed it was 4533, and asked again for him to check. So he disappeared behind the scenes for quite a while. When he reappeared he was about to speak to me when a man dressed in the Bell Services uniform appeared from the back office and said, “She’s right, it doesn’t have a balcony”. At this, the front desk man told me I only had 2 options, take the room without a balcony or wait for one which was having the carpet shampooed and wouldn’t be ready for at least another 2 hours.
By this time I was near to tears with frustration so said that I would have to consult with my other half, just to escape from the front desk. My other half pointed out that if we accepted the room without a balcony I would be annoyed about it for the whole week. So I headed back to the front desk to speak to my 5th different member of front desk staff of the day. This lady noticed that I was upset and immediately set out to make things better if she could. She obviously knew nothing about the studio with the carpet being shampooed but phoned to find out. She proceeded to discuss with the person on the phone whether there was any other studio ready and, lo and behold, found one that we could be checked into straight away. If the desk wasn’t so high, and me so short, I would have hugged her! (Instead I later expressed my thanks in writing to her and her line manager.) This cannot have been more than 10 minutes since the previous member of staff told me categorically I only had 2 options – no balcony or wait at least another 2 hours – so I can only think that he was irritated at me having been proved right about 4533 not having a balcony when he was insisting that it did.
So, finally, some 6 hours after arriving, we were finally able to go to our room. With a balcony! Having to wait so long was a nuisance but not the issue as we knew official check-in isn’t until after 4.00pm. But the inconsistency of information provided by different staff members led to a poor customer service experience. And the worst part of all was staff apparently being unaware that this one studio does not have a balcony and having to argue the point with them over and over. I believe there are a total of 864 rooms/villas at this hotel, and only one does not have either a balcony or patio. I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect the front desk staff to know about this. Even if staff turnover is too high for it to be included in their training, it could surely be noted somewhere – either within the computer software or even just as a paper note on a noticeboard. It is an oddity, but such an oddity is something people are likely to remember once told about it. The Bell Services man knew about it and, after all, I live over 4000 miles from the hotel and don’t work for Disney, but I knew about it!
The fact that there is one studio without a balcony is a ridiculous situation, but it exists. However, I believe it should be policy not to allocate it as a studio (it also acts as the 2nd bedroom of a 2-bed unit) except as a last resort, when every other room is occupied, which I do not believe was the case on the day we arrived.
The Villas are in a separate building to the main Wilderness Lodge, connected by a covered walkway. A branch of the walkway leads down to the bus depot. The Villas building has its own atrium, much smaller than that in the main building but still impressive, with a variety of comfortable seating including rocking chairs in front of a fireplace in which a real fire burns. On one side of the atrium is an entrance to the fitness facilities shared by both the main hotel and villas. On the other side can be found another public room (variously named the Iron Spike Room or the Carolwood Pacific Room, and which contains train memorabilia highlighting Walt Disney’s interest in railways) with different areas – there are some very comfortable armchairs grouped in front of another fireplace, a few tables and chairs set up for playing chess or checkers, and another area with armchairs. There is also access to a small outside area with seating, which I believe may be a smoking area. At the opposite site of the atrium to the main door there is access outside to the small swimming pool, and to paths leading to the marina, beach, boat dock and around to the main swimming pool and the main building. The gardens and grounds are absolutely stunning.
Our room was on the 3rd floor, facing south, with a view directly into trees and over towards the bus depot. It was a pleasant outlook and during the week we saw a variety of different birds, and a resident squirrel, from our much fought for balcony. The room was large and comfortable. The door was on an angle, opening into a good useable space (for storing luggage or a stroller). There was a mirror and shelf near the door but no coathooks on wall like at Saratoga Springs (which is a shame because they would be very handy. Moving into the room, the bathroom area was to the left, with one sink set into a good sized countertop. The faucets look good but the mixer does not swivel, making it tricky to access the basin. You certainly can’t lean in to splash your face without doing yourself serious facial injury. (The sink in the kitchenette appears to have the same faucets but the mixer can be moved to give better access to the sink.) The hairdryer was fixed to the lefthand wall. Under the countertop was good storage space provided by a small drawer (about one-quarter the width of the countertop) at either side with a shelf underneath each drawer. Looking towards the sink, there was a separate room to the left containing the toilet and bath/shower. To the right was a good-sized closet with plenty of storage space (shelf, hanging rail and floor), with a safe set into the wall, and containing an iron, ironing board, vacuum cleaner and high chair.
Opposite the bathroom area was a small kitchenette with a countertop and sink, and shelves above. This area is a little larger than the equivalent at Saratoga Springs. There was a cupboard below the sink, then a narrow row of drawers, then the fridge. Above the countertop was a shelf with the microwave, and above that 2 double cupboards for storage (too high for me to reach though). There was also a toaster and coffeemaker. There is no ice-maker but an ice machine is available on each floor near the elevators and an ice bucket is provided.
The main bedroom/living area had a queen sized bed on the left, one nightstand (with alarm clock and telephone), then the sofabed and a standard lamp. In front of the sofa was a coffee table. Opposite the bed was a chest of drawers with flatscreen TV, DVD player and shelf space above. Next to that was a small table and 2 chairs with a mirror on the wall above, next to the connecting door into the 1-bed villa next door. There were large French windows which made the room light and airy. They opened onto the small balcony with 2 chairs and a small table.
As at many Disney properties, there was only one nightstand which is nuisance for whoever sleeps on the other side of the bed. Even a small shelf, just something to put a book on, would be better than nothing. As usual, I brought the table in from the balcony, cleaned it up and used that as a second nightstand.
Although the studio can become the 2nd bedroom of a 2-bed villa, it is well designed as a stand-alone room and gave none of the ‘poor relation’ feel we experienced at Old Key West.
There are no restaurant or bar facilities within the Villas building but it is only a short walk to access all the facilities of the main building. It is, however, a little too far if all you want to do is get a drink in the refillable mugs that Disney sell at all their resorts. The only place at Wilderness Lodge for this is at Roaring Forks and it is a pity that they haven’t provided a machine within the Villas building, although I can see that cleaning and maintenance might be a problem when there is no catering facility nearby.
In the main building there are 2 table service restaurants and one counter service. Artists Point serves only dinner whilst Whispering Canyon offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Counter service is available at Roaring Forks all day, changing from breakfast to lunch/dinner at 1100, I believe. Roaring Forks is small for the size of the hotel and tends to get very busy, especially at main meal times. But it does offer a good range of options and we have always found the food to be fresh and tasty. The Mickey waffles with strawberries and cream for breakfast are particularly recommended. There is a grill counter and a sandwich counter, plus self-service items in refrigerators and on shelves. However, once you have queued to order your food, then waited for it (possibly twice, if you want something from each counter), you then have to queue again to pay for it – during which time any hot food is quickly getting cold. For many years we have thought that they should instigate a system whereby you order your food and get given a receipt so that you can go and pay for it then collect it once it is ready. But although a similar system (with pagers) has been used at the Contempo Café in the Contemporary Resort since that counter service restaurant opened, at Roaring Forks you still have the double-dip queuing and the risk of cold food.
There used to be a games arcade next to Roaring Forks but many years ago (when the Villas were built) this was converted into a seating area and provides a good amount of space in which to enjoy your meal. If you prefer to eat outside, there is a door directly opposite Roaring Forks leading to a patio area with tables and chairs.
The public areas within the main building are wonderful and in particular the lobby/atrium is spectacular. There is a shop which stocks a few Wilderness Lodge themed items plus the usual collection of Disney merchandise. It also stocks a selection of grocery items, drinks and frozen foods (the 1 and 2 bed villas have full kitchens). There are lots of seating areas scattered around on different levels, both inside and outside. A babbling brook appears to start in the lobby, head outside and work its way down through the grounds and into the main swimming pool. At the very edge of the lake is a ‘geyser’ based on Old Faithful, which erupts on the hour, every hour, during the daytime.
Bus transport is provided to all theme parks and Downtown Disney. Boat transport is available to the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Campground. We found the boat service wasn’t as good this time as on other visits and we seemed to spend far more time waiting on boat docks than we did on the boats. Instead of the usual 3 boats on the Contemporary/Wilderness Lodge/Fort Wilderness circuit, there were only 2 which led to longer wait times. Previously the Magic Kingdom boat was only shared with Fort Wilderness at less busy times, in the middle of the day, but this time it was more often and at peak times. Sometimes boats would arrive full from the Magic Kingdom but no-one would get off at Wilderness Lodge, so no-one could get on. The boat would head over to Fort Wilderness then go straight to the Magic Kingdom, meaning everyone at Wilderness Lodge had to wait at least another 20 minutes, hoping that the next one would have room or would be a Lodge-only boat.
It was interesting to have stayed at the Villas again just over 3 months after our most recent stay in the main Lodge building. Having stayed in both several times, previously we would have expressed no preference between the two, with each having different but equal advantages and disadvantages over the other. But although we would still be happy to stay in either, being able to make such a recent comparison we do now think that the main building would be our preference in future. For us, it just has the edge over the Villas, and we can always walk over there to enjoy the peace and quiet of the train room. It remains our favourite Disney resort, as it has been since we first stayed there many years ago.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Recalling the 1860's railroad hotels of the American West, The Villas offer the comforts of home amid the rustic beauty of Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Relax on the white-sand beach, explore trails through lush meadows and delight in the enchanting Silver Creek Springs Pool. Just a breezy boat ride to Magic Kingdom park, The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge celebrate American craftsmanship and the majesty of the great outdoors. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Villas At Disney`s Wilderness Hotel Orlando
- Hotel At Disneys Wilderness
- Hotel At Disney Wilderness
- The Villas At Disneys Wilderness Lodge