I will start off by saying for the last several years, I’ve been a fan of the Contemporary. Not so much the aesthetic, as I prefer a warmer vibe, but I’ve always found it to be an incredibly well-run hotel. I’m especially fond of their Concierge floor. The concierge staff has always been amazing, and I would take every opportunity I could find to stay. This was not always the case. For those that remember the decor in the Contemporary rooms before the last redesign, you may recall that the rooms looked a little something like a bad Jetson’s inspired acid trip. Gaudy black and neon – it was truly gay hell (unless you were perpetually stuck in a 1980’s gay bar and liked that vibe, in which case, all the ecstasy you took has left a mark).
My experience at Boulder Ridge, while positive overall, did have me a bit concerned. Was I going to find the other DVC properties to be in need of an update? Worn carpet and worn furniture? I loved most everything about Boulder Ridge, but I was concerned that the room we were in was so obviously over-due for a rehab.
So, upon checking in to Bay Lake Tower, I had all these visions running through my head “worn, stained, black and neon”. Until I opened the door.
I have this thing, whenever I walk into a hotel room for the first time, the first think I look at is where the carpet meets the baseboard. This is going to tell you a story about your room in one quick glance. Over time, dust and dirt accumulate in this spot and even the best vacuum won’t get it. It’s one way of telling how old the carpet is. It’s also a good indication on the last time the room was rehabbed. Yes, I’m deranged, but I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and after a while it just becomes habit.
It was clear upon entering the room that it was in excellent shape. In addition to staring at the carpet like I have head trauma, I also finger swipe every ledge I can find to look for dust. There was no dust in this room. There was no dirt in this room. Honestly, it took me the better part of a day to really spot anything at all, and even then it was nit-picky (there was a chip in the laminate on the table). That was honestly the only sign of wear I could find here. I will also say the air conditioning system is a little temperamental, but I’ll explain that in more detail below.
I’ll say my first emotion upon getting into the room was really one of relief. “Ok, this might be a good review”. Believe it or not, I aim to do positive reviews – I want this stuff to be great, I want to honestly be able to tell people that it was awesome and you should run, not walk to check it out for yourself. But I won’t if that’s not how I feel.
The kitchen and living area were well appointed. The furniture was in great shape, the appliances were new and everything was spotless. I could find no sign of wear on anything.
There can not be a review of this hotel without talking about the cast members, and I have to say without exception, every cast member I interacted with was fantastic. Friendly, helpful, happy – the way it used to be all the time at Walt Disney World. For example, I like my room to be cold when I go to bed, and when I say cold-I mean COLD. 65-67 degrees is just about right. When I set the thermostat in my room, it cooled off very quickly – but it actually got too cold. I went downstairs for a quick moment, and on my way back up I was joined by a woman from the housekeeping staff in the elevator. She commented to me that she was a little chilly (it was cold in the lobby as well), and I mentioned to her how well the AC in the room worked and that it was almost too cold. She inquired after my room number, which I gave her, and she proceeded to say that the rooms here do have really good air conditioning. She stepped off the elevator and wished me a good night, and I proceeded back to my room. 10 minutes later, there’s a knock on my door – she brought blankets! That’s a level of service worthy of the best hotels in the world, and it appears to be the level of service offered here.
I knew I’d have a coffee maker in the room, so I brought ‘supplies’. Like most coffee drinkers, I like my coffee a certain way and it’s a standard part of my morning routine. I rarely if ever get to have ‘my coffee’ when I travel. I’m at the mercy of whatever the hotel offers. This is especially challenging when staying at Bay Lake Tower – because if you’re not making “your coffee” in the room, then you have to trek over to the main building to get it. While it’s not a long walk per se, when I have to do it first thing in the morning PRE COFFEE, it’s a journey riddled with danger. I’m not the nicest person when I wake up. Happy people piss me off under the best of circumstances, so when I’m going for my morning coffee and I’m having to navigate hoards of people heading to a theme park wearing matching t-shirts and singing songs, yeah – it’s 6 to 5 and pick em’ if someones going to end up dead. While a standard issue Mr. Coffee machine isn’t my brewing mechanism of choice, I was able to get pretty close to ‘my coffee’ before having to face anyone. I know it sounds strange, but it was a factor I hadn’t considered when buying in to DVC – that I’d be able to make my own coffee in the morning.
The other big perk of this resort has to be the Top of the World lounge. Located on the 16th floor, the lounge has sweeping views of the Magic Kingdom and is a fantastic place to watch the fireworks. The lounge is available to members (and their guests) staying on site at a Disney resort (either cash or points). There is some confusion around that policy as it apparently changes without notice, but I was told specifically that as long as you’re a member and you’re staying on site, you’re good to go. The lounge offers a nice selection of small bites and a full bar. It’s open from 6pm to midnight.
Probably the biggest downside to this property for some people is the aesthetic. I hear from people frequently that they just don’t like ‘the look’ of the Contemporary, and I get that it’s not for everyone. While standing on the balcony of my ‘lake view’ room, I realized that this building does kind of remind me of the Watergate in Washington, DC. Perhaps if you look closely enough across the courtyard, you might spot G. Gordon Liddy planting a wire in someone’s room. I also did find the AC system to be temperamental. I would set the thermostat to 67 a few hours before going to sleep, but it would get VERY cold, so I’d turn it up a few degrees only to have the heat kick on, so it was this balancing act of finding the right setting for the right temperature. In terms of criticisms, that’s really all I could find after a three day stay. It was, without question, one of the best resort experiences I’ve had at Walt Disney World in a long time. That’s not to say the others weren’t good, it’s to say that Bay Lake Tower was exceptional!
Bay Lake Tower
One Bedroom Lakeview Villas
172 points DVC / $825 p/night cash