If you haven’t already, I recommend that you take a look at Part 1 over HERE. I also want to reiterate that this ‘best’ and ‘worst’ is all based on the numbers. Essentially, a ranking of the resorts. Last time around, I looked at Vacation Points Usage, Annual Dues and Room Size. All of these factors have varying degrees of importance when looking at DVC. That being said, each person has different priorities when choosing the location for their next stay. Many of these could be considered somewhat subjective when you also take into account that some of the DVC resorts are part of a wider Disney resort. When I discuss the amenities I have included those that are available in the wider resort. As an example, Bay Lake Tower as a DVC resort is part of the wider Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I have included the amenities for the entire Contemporary Resort when counting everything up.
Following on from the previous article where I talked about the room sizes, I also looked at the number of rooms available. It had not really occurred to me until I was doing this research but I found it interesting to consider. Knowing how many rooms are at each resort could also be somewhat useful to some? Of course, more rooms equates to more members who own points for that resort. This does mean that the number of rooms is not an indication of actual availability. When it comes to making reservations the chances of making a booking at the relevant booking window may be improved for those resorts with more rooms. The booking system is first-come-first-served. In theory, this means that a resort with more rooms improves the chances of actually getting ‘served’ so to speak. It is by no means a guarantee or a fail-safe thought process but it is worth noting.
I will add a caveat here, this is based on the maximum number of rooms available. In many of the resorts, there are ‘lock-offs’ available which are a combination of a Deluxe Studio and a 1-Bed Villa. This means that the number of rooms available at any given time can vary.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa ranks as the resort with the most rooms available and by some margin too. In second place was Disney’s Old Key West with a maximum of 761 rooms available. At the other end of the scale, the resort with the lowest number of rooms available is Disney’s Grand Californian. Of course, the Grand Californian is not solely a DVC resort. The DVC offering was part of an expansion completed in 2009. Beyond that, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort has the next fewest rooms available with a maximum of 123.
Discussion of Disney dining can be often be somewhat contentious. Everyone has their favourite locations to eat at, for all manner of reasons. Some people may even be partial to booking a certain resort because of the dining options available. Personally, I am by no means a ‘foodie’. I wouldn’t claim to have a refined palate and I am not particularly picky. For me, food is food. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the occasional fine dining experience and all that goes with it. I just wouldn’t go out of my way to demand it. Nevertheless, I do find it handy to know what sort of dining options are available.
For the Dining Locations, I am simply looking at the number of locations available at each DVC resort. My initial thought was to look very simply at which resort had the most dining locations. I was also interested to see how that shaped up in terms of the types of dining experiences. For clarity, I have split all of the dining locations by ‘style’ exactly how Disney does on their website. Similarly, I have only listed the locations that Disney themselves list for each resort. I can’t claim to know exactly how Disney defines each location as some of them seemed slightly odd to me but I had to have some kind of rules. As mentioned previously, certain DVC resorts are part of a wider resort and this has been taken into account. Of course, there is also very much a case of quality over quantity to consider which is definitely not a discussion I am getting into here.
An interesting fact here, of the dining ‘styles’ listed above, the only one to exist at all DVC resorts is Quick Service. It makes sense that everywhere has some form of dining location. I wasn’t surprised to see a quick-service at each location but I guess I expected to see a couple more of the restaurant types existing at all resorts.
If it is Quick-Service that you are looking for, Disney’s Boardwalk Villas has the most locations with 6 venues. Granted, this is in part due to its location with an actual Boardwalk with additional throughway footfall but as mentioned, this is how Disney lists it. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa ranks as having the fewest quick-service locations but it is worth noting that it also sits next to Downtown Disney so there are plenty of options available literally right outside of the resort.
All but four of the DVC resorts have a ‘Casual Dining’ location, with Disney’s Beach Club Villas having two. Initially, I would have assumed that Casual Dining would actually be the type of restaurant that existed at all resorts. To me, that would have seemed to be the most ‘popular’ type of restaurant to have at each resort.
It is no surprise that the type of restaurant with the fewest locations is ‘Unique/Themed Dining’. I guess the clue is in the name. It is also no surprise that the resorts with the ‘most’ of these restaurants are both highly themed locations. Both Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge have two Unique/Themed Dining venues each.
The resort with the largest number of Fine/Signature dining locations is quite predictably, The Grand Floridian. As the flagship resort, it goes without saying that they would want it to offer the very best dining options, or at least the most of them. Like I say, I can not speak to the actual quality because it is so subjective but I have heard great things about the restaurants here. At the other end of the scale, there are six resorts that do not feature a fine or signature dining experience as listed.
In terms of lounges, both Bay Lake Tower (plus the wider Contemporary Resort) and Disney’s Boardwalk Villas feature 4 lounges. The vast majority of DVC resorts have at least one lounge except for Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. I should note, that Disney does sometimes classify a couple of locations as both quick-service and a lounge. An example of this is the Backstretch Pool Bar at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. I will let you decide which type of location you think it is. I’m just following the Disney definitions.
Finally, looking at the overall number of Dining Locations, Disney’s Boardwalk Villas quite easily has the largest number with 13. The next best would be The Grand Floridian and Aulani, each with 10. The location with the fewest dining venues was Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort with only two quick-service offerings. I was not entirely surprised by this and it should be noted that there are plenty of other restaurants located near to the resort. This is in addition to two weekly outdoor dinners down at Disney’s Beach House.
Right off the bat, I will say that looking at pools was almost incomparable. There are a ridiculous number of comparisons you could make. Whether it is pool size by the gallon, number of waterslides, number of whirlpool spas, whether it is a relaxing pool or an action-packed pool. Again, it can also be subjective depending on which kind of pool experience you like. For instance, Stormalong Bay over at Disney’s Beach Club Villas is often regarded as the best Disney resort pool by some margin. For some, the popularity and reputation of Stormalong Bay could be enough of a pull to make them stay at the resort. With that in mind and sticking with my original objective, I simplified it to look at the number of pools available at each resort. On the surface, you could expect the resorts with the highest number of rooms available to also have the most number of pools. However, this could be countered by just having a larger pool but either way, I was curious to see if that was the case.
As expected, with the largest number of rooms available, Disney’s Saratoga Springs also has the most pools listed with five. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, as a standalone location, has only the one pool. Just looking across all of the Walt Disney World DVC resorts, no resort has any less than two pools. That is unless you want to treat Boulder Ridge Villas and Copper Creek Villas & Cabins as two entirely separate resorts each with only one pool. The same can be said over at Disney’s Animals Kingdom Lodge with Kidani Village and Jambo House also having one pool each.
Much like dining, shopping at Disney is a big deal for many people. It can also be contentious as to what can be classified as a shop. For instance, some locations double up and are also listed as a quick-service so once again, I have taken my lead from Disney themselves as to what they list as a shopping destination. Either way, shopping is a significant enough amenity that is worth taking a look at.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa takes the top spot but I should note that one of the locations that Disney list for shopping is Laniwai – A Disney Spa which sells items to take away for those home spa days. Does it really count as a ‘shop’, I will let you decide, but Disney lists it that way so it is counted accordingly. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa comes in at second with four shopping locations.
In addition to those listed in the chart, you could also argue that Disney’s Beach Club Villas only has one store, given that the second is located over at Disney’s Yacht Club but again, it is listed and falls under that same ‘wider’ resort category.
I will agree, this is a tenuous comparison and only really relates to Walt Disney World. For that reason, I have excluded the DVC resorts outside of WDW. The transport options available really depends on the location of the resort and where it is you actually want to go. I have only looked at the transportation options that Disney provides because of course, you can drive anywhere if you want to. I am sure that some would argue that you could walk further if you want to, which is why I have referred back to how Disney actually lists the transport options. Essentially, the transport options available are Disney Resort Bus, Monorail Station, Water Taxi, Disney Skyline (which is only relevant for Disney’s Riviera Resort) and Walking Routes. Each resort gets a count of each option.
When it boils down to it, everywhere is accessible in one way or another, so it could be somewhat irrelevant but I was interested enough to look nonetheless.
With four out of five transportation options available to various destinations, Bay Lake Tower has the most options available and the only resort to have four. For me personally, that walking route to the Magic Kingdom is an absolutely brilliant option, especially at the end of the day. I can only imagine what it is like to avoid any form of a queue when heading back to the resort. That makes it the best all on its own. Yes, that is absolutely a personal opinion and is not by the numbers at all but hey, I’m allowed one digression no?
Naturally, we all know that every resort is served by the Disney Resort Buses. I could get massively detailed here and dissect it by the routes and destinations available but again, that would make it way more complex than I want this to be. However, it is worth noting that there is only one resort with the Disney Resort Bus as its only transport option – Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is certainly well-discussed that the resort is a little bit ‘further’ to travel than any other and with only the Disney Resort Buses available, this might put a few people off staying there.
Everywhere else is serviced by at least two Disney transportation options. Disney’s Old Key West Resort, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Riviera Resort have two of the five options. All of the other Walt Disney World resorts have three out of the five transport options.
That rounds out all of the items that I have in my (somewhat ridiculous) spreadsheet. I wouldn’t say it was totally exhaustive and I am sure that there is so much more that could be compared by the numbers. It really could go on and on. For instance, another incredibly important factor to consider is the actual cost per point when purchasing DVC Membership in the first place. Then you could add in the cost of the annual dues as a total number. You could also consider the subsequent appreciation of your real estate investment too. So why didn’t I? Well, in terms of the purchase prices and investment appreciation it can get very complex. If you have read Part 1 you will know that it was complex enough just looking at the Annual Dues that it probably deserved its own article. Add in the value of your points to that equation and it makes it even more complicated. I’m not afraid to admit that even I didn’t fancy digging quite that deep! Part of my desire to write this article was to keep it as simple as possible. I’ll let you decide whether I achieved that…
I did want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading Part 1 and offering suggestions. For those who did want to see the full rankings, hold tight because in the next part I will be sharing them so you can see exactly where your favourite resorts stack up against one another.