Back in July, I had the opportunity to attend the first ever private Disney Vacation Club party at the Top of the World Lounge in Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  While Pete shared his thoughts on this in a previous blog post, I thought I would take a second to explore what this event means for the future of TOTWL.

Thus far, 2019 has marked a year of change for the lounge and how its view is being leveraged by Disney.  Starting in January, DVC members were able to enjoy a reserved outdoor viewing area for evening fireworks as part of a new Member Dining Package.  Offered daily and now extended through December 21, 2019, this experience includes a three-course prix fixe dinner at The Wave as well as champagne and chocolate at TOTWL during the fireworks for $59 per person plus tax and gratuity.  Then, we saw the addition of the 4th of July DVC Party (mentioned above) which provided a small buffet of food as well as unlimited beverages including beer, wine, and cocktails for $99 per person plus tax and gratuity.

These attempts to monetize what has historically been a free member benefit for DVC owners has been met with criticism from many members.  One large reason for this is the confusing nature of who actually owns and operates the TOTWL space atop Bay Lake Tower. While some guides may have promised access to the lounge when initially selling points, this was likely just a sales tactic and never officially written into any signed contracts or deeds.  Based on my research over on the DISboards, my understanding is that TOTWL is officially owned by the managing organization of DVC – Disney Vacation Development Inc. The lounge space is then leased from DVD by Disney for their use and functions officially as Top of the World Lounge. With that being said, member access has officially been nothing more than a member benefit that can be restricted at any time.

With that out of the way, my thought is that what we are seeing in 2019 is just a warm-up for what is yet to come.  With New Year’s Eve added as a blocked out date for all members, we can likely expect another event similar to the 4th of July scheduled on this night. Executives have acknowledged that they may have dropped the ball on how they announced and reserved the first private event, however, this likely will not stop them from moving forward with their future plans for the space.

The next opportunity I would see them targeting would be a dinner party once or twice per week for Happily Ever After. Special parties or events scheduled around Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party would also be another option due to the perimeter fireworks display held these nights.  Having attended parties and seen these shows in the parks previously, my wife and I would likely be more inclined to shell out some money for these types of events rather than the parties themselves in order to have a more peaceful evening and fireworks experience.  

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for TOTWL.  For now, it continues to be a wonderful spot where DVC families can enjoy a drink, a small bite, and a beautiful view… it just may cost a little more in the future.  

Paul Krieger

Amy and I are new Orlando, Florida residents where we live with our dogs Odie the greyhound and Hermès the Spanish galgo. We are DVC owners at Animal Kingdom Lodge, BoardWalk Villas, Grand Californian, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian, Disney World Annual Passholders, and love educating Disney Vacation Club members on how to both use and maximize the value of their DVC points!

5 thoughts on “The New Normal at TOTWL

  • Would the profits from these ticketed events go into the BLT annual budget? If so, could that potentially benefit BLT owners by keeping annual dues a little lower? And do you think they have the same concept in mind for Topolino’s Terrace? It’s already closed for a special NYE event.

    • My understanding is that the lounge operates as a separate commercial unit of the resort, similar to a shop or restaurant. Annual dues do not subsidize the operation of the lounge and likewise any profits are not used to offset members’ dues. That would be nice if that were the case though, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just not structured that way.

      I find it’s easier to think of the lounge as a restaurant – it sort of alleviates a lot of the resentment that comes with not being allowed access at certain times. No one complains about not being able to go up to the California Grill to watch fireworks without being a paid customer…same concept here.

  • I miss the Passholder lounges, I guess everything is just for DVC members! Don’t forget about the pass holders that have kept Disney in the black for so long.

  • Our family 3 adults 1 4 year old went to the TOTWL last October when we stayed at Bay Lake, it’s a bar lounge atmosphere
    so I’m not sure why they were allowing children, we looked around but did not stay, views were nice but not for families.

    Not interested in going back even if I was traveling with adults only.

  • On normal days, except for the hours around fireworks showings, I haven’t seen much traffic in the lounge. It’s a prime spot and I think Disney could, and probably should, utilize it even more than they currently do.I guess it’s not surprising they are looking for ways to monetize an essentially underused element of BLT.

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