Facing a hotel decision: Which DVC resort shall we book this vacation? Now obviously all DVC resorts are Magical, but at times you just need a comparison. We (family of 3 including 6-year old son) were fortunate enough to experience a split stay at Bay Lake Tower (use/access to Contemporary), and Animal Kingdom Lodge staying at Jambo House (use/access to Kidani Village). Therefore, in this article I will be providing a comparison of the resorts to help you with that choice.
I’ll be covering following areas; Deluxe Studio Rooms, Swimming Pools, Shopping, Dining & Amenities, Logistics, CM service & Overall ambience (i.e. hotel views, themes), using Mickey Ears points scoring system (out of 5 ears) on each area as a (subjective) guide to assist you, plus providing you with pics to give you that sense of touch/feel to each resort.
Please note that Animal Kingdom Lodge will be referred to as AKL and Bay Lake Tower as BLT for the remainder of the article.
Deluxe Studio Rooms
AKL: 365 sq. ft. (Est): Lovely themed room, generally spacious and extremely relaxing.
AKL Deluxe Studio and Balcony View
BLT: 300 sq. ft. (Est): Quite compact but lots of storage space and separate rooms for kitchen.
BLT Deluxe Studio and Balcony View
Overall: The more space at AKL made the room feel more ‘homely’, although for longer stays, extra storage space at BLT comes in handy.
AKL: Uzima Springs pool is large (over 11,000 sq. ft.) and Kidani Village’s swimming pool, Samawati Springs, has a great children play area. Both pools offered good water slides, shade and vacation feel with ‘Jungle’ surroundings.
BLT: Bay Cove is a good size pool and thrilling water slides, and close access to Contemporary pools with both pools close to Bay Lake for water activities and great open view surroundings.
Overall: Both pools were excellent, for thrills on slides go for BLT but younger families will have a better time at AKL. For those relaxing, I found AKL offers more relaxing areas (with enclosed SPAs). Both offered great Pool fun activities and Disney music.
Shopping, Dining & Amenities
Dining options at AKL, Fitness Center
AKL: Lovely choice of dining options. Boma is famed for exquisite variety of African/Caribbean style cuisine. Quick Service location Mara also offers a broad and affordable menu. Shopping is extremely focused around beautifully African cultured hand-crafted gifts. Also, two fitness centres to choose from, plus a chance to view animals on savannah (Zebra/Giraffes) during day/night.
California Grill, Fitness Center and Movie Under the Stars
BLT: Magical dining options with California Grill being one of WDW ‘best’ restaurants with stunning views of MK. Chef Mickeys is also Character Dining fan favourite. Shopping facilities were more conventional Disney gifts. A modern fitness centre, great location for movie under the stars plus for DVC members the Top of the World lounge giving great private viewing of MK Fireworks.
Fireworks Views, Top of the World Lounge
Overall: We were extremely blessed and lucky enough to have Harrison chosen to open the restaurant at Chef Mickey’s, along with an evening meal at California Grill (best food eaten at WDW) plus chance to see fireworks in Epcot, HS and MK at one time, so these experiences may have biased my score (I would have given more). AKL offered lovely authentic themed dining but the views and Disney experience at BLT were second to none.
Harrison as Chef Mickey family of the day experience
AKL: AKL is quite close to Animal Kingdom theme park and Blizzard Beach, and quite a long bus ride to all other theme parks.
BLT: Walking distance to Magic Kingdom, close to Epcot (via Monorail transportation). You can gain access to Monorail at Contemporary resort, through a walkway ‘Sky Bridge’ on 5th floor of BLT.
Sky Bridge Walkway and Monorail lines into the Contemporary
Overall: When you have Magic Kingdom literally on your doorstep and the image of the castle then Disney Magic fills you instantly. Plus, BLT is generally closer to other theme parks.
Cast Member Service/Activities
AKL: Extremely friendly, and offered wide range of cultural experiences in addition to information on animals on the savannah views.
Cultural Experiences at AKL
BLT: Extremely formal and friendly service. Besides pool activities and general front desk, offered little other extra services.
BLT lobby and Peter Pan at the Contemporary
Overall: The cultural services were extremely educational and fun at AKL. You could easily stay in AKL resort without venturing out to Theme Parks. At BLT we found ourselves more actively going to theme parks.
AKL: The African vibe was everywhere, and with the wildlife on your doorstep/balcony (even with Bats flying around in the evening).
Marvelous Lobby at AKL
BLT: Every day you have the Disney Magical feeling overwhelm you with views of Bay Lake and Magic Kingdom, especially coming back after Theme Parks and seeing the Water pageant. However, the hotel maybe lacked a theme and was more ‘quality hotel’ then specifically themed.
Stunning Views from BLT
Overall: AKL experience gives you that unique wildlife adventure within a Disney experience. BLT gave you stunning views around but the hotel inside slightly lacked to support the surroundings.
Mickey Ears even in points with both resorts getting 27 of maximum 30, however if you’re wanting vacation with an adventure, cultural education and relaxation with a Disney twist thrown in then Animal Kingdom Lodge is for you. If you are Disney through and through and want to be immersed in Disney then Bay Lake Tower is for you. We loved both experiences, and having both experiences gave us an all rounded Disney & Vacation experience.