This past weekend, my wife participated in (and finished) Disney's Princess Half Marathon. This was her second Run Disney race, and perhaps the biggest lesson we learned from our first experience was that attending these events can be a logistical nightmare. Thankfully, we were able to secure a room using our Disney Vacation Club membership at one of the "preferred" resorts for the race...The Animal Kingdom Lodge.
With the style of an old hunting lodge on the African savanna, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is perhaps the most beautifully themed resort on Disney property. The resort is divided into two separate and distinct sections. The Jambo House serves as the main hotel, with it's top two floors housing Disney Vacation Club villas. Meanwhile, the adjacent Kidani Village is exclusively DVC villas, and was added about two years ago, at the peak of the timeshare boom of the last decade. Both buildings form a giant circle which surround one of the highlights of the resort, the African style savanna, where at any time one can spot roaming giraffes, zebras, and other animals usually found in a zoo or on safari.
We reserved a deluxe studio with a savanna view in the Jambo House, as we prefer the amenities in the original lodge. Given that we also wanted to check out the new Kidani Village, we elected to have dinner in their restaurant Sanaa. We arrived at the lodge just before 8pm, and were anxious to get checked-in quickly as we were running a bit late for our dinner reservation. One thing I recall from my days in the hotel business, is that it's never a good sign when upon finding your reservation, the agent immediately picks up a phone to call someone....
As it turned out, for whatever reason our room was not ready, and while I didn't ask if perhaps there were pre-blocked rooms to which we could be accommodated (Disney pre-assigns every guest into a specific room sometimes days in advance), I took the agent's immediate offer of a $100 credit to mean there were not. Since we were joining friends who had already checked in, we elected to store our luggage in their room and made our way to dinner. It was a minor inconvenience, but I certainly wasn't going to complain about the free dinner I was about to eat, given the concession was well above anything I asked for, which was nothing. The minor inconvenience began to evolve into something more, however as we returned to the front desk at 10:30pm and were told the room was still not ready.
We waited in the lobby for another half hour or so, while someone from housekeeping went to physically inspect the room, as the "dirty" status was believed to be a mistake in the computer. As it turned out, it was indeed a computer error, and the room had likely been clean all along. I couldn't quite figure out why no one inspected the room while we were at dinner, or for that matter while we were trying to check in the first time. I've come to learn that there is a great deal of red tape in Disney's delivery of service to hotel guests, even when solutions are rather simple, as was the case here. But either way, though a bit annoyed, we were soon in our beautiful savanna view room.
While at dinner the night before, we explored the Kidani Village section of the resort. The immediate impression was that clearly the same degree of detail was not put into this expansion, as went into the original resort. It was clear that Disney simply took a very plain building, slapped some dark colored paint and accents on it, and called it an African theme. In addition, parking spaces were built into the side of the building on the first floor, which created a rather unsightly base to the building. Finally, from our room in the Jambo House, we faced the enormous HVAC units for Kidani Village, which had been placed right on the savanna, and in plain view of guests. These are all things which a decade ago would never have been allowed in Disney's design for it's hotels, and it's disappointing to see such a dip in the quality. Subsequently, I have no desire to stay in the Kidani Village, despite it being built for DVC members.
The next day was spent almost entirely by the pool, as the weather served to remind all of us why it is we live in Florida. We had breakfast and lunch at Mara, the hotel's counter service restaurant. The resort also is home to two signature dining options: Boma, a buffet featuring food and flavors of Africa, and Jiko, for a traditional dining atmosphere. Given that we were due to rise at 2:30am for the half-marathon, we opted for a light dinner, and found ourselves in bed at 7pm. Not before we managed to spot a few wildebeest and a giraffe roaming the savanna outside our room.
For those perhaps planning a trip to Disney, it's worth noting that the location of the Animal Kingdom Lodge is not very central to the rest of Disney. The resort sits in a far corner of Disney property, and is really only convenient for visiting the Animal Kingdom park. If one is planning to visit the other three parks, and a convenient location is desired, then my suggestion would be one of the more centrally located Epcot resorts such as the Boardwalk.
While our stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was a short one, it was also quite enjoyable, even considering the issues with our check-in. The great thing about Disney, is that even on short trips like this, the transformation into "vacation mode" is almost immediate. The problem with short trips, however, is that you find yourself going home just as soon as you've arrived.
Thankfully, our spring vacation is right around the corner...
Enjoy Your Stay