So often in the movies, business, and life in general, sequels rarely live up to the original. Oceans 12, New Coke, Enrique Iglesias. The list of disappointing sequels goes on and on, with the one notable exception to the rule of course being Godfather Part II. Naturally, I was a bit cautious when Disney unveiled Kidani Village as the spinoff to Animal Kingdom Lodge; the latest serving from the company's Disney Vacation Club cash cow.
Nearly two years have passed since Kidani Village opened its doors, and until recently I avoided staying at the resort out of fear that I'd leave more disappointed than I was after Hangover 2. The Disney of 2013 has a tendency to do things on the cheap - especially at DVC resorts where "keeping member dues low" let's them off the hook at the expense of quality - and I just didn't see any way that they could live up to unique beauty of the original Animal Kingdom Lodge. Still, I decided it was time to give Kidani Village a fair shot. In return, they gave me exactly what I expected.
|The Room - A Studio|
Now, before things go too far downhill here, let me emphasize that there actually were a few things I liked about the resort. First off, the rooms at Kidani Village have the same safari lodge feel of the original hotel - now called Jambo House - combined with the larger size which is customary for the DVC resorts. Kidani Village also surrounds the resort's famous savannah where gazelles, emus, zebras and other animals roam throughout the day, giving a new definition to the phrase "room with a view." I literally woke up from an afternoon nap one day to a giraffe head passing by outside our balcony.
|Giraffes, Gazelles, and Emus oh my!|
I can't recall the last time a hotel only had enough positives to fill a single paragraph, but there you have it. Kidani Village was doomed from the start, not because of any preconceived assumptions on sequels, but from an abysmal first impression. One that cast a shadow over the entire stay, and caused me to pick apart every little inadequacy of the hotel. What could have possibly riled me up so much? Well, I'm glad you asked...
|The view of the savannah from the lobby.|
There was a time when arriving to a Disney resort was something special. From the moment the car was put into park, you were transported to another place that resembled nothing like home, much less Central Florida. The Polynesian, for example, welcomes guests to their own private island in Hawaii, while even Caribbean Beach - arguably my least favorite hotel on the planet - imparts a feel of a lush tropical oasis. Kidani Village, on the other hand, begins your safari on the plains of the Serengeti with this...
Because nothing says "African Safari" quite like a parking garage. Sure, parking garages aren't all that uncommon at hotels, but they're unheard of at Disney. A decade ago, presenting a design which welcomed guests to a resort with stale concrete and exposed pipes might have resulted in an Imagineer being fired. Today, these ideas aren't just tolerated, they're embraced and probably celebrated with a round of scotch thanks to all the extra money that was saved in the process. If you needed confirmation that the days are history of Disney's hotels telling a story with beautifully designed and themed buildings, then look no further than the parking garage at Kidani Village.
|The pool was another semi-bright spot.|
To be fair, I realize it is just a parking garage, but this lousy first impression set the tone for the entire stay. Were it not for the garage, I might have overlooked the generic rectangle buildings with a few painted sticks on the side serving as "theme." Or that the only restaurant at Kidani Village doesn't serve breakfast. Or the insanely long hallways which turned quick trips to the lobby into 20 minute ordeals. Or that I had to drive clear across Walt Disney World to find drinkable coffee - OK, so this isn't a Kidani Village specific complaint, I'm just on a roll and figured I'd toss it in.
|Yup...looks just like a safari lodge.|
Do I sound like a hotel snob? Absolutely, but it's only because I long for the good old days. Where quality and the guest experience at Disney weren't sacrificed in favor of the almighty dollar. Sadly, this sequel followed the path of so many in the movie business and bombed at the box office. In the end it was just a parking garage, but for this lifelong Disney fan it represented so much more.
Enjoy Your Stay