We did not discover the Wilderness Lodge at Disney World until the last few years. We are not strangers to the Disney World parks and resorts, but had somehow overlooked this less-talked-about hotel.
Wilderness Lodge is now one of our favorites, even though it is not on the monorail track. It is a serene getaway in the heart of the Magic Kingdom area, and a place that feels most like home at Disney World.
The Wilderness Lodge is not one of the highest-tier hotels on the monorail track of the Magic Kingdom. Those honors belong to the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian resorts.
It is not a budget hotel, like the All-Star hotels. It is not coveted like the Beach Club (and Boardwalk) hotels with their walking proximity to EPCOT. It does not have animal safari savannah views, as does Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Instead, the Wilderness Lodge Hotel and Villas (Disney Vacation Club — DVC) offer the convenience of a Magic Kingdom resort (just a short bus or boat ride away), with the feeling that you’ve escaped from all the hectic theme park pace…into a relaxing wilderness haven.
Disney’s Grand Floridian hotel balances classic beauty and elegance with exceptional service in the heart of Disney World. Being a top-priced Disney hotel, there is always high demand for this property. We have found the service to be exceptional here, even by Disney standards.
We stayed in a studio Lake view Villa (DVC, Disney Vacation Club) at the Grand Floridian, and were again very satisfied with the location and overall service.
It is worth the premium to reserve a Lake view Villa here. You’re already paying for the Grand Floridian… it’s just a few more points for an exceptional view.
The Avalon Impression (2014) is a beautiful new ship in the Avalon fleet. I am reviewing this as a ‘hotel’ because it is your floating hotel along the rivers of Europe. Our cruise sailed from Budapest, Hungary to Amsterdam (14 days) in August 2015, and was filled with many surprising ups and downs.
The Small Ship Difference
This was our first river cruise. We had been on many ocean cruises, ranging from 3600 passengers to ‘small ships’ of about 650 passengers. This was much smaller.
The Avalon Impression holds about 166 passengers — there were 150 passengers on our sailing. The Impression has 67 Suites, and 16 outside staterooms with windows (lower, Indigo deck)
The front desk reception (also your Security team), knows each passenger by name and stateroom number. There is a lost and found, where things that are lost might actually get found!
You get to know your fellow passengers with only 150 people on board. River cruise passengers tend to be friendly, social people who want to get to know you. If you don’t enjoy meeting new people, then river cruising will be more challenging for you than ocean cruising.