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Charting a Course at the Yacht Club:
A Resort Review
by Debra Martin Koma, AllEars® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the June 3, 2008 Issue #454 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
There's a saying you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Luckily for the Yacht Club Resort, I give second chances, because my first impression of the nautically themed resort, when I stayed there for the first time a few years ago, was not a favorable one. The resort felt cold and stuffy, and the staff seemed to match. Even with an annual passholder's discount, my room there cost more than I normally spend on a hotel, and yet I still had a less-than-desirable view. It was uncomfortable and I felt as though I didn't belong there at all -- a far cry from the cool and casual Beach Club next door, which always makes me feel like I never want to leave. That stay at the Yacht Club was such an overall negative experience that I haven't gone back, except to pass through at the holidays, for nearly six years. I'm happy to say that my most recent stay at this lovely resort changed all that.
If you're unfamiliar with it, The Yacht Club and its sister resort the Beach Club are situated along Crescent Lake, directly across from Disney's BoardWalk. The Yacht Club opened November 5, 1990, and was designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern, who was also responsible for the BoardWalk. These resorts were designed to evoke the feel of the seashore -- in the Yacht Club's case, New England seaside towns of the late 1800s, like Newport and Bar Harbor. You may not have ever realized it, because it is so cleverly disguised, but the Yacht Club and Beach Club are actually part of the same structure. The Yacht Club is the gray clapboard half of the building, with a wrecked yacht, the Albatross, on its sandy shore. (The Beach Club's side is sky blue, with a white sandy stretch of beach.)
If I felt so much more comfortable at the Yacht Club this visit, a lot of it had to do with the staff. From the moment I checked in with cast member Milo, who was way too cheery for so late in the afternoon, until the time I stopped by lobby concierge to see if they could print my boarding pass for my return trip home (they could and did! cheerfully, I might add), I encountered some of the happiest, kindest cast members I've run into at a Disney resort for a while. There's nothing like a big smile and a "How can I help?" to cast a favorable light on a place, is there?
When you enter the Yacht Club, you may be greeted by a dapper gentleman in a sharp double-breasted navy jacket and white pants, and a white admiral's cap. This is one aspect of the Yacht Club that has always enchanted me -- what a great idea. I only saw the greeter once this trip, and he was engaged with a young family so I didn't have the chance to talk with him. The family, especially the little boy in the group, seemed to be enjoying the warm welcome, and the greeter himself seemed to be eating up the attention. The greeter is just one thing that sets the Yacht Club apart from most other resorts, even at Disney.
The Yacht Club's decor is, not surprisingly, distinctly nautical, and for some reason feels slightly more upscale, and more formal, than its Beach Club counterpart. Maybe it has to do with the materials used to furnish the place. From the moment you step into the lobby, you'll find numerous rich details: luxurious leather sofas with dark wood accents are complemented by wing-backed chairs upholstered in seafoam green, blues and yellow tones. Whereas previously I felt the atmosphere the furnishings created to be a bit snooty, this trip it all felt cozier to me. Maybe they did something subtle to the décor, but it felt more inviting - I really wanted to sink into those chairs and didn't feel out of place at all.
As you walk around the lobby, look around. With tall potted palms, and accent pieces like the monkey-base lamp, the lobby definitely has "clubby" feel to it. There are other spots of interest as well -- a short stairway of polished hardwoods, with burnished brass railing, leads to a landing that features a table with a huge vase of fresh flowers, and a regal eagle statue. And when you walk down the long hallway that leads to the resort's restaurants and lounge, the vast expanse of gleaming hardwoods ends with an oversized china breakfront, evocative of a bygone era. Be sure to check out the glass cases flanking the main doorway with the very large ship models -- somebody had a lot of patience, but I can assure you it wasn't me!
As you wait for the elevator to take you upstairs, you'll notice numerous subtle touches that are meant to conjure up the idea of a ship. Take, for example, the call buttons for the shiny brass elevators -- ships' wheels, encircled by a brass fitting. It's a little thing, but it's that attention to detail that Disney is so well-known for.
The motif is not abandoned once you leave the main lobby area -- it's carried out throughout this spacious and comfortable resort, which houses about 540 standard rooms that are about 380 square feet. The hallways leading to the rooms are not the usual nondescript carpeted pathways you might find elsewhere. Every so often you'll find a padded bench surrounded by more potted palms, or a credenza, curio cabinet or breakfront, filled with antique-y type dishes and pottery. And oh yes -- the carpeting. Under your feet, you'll note the rugs and carpets not only bear out the sailing motif, with their compass and stars, but they also feature not-so-hidden Mickey heads woven into the pattern.
The rooms themselves are not-so-subtly decorated in a variety of blues and maroons, accented with sailboats and ropes (on the bedspreads), anchors (on the chairs), and Hidden Mickeys scattered here and there as well. While you're admiring all these details in the room, don't miss the cute Skipper Mickey lamp on the desk. Rooms have one king-size or two queen-size beds with a headboard that sports a ships' wheel as the center point. There are also double sinks in the bathroom area, a makeup mirror, a small table and chairs, refrigerator, coffeemaker with coffee packets, and an armoire with a television and a minibar. Some rooms have balconies or patios. Other room amenities include room service, hair dryers, iron and ironing board, newspaper delivery, turndown service (on request), wall safe, toiletries, and voice mail. (The Yacht Club also offers a concierge service with slightly larger rooms on the fifth floor. In addition, 20 special suites range in size from a junior suite to a two-bedroom suite to the ultimate Presidential Suite.) Despite the high price of the room, there's a charge for high speed internet access, but at least it is available -- you'll find a cable located in a bag on a hanger in the closet.
My standard room this time had a lovely, though small, balcony, overlooking lots of trees. The only problem was that since behind those trees was the front of the resort, I heard lots of bus and traffic noise. Never mind -- it was better than the view of the hip roof I had the last time I stayed at this resort!
As comfortable as the rooms are, you probably won't want to stay there for long, especially since the Yacht Club is one of the resorts whose guests are eligible for the legendary mini-water park known as Stormalong Bay. Spanning about three acres adjacent to the Yacht and Beach Clubs, this oversized pool (really three linked together) features a sand bottom, with bubbling jets, a water slide secreted in a shipwreck and two hot tubs. Because of its popularity, this pool is strictly monitored and is for guests of the Yacht and Beach Club and Beach Club Villas only. (By the way, if you're looking for a quieter pool experience, there is a quiet pool, the Admiral Pool, located at the far end of the resort, near the tennis courts.)
If you're feeling a little more energetic than a dip in the pool, there's a sand volleyball court nearby. Sometimes, as I did on this visit, you'll find ping-pong tables set up outdoors, near Hurricane Hanna's, the pool's bar and grill. For the kids, there's also a playground in the Stormalong Bay area.
Because the Yacht Club shares a lot of facilities with its neighbor the Beach Club, when you stay here you can take advantage of more than the usual number of amenities. For example, there's the usual state of the art fitness room, the Ship Shape Health Club, which also offers spa and massage services. And there's also the game arcade Lafferty Place. (Both are located adjacent to the pool area.) But there are also a beauty salon (Periwig's, just remember to check the prices of the services first - don't get sticker shock like I did!) and a burger joint (the extremely popular Beaches and Cream). There's also the Bayside Marina, which rents pontoon boats, sea raycers (like jet skis),and surrey bikes, and is home to the new Breathless 2, a reproduction ChrisCraft motor boat named after Breathless Mahoney, an old Dick Tracey comic character. For a little extra fun, there's a stand that does hair wraps and another selling choose-your-own pearls right out of the live oysters ($14.95).
Besides being walking distance to both Epcot (about a 5-minute walk) and Disney's Hollywood Studios (about a 15-minute walk), the Yacht Club's location is convenient to a number of eating establishments. At the Yacht Club proper, you'll find the Captain's Grille (formerly the Yacht Club Galley), which serves a buffet breakfast, and basic American fare for dinner. The Yachtsman Steakhouse, around the corner, is one of the better fine dining restaurants on Disney property, serving up, as the name implies, lots of red meat. In fact, just walking into this upscale dining room is an experience, as the various cuts of meat are attractively displayed just where you enter. In the mornings, you can pick up a light breakfast and coffee at the Ale and Compass Lounge, located right in the main hotel lobby. And if you're looking for cocktails, along with appetizers or finger foods, the Crew's Cup lounge is located next door to the Yachtsman. And I can't forget to mention that there is 24-hour room service… one of the advantages of staying at one of Disney's deluxe resort hotels.
If those choices aren't enough for you, though, you can just walk to the other end of the building to find the Beach Club's eateries -- the Cape May Cafe buffet, or the Beach Club Marketplace, which features salads, sandwiches, homemade gelato and other light fare. And if those still won't do it for you, the Boardwalk is just about a half-mile away on the other side of the lake, the WDW Swan and Dolphin are nearby, and of course you can always just make the quick trip into Epcot. You shouldn't go hungry here!
Between the more relaxed atmosphere, the pleasant and helpful cast members, and the variety of choices of things to do and places to eat, I had a wonderful stay at the Yacht Club this time -- in fact, this time, I really didn't want to leave.
Yacht Club Fact Sheet: http://allears.net/acc/faq_yc.htm
Yacht Club Photo Gallery (with updated photos): http://allears.net/acc/g_yc.htm
Resort Photo Slideshow: http://allears.net/acc/ycss.htm
Stormalong Bay Photos: http://allears.net/acc/g_sab.htm
Reader Reviews: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=25&sort=8&cat=3&page=1
Concierge Reviews: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=37&sort=8&cat=31&page=1
Other articles by Debra Martin Koma: http://allears.net/btp/dkoma.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.