Ranking the BEST (and Worst) of the Disney World Deluxe Resorts!

Staying at  Walt Disney World resort hotel has become a bedrock part of the Disney World experience for many guests, both because of the thematic immersion the resorts offer as well as the more practical benefits of staying on property.

But it’s important to know that not all Disney Resort hotels are created equal. Now, don’t get us wrong: the Value and Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World provide a pretty solid product for their price, and frankly they might be a better choice depending on what type of Disney trip you’re looking to take.

But if you’re looking for the lap of Disney luxury, you should be looking no further than the vacation kingdom’s Deluxe tier of resorts, which offer quality and amenities not found at the Value and Moderate Resorts. But how do these Deluxe resorts stack up against each other? Let’s find out!

NOTE: This list, as any ranking, is entirely subjective. In addition, there truthfully are no “bad” Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World. Even the lowest-ranked hotels on the list are still incredible examples of theme and service. 

8 & 7. Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

These sister resorts share the dubious distinction of coming in last place on our list, but as noted above, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. In fact, the Beach Club’s serene theme — modeled after the seaside cottages of Newport, Rhode Island, circa the 19th century — provides as relaxing an atmosphere as one can find in Walt Disney World, while the Yacht Club’s New England nautical-theme echoes the best of Martha’s Vineyard.

Yacht and Beach Club Resorts on Crescent Lake

The resorts feature all the amenities guests expect of a Deluxe Resort. They share what is arguably the World’s best pool, the Stormalong Bay pool complex – which includes sand-bottom pools, a circular lazy river, waterfall, and the Shipwreck waterslide — a convention center, and numerous restaurants including the Cape May Cafe, Yachtsman Steakhouse, and highly-acclaimed Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. However, because the two hotels share so much infrastructure, it becomes hard to look at them as individual hotels, which hurts their overall rankings on our list.

 

6. Disney’s Contemporary Resort

There’s perhaps no more well-known Disney World resort than the Contemporary. The image of the a-frame building with a monorail track passing through while the resort looms over Tomorrowland has been a major part of the Walt Disney World experience (and brand recognition) since the complex opened in 1971.

Contemporary’s Concourse

Inside, the hotel is defined by its huge Grand Canyon concourse, Mary Blair murals, and several restaurants including the popular character dining experience at Chef Mickey’s, The Wave, and the rooftop California Grill. That said, the Contemporary ends up at the lower end of our Deluxe Resort rankings because its overall decor is, ironically given its name, a tad dated. As a result, the hotel lacks the magic and luxury guests can find at other Deluxe Resorts.

 

5. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

From the first moment a guest enters the Wilderness Lodge’s magnificent eight story lobby, they’re completely enveloped by the resort’s rustic, National Park-esque theme. The hotel’s grounds feature geysers and rock work that mimic the best of America’s natural wonders. Said theming also translates to the guest rooms and the popular Artist Point restaurant where Storybook Dining allows diners to mingle with Snow White, some of the Dwarfs, and the Evil Queen.

Artist Point

Wilderness Lodge lands in the bottom half of our list because while the location in the Magic Kingdom Resort area is good, it means the Resort is pretty far from the other three Parks, and though we enjoy a leisurely boat ride, the Deluxe Resorts on the Monorail Loop are more convenient overall.  

4. Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas 

The BoardWalk – which is perhaps not so shockingly themed like a Coney Island-style northeast boardwalk – features all of the typical amenities of a deluxe level resort. However, the reasons it’s so high on our list is its namesake boardwalk.

BoardWalk Inn and & Villas

The hotel’s recreation of a seaside amusement pier offers a full entertainment district including dining (Big River Grille & Brewing Company, ESPN Club, Flying Fish Cafe, Trattoria al Forno) and nightlife (Atlantic Dance Hall, Abracadabar, and Jellyrolls). These fully functioning entertainment venues give an authenticity to the BoardWalk that few if any other Disney resorts can replicate.

3. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

There’s a reason that the Grand Floridian has been Walt Disney World’s flagship resort since it first opened in 1988. The Victorian-themed resort offers opulent guest rooms and recreation areas designed after the huge beach resorts that lined Florida’s coast during the 19th and early 20th centuries. On top of all that, the resort features a convention center, the Walt Disney World Wedding Pavilion, and the unparalleled Victoria and Albert’s restaurant.

Grand Floridian Resort Lobby

For guests looking to add a little glamour to their vacations, it doesn’t get better than the Grand Floridian. Add to that its convenient location on the Monorail and a forthcoming pathway direct to Magic Kingdom, and Grand Floridian earns the number three spot easily.

 

2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Animal Kingdom Lodge features top-notch rooms and some of the best food (Jiko, Boma, and Sanaa) on property, however neither those nor any other typical hotel amenities are the main draw of the resort. 

 

Animal Kingdom Lodge views can’t be beat!

That title goes to the massive African Savanna that rings the resort’s grounds. Guests can experience hundreds of species of wildlife, including giraffes, zebras, cranes, and antelope right off their Resort balconies, providing once in a lifetime experiences.

1. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

The top spot on our list goes to the Polynesian Village Resort, arguably most the quintessential Disney Resort experience. Like the Contemporary, the Polynesian opened with Walt Disney World in October of 1971.

Disney’s Polynesian Resort

However unlike the former, the latter’s theme has aged well – it helps that the “Poly” has been updated numerous times over the years – and thanks to an abundance of restaurants including ‘Ohana and Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, lush beaches, a pool built around an artificial volcano, and gorgeous views of the Magic Kingdom, the Polynesian is the gold standard of Disney Deluxe Resorts.

You truly can not go wrong with any of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts, where amenities and services are known to be top quality at Walt Disney World. But this list, subjective though it is, highlights some of the best qualities of each Resort so you’ll know what you can expect when you call a Deluxe Resort home.

Do you agree with our list or did we get everything dead wrong about Disney’s Deluxe Resorts? Let us know either way in the comments below.

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13 Replies to “Ranking the BEST (and Worst) of the Disney World Deluxe Resorts!”

  1. I enjoy the Beach Club most of all- our entire family does- we just wish they were the size of OKW.
    Boardwalk has incredibly LONG hallways and the pool is nothing special.
    I’ve never felt welcome at the Grand Floridian when I walk in wearing my DVC gear.
    Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom lodge are nice but transportation is meager.

  2. We have always stayed at the Floridian when we come to disney. It is our favorite resort and we think it is number one. We hope to come some year at christmas and enjoy the Floridian at that time of year. The staff is so helpful, the view is so beautiful, the pool is outstanding and the monorail is right outside our door.
    We have been going to disney world since 1976. We used to stay at the golf resort and once the floridian was built, we wont think of staying anywhere else. Because it is a deluxe resort, we save for several years to afford it , but it is worth every penny. We are due to come back this year but with this pandemic we dont know when that might be. Maybe we will finally see Christmas at the floridian! What a dream come true that would be!. It is the number one resort in our eyes.

  3. We stayed at the Poly for the first time in September. Our room smelled musty, but okay, maybe it had been closed up. They claimed they had no other rooms (club level). The smell was so bad it kept waking me up at night, also, one corner of the room”crunchy” floor? The next day they moved us down the hall. The room was much better, but still not good. The entire hallway had a horrible musty odor. Very disappointing to say the least. I will stay there again someday AFTER is has been refurbished. I can see how it COULD be top notch.

  4. Sorry I would not have put the Poly as the #1 resort. The lack of diversity in room sizes limits it too much. Yes it is in a great location and has some great amenities, but it has a few drawbacks that should have kept it below 2nd place. Also animal kingdom should have been a bit lower also. Mainly because it is too far from everything.

  5. I have stayed at them often and all are wonderful First time it opened stayed at contemporary it was nice but nothing special. After that we often stayed at the Poly and it was fab. But my absolute favorite is the Yacht Clup. Their steak house is amazing. Rooms lovely, decor great and the pool it shares with the Beach Club is wonderful.

  6. Rankings are going to be different for every guest and are subjective. Why not just rely on the current hotel rankings and comments provided by thousands of guests?

  7. I’ve stayed at all the deluxe resorts in the list and yes you got it wrong. What about location location location. AKL way too high YBCR too low is just the beginning.

    1. Agree completely with this comment. The location of a resort is a major factor but seems to have been completely overlooked in the decision making process. The reasoning that because Yacht & Beach share so much infrastructure they get a low ranking is bewildering.

      I may be biased as I love staying at the Beach Club but I doubt you will ever find another listing of the deluxe resorts that has Yacht & Beach club in last position (let alone six places behind AKL).

      1. Gary & Andrew are SPOT ON with their comments on this review. This ranking list makes nearly zero sense on the scale of order. I can see if your scale is about “fancy” or upscale then let’s agree Grand Floridian, but the deluxe rating is given to many factors. Location of that deluxe resort (whether you have kids or not) is part of the convience you’re paying for in addition to amenities.
        I too will stay at YBCR (or Boardwalk as a backup) any chance we get based on the ease of walking or friendship boating to 2 parks vs did transport bus & monorail to MK. I love the area of them & the atmosphere.

        I think this review shouldn’t have an order but rather cover the plus & challenge of each, so folks can see the real value of what they can expect from each.