Through the years when our family has sailed from Port Canaveral on such lines as Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, we have always spent some time in Orlando pre-cruise. And why not? By doing so, we are already near the port on embarkation day so there is no stress if there are flight delays or cancellations, and we extend our cruise vacation with a land portion. And with the theme parks in Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, plus water parks and other pastimes the city offers, there are more attractions than a fairy has pixie dust, so all ages are happily entertained.
Orlando boasts more than 450 hotels and resorts – more than 25 of those within Walt Disney World. Our favorite resort to stay at, particularly when we are on three generational get-togethers, is the Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World – we have done so four times in recent years. For our latest visit to break the news to our daughter and grandsons of where we were staying, I scrambled the letters of the resort’s name and had them try to guess what AYTWBLKAEORE stood for. Our daughter figured it out but since our grandsons were stumped, she asked them, “What’s the best place to stay in Orlando?” And they immediately replied, “Bay Lake Tower!”
A Disney Vacation Club property opened in 2009 and available for rental by non-Disney Vacation Club members like us, it is a deluxe, 15-story crescent-shaped tower that offers a mix of accommodations including studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom villas. Since we have six people in our family, we opt for a two-bedroom villa. Here are 5 reasons why we love it:
1) Location. Just a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom and on the shores of Bay Lake, the resort offers panoramic views of both. A huge plus, particularly for families with young children, is that the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks displays can be seen from Bay Lake Tower accommodations facing the park and from various locations in the resort, including elevator lobbies, the sky bridge that connects the resort to the Contemporary Resort and a terrace area at the Contemporary. When our grandsons were growing up it was a pleasure to get them into their pajamas, watch the fireworks from the comfort of our terrace or living room and then go to bed right after. Other Bay Lake Tower location benefits include that guests are also able to take the sky bridge to the Contemporary Resort’s Grand Concourse from where monorails take to the Magic Kingdom, Transportation & Ticket Center, Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village resorts and, with a transfer at the Transportation & Ticket Center, another monorail to Epcot. TIP: Even-numbered accommodations at the Bay Lake Tower face the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon; odd-numbered accommodations face the hotel’s pool and Bay Lake beyond. Designated “Magic Kingdom View” accommodations are more expensive than some units that are designated “Lake View.” Some “Lake View” rooms have “partial Magic Kingdom view” and they offer panoramas of Space Mountain and Cinderella Castle in the distance beyond. Guests may request this type of room and, though not guaranteed, Disney tries to accommodate requests (we always make the request and have gotten rooms with views of the fireworks –many are shot over Space Mountain, and from our accommodations, 8212 this year and 8112 previously, they were spectacular – and at a smaller price tag than “Magic Kingdom View” rooms. And from these accommodations we also had a lovely view of Bay Lake.
2) A walkway to the Magic Kingdom. In addition to having monorail service to the Magic Kingdom, the Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary Resort are the only hotels at Disney World within walking distance to that park along a pleasant walkway. A 10-minute stroll gets you to the gate – not having to wait for a bus or other transportation is a real advantage, particularly for families with young children at the end of a long day enjoying all the rides. TIP: Keep your camera ready for close-up photos of the monorails that glide by on the monorail line overhead as you walk to the Magic Kingdom and back on the walkway.
(3) By-passing the security check at the Magic Kingdom. The walkway to the Magic Kingdom has a security check area so hotel guests can be checked (with no line or a short line) and thus skip the longer lines at the park. TIP: To cut inspection time at any security checkpoint, place contents of bags and purses in clear plastic bags.
4) Comforts of home. Accommodations at the Bay Lake Tower have full kitchens (kitchenettes in studios) for quick breakfasts in the mornings and occasional meals in. This saves both time and money – guests may bring their own food or opt for a service available through the resort that delivers the groceries they want. One-bedroom and bigger units also have washer/dryer, which comes in handy when the kids have to be changed three times in one day. TIP: You can keep milk in your refrigerator or mini-fridge to go with some cookies for a delicious snack while watching the fireworks in the comfort of your villa.
5) Use of facilities and amenities at two resorts. Guests of the Bay Lake Tower have their own resort pool with water slide, hot tub, water play area, poolside bar and community hall, and they also have the convenience of being able to use the Contemporary Resort’s facilities including recreation, dining and shopping. TIP: Chef Mickey’s, one of the restaurants in the Grand Concourse of the Contemporary Resort serving American cuisine (like yummy Mickey waffles and hickory-smoked bacon for breakfast and glazed salmon, roasted chicken and macaroni and cheese for dinner), is particularly popular with families as it is an all-you-can-eat buffet-style meal with character appearances including the Big Cheese himself. So there is no need to wait in line to meet Mickey at the parks: he comes to your table and so do his pals Goofy, Donald, Minnie and Pluto.
These five reasons keep us coming back to the Bay Lake Tower plus, of course, the perks for staying at any resort on Disney property which include “Extra Magic Hours” (additional time at one of the Disney Parks each day, with valid ticket and resort I.D.) and early access to planning and reservations for FastPass+ (a pass that enables a parkgoer to skip the long lines at an attraction and return to the shorter FastPass+ line within a designated time window, and resort guests are able to reserve it up to 60 days prior to arrival — valid park admission is required).