Pros and Cons of Walt Disney World Resort Tiers
The Walt Disney Company owns and operates more than 20 resorts at Walt Disney World.
Some of them cost more, while others come with better amenities. And the sheer volume of possible choices may paralyze you with indecision.
Today, I’d like to help a bit by discussing Disney’s tiering system with its Walt Disney World resorts.
Here are the pros and cons of each resort tier.
Disney created the tiered system as a means of distinguishing what customers should expect from each tier.
The official site currently lists 31 Disney resorts, but that number feels misleading. Some places get listed in multiple categories.
A fourth tier, Deluxe Villas, primarily applies to Disney Vacation Club properties, although others may book them.
I’m excluding this tier for the purpose of this discussion. Suffice to say that if money is no object, they’re the best rooms.
However, they also cater more to guests seeking oversized studio hotel rooms and villas.
Instead, we should focus on the three tiers that tourists book the most.
The Value Tier includes the four All-Star resorts plus one that’s always lumped in with them and The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
The Moderate Tier also lumps in part of Fort Wilderness, the Cabins, along with four other properties.
Finally, the Deluxe Tier contains eight properties and three exclusives to the Deluxe Villas section.
I think of the tiers as five in Value, five in Moderate, and 11 in Deluxe. That’s admittedly a bit sloppy of me, but I wanted to clarify before proceeding.
Value Tier Pros
Most frequent Disney fans stay at an All-Star resort at some point in their lives. Similarly, many first-time visitors stay here, too.
The explanation seems obvious. The Value Tier resorts cost the least. Also, they’re among the easiest to book due to their cavernous sizes.
Here are the primary options from the Value Tier:
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
These five locations offer 9,308 rooms, an average of 1,862 each.
Even the smallest resort, Art of Animation, hosts 984 rooms. Pop Century operates 2,880 rooms on its own!
So, you can usually book at one of these places even when everything else has sold out.
Also, you’ll pay the least of any Disney resort. Rack rates at All-Star Movies start at $118, and I’ve seen sub-$100 nights over the past year.
Obviously, once the pandemic ends, prices will increase. The point remains, though.
The Value Tier hotels qualify as affordable even by regular hotel standards, much less for an official Disney resort.
Value Tier Cons
Historically, the two biggest cons have been logistics and amenities.
All Value Tier properties include brilliant Disney theming, which justifies a walk across the hotel grounds.
However, critics comment on the resorts’ cookie-cutter nature, especially the ones with All-Star in the name.
Disney did build them symmetrically, which explains why they feel similar. The hotel lobbies and grounds distinguish each one.
Some guests recognize and harp on the sameness more than others. I cannot speak as to whether you’ll notice it or not.
Other amenities like pools and restaurants get overstated, in my opinion. You can eat well at places like World Premiere Food Court or Everything POP!
Still, these stereotypes about the resorts get mentioned enough that they fall under the cons.
As for logistics, this issue proved troublesome a couple of years ago.
Since several thousand guests stay at the resorts each night, buses can be problematic.
You’re away from the heart of the Disney campus at these hotels, which means it’s buses or nothing, too.
However, the advent of the Disney Skyliner has turned this negative into a positive.
Guests can walk to the station located between Pop Century and Art of Animation.
Then, the Disney Skyliner will transport people to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or EPCOT. And it’s a lovely gondola ride, too!
Yes, waiting for a bus can feel like forever when you’re unlucky. So, I cannot wave away logistics as perfect. They’re much improved, though.
Moderate Tier Pros
You probably don’t shop at the nicest grocery store in town, but you also don’t frequent the cheapest one, either.
You do this because years of consumer experience have taught you that the value lies in the middle.
This same approach applies to Walt Disney World. Despite the naming convention, you’ll find the best value at Moderate, not Value Tier, resorts.
The explanation involves logistics and amenities along with prices.
The Moderate Tier includes:
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
You’ll have your choice of 7,716 hotel rooms, campsites, and cabins. And some of the rooms include novelty themes like pirates and royalty.
These rooms currently start as low as $232 per night, and MickeyTravels agents know the best ways to maximize your travel budget, too!
You can speak with one of these experts to learn the best place to stay with your budget…and their services are totally free to you!
As for amenities, places like Caribbean Beach feature the Centertown Market area, which includes Table Service and Quick Service restaurants.
At Coronado Springs, the new Destino Tower qualifies as the most recent Moderate Tier expansion.
With logistics, they’ve significantly improved as well. The Disney Skyliner’s central hub resides at Caribbean Beach.
So, when you stay here, you’re midway between the various connected parks and resorts.
Some properties also include boat service to parks and Disney Springs.
Moderate Tier Cons
The complaint I hear the most about Moderate Tier properties comes down to campus size.
These resorts reside on massive sites, stretching the hotel buildings across vast distances.
As such, the internal bus routes could take a while just to circle the area before you ever leave the hotel grounds.
The massive campuses create a second problem with their expansive nature. You can and will get turned around some while walking around the hotel grounds.
Also, some places like Caribbean Beach include buildings far away from the Centertown hub. So, you must walk a while to get where you want to go.
None of these issues will do more than temporarily inconvenience you during your trip, though, which explains why the Moderate Tier provides such great value.
Deluxe Tier Pros
When you stay at a Deluxe Tier property, you’re living La Vida Loca, as the kids used to say last century.
These hotels embody the best of Disney Imagineering, as they come with immaculate theming and amenities.
As a longtime Disney tourist and DVC member, I’ve spent a lot of time at these deluxe resorts.
I can say in complete sincerity that they all live up to the hype. In fact, I stayed at two within the last month, and I’m still daydreaming about them.
The Deluxe Tier includes :
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
I usually lump in the Deluxe Villas, which adds:
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
The amenities at these places will blow your mind. Dazzling restaurants like ‘Ohana, California Grill, Boma, and Whispering Canyon Café reside here.
Immaculate shops like BouTiki, Bay View Gifts, and Beach Club Marketplace will eliminate any need to visit World of Disney or Mouse Gear.
Also, the logistics border on the absurd. Three of these properties populate the Resort Monorail line.
You can leave your hotel room and be on a monorail to Magic Kingdom in a matter of minutes.
In fact, you can skip this step at a few places like Beach Club Resort.
Instead, you can simply walk to the park, as EPCOT is only five minutes away! Other places like the Polynesian feature boats to Magic Kingdom.
In short, these places cost a lot, but you get what you pay for.
Deluxe Tier Cons
As I just said, these places cost a lot.
For some of you, four nights at a Deluxe Tier resort might match or surpass your monthly mortgage/rent check.
Frankly, that’s the only con for these hotels, as they’re absolutely perfect. When money is no object, you shouldn’t consider anything else.
I’ve got a friend spending his honeymoon at a Value Tier property. It’s killing me that I haven’t persuaded him to upgrade since I know he can afford it.
I’m devout in the belief that the Deluxe Tier is the best. However, the overwhelming majority of my friends disagree with me.
They (correctly) argue that unless you spend most of your vacation at your hotel, you’re spending too much of your vacation budget that way.
I don’t view the situation that way, but I respect the opinions of those who do.
Frankly, you cannot go wrong with any of Disney’s official resorts. They’re all overflowing with Disney magic.
You should pick the one that suits your budget the best. And a MickeyTravels expert can really help you decide. Don’t hesitate to ask!