“ Address: 4600 North World Drive / Lake Buena Vista / FL 32830 / USA „
Disney's Contemporary Hotel was part of the original opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando in 1971. It is an easily recognisable iconic structure with a distinctive A-shape and a monorail track running straight through the middle. Futuristic in its time it now holds great charm in a retro-stylish way. It is the closest hotel to the Magic Kingdom and is classified at a Deluxe Resort. In the last couple of years a new hotel has been built adjacent to the Contemporary Hotel with the same general theme and now Bay Lake Tower also forms part of the Contemporary Resort.
Bay Lake Tower is actually part of the Disney Vacation Club which is the company's time-share scheme however a certain number of each room type are also available as part of the ordinary Contemporary Resort inventory. The rooms range from the Studios which have a double-bed, a sofa-bed and a kitchenette, through one and two-bedroom units to the two-storey Grand-villas which can sleep up to 12 people. We stayed in a One-bed roomed Villa. The rack-rate for Disney accommodation varies tremendously depending on demand and package deals, currently the basic price for a Studio for one week in February 2012 is £2330, 1-bed prices are not released at the minute.
Finding Bay Lake Tower is easy as it is part of the Magic Kingdom resort so we simply followed the signs to the Magic Kingdom and then when we arrived at the ticket booths we said we were checking-in and we were allowed in with no charge and told to take the road to the right. With-in two minutes we could see the distinctive Contemporary Hotel and pulled in to the gatehouse where the guard instructed us to park at the doors of Contemporary to check-in. Bay lake Tower itself does not have its own reception so we had to park the car outside the main hotel to check-in.
When we arrived the reception area was empty so we were dealt with immediately. The lady who served us was delightful, she was efficient and knowledgeable as well as very friendly and we were soon all checked in. We left a credit-card number so we could use the automatic check-out on departure. We were all issued with our Keys to the World cards which act as door keys and charge cards and also park entry cards if you had bought park passes through Disney (we hadn't done this), I declined charging facilities my children's cards so theirs were simply door keys.
We then had to go back to the car and drive around to Bay Lake Tower. The car park was large but it was also quite full so we ended up parking a reasonable way away but our suitcases have wheels so it was not a problem. We could have unloaded our cases outside the main hotel and the Bellboys would bring them over (for a tip!) but it was easy enough to do it ourselves. We had to swipe the card in a machine by the main door to access the lobby and we easily found the lift to reach our 4th floor room (3rd floor really but in America they have no Ground Floor)
===Arriving in Our Room===
On opening the door we were immediately struck by the amount of space we had. A few years ago we stayed in a one bed apartment at another hotel and it was very cramped but this one was huge. The decor is in keeping with the retro feel of the resort with curved designs, bright colours and quirky features such as sliding doors to the bathrooms.
We had a large lounge area with a sofa-bed and chair-bed and enormous flat screen TV as well as a fully equipped kitchen, breakfast bar and dining table and a door to the balcony. There was also a washer/dryer in its own cupboard and a bathroom with over-the-bath shower and toilet with a wardrobe in the hall area as we walked in. On entering the bedroom we were greeted by the biggest bed I have ever seen, I think you could sleep about 5 people in there if you were so inclined! There was another flat-screen TV, ample drawers and sliding doors to the balcony. There was a smallish wardrobe with a safe in it. A sliding, frosted glass door led into the bathroom with an enormous whirlpool bath and a sink in a vanity unit, another sliding door led to the toilet and walk-in shower.
Everywhere was very clean and there were plenty of towels, toiletries and useful things like washing up liquid, dishwasher powder and laundry detergent.
===Staying in Our Room===
All of the first impressions of our room were good but there were a few things which we only noticed once we were in residence.
Some of the furniture was already looking a bit tired. The hotel has only been open a couple of years but the furniture is not standing up to the wear and tear very well and has several chips and dents as well as some stains. This did not bother me too much but for a Deluxe resort I think this needs to be looked at carefully.
The balcony had a lovely view over the marina toward the Contemporary Hotel. We could see Bay Lake as well as the Cypress trees in the distance; it was a peaceful place to sit during the day. However it was quite small and only had two chairs, since the apartment can sleep 5 comfortably (6 if using a cot) this seems a bit odd. Unfortunately once the sun started to go down we had to close the door and resist the balcony as the mosquitoes were terrible. The weather when we travelled seems to have been a particular problem and there were literally thousands dead on our balcony every morning, I sent hubby out there with a broom every day before we could sit out. The Tower is 15 stories high and some of the higher rooms and those on the North side seem to have fewer problems but those of us on the South side had to put up with swarms of the things! It is a real shame that the balconies are not netted.
The main bathroom had the most unusual feature of sliding panels in the wall so you could lie in your Jacuzzi bath and watch the massive TV in the main-bedroom. I can't say this appealed to me but both of my children thoroughly enjoyed this and there was a lock on the main bedroom door to ensure privacy whilst luxuriating!
Like most US hotels there was no kettle, to make tea I had to use the coffee maker or boil water in a saucepan. However besides the absence of a kettle there was really nothing else missing that we needed, plenty of plates, cutlery and utensils, a good hairdryer, iron and ironing board, iPod dock and alarm clock.
The lounge has a massive panoramic window which gave us a brilliant view of the Electric Water Pageant each evening.
The walls and floors appeared to be paper-thin. We didn't realise this until 2 days before we checked-out, prior to this the rooms adjacent to us must have been empty. We could hear the toilet and the shower as clearly as if it had been in my room and I also soon found out the names of my neighbours children and the fact that one of them snored horrendously.
Storing the suitcases was a bit tricky. We travel relatively light so only had 3 medium sized cases to store but the bed base was solid so there was no-where to put them except in the top of the wardrobes but since they were not very big there was only room for one in each so I ended up hiding one case behind the chair in the bedroom!
The enormous bed was the comfiest I think I have ever slept in. It really was a struggle to get up in the morning; I think I could have lay there all day quite happily.
When we booked the hotel it had wired internet access in the main bedroom which was chargeable to none DVC guests. However I was very pleased to find that when we arrived Disney had just installed wireless internet in Bay lake Tower (literally the previous week!) which is currently free of charge but a charge may be introduced in the future. This worked well and was a good speed.
Each corridor had a place to deposit trash, an ice-machine (we had a freezer but Studios only have a fridge) and a vending machine for snacks. Cash reservations should get house-keeping every day but DVC residents only get it every fourth day so if you are staying on an ordinary reservation and your room is not cleaned contact reception as occasionally the rooms can be mixed up.
Bay Lake Tower has a small outdoor swimming pool which has a water-slide which is attractively housed in an unusual glass-bricked tower. Towels are available free of charge at the poolside and there are plenty of pool chairs. We were technically off-season and there was never any problem finding chairs, infact finding another person around the pool was very unusual. There is also a water-squirting area for young children. There is a larger pool at the Contemporary Hotel that guests can use too.
There is a Marina at the Contemporary hotel where you can catch a boat launch to the Wilderness Lodge Resort or hire varying boats for exploring the lake.
Around the pool area there are BBQ areas, shuffleboard courts and table-tennis tables.
The Cove Bar is located at the pool and sells a selection of drinks and snacks.
There is a free laundrette on-site for guests in Studios as they do not have the washer/dryers.
All of the facilities at Bay Lake Tower are only for use by BLT residents but BLT residents are also able to use all facilities at the Contemporary Hotel.
The 5th level provides access to the Contemporary Hotel via a walkway. The main hotel contains several restaurants, most require reservations but the Contempo Cafe offers a quick service option for all guests. There are also several shops selling everything from Disney T-shirts to packets of Bran Flakes.
The Resort Monorail runs straight through the Contemporary hotel so BLT residents can easily access it via the walkway and one escalator.
===Location, Location, Location===
We chose Bay lake Tower due to its location so close to the Magic Kingdom. I knew that there was a walkway to the park from the hotel but I hadn't realised really how close it was. Some rooms actually overlook the park. The walk took less than 10 minutes and only involved crossing one quiet road, the walk home was a couple of minutes quicker as you are able to exit the park via a gateway which is even closer but which is not used for entrance. Considering how busy the transport out of Magic Kingdom can be at the end of a party night or after the fireworks this proximity was wonderful, we could be back in our room long before we would have even got to the car-park using the usual methods.
My children are older teens and they loved the freedom of walking to the Park themselves when we were busy packing before we came home.
The access to the Monorail also meant that Epcot was exceptionally easy to reach too as it only involved a change at the Ticket and Transportation Centre.
Other parks can be accessed through the Disney Bus Service from the front of the Contemporary Hotel but we preferred to drive to them and free parking at all Disney Parks is included in the hotel charge.
===Will we Be Back?===
Definitely! We love Walt Disney World and this hotel offered us fantastic sized accommodation alongside a perfect location that suited our short holiday perfectly. If we were going for a longer break then I would probably chose somewhere with a larger balcony and a greener setting but would happily return here anytime.