"If I go to Disney World, you can bet I'm going to be staying at one of the Disney Resorts." At least... that's what I would have told you a few months ago. After my most recent trip to Disney, I'm singing a different tune.
In 2016 I took my husband on his first trip to Disney and we stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, a moderate level Disney resort. It was fantastic! The room was decent (not five star hotel quality, but neither was the price.) The location was great, the amenities were just right, and you are barely ever in the room anyway!
We just took another trip at the end of 2017, and decided to treat ourselves and go all out with a deluxe Disney resort. We really wanted to stay walking distance to at least one park, and we wanted plenty of dining options at our hotel. After extensive research, we decided Boardwalk is exactly what we were looking for! It was walking distance to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and had so many excellent dining options. It also had great reviews on Trip Advisor. We were soooooooo excited!
When it came time to book our flights, we found it made more sense to fly in a day earlier than we had originally planned, so we also booked one night at the Walt Disney World Swan. The Swan is on Disney property, but it is not fully Disney-owned (it's run by the Westin.) It doesn't have all of the amazing amenities that the official Disney resorts offer, such as the Magical Express service, or Extra Magic Hours. It is, however, walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios since it is located right next door to the Boardwalk hotel.
We joked about how funny it would be if we loved the Swan, and hated the Boardwalk. Little did we know, our joke would come true! The Swan was SO nice. It was clean, quiet, and we got a free upgrade at check-in and had a view of the Epcot fireworks from our room. It was an amazing way to start our trip! We couldn't have been happier.
Now, let's talk about the Boardwalk.
Every Disney World vacation I've ever been on has been magical from the first second I arrived at the resort. Until this trip.
When we walked into the Boardwalk lobby, it was gorgeous. High ceilings, tasteful decor, and the buzz of excitement you always feel everywhere you go at Disney World. While waiting in line to check in, my husband and I decided we would see if we could upgrade our room to a fireworks view, since we had loved our view so much at the Swan the night before.
We were greeted at the front desk by a very unfriendly, un-Disney woman. She did not seem interested in helping us at all, and she didn't smile once! She never asked us what we were celebrating, and I was disappointed since we were both celebrating our 30th birthdays. I wanted a pin!
My husband asked if we could upgrade our room, and right away she said "no there is nothing available." Ok, that sounds fine, except that my parents were checking in at the station next to us at the same time, and the person helping them went above and beyond to help them upgrade their room! He got on the phone and was doing whatever he could to find a better view for them. So, maybe we just had a bad cast member. If this was the only issue we had during our stay, I could have looked past it. Unfortunately this was just strike one for us!
The room we stayed in at the Boardwalk was identical to the room we stayed in the previous year at Port Orleans French Quarter. As I stated earlier, that room was just fine, but we had paid significantly less for it!
What really irked me was that the room at the Boardwalk was in much worse condition than the room at Port Orleans. The decor was old, ratty and outdated. There were rusty screws sticking out of the door stops, the light switches fell into the wall when you touched them, the shower required ample muscle to turn on, there were gross things smeared on the wall behind the nightstand.... I could go on.
The one last thing I'll say about this hotel is that it was noisy. Our room was right next to the bus stop so we listened to the buses beeping, kids screaming, and luggage rolling all day and night. We also had a screaming baby in the room next door, but it honestly sounded like there was a baby screaming IN our room every night. We got no sleep, and we were very ready to go home before our trip was even half way over.
I will say - my parents did not have this experience. They had a very nice, clean room without all the little issues we had. It was also quiet, and overlooked a lovely courtyard.
The Restaurants & Shops
There are soooo many places to eat and shop here. It was definitely a huge selling point for us, and the one part of this hotel we did really enjoy.
I plan to write some reviews of the restaurants individually at a later date, but for now I'll just say that we LOVED all the different options. We could have a casual night with pub food, a fancy and romantic date night, or just a late night drink, all right outside our hotel room door. It was awesome.
The only thing missing from the boardwalk is a good buffet-style breakfast with mickey waffles. But, I just walked over to the Yacht & Beach club to get my fix!
No surprise, this was the best part about staying at the Boardwalk. My Dad and I walked over to Epcot every single night to watch the fireworks, because why not? It was so close! (About a 10 minute walk.)
To grt to Epcot, you just walk along the Boardwalk, over a bridge, and you are at the entrance to Epcot between the UK & France pavilions. There was never a long line to get in, and you could waltz right over to France for a Grand Marnier Slush. YUM!
We could also zip over to Hollywood Studios early in the morning for extra magic hours, and take a ride on Tower of Terror and Rockin' Roller Coaster before the big lines started. It was only a fifteen minute walk to get there!
To get to the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, it was easiest to take a bus from the front of the hotel. I suppose we could have walked through Epcot and hopped on the monorail to Magic Kingdom as well, but we never tried it.
The Bottom Line
So, would I stay at the Boardwalk again? Well, I'm sad to say I would not. UNLESS they update the rooms. The location and the restaurants were incredible, as we expected. I just can't come to terms with the exorbitant amount of money we spent and the condition of the room we stayed in.
Now, we could have probably made a big stink about it and had our room moved. Maybe the room would have been better, maybe not. It came down to the fact that we were trying to enjoy our time in the parks and make the most of our park tickets - we did not want to be wasting time talking to customer service, packing and unpacking, and moving.
If you don't care about the room (because honestly who spends time there anyway) and you REALLY want a great location, then the Boardwalk is your place. If you don't care about Disney's Magical Express, a dining plan, or Extra Magic Hours, then give the Swan a try! Or, if you can swing it, go for the Yacht & Beach Club. It's gorgeous and it's right next to the Boardwalk, plus it has better pools. It just costs more!
Have you ever stayed at the Boardwalk? What was your experience? Share in the comments below!