After a super speedy coach transfer from Orlando Airport, we arrived at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in the early evening.
What a hotel! The lobby was seriously impressive; six floors high, with hand-carved, dark wood furnishings, vibrant tapestries and one of the largest collections of African art in the United States. After checking in, we headed to our room to unpack and relax.
We had a family room with a savanna view. Yes you heard that right. A SAVANNA VIEW! The Animal Kingdom lodge offers its guests an authentic African homestead experience, and with that comes 46 acres of lush savanna across which over 200 hoofed animals and birds roam free. Different animals can be seen from various look out points around the hotel at different times of the day. Our very first glimpse outside revealed two giraffes and a herd of Ankole cattle just below our balcony, and we went on to spot ostriches, wildebeest, pelicans, gazelles and zebra during the course of our stay. The girls were SO EXCITED and, I can't deny it, so was I!
Views aside, the room was just perfect for a family of four. Super spacious, with plenty of storage (I'm an unpacker - and I like to hide all my luggage and shopping away to keep my room looking tidy!) and two queen sized beds (rooms with bunk beds are also available), a lounge area, writing desk, his and hers sinks and a separate bathroom. We were greeted with a bottle of sparkling juice and a hamper of goodies too, which was a lovely touch. The bathroom was great, with a shallow bath ideal for children and an absolutely incredible shower. The toiletries were also gorgeous. I normally steer clear of hotel toiletries but Disney's were seriously good (and also available for sale).
The rest of the hotel didn't disappoint either. The girls and I were particularly fond of its 11,000 square foot pool, complete with awesome waterside. It was surrounded by palm trees for shade and had a sloping entry point, making it perfect for toddlers. There was also a separate shallow splash pool, complimentary towels and a brilliant poolside bar. The girls love a good swimming pool and this one got a huge thumbs up from them both. We could have quite happily spent our entire week there.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is also known for its award winning dining. We ate at three of the restaurants during the course of our stay, starting off with a hosted dinner at Jiko on our first night. Jiko - The Cooking Place is the hotel's signature restaurant and offers traditional African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine together with an excellent wine list. I opted for the Botswana-style Seswaa Beef with a side of mac and cheese and the girls had chicken and steak, each served with ancient grains and vegetables. Everything was cooked to perfection and the staff were super knowledgeable about their menu; I think it's really important for them to have tried the dishes and to be able to answer questions on them, and our server clearly knew his stuff.
The other restaurants we visited were Boma, a family friendly buffet, and The Mara - but I'll be telling you all about them over the course of the next week.
The hotel had brilliant shopping facilities. The Zawadi Marketplace not only stocked an incredible range of Disney memorabilia (as you would expect) - it also sold a wide range of various food stuffs, toiletries and medicines and some really gorgeous African souvenirs and art work. Also in the marketplace there was a merchandise package pick up point where you could collect your purchases from other theme parks and Downtown Disney, saving you from having to carry them around while you're still having fun. Such a brilliant idea, and one I would have most definitely used had I not had the buggy to weigh down with my daily shopping! And whilst talking about the rest of the parks, its worth pointing out that there is a complimentary bus service taking guests out to them (and back again). These run approximately every twenty minutes and pick up/drop off is just at the main entrance to the hotel.
What impressed me the most during our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge was the customer service. It was nothing like I have ever experienced before, even in other parts of America, where we all know the customer service beats that of the UK hands down. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, everyone was attentive and nothing was too much trouble, but not in an over the top or ungenuine way. The girls were constantly being given stickers and tiaras, and being called 'princess' and they absolutely loved it! Everyone said hello and everyone was willing and able to help, whether we were looking for something around the resort, or needed some information on something or other or, as a more specific and personal example, when Daisy lost - and was reunited with - her toy Olaf.
We had an absolutely incredible stay and I would not hesitate in recommending the Animal Kingdom Lodge to anyone that is considering staying there. xo