Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disney's Beach Club Resort

I am long overdue for this review.  We traveled again to Walt Disney World back in January of this year (2012) and we had the privilege this time of staying at the Beach Club Resort.

The Beach Club is in the deluxe category per Disney’s own classification system.  The resort is located adjacent to Epcot and is also extremely close to Holly Studios.  It offers amenities for all age groups.  It has 1 table service restaurant (Cape May), 2 quick service food locations, 2 pools (1 awesome water slide), 2 lounges, 1 pool bar, spa, fitness center and much more.

The decor will remind you of turn of the century resorts that dotted the eastern seaboard landscape; elegant, but casual and relaxing.  Lots of soft blues and yellows and rich wood accents. 

The grounds are chalked full of beautiful flower beds everywhere you turn to look. It is well worth the time to just simply walk the grounds with your camera and take advantage of all of the photo ops that it offers.

So you can probably tell already that this is going to be a positive review overall.  But as I always try to do, I will mention the good and also point out areas that may need improvement or at least something you should be aware of before you go.

So let’s get the negatives out of the way first. 

There are 3 areas that I want to quickly address.  First, the shopping at the Beach Club is not the greatest.  We found the selection of merchandise to be quite a bit smaller that some of the other deluxe category resorts such as the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian etc. 

Second, the quick service venues offered far fewer choices than again some of the other resorts within the deluxe category.  This can be a bigger disappointment for those guests who are using one of Disney’s dining plans.  I again am comparing the one marketplace area inside the Beach Club to such places like Captain Cook’s inside the Polynesian or the Contempo Cafe inside the Contemporary.

The third and final negative would be the layout of the hotel itself.  There are a lot of lefts and rights that you will most likely make before ever getting to your room once you leave the main lobby.  My advice, blaze a trail on the way to your room and pack a few snacks to eat along the way.

Those are really the only negatives that I feel are worth noting.  Now I have read other reviews where some like to point out the age of the resort and claim it is looking worn and tattered.  But what most of those naysayers fail to mention is that Disney does dispatch personnel to fix major issues outside of their normal maintenance and sprucing up schedules.  In fact, I observed one guest getting a close up of a broken door hinge on one of the doors leading from the rooms out into one of the courtyard areas.  I am sure that person was making sure everyone saw how old and broken things are.  But what they probably will not tell you is that the door was fixed during our stay as well.  Every resort has times of the year that are more advantageous for routine fixing of things and that usually corresponds with off-seasons.  We were there during the off-season and I witnessed major repairs going on every day from painting to replacing door handles and locks on every room. 

I say all of that to say...please take the negative reviews with a grain of salt.

So now let’s move on to the positives.  There is a big one for this resort that, to me, trumps, some if not all of the negatives...LOCATION!  If you are a fan of Epcot and Hollywood Studios, then you cannot beat the location of this resort.  Our room was located in such a way that we would walk out the door downstairs, hang a left and be in Epcot within 5 mins.  Or...if we were feeling a tad more adventurous, we would take the bridge over to the Boardwalk Resort and walk the trail from it over to Hollywood Studios and be in the park in about 20 mins. 

Now this benefit also applies to the Yacht Club, Swan and Dolphin and also the Boardwalk resort which are all deluxe resorts in the same area, but only the Beach Club is that close to one of the parks (5 mins or less).  That makes this area of resorts my first choice when looking at staying a one of Disney’s deluxe resorts.

That means that you only need to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom.  And that means you will be maximizing your time in the parks and not spending as much in transit.

The resort was beautiful.  The staff was gracious. The grounds were immaculately manicured.  The standard rooms are clean, offer double vanity sinks in the bathroom, have decent sized balconies and have very comfortable bedding.  The pool and water-slide were a blast, but all of those were just nice add-ons to me.  The location alone would make us choose this resort again in a heartbeat.

So you are probably sitting there that it?  Is that the full review?  Yes it is.  We were so pleased with the location that it really did make our trip one of the best so far.  It helped us relax more knowing we could simply walk back to our resort if we got a little tired (the days we were in Epcot and HS naturally).  We were able to do everything we wanted to do and feel fairly refreshed after our trip.  What more can you ask for after a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth??

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Do You Charge Me a Fee?

That is a standard question that travel agents get asked by prospective clients.  I am finding that the majority of today’s travelers do not understand how travel agents get compensated.  So I wanted to write and answer the question, “how doe a travel agent get paid?”

In 99% of the cases where I am working with a client on a particular trip, my services are free to the client (I will explain the 1% in a moment).  The travel “system” as I will call it, has a travel agent’s compensation built in and is invisible to the client.  For example, major hotel chains, cruise lines and even resort destinations such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World offer commission to travel agents as a way of saying “thank you” for bringing clients their way.  The price the consumer pays would be the same whether they used a travel agent or not.  Naturally there are benefits for using a travel agent, but that has already been addressed in previous posts.

So please understand that our compensation is being paid by the suppliers to us (the travel agents) there are no additional fees being tacked on to the consumer’s cost.  

But here is where the exception comes in, the 1% that I mentioned; airlines quit paying commissions to travel agents several years back due to their own economic issues.  So if a client is only interested in booking airfare through a travel agent, the travel agent has to charge a service fee in order to make any income.  Those service fees are discussed ahead of time so there are no surprises.  I personally charge a small fee unless the client has booked other commissionable items such as a hotel, rental car, cruise etc, in which case I waive my fee.

But please understand this one last point.  Almost every professional travel agent out there works off of commission only.  We do not get paid salaries.  So if you go to a travel agent for help with learning about a destination or a cruise and so on, and then choose to take that information and book it yourself, that professional just worked for nothing.  Travel agents have bills to pay and families to feed just like every other working person so please consider that before taking their professional advice and info and then rushing out to book something on your own because you think you can get a better deal.

I hope this answers the question.  Please feel free to ask other questions or offer a comment or opinion.