Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kilimanjaro Club Perks

This week is slipping away with a lot of crazy work deadlines and appointments. Right now, I'm thankful that my husband and daughter and I can vacation at any time of the year (as she's not in "regular school" yet), because if we had to somehow squeeze in vacations during the craziness of the summer, I have no idea how we'd make it happen.

As a result, short blog post today. On a Facebook group about DVC, someone was asking about the benefits of staying at the Kilimanjaro Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge--Jambo House. We were lucky enough to stay there for a short period of time during marathon weekend (January) 2011. Because we were there for the racing festivities, we didn't get to take advantage of all the reasons why someone would stay there, but here's a quick summary of our impressions.

For those who are not familiar with it, the Kilimanjaro Club is the concierge level at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Although there are rooms on the fifth and sixth floors that are technically concierge rooms, in my view, the best rooms are the ones on the sixth floor, since they are on the same level with the lounge.

It is considerably more expensive (either by cash or staying on points like we did), and it is hard to say universally if it is worth it for everyone. Instead, I'll just give a description of what was offered and suggest that everyone make their own decision.

One thing we didn't know when it was time to check in is that the concierge level has its own check-in desk, located to the left of the main check in. Because the lighting there is so dim, we completely missed the sign. Thankfully, the line at regular check-in wasn't long, and they quickly shuffled us off to the appropriate line. We quickly got check-in completed, but like many AKV rooms, ours wasn't ready at 1 PM. We were told that we could certainly make use of the lounge whenever we desired, so up we went with our special gold-colored Key to the World room cards, which provided access to the locked level in the elevator.

The lounge up there is pretty small, but was perfect for us to take a break with a fussy infant. We watched TV and ate some of the snacks that were there at the hour. Part of the reason we had decided to stay concierge for marathon weekend is we knew we'd have odd hours going to races and had hoped that there would be food and drink available 24 hours...sadly this is not the case.

That being said, the food, while not enough to really qualify as a meal, was still incredibly good. Breakfast is a pretty standard continental breakfast fare, and the only offering that could be a realistic meal on its own. Throughout the day, there are snacks and drinks available (my favorite of the snacks being the spiced nuts and the cookie assortment--for whatever reason, I never get cookies at WDW, but if they are all as good as the ones we had on the buffet there, I really need to start!). At the dinner hour, there are some offerings from Boma and Jiko, but served in small tapas-size portions. Not really enough to make a meal, but certainly a nice appetizer on the way to dinner. In the evening, there is a decent assortment of cordials for nightcaps. The one we tried and fell in love with is Amarula, an African creme liqueur. We had never had it before, but decided to try it because we like Baileys...and found that this is far superior in flavor to Baileys.  All the food and drink on the buffet is picked up around 10 PM, so don't expect to be able to do a midnight run for noshes.

The room was slightly larger than other rooms in Jambo House, and the room had bathrobes for our use while there, but aside from that, if you've stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, you know what to expect. The other item we received in the room were chocolate lollipops shaped like African animals. I've heard other folks mention that it is hit or miss whether these are in the room, so if you don't see them when you get in the room, make sure to ask.

We had a savannah view, but being so high up and under the "leaf" bundles that make the decorative roof, I didn't enjoy the view as much as I do on a lower floor. That being said, it is always a joy to see the animals outside the room, and so the room did not disappoint in that respect.

One perk that I loved was the nightly turndown service. The lovely lady who came in to prepare our bed for us was really wonderful and did great things like taking out the dishes we had accumulated from the lounge, but the real highlight for me was the turndown cards that were left on our bed. These note cards (about the size of an index card) have beautiful artwork and an African proverb on it. I loved them so much that I took the ones we got home and framed them! One other note about the service, unlike staying on points elsewhere, we did receive full room cleaning on a daily basis instead of just trash and towel service near the end of the stay.

Because our focus was on the races we were participating in and cheering for, we did not take advantage of all the perks that come with the room, specifically the ability to do a Sunrise Safari, so I can't comment on how that was. We also didn't have much need for the concierge staff to make last-minute dining reservations or help with tickets or transportation, but there is a dedicated concierge desk next to the lounge that was staffed with very lovely people who always greeted us as we were passing through.

To summarize, would I stay there again? Absolutely. Would I stay there for more than a couple days? Probably not. I think it is a nice add-on for the end of a trip or for a weekend stay, but for me personally (cheapskate that I am), the extra cost in points or cash wouldn't be worth it for a long trip. That being said, being able to experience everything that the level has to offer might change my mind. I guess we'll just have to book another stay to see...

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