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Disney to add new themed rooms to selected Disney World hotels, and here's why

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Published: April 26, 2011 at 10:31 AM

The Walt Disney World Resort announced today that it soon will introduce new "health and wellness" and "royal"-themed hotel rooms at its Contemporary and Port Orleans hotels, respectively. The health and wellness rooms will include bamboo flooring, rainwater showers and in-room card equipment. The royal rooms will feature fiber-optic effects in the bed headboards and princess-themed art and decor in the rooms. The health and wellness suites will debut this fall at the Contemporary, with the royal rooms coming to the Port Orleans in March 2012.

No word yet on how much extra these upgrades will cost, over the current price of "regular" rooms in these hotels.

Royal Guest Room
Concept of the Royal Guest Room at Disney's Port Orleans

So that's what Disney is doing. Now let's take a look at the why.

Background: When Disney World opened its first two hotels in the early 1970s - the Contemporary and the Polynesian - they both targeted the same upper middle-class audience. (Disney World and Disneyland weren't the type of places where the rich frolicked back then. They were decidedly middle-class destinations.) But as a generation of American grew up with Disney theme parks, and income disparity widened, Disney began building hotels for wealthier visitors - the Grand Floridian, the Yacht and Beach Clubs, the Wilderness Lodge among them. And Disney also expanded into the middle class market it had left for off-property motels, building the All-Star Resorts, among others. Where Disney once had two hotels, now it had three tiers - Value, Moderate and Deluxe.

Disney's built dozens of hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort, and at some point it no longer makes sense to add overall room capacity to serve an increasingly divergent set of family incomes. (See the previous link for data showing that America's income disparity continues to grow.) So Disney's choosing to add new price points to its hotel offerings by upgrading some rooms, instead. With three tiers of hotels, along with multiple classes of rooms within each, Disney can make the most money from visitors ranging from middle-class, upper-middle-class, almost-wealthy and loaded all the way up to Lady Gaga rich.

So are these rooms a smart choice for you? Remember, if there's any ticket and reservation advice I can give you, it's that you don't vacation like you are richer than you are. Respect your budget. If these new themed rooms are within your budget and they appeal to you, go for it. You should get as much joy as you can from your vacation.

But if they appeal to you, and aren't in your budget, well, don't overlook other steps you can take to enjoy the appeal you want. For less than the upgrade cost of a royal room, you can buy a Disney princess doll before your trip, hide it in the luggage, then place it on your daughter's bed before she enters the hotel room. She'l be delighted with her "princess" bed, and can keep the doll as after the trip. Or I can drive my Prius up to an All-Star Resort room, bring in my reusable stainless steel water bottle and yoga mat, and experience a hotel visit where I am conserving energy, conserving the waste of plastic, conserving my health, and conserving about $400 bucks a night. Health and wellness, indeed.

Readers' Opinions

From Carrie Hayward on April 26, 2011 at 11:29 AM
I couldn't agree more. If Disney really cared about our "health and wellness" they'd use 100% cotton bedding, VOC-free paint, and non-allergenic wrapped mattresses in all the rooms at no extra charge. Instead, you have to spend $$$ to upgrade to a Concierge-level suite if you want to be healthy and well. What a crock!
From 75.0.3.253 on April 26, 2011 at 11:44 AM
The one thing Disney does best is to find ways to part you from your money and make you happy about it. We find our luxury and price point in the DVC program and it was the best thing we ever did. Complaining about the cost means that you shouldn't be going. I like the fact that Disney allows you to pick what you want to pay and give you the experience you want. It is truly a personal vacation.
From Anon Mouse on April 26, 2011 at 12:24 PM
People often forget "sustainability" costs money and money is an energy that can be wasted. The best way to save the environment is let Disney go back to a swamp. Short of that promise, I recommend spending as little as possible.

The rooms are ridiculously priced. It is pricing me out of the market. I consider myself slightly north of the median middle class, but I always look for a deal as if I'm still a starving student. Yet once you leave your room, you enjoy the parks like anyone else, which is why I wonder why Disney doesn't cater enough to the upper middle and rich classes in the parks. They should consider separate queue areas for the high spenders. Or special dining areas for the discriminating dieters. Or nice plush seats in a separate seating section with no one to block your view from the show.

The worst thing is the transportation system. They must consider middle area between a taxi and a bus. I would pay more if I can go from my room to the hotel quickly. They should have a personalized van service, or maybe a personalize limo service for the super wealthy.

For myself, I'll stay off-site. Thank you for not serving my needs Disney.

From chris cona on April 26, 2011 at 8:16 PM
I love the last sentence
From Anthony Murphy on April 26, 2011 at 9:13 PM
Interesting, but I considered the Contemparary as a pretty high end resort. Is the Contemparary cheaper than Wilderness Lodge or Yachtt?

BTW, DVC, if you can swing it, is probably the best deal on hotels. The trick is making sure you try and go once a year!

From 68.125.48.203 on April 27, 2011 at 12:03 PM
You rock, Robert! Great posting.
From 68.106.88.173 on April 27, 2011 at 3:15 PM
I've stayed in many of the on property accomodations from value to deluxe according to my budget. I like the fact that Disney does offer something for everyone. If you want things as nice as you have it at home, stay home ! It blows my mind how some people will always have something to gripe about on vacation or even when in their own hometown. There's just no pleasing some folks. Personally, I like the bus service and think it works well as does the monorail system.
If you're accustomed to the finer things in life, then good for you. Have your chauffer, butler, and maids travel with you to watch over your every move. You can even bring along your chef. I think Disney does a great job for the money and I've never felt cheated.
From Robert Waldbauer on April 29, 2011 at 8:10 AM
I first visited Disney World in 1973, staying at the Polynesian Resort for three nights. My entire vacation package for that period was just less than $500. I'll be visiting again next month, staying at the Coronado Springs resort for six nights, at a cost just under $3000. So basically, that means the cost of my vacations at Disney have increased by 300% over the past 38 years. Unfortunately, my income has shrunk by roughly 30% over the same period. Guess that means Disney may soon be out of the picture as a vacation destination for me...
From Steven Pressley on May 1, 2011 at 7:24 AM
Disney has every right to have as many price points as possible. I really like how they continue to pull out all the stops to infuse the PC Princess into the picture regardless of how little profit she brought in. (Pocahontas had a higher profit margin and net profits in 1996 dollars than the frog princess, yet where is she? Ariel? Jasmine? Belle?)
Yes Disney can do what it wants. Me, I'll stay off site and enjoy the parks just as much as you will.

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