My family and I stayed at the Margaritaville Resort Orlando while visiting Disney World.
The resort offered large hotel rooms and plenty of elevated dining options.
We enjoyed our stay but missed the guest-only benefits of staying at a Disney hotel.
I planned my family's spontaneous Disney World vacation just four days before our arrival.
Although we typically stay on Disney property, there was no availability at any of our favorite value and moderate resorts.
So, I started searching for a hotel close to the parks with a great pool atmosphere, better-than-average dining, and an affordable price for a four-night stay.
We ended up booking the Margaritaville Resort Orlando, which is located less than 10 miles from the Disney parks.
We found comfort in knowing that Margaritaville is a Walt Disney World Resort Good Neighbor Hotel, meaning it meets Disney's high standards for quality and service.
Although room rates fluctuate depending on the time of year, we paid just over $200 a night to stay at Margaritaville Orlando Resort.
The price was between a standard room rate at a Disney value resort, which can start at about $150 a night, and a moderate Disney resort, which starts at about $250 a night.
Our room at Margaritaville was bigger than most standard Disney rooms we've stayed in
At 450 square feet, our double queen room was exponentially more spacious than a standard room at most Disney resorts, which typically clock in at under 300 square feet.
We stayed in a park view room, which offered views of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.
The beds were extraordinarily comfortable, with deluxe mattresses, premium linens, and plump pillows.
In part because the resort is just five years old, the rooms felt modern and clean, with floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors that allowed for plenty of natural light.
The bathroom's walk-in shower was a dream, and there was a separate area for the toilet.
The dining options at Margaritaville were more upscale than the food courts at Disney's value resorts
Margaritaville's quick-service dining option is Provisions, a grab-and-go marketplace with pre-prepared sandwiches, wraps, salads, coffee, and beverages.
When we had extra time in the morning, we enjoyed a heartier breakfast at Euphoria Fish House.
The restaurant exceeded my expectations with its quality menu, flavorful food, and service for breakfast and dinner.
More choices could be found just steps away at The Promenade at Sunset Walk, an adjacent pedestrian mall on Margaritaville's property. It's home to nearly 20 restaurants ranging from casual eateries (our favorite was El Jefe Tequilas) to fine dining.
The dining options on the Margaritaville property felt more abundant than those of most Disney value resorts, which offer food courts and pool bars with snacks.
Disney's moderate resorts, however, offer table-service restaurants in addition to a food court or quick-service restaurant.
Ultimately, Margaritaville's elevated dining choices outshined those at Disney value resorts and felt on par with moderate resort offerings.
Margaritaville's pools were an island-inspired oasis, while Disney pools are more whimsical and kid-oriented
Margaritaville's lagoon pools at the Fins Up Beach Club are known for year-round warm waters, soft sand, and palm trees.
The main pool has a sloping entrance like a beach and features a hot tub, plenty of cabanas, and lounge chairs. A sizable quiet pool is set apart from the main action.
The Salty Rim Bar & Grill had live entertainment most days, and the setlist went well beyond Jimmy Buffett (though you're bound to hear a few of the legendary singer's tropical tunes.)
Although Margaritaville's pools lacked nothing, the pools at Disney resorts encapsulate Disney magic like none other, especially for little ones.
Disney's pools are typically unique in size and shape, and inspired by iconic characters and movies.
For example, the Grand Slam Pool at the All-Star Sports Resort is shaped like a baseball diamond, and a Goofy fountain squirts water at swimmers.
Some Disney resorts also have splash pads or kiddie pools for small children.
Choosing a winner is hard since Margaritaville Resort and most Disney resorts offer great pools with their own strengths.
When it comes to transportation and convenience, Disney can't be beat
Margaritaville Resort offers complimentary shuttle service with separate motor coach routes to and from Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, SeaWorld, and Universal Orlando Resort.
It's your best choice if you're watching your wallet, but there are some drawbacks.
The hotel shuttle, which is operated by a third party, can be booked up to one day in advance and as late as one hour before departure. However, capacity is limited, and because it operates on a first-come, first-served basis, you'll need to plan accordingly.
Unlike the Disney shuttles, which run on an all-day loop, Margaritaville offers limited shuttle times to and from the parks.
Additionally, I wasn't initially aware that there would be additional stops along the way, so the shuttle ride was longer than expected. This was grueling when we just wanted to get to a park and start our day.
If you want to arrive when the parks open or shortly thereafter, the Margaritaville shuttle isn't your best bet.
We didn't like the shuttle so we spent a small fortune on rideshares, which were difficult to get when we left the parks at closing time.
On the other hand, Disney transportation can't be beat with complimentary bus, monorail, and boat services between the resort hotels and parks.
It generally begins 45 minutes before the parks open and ends one hour after they close.
Margaritaville Resort had great perks and customer service — but Disney resorts do, too
Margaritaville is a true vacation resort.
We were greeted with a complimentary rum punch and received top-notch customer service throughout our stay.
Upon booking, I joined the Margaritaville Perks, the resort's free loyalty program. Instead of points, guests can choose from various perks offered during their stay.
Through the program, we received two complimentary drinks, which we enjoyed by the pool, and a $25 resort credit that was applied to our bill.
Still, Disney's customer service is unmatched. When staying on Disney property, guests can take advantage of perks like early access to Lightning Lane passes and early entry to all four parks.
The continuous shuttles offered to and from Disney resorts are another major perk of staying on Disney property.
I would stay at Margaritaville again if I planned to spend more time at the resort and less time at Disney
Overall, I found Margaritaville Resort Orlando to be an excellent value. It's ideal for adults who may not want to be fully immersed in all things Disney and are looking for more elevated dining options.
It's also great for families who want to spend some quality time outside of the parks.
However, those who want to spend a lot of time in the parks may prefer a Disney hotel because of the guest-only benefits and hassle-free transportation.
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