Welcome to the September installment of our monthly Disney Vacation Club preview. This month, we discuss an extension for the Epcot member lounge and, in the Resort Spotlight, we’ll take a look at Animal Kingdom Villas Jambo House. Last month, we had news about DVC members being able to enter the Halloween party earlier than other guests (2 p.m. to be exact), and a DVC Explainer on banking, borrowing, and transferring points. You can view last month’s preview here.
This month, here are some booking window dates to keep in mind. For your home resort (11-month booking window), in September, you will be able to book for dates in August 2019. For all other DVC resorts (seven-month booking window), this month you will be able to book for dates in April 2019.
Saratoga Springs Resort is your best bet for last-minute availability, whether you’re using your own points or renting points. Two-bedroom and three-bedroom villas have the most availability, and on certain dates you can still find Treehouse Villa openings. (If you rent points through the affiliate link to David’s DVC rentals, TouringPlans receives a commission.) If you can manage the airfare to Hawaii, Aulani still has limited dates at DVC’s last-minute resort availability page.
If you’re a fan of the member lounge at the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World, good news: It’s returning for another year. It’s a great place to cool off during the heat of the day, with places to sit down, plug in your phone, and enjoy the complimentary snacks and drinks from Coke Freestyle machines. And for kids that need a technology fix, there are gaming stations and tablets available to use.
If you blinked, you might have missed it, but a limited-time pop-up shop for DVC members opened within the Marketplace Co-op at Disney Springs. DVC announced the shop, featuring a variety of DVC merchandise and apparel, on August 13 and it closed on September 3. New patterns for Dooney & Bourke handbags and new designs for Member MagicBands were among the items on sale. If you missed it, many items from the collection are available online anytime at ShopDisney.com/DVC, as well as at select merchandise locations at Disney Vacation Club Resorts.
Disney Vacation Club is encouraging members to watch their latest webcast by offering the possibility of winning a stay at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. After watching the 24-minute “Behind the Magic” webcast, members are eligible to win a five-night stay in a one-bedroom villa. The prize includes park tickets for four and airfare. The webcast, hosted by HGTV’s Sabrina Soto, features looks at Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Pixar Pier at Disney’s California Adventure, and a preview of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands coming to both coasts. To view the webcast and enter the contest, visit dvcbehindthemagic.com. The webcast is available until September 30.
If you missed out on resort guest registration for the Moonlight Magic events at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on September 19, September 26, and October 3, you have another chance to get in on the action. Registration opens to all members at 9 a.m. Eastern time, September 13. Registration goes very quickly, so if you want to attend, plan on being online at 9 a.m. sharp. The final Moonlight Magic event of 2018 will be November 15 at Disney’s California Adventure Park. Registration opens at 11 a.m. Eastern time on October 4.
Registration is open for the Disney Vacation Club Halloween Party on October 31 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Inspired by The Haunted Mansion attraction, this event features desserts, snacks, and lemonade; character encounters; face painting; DJ music; a selfie station; games; and a keepsake photo. The two times for the parties are from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Cost is $30 per person (ages 3 and up). Call Member Services at (800) 800-9800 to book.
The Animal Kingdom Villas is actually made up of two side-by-side resorts, Jambo House (which is partially DVC) and Kidani Village (which is all DVC). This month, we’ll focus on Jambo House.
Jambo House is probably what most people think of when they think of Animal Kingdom Lodge, with its soaring lobby and expansive windows leading out to the savanna. The Animal Kingdom Lodge first opened in April 2001 as a conventional Disney resort. The Lodge’s fifth- and sixth-floor rooms were converted into DVC villas with Animal Kingdom Villas contracts going on sale in June 2007 at $104 per point. Kidani Village would open in 2009.
Jambo House has 134 DVC units, comprising 216 maximum available rooms if you were to split the lockoffs. The value studios are 316 square feet and other studios are 365 square feet. Value one-bedrooms are 629 square feet with other 0ne-bedrooms 720 square feet. Value two-bedrooms are 945 square feet with other two-bedrooms 1,075 square feet. Three-bedroom grand villas check in at 2,349 square feet.
The value units, which come at a lower point level, are some of the tougher-to-get DVC rooms due to the low inventory. Likewise, Club Level units are also low in supply and very difficult to book, even at 11 months out. Jambo House is the only DVC location at Walt Disney World that has Club Level accommodations. The rest of the units are divided by standard view and savanna view.
The savannas, with giraffes, zebra, Ankole cattle, wildebeest, and other African animals are the big draw for the resort. Many guests refuse to stay anywhere but a savanna-view room. If you’re staying in standard-view room, you can still take advantage of the many viewing areas around the resort to do your animal watching. In the evening, you can venture down to the Uzima Savanna near the pool and find a cast member with night-vision goggles to see the animals at night.
Beyond the animals, you might not be aware of the museum-quality African art and artifacts on display. The resort is home to the largest collection of African art in North America. The centerpiece of their collection is the huge Igbo Ijele mask on display in the lobby. The 16-foot Ijele is created by the Igbo people of Nigeria and used at special celebrations only once every 10 to 25 years. This is the only known Ijele outside of Nigeria.
Another great feature of staying at Jambo House is the excellent dining options. Jiko – The Cooking Place is their signature dining location and Boma is their buffet, both offering unique experiences featuring African dishes. The Mara is the quick service location and is where you can grab the popular zebra dome desserts outside of Boma. Victoria Falls is a beautiful lounge located on a mezzanine between the lobby and the lower restaurant level. The resort offers a free culinary tour each afternoon before dinner, where cast members will discuss the decor of Jiko and Boma in relation to their home countries and offer sample tastings.
If you’re staying at Jambo House in the fall, you should be aware that the Uzima Springs pool is under refurbishment and is expected to be closed until December. Guests can still use the Samawati Springs pool at Kidani Village.
All transportation from Jambo House is by bus, with Animal Kingdom being the closest park. The resort’s distance from the other Walt Disney World parks is a knock against it. There is a van service for transport between Jambo House and Kidani Village or it is a reasonable walk.
Animal Kingdom Villas Jambo House may not have the prime location of the monorail resorts or the Crescent Lake resorts, but it’s absolutely unique in its theming and features. From the live animals wandering nearby to the cast members from Africa sharing stories from their countries, a stay at Jambo House is an experience onto its own that you can’t get anywhere else on property.
Have you stayed at Jambo House recently, or is Animal Kingdom Villas your home resort? We’d love to hear your observations in the comments.