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Using Data to Choose the Best WDW Resort for You – Part Two

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Specific details can make or break your entire vacation. Was the pool too crowded? Was the food a mess? I’m here to help you avoid those problems. In part one of this series, we looked at rooms, check-in, and staff to see if any WDW resorts rose to the top. Or sometimes to see if they yelled at you to stay away (spoiler alert: they did). This week is all about pools and dining. So if lounging by the pool is important to you, or food is the way to your heart, come along and explore the data with me.

Explain the Math!

As explained in the previous post, each resort is rated overall, and on several individual factors in post-visit surveys. From there we can quickly figure out the average and the standard deviation for each factor. Average tells us about how the resort performs on that factor. And standard deviation tells us how much the answer varies from survey to survey.  In other words, average allows us to compare between resorts, and standard deviation tells us how much answers differ within the resort.

  • The dots will always be colored as: Blue = Deluxe Villas, Gold = Deluxe, Purple = Moderate, and Orange = Value
  • The dots are the average. Each graph will have the highest average on the left. And the average will decrease as you read through to the right.
  • The gray bars behind every dot represent the 95% confidence interval. High standard deviations = big confidence interval = long gray bar. In the example above, Resort 1 has the smallest gray bar. That means everyone at Resort 1 answered pretty similarly. But Resort 2 has the longest gray bar. That means people at Resort two had different experiences from one another and rated things differently.

Which Pool is the Biggest?

Average satisfaction rating for “Pool Size” at each WDW resort
  • Well, these results are pretty obvious. Want a big/awesome pool? Stay at Beach Club or Yacht Club. I don’t think anyone is surprised. Stormalong Bay is cool. I’m totally not jealous that I’ve never visited it. At all.
  • At the bottom of the pack are the Cabins at Fort Wilderness and Contemporary (plus its DVC equivalent). If you’re looking for a big pool, those are not the places for you.
  • All of the Values hang out near the lowest averages, other than Art of Animation. So if you’re traveling with kids who love to swim and want to stay in the Value price range, that might be the place for you.

Which Pool is the Least Crowded?

Average satisfaction rating for “Pool Crowds” at each WDW resort
  • Lots of really big gray bars! I think we can confidently say that regardless of resort, how crowded the pool may be is more driven by overall crowd levels and weather than your specific pool. Crowded parks and crowded resorts? Crowded pools too. Good swimming weather? More people swimming.
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness are once again rounding out the bottom of the bunch here, but joining them are the Polynesian, Caribbean Beach, and Port Orleans – Riverside. I was surprised to find Riverside in this list. There are 6 different pools there! But I guess none of them are particularly large.
  • Art of Animation was near the top for pool size. But the pool gets crowded – it didn’t crack the top half for crowds.

Which Pool is the Cleanest?

Average satisfaction rating for “Pool Cleanliness” at each WDW resort
  • In a repeat of the room cleanliness results, Riviera comes out on top. And it’s followed by a bunch of other DVC properties.
  • This time, Swan and Dolphin both belly-flop. Our old pal Cabins at Fort Wilderness joins them, along with all of the All-Stars.
  • Other than Swan and Dolphin, most of the Deluxe and Deluxe Villas find themselves with higher averages. And Values and Moderates all appear in the bottom half, other than Art of Animation.

Where is the Best Food Court?

Average satisfaction rating for “Food Court” at each WDW resort
  • Well, this is fun – now we can clearly see the trade-off for an awesome pool! The resorts around the Boardwalk clearly have the worst food courts, along with Old Key West.
  • Not all food courts are created equal. But you can get access to decent food courts at pretty much any resort price point. The Values and Moderates fall right in the midst of Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts.
  • The top two resort food courts have really large gray bars, so experiences vary. For a reliably high-satisfaction food court, try Mara at Jambo house, or Roaring Fork at Wilderness Lodge.

Which Food Court is the Best Value?

Average satisfaction rating for “Food Court Value” at each WDW resort
  • When you take value into account, the moderate and value resorts perform even better – relatively speaking. Most factor satisfaction scores trend around 4.0 or higher. But performance on food court questions are comparatively pitiful.
  • The Boardwalk resorts still end up in the bottom grouping, along with Old Key West and Swan/Dolphin.
  • If you look at this graph and the previous one, you can pick out the cream of the crop for Value and Moderate food courts. It looks like Landscape of Flavors is the winner out of the Value resorts. And Sassagoula squeaks past Riverside Mill to win the Moderate category.

Which Resort has the Best Sit-Down Dining?

Average satisfaction rating for “Sit Down Dining” at each WDW resort
  • And now we all see why I always opt for staying at AKL. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get why Riviera comes out on top. If you haven’t yet eaten at Topolino’s Terrace, make a reservation. Like right now. But can anywhere else beat the Jiko/Boma/Sanaa combo? No, nowhere else can.
  • This is also where we see the dining at the moderate and value resorts really fall off. If you want high-quality sit-down dining (or sit-down dining at all, in the case of the Values), you’ll need to upgrade. Or, you know, resort hop for your meals.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. If the pool matters above all else during your WDW vacation, look no further than Beach/Yacht Club. Stormalong Bay can’t be beat. But be prepared to be disappointed by the quick service options at your resort.
  2. If you want to avoid crowded pools, Stormalong may not be your best bet. You might be better off at the Contemporary or Bay Lake Tower.
  3. If you’re looking for the best food court, stick to Jambo or Wilderness Lodge. But the best food court value is at Riviera (with Jambo a close second).
  4. For sit-down dining, you should probably stay at AKL. Or, you know what? Just stay at AKL no matter what. What? I’m not biased. Or give Riviera a try. We’ve seen Riviera scoring highly in just about every category so far.


Are you a pool fanatic? Or a big foodie? Did any of the results surprise you this week? Let us know in the comments!


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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

8 thoughts on “Using Data to Choose the Best WDW Resort for You – Part Two

  • You’ve never stayed at Yacht and Beach? You should have Len send you. For research.

    • I like the way you think, Mike.

  • Very much appreciate your articles, please please please keep them up!!!

    For future “series”…I will say my next hurts a bit from reading the hotel names. 😛

    Maybe you could consider a vertical/portrait layout. Resort=Y, Ratings=X


    • That makes …. way too much sense. Excellent suggestion.

  • Very fascinating as always! Some thoughts:

    Not all “food courts” are created equally…
    -At AKL, if people staying in Kidani want quick service, they have to walk over to The Mara at Jambo. Those staying in Jambo give The Mara ~3.9, but those staying in Kidani give the exact same restaurant ~3.4, presumably because of the long walk to get there.

    -Old Key West’s “food court” is just a walk-up window with a few picnic tables in the vicinity. It’s built with the expectation that you’re grabbing stuff to take to your room (it’s literally called “Good’s To Go”), so the menu and service are fine, but it’s awful when judged as a “food court.”

    -Caribbean Beach’s dining was all overhauled pretty recently, so I’d expect its numbers be higher if only looking at more recent reviews.

    -The food courts/quick service options are known to be poor in the Crescent Lake area resorts, but that’s in part because everyone in those hotels is in walking distance of the Boardwalk itself and Epcot’s World Showcase. Just because the Beach Club’s quick service is lame doesn’t mean that Beach Club guests can’t very easily access great quick service.

    Also, how can the values (AoA, Pop, All-Star) score ~3.0 for “sit-down dining” when none of them have table-service restaurants at all?

    • Totally agree that convenience is definitely reflected in the food court scores.

      As far as Caribbean Beach is concerned, from 2015 through about March 2017 the average was about 3.5. Then from April 2017 to September 2018, it was about 2.7. After that it bounced back up … to 3.5 again.

  • Now if someone turns this into a decision matrix where someone can start plugging invariables to make the decision easier….. Love the great work!

    • Love that, Mike – your comment generated lots of chatter among the Touring Plans staff!


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