Welcome to the July installment of our monthly Disney Vacation Club preview. This month, we talk about some changes in the DVC member website and we’ll take a trip over to Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in our Resort Spotlight. Last month included news about bookings opening for the 2019 Member Cruises. 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 July, you will be able to book for dates in June 2019. For all other DVC resorts (7-month booking window), this month you will be able to book for dates in February 2019. Expect dates to go quickly for the President’s Day weekend and the Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 21-24, 2019.
For last-minute trips, whether you’re using your own points or renting points, you’ll find availability at Saratoga Springs pretty much all month for their 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas for much of the month. (If you rent points through the affiliate link to David’s DVC rentals, TouringPlans receives a commission.) The Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows have availability for most days and there are even some limited days at a Boardwalk Villas 1-bedroom at DVC’s last-minute resort availability page.
If you haven’t visited the member website recently, I recommend you take a look around to view the recent update to the booking tools. The old Resort Availability Tool is gone and now folded into the booking function. Another significant change is the ability to modify an existing reservation online. This could come in handy for those who have booked their home resort at 11 months, but might want to change to another resort when the seven-month window opens.
I wanted to add a clarification to last month’s DVC Explainer on member benefits. The Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is currently available to all DVC members, whether you bought your points resale or direct, as long as the member is staying at a Disney resort hotel. There are certain dates, July 3-4 and Dec. 30-31, where access is limited to Bay Lake Tower guests only. Access currently runs through Dec. 29, 2018, though that access has been extended each year.
Moonlight Magic events at Epcot on July 16 and Aug. 15 are all sold out. The next Moonlight Magic booking availability will be for parties at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sept. 19, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. Members with Disney Resort reservations during the event can reserve their spot starting 9 a.m. Eastern time on Aug. 30. Booking opens to all members on Sept. 13. I can speak from experience in reserving an Epcot date that demand is high for these events, and the online reservation system can get overwhelmed when booking opens. I saw some complaints from members who got error messages while attempting to book. I expect no different from the Hollywood Studios events with the added appeal of Toy Story Land. Moonlight Magic comes to the West Coast at Disney’s California Adventure Park on Nov. 15.
Other upcoming event dates to keep in mind: Oct. 31 will be the DVC Halloween Party at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in Disneyland. Nov. 22 will be the DVC Thanksgiving Dinner at the Contemporary. Dec. 24 will be the DVC Holiday Dinner at the Contemporary and the Grand Californian. Dec. 30 will be the DVC New Year’s Eve Party at the Contemporary.
Now that Splitsville Luxury Lanes is open at the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort, two regular events are hosted for members. The “Member Breakfast and Bowl” event is 8-10 a.m. Fridays and includes bowling and a breakfast buffet for $40 for adults and $30 for kids. Member Bowling Night is 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays, including a meal with your frames for $55 for adults and $45 for kids.
There’s still time to enter the Incredible Family Vacation Sweepstakes. First prize is a 5-day, 4-night vacation in a 2-bedroom villa at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins with park tickets and round-trip flights for up to eight people. Go to incrediblevacationsweeps.com to enter by July 19.
Since we discussed access to the Top of the World Lounge, let’s take a trip to the resort that it calls home.
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort has the distinction of being DVC’s first property on the Monorail, opening Aug. 1, 2009. Though construction of Bay Lake Tower began in 2007, it wasn’t officially announced as a DVC resort until September 2008. The joke was that the DVC addition was “Disney’s worst kept secret,” a play on the DVC slogan at the time, “Disney’s best kept secret.” Sales began on Sept. 28 to existing members and on Oct. 5 for new members at $112 a point with contracts expiring in 2060.
The resort is 15 stories with 295 units, featuring studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas, as well as two-story, three-bedroom Grand Villas with spectacular two-story windows with views of Bay Lake and the Magic Kingdom. The studios are on the small side, at 339 square feet. One-bedroom units are 803 square feet, two-bedrooms are 1,152 square feet and those Grand Villas check in at a sizable 2,044 square feet.
Its exterior design pays tribute to its next-door neighbor, Disney’s Contemporary Resort with its distinctive cap atop the building. The two resorts are connected by a sky bridge. Members seem to be split on the design aesthetic and decor, with some enjoying the sleek, modern look and others thinking it just isn’t “Disney” enough for their tastes.
One thing everyone agrees on, however, is the incredible convenience it has to Magic Kingdom, either by the Monorail, which runs through the Contemporary, or a short walk. It has the distinction of being the closest resort to any theme park. The location also means a higher point-per-night cost than many other resorts, with the priciest rooms being those with theme park views. Some members prefer saving the points and enjoying the view on the Bay Lake side, considering part of the theme park view is the parking lot that lies between the resort and the Magic Kingdom.
Bay Lake Tower has its own pool, and the theming complaint about the resort carries over here. The clean lines at Bay Cove Pool makes it look more like a typical hotel pool without the flourishes that make other Disney resort pools so distinctive. The splash area’s Mickey shape is pretty much the only design feature that lets you know you’re at a Disney resort.
As for restaurants, outside of the Top of the World Lounge, Bay Lake Tower doesn’t have any other dining locations other than the pool bar. There’s no danger of going hungry, though, as long as you can make it over to the Contemporary, where options abound. Chef Mickey’s, California Grill and the Wave are the table service restaurants, while the Contempo Cafe is a great quick-service option. And don’t overlook the asset that Top of the World Lounge can be, particularly at times of the year like Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s, when you can enjoy special fireworks without fighting the crowds or paying for a party ticket.
A fitness center, recreational activities, marina and gift shops are also available at the Contemporary Resort’s main building.
The bottom line if you’re considering a stay at Bay Lake Tower is location, location, location. For a family with young children, being able to easily head out of Magic Kingdom to your nearby room for a nap is truly magical.
Have you stayed at Bay Lake Tower or is it your home resort? We’d love to hear your observations in the comments.