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Suite Showdown: Universal vs. Disney

Now that you know the details of Universal’s finest onsite suites, let’s take a look at the comparable ones at Walt Disney World. We’ve evaluated five specific hotels at Universal, and what we want to do is contrast them with equivalent Disney properties. I’ll explain my rationale for each comparison before discussing the available suites.

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Image: Disney

Sapphire Falls Resort is the equivalent of a Moderate Resort at Disney. It’s also fairly new, which is problematic since most onsite Disney properties are older, especially the ones in the Moderate Resort range. I’m going to pick Coronado Springs for this one since it’s the closest in rack room price range. Sapphire Falls costs $220 per night as a baseline. Coronado Springs is about $250 per night.

Image: Disney

Coronado Springs opened in 1997, meaning that it’s almost 20 years older than Sapphire Falls. It’s also more expensive on two levels. Its basic rack rate is higher, and its nicest suites are much more expensive. This will be a recurring theme, as Disney can charge more than Universal right now…so they do. The theming for Coronado Springs is of the American Southwest. It has authentic architecture, plazas, and fountains. It also has one of the most attention-grabbing pools at Walt Disney World. It’s shaped like a Mayan pyramid, similar to the interior of San Angel Inn at Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion.

Image: Disney

The suites at Coronado Springs are much pricier. The cheaper of the nicest two is the Casitas – 1 Bedroom Suite. It costs a hefty $1,000 per night, give or take a bit depending on the season. Part of the expense is that you’re paying for location. Coronado Springs is massive in scope and labyrinthine to navigate. All of these suites guarantee placement in buildings 1, 2, or 3, the most desirable ones. It’s a fairly basic Disney suite with large living room/hosting area and kitchenette. This suite has a reputation as the conventioneer’s choice. A lot of upper management employees book regular rooms for their staff then sneak a Casitas into the budget for themselves.

Image: Disney

The nicest suite onsite is the Casitas – Executive Suite. It’s the room that the bosses of the upper management staff choose to lord over their underlings at the conventions. For around $1,400 a night, a VIP upgrades to deluxe appointments in each part of the suite. The finest furniture, leather seating, and tasteful decorations cover all the rooms. There’s also a wet bar if you want to have a drink with your boss/employee. One huge advantage that Coronado Springs offers over Sapphire Falls is that it provides a real kitchen rather than a kitchenette. Whether that’s worth spending more than double is up for debate.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Image: Disney

No direct comparison is available for Cabana Bay, as it seems Beach Club-ish in design, but its price is decidedly All-Star Resorts level. Even the nicest suites at that Universal resort are less than $400, which makes Art of Animation a perfect comparison. Its family suites are plentiful but prudently priced. For roughly $450 per night, fans of classic Disney cinema get their pick of themed rooms based on Cars, Finding Nemo, or The Lion King.

Image: Disney

I’ve discussed the pros and cons of Art of Animation suites in a previous piece. The same things still apply. The rooms are more than double normal ones at the hotel. For that matter, you do get a lot, though. It’s particularly worthwhile for parents seeking to isolate themselves from their children a bit. Plus, all of the theming is amazing.  

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Image: Disney

Since Loews Royal Pacific Resort is a shameless imitator, we’ll explore the obvious comparison here. I’m on record as saying that Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is my favorite hotel at Walt Disney World (or anywhere else in the world), so I have a bias here. Having said that, both properties do an amazing job of bringing the South Seas island vibe to life.

Since you already know the history of Polynesian Village Resort from my prior article, let’s focus on the suites. While the $2,500 a night bungalows receive all the hype, plenty of other suites are available here, too. In fact, if you’re ever interesting in celebrity stalking, err, sightings, hang out at the Tonga building. It’s here that the rich and famous spend at least $1,000 a night to book one of the exotic island suites at the Polynesian. That explains why Tonga has its own concierge desk.

Image: Disney

Tonga also offers the Concierge Suite aka Honeymoon Suite as a Club Level suite option. Disney’s Club Level operates on a schedule. You’ll have breakfast options from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., afternoon service from noon until 4 p.m., evening/dinner service from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then after-hours service from 7 p.m. until midnight. During the after-hours hours, alcoholic beverages are included. The delicious Polynesian Sangria is one of the options…and it should be your choice. The hotel’s famous POG juice is also on the menu throughout the day. So, Club Level amenities here are pretty great, although at these prices, they should be.

After renovations in 2012, the Concierge Suite switched from a room with two queen beds to a more honeymoon appropriate single king bed. More importantly, it has the most romantic Jacuzzi tub at Walt Disney World. There’s also a Princess Suite on the first floor if you know someone who might enjoy that sort of thing.

Image: Disney

Of course, the most epic suite at the Polynesian (other than the bungalows) is the legendary King Kamehameha suite. It’s a two-floor facility right by the boat dock, so you have a wonderful view of lagoon from most of your windows. In fact, you’ll enjoy a seating area overlooking the water from your second floor balcony. The room also includes a stone exterior Jacuzzi tub and some torch-shaped lamps that are a nice touch. Ample seating is available throughout the suite, and while you may not feel like the famous Hawaiian king, you will feel quite pampered. Even among the elites at the Tonga longhouse, the current resident of the King Kamehameha suite is the power player. Of course, you’ll pay $3,000 a night for the privilege.

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