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Sue Holland

Hotel Royal Plaza

A Photo tour of an off-property nearby hotel

Friday, September 12, 2003
Text and photos by Sue Holland , staff writer

The Hotel Royal Plaza is one of the seven non-Disney hotels located next to Downtown Disney. While these hotels are all on Walt Disney World property, they do not offer all of the perks available to people staying in Disney's own resorts. However, they are a good alternative to an offsite hotel located in Kissimmee or along International Drive.

The Hotel Royal Plaza.

Hotel Royal Plaza is the third hotel on your left as you drive down Hotel Boulevard going away from Downtown Disney. It's not particularly attractive from the outside, but, thankfully, once inside things are very nice. From the outside the tall, pink hotel building looks pretty dated, but this hotel has been here since the 1970s.

Hotel Royal Plaza lobby—a simple, yet elegant area with plenty of seating.

The lobby is simple yet elegant, with plenty of seating. The front desk is rather small, with room for two to three employees working at most. The weekend I was there the hotel was sold out, yet there was never a long line to check in, unlike the Disney resorts. Bell services will store your luggage or assist you to your room as needed.

Just off the lobby are two shops—one has Disney merchandise and the other has sundries and more generic items. Also in the lobby is a desk where park passes and tickets to area attractions can be purchased.

Giraffe Diner and Marketessen provide food options for hotel guests.

The hotel restaurant is called Giraffe Diner and is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. It has a casual atmosphere and traditional American menu, with a daily breakfast buffet. People not wanting a full-service meal can grab a quick snack from the “Marketessen” right outside the diner. This delicatessen-style café has self-service snacks and light meals. Room service is also an option from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Giraffe's Tavern is the hotel's main restaurant.

Right next door to the restaurant is Giraffe's Tavern. This lounge has historically been a popular after-work gathering spot for Pleasure Island cast members. Light meals are available, and televisions are tuned to the latest sports game.

Outside by the pool is SIPS Pool Bar. Fans are set up to help cool the area in hot weather, and it's a great place for a tropical drink while spending time by the pool.

Swimming pool and lanai rooms.

The swimming pool is quite large, especially considering there are only 394 rooms in the hotel. The pool deck area is also very large, which reduces any feeling of being too crowded. While most of the rooms are in the tower building, there are several located surrounding the pool in a two-story section. Rooms that face the parking lot are the cheapest available, but those facing the pool are more in demand. A ground floor pool-view room has a private patio as well as direct access to the pool area.

Lifeguards were not on duty during my visit, but there is an employee who will watch for lightning and close the pool when dangerous weather is approaching. A decent-sized whirlpool spa is also located near the pool.

The fitness center, near the pool, offers an array of equipment.

The hotel has four lighted tennis courts and a decent fitness center. The fitness center can be found near the pool, and it is necessary to walk outside to enter. They have two treadmills, two stationary bikes, a stepper machine and a multistation resistance-training piece of equipment. Televisions are located at both ends of the room, providing some diversion to people putting in time on the treadmill or bikes. A scale is also located here, for anyone wanting to check their weight during their trip!

Hotel Royal Plaza has more than 17,500 square feet of meeting space accommodating up to 1,100 people at a time. Many guests first stay here due to a conference they are attending, and since most rooms accommodate five people, it makes bringing the rest of the family along pretty easy. While the businessperson is attending meetings, all of Walt Disney World is a complimentary bus ride away for the spouse and children.

Deluxe tower rooms provide more comfort than standard and superior rooms.

Standard and superior rooms feature two double beds and a sleep sofa, while the deluxe tower rooms also have an oversized bathroom with a Roman tub. Premier tower rooms are similar to deluxe but have a Whirlpool Roman tub. Both the deluxe and premier rooms are available with one king bed instead of the two doubles. The executive king tower suite features a completely separate living room, instead of being one large room.

The sleep-sofa area is separated by a half wall.

The tower rooms have very small balconies that have room for one or two people to stand. Views will vary, with many overlooking the highway. From my room I had a direct view of the fireworks at Pleasure Island, which was much nicer than watching semi-trucks rolling down Interstate 4. All rooms come with a coffeemaker, mini-bar, hair dryer, large safe and Nintendo (fee for use).

Guests can feel decadent dipping in their Roman tub.

Guests of the Hotel Royal Plaza do not receive the same perks as guests staying at Disney resorts. Specifically, they cannot charge purchases to their rooms, cannot have packages delivered to the hotel and are not permitted to participate in the Extra Magic Hour where a park opens an hour early each day.

Bus transportation is provided by a private company, rather than Disney, and is not nearly as convenient. The buses stop at all seven hotels, which can make the ride quite tedious. Once at the parks, the buses drop guests off in the parking lot since there is not a bus stop set aside. Going to the Magic Kingdom, guests are dropped off at the Ticket & Transportation Center and have to join the other day visitors to get on a monorail or ferry to complete their journey. In my opinion, when staying at the Hotel Royal Plaza, a car is a must.

The bus schedule runs as follows, as of August 2003. Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios buses run every 30 minutes from one hour prior to opening until two hours after the park closes. Animal Kingdom buses run every 30 minutes starting one hour prior to opening through peak hours then drops to every 60 minutes. At the end of the day, they resume buses every 30 minutes for two hours before the park closes. It is essential to check with the driver to see what time the bus will be leaving the park, to avoid a wait of up to 60 minutes for the next one.

Going to the water parks is less convenient. There are only three times guests can go to the water parks—8:45 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Returning, buses do not pick guests up at the water parks until 2:15 p.m. or 2:30 p.m., depending on the park, and run every 2 hours. It appears the bus goes to both water parks, so not only do guests get to visit seven hotels, they may also visit another water park before arriving at their desired destination. Again, having a car or calling a taxi would eliminate this inconvenience.

Buses do run to Pleasure Island nightly between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. Although it is close enough to walk, when the weather is hot or rain threatens, it's nice to have the option of the bus.

Overall, I found Hotel Royal Plaza to be a nice, comfortable hotel with larger rooms than Disney resorts for the money charged. Current room rates are available on the hotel's Web site () but be aware there is a $7 per day resort fee in addition to the room rate. It would not be my first choice hotel when booking a Walt Disney World vacation, because of the transportation issues, unless I had my own car and did not plan to spend time at the Magic Kingdom. However, for people willing to sacrifice the transportation convenience in exchange for a nice hotel at a lower price than Disney, the Hotel Royal Plaza might be just what they're looking for.


Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”


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