Deluxe Pools, Part 1

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

Photo by Sue Holland.

Disney's deluxe category of resorts can be vacation destinations in and of themselves, with many amenities and services not found at the value or moderate resorts. Swimming pools here tend to be more elaborate and more visually impressive. Using the swimming pool is generally not permitted unless you are a registered guest at that specific resort, and at the deluxe resorts Disney is more likely to be checking identification cards to ensure no unauthorized people are present.

In this first segment of a two-part series, we look at the resorts located in the Magic Kingdom area. The second part will focus on the resorts in the Epcot and Animal Kingdom areas.

The Contemporary Resort is one of the original resorts to open in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened to the public. It was themed to the 1970s idea of the future, and to this day remains a uniquely styled hotel. The original main pool here was a rather boring rectangle, which was good for swimming laps but not terribly innovative or attractive. Eventually, it was redone in the shape of a somewhat free-form Mickey Mouse head.

Contemporary Resort's Main Pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

A good-sized water slide was added, along with a number of fountains that spray water onto people enjoying the pool. One very nice feature about this pool is the abundance of deck space, which ensures it never seems crowded because there is more than enough room for all of the lounge chairs. A number of trees also provide some needed shade, and during busy times there might be organized activities or games at the pool—possibly even a character appearance. The schedule of any planned events can be obtained when checking in.

The Contemporary Resort also has a quiet pool, which extends out over Bay Lake and is called the Bay Pool. This circular pool is shallower at the edges and gets deeper at the center. This pool is generally uncrowded, and is a great choice for any Contemporary Resort guest just wanting to relax while feeling far away from the hustle and bustle of Walt Disney World.

Contemporary Resort's Bay Pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

Next to the swimming pool area is the large marina, where a wide variety of boats are available for rent by the half-hour or longer. Parasailing is also an option here, as is fishing with a guide. The best place to rent the small two-person Water Mouse boats is any of the Magic Kingdom resorts' marinas, because the vastness of Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon provides the most area to cover. The boats here are not idled down to a slower speed, as they are at the Epcot resorts and Downtown Disney.

Young children can enjoy the playground, located next to the north garden wing (the wing closest to the Magic Kingdom). Children of all ages are welcome in one of the largest arcades at Walt Disney World, located on the ground floor of the Contemporary tower. This resort also has a number of tennis courts available, along with a pro shop for merchandise, rentals, and assistance with your game.

The Polynesian Resort is another deluxe resort in existence since Walt Disney World opened 33 years ago. This resort obviously has a Polynesian theme, and has always been very popular with repeat visitors. Surprisingly, this is the only deluxe resort without any hot tub/spa facilities.

Polynesian Resort's Volcano Pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

The Polynesian Resort's pool is themed to a volcano, providing an impressive icon that fits the theme of the resort quite well. The water slide is built into the side of the volcano, and twists around before dumping riders into the swimming pool below. The pool is somewhat free form, which allows smaller, somewhat quieter nooks and crannies in addition to the more crowded sections. A waterfall is located in one such corner, which is popular with most children.

One feature Disney has started including in their swimming pools is called “zero entry.” Rather than walking down steps or climbing down a ladder, swimmers walk into the pool just as if they were on a beach and entering the ocean. There is no step down—instead, the pool entrance slopes until the normal pool depth is reached. Families traveling with young children in particular enjoy this feature, as those children seem to enjoy playing at the water's edge.

Zero-entry section of the Polynesian Resort's Volcano Pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

The Polynesian Resort also has a full marina, with most of the same options available at the Contemporary Resort. They also have an arcade (Moana Mickey's) and a jogging path. White-sand beaches are also available at all of the Magic Kingdom resorts, although swimming in the lake is not permitted.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is the flagship resort in Disney's collection, and is strikingly beautiful. With a Victorian theme, the elegance is unmistakable yet the resort is warm and inviting. When it opened, the Grand Floridian had a single pool. Today, that pool serves as the quiet pool and another more elaborate pool was built near the beach.

Grand Floridian's main pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

The main pool is similar to the one at the Polynesian Resort in that it has a zero-entry section, waterfall cascading down a rock wall, and water slides that are very much alike. Instead of a volcano, this pool has a large rock as the focal point of the pool area. The pool is a good size, with room for many guests. The beach is right next door, which may help ease the crowding.

On the beach there are some bench swings, which can be relaxing at any hour of the day, but especially romantic in the evening. Several chaise lounges are available, some with a cabana to provide shade during the heat of the day. The quiet pool is very large as compared to other quiet pools. At the Grand Floridian, it is located in the center of the resort. The Jacuzzi/spa is located in this area as well, along with an 18-inch deep children's pool.

Grand Floridian's quiet pool area. Photo by Sue Holland.

As at the other resorts mentioned here, the Grand Floridian has a full marina, jogging path and a video arcade. There are also tennis courts shuttles to nearby Disney golf courses throughout the day. The Grand Floridian Spa is one of the most complete at Walt Disney World, with a wide variety of spa treatments available.

The final Magic Kingdom resort is Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Technically it is both a deluxe resort and a “home away from home” resort now that the Disney Vacation Club section (Villas at Wilderness Lodge) is open. The two resorts share the public areas, although the accommodations are completely different.

Wilderness Lodge's main pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

The main pool is located at the original Wilderness Lodge Resort, and begins as a hot spring pool in the lobby. The water flows under the window wall to become Silver Creek, widening as it develops into a rushing waterfall into the swimming pool. In addition, there is a quiet pool located at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge.

Opportunities for recreation abound at Wilderness Lodge. In addition to the full marina (similar to the other Magic Kingdom resorts) there is a very nice fitness center located in the Villas building. Hayrides can be taken in the evening, and bicycles are rented during the daylight hours. From Wilderness Lodge it is a short bicycle ride to Fort Wilderness, where there are many miles of paved paths for riding. There is a small but attractive white-sand beach near the marina, which can be used for sunbathing but not swimming. A playground for children is located on the beach as well.

Thanks to the pools and recreation offerings at the deluxe resorts, taking a day (or longer) off from visiting the theme parks can be one of the most enjoyable parts of any family's Walt Disney World vacation. Next time, we will explore the remaining deluxe resorts.