Deluxe Pools, Part 2

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

Photo by Sue Holland.

This time, we will explore the pools and recreation available at the deluxe resorts in the Epcot and Animal Kingdom areas. Just like the Magic Kingdom area resorts, these pool areas are elaborately themed and provide a gorgeous setting for a relaxing day or afternoon away from the theme parks. Access is restricted to people who are registered guests at each resort, and Disney strictly enforces this at the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts in particular. Even Disney Vacation Club members are not permitted to use the pools at most of these resorts, except Boardwalk, unless staying there.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge has one thing that sets it apart from the other Disney resorts, as well as most other resorts in the world. It was built to overlook a 33-acre savanna that features free-roaming animals and birds. Animal or bird lovers can spend simply watching the activity on the savanna, and talking with cast members stationed to answer questions and share information about Africa and the species seen at the resort. When the resort first opened, Disney limited access to only guests staying there, but today anyone is welcome to visit the public areas (excluding the pool), including the savanna viewing areas.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge just has a single swimming pool, which is named Uzima Pool. Uzima means clear water, and the pool is 11,000 square feet with a 67-foot water slide. The sides and bottom of the pool make the water appear less blue than most pools, but that is in keeping with the theme of a watering hole in Africa. The pool is quite large, and includes a section that does not require using steps to walk into the water similar to the pools at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts.

The water slide has been criticized by some as not having any decorative appeal, at least not at the level expected at a deluxe resort. It is a simple slide, which may have been Disney's intention. There is also a Jacuzzi-type spa located near the slide, and the Uzima Springs Pool Bar serves a wide selection of beverages from the other side of the pool. No drinking straws are permitted at this resort, in order to keep the animals safe from guests who may not dispose of the straws properly.

Animal Kingdom Lodge's Uzima Pool. Photo by Sue Holland.

Also near the pool is the Zahanati Massage and Fitness Center, which is open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. for fitness, and from 8 a.m. for spa services. A playground for the children (Hakuna Matata Playground) is located in this area as well, although it is not visible to parents in the pool or spa. An arcade is located on the ground floor under the lobby, with the child-care facility (Simba's Cub House) located right next door.

This resort offers several recreational and educational programs, with a schedule available from the front desk while checking in. Each evening they have storytelling at one of the large firepits, with guests enjoying the rocking chairs pulled around the fire. Other offerings in the past have included cookie decorating, animal tracking, Lodge tours, pool games, and some evening activities. It would be very possible to have a fun-filled vacation at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge without ever leaving the resort, so do allow some time to enjoy what will be offered during your stay.

Stormalong Bay. Photo by Sue Holland.

Without question, the biggest and best pool area at Walt Disney World is Stormalong Bay, which is shared by Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. Sprawled over 3 acres and containing 750,000 gallons of water, this pool must be seen to be believed. Due to its obvious popularity, cast members stationed at each of the few entry points tightly control access. Without resort identification to prove you are registered at the Yacht Club or Beach Club (including Beach Club Villas), you will be asked to leave.

The one drawback to Stormalong Bay is its size, which can also be an attractive point depending on your situation. Families with both young and older children may be torn, as the area for young children is far from the water slide and other areas enjoyed by school-age children. Lifeguards are plentiful, but cannot substitute for absent parents. Fortunately, there are many areas where families can enjoy the pool together regardless of age.

Kiddie Pool area of Stormalong Bay. Photo by Sue Holland.

The Kiddie Pool area is larger than any other one I have ever seen! It has a sand bottom, and a large sandy area outside of the water, which is perfect for the type of beach play tots tend to love. Lounge chairs can be hard to come by in this area, as it is very popular with families. There is even a lifeguard stationed to keep an eye on things, which generally is unheard of at the other kiddie pool areas.

The rest of Stormalong Bay consists of a number of sprawling pools, with attractive bridges providing access from one area to another. The pools feature whirlpools, bubbling jets, an area with a sandy bottom, a quiet area, a small lazy river and an exciting water slide. The slide is accessed from outside Stormalong Bay, by climbing up the mast of a shipwrecked boat. The slide is partially enclosed, and quite long—definitely a popular spot for both children and adults. A number of Jacuzzi-type spas are located throughout Stormalong Bay, including one with cool water rather than hot. Inner tubes are available for hourly or daily rental, and are quite popular in the lazy river section of the pool. In this area the water gets quite deep—up to 8 feet.

Lazy river section of Stormalong Bay. Photo by Sue Holland.

In addition to Stormalong Bay, these resorts share three other “quiet” pools. These pools do not feature lifeguards or water slides, but they are a great place to escape for a less crowded and quieter swimming pool experience. There is one at the Yacht Club end, one at the Beach Club, and also the Dunes Cove pool at the Beach Club Villas.

Fitness buffs will enjoy the Ship Shape Health Club, which is located near Stormalong Bay. Besides fitness equipment, they also offer a spa, steam room, sauna and massage therapy. A small arcade is nearby, and Beaches and Cream is a popular ice cream parlor in the same area.

For other outdoor recreation, there is a tennis court available, along with a volleyball area. Bayside Marina is the place to rent pontoon boats or the small water mouse speedboats. The speed of the water mouse boats are kept lower at this location, however—to get the maximum enjoyment these are best rented from any of the Magic Kingdom resorts.

Boardwalk Inn and Boardwalk Villas' main pool. Photo by Mark Anderson.

Across the lake from Disney's Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts are the Boardwalk Inn and Boardwalk Villas Resorts. These two resorts share the public areas, in the same fashion as Yacht Club and Beach Club. The Boardwalk Inn is considered a “deluxe” resort, while the Boardwalk Villas falls into the “home away from home” category as a Disney Vacation Club resort.

The main pool is shared by both resorts, and features a water slide built to resemble a roller coaster. Named the Keister Coaster, this pool area is one of the more heavily themed in all of Walt Disney World. The water slide deposits riders into the pool through the mouth of a large clown face. People seem to either love or hate that clown, but nobody will miss it! Statues of circus animals are found around the pool, and the pool bar, named Leaping Horse Libations, is designed to resemble a carousel/merry- go-round.

Clown water slide at the Boardwalk main pool. Photo by Mark Anderson.

In addition to the themed pool, there are quiet pools located on both the Villas side and the Inn side of the resort. At Boardwalk Villas, Community Hall is located at the quiet pool and is home to recreation activities throughout the day. A schedule can be obtained there or at the front desk. A large fitness center is located on the ground floor near the themed pool, and the arcade is also nearby.

Surrey bikes seating four to six people can be rented by the half-hour from either side of the lake (Boardwalk or Yacht & Beach Club), with most people being able to make several loops in a half-hour's time. These look like great fun, but they require some real physical effort to clear some of the hilly sections. Tennis courts are located next to Boardwalk Villas, and boats are available for rent from the marina. During the evening hours the boardwalk comes to life with games of chance, street entertainers, and other activities depending on the season.

This concludes the tour of the deluxe resorts. Hopefully looking at the pools at the value, moderate and deluxe resorts has helped with the decision on which resort would be the best fit for your next trip to Walt Disney World.