Disney During COVID: Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite places to visit. It has a wonderful atmosphere and an entire savannah full of animals. It is a hotel built around a zoo. I’m going to give you my thoughts after our one night stay in June 2020.
For a little bit of back story: we booked a few trips to use up some DVC points that we had saved to take a trip to Aulani. ( obviously canceled due to this pandemic) Our original booking was Jambo House of Animal Kingdom Lodge. This resort is closed, its the one with the huge iconic lobby. We were moved to Kidani Village which is right next door. We were generously upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite from a studio with a savanna view. We are venturing out to Disney during COVID because we live so close and had points we did not want to expire.
Guests are now encouraged to check-in via the MyDisney Experience app or online prior to arrival. This way you can skip the front desk and enter your room with minimal contact. We enjoyed the pool and waited until four when we still had not received a check-in text message. After checking with the front desk we went straight to our room. You can unlock the door with either your magic band or the my Disney experience app.
Each room had a little placard letting you know the areas that had experienced advanced cleaning. The room as spotless and the remotes and shampoos had been wrapped in plastic to indicate they had been cleaned.
Masks are required. All Cast Members had them on. You did not need to have them on when on the pool deck or eating at a restaurant. Most people had them on, but the resort as a whole was very quiet.
There were not too many food options at this resort. There is a poolside bar which we visited on arrival day. It had two kids meal options ( turkey sandwich, and peanut butter and jelly) and maybe four adult entrees. My husband and I each got a pulled pork sandwich with chips and a few drinks from the bar. We packed the children peanut butter and jelly and ham sandwichs. Which turns out to have been a smart move. There is also a small store in the lobby the had a few grocery type amenities.
Sanaa is the only other restaurant in this hotel. It is amazing and I highly recommend it. The flavors are inspired by African dishes you will more than likely not find anything you are familiar with on the menu. The floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the savanna really make this a stand out a spot to enjoy a meal. This restaurant also has a small lounge where you could enjoy some drinks and an appetizer. Social distancing was in full effect.
The children received paper menus, however, the regular menu required you to scan a QR code. Using the camera on your smartphone the code will direct you to a website with the full menu. I did have to ask the waiter about the wine list, as it was not part of the online menu. They have a great wine selection!
There were basically none. Typically there are many things to enjoy between Kidani Village and Jambo house you can’t complete them all. We have been lucky enough to stay around three years ago and loved all the fun activities.
When I visited the front desk at check-in I asked about activities. We had just visited Disney’s Vero Beach Resort the weekend before and they provided us with a full schedule of events in usual Disney fashion. I was told there would be “poolside activities”. The front desk CM said” I am not sure what those will be. That’s all it says.” Hmm. Ok.
Part of the charm of this resort for me was the host of educational activities that the guests could participate in. I have to say I understand the reason behind the changes but I was still disappointed. Disappointed at the lack of offering but also disappointed that no effort was made to tell me what would be available.
The community hall is still open. They were still letting out balls to use on the basketball courts and tennis equipment. I was given a vague answer about arts and craft activities.
Typically when staying at either Animal Kingdom Lodge hotel you have access to both pools. The only pool open was the one located at Kidani Village. It is a smallish pool with a great water slide. It also has a zero-entry which is great for the little ones. This pool is also home to a great splash zone area with a little playground, a baby pool, and some water cannons. Sadly most of this area was closed except the waterfall and baby pool.
Unlike Vero Beach, the pool chairs and loungers were seat yourself. They were spaced out and the staff was cleaning the vacant chairs regularly.
The biggest disappointment of the stay was the fact that the pool didn’t open until 11am! With nothing else to do ( and no Disney theme parks open) this was a real bummer. We had anticipated an early opening, again because of our Vero Beach experience. Additionally, with no activity schedule and limited information in the My Disney Experience app, we marched to the Pool in trunks and goggles at 8:45 am.
Here is also where I think some Disney Magic was lacking. We passed by about four Cast Members who smiled at us but made no mention of the pool hours. When we came back past those same CMs they seemed surprised that the pool was in fact not open or had the wrong times themselves. The Animal Kingdom Cast Members seemed a little rusty.
In the little shop, there was a pinboard available. It was hidden and we had to ask for it specifically. I was able to remove the pin from the board for the boys and we dropped their pins into a box to be cleaned before placing them back on the board. This is one of the few times we interacted with CMs and it seemed like another missed opportunity to show us they were happy to see us. I felt like I was bothering the cast member when looking to trade pins. This has never been my experience in the past.
Now the views and animals seen at this resort were still amazing. Drinking my coffee, in my pjs, while I watched the giraffe wander by is still a one of a kind experience. Is it worth it to stay here now? No. Was it missing Disney Magic on multiple levels? 100% Did it feel like a ghost town? Yes. Did I feel “safe”? Absolutely.
We needed a change of pace. So I am happy we visited. I don’t think I would have been glad to be here for more than one night. I also think for the money spent it will be better when things return to some semblance of “normal.”
I was happy to have a little dose of Disney, but I left unsatisfied. Disney During COVID may not be for everyone.