Not in a million years did we think we’d ever stay at the Yacht Club. We had deemed it an “adult” hotel where people who weren’t smiling and laughing all the time would stay; or people like Amy’s father, the navy vet, who would marvel over all the nautical appointments and magnificent model ships encased in glass. But not us. We wanted to have fun after all! Then something happened: We walked into the Beach Club Resort on a winter night, having just come from the holiday nirvana of the Spectacle of Lights, and a life size merry go round of chocolate horses filled the lobby. We were greeted by a spiffy doorman who made us feel like invited guests, and the head pastry chef handed us a sample of freshly made and still warm gingerbread and proceeded to tell us some of what was involved in creating the edible work of art.
At the time, we weren’t staying at a Disney Resort hotel and instantly we recognized the difference: Nobody made us feel like a guest where we were staying, despite it being a nice hotel. In our minds we had already reserved the Beach Club Resort for our next visit.
Only, come time to plan our next trip, a disturbing fact emerged: The Beach Club was more the family hotel, while The Yacht Club was the better choice for… sigh… It hurts even to write it: adults. But there it was: We were willing to trade charming seaside whimsy for nautical sophistication in order to keep the “family time” to a minimum.
You’re missing out if you don’t arrive through “proper channels.” By cab, by car, by limo or bus, drive up to the gate and follow the grand and leisurely curve of the driveway up to the door. Allow yourself to be greeted by name even before you get to the entrance, because word of your arrival traveled faster than you. The commodore will make your arrival feel official, as if you’ve been extended jovial permission to come aboard. Fittingly, the attitude is a little more yacht, a little less beach.
That’s worth knowing, because there’s another way to arrive at the Yacht Club: via the Boardwalk. Wouldn’t it be smashing to ship our luggage ahead to the hotel so we could spend the first half of the day at the Magic Kingdom then come into Epcot via monorail, as if we lived in the future and the monorail was the mass transit system of choice. We’d then power-walk from the entrance of Epcot to the Boardwalk just to whet our appetites and not get distracted before getting our room. This was our fatal error. We entered the Yacht Club from the backside, as it were, and made it to checkin looking like we’d run a marathon–because we had. Moreover, we caught our check in cast member unawares and he had to scramble to catch up. Still, he handled the situation with aplomb, and after a smooth and jovial check in we were given a room to die for.
The Yacht Club’s gateway to the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Epcot is perfectly landscaped with colorful flowers, coiffed trees, and sprawling thick lawns that frequently host bunnies, weddings and an assortment of catered affairs. And then there’s the beachfront, with its quaint New England view, white sandy beach, and signature lighthouse where you can catch the boat to the Studios, Epcot or just across the bay.
Having a window seat–in the form of a room with a balcony–can provide some unexpected and enjoyable entertainment at cocktail hour, and later at night fireworks and light shows.
But if you don’t have a window seat or your own liquor cabinet, there’re still plenty of watering holes and hangouts, the pool being prime for both, where the seaside atmosphere abounds, from the lounge chairs to the white windmill to Hurricane Hanna’s with its refreshing cocktails and tasty bites. Two “adult” pools offer a more secluded and sedate experience, as well as hot tubs for rejuvenating the body after a full day at the park. There’re no poolside bars, but you can bring your own cocktails providing they’re in non-glass containers.
Despite our being not so much the nautical types, the Yacht Club has a welcoming atmosphere. Undeniably more adult than its more fun and beachy sibling, the Beach Club, the Yacht Club has a gentle way of evoking an appreciation–if not fascination–in man’s seafaring history. But more than that, it infuses a sense of resort at every step. While this wasn’t an air we initially sought, it became more and more appreciated with each full day of park hopping. Being able to stroll from hotel to Epcot and back again at day’s end has an old-fashioned luxury replete with the serenity of Crescent Lake lined with weeping willows, antique street lamps and quaint lookouts.
If you don’t normally sport pinstripes and topsiders, you might catch yourself mentally trying them on, that’s how contagious the Yacht Club essence is, which is carried through to the rooms, lounges and dining experiences. Oh, did someone mention dining? The Yacht Club is not only host to one of the finest steak houses on Disney premises–The Yachtsman–but it’s within walking distance of more options than you can shake a fork at, extending to the Beach Club, the Boardwalk, and beyond that, Epcot, the Studios, and the Swan and Dolphin hotels (not Disney-owned).
So while you may think you’re too young for such a “formal” resort experience, or too “city” for a New England beach town, start with a visit. The relaxed atmosphere and charming boardwalk antiquities might very likely stir something within you that you didn’t know existed and you’ll start thinking “balmy” and “jaunty” are words we don’t use nearly often enough.