I can't begin to tell you how excited I was that we were staying onsite this year. I've already written a post about deciding if you want to stay on or off site and we knew that this time, we definitely wanted to stay onsite.
When we were still in the process of deciding when our next trip would be, Disney released their free dining dates. We immediately knew we wanted to take advantage of that offer so I looked through the list of hotels that were a part of that deal. Originally, we were thinking we would stay at a moderate hotel (I have a full list of all the hotels and their category posted here). We were interested in Port Orleans but it isn't part of the free dining offer. Then we really wanted to go to Caribbean Beach Resort but all of their free dining rooms were already booked (literally, within the first 5 days they were sold out!).
Instead I booked All Star Sports which is a Value resort (more on that here). As we continued to save for our trip we were able to switch over the the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House (AKL). It's generally the least expensive of the deluxe resorts and instead of the quick service dining plan, we were able to get the Disney dining plan (1 quick service, 1 table service and 1 snack per day, plus refillable mug).
Online the AKL is gorgeous. The lobby is absolutely breathtaking and it appears that animals are everywhere. In reality, the lobby is very pretty and while there are lots of viewing areas, we didn't see very many animals. We were there for 7 days and only two or three did we see a giraffe from our room! Thankfully, I took several pictures of those experiences to share!
Speaking of the room itself, it is quite small, but it's fine for us because we don't spend much time there. I do wish there was a pocket door to block off the sink area from the beds because the bath area is too small to change clothing in and a pocket door would give some privacy.
AKL also has 3 restaurants onsite (at Jambo House). Jiko (which take 2 table service credits per person), Boma (1 table service credit per person) and Mara (1 quick service credit per person). We only ate at Mara and I will do a review on it soon!
We've never used the Disney bus system before, so I was a little anxious about it. After numerous trips on the buses I think the longest we ever waited was 25 minutes, but the average wait was probably closer to 8 minutes. We had a couple of instances when we walked right onto a bus!
One thing that you hear everyone talk about is Disney's customer service. I've been coming to Disney parks since I was a little girl and we've always had wonderful experiences. Eventually it seems that you will have a negative one and unfortunately, this was that one time for us. I booked our trip months in advanced and paid for a savannah view. Unfortunately, the first room they put us in faced a fence, not a savannah (certainly not the savannah I requested). When we called the front desk they were rude and unhelpful, and told us the resort was full and they couldn't help us. The next day, we tried again and were told that yes, they had us in the wrong room and would move us while we were at the park! Great! But...that didn't happen. We returned from a lonnnng day at Magic Kingdom to find that now we had no room and our luggage was at bell service!
Finally, we were put in another room which I would consider a very partial savannah view. It again faced a fence but now had a giant structural pole in front of the balcony! Another call downstairs proved frustrating and finally my husband had to speak to the hotel manager to get us moved. Now, if we had just booked a regular room, then either of those would have been fine, but I paid extra for a savannah view. Our third room (pictured in this post) was where we ended up staying.
Our typical view looked like this:
But every once in awhile we would get some wildlife. This picture is zoomed in - if you compare to the one above, you'll see I zoomed in to the far right.
Overall Thoughts on AKL:
Customer Service: Needs improvement
Food: Mara was very good
Room itself: Okay (very clean)
Ease of bus service from AKL: Good
Walk to rooms: Not nearly as far as I expected - very easy to get around
View: From the viewing areas in the hotel, the chance of seeing animal was pretty good. From the three rooms we were in, one of them had fairly good animal sightings, but only in the afternoon.
Overall: I wouldn't stay here again, but if your kids are really into animals, this might just be the place for you!
Tips: I wouldn't waste my money on a savannah view again. If you do decide to stay at AKL I would recommend being away from the lobby, main walking areas and elevator. We were down a quiet hallway and never heard anyone at night!