Staying on Property at Disney World’s Pop Century Resort
Posted by daffystardust
Since my most recent visit to Disney World included my first stay at a true on-property Disney resort, I figured I’d give the experience its own post. Above is a map of the resort. Click below for a partial explanation of what you see there. First, let me say that I ended up at Pop Century in a purely impulsive/money-saving move that really doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it too much. The super-cheap room off property I’d had reserved for months had disappeared for unavoidable reasons and for once I was in no mood to do a ton of research to fix the situation. Staying on property had always intrigued me, so I just picked up the phone and called Disney to find out what my intended dates would cost at a “value” resort. When I told the cast member who answered the phone that I wanted the cheapest room on property, but, you know, not a dump, he suggested Pop Century. Based on the rate he quoted with my AAA discount, I was satisfied and just glad to have it handled. Then I let him up-sell me on a preferred room (marked above in red).
First off, let me say that the extra $15 a night I spent on that “preferred room” seems to have been worth it. When you drag home after a very full day walking around in a park, the closer your room is, the better. In the days leading up to our stay, I studied the above map obsessively, wondering where we’d end up and what I should request. Cheaper rooms in the 80s building look like they’re just as close to Classic Hall and maybe closer to the bus stops. I didn’t go out there and measure it on my hands and knees, but based on “the eye test” that 80s building is much farther away in reality than it looks on the map. Our rooms in the 50s building (in the section marked with “1101-1472″) were just a stone’s throw from the main building (“Classic Hall”), but I never felt like we were in the middle of loud foot traffic.
Another note about the map: The icons on Classic Hall do indeed indicate where in the building those services are located. After searching this information on line quite a bit, I called the resort and asked it straight out. The cast member I spoke to must have been confused, because she told me the icons were just a listing and did not reflect location in Classic Hall. That was incorrect. But it may have been a blessing in disguise, because I probably would’ve demanded a room in the 80s building if I’d known the truth, and that exchange would’ve been a wash at best. One of the biggest benefits of staying on property, though? Buses. Disney’s Magical Express, for one. Despite being located on the exact opposite side of MCO airport from where I landed with Delta, I was thoroughly impressed by the whole operation. They had a very big help counter down there, but it must’ve been for outgoing visitors, because when I showed a cast member my pass he asked me which resort I was staying at and waved me straight into a line marked “Pop Century.” This put me in place for what turned out to be no more than a 15 minute wait before boarding my bus to the resort.
The three Magical Express buses you see in this picture were supplemented by at least two others which were not as attractively themed, but I imagine did the job. Pop Century was the third of three resorts served by the bus I was on, but I never became impatient. My plane had landed even earlier than I’d expected, so I was living on gifted time and seemed destined to make it to Hollywood Studios well before my lunch reservation at 50s Prime Time Cafe. The promotional/informational video on board probably helped, too. Since I’d sent my big suitcase ahead by car with my folks, I was traveling light and had no need for the baggage delivery they feature. But that does sound great. I had only what I needed for my day in the park and a small plastic bag with a change of clothes for the next day that I was planning to leave at the front desk if my room wasn’t ready. After all, check-in time was more than four hours away.
That didn’t turn out to be an issue, as my room was available immediately. This allowed me to drop a couple of extra things on the table in my room before heading out for the day. Most significantly…
With no car to drive due to Disney’s transportation options, the only key I’d need would be my card room key. I freaking loved not having to carry my keys around. By the end of my 2 weeks in Florida and Georgia for the holidays, I actually had to go find where I’d put these things. In my backpack. I’d put them in my backpack.
Since I knew I wouldn’t be spending many daytime hours at Pop Century, I took a couple of pictures on the run.
The above is a shot from the front door of my room. Pop Century has big character icons outside most of the buildings. The 50s buildings get Lady and the Tramp. That’s a huge tabletop juke box at the end of that bowling pin-shaped swimming pool. I took this picture and never really gave them a second look, but I’m sure they’re probably invaluable in helping some guests find their rooms.
My first bus ride to a park was probably the most crowded. Of course, that’s because I was boarding not long after 11AM. I sincerely hope every last person in this line was, like me, just arriving in Orlando. Otherwise, what the heck were they doing only now getting on a bus? Why weren’t they at a park at rope drop? Don’t they read online tips? Don’t they listen to podcasts hosted by Disney experts? Don’t they read le Blog?
No. No they don’t.
The queue for the bus was so crowded at 11:15AM, in fact, that not all of us were going to get on the bus that showed up next. I fretted as I watched the line flowing into the bus slow to an ebb. The two ladies in front of me were stopped short of the bus door. Since I was on my own and I’m not exactly rotund, I locked eyes with the bus driver and held up a single finger. At Disney World, this is the international sign for “I’m by myself. You can seat me.” The driver understood and said, “okay, come on in.” Unfortunately, the two ummm…. “curvy” ladies in front of me misunderstood the driver and got on the bus first. Having been the one summoned, I didn’t let this stop me and I walked on right after them. The driver looked confused now. “Well, are you one or three?!” I smiled and said “I’m one. They’re two.” Telling those two ladies to get off the bus was not my job and the driver decided it was not hers either. Cramped as we were, everyone who had gotten on that bus was happy. Why mess with happy?
When I got up early the next morning to make an 8AM rope drop at the Magic Kingdom, Classic Hall looked like this. With practically no one else there, the walk of its length became easy and leisurely. So much so, that I stopped to take some pictures of the pop culture boxed assemblages hanging on the wall there. Google “Joseph Cornell” if you want to see more artistic versions of these things. These boxes were plenty fun to look at, though. Here are a few of my favorites:
Pop Century’s food court and “Everything Pop” retail shop are enclosed together and only separated by a short wall. You wanna eat? You gotta go in the gift shop! Good luck, Mom and Dad! Mwah Ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!
As you can tell from the above photo, the advantage of being up so early is that there’s no crowd to fight. I had my pick of tables and nobody to bump into.
The down side was that at 6:15AM there were only two choices for a hot breakfast. Both involved waffles. Waffles with fruit or waffles with meat. I chose waffles with meat. I like waffles and meat, but these are pretty average, and I’d been hoping for an omelette. When we got up just a little later on our last park day the choices had expanded dramatically, but the crowd was daunting.
Here’s a shot of the bus stops outside the resort at just a little before 7AM. The picture turned out pretty well, but I promise you it wasn’t nearly as sunny that morning as this makes it look. There was no doubt I was getting on this bus. Four hours makes a big difference.
I had stayed at one of those Downtown Disney hotels once, but the bus rides were longer because they were shared with other hotels at the time (Pop Century does not share its buses), and well…it was just a nice hotel. There was really no feeling that you were still at Disney World. It might have been a slightly better hotel (I honestly can’t remember exactly which one it was), but Pop Century is no slouch. It had been open exactly nine years the day before I got there, so everything is still bright and shiny. The staff was efficient and accommodating and my room was more than enough, considering how little time I was going to spend there. It was cleaner and bigger than many at perfectly good hotels I’ve stayed at. For a very detailed fan site of the resort, go to http://www.popcenturysite.com/
I have to admit that it may be difficult for me to consider any future Disney World trip of any length without staying on property. I’ve got a taste of not having to drive on vacation and I like it. The resort buses were not nearly as crowded the night of the Christmas party this year as the ferry to the parking lot had been last year after the Halloween party. Now that was a mass of humanity. At the same time, the prices attached to any of the moderate or deluxe resorts just don’t make sense to me when I’m really there to go to the parks. A slightly better breakfast and more beautiful surroundings would be nice, but they are hardly worth the difference in cost.
One of these days I may find myself on the other side of that lagoon, but I can’t foresee what set of circumstances would lead me there.
Posted on January 4, 2013, in Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Movies, Star Wars, theme parks, Trip Report, TV, Walt Disney World and tagged Disney World transportation, Joseph Cornell, Pop Century resort, pop century resort map, Staying on property. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.