Getting in the Swim of Things:
Resort Pools of WDW
By Pete Saroufim
All Ears® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the August 5, 2003, Issue #202 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
You wake up. It's 90 degrees. The air conditioner's broken. Your paper fan just isn't cutting it anymore. You, like so many of us, desperately need a pool. But just any pool won't do it for you. For some reason, when you go to a community pool you ask where the sandy bottom went. When you try a friend's four-footer you check over your shoulder for a giant clown face. And when you blow up your inflatable kiddie pool, you wonder where the wheelchair accessibility is. You have a problem. You're a Disney Fanatic, and once you've been in the best pools imagined, there's just no going back.
I can't blame you for this addiction (I, too, suffer from the desire to swim where the Mouse lives), but what I can do is help you on your quest to get the best pool time you can. As a frequent visitor and proud Disney Vacation Club Member, I have had the opportunity to experience the best that Disney has to offer for underwater adventures. I'll give you the lowdown on everything from lifeguards to waterslides, kid pools to whirl pools, and maybe with enough help you won't find yourself in sandals, carrying a beach towel, wandering about in the middle of a Disney highway.
What better place to start than the mother of all Disney pools (or any pool for that matter)? Story has it that years ago a sailor by the name of Stormalong was caught in a nasty storm and crashed onto a shoreline where his ship remains today. Packing 750,000 gallons of water, Stormalong Bay at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club could possibly be the greatest pool you'll ever visit. I can tell you it beats anywhere I've been. Stormalong Bay really gives you the feeling that you're on a beautiful sunny beach, but at the same time, the water is always warm, there are no sharp rocks digging into your feet, and you have the ability to get out of the pool and be at Epcot in about seven minutes flat. No beach can offer that.
Stormalong Bay is well known for its sand bottom and 230-foot slide, but that's just the start of the fun that this pool has to offer. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing better than the feeling of sand between your toes, and there's nothing like cruising right out of the "broken" mast of a pirate ship, through a closed slide at a hefty speed, then out into the Florida sun with water splashing down from above, before pummeling into the relaxing, warm water. However, it just keeps getting better. In one section of Stormalong Bay, there's a mini whirlpool where water jets push you right around in a circle without you expending any energy or effort. In the middle of the pool is the "sinking sand" where guests (including me) have spent countless hours of fun getting themselves stuck in the sand and pulling themselves back out again. (Note to parents: this is quite safe unless you have an extremely short child; it only goes down a foot or so and it's very easy to get out. I have also noticed this area is heavily watched by lifeguards, on the off chance they are needed.)
And the kids have a little -- strike that, big -- pool of their own. The kiddie pool, located at the shipwreck near the slide's entrance, also has a sand bottom and even features its own, smaller slide. For adults, several hot tubs are located around the pool where you can relax for as long as you'd like. If all this still isn't enough to entertain you, grab some tubes from the beach shack and move wherever the current takes you. After a long day in the pool, Beaches and Cream is nearby for food and ice cream. All in all, Stormalong Bay is three acres of fun!
What's truly spectacular about Disney pools is how much attention to detail is given to the theming. The Caribbean Beach Resort is no exception. This Spanish-Fort themed pool may not be as awe-inspiring as Stormalong Bay, but guests at the resort should have little to complain about. The main pool has a decent water slide, a few very inventive water cannons and even some nice waterfalls. The six "village pools" leave some pretty good options open for people who'd rather take a calm relaxing swim over a dip in the more popular decorative pool. (Do remember when swimming at the Caribbean Beach to bring your own towels, they are not supplied at poolside.)
The All-Star Resorts feature six pools in total, two at each individual hotel. At All-Star Movies there is a Mighty Duck pool and a Fantasia pool, the latter making you feel as if Mickey is orchestrating your swim. At All-Star Sports there is the Surfboard Bay and the Grand Slam, featuring a magnificent Goofy statue spouting a little H2O to help keep that pool full. At the All-Star Music there is the Grand Piano pool, a relatively quiet and relaxing place to swim and also the more popular Guitar Pool, maintaining a shape in which Springsteen would be happy to dive. None of the All-Star pools are mind-blowing and the lack of a slide may be a disappointment to some, but they are so well-themed that kids and adults alike will feel like their swim is a special one.
One of the most underrated pools in Disney -- and a personal favorite -- is at the Coronado Springs Resort. It's not just the pool itself; it's really the whole package. The 272,000-gallon pool and surrounding area, known as The Dig Site, is focused around a 46-foot Mayan pyramid that towers over innocent swimmers and sends water down into the pool. This pool is not without a slide -- it features a 123-footer decorated with a spitting jaguar that, although not Summit Plummet, will you keep you coming back for more. Like I said, it's the whole package at Coronado Springs. Near the pool is a beach volleyball court where I like to pretend I'm Maverick in Top Gun (it's safer than flying a jet), a pleasant snack bar known as Siesta's, a children's pool, a playground, an arcade, and most importantly, a hot tub with a 22-person capacity. The only thing more perfect than spending a hot Florida day at The Dig Site is spending a warm Florida night there. You'll really feel like you're on your own personal archaeological adventure.
Port Orleans has two major pools; one at Riverside and one at French Quarter. Ol' Man Island at Riverside is more than just a pool. It's more like, well, an island. Here you'll find a main pool, complete with a newly installed geyser, a hot tub that holds up to 8 people, a wading pool and a kiddie pool. In addition to the geyser, Ol' Man Island has also added wheelchair access. Many people say French Quarter is home to one of the best pools in Disney. I don't think so, but I do believe it is home to one of the best slides in Disney. I'm not a person to judge a pool by its slide, I rate many other things higher, but at French Quarter the slide really does make the pool. This slide sends you through the body of a dragon ridden by King Triton, and right out of its mouth and down the tongue. (Wait a minuteThat sounds pretty gross now that I think of it Though the slide is great, I've never thought too much of the pool itself.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is home of the Uzima Springs Pool, an 11,000 square foot masterpiece. Uzima has a kids' pool, a small slide, and a couple of hot tubs, but this is not the kind of thing that makes Uzima one of the most enjoyable pools at which to swim. What makes this pool so wonderful is just the whole atmosphere of Animal Kingdom Lodge. I never really thought a hotel would make a pool better, but it certainly seems that way. While having a themed pool almost always brings something positive to the swimming experience, it is more evident at Uzima then anywhere else I have been. Being able to relax in a pool with so much of the world around you is an adventure in itself. It's incredibly comforting to be in a pool late into the night amid an elegant environment, with only the beautiful sounds of exotic animals to break the silence. This is a not-to-be-missed pool.
Ever wanted to swim near a volcano? I sure haven't, but swimming at the Polynesian Resort can be a good deal of fun. The Nanea Volcano Pool is complete with a slide and its own waterfall, but that's not really my favorite part about this pool. I can't get enough of being able to dive into the water and listen to some nice tunes. At the Polynesian, the speakers are actually underwater, something my mom wishes she could do with the speakers in my bedroom. Despite this cool feature, or maybe because of it, the Nanea Volcano Pool might not be for everyone. Another drawback to the Polynesian's pool area, at least for some -- there is no hot tub! Since it's not a large swimming pool, many may not enjoy Nanea during those popular pool hours of the afternoon. The Polynesian does have a second pool though, and oddly enough this is the larger one. For those who are not fond of crowded swimming pools, but want a mid-afternoon dip, the Polynesian's second pool is a pleasant alternative.
Much like Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Wilderness Lodge's pool is affected greatly by the atmosphere of the resort. Luckily for us, this is a positive effect once again. My least favorite part about this pool is the water slide, which in my opinion simply helps overpopulate an otherwise relaxing location. Nevertheless, the Wilderness Lodge's pool is a great one, housing two hot tubs and a kids' pool to keep the whole family happy. I like to consider the Wilderness Lodge Pool more as a place to relax on a lounge chair with some headphones or a book and catch a tan, maybe even a dip-your-feet-in-the-water, rather than a cannonball/Marco Polo kind of pool. Of course, this benefits everyone. The kids can still have all that fun, but the parents will be so entranced by the nature around them that they won't give a second thought to napping under the trees.
The Boardwalk Pool is one of the best-themed pools, has one of the top slides, has a great atmosphere, features a whole lot of water packed fun, and... is my least favorite Disney pool. I must admit, the 200-foot Keister Coaster slide is fun. The carnival theme is very entertaining. The carousel-shaped bar Leaping Horse Libations is a nice convenience. The elephant showers are dazzling. But I am truly, honestly, and shamefully scared to death of the giant clown face that lurks at the pool known as Luna Park. If you are braver than I, this may be a great (though heavily populated) choice for swimming, but if you are like me, don't risk it. The nightmares may never end.
As any teenager knows, the choice of a resort, and the pools therein, can make or break a vacation. However, whether it's cooling off after a long day in the parks or that glorious last swim before the trip home, any swim in Disney can be a memorable one. No Disney pool is a poor choice, but the quest is to find the pool that suits you best. But then again, after being out in that scorching Florida sun all day, who really cares?
Enjoy Pete's other ALL EARS® features at: http://allears.net/btp/pete.htm
You can also drop him a note at: TheLebageek@aol.com
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.