Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Reflections Lakeside Lodge at Disney World

Walt Disney World introduced Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, a brand new nature-inspired resort for the previous River Nation water park location alongside the shore of Bay Lake between Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. This growth could be combined use, with each resort rooms and Disney Trip Membership villas. (Up to date September 15, 2023.)

Initially introduced again in October 2018, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge will “be a celebration of Walt Disney’s lifelong love and respect for nature” with greater than 900 resort rooms and Disney Trip Membership villas. Reflections resort was slated to be the sixteenth Disney Trip Membership property, a part of a major growth on the resort aspect of Walt Disney World. That plan would have introduced a complete of greater than 1,700 new resort rooms and Disney Trip Membership villas on-line over 4 years.

Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge was additional elaborated upon on the 2019 D23 Expo, and it was billed as one of many “most original resorts ever constructed” at Walt Disney World. Idea artwork was shared of the novel lodging, together with each treehouse suites and waterfront A-frame cabins that may be out there on the resort. Reflections — A Disney Lakeside Lodge would additionally characteristic a restaurant impressed by Princess and the Frog, positioned “alongside the bayou of Bay Lake.”

September 15, 2023 Replace: Let’s begin by bringing you on top of things, as that is the primary time we’ve had an replace on Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge in over 3 years. Again when the parks closed and all development stopped, Walt Disney World mothballed the development web site for Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge.

The mission was successfully cancelled and crews on web site eliminated concrete and rebar. At that time, just about all that had occurred was web site clearing and staging for development to start. The mission had but to start basis work, not to mention vertical development. Quick-forward three years, and it’s primarily an empty parcel. The long run dwelling of Reflections continues to be very a lot seen from California Grill and even the boat en path to Wilderness Lodge–it’s the large empty space amidst the bushes.

Right now’s growth is that Florida has granted Walt Disney Imagineering a 5-year extension on a allow associated to the development of Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge. That allow will now expire on Might 31, 2028. Observe that this allow is not for the Reflections web site itself, it’s for the STOLport Website–close to the previous Walt Disney World Airport, with STOLport standing for Quick Take-Off and Touchdown.  Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge wouldn’t be constructed on the STOLport web site, however it will act as a handy staging floor positioned between the TTC and Fort Wilderness.

It’s completely attainable that the STOLport is meant for use as a staging web site for one thing else, however Imagineering addressed Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge in its extension request, asserting that it was wanted as a result of the mission was shut down throughout COVID-19, which due to this fact delayed the completion of the mission. To be trustworthy, I don’t have sufficient expertise with this type of factor to know whether or not it’d be applicable to request an extension on this method for a materially completely different mission.

Within the intervening years since Reflections was mothballed/cancelled/delayed indefinitely, a trio of latest Disney Trip Membership tasks within the Magic Kingdom resort space has been introduced, not directly changing Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge. The primary and smallest of those was at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, changing one outlying constructing to new Resort Studios on the Grand Floridian. That mission wrapped up final yr and is now out there on the market.

The subsequent of those is the New DVC Tower at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (pictured above), which is presently beneath development and is slated to open in late 2024 at Walt Disney World. Primarily based on the extremely fast tempo with which that growth is being constructed, there’s no purpose to imagine it’ll be delayed. This can be a license to print cash for DVC, as everybody loves the Poly.

Lastly, there’s the Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort – A Disney Trip Membership Resort (idea artwork under). This was introduced earlier this yr and work has not but began, however these are slated to open in 2024–doubtlessly earlier than the Poly tower. The brand new cabins being pre-fabricated off-site and put in unit-by-unit, not constructed on location. Accordingly, the turnaround time may very well be a matter of months from begin to end. That is the mission that would theoretically be utilizing the STOLport Website for staging, however I ponder whether that’s even crucial. I assume these items are construct lots of of miles away and trucked in–is a staging web site crucial?

The opposite purpose it’s value drawing consideration to those tasks is as a result of there are plenty of them. Along with this trio, the Villas at Disneyland Lodge simply went on sale earlier this yr and can open in September 2023. Then there’s Disney’s Riviera Resort and Aulani in Hawaii, the latter of which has been on sale for years now; there’s a good probability Aulani will by no means promote out of DVC factors.

Whereas Disney Trip Membership has demonstrated a willingness to go full steam forward on new tasks, there are already plenty of them underway. That is vital as a result of it means a ton of factors being bought concurrently, and quite a few resorts competing with each other for the eye of consumers. That is all occurring as there’s been one thing of a Disney Trip Membership Gross sales Droop. That’s occurring towards the backdrop of rising rates of interest, slowing client spending, and the opportunity of a recession within the subsequent yr or two.

On its face, it thus appears unlikely that Disney Trip Membership will resume Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge anytime quickly. They’ve began too many tasks and have an excessive amount of on the market proper now already. And but, there are rumblings along with the STOLport allow that precisely that is about to occur.

Personally, I’m each skeptical and more and more open to the chance. This defies previous precedent and would’ve been deemed loopy even ~5 years in the past, again when Disney Trip Membership didn’t announce the subsequent mission (and actually denied the existence of development occurring in plain view), however so much has modified since. Again then, DVC tried to area its additions in order that they wouldn’t straight competing with each other and cannibalize gross sales. Bulletins for the subsequent DVC property didn’t begin till gross sales had been wholesome and had progressed for the earlier one.

Issues have modified extra not too long ago, and Disney Trip Membership has had a number of properties on the market concurrently for the final a number of years. There hasn’t been hesitation in asserting the subsequent huge growth or beginning development–it looks like there’s been a philosophy change. Maybe now Disney Trip Membership is ok with a bigger variety of properties being out there on the market, with the thought course of that extra selection equals larger client selection and the next probability of promoting memberships. (In any case, they’re all going to promote out finally…nicely, perhaps minus Aulani!)

One other chance is that Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge is on the precipice of resuming, however not as a Disney Trip Membership mission. Not less than, not immediately. Walt Disney World wants extra resort stock, too. There’s nothing to say this beforehand mixed-use growth couldn’t begin as a resort mission, however be constructed with the long-term intentions of “conversion” to Disney Trip Membership when level provide and demand dictated as a lot. That does appear very believable to me, and may be what Walt Disney World opts to do. (In that case, I ponder how they message the ‘nature’ of Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge.)

A ultimate chance is that the Fort Wilderness Cabins mission has been scrapped, or no less than deserted as a Disney Trip Membership growth. It’s my understanding that the present cabins are slated for alternative a method or one other, however there’s nothing to say they couldn’t stay as a resort stock. Or perhaps they’ll be rolled into the Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge rental affiliation–who is aware of!

No matter what occurs within the near-term, it’s fairly secure to say that the Reflections web site can be developed in some unspecified time in the future down the highway. Walt Disney World solely has a lot prime parcels for resorts, and that is one among them. Not solely that, however plenty of the location prepwork was already carried out and it’s nonetheless in fairly good situation. It simply is smart for development to occur right here sooner or later, and my guess could be that it begins earlier than 2030.

Whether or not that’s Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge or a completely new idea is anybody’s guess. I’d speculate that the additional eliminated we get from the prior mothballing/delay/cancellation, the extra seemingly it’s that Disney will revisit each the identify and the idea. Even when this mission had been re-announced tomorrow, I believe the percentages are fairly good that the idea artwork would look materially completely different and the identify wouldn’t be the identical.

Turning to my unique commentary, I like Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. I’m a Disney Trip Membership member. In concept, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge appears completely tailor-made to a few of my favourite issues about Walt Disney World. I need to like the thought of the River Nation parcel lastly being redeveloped, as an alternative of rotting in plain sight. I’m actually looking forward to one of the best right here.

Sadly, like just about each Fort Wilderness fan, I’m very apprehensive about this Disney Trip Membership mission (nicely, mixed-use, however presumably principally DVC). A part of what makes Fort Wilderness particular is that it’s been comparatively undisturbed by time, and is among the final bastions of “Trip Kingdom of the World” period of WDW.

It’s virtually outstanding how completely different Fort Wilderness feels from the remainder of Walt Disney World—even its neighbor, Wilderness Lodge. It’s virtually as if Walt Disney World management has forgotten about Fort Wilderness, and it hasn’t seen the identical fiscal mandates, modifications in emphasis, or character as each different resort during the last couple a long time. Largely, it’s been doing its factor, roughly unchanged for the reason that Nineties.

There’s a really official concern, particularly after seeing how the Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge tasks at Wilderness Lodge unfolded, that any growth at or round Fort Wilderness will destroy the primitive and secluded traits of the campground that give it a lot enchantment. In any case, it is a campground with wilderness proper within the identify–the setting is the center and soul of Fort Wilderness.

The event of Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge doesn’t essentially should destroy the tranquil and secluded environment of Fort Wilderness, however that looks like a really distinct chance. Disney’s current method to creating accommodations adjoining to present resorts doesn’t encourage a lot confidence, and if there’s a ham-fisted method when clearing land or an overzealous mentality with regards to the dimensions or proximity of the resort to the campground, it is going to be extremely detrimental to Fort Wilderness.

As for the design, solely a pair items of idea artwork have been launched, they usually’re nothing particular. I don’t wish to rush to judgment right here, as I believe there may be potential for this to finish up being attention-grabbing as soon as extra is launched, however proper now it appears like a reasonably generic resort with some fashionable rustic prospers.

On the plus aspect, Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG) is the lead designer for Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, they usually have an excellent monitor document with Disney. They designed the unique Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, together with Disney accommodations in Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong.

If this had been a decade or two in the past, I may be extra deferential to Disney with regard to this idea artwork. Nevertheless, the final a number of years have proven that Walt Disney World could be very hit and miss with resort growth and redesigns, skewing in the direction of boring designs. It appears the method is to decide on essentially the most middle-of-the-road choices as attainable in order to not alienate these with bland tastes.

If you examine Walt Disney World resorts constructed earlier than the mid-Nineties to ones constructed or redesigned in the previous few years, there’s typically a transparent division. Modern tasks are sometimes interchangeable with actual world Vacation Inns or different mid-tier chained model accommodations.

Have a look at the distinction between BoardWalk Inn or Seaside Membership and the brand new Gran Destino Tower at Coronado or Disney’s Riviera Resort. Don’t get me fallacious–I like each for the facilities they provide, luxuriousness, and room designs. Nevertheless, the exteriors of each depart so much to be desired, and neither are precisely exemplars of themed design. (Admittedly, they’ve each grown on me so much, however I nonetheless want they had been extra ornate or distinctive.)

One clarification is that Disney needs to make issues as crowd-pleasing as attainable in order to not alienate any potential prospects. The factor about this method is that while you attempt to enchantment to everybody, you find yourself interesting to nobody.

One other clarification is that Imagineering’s abilities are unfold too skinny. I do know some readers may solely comply with the tasks at Walt Disney World, however each single property world wide has enormous tasks in varied levels of growth or development.

Up to now when much less was occurring concurrently, perhaps some top-tier Imagineering expertise who “acquired” Disney’s distinct method to accommodations labored on a resort mission. Now? Possibly they’re principally designers who view working for WDI as “simply one other job” no completely different than Finest Western or IHG.

Alongside those self same strains, with so many tasks in growth, it’s completely attainable–if not possible–that management within the Parks & Resorts division is making an attempt to trim the funds from each, chopping points or particulars considered as superfluous.

The issue is that these leaders are usually not creatives, and their expertise is commonly in client merchandise or different division of the corporate. They’ve completely no perception into what particulars are literally superfluous, and what are crucial for reinforcing theme or creating a way of immersion.

In the end, extra idea artwork may very well be launched that’s actually good. The mission might make use of a deft hand when creating round Fort Wilderness in a method that doesn’t harm that panorama. (Disney, simply consider how a lot you can pat yourselves on the again by using eco-friendly and sustainable development practices–it’d be value it within the PR alone!) It might find yourself being actually good–a real tribute to each Walt Disney’s love of nature, however the spirit of River Nation, which was by no means coming again anyway.

I’m cautiously optimistic that’s what might find yourself occurring, however I believe it’s equally seemingly that we’ll get a generically fashionable and vaguely rustic design. It’s additionally extra seemingly that as an alternative of eco-friendly development that preserves the pure magnificence and wilderness of the world, we get extreme tree clearing for the development, and an finish product akin to Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge when it comes to large walkways and naked grounds.

Planning a Walt Disney World journey? Find out about accommodations on our Walt Disney World Resorts Opinions web page. For the place to eat, learn our Walt Disney World Restaurant Opinions. To save cash on tickets or decide which sort to purchase, learn our Ideas for Saving Cash on Walt Disney World Tickets submit. Our What to Pack for Disney Journeys submit takes a novel have a look at intelligent gadgets to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Journey Guides will assist. For complete recommendation, one of the best place to start out is our Walt Disney World Journey Planning Information for every part you must know!


Are you optimistic or pessimistic about Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge? What do you consider the potential of this and different new accommodations at Walt Disney World? Some other questions or feedback? Listening to your suggestions is a part of the enjoyable, so please share your ideas under within the feedback!

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