Ever since Chris told me about his idea for this post, I couldn’t wait to read it! I’ve heard Club Level at the Polynesian Resort is one of the best on property and to get an inside look at all the goodies is so exciting. Be prepared to see some awesomeness in this post. Looks like a GREAT way to celebrate a race weekend!
Aloha! There are many different ways to stay in and around Disney World for a runDisney event. One of the most indulgent though is to stay Concierge (or Club Level) at a Disney Deluxe Resort. In 2012 when I ran the inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler, the Mrs. and I stayed Club Level at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (our only other time at Club level) and found it to be an amazing experience. It may seem like a lot of additional expense, but once you factor in the “costs” of all the additional Club Level amenities, the price difference isn’t so great especially if you’re willing to “downgrade” your room view and “upgrade” your experience. However, nothing beats this view!
Disney hotels know how to “plus” vacations, but the extra attention that goes on at the Deluxe resorts (and Club Level in particular) is quite special. When I booked our stay for my first marathon, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by booking Concierge at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: reward myself for accomplishing the race and say “thanks” to the Mrs. for putting up with months of my training by booking a stay at her absolute favorite result.
The experience began soon after initially making the reservation. I received an email from the WDW Itinerary Planning Office offering to assist me with any aspect of our upcoming trip. This feature of Club level is wonderful for helping with booking dining, tours, recreation and other aspects of a Disney vacation. I had already booked an ‘Ohana reservation for the evening after the marathon (family style noodles and fire-roasted meat after running 26.2 miles? Yes please!), but the only time that was available was after 9:00. I replied to the Planning Office’s email asking for assistance in moving our reservation. They wrote back that they would put us on a waiting list. Lo and behold, two weeks before our trip, I received an email with a new reservation for an earlier time like I had asked for. Talk about assistance! I didn’t have to stalk the Dining website hoping for a cancellation.
Upon arrival, we were escorted through the Great Ceremonial House Lobby, past the check-in desk, and directly to the Hawaii Longhouse, home to the Club Level rooms and known as The King Kamehameha Club. Now may be a good time to point out that the Mrs. had *no* idea that I had booked Club Level. So when we walked past the normal check-in area, she was first confused, then surprised, then ecstatic (and maybe just a little emotional too).
Upon entering the Hawaii Longhouse, we sat down at a private check-in desk and were offered refreshments. Looking to pre-hydrate for the race, I took advantage and had some Natura water while the Mrs. had a Sprite. After a speedy check-in, we were escorted upstairs to the Concierge lounge, which has beautiful views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle. There are plenty places to sit and reflect, TVs to catch up on the real world, and also complimentary USA Today and Wall Street Journal papers to peruse.
This is also the location of the Club Level food and beverage offerings throughout the day. This (as a runDisney race participant) was the biggest benefit for me. All day long I had access to water, fruit and snacks.
There were four distinct services that we took advantage of for Marathon Weekend:
- Kakahiaka (morning service) 7:00 – 10:00 a.m. (continental breakfast with oatmeal & fixings)
- Auinala (afternoon service) 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. (snack service with goldfish crackers, cookies, nuts, etc…)
- Ahiahi (evening service) 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. (varied by the night but always included fruits, cheese, crackers, hummus w/ pita bread, and pineapple with caramel)
- Aumoe (late service) 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. (wine, cheese, desserts and cordials)
Kakahiaka was wonderful every morning of the weekend. The bagels with peanut butter were delicious, as were the croissants with butter and honey and the cinnamon rolls. Four kinds of cold cereal were out every morning, and the fresh oatmeal had granola, brown sugar and dried fruit for topping. And the array of fresh fruit was perfectly ripe. I was able to carb-load every day before the big race and I even took a banana every morning for a snack later in the parks!
Auinala was nice when we came back to the resort mid-day, like we often do. We would pick up a soda or juice and some snacks before resting a bit.
Ahiahi was where the chefs at The King Kamehameha Club really were able to shine. Every night was a different treat. From sweet meatballs and Rangoon, to BBQ chicken skewers and spring rolls, to sushi and Tuna Poke’, every night was something different. Often there would also be pasta, salad or even a smoothie with a Polynesian theme. And every night there was a selection of beer and wine from which to choose. Additionally, hummus and pita were always available, and there was a different special item for kids each evening. This will be important later!
Aumoe was a wonderful treat every night on the way back to our room. The dessert offerings were always varied and delicious, including mini-cakes and cookies. Cordials were on display every night for drinking or making delicious coffee concoctions.
The night of our arrival, we returned to our room to find that in addition to the usual turndown and mint chocolates, there was a personalized welcome chocolate from the staff.
As we got closer to race day, there were additional special items to note. Anyone familiar with staying at a Disney resort for a runDisney event knows that the quick service location will have race weekend specials (often involving copious amounts of pasta). Captain Cook’s was no different. They had a race weekend special of a baked pasta bowl with beef and tomato sauce served with a roll. Also, they had a grab-and-go option of a bagel, granola bar, banana and water bottle for $7. Not bad.
Not to be outdone, every morning of race weekend before you’d have to get on the monorail to EPCOT for the race starts (another perk of staying at the Polynesian), the King Kamehameha Club Staff would put out an assortment of their own quick-grab items: bagels with spreads, apples, oranges and bananas. You could take as many as you wanted. Also, they had the water, juice and coffee service out too!
I’m all about finding great race fuel in the most unlikely of places. Well, I think I found just about the best pre-race fuel in the kid’s item during Ahiahi Friday night. The chefs had made their own peanut butter and jelly uncrustables! I felt no shame in scooping up a few to put in our fridge for later. These mini PBJ sandwiches were perfect to have as a small meal before bed the night before the race.
The King Kamehameha Club Staff were also incredibly accommodating. They would retrieve a beer for us during off-hours if we asked. They obtained sparkling water for the Mrs. (the usual machine was out for service) when she requested it. And they procured for me possibly the most perfect recovery drink imaginable (as most non-lactose intolerant runners know): chocolate milk!
There were other (usual) benefits to the King Kamehameha Club: package delivery to your room (not the resort gift shop), beautiful towel animals, plenty of extra soaps, evening turndown w/ additional towel service which is especially good if you need to take multiple showers from pre- or post-race workouts or after going to the pool. You can never have too many towels.
This beverage was provided by the excellent staff as a Victory beer for completing my first marathon!
As I mentioned above, we had reservations at ‘Ohana for dinner after the marathon. Let me tell you, this was a great post-race meal! The family-style service provided plenty of carbs and protein via the delicious noodles and meat skewers. I was sure to wear my medal, and our server never let my plate be empty of grilled steak, shrimp, pork or chicken. And the pineapple bread pudding with bananas Foster sauce was the icing on the cake for a wonderful meal.
We talked at length with the Concierge staff all weekend long about runDisney races, about ones they had run in the past and ones they were thinking about. But my best conversation came with Rodrigo, a manager. I had heard someone in passing congratulate him on completing the marathon. So I offered mine as well. We talked and he said that the staff had come out during the marathon and cheered him on and gave him water and applesauce. How awesome to have your coworkers do that so early in the morning! I noticed he appeared to be limping, and I asked what had happened. Turns out, shortly after passing his coworkers, he got injured in the speedway portion of the race between miles 8 and 9. He persevered and managed to finish the race in less than 8 hours. I don’t know if I would’ve had the dedication to hobble 17+ miles, but he did. And his running partners stayed with him the whole way.
And that is a great note with which to end this recap. Our experience was magical staying in The King Kamehameha Club, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to be truly pampered for their runDisney event. Mahalo!
Chris at Lost Horizons began running in 2009 and has run four runDisney races in the past 2 years: the WDW Half Marathon and Inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler in 2012, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in 2013 and the WDW Marathon (his first) in January 2014. He may run more. He tweets (@horizons1983) about Disney, running and science. Sometimes simultaneously.