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Theme parks provide exciting moments and unforgettable memories, but staying in a themed suite can elevate a family vacation to bucket-list status.
“My clients love that the theme keeps going from the time they arrive at the hotel,” said Denise Staley, an authorized Disney vacation planner with Archer Travel Service in Lancaster, Calif. “They love the momentum.”
Beci Mahnken, founder and CEO of MEI-Travel and its theme park specialty division, Mouse Fan Travel, in Issaquah, Wash., agrees. She notes that many of her clients choose themed suites, especially when they are celebrating a special occasion.
“If my clients don’t want the immersive experience to end after the gates close for the night, I look to themed suites,” Mahnken said.
We’ve rounded up special suites at some of the top theme parks that will help your clients extend the magic.
Disneyland ResortThe rumors are true: Lucky park guests are allowed to sleep inside Disney theme parks. But the opportunity to rest your head in Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle Suite, or in the Dream Suite above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland, is by invitation only. Fortunately for Disney fans, The Disneyland Hotel has five themed suites — Pirates of the Caribbean, Adventureland, Big Thunder, Fairy Tale and Mickey Mouse Penthouse — that anyone can book.
“The Disneyland Hotel surrounds guests with the storytelling and nostalgia of Disneyland Park, creating an experience that is unique among our Disney resorts,” said Erin Glover, editorial content director for Disneyland Resort. “While all guestrooms feature magical Disney touches, the Signature Suites are where guests can be fully immersed in the magic of Disneyland.”
The 1,600-square-foot Mickey Mouse Penthouse — Disneyland’s first themed suite, introduced in 2007 — features Mickey’s signature color scheme and contains so many “hidden Mickeys” (Mickey shapes subtly integrated into design elements) that it’s almost impossible to find them all. The suite’s artwork incorporates items from the Disney library, including rare images of Walt Disney and Mickey, as well as three-dimensional Mickey models used by Disney animators.
Teri J. Young, certified master Disney specialist and founder of DreamCatcher Vacations in Sacramento, Calif., says the higher level of service for guests staying in Signature Suites also makes a big difference.
“Shortly after arrival, my clients are introduced to their Personal Vacation Planner,” Young said. “I think of these exceptionally helpful cast members as my on-site counterparts.”
Young notes that, although she plans clients’ day-to-day itineraries in advance, changes and additions can be handled by the Personal Vacation Planners, including access to preferred-viewing areas for parades and nighttime shows and occasionally even “un-gettable” dining reservations.
Because the price tag is already higher than an average hotel room, clients may be wary of booking a suite for a vacation that doesn’t generally include a huge amount of time in the hotel. But Staley of Archer Travel Service says that her clients think it’s worth the extra cost because they have something to look forward to when they leave the theme parks.
“Themed hotel suites offer something special,” Staley said. “Plus, they have amenities that kids absolutely love.”
Another perk for suite guests is access to the “E Ticket Club.” Young says her clients appreciate that the lounge offers continental breakfast in the morning, happy hour in the evening and dessert at night. Plus, she says, the lounge is stocked with drinks and snacks throughout the day.
It wouldn’t be Disney without some magical touches, so naturally, each Signature Suite features a few special amenities. For example, when guests turn a knob marked “Do Not Turn” in the rustic, 1,400-square-foot Big Thunder Suite (and who wouldn’t?), it triggers sound effects inspired by the runaway mine train on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction. And when the door closes behind families staying in the Fairy Tale Suite, Tinker Bell flies in and lights the castle with pixie dust.
“I’ve booked honeymoon couples and couples celebrating anniversaries into the Fairy Tale Suite,” said MEI-Travel’s Mahnken. “Just as the name implies, you feel like you’ve walked into a fairy tale as Tinker Bell greets you at the door.”
The Adventureland Suite is definitely where Indiana Jones would hang his famous hat. The master bedroom looks like a safari lodge, with a grotto that uses lighting and sound effects to simulate a rainforest and a savanna. The second bedroom puts young explorers inside a safari tent. And if that’s not cool enough, the living area includes fun touches, such as a television hidden behind artwork and a bookcase that has a secret entrance to a closet. The Adventureland Suite also features background music inspired by Disney movies and park rides such as the Jungle Cruise.
The 1,750-square-foot Pirates of the Caribbean Suite reflects the adventure of the classic attraction with concept artwork from the original 1967 ride, as well as props from the movies. Fun fact: Actor Johnny Depp, who plays Captain Jack Sparrow in the films, has stayed in this swashbuckling suite.
Walt Disney World ResortWalt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., features 1,120 family suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort — 320 themed to “Finding Nemo,” 320 themed to “The Lion King” and 480 themed to “Cars.” Each spacious suite includes two bathrooms, a kitchenette and three separate sleeping areas that can accommodate up to six people.
“Our goal was to make guests feel like they have been immersed in the artistry and enchantment of Walt Disney and Disney-Pixar animated classics,” said Frank Paris, a Walt Disney Imagineer.
In addition, Pirate Rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort feature pirate-themed beds and artwork, while Royal Guest Rooms at Port Orleans Resort Riverside reflect classic Disney stories.
Universal Orlando ResortWho wouldn’t want to live like a rock star? At Universal Orlando Resort’s Hard Rock Hotel, guests can feel like Elvis in the Graceland Suite. Located on the Rock Royalty floor, the opulent 2,000-square-foot suite is exclusive to Hard Rock Orlando with an oversized tub, a double-sided fireplace and a baby grand piano. The Graceland Suite sleeps two, but if a connecting room is added, it can accommodate up to seven.
Hard Rock Hotel’s newly redesigned two-room Future Rock Star suites create the excitement of being on tour, complete with a stage and all sorts of lighting effects. Each suite also contains an item from a celebrity musician — the first time actual memorabilia has been installed in Hard Rock guestrooms.
“Families can savor the perks of rock ’n’ roll royalty in the Future Rock Star suites,” said Robyn Ryan, director of travel industry sales for Universal Orlando Resort. “These unique rooms feature a king-size bedroom, an attached themed room for the kids and an entertainment area. They’re perfect for agents planning trips for music-loving families who need plenty of room to spread out while they are here for their epic family vacation.”
All Hard Rock guests receive complimentary Unlimited Express Passes that allow them to skip regular queues at the theme parks, but visitors booking Club Level rooms also have access to the Rock Royalty Lounge, where perks include continental breakfast, happy hour and evening sweet treats.
In addition, there’s a secret lair hidden inside each Kids Suite at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel that utilizes characters from the “Despicable Me” film series. The elegant master bedroom connects to a Minion-themed kids’ room that brings Gru’s lab to life. Plus, children sleep in custom-designed missile beds, just like Margo, Edith and Agnes in the movies.
“Our guests love the attention to detail that went into creating these one-of-a-kind suites,” said Diane Petit, general manager of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. “From the moment they step inside, children and adults alike will be swept up in the world of ‘Despicable Me."
The 670-square-foot Kids Suites at Loews Royal Pacific Resort have the same layout, but instead of Minions, the rooms are themed to the “Jurassic Park” films.
Legoland ResortEvery room at Legoland Hotel at Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif., is Lego-themed and named by that theme (Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, Friends or Lego Ninjago).
“Our Lego Ninjago suites are designed to immerse families in the Ninjago universe, with Lego models like a massive dragon egg and ninja throwing stars,” said Julie Estrada, senior media relations manager for Legoland California Resort. “Kids also have Lego bricks and a treasure chest hidden in what’s designed to be a bamboo passageway to the mountain temple.”
Themed family suites offer even more Lego decor and models, and this year marks the opening of a second on-site property, Legoland Castle Hotel, with rooms themed to Knights and Dragons, Royal Princess and Magic Wizard.
Meanwhile, according to Chloe Boehm, public relations executive for Legoland Florida Resort, guests who stay in themed suites at the Florida resort enjoy exclusive amenities such as free valet parking, an “all-you-care-to-eat” breakfast buffet and opportunities to build alongside Master Model Builders. Plus, kids get their own play space and an in-room scavenger hunt that reveals the code to unlock a treasure chest.
In addition, suites across all Legoland properties sleep seven to nine guests with king-size beds, sofa beds and bunk beds with trundle beds.
Special amenities like these help make a theme park vacation even more memorable for families — and win travel agents clients for life.