Article: Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Lodge
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In August 2001 my husband, baby and I took a cruise. I booked a great rate at the new Animal Kingdom Lodge for one night, with a follow on booking at a nearby 4 star hotel.

Pulling up to the Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL), I initially thought the building looked odd. A massive building with a thatch roofed appearance, totally out of place in Florida. My initial impression melted to awe when I walked into the lobby. Holy smokes, I had never seen anything like this. I had been transported to a strange and delicious world, and I didn't want to leave. Not one bit. There were artifacts, African themes taken to astronomical proportions, exotic animals in the distance.

The service at the desk was the best I've experienced, even compared to the other Disney resorts (and that's saying ALOT, I mean it). All my questions were answered, we got maps of the resort layout (a definite necessity), and lots of other goodies to go into our memory book.

The room was fabulous. The African theme was on everything...down to the light fixtures and tiles. I immediately conjured up visions of African theme in my own house (a thought I would have shreiked at before).

The best part of the room was the balcony. Two chairs, one table, and a SAFARI just feet away. It was the most exotic suspense of reality I could conceive.

We had reservations at the upscale restaurant Jiko's. We took advantage of the in-room sitter service, and our sitter was great. The meal was AMAZING, definitely French cuisine with African inspiration. We had the steak and the monkfish, and appetizers emblazoned on my tastebuds (a bread-curry-yogurt dish). The service was outstanding. It quickly became my favorite Disney restaurant, bumping Artists Point from the position (the chef at Jiko's used to be the head chef at Artists Point, by the way).

Next door, Boma's boasts an exotic (less intimate) buffet experience, and the line to get in was long. The prices were comparable to Jiko's, but I wished I had tried Boma's.

Nearby is Mara's a food court with Disney/resort priced meals. This is the cheapest way to eat at AKL (that's not saying much, it's a resort after all). There were some unusual snacks here, and the service was friendly.

The pool was beautiful, though we never actually dipped in it. I walk around it, absorbing the atmosphere. I never got around to the pool since the animals captivated my attention. There's an observation deck, and you can see zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and all sorts of critters out there. There are higher observation decks, and a fantastic outdoor bonfire spot, where you can rock away and decompress.

The next morning I woke up extra early to watch the sun. I had ordered room service. The experience of room service breakfast, coffee, newspaper, and giraffes on the balcony was such a stress reducer. For the first time, I didn't want to go to EPCOT! I made the impulse decision to extend our stay and called the desk (no problems, and what service). I didn't care if I had reservations elsewhere that night, there was no way I was going to leave this paradise. And ever since then, I imagine going back real soon.

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