|By Jason Garcia, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 11, 2011--The first phase of Walt Disney World's newest hotel will open May 31, the company said Monday.
The giant resort began taking reservations several months ago for Disney's Art of Animation Resort, though company officials said it is too early to glean anything from the pace of bookings.
"But, certainly, there is a passion that's out there," said Kevin Myers, vice president of resort operations for Disney World.
The first of the hotel's four phases to open will be a Finding Nemo-themed wing of family suites. It will include a pool that, at roughly 12,000 square feet, will be the largest swimming pool at any of Disney World's two-dozen hotels and time shares.
The Nemo suites will be followed by Cars-themed suites at the end of July; Lion King-themed suites at the end of September; and, lastly, a wing of Little Mermaid-themed, conventional hotel rooms by the end of 2012.
Altogether, Disney's Art of Animation Resort will have 1,120 "family suites" -- three-room units that are cheaper than conventional, high-end hotel suites -- and 864 standard rooms. It will be priced as a "value" hotel, the cheapest of Disney's three hotel categories, with rates beginning at $94 a night for the conventional rooms and $248 a night for the suites.
"This continues ... the diversification of our product," said Myers, who added that Disney has seen growing demand for hotel rooms from large, multigenerational families. "We're seeing more and more of that -- guests requesting connecting rooms, that sort of thing."
Disney said its newest hotel will offer improved amenities when compared to the resort's existing value hotels, including a more-diverse dining area, with possibilities such as fresh-fruit smoothies and Mongolian barbecue.
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