If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort you can use all of the Disney World Transportation. This means you can use the busses, the boats, and the Monorail. Your resorts locations determines what transportation you will be using.
If you are staying at a non Disney World Resort you can still use the Monorail or boat service to get from place to place, but from your hotel you use the bus service available there, which is not the Disney World bus service.
We had a horrible misconception about the Walt Disney World transportation system after our first visit in June of 2008. For this trip we had to use the Transportation and Ticket Center to get to the Magic Kingdom. Our bus would drop us there and we could either take a boat or the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom. For other parks we were dropped off very far away from the entrance. After this trip we really had a major dislike for the Walt Disney World Transportation System. In fact, I never wanted to go back to Walt Disney World because the transportation was so poor. It took forever to get anywhere.
In December of 2009 we went back to Disney World and this time stayed at the Pop Century Resort. Here, we were able to use the Disney World Resort bus system. What a difference!
The Pop Century busses are great because they only go between the park and the hotel. They do not go to multiple hotels. The music on the busses is fun as it is 'period' music such as the theme from MASH or the Jetsons. Adults loved the music as it brought back good memories.
The busses were often full in the mornings or at night. If you wanted to be at a park for opening, or for Magic Mornings, they bus would be full. If you stay at a park until closing, the busses were full. Here is where we really fell in love with the Pop Century. Each night at closing we had not one, but TWO busses to keep the waits to a minimum when it is late and you are tired. Standing room only is never fun, but it was still better that our last trip to Walt Disney World and we survived.
If you are staying at one of the All-Star Resorts, your bus will go to each of the hotels so you always have a full bus with multiple stops. If you are staying at one of the big three hotels, the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, or the Contemporary Hotel, you share a bus.
We found that the bus service from the Pop Century also dropped us off closer than the non Disney Resort busses. This was very important for our poor tired feet. Most of the bus drivers were very nice and friendly. A few were as tired and weary as the guests and it showed.
This was a much different experience for us than our stay at a Downtown Disney Resort. In fact, we really had no complaints about the Pop Century bus service.