Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Review


Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is a deluxe hotel at Walt Disney World (and soon to be Disney Vacation Club resort) that is themed to the South Pacific, with a distinct retro tiki culture styling. It is one of Walt Disney World’s original hotels, and recently reverted to its Polynesian “Village” name after years of just being Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Regardless of its official name, it’s known to most Disney fans simply as “the Poly.” It’s considered a village because of its sprawling layout comprised of 11 longhouses (hotel buildings) plus the Great Ceremonial House, which is the main lobby where the restaurants, shops, etc. are located.

We have long been fans of the Poly. For me, it dates back to when I was a kid, walking from Shades of Green to the Poly for the monorail, and going to the Neverland Club while my parents went to Pleasure Island. As adults, Sarah and I have spent a ton of time at the Poly despite never staying there. I even proposed to Sarah on the beach of the Polynesian during the fireworks back when we got engaged. We’ve since been back numerous times for dining and other purposes, but hadn’t stayed there until this year. Whenever we’ve wanted to do a stay in a Deluxe Resort, other options always had better discounts, so it was always on our “someday” list.

The point with all of this is that all of this build-up created pretty lofty expectations for the Poly. While we enjoy the hotel, we don’t think it’s quite worthy of the high praise it receives. It’s still an excellent resort, but it seems to be the overwhelming top pick for hotels at Walt Disney World, and we’re not quite that enthusiastic about it. As is the case with all Walt Disney World on-site hotels, Polynesian Village Resort guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations. Learn more about this in our MyMagic+ FAQ.

Before that, let’s take a look at the positives. The Poly is just a flat out cool resort. It has a ton of incredibly detailed tikis scattered around the grounds that were carved by Oceanic Arts in California. I could spend a morning just wandering around looking at these, and their cheeky designs always make me smile. In general, the Polynesian has a very enjoyable ambiance thanks to its many details and the general island ambiance that is so well conveyed, even if the resort is more a lighthearted caricature (not at all in a bad way) of island life than it is an attempt at authenticity. The feel of the Poly is a definite X-factor that might override all criticism below. In terms of theme, this is far and away my #1 resort at Walt Disney World.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Now through approximately March 2015, extensive lobby, restaurant, and pool renovations, plus construction to add Disney Vacation Club villas, are occurring at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. During this time, we strongly recommend booking a stay elsewhere.
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Disney World Hotel Reviews

Thinking about staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, but not sure which is right for you? In our Disney hotel reviews, we share the strengths and weaknesses of each hotel, give our opinion as to whether they are worth the money, and offer an idea of what type of guests (families, honeymooners, commando tourists, etc.) will like or dislike each hotel.

Each full Walt Disney World hotel review contains photos from the hotels, including room photos and photos of main areas of the hotel, to give you an idea of whether the decor of the rooms and the theme of the hotel will appeal to you. In addition to this, the reviews offer Walt Disney World resort hotel tips, information about amenities, and dining recommendations at the hotels.

We have stayed at every on-site hotel at Walt Disney World, so unlike many hotel review sites that crowd-source or aggregate information from other sources leading to inconsistent ratings or uninformed “opinions”, our reviews are all first-hand accounts of our personal stays at each of the hotels at Walt Disney World. You may totally disagree with our opinions, but at least you’re getting the actual opinions of the same two people who have stayed at each of the hotels.

We are missing full reviews for a couple of Walt Disney World hotels because we either forgot to take room photos of the hotel or last stayed at the hotel before we started taking room photos (hey, how many of you take hotel room photos?!). Additionally, Disney has been aggressively refreshing its hotel rooms in the last year or so, and we haven’t yet had a chance to stay in every new room and update the photos. Our goal is to have this completed by early 2015.

Off-site and third party hotels at Walt Disney World like the Swan & Dolphin, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels, and other similar hotels are next on our list of places to start staying at and reviewing, so check back regularly and stay tuned for those reviews.

Below we have blurbs with quick-hit pros and cons of each Walt Disney World hotel if you just want basic information. If you want to know more about each hotel and see Walt Disney World hotel photos, click the name of the hotel to go to its full review! (more…)

Disney’s All Star Music Resort Review

all-star-music-sign

Disney’s All Star Music Resort is a value hotel in Walt Disney World that is one of three All Star hotels, along with Sports and Movies. Music generally seems to us like the least popular of these (based upon our highly unscientific observations), and is also quieter as it generally sees fewer groups (this doesn’t mean it sees no groups). The All Star Resorts are typically the cheapest way to stay on-property at Walt Disney World, which many guests like because it allows them to take advantage of on-property perks. As you will read in this review, this comes with some trade-offs, but we are generally in favor of All Star Music, so long as you have reasonable expectations for it and are comfortable with what you’re getting–or aren’t getting.

Whether the All Star Resorts are right for you comes down to your goal and expectations. If you’re taking a commando-style, “the room is only for sleeping” trip during which you want to be in the parks as much as possible, the All Star Resorts are great because they’re (usually) less than $100 night. Essentially, the Value Resorts are all standard rooms that cater to parties looking to experience Walt Disney World on a tight budget while still enjoying the full on-site experience, including benefits like Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, and “free” Disney transportation. The All Star Resorts are each also good for those with kids who will be intrigued by the concept of the resort (music, movies, or sports) and will like the larger than life icons. As is the case with all Walt Disney World on-site hotels, All Star Music is fully integrated in the MyMagic+ system, which means that guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations. Learn more about this in our MyMagic+ FAQ.

By contrast, if you plan on spending a lot of time at your resort, and would like to be able to use a nice pool, eat at nicer restaurants, and enjoy other nice amenities, the Value Resorts may not be the best fit for your touring style. Likewise, if you want to save money and will not utilize those perks mentioned above (especially true if you’ll be renting a car), you will likely save more money in accommodations of similar quality off-site. This is true for all of the Value Resorts. For more on what might be right for you, check out our comprehensive On-Site v. Off-Site Hotels at Walt Disney World article.

If you’ve read our Disney’s All Star Movies Resort Review or Disney’s All Star Sports Resort Review, this review doesn’t really bring much new to the table, besides showing some minor differences. Like I mentioned in that review, the Value Resorts are incredibly divisive in the Disney fan community. Some people think they are tacky and cheap, offering worse accommodations than comparably-priced off-site hotels, while other people think they offer a cheap alternative to Moderate and Deluxe Resorts that allow Guests to take full advantage of on-property benefits (just read the comments from the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World that readers if you don’t believe me!). Although the Value Resorts are far from our favorite resorts, we come down on the side of liking the Value Resorts for what they are. We frequently stay at them on short trips when the parks are our main priority and we want the perks of being on-site. We also think they’re fairly fun in terms of their style, especially for kids.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at All Star Music… (more…)

Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a Deluxe Resort hotel at Walt Disney World, located within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom on the monorail loop. Ironically, it is the oldest hotel at Walt Disney World, but despite this fact, it does have a modern look and a general design-aesthetic that will likely appeal to affluent guests accustomed to luxurious real-world hotels, and not interested in the typical theming found at other Walt Disney World hotels.

This makes the Contemporary a fairly divisive hotel: guests visiting Walt Disney World in part to escape the real world and be transported to another time and place often are underwhelmed by the Contemporary, whereas guests interested in no-nonsense luxury who want a respite from the themed environments once they leave the parks but want Disney perks and a great location are likely to love the Contemporary.

If you’re unfamiliar with Walt Disney World hotels, most people—even first timers—will probably readily be able to identify the Contemporary as “the hotel with the monorail going through it.” That alone is going to be a big draw for many guests, and is what always drew me to it as a kid, but it’s important to know that many rooms at the Contemporary are not located in the central A-frame building through which the monorail passes. The cheaper rooms are in the Garden Wings (this is where we stayed), which are directly adjacent to the main A-frame building. (more…)

Aulani Resort & Spa Room Review: 1-Bedroom Villa

Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii has a wide variety of hotel room and Disney Vacation Club villas. During our recent visit to Aulani, we had the chance to stay with friends in a 1-bedroom villa. We fell in love with Aulani, and although we certainly will be back (probably just us in a studio next time), we thought we would share a review and some photos of the 1-bedroom villa in case anyone else is considering it.

In total, there were four adults in our party, and the 1-bedroom villa was perfectly suitable for us. I think it would work well for 2 couples sharing a single room (just agree in advance who gets the master bedroom!), and would be ideal for a family of 2 adults and 2-3 kids. While there are some layout issues that I think are less than ideal in the Aulani 1-bedroom villas (see below), I think overall they are an excellent room option if you’re looking for something more spacious than a standard studio room, or want the full kitchen and ability to do laundry in-room.

For us, the big appeal of the rooms at Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa is the well-rounded design. Disney has always been faced with the task of balancing theme and luxury in its more expensive hotel rooms, and often luxury takes a backseat to theme. The same cannot be said at Aulani, where Disney perfectly performs the balancing act. In our Aulani Trip Planning Guide, we theorized that this was out of necessity. Aulani doesn’t have the “crutch” of being an on-site hotel to a nearby Disney theme park, and it faces intense competition from real-world luxury hotel brands in Hawaii and generally more discerning travelers. Thus, Disney had to hit every high note in order for Aulani to be competitive among luxury resorts in Hawaii.

Since Aulani is a true resort, and not just a hotel masquerading as a resort, we aren’t going to attempt to lump the rooms themselves with the other amenities of the hotel. There are simply too many “other amenities” and the 1-bedroom villa has enough to cover in a single post, anyway. We’ll be back with additional posts to hit on some of the entertainment and amenity options at Aulani in a future post.

With that said, let’s take a look at the various areas of the Aulani 1-bedroom villa… (more…)