Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Review

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This Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel review details the flagship Disney hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland, which is styled after the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World (which itself was inspired by the Hotel de Coronado). Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel has a Victorian theme, and is located on Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island in Hong Kong, about a 10 minute walk from Hong Kong Disneyland itself. Like Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and the park itself, Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel opened in 2005.

Although the exterior of the hotel bears a striking resemblance to the Grand Floridian and the theme is basically the same, the interior is a substantial departure (in substance, not style). Whereas the Grand Floridian has a large, opulent looking lobby, the lobby of Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is significantly smaller. The lobby was still quite nice, with a high ceiling, nice chandeliers, and beautiful Christmas tree, and I enjoyed a couple of late evenings relaxing in it. These large lobbies seem to be a fixture of only the Walt Disney World resort hotels, as I can’t think of any Disney hotels outside of Walt Disney World (and the Grand Californian) that have them. Even the lobbies of the gorgeous Tokyo Disney Resort hotels are compact by comparison.

This is not to say Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is any less luxurious than the Grand Floridian–a hotel isn’t defined by its lobby. To the contrary, while the Grand Floridian is superficially classy, upon closer inspection, many of the details are woefully dated, and the whole place feels like Victorian high-class style as envisioned by the editors of Country Living Magazine in the early 1990s. It’s sort of like one of those hip, new ‘fusion’ restaurants that combine seemingly unrelated culinary styles. Except in the case of the Grand Floridian, the result of “early ’90s” plus “Victorian” does not yield the best of results. (more…)

Sequoia Lodge Review

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Disney’s Sequoia Lodge is a hotel at Disneyland Paris, with an aesthetic inspired by America’s National Park lodges with a modern twist. (Imagine if Frank Lloyd Wright designed Yosemite’s Ahwahnee.) Disneyland Paris doesn’t tier its hotels the same way that Walt Disney World does, but Sequoia Lodge would occupy about the same position as Wilderness Lodge, on the cheaper side of the Deluxes. Price-wise, it’s in the mid-range of Disneyland Paris hotels.

Actually, Sequoia Lodge has a lot in common with Wilderness Lodge. Thematically, it’s quite similar, although Sequoia Lodge feels more modern and Wilderness Lodge feels more rustic. Both offer a similar caliber of amenities, and both are across the lake from their castle park. (Although in the case of Sequoia Lodge, that park is only a 12 minute walk away.)

The short walking distance to the parks is an obvious pro, but the con is the lack of a grand and cavernous lobby. This lobby, to us, is a defining characteristic of Wilderness Lodge. Mind you, not every National Park lodge has a grand lobby like this, but it’s certainly a great characteristic that Sequoia Lodge is lacking. This is especially true at Christmas-time, when the beautiful Christmas tree makes a great centerpiece to the Wilderness Lodge lobby.

Otherwise, Sequoia Lodge is pretty much neck and neck with Wilderness Lodge. The details in Sequoia were great, with lots of nice finishing touches, murals, and art you might expect to find in a National Park lodge. Of course, this was all on the rustic side. This rustic look and feel is fine by me and perfectly on-theme, but if you’re primarily interested in luxury, the theme is inherently limiting in that department. (more…)

Disneyland Hotel Review

Disneyland Hotel is the original hotel at Disneyland Resort, and although it’s not the flagship hotel at Disneyland Resort (that distinction belongs to the Grand Californian Hotel), like the Grand, it has a AAA four-diamond rating. It’s essentially a modern, luxury hotel with Disney design touches, but without any escapist themed design. Instead, Disneyland Hotel is themed to “Disneyland,” with its three towers representing Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Frontierland.

It may not be the flagship hotel, but it’s our favorite Disney hotel in the United States. I consider Disneyland Hotel to be a lot like “Remember… Dreams Come True!,” the perfect self-referential tribute that excels because of how its treatment of the legacy of Disneyland, but is pretty impressive in its own right. This is truly no easy task, and it’s so easy to go for cheap plays on emotion (liberal use of Walt Disney’s likeness, for instance) rather than creating a quality product that successfully merges great elements of the past with a quality contemporary product, but Disney nailed it when they re-designed the Disneyland Hotel. As it stands, the hotel is a great mix of modern design and retro details.

Now, in fairness, this is not something I would want to see out of every Disney hotel. I am a sucker for themed design, and I love how other Disney resort-hotels manage to transport guests to different times and places through the execution of the hotel. Disneyland Hotel is not themed, it’s decorated. If every Disney hotel were simply a luxury hotel with tributes to the past, it would get old quickly. However, this is the only one, and it executes perfectly on the concept.

Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the history of Disneyland. I’ve been fascinated by Disneyland Hotel since reading Donald Ballard‘s Disneyland Hotel: the Early Years and his follow-up Disneyland Hotel: 1954-1959 (warning: these books are for serious geeks, not casual fans). These books gave me a great appreciation for the hotel even before we ever stayed there, and Mr. Ballard’s presentation on Disneyland Hotel at this year’s D23 Expo was actually a highlight of the weekend for me! Although much has changed at Disneyland Hotel since its early days, it still just feels like a special place thanks to its roots dating back to the Wrathers family and the opening years of Disneyland.

However, it’s not just the hotel’s many nods to Disney history (I wonder how frequently they have to replace the awesome paper-goods in the room because guests take them?) that earn it high marks from us. The hotel is also flat out nice. (more…)

Disney’s Polynesian 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.

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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Hilton Tokyo Bay Review

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Hilton Tokyo Bay is Tokyo Disney Resort “Official Hotel,” meaning that it’s an on-property hotel. This Hilton is located within a few hundred yards of the monorail. Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and the ocean are all within view of the Hilton Tokyo Bay, meaning that just about every guest room has a great view. Hilton Tokyo Bay is a less-expensive alternative to the Disney-branded hotels at Tokyo Disney Resort: Hotel MiraCosta, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Ambassador Hotel.

While this is the only hotel we’ve stayed at on Tokyo Disney Resort property, we based our decision to stay here on hours of research and combing various trip reports and other locations for information. In fact, the reason we’re reviewing it now is because we plan on creating comprehensive Tokyo Disney Resort trip planning information since there is so little information available in English. Stay tuned for more articles like this (and on topics like MiFi, airports, etc.) as we work on this.

After our first night in downtown Tokyo, where our room was the size of a large closet, I was prepared for the worst with the Hilton Tokyo Bay, at least in terms of room size. I was pleasantly surprised when we opened the door and found a room that was more spacious than a typical hotel room. Definitely larger than even any standard Deluxe tier room at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. We were upgraded at check-in to the Celebrio Select rooms, which was a room with modern, retro-futuristic stylization. There are other categories of rooms, including a “Happy Magic” category, which is themed to a fairytale forest to appeal to kids. (more…)