Disney Vacation Club has announced plans to expand the Villas at Grand Floridian by “reimagining” one building of existing hotel rooms at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. In this post, we’ll share details and a timeline, share our opinion of the expansion and why this is likely happening. (Updated February 17, 2022.)
Located on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon and on the monorail line to Magic Kingdom Park, the proposed project will transform Big Pine Key (building nine) at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa into approximately 200 Resort Studios, accommodating up to five Guests.
Featuring the Victorian elegance and charm of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, these new Villas will offer Members luxury accommodations and amenities, with some Villas boasting stunning views of Bay Lake and Magic Kingdom. Projected to open in summer 2022, these new rooms are an expansion of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (VGF) and will be a part of its current condominium association.
Since 2013, Members have reveled in the Victorian splendor of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, enjoying the comforts of home, impeccable service, amenities and fun-in-the-sun recreation available at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa currently has 100 Disney Vacation Club homes and offers a mix of accommodation styles, ranging from Deluxe Studios to three-bedroom Grand Villas.
“This is great news for Disney Vacation Club and our Members,” said Terri Schultz, senior vice president, Disney Vacation Club. “It will provide us with new and diverse inventory at a resort that is cherished by our Members and their families.”
Walt Disney World has released the following statement about upcoming construction impacts of this project: Starting March 1, 2022, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa will undergo refurbishment. Guests may see or hear construction during daytime hours. Most Resort hotel amenities will remain available. Please allow for additional travel time.
It’s unclear how long this construction will last. Disney Vacation Club has already announced that the expansion will debut in Summer 2022, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be done by then. It’s entirely possible this continues until the holiday season, or if delays are encountered, early 2023. (No need to allow additional travel time–that seems to be boilerplate language on Disney’s part.)
In other news, Disney Vacation Club has announced that sales of the newly expanded and enhanced Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa start on March 3, 2022. Beginning that date, existing DVC Members can once again add on to their membership at VGF.
No word yet on when sales will resume for the general public or the per point cost. With Disney’s Riviera Resort and Aulani still available, and VGF being so popular and supply-constrained it’ll basically sell itself, it’s entirely possible DVC won’t aggressively market the expansion. As for per point pricing, our guess is $249 per point. That’s significantly more expensive than Riviera or Aulani ($207 each), but actually $6 less than the cost of VGF before sales were suspended.
Disney Vacation Club has revealed renderings of the new rooms coming to the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa during the expansion. These will be called “Resort Studios” (versus the existing Deluxe Studios).
The new Resort Studios will feature two queen-size beds and a day bed with room for up to five guests. Enjoy luxe touches like quartz countertops, ornate crown molding and patterned tile. Resort Studios also feature a flat-screen TV, a beverage center with a beverage cooler and coffee maker, and a gleaming bathroom with marble tile floors and a combo bath/shower.
Pictured above is the new-look Deluxe Studio at the VGF, which can accommodate up to five guests and will feature a queen-size bed, a pull-down queen-size bed that tucks away seamlessly into the wall, and pull-down bunk-size bed.
This new pull-down style is the same as what debuted at Disney’s Riviera Resort, and has since been added to studios at Saratoga Springs and the Polynesian. Next up along with the Grand Floridian is Wilderness Lodge. Presumably, all of the ‘legacy’ studios will get this in the years to come–it’s a great improvement.
One and two bedroom villas will receive similar upgrades.
Living areas will feature a new pull-down queen-size bed along with a pull-down bunk-size bed that folds away to be hidden beneath the media center.
There will also be some aesthetic refreshes during the refurbishment of the Villas at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
It looks like there will be some infusions of more modern style to go along with the Victorian decor. We’ll reserve final judgment until seeing all of this in person (aside from the pull-down beds, which are an unequivocal upgrade), but it’s nice to see color, texture, and carpet used. Our preliminary impression is that they have plenty of personality and class, rather than being bland or sterile.
Next, let’s clarify a couple of key details from the original press release. First, it sounds as if this will be entirely studios. That would make sense, as converting a hotel room to a studio is significantly less work than turning multiple rooms into 1-bedroom or larger units and can be accomplished on a shorter timeline.
Second, this will be part of the existing Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa condominium association, meaning this will not be a Wilderness Lodge scenario with Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge. It’s unclear whether that means the resale restrictions imposed at Disney’s Riviera Resort will be imposed for these new sales (our guess is no) or if the expiration date will be extended for these new sales (our guess is yes). Those are definitely just guesses, though. Both could go either way.
As for our commentary, this is categorically great news. There’s possibly a downside to it, but if there is one, I’m not seeing it. Perhaps that’s partly bias. We absolutely love the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and are not fans of the hotel side of the resort in the least.
For us, the critical distinction is the price difference. Our point-cost of the Villas at Grand Floridian is a fraction of what we’d pay for the hotel side of the Grand Floridian, even with a considerable discount. Obviously, that’s only the case for DVC Members…but that’s primarily who’s booking VGF.
In addition to that, the rooms are markedly better in the DVC wing. There’s greater attention to detail, luxurious finishings, and just generally more personality to the rooms. By contrast, the Grand Floridian regular guest rooms are among the dullest at Walt Disney World. You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish them from a mid-range Hilton or Marriott.
Of course, that alone is not sufficient justification for converting hotel rooms to Disney Vacation Club units. After all, that energy could arguably be better spent building an innovative and impressive new hotel or DVC resort. However, if recent projects and proposals are any indication, “innovative and impressive” is probably a stretch to describe what would be built right now.
The reason an expansion of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a good thing is because it’s incredibly difficult to book. This is in part because it’s such a popular resort, and in part because the existing room inventory is so limited. Adding more units should help alleviate that–at least to a slight degree.
On that note, it’s worth pointing out that Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is not popular or difficult to book. Even in normal times, the hotel tends to have a lower occupancy rate than most of its counterparts on the monorail loop.
We haven’t heard recent occupancy numbers for the Grand Floridian post-reopening, but they’re probably not too hot. Grand Floridian has offered more aggressive discounts than any other hotel, including a targeted bounceback deal sent to past guests of the resort. It has also become the de facto upgrade option, with a steady stream of guests moved from All Star Movies, which Disney is overbooking, to Grand Floridian. (Hilariously, some try to decline this upgrade, saying that the Grand Floridian is less appealing to their kids!)
It’s actually a pretty common strategy for Walt Disney World to take hotel inventory at “underperforming” resorts and reallocate that to Disney Vacation Club. In recent years, this has happened with both Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian. It also happened indirectly at Caribbean Beach, as buildings were demolished there to make way for Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Obviously, sales of DVC are lucrative, but the thinking is that reducing the overall number of hotel rooms helps prop up the occupancy rate, and in turn reduces the necessity of discounting. Consequently, there has been an explosion in the number of DVC rooms at Walt Disney World in the last several years, whereas the hotel side has declined despite the addition of Gran Destino Tower.
Personally, I hope this is one component of a larger announcement about an overhaul of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. As noted above, the guest rooms on the hotel side of the resort are bland and nondescript. If you had to play the Price is Right and guess this room’s nightly rack rate solely by the above photo—divorced of Walt Disney World context—there’s no way you’d come within $200. You’d probably be off by $400 or more.
Recently, the Polynesian made a “Moana Makeover” to breathe new life into its rooms. Something similar is happened at the Contemporary with an “Incredibles Injection.” These are controversial among Disney fans, but not us. I’d love to see that same idea, but take it a step further…
Tokyo Disneyland Hotel has converted many of its standard guest rooms to character rooms, which are incredibly popular with its target demographic. These rooms often command premium prices as compared to the regular rooms—much like the Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach or Princess Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside.
This is going to be heresy to some fans, but I think Walt Disney World should test out a similar approach with the Grand Floridian. Pull a page from the Tokyo Disneyland playbook and convert some of the inventory to character rooms and remodel the rest to give them more Victorian detail, character, and charm.
Ultimately, we’re very much on board with this expansion of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. It kills two birds with one stone, adding to the very limited Disney Vacation Club inventory while reducing the oversupply of hotel rooms at the property. It also more or less locks current management into an existing style template, meaning the finished product shouldn’t deviate too much from what already exists.
At some point, I’d love to see more new hotels and standalone Disney Vacation Club resorts built at Walt Disney World. I know that’s an unpopular opinion among many fans, who feel more focus should be put on the parks. (Disney can do both–the last ~4 years are proof of that.) However, at this point I’m inclined to agree with that crowd. Between recent unambitious architecture and the reality that it’s going to take some time for conventions and other group bookings to return, I’m perfectly content waiting things out. Accordingly, this is a perfect consolation prize in the near-term!
Thinking about joining DVC? First be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge.If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” and rent points from DVC Rental Store. If you are convinced a membership is for you, check out the discounted options at DVC Resale Market. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Happy that DVC is expanding the Villas at Grand Floridian, or wish they’d build a new stand-alone resort? If you’re a Grand Floridian (hotel) fan, are you upset by this or indifferent to it? Hoping that more of a comprehensive overhaul will be announced? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!