Construction continues at Grand Floridian Resort, with more work to building exteriors and (presumably) interiors. In this post, we’ll share photos and thoughts on the impact to guests with stays here between now and Fall 2023. We’ll also address the reimagining of rooms, restaurants, lobby, and more. (Updated April 12, 2023.)
Right now, the official announcement from Walt Disney World is that “Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is undergoing refurbishment. Guests will be able to see and hear construction during daytime hours. Most Resort hotel amenities will remain available. Please allow for additional travel time.”
This started back in March, and the assumption at the time was that notice the project pertained to the Disney Vacation Club overhaul of the Big Pine Key building of hotel rooms at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. This building reopened over the summer and the new rooms have debuted–see Grand New Rooms at Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort for a look inside. However, work has continued.
Since originally reporting this, Walt Disney World has since confirmed much of what’s discussed below in this post as ‘rumor,’ which is that the lobby and guest rooms are being reimagined. This wasn’t really a ‘rumor’ in the traditional sense of the term before, as it was published in the official Disney Vacation Club magazine, but it’s the first official confirmation we’ve seen from the company outside of that. Here’s what Walt Disney World has now shared about the Grand Floridian overhaul:
2023 will also be a momentous year for Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as it celebrates its 35thanniversary on July 1! The resort has been receiving some grand touches that weave familiar storybook charm into the Victorian elegance of this flagship resort. Guest rooms are currently being updated as we speak with more to come as the beloved Grand Floridian ushers in its third decade of magic. The ongoing renovation will also include an upcoming refurbishment of the lobby, which will maintain the classic theming you know and love with some fresh new enhancements.
The story doesn’t end there, as you can dine underneath the lovely London sky at Citricos, inspired by “Mary Poppins Returns” … and maybe bookend your evening with a shimmering sip at Enchanted Rose Lounge, inspired by “Beauty and the Beast.” And our beloved Victoria & Albert’s – the culinary crown jewel of Walt Disney World Resort and AAA Five Diamond Award winner – reopened its doors this year to rave reviews featuring a renovated interior.
All of this was already known based both on circumstantial ‘evidence’ and similar statements in the aforementioned DVC Files magazine. However, it’s good to see separate confirmation, even if it is exceedingly light on details. Here’s hoping that Imagineering releases some actual concept art and a construction timeline for when the lobby will be impacted.
Knowing when the whole project will wrap up in 2023 (or will it be 2024?) would also be nice. This could be a relatively minor initiative that swaps out furniture and furnishings overnight and has zero impact on guests, or it could be a major project that largely takes the lobby out of commission. It could be the kind of thing that makes guests want to avoid the Grand Floridian, or a total non-factor. There’s no way of knowing until Disney provides actual, substantive details.
April 12, 2023 Update: We’re back with new construction photos and an on-the-ground update from our latest stay at the Grand Floridian. During that, we were in the Boca Chica building (behind the pool), which is now fully refurbished and features the above-mentioned reimagined rooms.
We’ve now stayed in the new rooms on the hotel side of the Grand Floridian and the Resort Studios as part of the Villas at Grand Floridian. They are exactly the same, minus a microwave for the hotel rooms. No surprise there–although unannounced, it’s exactly what was expected when this project began.
In addition to the Boca Chica building being ton, so too is Conch Key. That is nearer the boat dock to Magic Kingdom, across from Narcoossee’s, which is also now fully reimagined and reopened as of April 2023.
Currently in progress are the Sugar Loaf and Sago Key buildings, which began work in the last couple of months. If past precedent is any indication, Sugar Loaf should be finished very soon, with Sago Key returning before Summer 2023.
At the time of our last in-person photo update in Spring 2023, portions of Sugar Loaf and Sago Key are covered by scaffolding, with construction walls erected around the perimeter of the buildings.
In watching construction, it’s pretty obvious that a few things are occurring. The roof is being replaced in sections; this is overdue and makes a night and day difference. Additionally, there’s repainting and repairs to the building and its lattice work.
Finally, the stairwells are being rebuilt. This also occurred with Big Pine Key, and the results are relatively underwhelming–the new stairwells have an almost temporary feel. We always use these stairwells instead of elevators, and the old ones didn’t have any visible issues.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they didn’t need to be replaced for whatever reason. I’m no construction expert and I highly doubt Disney would’ve undertaken this (at best) lateral if it was unnecessary.
On a related note, the walkway between the Grand Floridian and Polynesian has changed on a couple of occasions due to construction of the Poly DVC Tower. A new route just opened and is easier to navigate and feels safer. Given that this is open right now with the degree of structural construction that’s occurring, we expect that pathway to remain open for the duration of that project.
The only building that is not finished or in progress is the main lobby. This means that if you book any of the “Outer Bldg” room categories at this point, you will get a new room. The buildings that are currently in progress are closed completely; only the reimagined rooms are available for booking. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that all of the Main Bldg. rooms (including Club Level and Suites) are still the old, dated, and bland style. However, you won’t even have the option to book these depending upon your travel dates, as the Main Building is totally unavailable for Summer & Fall 2023, which should provide insight into the timeline for that project.
As noted above, Walt Disney World already announced that the lobby “will maintain the classic theming you know and love with some fresh new enhancements.” What that means is unclear; it leaves a lot of latitude for a range of changes. Our expectation is that the scope and scale is on par with the other buildings, creating a consistent visual style with those.
What’s also unknown is what happens with Grand Floridian Cafe and 1900 Park Fare, the latter of which has still not reopened. Our expectation is that both receive reimagined interiors, with the former closing over the summer to accommodate that overdue update and the latter not reopening until the lobby project is done. (So perhaps sometime between October and December 2023–that’s the biggest stretch of the year for Walt Disney World restaurant demand.) That’s just our speculation, though.
Late last year, we stayed in the new Big Pine Key DVC building, in a room directly facing the construction where work was actively occurring throughout our stay. Sitting on the balcony, I could see welding on the stairwell, which was oddly transfixing. I wouldn’t necessarily call that an “enhancement” but I did prefer it to the alternative of looking at the pool. That’s just me, though.
Otherwise, there wasn’t much of a construction impact. So long as this work continues building by building–and I assume that’s the plan–the Grand Floridian doesn’t feel or sound like a construction zone. Sure, there are construction workers coming and going (particularly along the path leading past Gasparilla Island Grill), but there are always maintenance workers, landscaping, housekeeping, etc. That’s par for the course, and necessary to service the hotel and keep the grounds looking nice.
There are times when I’ve felt like there’s too much noise or visual blight due to hotel construction at Walt Disney World. That’s not my take here; I would not hesitate to book another stay at the Grand Floridian during this project. (Well, I would since we’re out of points for the year, but that has nothing to do with construction!)
As always, your mileage may vary. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in the room during daytime hours or are sensitive to noise, consider making a room request away from wherever the work is occurring during your vacation.
Anyway, it seems like an open secret that the Grand Floridian is replacing its standard hotel rooms (pictured above) with something in the style of the resort studios.
We are incredibly pleased by this news (or rumor, depending upon how you look at it). For years, we’ve been complaining that the rooms are not commensurate with the prices. I’d go as far as to say that 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.
Above is a look at the Resort Studio.
To me, it’s a night and day difference–easily the biggest before/after improvement of any hotel room at Walt Disney World in the last decade. This reimagining brought with it greater usability, attention to details, luxurious finishings, thematic flourishes, and a range of other details. Whether you’re assessing from a function or form perspective, these are a marked improvement.
I’d go a step further than that, and say the Resort Studios are the best rooms from an objective perspective–or at least in contention for that. I personally prefer a handful of other rooms, but there’s no denying the quality of these.
It makes complete sense that Walt Disney World is replicating this style on the hotel side of Grand Floridian, as the team behind these rooms absolutely crushed it. This will be a huge improvement, with guests no longer questioning (to the same degree) how this room cost $800 or more.
Beyond this, it’s rumored that Grand Floridian will receive a substantial overhaul in 2023 with “Enchanted Gardens” as the unifying visual style. (That’s the term used by the Disney Files magazine for DVC members. I haven’t seen “Enchanted Gardens” used anywhere else when describing the reimagining, but there’s presumably a basis for it somewhere.)
This could encompass the lobby, restaurants, and other amenities. An overhaul of the lobby seems like an inevitability at this point. Although I don’t think that’s necessary (do the Grand Canyon Concourse in the Contemporary first!), I do think this style could be used as the basis for a refresh.
That’s probably going to get me excoriated among Walt Disney World purists. As a realist, I think this style is pretty much the best-case scenario when accounting for tastes of modern guests and the price point of the Grand Floridian. While WDW diehards might love the lobby and overall aesthetic, I’d hazard a guess that the hotel does not comport with the expectations of the first-timers or casual guests who actually book it.
With that said, my hope is that Imagineering can marry the visual style of the new rooms with the opulence and grandiosity of the main lobby. It should not become an Ethan Allen showroom, but with a higher ceiling. Modernized doesn’t need to mean dull and devoid of character. There is a way to have the best of both worlds, a lobby that’s both well-themed and luxurious. It’s a tough balance to strike, but hopefully it can be accomplished, if that’s what Walt Disney World opts to do.
If Walt Disney World does opt to overhaul the lobby of the Grand Floridian, one thing is certain: we must protect the masterpiece monkey and bunny paintings at all costs.
I’m not one for petitions, but if someone were to start one to get these puppies added to some historic register of culturally significant works of art, I’d sign it. Perhaps the Grand Floridian should even be added to the National Register of Historic Places as home to these priceless treasures. They’re arguably why it’s called the Grand, and is the flagship resort at Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, we’re very pleased that it appears the Grand Floridian is finally getting guest rooms that are worthy of Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. It’s not totally clear why Walt Disney World hasn’t announced this, or released major details about a new lobby, restaurants, and rooms?
Regardless, it’s a near-certainty that the guest rooms on the hotel side are being reimagined in a style that’s identical or very similar to the resort studios that just debuted in the new Big Pine Key DVC building. Given the pace of construction thus far and the fact that this is occurring on a building-by-building basis, it’s likely that this project will last well into 2023.
In the end, that was the purpose of this post–to give you a heads up about ongoing construction at the Grand Floridian in case you have a stay booked before Fall 2023. Hopefully the photos and commentary give you an idea of what to expect. While I don’t plan on making standalone Grand Floridian construction updates a regular thing, you can follow our Walt Disney World Resort Refurbishment Tracker for future updates.
We’re cautiously optimistic about the end result. The Grand Floridian is arguably the most well-rounded Seven Seas Lagoon Resort, with fewer drawbacks than the Contemporary or Polynesian. The rooms are the most glaring weakness, and those will soon be resolved in an exceptional way. So long as common spaces and restaurants aren’t screwed up too much, the Grand Floridian will emerge from this as a better option than before, and a resort trulydeserving of the flagship distinction.
What do you think of the rooms at the Grand Floridian? What about the new DVC resort studio rooms v. existing hotel rooms? Are you a Grand Floridian fan? Excited for a potential overhaul to Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, or worried it’ll lose its personality and richly-themed spaces in the process? Have you stayed at the Grand Floridian since that glorious walkway debuted? Did you use it or the monorail? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!