Grand Floridian Stay Report: Weak Rooms at Disney World’s Flagship Resort

This Walt Disney World hotel report covers our stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where we check out the latest changes, guest rooms, Electrical Water Pageant, and take a dusk stroll to Magic Kingdom. Additionally, we’ll discuss whether its distinction as the flagship property at Walt Disney World is warranted and how we’d like to see the weak rooms improve.

We won’t fixate on health safety protocol, enhanced cleaning, or anything else unique to Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. This is mainly because we’ve already done it several times (here and here). There are only so many photos one person can take of plexiglass barriers or health safety signs and still have it be interesting. We are well past that point.

Additionally, not a ton feels different at the Grand Floridian. To be sure, a lot has changed at the resorts. Restaurants are still closed and the ones that are open have scaled-back menus. There’s in-room and common area signage. Everyone you’ll encounter is wearing a face mask. If you visited for the first time in a year or more, it would certainly feel very different. However, what’s different is still only a small component of the full experience, and a lot of that has become white noise to us…

Post-reopening, discounts at Walt Disney World have been much more conservative than we anticipated, with a handful of exceptions. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is one such exception. Grand Floridian has been available via AP, Florida Resident, and PIN code deals with 35% off discounts.

Beyond that, it had the largest savings with the Half-Off Hotels Disney Visa Discount that ended last month. It now has an even better Modified Bounceback Discount. (Interestingly, we haven’t seen the Grand Floridian appear on the opaque booking sites.)

Even at ~50% off, our anecdotal observations during stays in both the Disney Vacation Club and regular side of the Grand Floridian have been that hotel occupancy has not been particularly high. The villas are booking up pretty solidly, but there are still times when few guests are in the lobby.

It’s nothing like Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, but it’s a far cry from what Grand Floridian would look like in a normal year. We suspect that non-DVC occupancy is down across the board at Walt Disney World–especially on weeknights–but it does seem more pronounced at Deluxe Resorts (plus Coronado Springs) and less of an issue at Caribbean Beach and the Value Resorts.

This likely explains the ongoing hotel closures to a large degree, why several Deluxe Resorts aren’t reopening until Summer 2021, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Contemporary Resort going down for room renovations and refreshes ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

Details of the Contemporary Resort refurbishment have yet to be made public, but its timing is unsurprising. Honestly, I’m disappointed that the entire A-frame building isn’t just closing down for an overhaul to the Grand Canyon Concourse. As discussed in our Contemporary Resort Stay Report (written prior to that project’s announcement), I’d love to see the Contemporary redone a la Disneyland Hotel–in a sleek, timeless, and clean mid-century modern style punctuated by decor inspired by “Vacation Kingdom” era of Walt Disney World’s history.

All of that may seem really tangential for a report on our stay at the Grand Floridian Resort, but I’d love to see the same happen here–and judging by the aforementioned occupancy rates, this year might be a good time to take some buildings offline for a similar project.

Except, instead of drawing inspiration from Disneyland Hotel, use Tokyo Disneyland Hotel as the blueprint.

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.

Purists might push back against this, arguing that the Grand Floridian should be the pinnacle of luxury and themed design, and not cheapened by characters or gratuitous injections of IP.

My response would be…have you stayed in one of the rooms at the Grand Floridian lately? They are neither luxurious nor particularly well-themed.

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.

If you had to guess what hotel it was, you’d probably guess something chained-brand like Hilton or Marriott. And not their high-end properties like the JW or Conrad. (Keep in mind the vast majority of Grand Floridian’s rooms have standard ceilings–we got lucky with a dormer room and its vaulted ceiling–so they’re even duller looking than the one pictured here.)

The reality is that the Grand Floridian is never going to compete with real world luxury hotels, or even the nearby Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World. As with other Disney-owned hotels, stripping the rooms of their theme to make them more broadly appealing just made them bland.

Grand Floridian simply cannot compete with the Four Seasons on the luxury level. Why not move the ‘battle’ to a playing field where the Four Seasons cannot compete with Disney? Lean into characters and theme, having more lavish Victorian designs with Dickensian Mickey & Minnie or Mary Poppins & penguins sprinkled into artwork and design flourishes.

Beyond that, as compared to what currently exists with guest rooms, what harm is there in converting some to themed character rooms? Go all-in on Alice in Wonderland rooms, Beauty and the Beast rooms, Cinderella rooms, and whatever else.

Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach have demonstrated that exactly this can be accomplished in a self-contained way that has minimal impact on overarching themes. The character rooms would draw families to the resort and the rest of the Grand Floridian could maintain its thematic integrity. It’s not like the lobby or common areas really need an overhaul–at least not like the Contemporary–anyway.

This type of a room overhaul at the Grand Floridian seems like a win-win for guests and Disney.

The last several paragraphs of rambling armchair Imagineering brought to you by every time we’ve stepped into rooms at the Grand Floridian and immediately said, “this room cost how much?!” It’s a nice hotel in many ways, but no amount of mental gymnastics can justify the discrepancy between the quality of these rooms and their price points.

As noted above, we had a dormer room. The upsides to this are the vaulted ceiling and the more secluded quality of the balcony.

The downsides are that the balcony is slightly smaller and you can’t see anything without standing up. I’m not sure why Disney doesn’t furnish these with taller chairs.

If Walt Disney World does opt to overhaul 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.

In terms of changes since our Villas at Grand Floridian Christmas-time stay, there aren’t really any. Well, the holiday decor is down, but that’s presumably a given.

The same restaurants are open: Beaches Pool Bar & Grill, Courtyard Pool Bar, Enchanted Rose (Beauty and the Beast Bar), Gasparilla Island Grill, Grand Floridian Cafe, and Narcoossee’s. The same ones are closed: 1900 Park Fare, Citricos, Victoria & Albert’s.

Electrical Water Pageant would’ve been back at Christmas-time, but it’s still “new to us” since we forgot to watch it then. (We caught it from Wilderness Lodge shortly thereafter.)

From a photography perspective, Grand Floridian is my favorite viewing spot for Electrical Water Pageant.

It gets fairly close to the boat dock, and you have a perspective with Cinderella Castle in the background of one set of barges and the Contemporary in the background of the other set.

From an insects perspective, this location is not ideal. (Some of the rooms in our building and others on this side of the resort would have views from their balcony; ours did not.)

Another awesome addition is the new-ish walkway to Magic Kingdom.

We’ve already breathlessly covered this in “Photos & Video: Meandering the Magnificent Magic Kingdom to Grand Floridian Walkway.” In case you missed that, it’s now possible to walk all the way from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Magic Kingdom. Our enthusiasm for the walkway is not hyperbole. It’s a huge win for the Grand Floridian.

Ultimately, aside from the guest rooms, there’s a lot we really love about Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Almost everything else, in fact. (Our experiences at Narcoossee’s and Citricos have been hit or miss, so refreshes to both would be the only other thing on our wish list for the resort.)

Nevertheless, the Grand Floridian is arguably the most well-rounded Seven Seas Lagoon Resort, with fewer drawbacks than the Contemporary or Polynesian. The rooms are a pretty glaring weakness and not everything about the resort is to our personal tastes, but on balance, we think the Grand Floridian is deserving of the flagship distinction. There are pros and cons of every resort at Walt Disney World–this is no exception to that–but we still had another solid stay at the Grand!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. 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 the rooms at the Grand Floridian? Are they too bland or just fine? Would you be on board with character-themed rooms? Are you a Grand Floridian fan? If so, is it because of the rooms or everything else? 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!

65 Responses to “Grand Floridian Stay Report: Weak Rooms at Disney World’s Flagship Resort”
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