Polynesian Village Resort’s newly-reimagined “Moana Makeover” guest rooms have debuted and the hotel has reopened after a long delay. This review share photos, video, and our thoughts on Walt Disney World’s redone rooms, how they compare to the old ones, and other recent redesigns to Deluxe Resorts.
Let’s start by quickly recapping what’s happening with Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Originally scheduled to reopen last summer, Walt Disney World postponed its return until fall before announcing a substantial overhaul to the hotel–its second in less than a decade–that delayed its return by almost a full year.
This overhaul featured a “Moana Makeover” to guest rooms, enhancements to the Great Ceremonial House, a new porte-cochère, and rebuilt monorail station. We’ve visited the Poly on a number of occasions since last summer (the Disney Vacation Club side has been open all along), watching the work progress around the resort. It has been a much more ambitious project than we initially anticipated, and crews continue to scramble to finish up the monorail station and new entrance area.
The changes to the “arrival experience” and front of the Great Ceremonial House are unequivocal upgrades, even in unfinished form. It’s still unclear to us why Walt Disney World opted to undertake that project at a time when everything else was being paused, but the new porte-cochère looks great already and the monorail station is taking shape nicely. Even today, the first impression is significantly better than it was before.
With that said, the Moana-inspired reimagining of the guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has been much more polarizing among Walt Disney World fans. Let’s take a look at the good and bad…
Before we get started, above is the old rooms for the sake of comparison and context. These rooms were only around 7 years old before being replaced.
These were redone either during or shortly before the overhaul of the lobby and pool, addition of the Bora Bora Bungalows, and conversion of some hotel rooms to DVC villas. All of that construction doesn’t seem like it was so long ago, but I guess it was.
I was still referring to these as “new rooms” until last year, as they felt that way to me. Heck, I still vividly remember the red and blue turtle comforters like they were yesterday, but I guess they’re more accurately from the days of yore.
Since these rooms were redone around the time Disney Vacation Club was added, you might be wondering whether the villas are next up for a Moana infusion. A soft goods refurbishment is now underway on the DVC units, with no word yet on whether they’ll feature Moana. (We suspect those will be nothing like what you see here–the scale of that project is much more limited.)
Turning to the newly-finished hotel rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, let’s begin with a closer look at some of the details. The room is packed with custom-made fixtures, furnishings, and Moana decor.
The quality of these is mixed but mostly good. The furniture is heavy and substantial, feeling both high quality and durable.
Of all things, the pillows are perhaps the best example of this. Those on the couch feel identical to what you’d receive on a long flight. They look nice enough, but they’re disposable quality. Disney has not advertised them as such, but it would be nice if these were a free souvenir for guests to take home as a reminder of a memorable stay. (I’m not saying it’s okay to do this–I don’t know!)
This is actually what Disney Cruise Line does with bed runners on its themed cruises (Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) and guests love it. Speaking of which, and I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but that would be the perfect solution to the “unsanitary bed runner” dilemma–just make cheaper quality ones and let guests keep them. It’s much better and more unique than taking home a towel animal!
At the other end of the spectrum is the floral pillow on the bed itself, which is substantial and high quality. It also has a vinyl case, presumably to make it easier to clean between guests and thus more sanitary.
There’s a nice heft to the bench, end tables, lamps, and other furniture. The cabinet doors and drawers move smoothly, and simply feels higher end. These little upgrades are not apparent from photos, but imbue the room with a greater sense of luxury than its predecessor, which definitely had a more vintage vibe. That’s understandable given its mid-century inspiration.
That probably bears further explanation. In visiting historic hotels and touring homes, one thing we’ve noticed is that many have a, for lack of a better term, more “delicate” design.
Older interiors often offer eye-catching and unique style, gorgeous details, and use exquisite materials less common today. However, they’re also less practical and built with the expectation that people would treat them with the care they deserve.
Expensive modern designs are often more solid, having a built-to-last quality that can withstand wear and tear (we’re talking high end–not IKEA). Newer designs also offer functional refinements not found in older ones.
I love historic places, but there’s a nostalgic bias and an erroneous belief that older is always better. I’m a sucker for things like conversation pits, but there are plenty of ways newer can be better. (Not relevant here, but kitchens are the best example–bathrooms are another good one.)
Basically, the durability, usability, and practicality of newer designs is usually superior whereas the style and personality is more of an open question. I find many newer interiors play things way too safe, attempting to avoid offending any tastes, and are boring and soulless as a result.
That’s not a criticism that can be easily levied at the reimagined Moana rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. If you dislike these, “dull” is almost certainly not the reason why. Love or hate the Moana rooms, there is absolutely no mistaking them for a Marriott or Hilton.
For the most part, I think the Moana makeover works. There is a lot going on in terms of colors, patterns, and textures–for some people, this is going to cross the line and be too busy or chaotic. We found the use of colors to be soothing and the warm and dispersed lights relaxing. For us, the environment is–above all else–comfortable. All of this is much more apparent in person than in photos.
One of my quibbles is with herringbone plank flooring, which I generally like. In this case, a single color might’ve been the better choice here in subduing the design without undercutting its personality. Otherwise, nothing really clashes or overwhelms. Stylistically, I also would’ve loved to see “tiki man” lamps as a way to meld the old and new Poly.
There’s a lot going on with the style and design–no denying that. However, that comes with the territory of rooms inspired by characters. In our view, these are more tasteful than some of the over-the-top princess and pirate rooms, and offer more luxury and refinement.
Walt Disney World has tried more subtle character infusions, most notably at Yacht Club. We loved those, but the reader feedback was far less positive. It would seem that regular guests and fans want bolder and more distinctly “Disney” designs. This offers exactly that, while still being elevated and tasteful.
It’s going to be divisive, but I really like the feature wall art, which is inspired by Maui’s tattoos. Feature walls are on-trend in the hotel industry, and we think this one works well. It’s clearly Moana-inspired, but also looks good on its own, divorced of Moana context or knowledge.
When this falls out of style–and it inevitably will within the next decade as Disney is joining this in-progress trend about 5 years after it started–the feature wall can easily be painted over. (Leading to fresh outrage as a generation of new fans will have by then developed nostalgia and this art will be beloved.)
Functionally, there’s a lot to like about the rooms. There are tables with outlets on each side of each bed and reading lights in addition to lamps. There’s also uplighting from the headboard itself, which is fantastic as a single-source mood light for decompressing after a long day in the parks.
As with other Walt Disney World hotel redesigns, the beds are elevated with storage of suitcases. There’s also more storage space flanking the television and dresser, but this comes with a big potential drawback–no desk. (Personally, I think this was an unnecessary removal–this is a huge room and they added plenty of storage space. No need to also remove the desk for even more.) The chair and couch are both comfortable, and provide plenty of space for spreading out.
The additional storage space continues in the bathroom, where there are cubbies below the sinks and an elevated countertop above.
The backlit mirror provides ample lighting in the bathroom and the stone texture behind is a nice touch. The toilet is also now separated with a door, a simple but essential upgrade for larger parties.
As two adults, the shower is a massive improvement for us, but I’m guessing parents might disagree. There are a variety of 2 queen rooms that still have bathtubs, meaning that the many rooms still have bathtubs. (We’d recommend requesting a tub if it’s important to you.)
The one thing I dislike about the bathrooms–and this is totally personal preference–is the removal of the turtle wallpaper. I know it wouldn’t fit the new style or color scheme, but I found that delightful and charming. Oh well.
Above is a video that Sarah shot of the new Moana rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (see if you can spot me, hiding in plain sight!)
If you’re interesting in reading/seeing our other posts concerning these new rooms to judge for yourself how Wilderness Lodge stacks up, here’s the full list of our reviews, with the letter grade I’d give to each in parentheses:
Note that these leaves off a few resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado, BoardWalk Inn) all of which we’ve covered elsewhere, mostly in updated resort reviews. See our updated Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page for those.
Ultimately, we love the reimagined Moana rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The remodel is not perfect, but it’s pretty close for what it is. As fans of the “old Poly” and “Vacation Kingdom of the World,” our fondness for this resort is mostly its mid-century modern roots, tiki inspired qualities, and fun Oceanic Arts faces and figures.
Seeing some of this phased out over the last decade hasn’t always been easy, but I also believe that Disney has done a good job of modernizing the Poly and making it a luxury resort of a high caliber that’s commensurate with its price points. I love kitsch and quirkiness, but also realize I have nostalgia for this and am not representative of the average first time guest and what they expect when dropping $600+ per night to stay here.
With that in mind, I’d rather Walt Disney World be bold and ambitious instead of playing it safe when it comes to room redesigns. Not everything about the new Moana rooms is to my tastes and it comes close to crossing the line of chaotic design. However, I love the risks Disney took with these rooms, which I far prefer to the playing-it-safe “suburban model housing development” look of Beach Club.
Of course, it helps that almost all of the aggressive gambles paid off, and the end result is that the Moana rooms are an extraordinary balance of vibrance, fun, function, luxury, and personality–a mix of qualities that’s tough to pull off simultaneously. They’re not for everyone, but we suspect the Polynesian’s new Moana rooms will appeal to many Walt Disney World visitors. Sarah is even more emphatic in her love of these new Moana rooms–she says this reestablishes Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as her favorite hotel at Walt Disney World!
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What do you think of the new Moana-inspired rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort? What do you think of the Maui tattoo feature wall art? What about the other furnishings, fixtures, or decor? Think this is too busy/chaotic–or perfectly energetic and vibrant for a character-inspired room? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Do you prefer the look of the old or new rooms? 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!