The Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are the latest Disney Vacation Club villas, and some of the most expensive rooms at Walt Disney World when you convert their cost in DVC points to real dollars. This review covers my recent stay at the Bora Bora Bungalows, including photos of the rooms, plus the good, the bad, and the ugly (and I’m not just talking the sticker price) of the stay.
To the extent that a hotel room can be controversial, the Polynesian Bungalows are the Rush Limbaugh of hotel rooms. The release of the Disney Vacation Point chart for these villas was met with a strong negative reaction by both DVC owners and non-owners alike, many of whom wondered how these rooms could justify the $2,000+ nightly rate, especially given that a night in bungalow at the Four Seasons in real Bora Bora cost about half as much.
While we are Disney Vacation Club owners, I will be blunt: I could never justify using my points to stay here. A real life little Orange Bird would have to have a perch on the balcony serenading me, while a private showing of the Electrical Water Pageant performed for me at 1 a.m., and Goofy delivered me bottomless Tonga Toast and Dole Whips. Since all of those things are (presumably?) out of the question, I figured I’d never stay here.
However, when our friends invited us to stay with their families at the Bora Bora Bungalows after a previously-scheduled trip was to end, I jumped on the offer as it was probably my only chance to ever stay in them. I mean, I had to do it…in the name of research, right? Well, maybe not, but the bar for convincing myself to extend a Walt Disney World trip is pretty low.
With that background set, let’s take a look at whether my preconceptions were confirmed, or if the Bora Bora Bungalows are worth the splurge, even sans Orange Bird and bottomless Dole Whips…
The Bora Bora Bungalows are located over the Seven Seas Lagoon with a beach between the normal boat dock and them, pushing the last unit fairly close to the Ticket & Transportation Center. They are connected to one another and land via boardwalk that is accessible via Magic Band keycard functionality.
It only makes sense to start the review with the highlight of the Bungalows. That’s right, the television in the mirror of the master bathroom. The folks at NASA who invented this are true humanitarians, bringing us one step closer to realizing the ultimate dream of the great visionary, Tim Taylor. What a time to be alive.
For all of you Tim Taylor-wannabes out there, these foreign-looking, box-like devices are known as a washer and dryer. They are how your clothes go from having ketchup and mustard stains and smelling like sweat to being fresh and lilac-scented. Technology these days! (In all seriousness, none of us could figure out how to use the standard powder supplied with the HE washer–we finally just tossed it on top of the clothes and it seemed to work fine.)
Above is the master bedroom. I would say it had a style of ‘refined beach house’ with overall high quality finishing and detail work in the style of the tropics.
It, and the rest of the Bungalow, had a Tommy Bahama Home meets Disney vibe. I mean that it a good way, as the tropical elements were high quality with nods to Disney and well-executed theming. Exactly what I would expect of these rooms.
Since you’re going to spend most of your time in the master bathroom thanks to that glorious television (BYO fridge, unfortunately) here’s a wide fisheye view to get an idea of how the entire space looks.
Like the bedroom, this bathroom was really well done and felt incredibly high-quality.
Here’s the other bedroom, located at the land-facing side of the Bungalow. This room definitely has a more whimsical, colorful tone and looks like it skews younger in terms of style. Our group was torn on the range of colors used here (and in the Studio rooms).
Personally, I like the style, and think the splash of contrasting colors is sufficiently managed and offset with one another so that it doesn’t look gaudy, but does convey a fun retro vibe. Reasonable minds may vary on that. Note the middle surfboard was made by the “7 Seas Surf Co.,” a nice touch.
Adjacent (but not connected) to this bedroom is the other bathroom, with split space for the shower and one sink, and toilet and another sink. Unlike the master bath, this bathroom combines the shower and tub into one.
Moving on, here’s the living room and kitchen with the 180-degree fisheye view. This area is probably the biggest selling point for the Bora Bora Bungalows, and I could see it being a nice spot for a Thanksgiving or extended family type of gathering.
The style and the finishings work well for me in the living room. It has a laid back vibe, which may not be for everyone nor may the retro-inspired island style, but the style is exactly what you’d expect of the Polynesian. The space is well put together, and feels high-quality.
The Electrical Water Pageant art in the pull down bed is a nice touch, and even though I view it as a Walt Disney World staple, it’s not something that receives much attention. Kudos on this.
Outside on the deck, there are these hanging chairs, along with two lounge chairs. The hanging chairs are fun to swing around in for a few minutes, but I found them impractical and uncomfortable for actual relaxation.
Likewise, the plunge pool serves no practical purpose. It’s one of those things that probably works better in photos to market the place than anything else. Once you’re in there for about 2 minutes, you quickly realize that you’re basically sitting in tepid bathwater.
I will admit that by the end of the stay (even with the below negative experience that tainted things to a degree), the Bora Bora Bungalows had won me over. I really liked the style, and it was a fun place to simply be and spend quality time with others while on vacation. A really fun, vibrant “community room” for your party, in a way. It had me daydreaming of the type of cool getaway I could plan with family or friends here. I was ultimately shaken awake from every one of those daydreams by cost.
Ah, cost. The elephant in the room. It’s super easy to enjoy and praise something cool and expensive when you don’t have to pay for it, as was the case here. The Bora Bora Bungalows are really cool. They are also really expensive. From a value for money perspective, the Bora Bora Bungalows simply do not pass muster. In fact, they don’t even come close. They are really cool and very novel in terms of Walt Disney World rooms, but not that cool.
At the end of the day, a substantially cheaper 2-studio arrangement is going to offer a close to comparable experience for a substantially lower cost. If you’re not a Disney Vacation Club member but are itching to stay here (or elsewhere in a DVC room), check out our Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points article.
Of course, all of this is “in my opinion,” but this is a review–it’s inherently “my opinion.” Most people booking the Bora Bora Bungalows are not going to be concerned with value for money. They are going to be the “whales” of the Disney Vacation Club community to whom money–and points–is no issue. The supply (20 bungalows) is low enough and there are enough die hard Disney fans and wealthy individuals to whom money is no issue that the Bora Bora Bungalows can be priced artificially high and still be booked solid.
The people complaining about cost–the “commoners” like me–aren’t the ones who will be paying to stay there in the first place. I would hazard a guess that most of the time, the people wanting to stay here will want to do so because of the novelty of the room or for the status symbol offered by the accommodations. They won’t be interested in the more pragmatic experience of booking two adjacent studio rooms.
To that end, I suppose this review is mostly for the other commoners out there who likely will never stay at the Bora Bora Bungalows, but are curious just the same. Most of those with the resources to stay at the Bora Bora Bungalows probably have already made up their minds one way or the other, but I do hope this review can be useful to those Disney Vacation Club owners with a sizable amount of points, but also some concern for value.
With the good and the bad out of the way, it’s time for the ugly. I normally try to avoid anecdotal experiences in my reviews, but this one is too big to ignore. To put it bluntly, the service we received at the Polynesian during this stay was nothing short of atrocious. What follows is essentially a narrative of what occurred…
We checked in early and our room wasn’t ready yet. No big deal. We provided our phone numbers so we could receive a text once the room was ready. Actual check-in time rolled around with still no word from the front desk–I’ll cut to the chase here because this isn’t the “main” story about poor service (here are some other issues concerning our stay)–finally, after speaking with multiple individuals at the front desk, our Magic Bands were remotely activated for room entry, and we were able to enter the room. Mind you, this is the type of room where you can measure your per minute cost, waiting for the room that should have been ready was slightly frustrating.
That was nothing compared to the next day. At approximately 8 a.m. the water to our–and every other–bungalow went out. We called the front desk as soon as we learned of the issue, and after some incredulity, they tried to troubleshoot the situation over the phone. The water was out–there was nothing to troubleshoot. What did they expect us to say, “oh, so that’s how you turn the handle to make water come out of the faucet? We’ve lived on planet earth for decades, but never realized that!”
The front desk sent someone from maintenance out to the Bungalows, and they quite quickly realized this was an issue affecting all of the Bungalows that would take at least a couple hours to fix. We were not informed of this–we had to proactively go ask the group of managers and maintenance people gathered by the first bungalow.
While asking this group, we also asked if someone could bring us some bottled water so we could brush our teeth and had water to drink. To their credit, the managers immediately acquiesced, and within a few minutes, we saw a Cast Member approaching our bungalow with a case of bottled water.
I want to point out that this Cast Member only had one case of water and that one case was going to our bungalow. None of the other bungalows received bottled water, despite also not having water. That case of bottled water probably cost Disney $2 or less. You’d think it might be a good idea from a guest recovery perspective to deliver a case of water to every bungalow as a token gesture. Most people understand that “stuff happens” from time to time, and it’s the solution–not the problem itself–that defines how guests feel about the situation.
We were still without water for a couple more hours, and at this point, only one person in the Bungalow had showered. Lord of the Flies anarchy was beginning to set in. No further communications had come from anyone at the Polynesian about anything, much less when water would be restored. We walked to front desk and informed them of the situation and our need to shower, asking what they could do. The Cast Member at the front desk spoke with a manager on duty; he came back in a few minutes and provided a room key for a studio that was close to our bungalow and requested that we return the key when we were done using the studio.
This was another nice response, but again, I want to note that it was not a proactive one–if villas were sitting empty where waterless bungalow guests could shower, why not proactively offer their use? Did management at the Polynesian just assume the Bora Bora guests were filthy swine who preferred not to shower before heading to the parks for the day?
Finally, at around 2 p.m., we tested the water (we had been doing this about every 15 minutes) in our bungalow and it was on. No call from the front desk or knock at our door letting us know it had been fixed. Approximately an hour later someone from maintenance came by asking to come in and test our water.
That was our last communication from any Cast Member at the Polynesian that day. No one called or stopped by to apologize, explain the situation, or see what they could do. We joked amongst ourselves that this was because it was really ridiculous of us to expect running water in the first place, as that’s another 40 points per night. (I apologize in a “sorry not sorry” sense for the overly snarkiness of this post, but the whole situation really made my blood boil.)
The next communication came at check-out, when our friend who had booked the room asked to speak with a manager. I was not present for this exchange, but he relayed to me what happened. The DVC owner spoke with the manager on duty of the Polynesian and told the story of the experience to the manager. He indicated that no one from the Polynesian ever came to address the situation, and the manager was very apologetic for that. The manager first offered to not charge them the points for the day of the inconvenience (135 points) and additionally offered extra FastPass+ for everyone in the party on the day of checkout. Per the Disney Vacation Club owner who dealt with the situation, the manager handled this incredibly well and was extremely apologetic. He confirmed that the points were returned to his account (and fully bankable) shortly after his conversation with the manager.
He also inquired with the manager regarding the fog horns heard from the Ticket & Transportation Center, and the manager stated that she was well aware of this and they were actively taking steps to address this in the near future (how was not stated) as they had received numerous complaints about this.
So, you might be thinking, “all’s well that ends well” given that the points were restored to his account for the day we were “inconvenienced.” This all being “okay” is not my view. Management dropped the ball as the situation unfolded, and could have avoided refunding the points had they tried to proactively smooth over the situation. No one asked us how they could accommodate us while our water was out and no one apologized or tried to make the situation right after the fact.
The solution of the Polynesian that day was simply to ignore the problem and hope no one complained. For Disney, which regularly touts The DisneyDifference, that would be indefensible and unacceptable at Pop Century. At the Bora Bora Bungalows it was also confounding. You’d think Disney would find it in their own self-interest to make sure its ‘whales’ were treated properly, to keep them coming back and spending big bucks. Were we more passive guests, we wouldn’t have spoken up at all, and just fumed about the situation. If this were my first experience with Disney, it might have been my only experience with Disney, as it’s the kind of thing that would make me not want to return.
At the end of the day, I know this is an anecdote, and might not help in the context of a review because usually stories like this are a one-off. For every negative experience like this, there are probably countless positive ones. It’s also necessary to reiterate that the manager with whom the DVC owner spoke at check-out went handled the situation incredibly well and did a great job. Her handling of the problem was excellent, and she should serve as a reminder that the vast majority of Cast Members at Walt Disney World offer exemplary guest service.
I have read other recent negative experiences during construction at the Polynesian suggesting that recovery efforts aren’t being made concerning known problems until there is a guest complaint. Those other stories plus the number of Cast Members we encountered who failed to proactively address the situation suggests to me this could reflect current policy, making this more than just a one-off anecdote. It’s not as if we encountered one Cast Member having a bad day here. If, in fact, this is the current policy at the Poly, it would make sense why the Cast Members encountered didn’t try to proactively remedy the situation–their hands are tied.
Despite the poor guest service we received and the price of the experience in the back of my mind, I really (really!) enjoyed staying at the Bora Bora Bungalows. I would stop short of whole-heartedly recommending the Bungalows just because the value for money is lacking and I think even in terms of a “splurge,” other Grand Villas will offer a similar amount of enjoyment while costing less. With that said, if points or money is no object to you and you are considering a stay here, I suspect you won’t regret it. Just be sure to speak up if you encounter poor guest service, because if you don’t speak up, there’s a chance nothing will be done to rectify any situation that arises. As construction is close to wrapping up at the Polynesian, hopefully this does not remain true in the future.
What do you think of the Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort? Have you had any instances of the Poly dropping the ball in terms of guest service? On the flipside, any exemplary guest service at the Poly? I’d love to hear your takes on the present and future of WDW, so if you have any thoughts, post them in the comments