Polynesian vs. Grand Floridian

When choosing a luxury hotel near Magic Kingdom on the monorail loop at Walt Disney World, vacation planners debate between two Deluxe Resorts: Grand Floridian and Polynesian. This head-to-head comparison weighs the pros & cons of each, picking a “winner” in theme, dining, transportation, pools, and other categories. (Updated April 14, 2024.)

This continues our Walt Disney World Hotel Comparison Series, which includes several other difficult dilemmas you might face when trying to pick a hotel. Other versus posts include Animal Kingdom Lodge vs. Wilderness Lodge, BoardWalk vs. Beach Club, Port Orleans Riverside vs. French Quarter, and even Caribbean Beach vs. the Poly.

This Grand Floridian vs. Polynesian comparison pits Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel against a fun fan-favorite that some might argue should be WDW’s “crown jewel” hotel. While both are similar in terms of location (literally a short walk from one another) and pricing, there are many differences in terms of theme, atmosphere, restaurants, and amenities.

While we will draw our own conclusions as to which is better, along the way we will explain our reasoning, so you can form your own conclusions. Since so much of this is a matter of subjective, personal preference, we feel that’s the best way to approach these comparisons. Plus, it would be a pretty short blog post if we didn’t offer explanatory text along with the winner of each element.

Before we get going, one thing to note is that both resorts are still in the midst of massive reimagining and/or expansion projects. In the case of the Poly, a gigantic tower is being built on the periphery of the resort. In the case of the Grand Floridian, the main building and lobby are still in the midst of a reimagining. The good news is that the room reimaginings at both are now finished. At least right now, neither of these projects have much impact on the guest experience, aside from minor (mostly exterior) visual blight. We expect both construction projects to wrap up by late 2024.

Okay, with that, it’s time to see whether the Grand Floridian delivers a sick People’s Elbow to the Poly, or if the Poly can pull off a surprise Stone Cold Stunner… (Sorry, I’ll stop with the wrestlin’ talk–those are the only terms I know, anyways.)

Theme: It Depends – Theme is such a tricky subject since so much of it is predicated in personal preference. Rather than making a value judgment about which theme is inherently “better,” we approach this from their respective execution of theme.

Grand Floridian is no doubt the most elegant and refined hotel at Walt Disney World, befitting of its high-brow Victorian theme. The lobby oozes sophistication and class, and makes a strong first impression. From that alone, it’s easy to see why Grand Floridian is Walt Disney World’s most luxurious and flagship resort. It is, as the name suggests, grand.

If there’s a good “opposite” of opulence, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is it. The Poly captures the essence of vacationing at a tropical resort. From the lush grounds to the South Seas vibe throughout the resort, it’s the confluence of 20th century tiki culture and authentic island paradise. It’s a great place to decompress and has an undeniable “vacation mode” vibe.

Both stumble on executing their themes in some regards. There are areas where the Grand Floridian feels dated, like a 1990s interpretation of the elevated Victorian theme. Some say it reminds them of “grandma’s house.” Then there are spots where modernization feels a bit bland and off-theme, the the Beauty and the Beast bar. The lobbies of the outer buildings all have received the same Mary Poppins-inspired overhaul as the guest room, and that has been tastefully done, balancing modern luxury the the theme of the resort, for the most part.

It’s a similar story with the Polynesian. Its theme has been chipped away at in recent years with the removal of its lobby waterfall and other tropical elements, but other enhancements make it feel like a good blend of mid-century and modern. To the extent that they’ve occurred, the Moana additions have been tasteful and relatively restrained in common areas.

If this were simply our personal preferences, we’d give the win to the Poly. However, that’s also because the interior of the main building at the Grand Floridian hasn’t yet been redone. If they manage to handle that as delicately as the outer buildings, threading the needle on themed design and modern luxury, it could come out on top. Objectively, the two resorts are difficult to compare since they’re trying different things. Both succeed and stumble in the same ways, so we’re calling this a push.

Rooms: It Depends – This updated comparison catches both resorts as they’ve recently debuted new rooms inspired to varying degrees by different characters. In both cases, these are really more movie motifs than they are fully-fledged character themes. In our view, this is a good thing.

The Poly’s new Moana rooms are bold, with distinctly “Disney” style and use of characters. They have a lot going on in terms of colors, patterns, and textures that won’t appeal to everyone. We think they strike the right balance, but some will undoubtedly disagree, finding them too “loud.” Regardless of that, the quality of finishings, features, and functionality is all high. (See our Review, Photos & Video: New Moana Rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.)

For the longest time, Grand Floridian ranked last on our lists like this due to a combination of that price point and the reality that its rooms we’re on par with a mid-tier Marriott. Although prices haven’t budged, Grand Floridian is taking massive leaps forward with new rooms that transform them into something both distinctly Disney and luxurious.

The reimagined rooms at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are 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 inspired by Mary Poppins, and a range of other details. Whether you’re assessing from a function or form perspective, these are a marked improvement. We also love these new rooms–see Grand New Rooms at Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort for a look inside.

Which resort’s new character-inspired rooms are better will almost entirely come down to personal preference–both of the resorts as a whole and whether you or your family prefers Moana or Mary Poppins. Both are tastefully done and befitting of their respective resorts. We’d give a slight edge to Grand Floridian for a truly flawless execution, whereas Moana does have some imperfections–but others might argue the opposite.

It’s really going to come down to whether you want elegant and sophisticated with a dash of Mary Poppins whimsy or top-notch tropical fun with Moana. One thing is for sure–the new rooms at both the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian are better than the Incredibles accommodations at the Contemporary!

Dining: Grand Floridian – The culinary scene at the Grand Floridian is befitting of its flagship status. Narcoossee’s and Citricos are two of the most highly regarded restaurants at Walt Disney World, and the latter just received a Mary Poppins-inspired overhaul that took it to the next level. Then there’s Victoria & Albert’s, which is in a league of its own.

When it comes to character dining, Grand Floridian once again offers 1900 Park Fare for breakfast and dinner. This returns after a multi-year hiatus with a new “theme” (air quotes) of wishes. It also features a grabbag of characters that don’t really make much sense together. The whole thing is thematic nonsense, but it’s fun!

At the less expensive end of the spectrum, Grand Floridian Cafe is an underrated gem and has become one of our favorite spots for a casual meal or last minute Advance Dining Reservation around Magic Kingdom. Gasparilla Island Grill is likewise a strong counter service restaurant. There’s also the recently-reimagined Enchanted Rose Beauty and the Beast Bar, we aren’t fans, but others seem to like it.

The casual end of the spectrum is where Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort excels. Captain Cook’s is one of Walt Disney World’s best counter service restaurants. Of course, ‘Ohana is a fan favorite…although we think it’s overrated and has gone downhill in the last several years, it’s still a fan-favorite and deserves to be on your shortlist for novelty and (potential future) nostalgia factor.

Two other options pick up the slack. Kona Cafe is another underrated gem, a stand-out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, the Poly has one of the best lounges at Walt Disney World.

We ultimately give the edge to Grand Floridian due to the Poly’s lack of fine dining options–a big misstep for a Deluxe Resort–but this is another category that comes down to personal preference. It should also be kept in mind that resort-hopping for meals is incredibly easy among the monorail loop resorts.

Transportation: Push – This should come as no surprise given that the Polynesian and Grand Floridian are right next to one another. Both are on the Magic Kingdom Monorail loop. Both offer boat transportation. Both have comparable (shared) bus service to other parks.

Both are now walkable to Magic Kingdom, or will be once the Poly tower is finished and that pathway reopens. 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 possible to walk all the way from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Magic Kingdom (when there’s no construction).

Grand Floridian is closer to Magic Kingdom, giving it the edge there. However, the Poly is closer to the Ticket & Transportation Center, which means it’s more convenient for walking to the monorail to Epcot. All of that makes this a tie.

This is another topic that’ll need to be revisited once the new Polynesian tower opens, as it’ll add a massive number of rooms to the resort and could cause the transportation infrastructure to buckle. Unfortunately, if that does happen, it’ll probably impact both resorts–not just the Poly.


Pools: Polynesian – Our favorite pools at these resorts at Beach Pool at the Grand Floridian, which we ranked #4 on our list of the Top 10 Pools at Walt Disney World, and Lava Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (#2). We give the edge to the Lava Pool because it’s more imaginative, immersive, and ultimately, more fun for kids.

Both of these resorts have a couple solid pools beyond their main feature pools, but none of the quiet or secondary pools at Grand Floridian move the needle back towards it. If anything, the retro style (and shade structures!) at Polynesian’s Oasis Pool provide an adult foil to the more family-friendly main pool. By contrast, both of the “main” pools at the Grand Floridian skew towards adults.


Cost: Polynesian – While these are the two most expensive resorts in all of Walt Disney World when comparing standard rooms, the Grand Floridian is significantly more expensive. While rates vary by season and room category, you can expect to pay about 20% more for a comparable room at the Grand Floridian.

However, the practical reality is that many guests aren’t paying rack rate at the Grand Floridian whereas many are at the Poly. Due to differences in popularity, the Grand Floridian routinely offers exceptional savings–of 25% to 35% off. By contrast, the Polynesian’s discounts are usually lower–from 10% to 25% off. Worse yet, the Poly is occasionally excluded entirely and often has no availability even when it’s not excluded.

The end result is that even while sticker prices at the Poly are lower, guests can end up paying more on average due to disparities in discounting and availability. That makes this comparison really tricky.

Verdict: Polynesian – This used to be an incredibly easy one for us, but Grand Floridian has really narrowed the gap with its new Mary Poppins-inspired rooms. However, there is still a gap. Even in the categories that the flagship won, I have a difficult time seeing the Grand Floridian with an advantage that matters to me as a guest staying at the hotel. In fact, everything we love most about the Grand Floridian–dining and lobby atmosphere–can just as easily be enjoyed while staying at the Poly and doing a “date night” at the Grand.

The Grand Floridian has grown on us and improved in the last few years, but the Polynesian is a masterpiece of Imagineering that’s transportive in theme and feels like the quintessential Walt Disney World resort. It’s where we actually want to stay while on vacation, with atmosphere, amenities, rooms, and other features we’d use regularly over the course of a trip.

When comparing any two resorts, other factors will obviously come into play. Important amenities, location, recreation, and other variables are going to matter and weigh differently for different parties. If you want to compare for yourself or see how other resorts stack up, check out our Rankings of ALL Resort Hotels at Walt Disney World from Worst to Best.

Our goal is for this post was to offer a head-to-head comparison of the most crucial elements of each Walt Disney World resort experience, but we suggest supplementing this with our full review of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and our Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Review for further explanation of pros & cons, room photos & video, and much more.

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!


Which of these two Deluxe Resorts is the better one, in your opinion? Is money the deciding factor for you or is something else? Is there anything you can think of to make Grand Floridian the better pick? Do you prefer the Moana rooms at the Poly or Grand Floridian’s more sophisticated style laced with Mary Poppins? Are we missing a key variable that could, potentially tilt the scales in the Grand’s favor? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? 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!

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