Polynesian v. Grand Floridian

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When comparing Deluxe Resorts along the Magic Kingdom monorail loop at Walt Disney World, vacation planners often debate between two hotels: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. This post offers a head-to-head smackdown between the two hotels.

This is a new series of posts that compares similarly-situated resorts to help you determine which is right for you. In these posts, we will compare and contrast 6 elements of two different Walt Disney World hotels to determine which is “the best.”

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.

In addition to this match-up between the Grand Floridan and the Poly, we have the following ‘versus’ posts upcoming: Animal Kingdom Lodge v. Wilderness Lodge; BoardWalk v. Beach Club; and, Caribbean Beach v. Port Orleans Riverside. If there are other match-ups you’d like to see, please leave a note in the comment. We’ll try to cover any resorts that have planning commonalities.

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.)

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Theme: Polynesian – 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 execution here sometimes falls short and feels dated in an early-1990s way. It has made strides in recent years, but there’s still room for improvement.

By contrast, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort captures the essence of vacationing at a tropical resort. From the lush grounds to the South Seas vibe throughout the resort, it’s the perfect confluence of 20th century tiki culture and authentic island paradise. Arguably, the Poly’s theme has been degraded in recent years with the removal of its lobby waterfall and other tropical elements, but we think the upgrades made during that refurbishment make it (more or less) a push.

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Rooms: Push – Both of these resorts have extensively overhauled their guest rooms in the last few years to the point that they each are among the best at Walt Disney World now. Were this 3 years ago, we would have given the edge to the Poly. Now, Grand Floridian’s rooms do a pretty good job balancing luxury and theme.

Separating out theme (since we already covered that above), I think it’s difficult to give either resort a decisive–or even slight–edge in terms of rooms. You could judge on the basis of room size, but Polynesian’s standard rooms vary more than the Grand Floridian, with some Poly rooms being larger and some being smaller. So that’s a push, too. (We’d give the Villas at each of these resorts the edge over their hotel room counterparts, for what it’s worth.)

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Dining: Grand Floridian – The culinary scene at the Grand Floridian is befitting of its flagship status. Citricos and Narcoossee’s are two of the most highly regarded restaurants at Walt Disney World, and then there’s Victoria & Albert’s, which is in a league of its own. Mizner’s Lounge is also top notch, and arguably underrated. Where Grand Floridian struggles is on the casual end of the spectrum, with Grand Floridian Cafe being so-so, and Gasparilla Island Grill being hit or miss (and honestly, kind of boring) in our experience.

The casual end is where the Polynesian Village Resort excels. Captain Cook’s is one of Walt Disney World’s best counter service restaurants, and the tandem of Kona Cafe and ‘Ohana are great casual table service options. 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.

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Transportation: Polynesian – This might come as a 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. Neither are walkable to any park.

However, the Polynesian has the edge for one simple reason: the walking path to the Ticket & Transportation Center, which means it’s more convenient to the monorail to Epcot. It’s not a huge advantage, but it’s an advantage nonetheless.

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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 newly reimagined 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.

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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. That’s a bit difficult to swallow given the Polynesian’s other victories in this comparison…

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Verdict: Polynesian – For us, this is an easy one. In looking back, even at the categories that Grand Floridian won, I have a difficult time seeing the Grand Floridian with an advantage that matters to me in pretty much any regard. The only thing (not listed) would be in Christmas decor. While the Grand Floridian has grown on us (especially with the redone rooms), the Polynesian is a masterpiece of Imagineering, and is transportive in theme. We would take it even if prices were equal, and with the Poly being $100+ cheaper per night, it’s no contest.

Oh, and just to offer a different perspective, with each of these comparisons, we’ll poll the Disney fans who follow us on Twitter for their feedback. Popular opinion here is similarly decisive, also in favor of the Poly:

We’ll be posting more of these polls on Twitter as we get closer to publishing our next ‘versus’ articles, so be sure to watch our Twitter stream so you can vote. (Note: all polls are conducted after we’ve drafted the applicable versus post…so our results are not swayed by popular opinion. Actually, maybe we should post the poll when we post the article, so you can vote while reading. Hmmm…)

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. Our goal is for this post to be helpful in offering 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. With that said, what do you think…did we choose the correct hotel here?


76 Responses to “Polynesian v. Grand Floridian”
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