Polynesian Resort Reopening Delay & Refurbishment Inspired by Moana

Walt Disney World has delayed the reopening of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort from October 4, 2020 until Summer 2021. This is to accommodate refurbishment work at the hotel, including a Moana-inspired makeover to guest rooms and enhancements to the Great Ceremonial House. In this post, we’ll cover all of the details and what you need to know.

For starters, the Villas and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will remain open during this refurbishment. This is the Disney Vacation Club ‘side’ of the hotel, which encompasses the Pago Pago, Tokelau, and Moorea Longhouses plus the over-the-water Bora Bora Bungalows.

Hotel guests who will be impacted by this delayed reopening should be receiving emails from Walt Disney World shortly indicating that Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is “no longer planned to be open” during their vacation. Additionally, the correspondence will contain info about re-accommodating guests at a different hotel at no additional charge.

The big news here comes via a Walt Disney World spokeswoman who told the Orlando Sentinel that changes to the guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort “will include a move to a Pacific Ocean-inspired color palette as well as details, patterns and textures from Disney’s Moana, an animated film that takes place on the Polynesian island of Motunui.”

This relatively vague and simple statement is going to freak out a lot of Walt Disney World purists who are averse to the gratuitous injection of IP everywhere, especially at old school Vacation Kingdom-era vestiges of Walt Disney World. We are in that camp, and that was my initial reaction and worry.

However, it’s worth pointing out a couple of things. For one thing, Moana has already been “injected” into the Great Ceremonial House…and you probably didn’t even know it. Earlier this year, carpeting with “Hidden Moanas” was added to ‘Ohana in the same style as the previous carpet.

It was so subtle that we didn’t even notice it–twice–on visits to the Poly this spring, instead learning about it via social media. Even as a Vacation Kingdom purist, I think this carpet is a nice touch. It maintains the resort’s thematic integrity while adding some whimsy and a connection with a under-utilized animated film. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and is a fun detail for those who notice it. This is synergy done well.

In addition to this, the Polynesian’s guest rooms were redone not that long ago and already have a modernized appearance (see before/after photos in our Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Review). While a soft goods refurbishment would make sense, it’s unlikely these rooms are going to undergo a radical–and expensive–overhaul.

Our expectation is that we’re see a new color palette on the walls and in the throw pillows and more of the Moana carpet in the hallways. In addition to that, maybe Moana-inspired curtains, a piece of concept art or two, and the removal of carpet in the guest rooms. We’d be shocked if much more happens than that. Calling this a “Moana Makeover” is thus probably a bit strong.

In short, adjust your expectations–whether it be hype or outrage–accordingly. This probably isn’t going to be some colossal reimagining of the guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

The next piece of big news with regard to the delayed reopening of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort comes via a note on DisneyWorld.com indicating transportation changes. Beginning in early October 2020, bus transportation will be available to Magic Kingdom.

Due to upcoming refurbishment work at the Great Ceremonial House, monorail service to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will be temporarily suspended beginning in early October 2020. The walkway to the Transportation and Ticket Center will remain open, where guests may access the monorail and ferry boats to Magic Kingdom. Presumably, the Grand Floridian walkway will also open soon, meaning Poly guests can walk all the way to Magic Kingdom if they’d like.

What’s not clear is whether the monorail service is being discontinued because the Great Ceremonial House will be closed entirely. Given that the monorail is currently being operated only for Disney Vacation Club guests and nothing is changing in terms of those bookings, it stands to reason that this is happening because some or all of the Great Ceremonial House will be closed off to guests.

Prior to the resort’s overhaul, rumors swirled about a decade ago that the Great Ceremonial House had various issues (asbestos being the most common one tossed about), that would necessitate it being demolished and rebuilt. While the lobby’s water feature was removed during the resort reimagining, the rest of the rumor never came to fruition.

It remains doubtful that the Great Ceremonial House is going to be substantially rebuilt–we’re not trying to revive discredited rumors. However, we can’t help but wonder if there was a kernel of truth to some of that. It’s possible there are lingering or persisting issues that weren’t fully addressed a decade ago, and now require more urgent attention.

Timing-wise, now seems perfect. Demand is low and Walt Disney World can take down entire resorts, closing them to all but DVC guests rather than working around existing bookings. However, that’s not something supported by Disney’s recent public statements and goal of reducing capital expenditures by $900 million. Given that, it seems unlikely that Walt Disney World would willing undertake additional construction and refurbishment projects unless absolutely necessary.

The big issue is those Disney Vacation Club guests with reservations at the Villas and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. This is not an insignificant number of bookings, and these guests will need alternative dining options if the Great Ceremonial House needs to close and, along with it, Kona Cafe and Tambu Lounge. (The giveaway will be if/when Disney starts cancelling ADRs for Kona Cafe, or closes it to new reservations.)

Depending upon the scope of the work, it’s possible that Captain Cook’s could remain open during an overhaul to the Great Ceremonial House. It’s also possible that Lilo’s Playhouse could be used as a temporary dining option–it’d be pretty awesome if Walt Disney World revived Tangaroa Terrace, even if on a temporary basis.

Ultimately, it seems like something is up with Disney’s Polynesian Resort and we still don’t have the full story. When we first heard this news (and reported on it in our Walt Disney World News Roundup), we assumed this was simply a matter of low demand and lack of bookings. While that’s probably part of the story here, it’s unlikely the full picture. For now, we’ll consider this ‘developing’ news. Our expectation is that Walt Disney World will release concept art and full details in the very near future–we’ll keep you posted!

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What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Hyped or outraged by the Moana-inspired makeover to the guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort? Think something big is happening with Great Ceremonial House, or that just a convenient excuse for closing the hotel while demand is low? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? 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!

64 Responses to “Polynesian Resort Reopening Delay & Refurbishment Inspired by Moana”
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