Grand New Rooms at Disney World’s Flagship Resort

Walt Disney World’s expansion of the Villas at Grand Floridian is now completed! With this, one building the flagship hotel has been reimagined into Resort Studios. In this post, we’ll share photos of the new rooms, lobby & interior areas, and our opinion of the overhaul.

As background, this project transformed Big Pine Key (building nine) at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa into approximately 200 Resort Studios, each accommodating up to 5 guests. Big Pine Key is centrally located, near the feature pool, main lobby, and along the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon. This means that some of these resort studios have theme park views of Cinderella Castle and the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

Although it’s the most expensive hotel at Walt Disney World, our opinions of Grand Floridian have long been a bit…mixed. In our Deluxe Villas/Disney Vacation Club Resort Rankings, the Villas at Grand Floridian have occupied one of the top 3 slots for several years. By contrast, our Rankings of Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World put the Grand Floridian dead last. This has been a controversial take, and we’ve had to reconcile this discrepancy numerous times by perplexed readers, but stand by it. It all comes down to the guest rooms. Speaking of which, that brings us to a fresh controversy with the Resort Studios at these new Villas at Grand Floridian…

Because everything Walt Disney World does these days is, there has been controversy around the Resort Studios. We might as well start here, as it’s the elephant in the room and the biggest conversation point with regard to the Villas at Grand Floridian additions. Some have bemoaned that it’s essentially the same footprint as the hotel before, and not a proper conversion into a studio.

In particular, many Disney Vacation Club members are upset that there’s no kitchenette. At one point, microwaves were only going to be by request, which further upset fans. It now appears that’s in the process of being resolved–or totally rectified. Still, there’s no toaster or sink, which makes the Resort Studio a nonstarter for some.

I’ve seen complaints ranging from this cheapens or dilutes DVC to it flying in the face of the whole point of ownership. To be fair, I can understand these frustrations. This is the first time Disney Vacation Club has done rooms like this and it does defeat the purpose of buying into a timeshare for many members.

However, those complaints also assume that the DVC membership is monolithic. Not everyone has the same preferences or even motivations for buying in the first place. Others have seen their priorities change over time and might no longer want the things that they once did.

When we joined DVC nearly 15 years ago, our motivation for doing so was saving money–both on accommodations and dining. This meant preparing some meals in the room–typically breakfast and a late night meal on rare occasions.

We’re still frugal and now we focus more on healthy eating than when we joined DVC, but we now have absolutely zero interest in preparing proper meals while traveling. We buy groceries almost everywhere we go, but nothing that can’t be cooked in the microwave, in its packaging. This is true whether we stay at a full house Airbnb rental or a regular hotel room.

Not having a microwave or toaster would be disappointing–a definite negative. However, we’ve encountered exactly that situation at other hotels. For us, it’s not a dealbreaker–we simply adapt, buying other types of groceries.

It would be both presumptuous and incorrect to assume that all other Disney Vacation Club members are like us. For their own sake, I would hope no one else is consuming these levels of cauliflower, quinoa, and artichokes. It’s downright dangerous, I assume. (For those whose curiosity I’ve piqued, I present to you the most disgusting thing you’ll ever eat: Kitchen & Love Quick Meals.)

However, there are no doubt some DVC owners who also have no interest in cooking on vacation, and for whom a full kitchen or even kitchenette is superfluous. Many members might very well be fine with hotel room accommodations, having bought into DVC only as a way to save money on accommodations.

From my perspective, it’s very difficult to argue against more variety in DVC accommodations. Derisively calling these “hotel rooms” isn’t really the scathing critique that some members seem to think it is. To the contrary, some owners might actually prefer this style of room.

At worst, those DVC members will be more inclined to book this, taking some strain away from the “real” studios at the Grand Floridian and other villas around Walt Disney World. Given the low room count, it’s not going to make a huge difference in availability, but every little bit helps.

It’s important to be able to judge things objectively, cognizant of the fact that personal preferences vary. Not everything needs to directly cater to everyone. Doing so is a recipe for blandness, as things are reduced to the lowest common denominator so as to not alienate anyone’s sensibilities.

Walt Disney World fans should be well aware of the pitfalls of this crowd-pleasing approach. It’s exactly how we ended up with so many redesigned rooms devoid of theme. (Thankfully, that trend is starting to be reversed.)

Not everything needing to appeal to me is precisely why I don’t slam Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. Sure, everyone here can agree that show would be exponentially better if it featured Country Bears racing on foot against the vehicles, this is true. However, that academy is aimed at children–not the sophisticated tastes of older, wiser, and sexier Counter Bear fans.

But I digress. The bottom line is that the resort studios at the Grand Floridian hold tremendous appeal for at least some DVC owners. Or maybe I’m way off base, membership really is monolithic, and I’ll never have any issue booking these rooms. (I already know that won’t be the case, and already am having difficulty booking these rooms.)

Of course, this is a review of the new rooms and thus far I’ve written a veritable treatise in defense of missing sinks and toasters. Possibly not what you signed up for when opening this post…but also not something you could’ve conclusively ruled out given this blog’s eclectic track record.

As for the rooms themselves, they are fantastic. These are what the Grand Floridian hotel rooms should be, and hopefully, will become.

There is a ton of texture and detail to the Resort Studios at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The interior design exudes a stately quality and is imbued with luxuriousness.

Details like crown moulding, wall paneling, intricate bed frames, a gorgeous rug atop the floor, and nice light fixtures give the room a sense of sophistication.

These rooms stand in stark contrast to the more straightforward rooms on the hotel side of the Grand Floridian. Here, details and textures abound. There is no confusing these with a mid-range Marriott or Hilton.

While the Resort Studios don’t jump out to me as being overtly Victorian, they do feature ornamentation and opulent decor, plus Mary Poppins design motifs and art. I’d call this Victorian meets modern–a fresh and posh intersection of two otherwise disparate design styles.

The interior design is generally pretty, with subtle sophistication, clever and engaging uses of texture, an abundance of accent paneling, and upgraded finishings throughout. From the plank flooring to the chandelier, the features have been plussed in a variety of ways.

There’s also 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.

Functionally, the Resort Studios are likewise fantastic. There’s an abundance of storage space–under the elevated beds, in the closets, bathroom shelves, and there’s even a dresser under the television. There are tables and cubbies for phones and whatever else you might need around your bed. Consistent with other new rooms around Walt Disney World, an array of outlets and USB charging ports have been added.

The lighting is also brilliant. In addition to the chandelier, there are sconces flanking the beds and a variety of other light sources that offer a high degree of control over the lighting. Newer rooms with their more customizable lighting is a welcome change; it’s nice to get acclimated for bed with lower and moodier lighting.

About the only thing that strikes me as a bit awkward with the redesign is the moving the desk to the entryway. In the comparable hotel rooms, it’s between the bed and balcony.

I assume this was necessitated by the addition of closets, paneling, and nightstands. As someone who actually uses hotel room desks, I don’t love the trend of removing or minimizing them, but it’s not a huge thing. I can use my laptop on the sofa or in bed. Plus, I think the wallpaper behind the mirror and the whole look of this area really pops. It makes a great first impression, and punctuates the design as a whole.

Another highlight of the Resort Studio room is the bathroom. The gold frame and back lighting all around the patterned border is stunning–a nice continuation of the room’s signature style. There’s more brushed gold around the vanity, and more Mary Poppins-inspired watercolor artwork on the wall.

There are two sinks, quartz countertops, towels under the counter, and individually-packaged H2O products.

The bathrooms also feature marble tile floors, and combination shower and bathtubs.

Compared to the Riviera and other recently-redone resorts, the shower/tub area is a bit of a disappointment. Comparatively, those are nicer and more luxurious, whereas this feels decidedly average. (On the plus side, they did replace the toilets. That shouldn’t merit commentary, but does since we’ve had thrones so ancient they might technically qualify as antiquities.)

Across from the two queen beds is a sofa sleeper, which is how the Resort Studios can accommodate 5 guests.

Grand Floridian has some of the largest hotel rooms at Walt Disney World, so there’s plenty of space for the dedicated beds and the sofa sleeper. Personally, we prefer the fold-down unit in the regular Deluxe Studios–but that’s probably because there are only two of us. This seems like a great option for larger parties (although I can’t imagine that sofa is an ideal sleeping situation).

Above the sofa is Mary Poppins art, which reminds me a lot of the concept art for Cherry Tree Lane in the United Kingdom pavilion at EPCOT. This is probably just regular Cherry Tree Lane art, but still. What could have been!

In general, these rooms remind me a bit of the recent reimagining of Citricos. That doesn’t contain many overt references to Mary Poppins, but it evokes the feel of the film. I would say the same is true of these rooms. I really like the end result–it’s classy, sufficiently themed, luxurious, and functional. For me, the Resort Studios check all of the boxes.

As a reminder, this is what the hotel rooms at Grand Floridian looked like prior to becoming Resort Studios (pictured above is a vaulted dormer roof room–the standard ceilings make this look much more vanilla). It’s important to have this as a frame of reference, as I suspect many people haven’t stayed at the Grand Floridian recently or have rose-colored memories of the hotel rooms.

It’s possible to quibble over stylistic choices or functional design decisions with the Resort Studios. The theme may skew too modern, or not click for everyone. I totally understand that. However, I think it’s worth having the before/after visual comparison. To me, it’s a night and day difference. (Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could call the before better, but I recognize that tastes vary.)

The Resort Studios are also a big winner for us thanks to their centralized location–this building arguably has the best location at Grand Floridian, being near both pools, the main lobby, and restaurants. (Personal preference, but we prefer this building to the main one–it’s too loud.)

We honestly don’t mind the location of the Villas at Grand Floridian, but we also walk over to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort a lot. With that path likely closing for a couple of years in the near future, that won’t be a selling point. Big Pine Key will be the unequivocally superior spot.

Photos of the new-look lobby in Big Pine Key are scattered throughout the opening screed about kitchenettes, quinoa, and Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. I wanted to circle back to that to say that I really like the furniture, flooring, artwork, and wallpaper.

From my perspective, this is the first time Imagineering has hit a home run with the Grand Floridian remodel. (If only Enchanted Rose Lounge were done in this style!) An overhaul of the lobby seems like an inevitability at this point. Although I don’t think that’s necessary (do the Grand Canyon Concourse in the Contemporary first!), I do think this style could be used as the basis for a refresh.

That’s probably going to get me excoriated among Walt Disney World purists. As a realist, I think this style is pretty much the best-case scenario when accounting for tastes of modern guests and the price point of the Grand Floridian. While WDW diehards might love the lobby and overall aesthetic, I’d hazard a guess that the hotel does not comport with the expectations of the first-timers or casual guests who actually book it.

Ultimately, the Resort Studios 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, and a range of other details. Whether you’re assessing from a function or form perspective, these are a marked improvement.

I’d go a step further than that, and say the Resort Studios are the best rooms from an objective perspective–or at least in contention for that. Personally, I prefer a handful of other rooms (the actual new studio style is more my speed and suits our needs better) but it’s hard to criticize much about what Walt Disney World has done here.

They took the most boring and bland rooms at the flagship resort and turned that into something distinctly Disney and that manages to meld modern sensibilities with Victorian style. That couldn’t have been an easy task, and there will no doubt be criticisms of the aesthetic and design choices, but given the competing priorities, I’d say the Resort Studios are practically perfect in every way. Here’s hoping the hotel side is next, and follows this same formula! 

Thinking about joining DVC? First be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” and rent points from DVC Rental Store. If you are convinced a membership is for you, check out the discounted options at DVC Resale Market. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of these new-look Resort Studios at the Grand Floridian? Do you prefer these rooms or the Deluxe Studios? What about these versus the current hotel rooms at Grand Floridian? Do you like this room redesign, or are you not a fan of the hotel room style? Do you agree or disagree with our take on the changes being appealing to some DVC members? Prefer the Big Pine Key or standalone villas location? Happy that DVC is expanding the Villas at Grand Floridian, or wish they’d build a new stand-alone resort? If you’re a Grand Floridian (hotel) fan, are you upset by this or indifferent to it? Hoping that more of a comprehensive overhaul will be announced? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!

43 Responses to “Grand New Rooms at Disney World’s Flagship Resort”
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