Villas at Grand Floridian Review

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are a hotel and Disney Vacation Club property adjacent to Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel. This review features room photos of the villas, the pros & cons of staying at this resort hotel, whether it’s worth the money, and a comparison to the hotel side of the Grand Floridian.

You might recall our Grand Floridian Resort Review, which was not exactly complimentary to Walt Disney World’s most expensive luxury hotel. To the contrary, we concluded that the Grand Floridian did not offer luxury accommodations “even remotely commensurate” with its high price tag. That pretty much sums up my rambling review, which was more or less a tirade about how the Grand Floridian is overrated.

Perhaps you’re expecting more of the same from our Villas at Grand Floridian review. After all, this is the DVC ‘wing’ of the same resort, and most of the amenities are shared between the regular hotel and the villas. As such, it might surprise you that our take on the Villas at Grand Floridian is essentially a 180 of that. In fact, this rates at (or near) the top of the list when it comes to Disney Vacation Club villas at Walt Disney World. Here’s why…

The first reason is price. Our main criticisms with the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are all predicated on its nightly rates, which start at $550/night and can exceed $1,000/night during some seasons. All other quibbles with the resort flow from this, and our belief that the quality doesn’t match the price.

If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, you aren’t paying anything near those rates for the Villas at Grand Floridian. Actual cost is going to depend on myriad factors, including home resort, whether you purchased directly or via resale, and what year you purchased your membership.

We bought via resale a while ago at Saratoga Springs Resort, and accounting for our initial purchase price (prorated for the duration of our contract) plus annual dues, we are paying a yearly cost of roughly $7 per DVC point that we own. Accordingly, our nightly rate at the Villas at Grand Floridian was $119. $119!

This is not a sales pitch for buying into Disney Vacation Club, so I do want to note that we were incredibly lucky, timing-wise with our DVC purchase (it actually has gone up in value since we bought it). Even if you purchased directly from Disney and paid significantly more, you’re looking at a studio room that’s still easily under $300/night.

Even renting points, the average cost for a 1-night stay in a studio at the Villas at Grand Floridian is around $250-325. That’s still over $100/night less than the best room-only discount at the Grand Floridian. (For assistance with that, see our Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points article.)

While I do not believe Grand Floridian can justify the $500+ rack rates that Walt Disney World charges, I think it’s justifiable as a $300/night hotel. I’ll go one further and say that I think the Villas are even more justifiable as a $300/night resort.

I was surprised by this. When concept art for the Villas at Grand Floridian was released, I was not impressed. When construction was completed, I was even less impressed. The exterior made it look like the project was done on the cheap, with the sides lacking detail (and windows), and generally with less artifice that could be found on the hotel’s buildings. I figured if the aspect of the project around which people would form first impressions was sloppy, the rooms would be, too.

Turns out, they were not. The rooms are basically the second prong of our about-face on the Grand Floridian, which isn’t really an about face at all, so much as experiencing a different side of the experience that was nicer and cost less money. Much to my surprise, the guest rooms at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa were nicer than even the newly-refurbished hotel rooms.

(Note: this review features photos of a 1-bedroom villa, rather than a studio; however, based on what we’ve seen of the studios, statements about quality and detail also hold true for those.)

To be fair, I didn’t take much issue with the hotel rooms at the Grand, stating that the refurbishment simplified them while still retaining their level of sophistication and luxury.

However, I also noted that I didn’t think they had the level of detail or unique quality to justify the exorbitant rates.

With those ‘exorbitant rates’ knocked down into the stratosphere of realism, the villa rooms already had a lower threshold to clear in order to qualify as “worth it” in my mind. Turns out, they didn’t need it.

Not only are the guest rooms in the villas every bit as nice as those in the hotel, but they take it to the next level by having the ‘level of detail and unique quality’ I lamented was missing from the Grand Floridian hotel rooms.

There are tray ceilings, detailed tile-work, numerous upgrades in terms of lighting and other fixtures, and plenty of Disney touches that are on-theme and feel appropriate to the Grand Floridian.

Oh, and of course there’s a television in the bathroom mirror, so you can watch the Must-Dos while you bathe, like a big-shot. (Because you know that’s what John Stamos is doing when we visits Walt Disney World!) 

It’s all done at an incredibly high level–one befitting of “flagship” status at Walt Disney World.

Common areas and amenities do bear mentioning, and in this case there’s a lot of overlap between the hotel side of the Grand Floridian, and the villa side. I will start by noting that we were really pleased with the lobby of the Villas at Grand Floridian.

The fountain with the Mary Poppins’ penguins was a nice touch, and there were luxurious details throughout that married Disney and Victorian style. In that sense, it felt more like Tokyo Disneyland Hotel than the Grand Floridian. No complaints about datedness here.

We actually spent a few hours in the lobby pre-checkin and post-checkout and found this to be a delightful area to lounge about (in our case, getting work done). We also appreciated the complementary espresso in the lobby, which is the kind of nice touch a resort of this caliber should be providing its guests. These little things go a long way.

grand-floridian-sun-lens-flare

Now, we turn our attention to the shared amenities between the Villas at Grand Floridian, and the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa itself. The lobby and grounds of the hotel are no doubt a shared amenity, but we see little reason to fixate on them as we deliberated as to their merits at length in our review of the hotel.

Suffice to say, elements of the lobby are beautiful (and grandiose) but it could use some updating. As for the grounds, they are unquestionably beautiful, and perfect for an evening stroll.

grand-floridian-pool

Amenity-wise, the Grand Floridian is a ‘fully loaded’ hotel. While they aren’t the most thematically exciting, it has nice pool areas that rank #4 on our list of the Top 10 Pools at Walt Disney World. The Alice in Wonderland water play area is fun for kids, while the Beach Pool has an adult vibe.

Grand Floridian’s fine dining game is strong. Victoria & Albert’s is far and away the best restaurant at Walt Disney World, and one of the most acclaimed restaurants in all of central Florida. Likewise, Citricos and Narcoossee’s are both highly regarded. (For what it’s worth, we far prefer the latter of the two.)

Mizner’s Lounge is an underrated place to unwind and grab drinks, especially while the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra plays. Counter service dining at Gasparilla Island Grill has (historically) been so-so, but we’re hearing rumblings that this has improved dramatically since its recent refurbishment. (Stay tuned for our thoughts on that.) Regardless, the Grand Floridian still ranks behind only Animal Kingdom Lodge in terms of overall dining among Walt Disney World hotels.

As you might be able to gather from these amenities, and our general tone about the resort and its luxury and sophistication, we do not view the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as a great option if you’re doing Walt Disney World with Kids and are primarily concerned with their reaction to the hotel. Conversely, and for those same reasons, it’s an excellent option for Honeymooning at Walt Disney World.

villas-grand-floridian-dawn-beach

Another upside to the Villas at Grand Floridian is that you’re within a very easy walk of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, so if you want a more casual or light-hearted dining experience (or just something tonally different to enjoy) that hotel’s grounds and dining options are easily accessible (it’s maybe a 10 minute walk) from the villas.

That same location makes it slightly more of a commute to the monorail terminal, located in the main lobby of Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, but it’s hardly inconvenient.

Even with that walk, the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa scores huge points for being on the Magic Kingdom monorail line. There’s also boat transportation available, as well as (shared) bus transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Overall, the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa address nearly every complaint we had about the Grand Floridian in our review of that hotel, and make those complaints left unaddressed less significant by virtue of the significantly lower nightly rate. While we were inclined to grade on a curve here due to lower pricing, that wasn’t even necessary. About the only quibbles we have with the Grand Floridian’s Villas are the cheap look of the building’s exterior, and that the Victorian theme may not appeal to Disney’s main family demographic. However, that last one isn’t really a complaint so much as the ‘something for everyone, but not everything for everyone’ nature of Walt Disney World. All things considered, these villas score at or near the top of all Disney Vacation Club/Deluxe Villa properties at Walt Disney World. If you’ve stayed or visited the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, what did you think?


23 Responses to “Villas at Grand Floridian Review”
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