Grand Floridian Construction, Gasparilla Grill, Hollywood Studios Update(?) – 1/20/13

My girlfriend will be along for this update.

We’ll join her and Mary Poppins at the Grand Floridian Resort to check out 90% of Disney’s current construction projects.

Construction of the Grand Flo Villas seems to be going well, though it’s rare to actually see anyone working on them.

Not that it does many of us any good, but DVC here is slated for a late 2013 open.

I would guess that means early November.  This could be it for a while on the DVC front – soft occupancy numbers have the suits concerned.  But DVC revenue is a major driving force in the Parks and Resorts segment.  Erase new DVC down payments and that segment looks weak, resulting in lower earnings forecasts and a lower stock price.  So on one hand Disney would like to build DVC units at Fort Wilderness, the Polynesian, and elsewhere, but they also need people to purchase those units.  And while South American attendance is only going up, less than 2% of DVC sales come from down south.

The view from your $932/night Standard Club Level room.

I’m sure it will all fit in once it’s completed.

Not so sure what they’re up to here.  The beach area has been walled off for months and months.

With Gasparilla Grill and (No) Games reopening last month, Mizner’s Lounge has returned to its former glory.  They now serve a limited food menu in addition to the standard drink menu.

You may remember that Disney moved Gasparilla’s tables and chairs into Mizner’s while Gasparilla was closed for refurbishment.

Otherwise, most of the main building is as we left it.

Sandy Cove was closed for refurbishment for some amount of time some amount of time ago, but has reopened with a much brighter look.

The lighting in here used to be pretty depressing.

Some of this resort merchandise is new…I think.  I don’t remember all the brown stuff – mugs, bags, and shirts.

Not sure if that means we’ll be seeing a lot of brown at the DVC.

The original cream, blue, and pink merchandise seemed to fit the theme better.

With Kodak’s sponsorship going the way of Bell System’s, I wonder if Disney will continue selling the disposable cameras that nobody has used since the Bar Mitzvah circuit of 2004.

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is Disney’s Flagship Resort and their Courtyard Pool smack dab in the middle of it has been behind these construction walls since August 24th.

It won’t reopen until the end of March.  Universal is basically building the entire Transformers attraction in less time than it takes Disney to refurbish a quiet pool.

No restaurants in the DVC right?

Citricos dinner:


Victoria & Albert’s:

Not even sure where to start.

Grand Floridian Cafe lunch:


Dinner:

Drinks:

I have a signed bottle of Lasseter Paysage I can open if anyone wants to come over.  It’s better than Cars 2, but not by much.

The layout of the Grand Floridian Resort has always confused me a bit.  Gasparilla Grill, the resort’s quick service, is located outside the main building.  Well, it’s part of the main building, but you have to go outside to go inside it.  Unless you’re dropping $72,000 for a room in the main building, it’s probably more convenient.

Gasparilla Grill and Games is now Gasparilla Island Grill.

The arcade portion is now much smaller and detached from the main dining room.  This is by far the smallest arcade I’ve seen on property and one has to wonder if all arcades are on their way out.

Inside, the area is much more pleasant.

It used to look like this.

NASCAR sat right next to you while you tried to enjoy your lobster mac & cheese.

The new version is 1000x classier with posh chairs, chandeliers, and a brighter atmosphere.

New menu (some of the items on the right change even if the other items don’t):





And I apparently missed descriptions of items 1 through 3, even if the pictures are there.  They are a:

Sirloin Swiss French Dip – Shaved Roast Beef, Swiss Cheese, and Onion Frites on a French Roll with Au Jus and French Fries – $8.99.

Vegetable Lasagna topped with Parmesan Cheese and served with Garlic Ciabatta Bread – $6.99.

Shrimp Stir Fry – Coconut Rice Topped with Shrimp and Peppers in a Garlic Ginger Sauce $8.49.

They had a nice presentation of the side dishes on the left along with the Kids Picks items and soups (soup of the day or chicken noddle).

Unfortunately, none of the items served out at the pool bar during Gasparilla’s refurbishment were added:


Several of those items, including the Crab Cake Sandwich pictured above, seemed more upscale than a Pork Flatbread or Reuben Hot Dog.  And the Crab Cake Sandwich was quite good.  All of the lobster items are off the menu.  Word is that they had to throw out pounds and pounds of lobster in order to make the Lobster Macaroni & Cheese and Lobster Cobb Salad.  One would think they could either make less or simply share product with Citricos upstairs or Narcoossee’s outside.  But that makes too much sense doesn’t it?

I opted for the Shrimp Stir Fry this trip – Coconut rice topped with Shrimp and Peppers in a Garlic Ginger Sauce – $8.49.

They could have done a lot more with this one.  There are six small-ish shrimp on the left.  All of the dried coconut was bunched up on this side as well – making me think it was an afterthought merely sprinkled on top of the rice.  It’s otherwise a lot of pepper on a bed of tasteless rice.  The sauce had a bit of a tang, but there was nothing unique about it.  It wasn’t a particularly filling meal and one of the worst I’ve had at the resorts, which usually serve better food than the theme parks.  I think people staying at the Grand Floridian should expect some swankier items at their quick service.  The Create Your Own Salad is a nice option, but they don’t even offer shrimp or salmon like they do at other resorts – only chicken or beef.  Weird considering my shrimp stir fry.

The Tabbouleh Pita was better.  I wouldn’t expect that a less than stellar meal at Gasparilla would be a deal breaker for anyone considering the Grand Floridian, but if you’re planning to visit the Monorail Deluxes, I’d plan a meal at Kona Cafe Sushi Bar, Contempo Cafe, or Captain Cook’s if you’re looking to do quick service.  Lunch at Kona Cafe, The Wave, and Grand Floridian Cafe is also fairly inexpensive.

On the plus side, the interior redesign makes the space much more pleasant.

And of course, the seating area overlooking the water is still beautiful.

Narcoossee’s is also located out on the water to the right of the boat dock that takes guests to Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian Resort.

Menu:


Pricing is similar to Le Cellier, which we saw now has a more expensive “all day menu.” Since Narcoossee’s is outside of the theme parks at a ritzier locale, it would probably be a “nicer” meal.   On the other hand, Le Cellier is so dark that other visitors won’t be able to see your Donald hat and Mickey Crocs.  Just don’t talk about them because the tables are right on top of each other.

Another pleasant visit to the Grand Floridian, which isn’t as high brow as one might expect.  Most of the people staying here probably can’t really afford it either.  In the evening, things definitely “feel” a little more upscale though.  That isn’t a bad thing by any means, but keep in mind that hundreds of people are going to be around dressed up for dinner at some of Disney’s most expensive restaurants.

The Polynesian remains my favorite Disney resort, but I would never pay that much money to stay there!

Changing gears, we’ll head over to Hollywood Studios, where the RFID turnstile conversion continues.

It’s been about five weeks since I’ve set foot in Hollywood Studios, but it might as well have been five years.

Nothing has changed.

Nothing is coming.

Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend was significantly busier than Disney was expecting, to the point where more people passed through Magic Kingdom’s turnstiles by 10:40am yesterday (Monday) than they were expecting for the entire day.  Peak waits were: Dumbo: 110 minutes; Jungle Cruise: 90; Space Mountain: 140; Big Thunder: 120; Barnstormer: 70; Peter Pan’s Flight Pan: 90, Pooh: 75; Journey of the Little Mermaid: 120; Enchanted Tales with Belle: 70.  Disney extended the close at Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom on Saturday on the day of.  They extended the close at Magic Kingdom on Sunday and today (Tuesday) as well.  Crowds at all four Parks have been thousands higher than expected each of the last four days.  Blame the College Program, South American tour groups, and the holiday.  Things should die down by Thursday as we move into what is historically one of the least crowded weeks of the year.  This past December was the busiest on record.  January is looking to be the same.

Studios’ crowds eased in the afternoon – this is a 30 minute wait for Tower of Terror at 4pm.

But it “felt” quite busy at times as the tour groups marched around in waves.  The tour groups clear out just in time for President’s Day Weekend.

Disney may have gotten a little too aggressive with their theater roll out of Disney classics in 3D.  The Little Mermaid 3D was recently canceled.

Disney Jr. Live on Stage is closed for refurbishment through February 13th.  Sophia and Doc McStuffins are slated to join the cast.  I still haven’t seen a single piece of merchandise in the Parks for either.

Ralph and Vanellope continue greeting in the Animation Academy to lines that seem to be getting shorter.  They continue greeting through 6pm.  Sorcerer Mickey meets through close and Frozone and Mr. Incredible meet until at least 5:45pm.  Visit after 5pm to find shorter waits without wasting time first thing in the morning.  Lines are longest from 10am – 4pm.

Okay, I lied.  This poster is new.  The film comes out in November.  Hopefully it was cheap to produce.

Merida merchandise is virtually gone from the Parks.  Other than these dolls, there wasn’t any outside Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  Today at The Emporium at Magic Kingdom, I didn’t see any.

This is the line for that Pirates of the Caribbean thing that we visited in November.  This is easily a 45+ minute wait.  It’s worth waiting 15 minutes for in the afternoon, but not much more than that.  Unfortunately, the name recognition has caused waits to be 30 minutes most of the day with the extremely limited capacity.  You can guarantee that virtually nobody knows what they’re in line for.  Most visitors are going to want to prioritize Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror in the morning.  Assuming you FASTPASS Toy Story Mania for around 9:45am – 10:45am, you could do Pirates after riding the three headliners in the standby lines on your way back to Toy Story.  Otherwise, save it for as late in the evening as possible.  Afternoon waits are going to be 20 to 45 minutes.

A 105 minute posted wait.

With an actual wait closer to 45.

A sizable crowd for the Backlot Tour right before it stops accepting people at 4:45pm.

Conversely, five people in line for the Cars meet.

Closer to 15 minutes for Phineas and Ferb.

As close as I’m getting to being on stage at Jedi Training Academy.

With a 20 minute wait at Star Tours.

Bus stops.  Sorry the Studios update wasn’t more exciting.  I’m trying to think of what could bring us back.  Star Wars Weekends in May?

Oh, here are some 2013 plates.

And coasters.

The Magic Kingdom update may be slightly more interesting.

Comments

  1. Billyp says

    Thats about as exciting as DHS ever gets for me…I actually dread going to that park for some reason…after I ride TSM, ToT and RnR I am usually ready to leave…on the flipside I could spend a week in Epcot and never want to leave

  2. Allan says

    Now the kids are older it is; TSM, ToT, RnR, and ST and are usually leaving by 11:30 for an afternoon at the pool and evening at DTD. Osbourne Lights is the only time of year that will be in DHS later than that.

  3. All I wanted was a Pepsi says

    “Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend was significantly busier than Disney was expecting, to the point where more people passed through Magic Kingdom’s turnstiles by 10:40am yesterday (Monday) than they were expecting for the entire day. This past December was the busiest on record. January is looking to be the same.”

    Just curious….where do you get stats like this? Is this published somewhere or do you have access to a WDW crowd-management type? This material is my favorite thing that you publish….little tidbits of what’s going on in WDW’s brain. However you get it, more please!

  4. Michele says

    Thank you thank you thank you for the GF update, we are staying there in Sept. and I was wondering what the refurb looks like – now I don’t have to offer up an upgrade to you to get pictures!

  5. Psac says

    I have to agree about the arcades being on the way out. It looks like the ESPN Club arcade at the Boardwalk is also going to shrink for the expanded Boardwalk Bakery. Considering most people have a game machine in their pants now (ummm… sounds bad, I mean their phones), I would think the arcade usage will be getting lower and lower.

  6. TIGGR88 says

    “This could be it for a while on the DVC front – soft occupancy numbers have the suits concerned. ”

    “This past December was the busiest on record. January is looking to be the same.”

    I’m curious. Is it just the DVC occupancy numbers that are soft or the on-site hotels as well?
    If the hotels are included, how does that reconcile with the crowd numbers being up in December and January?

    More people staying off-site?
    December and January occupany numbers picking up as well?

    I’d be interested in your thoughts

  7. pfalcioni says

    I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask for a refund on this update.

    Girlfriend promised in first sentence failed to appear.

  8. Rob says

    Was in the parks Jan 2 thru 7th and agree – it was absolutely bonkers. More tour groups/S American contingent than I have ever seen.

    Also, totally agree on Studios – was the only day this past trip that I didn’t totally enjoy, the place just doesn’t do it for me.

  9. Jeremy says

    Thanks for the update!

    I was there for the Marathon and stayed the week. Crowds were bigger than I expected and it was busier compared to last year around the same time… And of course the infamous tour groups made they’re timely appearance. :-)

    Agreed that DHS needs help. It definitely needs an improvement in counter service.

  10. Vinyl Guy says

    I guess with Josh gone for so long, our sarcasm meters are a little rusty.I think the photo of the empty monorail car above the the reference to a girlfriend was supposed to be a hint. And just in case we didn’t get it, the reference to “her and mary Poppins” below a photo of only Mary Poppins was perhaps a second clue that she doesn’t exist. I guess our comments are a sign that everyone wants one for you, Josh.

  11. Trudy says

    Where were those Oswald coasters? Can they be found in lots of stores? Thanks! I’m grateful for any Oswald sightings, as long as they don’t push you over the edge.

  12. Don J. says

    Lots of people complain about DHS but it’s actually one of my family’s favorite parks (second only to Epcot). We like to hit, not necessarily in this order, Tower, Rock ‘n Roller, Movie Ride, Backlot, Star Tours; and we spend some time at One Man’s Dream. We think the shop offerings in DHS are pretty unique; we also just find it fun to walk around, particularly in the Streets of America. Unless you are big show people–we aren’t–it definitely isn’t an all-day park. But so what? Neither is Animal Kingdom. We also think DHS is much more relaxing just as a “park” versus, e.g., the Magic Kingdom. Crowds always seem more manageable and less frenetic.

  13. Sam says

    I don’t think Disney would stop selling the disposable cameras. I would imagine a lot of people get them for their kids to use or have them just in case a persons personal camera malfunctions. Also I read that a lot of resorts are getting more resort specific merchandise, why it’s that dark brown at the GF is beyond me.

  14. RebeccaMcK says

    I like the disposable cameras in a pinch (I used nothing but those on my solo trip when my digital camera was acting up – brought ten home in my carryon and they had to be hand checked at TSA) but good luck finding anyone to develop the film any more. The waterproof ones are great for rainy days and water rides/parks.

    LOL @Ron.

  15. shalom says

    Well now I’m kicking myself for not getting to the Grand Floridian last week. I want one of those mugs!

    The response to some comment at Fantasmic! has hubby thinking about 75% of the crowd was from Brazil. I would say we ran across more families than tour groups, though, but of course tour groups are more obvious and thus potentially easier to avoid. Saw plenty of them tooling around the outlet mall with suitcases, as well; when it comes to U.S. visits, Orlando seems to have a lock on that market.

  16. Micah says

    I know when you will be back to Hollywood Studios … Superbowl Sunday.

    I am sure you will want to prove your recommendations are correct, and that it is one of the slowest days of the entire year there, since an unnamed site (with the initials TP) has them as the least recommended that day. :)

  17. Rob G says

    Thanks for the GF (uh, Grand Floridian, not GirlFriend) update. My wife will be pleased they separated the Arcade from the dining area in Gasparilla. We never stayed at GF, but have eaten at Gasparilla and it was annoying with arcade right there (tho kids loved it).

  18. Andrea says

    I believe you have a girlfriend…someone had to have eaten that 2nd entree you ordered!

    The GF has never appealed to me – and even less so now with DVC and walls everywhere.

    And DHS looks….sad.

    We are going back in August, and for the first time I am feeling quite a bit ho-hum about it. I actually really want to try Universal this time instead. Their new stuff has me wowed. WDW…SOS.

  19. Abby says

    You were not kidding about the parks being busier than recommended. The tour groups I think accounted for a lot of it. I saw them in pretty much every line. Though for some odd reason, thought MK was crazy on Sunday during the day, by 7pm the place cleared out, and we walked on a lot of stuff.

  20. Dr. D says

    Wow, “where’s my water?” theming on the children’s menu! That is wonderful. It is these little touches that have me so excited for our next trip.

    Keep up the good work Josh!

  21. RebeccaMcK says

    @Sam
    We have Walmart and Target – can’t speak for Walmart but at Target if they accept the disposable camera at all, it takes a while (more than a day, sometimes up to a week) to develop the prints.

  22. Roxanne says

    It would have been nice to see an actual meal review of GFC, like maybe from December! Lol. You must have been busy then!

  23. Sam says

    @rebeccaMcK A few months ago I was a courier for a film company who picked up and dropped off film from Walmarts. I know they’ve since switched to having Fedex do it in a lot of places but they should still develop it. It’s likely you’ll find somewhere that will develop it as long as the cameras are still for sale.

  24. Anjie says

    I’m still holding out hope for a Star Wars Land at DHS. How cool would that be? Not going to hold my breath though…

  25. Meghan (affableolive) says

    The crowds were significantly higher. We talked to our bell hop on the way out Sunday and he said that Brazil made it much easier for families and groups to get visitor visas to Florida. All they have to do is buy their plane fare and at the air port they can buy a month pass to FL for up to 6 people at a time. Wednesday-Friday was practically deserted though. Got a lot done.

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