Dust off that monocle and button up those frilly lace cuffs because we’re headed to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa!
Grand Floridian Resort rooms underwent a major refurbishment throughout the first half of 2014. Above is what they look like now.
This is what they looked like before.
This particular room is a “dormer.” In this case, it features a vaulted ceiling and private balcony and is slightly smaller than standard rooms. All of the other amenities are present. A tour of the room:
Two queen beds are standard.
Along with the desk and chair.
A bedside table and an old iHome separate the beds.
Looking toward the television.
The usual fridge is hidden inside.
One more look at the bed.
Dual sinks and a large mirror in the vanity area around the corner.
Twinings Green Tea, in addition to Joffrey’s Coffee.
Slightly upscale bath products.
From the air.
The bath/shower/toilet area.
They did a nice job with the refurbishment – the colors and furnishings feel a little more regal, the lighting is less harsh, and everything “feels” newer and nicer.
Of course, pricing has risen to heights higher than most people can afford:
Rack rate on the cheapest room with the worst view during the least expensive season is $517. If you wanted to book that same room tonight (Saturday February 21st), it would cost you $696, or $179 more due to higher demand. If you wanted a theme park view, the same size room pictured above would run you an appalling $937 per night. Add tax and six nights runs you $6,324.75.
So is it worth it? No. Or yes. Somebody must think so – otherwise Disney wouldn’t be able to command these kinds of rates. I enjoyed walking around the resort with an air of pompousness, even if people staying at the All-Stars weren’t directly aware that I was undeniably better than them for a few hours. That sort of “I’m better than you” mentality isn’t going to be listed under features of any resort, but it has a lot to do with why people shell out this kind of money to stay at the resort. Or spend money on most luxuries for that matter. Nobody “needs” a Louis V after all.
Fresh flowers are a nice touch.
And it’s hard to put a price on waking up to this view in the morning.
Or this one if you spring for the lagoon view.
On the quick service front, the resort offers one truly hidden gem – the Beach Pool Bar:
The Grilled Fresco Chicken Sandwich and House-made Crab Cake Sandwich might be the two best quick service sandwiches on property. The Florida Escabeche is a nice snack. Even the burgers see more attention to detail than most with the addition of real applewood-smoked bacon, Tillamook Cheddar, and beefsteak tomatoes and the nuggets have a variety of potential sauces like guava barbecue and thai chili.
One thing to note is that the location is incredibly slow in preparing and delivering the food to your table. Expect to wait 20 to 25 minutes for anything that isn’t pre-packaged. Operating hours vary, but expect the grill portion to be open at least from 11am to 6pm with the bar serving through 7:30pm.
A Falafel Flatbread similar to Animal Kingdom’s was the chef’s special.
Fruit, vegetables, and dessert.
This time around, I tried the $8.49 Florida Escabeche with Shrimp, Scallops, and Tri-Color Corn Chips.
It’s basically a ceviche with cooked shrimp and scallops, of which there were quite a few mixed in with the acidic tomato and onion marinade. I think this works better as a snack with a cocktail or two at the bar than a meal, but comes recommended.
This trip is again joined by our friends Julia and Steve, whom you may remember from the BoardWalk Inn review. Steve and Lisa both ordered the Grilled Fresco Chicken Sandwich – Marinated Sliced Tomatoes, Pesto, Avocado and Provolone served with French Fries, House-made Chips or Cucumber Salad.
These pictures are terrible, but it’s a great sandwich. Fresh, thick cut avocado, crunchy greens, marinated tomatoes, and a juicy chicken breast topped with melted provolone. DEELISH.
Julia ordered the Angus Cheeseburger with most of the toppings on the side. Unlike most Disney burgers, it wasn’t grilled to death and she enjoyed it more than her Beaches and Cream burger from last month.
They were unfortunately out of crab cake sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, which seemed like poor planning on somebody’s part. For less than twelve bucks, I’m not sure there’s a more satisfying meal on property if you like that sort of thing.
Around the corner, you can order the same food items, in addition to a pretty standard bar menu.
Standard pool bar menu.
If you enjoy beer, you’ll want to look for the rotating Cigar City Special Release tap.
In this instance, it was the Minaret Extra Special Bitter on nitro – one of the prettiest beers I’ve ever seen. Tasty, too. Hopefully InBev won’t buy them out.
Gasparilla Island Grill is the main quick service location, open 24 hours.
A 2013 refurbishment upped the classiness of the space, and perhaps more importantly, removed the noisy arcade games. Menus for each meal are available here. It’s a decent option if you’re staying at the resort, but I think Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary serves better food in a more interesting atmosphere if you’re looking for fast food outside Magic Kingdom. Captain Cook’s menu is also a bit more inspired.
Citricos is one of two signature restaurants at the resort.
Narcoossee’s out on the water is the other signature. This post features reviews of both Narcoossee’s and Victora & Albert’s.
Citricos during the day.
It’s difficult to capture the colors in the evening lighting, but a few tables do have decent views outside of the courtyard pool and potentially Cinderella Castle and the fireworks in the distance. I wouldn’t book Citricos with the expectation that you’ll have much of a fireworks view – Narcoossee’s and California Grill are better for that.
According to “The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit 2015,” penned in part by yours truly:
If you’re having trouble synthesizing all the information in the various posts on this site or over at yourfirstvisit.net, you might want to pick up a copy. I guarantee you’ll get 15 bucks worth of value out of it. The Kindle version will see a free update next week with new theme park ticket pricing and a variety of other changes to make sure you continue to have the most up-to-date information possible.
Citricos dinner menu:
Compare the menu above to one from January 2013:
Many of the dishes are similar in name, but each features new sides and preparations with each season.
Unlike most signature restaurants that bow out from creating unique cocktails, Citricos offers nearly a dozen variations that you won’t find elsewhere.
The Florida Manhattan dressed up with Local Small Batch Palm Ridge Whiskey, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, and Luxardro Cherry is a step above the usual Rye Manhattan found on most resort lounge menus.
Lisa ordered the $40 Oak-grilled Florida Swordfish – Provençal Vegetables, Plump Israeli Couscous, and Bright Citrus-marinated Shellfish Frutti di Mare. I won’t bore you with the details since it’s likely the presentations will change before you get over here, but everything tasted terrific.
It’s a dish she still raves about.
Steve ordered the $38 Berkshire Pork Two Ways Cannellini Cassoulet – Rotisserie Roasted Tenderloin, Slow-braised Belly with Cannellini Beans, Anson Mills Cheese Grits and Braised Escarole, and Pork Natural Reduction. Another excellent dish.
Julia ordered the $13 Arancini – Sicilian Street Food – crispy Risotto with Sweet Italian Sausage, Creamy Mozzarella, and Poma Rosa Tomato Purée. This is a different presentation than what’s historically been offered – the dish usually arrives with three smaller balls that makes it a little easier to share.
I ordered the $46 Crispy Pan-fried Veal Chop Elephante – Butter-mashed Bonaito, Baby Rainbow Carrots, Roasted Cipollini Onions, Citrus Butter, and Madeira Sauce. This is, without a doubt, the best tasting entree I’ve been served property-wide.
Dessert and drinks:
A Glenmorangie 25-year. Just kidding.
After a heavy meal, we finished with the $10 Tasting of Gelato – featuring Italian Vanilla Bean, Cappuccino, and Raspberry – a relatively light end to a decadent meal.
Citricos has a bar area near the front of the restaurant that serves the full menu should you be looking for a less formal meal.
Mizner’s tends to be a lackluster experience these days. Disney added the pricey Villas next door without adding any bar or restaurant capacity to the reosrt, seriously increasing demand in the early evening at what is available. With the band playing and people lingering, it’s unlikely you’re going to find a table between 5:30-9pm. A couple of us ended up standing in the corner while others sat in the windowsill. With one bartender and one server on staff, it took more than 45 minutes for one round of drinks. It’s an embarrassing lack of service for just about any lounge, let alone Disney’s flagship resort. Anyway, if Mizner’s is swamped, try Citricos next door. It’s a more comfortable atmosphere and the drinks are better. Plus they serve food. And you can get the drink to go.
There are several very good signature restaurants on property. And for the prices they charge…they should be good. If you’re looking for a signature restaurant in the Magic Kingdom area that focuses on food instead of resting their laurels on potential fireworks views, I think you have to take a hard look at Citricos. They do just about everything right.
What was on the menu at Victoria & Albert’s:
Where the prix fixe price is up to $150/guest from $135 and they no longer accept Tables in Wonderland.
A flower picture that doesn’t really work as a segue to a review of breakfast at 1900 Park Fare.
The breakfast and dinner buffet is located on the ground floor just inside the entrance:
Breakfast usually features Alice, Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger.
Dinner is Cinderella, Prince Charming, Fairy Godmother, and the Tremaines. I have a dinner review here.
If you choose, your group can take a picture in front of this backdrop before being seated. No characters appear out here or anything.
Awkward buffet food pictures:
Plain low fat yogurt, nonfat strawberry yogurt, and cottage cheese.
Roast Beef Hash – Roast Beef, Potato, Onion, Red and Green Pepper; Scramble Egg, Lobster Benedict – Poached Egg, Buttermilk Biscuit, and Hollandaise over Lobster Sauce.
Strawberry Soup – Strawberry Puree with Yogurt and Sour Cream.
Cheese Grits, Oatmeal, Smoked Salmon with capers, diced red onions, and chopped hard boiled eggs.
Plain and Onion Bagels, Whipped Cream Cheese, Salmon Cream Cheese, and Boursin Cream Cheese.
Custom made omelettes and eggs to order.
Breakfast pizza on the far left, cheesy scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and Mickey waffles.
Hash brown casserole, biscuits, and gravy.
Cheese blintz with strawberry topping.
Maple French Toast, Pancakes (covered), bananas foster, and old fashioned syrup.
Croissants and muffins.
Bread pudding, sticky cinnamon buns, and pastries.
Two major disappointments:
“Lobster Eggs Benedict” is advertised on the menus online and in front of the restaurant, but once you read the description above the item in the buffet line, you realize that the only thing lobster about it is the sauce. Not even a shred of actual lobster to be found and no lobster flavor to speak of. Very disappointing.
The menu also notes a carving station with ham…but the ham is actually sitting in some kind of liquid and it’s serve-yourself with tongs. Both of those reduced the value of the $26.99 breakfast considerably from my point of view as those were the two things I was looking forward to eating. Otherwise, the quality of the food is somewhere between resort quick service and slightly above resort quick service quality. That’s not a huge diss necessarily as quick service breakfasts are usually pretty good. But we’re talking about the same bacon, pancakes, waffles, sausage, pastries, etc. that you would get for breakfast at All-Star Sports.
Character interaction is what you would expect – each of the five characters come by the table to interact and take pictures. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger are otherwise easy to meet in the UK Pavilion at Epcot and also appear at Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Alice is available in the UK or out in front of Mad Tea Party. Mary Poppins is easy to meet in the UK Pavilion or Main Street.
Mad Hatter is rarer and doesn’t ordinarily meet, so you do get that. Otherwise, this is an easy way to get pictures with five characters without having to track them down elsewhere and wait.
I’m not a big fan of the restaurant’s atmosphere. It’s windowless and a variety of carousel animals serve as most of the theming.
At $26.99 for adults and $14.99 for kids ages 3-9, 1900 Park Fare is a reasonable value for breakfast when you consider the all-you-can-eat aspect, in addition to bottomless non-alcoholic beverages and the characters. I was expecting a couple high quality signature items and the restaurant didn’t deliver, but if you lower your expectations on that front you may want to give it a go.
Overall, a stay at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is going to be somewhere between a serious splurge and completely unobtainable for most of us. There’s nothing about the quality of the room or level of service that commands the $500+/night price, but there are people willing to pay, so there’s really no use in debating it. One of the unfortunate aspects of Disney resort culture is that you’re just as likely to run into an unpleasant cast member that has no idea what they’re doing at All-Star Music as the Grand Floridian. At most resorts that command $750+/night elsewhere, you’re only going to encounter the best, most capable employees there to make you feel as special as possible. At the Grand Floridian, whoever checking you in is probably going to be wearing a red “Earning My Ears” ribbon.
But if you’ve got the money, there’s nothing quite like it.