Work continues at The Grand Floridian Resort and Construction Zone. Six and a half months away?
These are the sounds that greet you should you be returning for a peaceful afternoon swim.
Or if you prefer, maybe take up a book on the balcony. Rooms in this building start at $892.13 a night. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why Grand Floridian is rocking Disney’s lowest guest satisfaction ratings these days. Or if you’re still curious, try riding the bus to the Grand Flo from Downtown Disney Marketplace with a stop at Pleasure Island, Typhoon Lagoon, and Wilderness Lodge first. Or if you’re going to Epcot, you could walk to the main building and wait for the Resort Monorail. Then wait for the Monorail to stop at the Magic Kingdom. And then the Contemporary. And then the Transportation and Ticket Center. And then you could transfer over to the Epcot Monorail platform. And then wait for the Epcot Monorail. And then ride the monorail to Epcot. Or if you’re staying at Pop, hop on the bus and you’ll be there in less than 15 minutes. Don’t get me started on the bus that the Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan, Dolphin, and BoardWalk share. These are the people spending the most money on lodging and they have the lousiest transportation on property. For $892.13 a night, Mickey Mouse should be driving your family personally in a limousine with a conveyor belt of appetizers circling the cabin and a Ciroc fountain in the middle.
A wall basically runs from one edge of the property over to the other.
That’s how close “The Annex” will sit next to the Beach Pool. Hopefully they will come up with a better name. “The Annex” is a little too Anne Frank for my tastes. Considering the BCS is calling their college football playoff, “College Football Playoff,” Disney could get away with just calling it, “Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Disney Vacation Club Property.” Or GFR&SDVCP. Sort of rolls off the tongue. I wonder if “New Fantasyland” would exist if Nintendo didn’t call their new Super Mario Bros. games, “New Super Mario Bros.” Maybe attendance at Carousel of Progress would be boosted by a name change to “New Carousel of Progress.” Probably not.
I was happy to see that the Beach Pool’s bar continues serving up some excellent food for lunch.
Gasparilla Grill is kind of lousy, even since its recent refurbishment, but the pool bar offers some unique, potentially healthy options.
You’re not going to do much better than a Crab Cake Sandwich full of crab for ten bucks.
I’ve seen some discussion as to whether this Alice in Wonderland play area “belongs at Disney’s Flagship Resort.”
I think it’s totes cute, but whatever. The Grand Flo is full of people who also can’t afford to stay there. It has its share of uppity folks, predominantly from “foreign countries,” but you’ll fit in just fine with your $40 Louis V Speedy and Dior Demoiselles purchased from your neighbor’s purse party.
Disney finally completed construction of the courtyard pool.
It’s fairly basic, though larger than a lot of resort feature pools.
It’s now encircled by a white plastic fence that is currently covered.
It continues to have its own pool bar and plenty of lounge chairs circling it.
One small section on the left is zero entry. Water fountains gently shoot water upwards in the same area.
And there’s a hot tub.
Menu land, should you be planning a visit to one of the restaurants in the near future:
1900 Park Fare:
Grand Floridian Cafe lunch:
Victoria & Albert’s:
We’ll hop the monorail and head to the Contemporary.
Construction continues on the exterior of the Contemporary at the same time as a full room refurbishment progresses on the inside.
Bay Lake Tower has a new check-in and concierge desk. When members first voted on whether they wanted a separate check-in/concierge desk at Bay Lake Tower, they voted it down due to higher costs. As those staying at Bay Lake became increasingly fed up with having to schlep their luggage from the Contemporary over here, Disney decided to add a desk themselves. Don’t worry – they’ll recoup the costs.
You can now do anything here at Bay Lake Tower that you could do over at the Contemporary’s first floor check-in/concierge area.
There isn’t otherwise much to see or do in the lobby. There is, of course, a separate desk to sell you more Vacation Club.
Luckily, all Disney Vacation Club members using their own points to stay at any DVC property can continue using the Top of the World Lounge through 2013. The only exceptions are July 3 & 4 and December 30 & 31, where access is limited to Bay Lake Tower guests. Take a trip up to the Top of the World Lounge in this post.
I can appreciate the uniqueness of the A-frame design of the Contemporary Tower, but it’s always felt a little concrete-jungle to me from the fourth floor concourse.
All rooms, both in the Tower and Garden Wing, have been or will be refurbished. This is what they look like.
You’ve got to love the cheese wheel Mickey pillows.
The television off to the right side of the living area might present some eye strain for those sitting on the other bed. Bring those binoculars from Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The subtle A-frame design curtains were my favorite new addition. I would totally steal them. For whatever reason, the Contemporary Resort continues to be the only Deluxe resort that doesn’t offer its own uniquely branded merchandise. You’d think the Contemporary would be among the easiest to design. So take the curtains. Disney deserves it.
The bathroom is spacious, though I prefer the layout where the vanity area and shower/bath area are separate. I’m not doing my makeup while mom showers. I’m just saying.
Hot dogs are a little more difficult to cook with the Cusinart pod-style coffee machines, but not impossible I’m happy to report. And the iron-grilled panini is still an option as well. Love those char marks! Look for my upcoming e-book, “Resort Room Cooking For 1.”
The only other problem I think you’ll run into at the Contemporary is a lack of drawer space. But you’ve got two large closets and the suitcase stand thing available.
Hard to beat a Theme Park View. Larger, where you can also get a better idea of the size of the Magic Kingdom bus loop construction: http://www.easywdw.com/reports7/themeparkview.jpg.
Moving over to the Garden Wing, this is what the new hall carpet looks like. It’s a little Green Eggs and Ham.
The old stuff down another hallway, where the refurbishment is currently ongoing.
We’re now inside a Garden Wing Deluxe Room, which I had never stepped in before. Garden Wing Standard View rooms start at $371. Garden Wing Garden Views start at $425, while Garden Wing Deluxe Rooms start at $480. All are cheaper than Tower rooms, which start at $514 for Bay Lake View or $570 for Theme Park View.
The furnishings in this refurbished room are similar, with the exception of the king bed replacing the two queens. You get 629 square feet in these rooms that also have two large windows. That’s about 200 more square feet than a standard room in the Tower or the rest of the Garden Wing and just about exactly twice as large as a Moderate room.
The television is also much larger and more convenient to watch in the living area. The sofa pulls out into a queen size bed, so this room sleeps four officially.
The bathroom is similar. There’s some room to store toiletries down below, but not much next to the sinks. While the flat basin-style sinks might be modern-ish, I’m not sure how functional they are.
The other Deluxe feature is the addition of a stall shower. This is not the best picture of it.
And the standard tub-shower.
Other than the distance from the Garden Wing to the buses, monorail, and the Tower in general, the biggest deterring factor here is the lack of balconies. It looks like there are balconies from afar, but there is nowhere to step out. You’re just a minute or two to the pool and boat dock over to Magic Kingdom though.
First floor rooms have patios.
To compare size and decor, this is a Garden Wing 1-Bedroom Suite that has not been refurbished. Note the different headboard, bedding, pillows, and curtains.
Looking into the living area.
Dining room area.
One sofa pulls out into a queen.
The other into a daybed.
The bathroom off of the bedroom should look familiar. It has a separate “water closet” area with a sliding door (that doesn’t lock).
A skinny shower is on the left.
The bathroom off of the living room, also with a separate “water closet.”
This time it’s a tub-shower.
Similar closets with a wider hallway.
One last look at the dining area.
The view is not quite as good as the Tower, but the water and trees are a bit more serene than a parking lot and Cinderella Castle in the distance.
Menu at The Wave.
Chef Mickey’s Breakfast.
Dinner. Two adults, an eleven-year-old, and a five-year-old would run you a cool $169.32 with tax and 18% tip.
Hopping back on the Monorail, we now find ourselves at the Polynesian Resort for lunch at Kona Cafe. Kona is a favorite of many for a few reasons. First, it’s located just a few steps from the Monorail on the second floor of one of Disney’s classic resorts. The Polynesian is a destination unto itself and lunch at Kona is a great excuse to check it out.
Second, lunch is pretty inexpensive. A much worse turkey sandwich would run you $9.39 or so at most quick services, including Cosmic Ray’s at Magic Kingdom. For about $2.50 more here, you’ll receive “Kona Turkey Sandwich – Turkey Breast Roasted daily and served on House-made Bread with Caramelized Onion, Purple Haze-Hoisin Mayonnaise, Arugula, Tomato, and Bacon served with Asian Pear Slaw.” That’s just one example.
You’re not going to find a Lapu Lapu in Fantasyland.
Kona has been testing sushi during lunch hours. They weren’t when we visited on April 16th, but hopefully it will be a permanent addition. Note that they prepare the sushi in the restaurant now instead of out at the sushi bar itself. A recent review of dinner at Kona along with the various menus is available in this post.
Anthony from Sorcerers of the Magic King Blog joins us along with Spencer from WDW Fan Boys. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom blog is great for updates on what’s going on with the game. They broke the story that limited edition cards would be available during last year’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, for example. The Fan Boys are mostly locals that offer a unique view of Disney World in weekly podcasts.
The $7.49 Pot Stickers – Work-seared Pork and Vegetable Dumplings with a creamy Soy-Ginger Sauce. They were very good, but I thought the portion size was chintzy for the price. That’s one thing I’ve noticed about a lot of Disney table service restaurant appetizers – they tend to run about half the price of an entree and come with 15% of the food. I think you could reasonably expect six stickers to come out of the kitchen for nearly eight dollars. Anyway, the one I had was full of pork and slightly sweet, crunchy vegetables. The sauce was creamy and light without all the saltiness you get from dunking in soy sauce. The seaweed salad on the side is more than just an accoutrement – dig in, it’s very good. For flavor, I’d highly recommend them. Just be aware you’re getting four for the price.
Anthony ordered the Polynesian Plate Lunch- Grilled Teriyaki Steak with Grilled Pineapple Salsa, Sticky Rice, and Pasta Salad. As I recall, he would have liked more sauce on the steak and the pasta salad was on the bland side. The rice was dry and also could have used sauce or something to liven it up a bit. Otherwise, he was satisfied with the meal – good, but not great. You’re not going to do much better on Disney property for 15 bucks though, particularly when steak is involved.
Spencer ordered the Polynesian Plate Lunch with Pan-fried Chicken with Coconut and Mango Sauces. He also remarked that the rice was dry and could have used a dash of something. It otherwise looks good to me.
I went with the $15.49 Kona Surf and Turf Burger Deluxe – Our Grilled Angus Burger topped with Brie, spicy Fried Shrimp, Black Garlic Aioli, and Asian Pear Slaw. Although the entrees are listed with a side dish, you should have your choice of the slaw, sweet potato fries, or pasta salad.
The Pear Slaw was surprisingly fresh and crisp. I was expecting something more finely diced than this. Instead, it was full of crispy pears, red onions, carrots, peppers, and whatever else. It was a much lighter, tastier option than french fries.
The server asked how I wanted the burger cooked, which I feel like is always a good sign. I asked for medium and perhaps for the first time in my Disney World touring career, the burger was actually cooked to medium instead of bone dry. I’m not sure the brie was the way to go. Novel, sure, but slippery and the wrong kind of ooey-gooey. Had I not typed “spicy fried shrimp” in the description. I wouldn’t have mentioned any spiciness. There really didn’t seem to be any. Other than those minor quibbles, this was approximately 307.4% better than your standard Disney quick service burger. The bun was fresh and held the burger together well. The greens on top provided color and a nice crunch. It was extremely filling.
The Black Garlic Aioli was not the most attractive sauce I’ve seen in my life. Overall, I was expecting more flavor. The sum of the parts didn’t seem to live up to the potential. Still, it was a hearty, interesting burger.
Service was friendly and efficient. Kona was maybe 20% full, if that, at 1:30pm. That’s another reason why Kona is a great choice for lunch outside of the theme parks – no reservation required.
That’s what’s going on around the Monorail these days.