We’ll visit Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to check out a new Disney Vacation Club Studio and hit the Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto patio. We’ll return for a look inside Trader Sam’s and for a walk around the resort to see what’s changed during construction.
Rooms in the Tahiti, Rapa Nui and Tokelau longhouses were converted into Disney Vacation Club Studio rooms starting back around when the rest of the rooms in the other longhouses underwent extensive refurbishment themselves. Above is what a Studio looks like.
Above is the greener color scheme in the regular, recently refurbished rooms.
Regular rooms also have a second queen bed in place of the sleeper sofa, chair and desk instead of table with two chairs, daybed instead of pull down Murphy-style bed, and an additional dresser in the living space.
Dave from yourfirstvisit.net was nice enough to invite me up to check out and photograph the room he was staying in. I will defer to many of his thoughts in his review at: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2015/04/28/photo-tour-of-a-studio-at-disneys-polynesian-villas-and-bungalows/. There’s really no better source for thorough, consistent resort reviews than Dave’s site.
Parties of two willing to share a bed are best served by the studio’s configuration, I think.
With the sleeper sofa folded up, you have a lot more space to move around and a potentially more comfortable couch to sit on. For those with more than two adults in the room, the downside is that the sofa bed is less comfortable than a regular bed for anyone sleeping on it. Finding a place to put the discarded cushions and coffee table can also be a little awkward after the bed is folded down. But the configuration of most any other DVC Studio would be the same.
The table, chairs, pull down bed, and television.
According to Dave, the bed is suitable for someone as tall as around 5’9″. So two adults and a child could comfortably share the room without the need to pull out the sofa bed.
The television is the biggest I’ve seen in any Disney hotel room.
The iHome finally supports the 6. There’s also wall outlets and USB charging stations all over the room.
One other big difference between Standard and Studio rooms is the kitchenette, which adds a sink, toaster, and microwave, in addition to the roll of paper towels and some cleaning products.
Just some coffee mugs, glasses, paper plates, and plastic cutlery.
All of what’s included. Guests paying cash receive daily housekeeping, while those staying on points follow the usual DVC housekeeping schedule.
The Polynesian Studios are the first with two separate bath areas. This one houses a shower and sink area.
Blow dryer and whatnot.
This larger bathroom space is closer to the door and is where you’ll find the toilet, in addition to a shower/tub combo and another sink area.
I think I prefer the oranges and blues of the Studios compared to the predominantly green shades in the Standard rooms.
The art is a little more fun and playful than the regular rooms.
They should sell these in the gift shop.
Dave noted that storage space is somewhat limited. You’ve got this one closet.
And a little bit of storage under the bed. And that’s it.
Outside, each Studio ha a balcony or patio that spans the length of the room.
A couple of chairs and a table.
Considering the bungalows out on the water run a cool $2,000/night minimum, these are the accommodations most Vacation Club users will experience.
Overall, I think I would have gone with just the one bathroom in order to open up the living space a bit. At 447 square feet, Polynesian Studios are officially the largest on property, beating Old Key West’s 390 square feet and Grand Floridian Resort’s 374 square feet, but they don’t “feel” overwhelmingly larger in my estimation.
I stayed in a Kidani Studio a few nights ago and it “felt” like it was similarly sized, despite being more than 80 square feet smaller. So don’t necessarily push the Polynesian to the top of your list based on square footage, though the second shower and sink area may prove useful.
Otherwise, Polynesian Studio cash rates are similar to Standard room pricing. If you can find points to rent, you may be able to stay for a larger discount and of course, Disney Vacation Club would like to convince you that there’s money to be saved by committing to a lengthy contract with a big down payment.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto soft-opened at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort back at the end of March and officially opened at the end of April. It’s located past Captain Cook’s on the first floor.
This may or may not help. Basically, as you arrive from the front, you walk straight back and take a left. If you’re arriving via the monorail, you’d head down a floor and proceed in the same direction. If you’re arriving via watercraft, you would walk down the dock and arrive at the scene in the picture below.
Trader Sam’s opens at 4pm. For about 30 minutes prior to that (or as long as it takes for the first person to decide it’s time to start waiting in line), a line forms outside. To get to the line, you head in the direction of the bar and keep walking past the entrance through the door outside. There should be a cast member outside the bar directing you in that direction. You’ll see this line off to the left immediately. The first 50 people will get their hand stamped close to 4pm and will then be led inside once it’s time to open. The bar and patio operate through 12am with 18+ only inside after 8pm.
Patio seating is first come, first served outside next to the outdoor seating for Captain Cook’s. You don’t need to line up for the patio, though weekend afternoons and evenings can be busy. If you want to be guaranteed entry inside when the bar opens, arrive no later than 3:30pm. Crowds die down significantly after 10pm and it’s unlikely you’ll need to wait with an arrival later than that. On weekdays, I’d expect waits to be under 20 minutes most of the night, though they may quote a wait time much longer than that. On weekends, waits may be 60 or more minutes to go inside from 4pm until 9pm.
If you arrive and the 50-person bar is full inside, a cast member will hand you a pager notifying you when there’s space. The main problem we’ve had is that while they allow 50-or-so people inside, there’s only practical seating for around 44 people. So the people just let in the door most likely won’t have anywhere to sit at first, which can be awkward for everyone involved. On our first visit, we were persons 47 and 48 to be let inside with our 3:50pm arrival. We thought we were set until we got inside and there was nowhere to sit. Since everyone had just arrived, it would be at least 30 minutes before anyone left. We opted to head outside to the patio instead.
I’ll cover more about what goes on inside in a separate post, but I prefer the relaxing vibe of the patio. Inside gets pretty annoying, pretty fast.
Disney omitted drink pricing, so I have added the ones I know in red. I am not sure what the exact price is on the Margarita. The prices underlined in blue include the souvenir mug to take home.
I’m not sure of the exact price on the Tahitian Torch either. The menus inside and out are otherwise the same, save for the Spikey Pineapple, which is exclusive to the Patio due to the bar’s proximity to the Dole Whip window around the corner.
The Kona beers should be $6.75 for a 12-ounce pour.
My favorite drink, and in my opinion, by far the best value, is the $15 Hippopoto Mai-Tai – Coruba Dark Rum, Bacardi Superior Rum, Bols Orange Curacao, Orgeat (Almond), Organic Agave Nectar and fresh Lime Juice.
A very similar glass will run you $15 in the gift shop, so you could very easily rationalize that the drink is free. I may or may not have collected a lot of these already. Otherwise, all of the drinks that come in the souvenir cups, with the exception of the Polynesian Pearl, basically taste the same. The Mai Tai is balanced well with a surprising amount of alcohol tempered by more traditional ingredients than you ordinarily see in a mai tai these days.
The $52 Nautilus – Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appletone Estate Reserve Rum, Combier Creme de Peche de Vigne Liqueur, Tropical Juices and Falernum is quite something.
Just the drink will run you $29. As far as I know, they won’t just sell you the souvenir mug without the drink. Just tweet me if you don’t want the liquid and I’ll take it off your hands – no questions asked. This one tastes like rum mixed with fruit juices. Otherwise, I’m not sure what one does with a Nautilus once they get it home. It might look good on a shelf or something, but it’s kind of heavy and impractical. I would hate to be the dishwasher.
The $19.50 Shrunken Zombie Head – Gosling’s 151 Black Seal Rum, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Tropical Juices, Falernum and Cinnamon. It was served to us on the patio in this white/grey color, but the one we brought home is a very dark green color. I actually prefer the one above, so it was a little disappointing. It’s otherwise pretty ugly looking.
If you order a drink that includes the mug, you’ll bring your receipt to the desk just inside Trader Sam’s to pick up a fresh, clean, nicely boxed mug on your way out. The one you sip from at the bar is washed and reused. The drinks are available without the mug for less money.
This one tasted like rum and fruit juices.
The $39.50 Uh-Oa! – Myer’s Original Dark Rum, Bacardi Superior Rum, Orange, Passion Fruit, Guava and Pineapple Juices, Palernum, Cinnamon, and Fresh Lime Juice. Your server will light the drink on fire tableside and you can throw the cinnamon in to make it spark. It’s kind of fun. The drink tastes like rum and fruit juice – though it will taste more and more like cinnamon as you throw more in.
While the effect is cool, I wish I had gone a little easier on the sparks as the drink ended up being very cinnamon-y. Both the Nautilus and Uh-Oa are “recommended for two guests,” but I would hope most of my readers wouldn’t have a problem polishing off one on their own. I’m not sure I could drink a Nautilus in one sip. But it wouldn’t take me more than three.
The $18.25 Krakatoa Punch – Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, Orgeat (Almond), Sam’s Groilla Grog and Hibiscus Grenadine.
It’s served with a glow cube that you can fish out and take with you if you so choose. This one tasted like rum and fruit juices. The long, narrow mug is kind of awkward to hold.
The $10.25 Mosquito Mojito – Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum, Organic Agave Nectar, Falernum, Mint and fresh Lime Juice topped with Soda Water doesn’t arrive with a souvenir glass. This one tasted like rum and minty lime juice.
Overall, I like the Mai Tai best and I think the mug is also the most reusable. If you were having a summer party, you could very easily serve something in it. You might get some funny looks passing around the zombie head. Or the people you invite to your house might just be expecting that sort of thing.
You might stay away from the Polynesian Pearl with the souvenir cup – it’s just a plastic pearl coconut thing.
The $14.99 Headhunter Sushi Roll arrives without much of a description on the menu.
This is salmon, tuna, and cucumber with a hibiscus syrup served on the side along with ginger and wasabi. While it’s similar to the Salmon Oshizushi, we actually preferred that one. The beet-red rice here was a little too crunchy and the tuna didn’t pack much flavor. It might be a freshness thing – nobody is making these to order and your luck may just depend on timing.
Our $14 Salmon Oshizushi was better.
It’s pretty straightforward – basically eight pieces of salmon nigiri with a little bit of a mango sauce on the side. Ours tasted fresh and was a decent value for the money.
I thought the $8.49 Pan-Fried Dumplings – with soy-sesame dipping sauce were disappointing.
They were pan-fried well with just right right amount of crunch, but the filling was very sparse. You could pretty easily eat each one in a single bite. They’re supposed to be shrimp and pork, but you’d be hard pressed to find much of either. The spicy sauce had a nice kick to it, but it wasn’t enough to save the measly portion size.
$9 buys you these three Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages with curry ketchup. The presentation is not the most inspired.
For the price of a quick service meal, you don’t get a lot of food. Each one of these might even be on the small side as a $3 tasting portion at the Food and Wine Festival. Otherwise, they taste like you might expect. The sausages had a nice snap to each bite and the light batter had a nice crunch as well. The ketchup wasn’t particularly spicy, but the curry flavors complemented the paprika in the sausages well. Portion size is rough for the price though.
As the sun sets over Magic Kingdom from the seating area.
Overall, I think the other food choices at the Polynesian are a better value.
This is a freshly-made Inside Out Tuna Roll with Shrimp Salad Tempura Crunch topped with a layer of Avocado – $12.99 from Kona Cafe upstairs. A full review and menus of Kona are available here.
Tambu Lounge upstairs opens at 1pm and serves through 12am with food service beginning at 5pm.
A slice of ‘Ohana Bread Pudding for five bucks? Don’t mind if I do. And the nachos? You won’t be complaining about portion size.
On the drink side, the souvenir cups are kind of fun if you want to bring one or more home. It’s kind of unfortunate that all of the drinks that arrive alongside them taste more or less the same. Obviously rum is the tropical liquor of choice, but some variety would have been nice. You might want to order a couple of the food items to enjoy alongside the drinks, but putting together a filling meal is going to be expensive, and I think the quality and choices are going to be better elsewhere.