Polynesian Lobby Impressions, Captain Cook’s Review, Contemporary Merch and Contempo Cafe, Magic Kingdom West Update – 1/27/15

We press onward toward Disney’s Polynesian (Village) Resort to check out the lobby and construction progress, in addition to grabbing lunch at Captain Cook’s. Then it’s a pit stop at the Contemporary Resort before heading over to Magic Kingdom to check out what’s happening in Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square.

Disney made a big deal about changing the names of their child care facilities at the Polynesian and other resorts to “Club Disney” all the way back in March of last year, before quietly changing the name to Lilo’s Playhouse here just two months ago. For obvious reasons they don’t let me inside, but Disney has videos here and here, in addition to official information here.

Some of the signage hasn’t been updated since “The Neverland Club” was a thing.

Construction continues around the entire resort. The area to the left of the main entrance is completely walled off.

What that area looks like from the monorail platform above.

Back to the ground level, the right side is expected to be walled off next.

Heavy machinery litters walkways closest to the DVC construction on the Transportation and Ticket Center side.

Out back, the creek that ran up to the lobby from the pool has been removed.

Construction otherwise continues on the new Lava Pool.

From the ground floor.

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From above.

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Water in the distance.

The playground looks like it will have a fun theme with the thatched roof.

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And from the dock. Maybe an April opening around the same time we see Trader Sam’s serving cocktails?

The “Polynesian East Pool” as it’s called is expected to close for refurbishment shortly after the feature pool comes back online.

Disney Vacation Club construction otherwise continues all around it.

What I’m about to ask you to do is literally the antithesis of everything the Internet stands for. In fact, it calls into question the very existence of this website and everything it has published over the last five years. And that’s if you had a strong opinion about the Polynesian lobby before the refurbishment, either hold off on forming a new opinion until you’ve seen it for yourself or pretend that you have seen it in person before hitting submit on the comments section below.

And now prepare to become biased based on my impressions.

I actually like the lobby a lot and I wasn’t really expecting to.

It’s bright, it’s welcoming, it offers a variety of different seating types and configurations, and perhaps most importantly, it’s probably asbestos free.

I’m not crazy about the “centerpiece,” which resembles the lump of coal you threaten junior with every time he refuses to finish that $8 Mickeyroni. It is actually a fountain with some neat lighting and sound effects, but it’s no gigantic fountain.

Once all the walls come down, you’ll be able to step into the lobby and look out the back windows and see Cinderella Castle standing tall across the lagoon. That’s pretty powerful imagery not unlike Aulani in Hawaii.

The Boutiki is largely untouched on the lower level. The store is still selling the same Polynesian Resort merchandise. Hopefully Village merchandise will arrive around the same time the resort formally relaunches.

The lighting above.

One more.

From above.


Upstairs seating near the ‘Ohana check-in desk.

Last one from just inside the monorail platform.

This is our second visit to Captain Cook’s since it reopened back in August. This review includes a lot more pictures around the quick service, in addition to offering reviews of the Fish Tacos and Chicken & Waffles.

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The menu hasn’t changed much, if at all, since August. It’s expected that a revamped menu will arrive shortly, which will include the “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese” that was popular before the refurbishment eliminated it.

This time around, I ordered the $9.29 Hot Beef and Cheddar – Roast Beef, Cheddar, and Caramelized Onions with Sweet Chili Mayo on House-made Bread. I appreciated the fact that the bread was unlike just about any other on property – thin but chewy, offering a nice bread-to-stuff ratio. While the sandwich was on the short side, it was jam packed with beef, cheese, and the other toppings and was incredibly filling. The sweet chili mayo seemed to get lost in the other, more dominant flavors, but it was altogether a nice hot sandwich on a cool day. I think it would be safe to say it was better than any quick service sandwich you’d order at Magic Kingdom, including Be Our Guest.

I like the Polynesian chips here, which can be substituted for fries or ordered separately as a side. It’s a mixture of the usual, forgettable kettle chip and the much-more-interesting fried wontons. Very crunchy, very salty, very good. The Pulled Pork Nachos here take advantage of the chips and are a great sharable snack.

Lisa ordered the Polynesian Salad with Chicken – Mixed Greens, Cucumbers, Pineapples, Blue Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, and Wonton Strips with Sesame-Soy Dressing – $9.29. Disney quick service salads are more or less entirely streamlined now, all offering the same fresh greens and vegetables. This is no exception. There’s a solid chicken-breast-worth of thick-sliced chicken mixed in with the other ingredients. Unlike a lot of what Disney does with blue cheese these days, I’m happy to say the flavor did not overpower the rest of the salad like it often does. The wontons add a little more interesting crunch than the standard tortillas and tiny chunks of pineapple help sweeten the deal and contrast nicely with the sesame-soy dressing. The salads are made-to-order, so if you don’t like something, it can easily be omitted.

Altogether it was a very good, potentially healthy meal.

Now over to the Contemporary Resort for a quick stop. For whatever reason, this is the last Deluxe resort on property to receive a batch of resort-specific merchandise:

Devoid of Disney characters, it’s not the most charming design we’ve seen, but Disney has probably found that adults are more likely to buy resort souvenirs to bring home if they don’t scream Mickey Mouse. Again, there’s no apparel to speak of outside the hat.

Contempo Cafe is the resort’s major quick service. You’ll find it on the 4th floor concourse near Chef Mickey’s, The Outer Rim bar, and the monorail platform:

The quick service has long been considered one of the best by anyone in the know, offering a relatively wide selection of high quality options.

Orders are still made via individual kiosks near the entrance.

Substitutions are easy to make and the menu also lays out your side options, including none to save the usual $2.

What’s available in the case:

Pretty standard options.

More stuff:

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/contempocase.jpg.

Contempo is usually home to an interesting cupcake or two – in this case the hot chocolate cupcake infused with chocolate marshmallow filling and the frost cupcake topped with cool peppermint buttercream.

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Bay View Gifts. also on the fourth floor, serves cookies, fudge, and such.

One big improvement at Contempo is that they now bring the food to your table, so you no longer have to wait around the ordering area/dessert case awkwardly waiting for everything to come out.

On our most recent visit on January 25, I ordered the $9.99 Beef Pot Roast with Seasonal Vegetables, Mashed Potatoes, and Gravy. For Disney fast food, this was well above average. The potatoes were topped with a nice wine-based gravy and the beans were nicely sauteed and seasoned. The beef wasn’t up to the standard of pricier table service restaurants like Liberty Tree Tavern or 50’s Prime Time. Instead of the heartier chunks that have been served in the past, it was shredded and fattier with a sauce that was a little too salty for my tastes. Still a better meal than most.

Lisa ordered the Hot Smoked Turkey Sandwich. Which might sound a little too ordinary if it weren’t for the description – Turkey, Brie, Arugula, Green Apple Slices, Apple Butter, and Honey Mustard on Challah Bread with French Fries, Vegetable-style Coleslaw, or House-made Chips. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sandwich utilizing challah elsewhere, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference here anyway.

“It’s bread” – Lisa.

Otherwise, there’s a generous amount of melted brie on top of thinly sliced smoked turkey. The apples add crunch and a bit of tartness, but the dominant flavor overall was, surprisingly, the arugula. Overall, the sandwich is a “little different” in a good way so long as you enjoy apples and turkey. Lisa’s only complaint was the honey mustard and apple butter tasted “a little weird” combined together.

On a previous visit back in August, I ordered the $9.49 Spicy Chicken Sandwich – Spicy Breaded Chicken Breast topped with Vegetable-style Coleslaw on a Multigrain Bun with French Fries, Vegetable-style Coleslaw, or House-made Chips. Unlike the obviously-frozen, undersized Tyson chicken breast patty served at Pinocchio Village Haus at Magic Kingdom, this “felt” freshly hand-breaded and was considerably larger, with a fresh bun and a real buffalo kick. I was impressed.

I think the lighting is considerably brighter now as these pictures are pretty terrible. Lisa ordered the Caprese Flatbread with Basil Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella, Garden Tomatoes, Arugula, and Balsamic Glaze. Speaking of Village Haus, at $8.49 this flatbread is considerably higher quality at a lower price point. I think the arugula crunch helps here too.

These pictures are from shortly after Contempo launched an all-new menu. This $9.29 Chicken Alfredo – Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Alfredo Sauce, Diced Chicken, Parmesan, and Cracked Black Pepper, with a Parmesan-crusted Breadstick replaced another popular pasta dish that was, unfortunately, considerably better. This is a very basic, thin alfredo likely out of a jar of some kind. Very little flavor and the pasta was overcooked. Not enough sauce either.

Unsatisfied, our friend Bret returned for the $9.99 Smoked Pulled Pork Flatbread with Barbecue Sauce, Jack Cheese, and Vegetable-style Coleslaw, in this instance without the coleslaw. While it might not look like much from the lousy picture, there’s a layer of cheese underneath the pork and then more sprinkled on top. Very good also, served with tangy barbecue sauce and a spicy cheese.

With tax, Chef Mickey’s will run you more than $50/adult.

Only $40.47 for breakfast though! Two adults, a 12-year old, and a six-year old would run you $205.38 with tax and 18% tip. I think you’d probably have to order a drink before that bill arrived, which would only push the price up.

It’s now 3:22pm on the afternoon of January 27th just inside Magic Kingdom’s main entrance with Festival of Fantasy about half over in this area.

The reality of watching a Disney show marred by selfie sticks and toddlers with earmuffs.

You can always just watch the show on their phone instead of bothering with the real life view.

Amusingly, the balloon float deflated a few days ago, requiring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy to drive by in a car to end the Parade.

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The current Parade FP+ area is around the flag pole in the center of Town Square. The larger image above shows how sparse crowds are compared to what we’re dealing with on the other side.

This area around Town Square is actually one of the better places to see either the daytime or evening Parade as people tend to fill in further up toward the Castle. The only problem is the people arriving late that push forward, but you run into some of that just about anywhere outside the FP+ reserved area.

Splash Mountain is expected to reopen from refurbishment February 1st.

Major improvements were made about two years ago and the ride should emerge again looking and operating fantastically.

Liberty Tree Tavern is on the books as being under refurbishment from July 6th to November 20th. “Rumors” suggest the work is kitchen-related, which means we may not see Diamond Horseshoe operating in the meantime as the two share a kitchen.

Also under refurbishment – this popcorn cart.

While not yet announced, it looks like Pirates of the Caribbean will close for refurbishment for about six months beginning in May.

Journey of the Little Mermaid is expected to be closed from February 2nd to March 6th for enhancements similar to Disneyland.

And Big Thunder from March 4 to 7.

And it’s a small world from March 10 to 15.

And Jungle Cruise from April 13 – May 8.

Last week’s Magic Kingdom post covered what’s going on in much more detail, but here’s a wide angle shot of the nondescript Island Supply, which is now home to Sunglass Hut. Just about everybody walks right by regardless of what’s inside.

A daytime look at the scrim next to Aloha Isle in the distance.

Another angle of Hub construction on the Adventureland side.

Water features and such. This area is expected to open in less than a month for FP+ fireworks viewing.

The Hub:

It’ll be interesting to see what’s different.

Crowds were pretty rough for a Tuesday over the last week in January as international attendance continues to push up historically low crowds. Crowds right now are among the lowest of the year, but it doesn’t necessarily “feel like it” at Magic Kingdom on days like today, particularly when some of the FastPass+ technology was failing, in addition to underestimated crowds and staffing causing other delays. Disney ended up extending the close by an hour to 9pm around 3pm on the day of, which still isn’t very late, but it indicates more people than they were expecting. With fewer carts operating, fewer cashiers working, fewer ride vehicles running, etc. Crowd/staffing underestimations on Disney’s part lead to longer waits, particularly when operating hours are shorter than most any other time of year.

My Disney Experience wasn’t working for most people, necessitating a visit to one of what are now just four kiosk locations around the Park to make any changes.

Insufficient staffing means no iPad-wielding cast members and long lines at the Adventureland Breezeway FP+ kiosk.

And long lines over at the Jungle Cruise kiosk.

The Emporium was well stocked with just about every 2015-branded piece of merchandise.

This post has individual pictures of just about everything, but I noticed I was missing a few:

And a new line of it’s a small world:

You should be up to date.


    • josh says

      It’s an older attraction that needs a lot of TLC (optimistic view). And also in cooler temperatures people don’t tend to ride it so Disney can close it and save money (cynical view).

  1. Boski says

    C’mon Lisa…it’s bread? Josh can you please whip up some Challah French Toast for her ASAP and see if she still feels the same?

  2. Different Josh says

    Not sure how you realized you missed 2015 gear. It’s all so loud and obtrusive that it all starts to blend together. It’s like someone in the 80’s ate a bunch of gear, but had indigestion and was finally able to puke it back out in 2015.

  3. Andy says

    Josh, any word on when the construction in the center of the Hub (near the Partners Statue) will be completed? Is it something that’s going to be a while or in a month or two will walls be down? Thanks!

  4. Kira says

    I think it goes beyond “not feeling” like it is a low crowd day…it simply wasn’t today! Insane crowds for a 1/10 day in Magic Kingdom. Long waits for rides (especially rides like Peter pan, although I saw significant waits for everything from small world to carousel of progress today). I suspect the storm has something to do with it. Any ideas? And any possible revisions?

  5. Shaun says

    my math must be missing something – I can’t figure out how you came to $205.38 for 3 adults and a child prices? but either way is still crazy expensive though..

  6. Hoosll says

    Shucks – no “adult” hamburger at Contempo – it was my favorite burger on property even though the fixings bar was usually messy. It was generally cooked to order, I can see where that is no longer the food service goal.

    The changes to The Polynesian lobby are interesting … flotsam for lighting … I think they could have totally skipped the pile of lava rocks but I guess they needed a “focal” point.

  7. Kelly says

    Did they take the turkey sandwich off the menu at Contempo? If so, my life is RUINED. It was so good minus the honey mustard. It needed a better name for sure.

  8. Matthew says

    As a child we always stayed at the Poly and I remember always seeing the parrots on the waterfall in the lobby. Although it is gone now and it will be missed, I think Disney gave the GCH the fresh, bright makeover that it deserved.

  9. Christine says

    I think the lobby of the Poly is gorgeous now! I wandered through it last week, and was impressed. Then again, I felt that the old water feature was overkill. The new wood couches are amazing!

  10. Melissa says

    I actually love the new Poly lobby. Though, my love of WDW began at the ripe old age of 25 with no real emotional attachment to the old lobby.

    I had the Beef noodle bowl at Capt. Cook’s this week. The favors grew on me but wasn’t much for the money.

    I also tried the pulled Pork flatbread at Contempo this week with the slaw. I loved it!!!

    Was at MK today 28th… Much much less crowded than last week. The tour groups seem far and few between now unless I’m just getting lucky. :)

  11. neffernie says

    I like the new Poly lobby too. I spent a good portion of our waiting time for ‘Ohana trying to figure out how to make one of those bouy lights fit in my house even they my husband insists that they are a Norwegian invention and don’t belong hanging in the Polynesian.

  12. Lorraine says

    When I was at the Polynesian earlier this month, I was pleasantly surprised by the lobby. I thought it looked great, and I really liked it!

  13. weepstah says

    I have a deep and abiding love for the old Polynesian lobby, but I do think they did a good job on the new one (from the pics, anyway) with the exception of the centerpiece. Maybe sometimes you shouldn’t do a tribute? It’s too small, but putting in something bigger would defeat the purpose of opening up the lobby. Plus it looks like something I could buy at home depot.

    On one of the hub shots – Viva La Revolution, Josh!

  14. Rhino says

    About the Poly lobby…..I loved the old lobby, but im really liking the feel of the new one. I was just there, and it didn’t seem so clustered.

  15. Lynn says

    Regarding the Small World merchandise, what is the item in the last picture? Is it a blanket throw or beach towel? Josh, Thank you again for all your work on this blog! I look forward to reading your tips and reviews! :)

    • Mireille says

      It’s a blanket throw and it’s very soft! At least if it’s like the one I own, and it seems to be, though mine is way more pink. But that could just be the lighting.

  16. Peter K says

    I was there at the MK on the 27th and I knew it was going to be a bad sign when walking underneath the railroad at the entrance the 2 slots for guide maps in Portuguese/Brasilian were barren.

  17. sandy says

    Oh no – Pirates is going down for the summer? Thank you for the head’s up! I do enjoy your blog, and your well written comments on the foods and refurbishments – beautiful photography, thank you!

  18. Tena says

    My family spent the morning of Tuesday 1/27 at Magic Kingdom. It was our last day of vacay and up until 1/27 we had managed to avoid the crowds (thanks to your awesome calendar and cheat sheets). I agree with you here….it definitely felt much more crowded on Tuesday then we expected it to. Even being there right away in the AM. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation. Thanks for the helpful information on this website!

  19. aileen says

    No! Please tell me it’s not true. Pirates is my favorite ride and it will be down when we go in September. Oh the humanity!!!

  20. joshuy says

    We were there yesterday watching celebrate the magic and wishes from the hub. There’s great viewing against the hub wall facing the castle as there is no one standing in front of you.

  21. dusty cheatham says

    it is hard to like something when you cant afford to stay there. that said the lobby of the poly ” looks” great.

  22. Queenie says

    Well so far, I am not impressed with the lobby, and disappointed they took away the little river too. The lobby reminded me somewhat of AKL but, boring and not grand. The rock formation is pathetic, and the glass balls not very creative. There is no “Wow” factor. This use to be my favorite resort because I liked the feel of being in the tropics. The cost is now bordering ridiculous, and makes offsite that much more attractive.

  23. says

    polynesian is my favorite resort. part of me will always miss the atrium feel with the big waterfalls in the lobby, but it still feels so welcoming and home-y even with the new lobby space. can’t wait for the construction to be over and be able to see the castle, it’s going to be great.
    captian cook’s is actually one of our favorite spots to grab a bite. the hubby and i each get the beef and cheddar then the hawaiian pork sandwich and share. we love the house chips, too. not a horrible deal for disney food that doesn’t taste awful.

  24. Wendy says

    Thanks for the write up on the Poly Josh. We are going to be there at the end of October so I am keeping a close eye on construction progress. I have a question regarding Captain Cooks. How do you order there? Is there a CM that takes orders or is it by kiosk? My husband is kind of picky and we may need to ask that some things be on the side and not sure how the orders are taken. thanks!

  25. Sue says

    Was just in WDW end of January. Strolled thru Poly a couple of times. I did like the new lobby. Very comfortable. They are adding a tiki on top of the fountain, when it’s finished I guess. Not happy they replaced the Boutiki Tiki with drums, for a DVC desk. And upstairs by monorail entrance the carved Dolphins are gone! Love the new lights.

    We were in MK 1/30 and wow was it crowded! Tour groups gone and cheer & dance teems taken over!!

    Too bad Pirates will be closed for summer, great place to get out of the heat & cool off!!

  26. natasha says

    I am optimistic about the Poly Lobby but will hold off a full opinion until i see it in person. i LOVE the small world line. Was the last image a blanket or towel and was the Hot Pink tee child or adult size? Prices please if you have them. Thanks!!!

  27. natasha says

    And how much was the small world cup? The Contemporary merchandise is nice as well. Is Lisa still buying for people and if so could you post her link here again. I can’t seem to locate it.

  28. Lori says

    Maybe it’s just me, but the Poly looks really groovy…stuck in a 70’s vibe. The colors and dark wood with the lava rocks all seem dated.

  29. Jenna says

    I ordered the Pho Noodle Bowl with Beef at Captain Cooks and really liked it. I had previously gotten the chicken & waffles (have to ask for extra buffalo sauce) and always enjoyed that, but decided to risk it with the noodle bowl and was happy. We go to Captain Cooks a lot whether its at the end of a Magic Kingdom day or just need an afternoon break for Magic Kingdom. The food there is better than most other quick service. We will have to try the contemporary’s though.

    I also personally thought the new Polynesian lobby has a very sad waterfall especially when you have seen the old one and even remember the parrot that used to live there back when. I think they should’ve just forgotten the waterfall altogether instead of that pitiful version. Its not even pretty on a small scale.

  30. Anonymous says

    I miss the old lobby. Just seems “meh” to me now.. I guess because I remember as a kid loving that waterfall. Seems like something is missing.

    • BD says

      Yup, that lobby just seems too normal now. I don’t care about the extra seating capacity or the “neat” lights. Walking in with that previous display and the smell just made it special. That lobby is too normal for Disney. I don’t want a lobby that some other hotel or resort could do. I want Disney awesome.

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