This review is sponsored by DVC Magic Resales at www.dvcmagicresales.com (they used their DVC points to book the room and in exchange will also be posting this review and reviews of the other properties). If you’re looking to buy into the Disney Vacation Club or purchase more points for less than you’d pay Disney directly, they’re a great choice. They also take excellent care of those looking to sell their contracts independently.
- Saratoga Springs review is available here
- Old Key West is available here
- Wilderness Lodge is available here
- Beach Club is available here
- Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House 1-Bedroom is available here
- Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village Studio is available here
- Vero Beach is available here
Today we’ll take a rare opportunity to experience a moment of the good life here at The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The grace and sophistication of the resort will follow you from the moment you set foot on property through your first step out onto your private balcony overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon and the Polynesian Village Resort in the distance.
Not even the 4000% humidity of a Floridian summer and the lens condensation that comes with it can mar the view of the sunrise over the Contemporary in the morning. It’s stunning in person.
Those looking to save a few dollars or a few points per night may instead opt for a Standard View on the other side of the building with a view of the monorail whizzing by the resort’s lovely grounds. The covered walkway jetting out from the bottom of the frame connects the Villas wing with the main building, where you’ll find the majority of the resort’s many amenities:
As we’ll see throughout the review, there’s far more to see, do, shop, drink, and eat here than any other resort on property – and it’s not close.
The Villas are all located in the same building with a dedicated lobby and check-in area on the ground floor. A cast member in a suit and tie will welcome you and walk you over to the adjacent check-in area, where you can sit down in comfortable chairs as cast go over your welcome packet and answer any questions you might have. It’s a much more personal experience than standing at the counter at any of the other resorts.
The lobby continues the Mary Poppins motif with the penguins dancing in the fountain.
The same face you’ll make upon arriving.
Looking down at the chandeliers, any room is just a short elevator ride and walk away from the lobby. There are no winding halls like you’ll find at Animal Kingdom Lodge, BoardWalk Villas, or most any other DVC property.
Of course, you can pop over to the opulence of the Resort’s main building at your convenience and you’ll likely find yourself here to hop on the monorail or grab a bite to eat at Citricos or the Grand Floridian Cafe throughout your stay. I’ll cover dining, including new reviews of both of those restaurants, in the appropriate sections below, in addition to covering more about location, transportation, and shopping.
Villas come in four different sizes at the Grand Floridian – Deluxe Studios, 1-Bedrooms, 2-Bedrooms, and Grand Villas:
Deluxe Studios sleep up to five guests plus a child under three in 374-square foot rooms, making them the third largest on property behind the Polynesian at 447 square feet and Old Key West Resort at 390 square feet. At 844 square feet, 1-Bedroom Villas are the second largest on property behind only Old Key West, where they’re 942 square feet. We’ll start by looking over a Studio and then move on to a 1-Bedroom Villa, 2-Bedroom Villa, and Grand Villa.
Those that have been following along for the various reviews will recognize the basic layout of the Studio, which is similar to the one we saw over at Kidani and will be virtually identical to the next review, which will cover the Polynesian. As you enter, you’ll see the main closet followed by the kitchenette on the left and the bathroom on the right with the living area ahead.
The bathroom is broken up into two sections with a sliding privacy door that separates the “water closet” and one of the two showers from the rest of the bath.
The main bathroom is as elegant as you’ll find in a Disney resort.
The conspicuously large main shower features a rain shower head in addition to the handset, in addition to another knob that controls the temperature. I can never figure out which knob does what and after some number of minutes of being sprayed with freezing water out of the wrong spout usually end up in the other shower sooner or later.
I guess if trying to figure out which turn-knob-doohickey does what gets overwhelming, you can sit down for a moment and catch your breath.
There’s a lot of bathroom space here, which will be handy when everyone is trying to get ready in the morning.
Yes, there really is a working television in the mirror.
Disney’s high end spa products like “softening mint foot rub and “solar relief gel” make an appearance.
The closet and kitchenette are located opposite.
The robes are a nice touch and something you virtually never see at Disney World. You’ll also find the standard vacuum cleaner, iron, ironing board, safe, pack and play, laundry bag, laundry detergent, safe, and extra bedding and pillows. Nothing says “This is an $800/night hotel room” like a vacuum cleaner that looks like it belongs in the ’60s, I always say.
The kitchenette includes the usual suspects like the coffee maker, toaster, microwave, wet bar, and fridge.
The standard fridge should be plenty of room to store what you want to keep cold, like my 750ml Don De Dieu and bottle of Mulderbosch sauvignon blanc.
The available glassware in the Studio may leave something to be desired though.
A full amenities list.
The living area is easily the brightest and most luxurious of the Studio Villas on property.
Like every other Studio we’ve seen, the main sleeping surface is the queen bed.
The couch pulls out to the equivalent of a queen.
The larger overall space is particularly useful if you’ll be taking advantage of the sleeper sofa or the pull down Murphy bed, both of which are in use here. There’s plenty of room in between the queen and the Murphy, which makes it a lot less likely that the person sleeping on the pull out queen will trip and face plant while walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I speak from experience.
As a bonus, the artwork is more than a little precious.
I don’t have the measurements handy, but I think this is the second largest television that we’ve run into in a Villa – the Polynesian’s is bigger. It makes it a lot easier to get your Stacey fix after just the third time through instead of the four or five times it might take at a resort with a smaller television like Wilderness Lodge (or Vero Beach). There’s also a Blu-ray player and elsewhere in the technology department, the iHome works with the iPhone 6. The table and chairs are reasonably comfortable if you find yourself needing to sit down for a moment to figure out what you need to sell in order to afford a contract here.
I’d suggest requesting an upper floor when you do online check-in for the best view possible. It’s a lot of fun to pop out during the Electric Water Pageant or as the sun sets with a glass of wine in hand. Otherwise, your online check-in options will just be “near lobby,” “ground floor, or “lower floor.”
Overall, the Deluxe Studios offer charm and style. Being newer than most, you can see a lot of the areas where they’ve improved on previous design elements to make for more livable spaces. While a lot of the additional cost is due to the location and amenities of the resort, the rooms themselves are among the nicest on property.
At 844 square feet, 1-Bedroom Villas are more than twice as large as Studios and add a full size kitchen and king-size bed in the bedroom, in addition to a dedicated washer and dryer.
The living room area is where it would be a lot easier to get comfortable thanks to the additional space. The sofa opens up to a queen size bed.
A similar Murphy setup as the Deluxe Studio.
Even if you’re not planning to cook Thanksgiving dinner in the room, the full kitchen comes in handy in a lot of situations, not to mention the “real” plates, silverware, and glassware in the cupboards.
There’s also a dining room table.
In the bedroom, you’ll find a king bed, dresser, television, desk, and chair, in addition to the walk-in closet.
There’s also a comfortable chair out of frame to the right of the bed.
Those lucky enough to stay in a 2-Bedroom Villa will find this second bedroom with two queen beds.
In addition to another dresser, another television, and another desk and chairs. 2-Bedroom Villas sleep up to nine at 1,232 square feet, which is about 384 square feet larger than the 1-Bedroom, which sleeps five.
The Grand Villa adds a boardroom. I’m only sort of kidding.
How long is this couch even?
If you’re staying in a place where the shower could realistically house most of the guests staying at Pop Century, you could probably afford to pay somebody to figure out the turny-knobs in the shower or you’d be so used to seeing 17 knobs in the shower that you wouldn’t need any help. I still don’t know how to make the water hot.
Activities and Things to Do
You won’t find the Grand Floridian’s two large pools on the top of any “Best Pools at Disney World” lists because there isn’t anything immediately eye-catching about their surroundings. The Beach Pool pictured above is the Feature Pool, nestled along Seven Seas Lagoon and the white sand beaches that line it. With over 100,000 gallons of water, a 180+ foot slide, cascading waterfalls, and zero access entry for wading, this is also the place where you’ll find most of the pool games and other activities. Enjoy lounging in one of the many hammocks, beach chairs, and chaise loungers or take a swim and participate in one of the games – the choice is yours.
An Alice in Wonderland splash pad and playground area is located adjacent to the Beach Pool – that’s the Villas building immediately behind it. From the Villas entrance/exit, it would take you less than two minutes to walk over here. The (Mad) Hatter’s top hat spills water over the area every couple of minutes.
The Courtyard Pool in the middle of the resort is the largest quiet pool on property at over 300,000 gallons. While you won’t find a volcano or a sunken pirate ship here, there is probably something to say for the plentiful availability of loungers and the size of the pools relative to the number of rooms at the resort. For most of us, it’s also a nice opportunity to get away from the trivia and bingo games that seem to start at 6am and go through 11pm every day at the feature pools.
The pool here is also zero entry and features an adjacent hot tub, in addition to the full bar.
Activities at the resorts are seasonal, so here in January the campfire and movie switch off days. Fast forward to spring break or the summer and both will be offered nightly with the campfire preceding the movie.
The Recreation Calendar also highlights some of the upcharge activities available around the resort.
You may have noticed the “& Spa” designation at the end of the resort name. Senses Spa is “literally” located right across from the Villas’ main entrance and is also where you’ll find the resort’s 24-hour fitness center complete with after-workout steam room and whirlpool spa.
The Resort offers boat rentals just outside Gasparilla Grill, in addition to bass fishing excursions and the Pirate Adventure Cruise for kids ages 4-12 all departing from the same location.
It seems unlikely that anybody will choose their Villa based on the size of the arcade, but it may be worth noting that the Grand Floridian’s is among the smallest on property as Disney has begun phasing out the games property-wide. There are a few games to play and those looking to spend a considerable amount of time playing pinball should consider riding the monorail over to the Contemporary.
Location and Transportation
In addition to being Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort, its location on Seven Seas Lagoon just one monorail stop away from Magic Kingdom is undoubtedly one of the reasons why it’s one of the more expensive places to stay on property. Guests can also ride the monorail to the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts, in addition to the Transportation and Ticket Center with monorail service over to Epcot.
Guests traveling to Magic Kingdom or the Polynesian have the option of taking watercraft transportation from the marina.
There’s also a walking path next to the Wedding Pavilion that connects the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts.
Bus transportation is available to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios theme parks and Disney Springs.
You’ll likely find a better variety of dining options at the Grand Floridian than you might be expecting – everything from a AAA Five Diamond restaurant offering a 10-course tasting menu at Victoria & Albert’s to an enchanting character breakfast hosted by Mary Poppins and The Mad Hatter at 1900 Park Fare to afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room to excellent quick service meals at Beaches Pool Bar & Grill. We’ll take a look at each starting with the top of the list.
Citricos, which shares a lobby and waiting area with Victoria & Albert’s next door, is my favorite restaurant on property:
We’ll join Lisa and her parents for a new review of the restaurant.
Citricos isn’t ideal if you’re looking to enjoy a fireworks show from the restaurant itself, though you can see a burst through the windows. It works to your advantage because unlike something like California Grill at the Contemporary, which would be full every night even if it offered old hamburgers for $75, the restaurant has to offer higher quality food to and service to attract diners. You also have the opportunity to then visit a better location to enjoy the fireworks, whether you want to walk out to the marina or see the display from another resort or inside Magic Kingdom.
The Charcuterie is a nice variety of Prosciutto, Sopressata, Dry Pork Coppa, Beef Bresaola, Palacios Chorizo, Domestic Olli Artisanal Salame, Pecorino Romano, Medjool Dates, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Marcona Almonds. And with three or four pieces of everything, it’s easily shareable along with the complimentary bread.
You might pair it with a bottle of wine and the Citricos Cheese Board Experience – Four Artisanal Cheese Pairings with Seasonal Compote, Citricos Pine Nut Cake, Savannah Bee Honeycomb, and Crushed Marcona Almonds.
Your winter selections.
Like most signature restaurants, just about every item is going to have some upscale touches, like this Buttnernut Squash Soup with Hudson Valley Duck Confit, Brown Butter Croutons, and Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. The current version is rich and flavorful with a touch of sweetness from the syrup and tempered a bit by the butter with the duck providing a salty component. Truly excellent.
The Chef’s Garden Heirloom Lettuce – Baby Heirloom Lettuce, Green Goddess Dressing, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Avocado. It’s probably hard to “wow” on the salad front, but everything here is exceptionally fresh and crisp underneath the creamy dressing.
The Crispy Veal Cutlet with Lemon-Herb Butter, Cipollini Onion, Yellow Carrots, Boniato Mash, and Madeira Sauce, which I would reiterate is the best tasting entree I’ve ordered property-wide.
The Oak-grilled Filet Mignon – Potato Purée, Roasted Dragon Carrots, Cipollini Onion Jam, and Sauce Bordelaise.
Just about every signature restaurant on property serves the same filet and Citricos’ version is very good, though the serious carnivore probably wants to look at The Boathouse at Disney Springs or Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club. If you’re mingling with somebody planning to order squash soup and a salad then Citricos would be a good compromise – the bordelaise sauce with red wine, butter, and demi-glace over the tender meat is what carries it.
You’ll find a bar to the left just inside the entrance, which is perfect for a more casual affair, particularly if you’re just looking for a drink and an appetizer or dessert.
Nearby Mizner’s is often packed in the evening, which makes Citricos an easier experience with a superior drink menu and a more robust menu.
You can also grab a cocktail to go and enjoy the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra playing nightly in the lobby, usually beginning at 4pm with their last set beginning at 9pm.
As mentioned earlier, Mizner’s is the name of the bar located behind the orchestra. When Disney added the Villas, they didn’t in turn add an additional lounge or bar area, like Bay Lake Tower did with the Top of the World Lounge. Because of that, the bar is typically full in the evening with exceptionally slow service. The bar is open daily from 1pm to 12am and I suggest arriving by 5pm or after 10pm when it’s less crowded for a better opportunity at a table.
Narcoossee’s, the Grand Floridian’s second signature restaurant, is located outside of the main building to the left of the Courtyard Pool and near the marina with boat service to Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian Village Resort. The menu focuses on seafood:
Located right on the water, it makes a good choice for those looking to enjoy Wishes during their meal.
You can see the Magic Kingdom and Contemporary Resort through the windows, but in my estimation, the restaurant doesn’t really offer the upscale atmosphere or service you would expect when you’re paying $75 for steak and lobster. Many swear by it and the restaurant also offers a walk-up bar area inside the restaurant for those that want to sample something without committing to a full meal. Anyone visiting the property can also watch the fireworks from the deck outside the restaurant.
Victoria & Albert’s is of course the pinnacle of Walt Disney dining.
The restaurant now offers just one seating nightly and guests in the main dining room have their choice of a 7- or 10-course meal, coming in at $185 or $235, respectively. Those looking for an intimate, memorable experience should look no further.
Like Citricos, Mizner’s, and Victoria & Albert’s, the Grand Floridian Cafe is located in the main building.
The Cafe has a few things going for it. It’s much more casual than the signature restaurants and significantly cheaper. Even if you win the 1.4 billion dollar Powerball, you may well tire of poached lobster and filet mignon every night after the second or third year. Grand Floridian Cafe is your respite. It’s also usually an easy walk-up if you find yourself here unexpectedly (though you always want a reservation).
Dinner is reasonably priced – instead of $75 for steak and lobster at Narcoossee’s, you can come away with both here with the Surf and Turf Burger for less than $20. The same? Well…no…but more options is better than less options.
It’s also much more kid friendly.
Lunch is even more reasonable. At Gasparilla Grill, the resort’s quick service, you’d pay $12 for a fast food chicken sandwich and chips. Spending $3 or $4 more here would be a significant upgrade. But this time around we visit for breakfast:
There’s a variety of ways to go here, whether you’re in the mood for your typical Mickey Waffle or pancakes or something a little more unique like the Lobster Hash or Sirloin Steak and Eggs.
Request a window table for a delightful and underrated view of the courtyard.
It’s artsy because it’s tilted.
The Smoked Salmon with Tomatoes, Onions, Capers, Cream Cheese, and Toasted Bagel.
The salmon here is pretty good quality and it’s kind of fun to put together your own bagel and lox, with the addition of the other accompaniments. A quick service “bounty platter” will run you ten bucks, so you get a potentially much healthier, higher quality meal here for just a dollar or two more.
Disney steak is expensive for lunch and dinner, so the $19 breakfast price is potentially a good opportunity to pick up some protein, served here with breakfast potatoes and two eggs in the style of your choice. Being a sirloin or flat iron instead of the typical $36 New York Strip served at lunch, it’s a little tougher, but just as flavorful.
Meals here are typically relaxed and just as casual as Kona Cafe or The Wave with consistently executed, relatively straightforward food that all tastes good at reasonable (for Disney) prices. The atmosphere is potentially a little boring – it sort of feels like going to Sunday supper at Grandma’s with the same wallpaper and knickknacks that she was sporting in 1952. But there might be something to say for that kind of homeliness. Overall, I’m not sure the Cafe is unique enough to make a special trip out, but it’s also unlikely to disappoint and does more than you might expect to impress in terms of food quality and variety.
1900 Park Fare is the resort’s whimsical character buffet for breakfast and dinner, both of which offer different characters.
In addition to the food, characters greeting tableside will likely include Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Alice, Mad Hatter, and Mary Poppins.
Dinner sees Cinderella, Prince Charming, Fairy Godmother, and the Tremaines.
Both are considered to be destination experiences for a lot of returning Disney World guests. Both meals offer a wide selection of food, in addition the guaranteed pictures and autographs with the characters, some of which don’t appear elsewhere.
Gasparilla Grill is the resort’s quick service. The menu isn’t the most varied:
But they do offer your typical burgers, nuggets, pizzas, sandwiches, and a “hot dog of the day,” which is occasionally somewhat questionable. The Create-Your-Own Salad is a particularly standout option here, though the lack of fries may be unfortunate on the other end of the spectrum.
Yes, on Thursdays they really do serve an “Idaho Dog” – a hot dog served inside of a baked potato.
Gasparilla offers indoor air-conditioned seating, in addition to waterfront tables outside. A cast member will deliver your food so you don’t have to wait around.
Beaches Pool Bar & Grill is a better choice for lunch, at least if you don’t mind a bit of a wait. Most everything is cooked to order, so wait times are a little longer.
As far as quick service sandwiches go, the crab cake, chicken, and burger are among the best you’ll find.
The Crab Cake Sandwich in particular is excellent – fresh, thick, and packed with crab – even if it doesn’t look so hot in the picture.
Overall, you’ve got a ton of options whether you want to spend $11 on a House-made Crab Cake Sandwich, $15 on a Grand Cafe Sandwich, $44 on Coriander and Shichimi-spiced Seared Ahi Tuna, or $235 for a 10-Course meal at V & A’s.
Sandy Cove Gifts and Sundries, located in between the lobby and Grand Floridian Cafe, is where you’ll find the packaged food items and beverages:
The offerings are fairly standard.
Sandy Cove is also where you’ll find the majority of the resort-specific merchandise:
The merchandise changes relatively frequently – they’re currently on at least their third different logo since new resort merchandise started debuting a few years ago.
A variety of other stores are located inside the main building on the first and second floors. Summer Lace focuses on relatively high end designer fashions, resort wear, swimwear, jewelry, fragrances and H2O Spa products:
M. Mouse Mercantile is your standard selection of Disney merchandise:
Also upstairs, Commander Porter’s offers mostly men’s merchandise:
You’ll also find a Basin here.
With bath products similar to what you’ll find at the Disney Springs location.
You can also check out this chocolate egg.
Here we have the Villas wing standing tall with the Polynesian Village Resort across the Lagoon and the Courtyard Pool sitting in between it and the main building.
While there will always be a debate over which Walt Disney World resort is “the best,” I don’t think it’s debatable that the Grand Floridian offers the most amenities in the most elegant package. And if money were no object, most of us would probably choose to stay in the largest suite possible here. Of course, money is probably an object, Powerball lottery win notwithstanding, and a Disney Vacation Club contract on the resale market may be the best way to make a stay here now and in the future possible at a dramatic discount to the cash price.
Contact Rachel Thompson at www.dvcmagicresales.com for more information on selling or purchasing a DVC contract for The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa or any other Disney Vacation Club property. I don’t think there’s an agent out there that will take better care of you.