Resort Review for the Rest of Us: Disney’s Polynesian Resort

 

Since 1986, I have been infatuated with one resort on property, the Polynesian.  To my 6 year old brain at the time there was nowhere else that so summed up Disney magic as feeling like I had been magically whisked away to the Pacific islands (although how you could still see Cinderella Castle from Hawaii is a mystery).  I made myself a promise, “One day, I’m staying here and I am going to have a view of the castle!”  So fast forward oh about 25 years and we come to our trip this past week.  We had booked 5 nights at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek, but a pesky snow storm was making it so we would have to leave early if we were going to leave at all.  I decided to splurge and booked the Poly for two nights at the front end of our trip.  Darn, what a problem to have.

Finding the resort was no issue as I had been there at least one time a year for 25 years.  The gate attendant was excellent and we valet parked.  That’s when I made my first mistake.  I left our luggage at midnight with bell services.  I should have just brought it up to the room.  Bell services was empty aside from two cast members who assured us that the luggage and bags would be brought up straight away.  I proceeded into the Great Ceremonial Hall and go my first whiff of Disney water.  Yes, I have a thing for the way water smells on Disney property.  Yes, I know it’s weird.  Thank you.  We were greeted by a wonderful CM at the check in counter who not only was very kind given the late hour but also gave us an upgrade.  We now had a lagoon view.  And if you know anything about the Poly most (75% I would wager) of Lagoon view rooms are also Castle view rooms.  My dream was fulfilled, castle view and all.  The check in went smoothly and we were on our way to our room.

Aotearoa Here We Come

We arrived in 2221, and the view… was breathtaking:

Truly, it was a wonderfully placed room.  Close enough to the Great Ceremonial House that we could get food and sundries as we needed them; perfect view of Cinderella Castle; and also close to the Luau cove so we could hear the music on our subsequent nights.  It was the room I had dreamed of having from the time I was 6.

Then the rose tinted glasses came off.  I realized that the room had not been cleaned with a watchful eye.  There was trash (antacids and Rolaids wrappers) left over from the previous tenants on the counters.  There was a general musty smell.  Though the room appeared to have been newly furnished one of the lamps which hung above the beds had a burn mark as though it had had prolonged exposure to the light bulb inside.  It was just odd.  I would understand the left over trash if we had done an early check in where the maids had been rushed; we checked in however after midnight when the mousekeeping staff would have had plenty of time to ready the room.

Then the second shoe fell.  Even though it was late at night, bell services was taking a LONG time with our luggage.  It was just weird.  We waited, waited, and waited, then we called, and waited some more.  Finally around 1:30 a.m. our luggage came up.  No reason was given for it taking so long.  I had to wonder with it being so late and obvious that we were the only ones checking in at that hour what the hold up was?  Our pajamas, my medicine, toiletries, etc. were all held in bell services for a long time so it delayed us getting to bed.  Next time, I’m bringing them up straight away with our party.

I arranged a wake up call with Guest Services for 8:30 and had our boys flip a coin to see who would get to answer it.  This was their first time staying at a Disney Resort so they had no idea what to expect or why they should be excited to answer the phone.  But, they played along and humored their weirdo mom.

8:30 a.m. came and the phone rang.  There was Stitch, and my oldest son was IN LOVE with our resort all of a sudden.  Parents, of boys especially, I have noticed most of the character calls lately have been Stitch.  Which thankfully our oldest loves with some weird abandon.  So, if you want to score some cool points, leave this item under your hat and make it a chore that they have to answer the phone.  A delightful surprise like the wake up calls in a Disney Resort are just a little magic to start the day with.  They’ll thank you for it.  We rose and slowly started to shower and get ready for the day.  I had made a reservation for the Kona Cafe as we had done Ohana on our last trip and aside from the character interaction we were a bit underwhelmed.

Kona Cafe

The Kona Cafe in the Great Ceremonial House is an open plan restaurant.  It is right alongside the walkway leading to the monorail and if you have a table on the outskirts of the restaurant you will have views of the monorails zipping along.  It is also very loud, and at times it was hard for me to hear my husband or children or our server.  There are no walls between you and the rest of the hotel as there are with Ohana and often the crowd waiting to get in to see Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto can be quite loud as the floors make it so the sound bounces all over.  This was secondary though as our brood was hungry.  We placed our orders and waited.

The food… well… it just wasn’t what you would expect from a Luxury resort.  There I’ve said it.  The eggs tasted like the powdered eggs you get at a Holiday Inn in the mornings for free.  We ended up with tip paying over $60 for this breakfast and it really wasn’t anything spectacular.  The coffee was good, but it tasted the same as I get in my Keurig back at home.  The food quality was such that my husband got sick.  Not food poisoning sick, but just is sensitive to artificial fillers, flavors etc. such as what you find in powdered eggs.  Joy.  So our first day at the Magic Kingdom was delayed so we could tend to him.  I felt really bad for the guy.  He wakes up at Disney eats breakfast and BAM! upset stomach.

Our server was great, until she delivered our food.  Then I didn’t see her again for 20 minutes.  I ended up tracking down a concierge who chastised me that “You can’t pay at the front desk!” Well, that’s awesome dude, because I have places to go and I’m not going to sit in your loud restaurant for 30 minutes after I get done eating.  He tracked down our server who took our cash and promptly disappeared again.  So score one for the server and the 25% tip I didn’t mean to give.  Maybe it’s just me, but the Disney Dining offerings have been going steadily down hill for more than a decade.  I remember looking forward to eating on property; now I look for great places to eat outside of the parks and also hotels with full kitchens in the rooms so I can fix our meals.  It’s a 180 from where I was on the issue 10 years ago.

Transporatation

A resort like the Poly can’t be beat as far as transportation options to the Magic Kingdom.  First, you have the monorail, my family’s transportation of choice unless it’s park closing.  You have friendship boats that go to and from across the 7 Seas Lagoon; the resort is adjacent to the Transportation and Ticket Center so you can also hop a monorail to Epcot; and then you have busses as well.  In fact aside from the view that was one of my favorite items was the ability to be at any park with as many options as possible and minimal wait time.

Other Offerings

When we checked in there was a large folder also given to us detailing all of the curricular events around the resort.  And there are plenty of items that even if you decided to forego the theme parks would keep you busy.  From movies on the beach, to water sports, the Spirit of Aloha Luau, and on and on.  Even taking a bicycle built for 4 around the resort or going for a walk lit by tiki torches was enjoyable when we returned from the parks.  Then there is the fireworks viewing at the resort which we did from our room, but have done from the beach or dock at the Poly many times before; the Electrical Water Pageant as well was nice to watch from our window with breezes wafting in from the lake.

Conclusion

While staying at the Poly has always been a dream of many WDW fans, the price point does not meet with what we have paid for similar rooms outside of Disney as far as room quality and food.  I would like to say that $450 a night was totally worth it, and for the Castle view, yeah it came close but it wasn’t met with equally spectacular offerings in room cleanliness, food offerings and quality, and overall value for what you pay.  Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to have stayed there, but I cannot see us returning until the quality meets the price point.