Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel is inspired by Florida’s grand Victorian seaside resorts from the turn of the last century. A complex of four- and five-story white frame buildings, the Grand Floridian integrates verandas, intricate latticework, dormers, and turrets beneath a red-shingle roof to capture the most memorable elements of 19th- century ocean-resort architecture. Covering 40 acres along Seven Seas Lagoon, the Grand Floridian offers lovely pools, white-sand beaches, and a multifaceted marina.
The 867 guest rooms, with wood trim and soft goods (curtains, linens, towels, and the like) in tones of peach, pink, and green, are luxurious but not stuffy or too feminine. The woodwork, marble-topped sinks, and ceiling fans amplify the Victorian theme. Large by any standard, the typical room is 440 square feet (dormer rooms are smaller) and furnished with two queen beds, a daybed, a reading chair, and a table with two side chairs. Many rooms have a balcony.
With a high ratio of staff to guests, service is outstanding. The resort has several full-service restaurants, and others are a short monorail ride away. The hotel is connected directly to the Magic Kingdom by monorail and to other Disney World destinations by bus. Walking time to the monorail and bus-loading areas from the most remote guest rooms is about 7–10 minutes.
The Grand Floridian’s new Senses spa, modeled after the Disney Cruise Line’s, is one of the best in the Orlando area (see our review in Part Four). Recently refurbished, the pools are among the nicest on Disney property. The Courtyard Pool, large enough that local waterfowl mistake it for a lake, added a zero-entry ramp in 2013 for small children to splash in. Cabanas are available to rent here, too. The Beach Pool was also refurbished during summer 2013. A new Alice in Wonderland–themed splash area was added between the Grand Flo’s main building and the new DVC Villas. If your kids like water and their college fund is paid up, this is the place to be. Besides the pool refurbishments, the resort has recently refurbished some of its quick-service-dining options.
Most reader comments concerning the Grand Floridian are positive. First, from a Durham, North Carolina, mother of two preschoolers:
The Grand Floridian pool with the waterslide was a big hit with our kids. They also loved taking the boat across the lagoon to return from the Magic Kingdom. The resort’s location and transportation services were unbeatable.
A Lexington, Kentucky, mom makes the case for kids at the Grand Floridian:
I wouldn’t rule out the Grand Floridian by assuming kids won’t get the theme. My 5-year-old daughter was mesmerized when we pulled up to its entrance and saw its grandeur—her mouth fell open and she exclaimed, “Oooh, fancy, Mommy, just like where a real princess lives!” As a matter of fact, she believes that Cinderella herself sleeps at the Grand Floridian when she isn’t at the castle.
The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
This new Disney Vacation Club property is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. The 200-room T-shaped building sits with the main hotel along the shore of Seven Seas Lagoon. The Villas offer studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom accommodations that sleep 5–12 adults (among DVCs, the studios are the only ones to accommodate a maximum of 5). The rooms, decorated in neutral tones with green and red accents, should be among the nicest of any DVC property. Most should have vaulted living-room ceilings and tiled balconies or porches. Most kitchens should include stainless-steel appliances and glass door cabinets. Bathrooms have marble tile and televisions in the mirrors. Rates will be high, but renting points (see page 114) should make it more reasonable. The Villas have their own parking lot next to the building, but no restaurants or dining.
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Disney's Grand Floridian Resort||67% (-21%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||76% (+0%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||57% (+0%)|
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Disney's Grand Floridian Resort||92% (+5%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||92% (+2%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||79% (-7%)|
Good (and Not-So-Good) Rooms at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
The resort is spread over a peninsula jutting into Seven Seas Lagoon. In addition to the main building, there are five dispersed rectangular buildings. Most rooms have a balcony, and most balconies are enclosed by a rail that affords good visibility. Dormer rooms, just beneath the roof in each building, have smaller enclosed balconies that limit visibility when you’re seated. Most dormer rooms, however, have vaulted ceilings and a coziness that compensates for the less-desirable balconies.
If you want to be near the bus and monorail stations, most of the restaurants, and shopping, ask for a room in the main building (all concierge rooms). The best rooms are 4322–4329 and 4422–4429, which have full balconies and overlook the lagoon in the direction of the beach and the Polynesian Resort. Other excellent main-building rooms are 4401–4409, with full balconies overlooking the marina and an unobstructed view of Cinderella Castle across the lagoon.
Of the five lodges, three (Conch Key, Boca Chica, and Big Pine Key) have one long side facing the lagoon and the other facing inner courtyards and swimming pools. At Conch Key, full-balcony rooms 7228– 7231, 7328–7331, and 7425–7431 offer vistas across the lagoon to the Magic Kingdom and castle. Less-expensive rooms in the same building that offer good views are 7211, 7311, and 7411; 7413, 7415, 7417, 7419, and 7421; 7212, 7312, and 7412; and 7414. (Grand Floridian room numbers are coded. Take Room 7213: 7 is the building number, 2 is the floor, and 13 is the room number.) In Boca Chica and Big Pine Key, ask for a lagoon-view room on the first, second, or third floor. Many garden-view rooms in Big Pine Key, and a few in Boca Chica, have views obstructed by a poolside building. These are the worst views from any Grand Floridian room.
The two remaining buildings, Sugar Loaf Key (concierge only) and Sago Key, face each other across the marina. The opposite side of Sugar Loaf Key faces a courtyard, while the other side of Sago Key faces a finger of the lagoon and a forested area. These views are pleasant but not in the same league as those from the rooms listed previously. Exceptions are end rooms in Sago Key (Rooms 5139, 5144, 5145, 5242–5245, 5342–5345) that have a view of the lagoon and Cinderella Castle.
|On Magic Kingdom monorail||Imposing, rather formal public areas|
|Ferry service to Magic Kingdom||Overly large physical layout|
|Excellent guest rooms||Children don't get theme|
|Children's programs, character meals||Only one on-site restaurant suitable for children|
|Excellent children's pool||Distant guest self-parking|
|Diverse recreational options|
|Good restaurant selection via monorail|
|One of the best spas in Orlando|
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort Dining
- 1900 Park Fare (Table Service)
- Beach Pool Bar (Bar or Lounge)
- Citricos (Table Service)
- Courtyard Pool Bar (Bar or Lounge)
- Garden View Tea Room (Table Service)
- Gasparilla Island Grill (Counter Service)
- Grand Floridian Cafe (Table Service)
- Grand Floridian Gingerbread House (Food Cart)
- Mizner's Lounge (Bar or Lounge)
- Narcoossee's (Table Service)
- Victoria & Albert's (Table Service)
|Magic Kingdom||7 minutes|
|Disney's Hollywood Studios||23 minutes|
|Disney's Animal Kingdom||23 minutes|
|Quietness of Room||B|
|Shuttle to Parks||Yes|