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The South Pacific tropics are re-created at this Deluxe resort. The Polynesian consists of 11 two- and three-story Hawaiian “longhouses” situated around the four-story Great Ceremonial House. Buildings at the Polynesian feature wood tones, with exposed-beam roofs and tribalinspired geometric inlays in the cornices. The Great Ceremonial House contains restaurants, shops, and a rainforest atrium lobby with a rocky waterfall and more than 70 species of tropical plants. Spread across 39 acres along Seven Seas Lagoon, the resort has three white-sand beaches, some with volleyball courts. Its pool complex likewise captures the South Pacific theme. The Polynesian has no on-site fitness center, but its guests are welcome at the Grand Floridian’s facility a short quarter-mile walk or 2-minute monorail ride away. Landscaping is superb, with periodic refurbishment, so garden-view rooms are generally superior to garden- or standard-view rooms at other resorts.
Although the Polynesian is one of Disney’s oldest resorts, periodic refurbishments keep it well maintained. Refurbishments started in 2013 include new paint, carpet, headboards, soft goods, and bathroom designs for all rooms. The new rooms have light-green walls and white bed comforters with green-and-brown tropical-print coverlets.
Rooms retain the built-in closets and dressers with flat-panel televisions from the 2007 refurbishment. Each dresser includes two horizontal shelves above and below the TV for extra storage capacity. The closets are spacious, light, and eminently functional. A nice touch on most of the furniture and woodwork is the textured surfaces (some of them carved). Lighting throughout the rooms, including that for the desks/work areas and beds, is still among the best on Disney property.
King beds were also added to some rooms in the 2013 update and can be booked directly instead of having to make a request. We’re told that only some longhouses have the king beds, so your view may vary.
Bathrooms are well designed, albeit somewhat small. The 2013 redesign put in dual sinks for the old singles and added more open space to the whole bath. Shelves above and below sinks allow plenty of storage. Outward-curving shower rods add substantial elbow room without increasing its size. The bath’s light fixtures are great.
Easily accessible by monorail are full-service restaurants at the Grand Floridian and Contemporary resorts, as well as restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. The Polynesian has a monorail station on-site and is within easy walking distance of the Transportation and Ticket Center. Bus service is available to other Disney destinations. Walking time to the bus- and monorail-loading areas from the most remote rooms is 8–11 minutes.
Some readers wouldn’t stay anywhere else, as a family from Summerville, South Carolina, attests:
Polynesian was WONDERFUL. We were in the Tahiti building and could walk to the Transportation and Ticket Center to get on the buses to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom without getting on the monorail. From now on, we will ONLY stay at the Polynesian. Well worth the extra $.
A family of four from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, writes:
Loved the Polynesian. Room was clean, and “mousekeeping” was always done before noon. The pool was fun, and having the monorail in the hotel made getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot very easy. The bus service to the other parks did seem rather slow, though—we waited 20–25 minutes for buses on at least three occasions.
A Maryland family of four found the guest-room soundproofing somewhat lacking:
Connecting rooms at the Polynesian were noisy. We took towels from the pool and stuffed them under the door to deaden the noise coming from the other room.
DVC Coming to the Polynesian
Disney has announced, that the Polynesian will be the next resort to get a Disney Vacation Club addition, starting in late 2013. The addition includes 15 three-bedroom Grand Villas, built on stilts and sitting just offshore of Tahiti in Seven Seas Lagoon. Expect noise and other impacts on the resort. Check tikimanpages.com, an unofficial website dedicated to the Poly, for more details.
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Disney's Polynesian Resort||75% (-7%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||76% (+0%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||57% (+0%)|
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Disney's Polynesian Resort||95% (+3%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||92% (+2%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||79% (-7%)|
Good (and Not-So-Good) Rooms at Disney's Polynesian Resort
The Polynesian’s 11 guest-room buildings, called longhouses, are spread over a long strip of land bordered by the monorail on one side and Seven Seas Lagoon on the other. All the buildings, except for the more recently added Tahiti, Rapa Nui, and Tokelau, were part of the original hotel, which opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971. All buildings feature first-floor patios and third-floor balconies. The older buildings, comprising more than half the resort’s rooms, have fake balconies on their second floors. (The newer buildings offer full balconies on both the second and third floors, and patios on the first.) A small number of patios in the first-floor rooms have views blocked by mature vegetation, but these patios provide more room than do the balconies on the third floor. If view is important and you’re staying in one of the eight older longhouses, ask for a third-floor room.
Within the Great Ceremonial House are most restaurants and shops, as well as the resort lobby, guest services, and bus and monorail stations. Longhouses most convenient to the Great Ceremonial House (Fiji, Tonga suites, Rarotonga, Niue, and Samoa) offer views of the swimming complex, a small marina, or inner gardens. There are no lagoon views except for oblique views from the upper floors of Fiji and Samoa, Aotearoa, and Tokelau, and a tunnel view from Tonga (suites only). Samoa, however, by virtue of its proximity to the main swimming complex, is a good choice for families who plan to spend time at the pool. If your children are under age 8, request a first-floor room on the Nanea Volcano Pool side of Samoa.
You can specifically request a lagoon- or Magic Kingdom–view room at the Polynesian, if you’re willing to pay extra. The best of these rooms are on the second and third floors in Tahiti, the third floor in Tuvalu, and, if you’re staying in a concierge room, the first and third floors in Hawaii.
One family’s experience in a concierge room proved advantageous:
The view was spectacular. Every night the Electrical Water Pageant was pulled across the lake right in front of our room. My kids loved it. Then, after the parade, we had a perfect view of the fireworks over Cinderella Castle.
There are some quirks in the way Disney categorizes room views at the Polynesian, and it’s possible to get a view of the castle and fireworks while staying in a garden-view room. Second- and third-floor rooms in Tokelau (Rooms 2901–2913, 2939–2948, 3901–3913, and 3939–3948) offer you the best shot at sideways views of the castle and fireworks, though readers say taller palm trees may block even these upper rooms. First-floor rooms (1901–1913 and 1939–1948) may also have landscaping blocking some of the Magic Kingdom views, but the patio provides more room to move to find a better spot, too.
In addition to second-floor rooms in the older buildings (the buildings with fake balconies), also avoid the monorail-side rooms in Rarotonga and the parking-lot side of Rapa Nui. Garden-view rooms in Aotearoa are especially nice, but the monorail, though quiet, runs within spitting distance.
If you plan to spend a lot of time at Epcot, Tahiti and Rapa Nui are within easy walking distance of the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and the Epcot monorail. Even if you’re going to the Magic Kingdom, it’s a shorter walk from Tahiti and Rapa Nui to the TTC and Magic Kingdom monorail than to the monorail station at the Great Ceremonial House. Tuvalu, Fiji, and Aotearoa are the most distant accommodations from the Polynesian’s bus stop. For large strollers or wheelchair access, take the ferry to the Magic Kingdom.
|Relaxed and casual ambiance||Overly large and confusing layout|
|Ferry service to Magic Kingdom||Walkways exposed to rain|
|Romantic atmosphere||Noise from nearby motor speedway and ferry|
|Exotic theme that children love||Front-desk inefficiency|
|On Magic Kingdom monorail|
|Epcot monorail within walking distance|
|Transportation and Ticket Center adjoins resort|
|Redecorated rooms, among the nicest at WDW|
|Child care, children's programs, and character meals|
|Beach and marina|
|Excellent swimming complex|
Disney's Polynesian Resort Dining
- 'Ohana (Table Service)
- Barefoot Pool Bar (Bar or Lounge)
- Capt. Cook's (Counter Service)
- Kona Cafe (Table Service)
- Kona Island (Counter Service)
- Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (Table Service)
- Tambu Lounge (Bar or Lounge)
|Magic Kingdom||11 minutes|
|Disney's Hollywood Studios||19 minutes|
|Disney's Animal Kingdom||19 minutes|
|Quietness of Room||B-|
|Shuttle to Parks||Yes|