Big changes are underway at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The eastern portion of the beach and Sunset Point are unavailable, the Great Ceremonial House Lobby is about to begin an extensive rehab, and Captain Cook’s will be closed from next month until the early summer. Construction crews, hard hats, and trucks are becoming a common sight. So, what exactly is going on? Rumors are flying faster than Aladdin on his magic carpet which is exactly why I made a point of stopping by the resort last week to do a little snooping and find out what was happening. Here’s what I discovered.
The Polynesian Resort is one of Walt Disney World’s original vacation getaways since its conception in 1971. There, guests find themselves immersed in a tropical paradise reminiscent of the 1950s-style Polynesia that Walt Disney himself often enjoyed with his wife, Lillian. Brightly-lit tiki torches, luscious vegetation, and the calming sounds of the waterfront nearby offer a true break from the real world. Since it first opened, the lobby area welcomed visitors with a three-story rock and waterfall fountain that is truly impressive in size. The grounds are infamous for white sand beaches, koi ponds, and South Pacific style longhouses. While one can still find all of this at the resort, you might catch wind of what else is going on behind-the-scenes.
Disney does a fantastic job of hiding construction especially when it relates to something big. However, some things just can’t be covered up. Take Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for example. Stuck right in the middle of the Enchanted Forest in New Fantasyland, a massive mountain filled with cavernous paths is being built. Instead of blocking off the area, Disney invites guests to observe it as a work in progress using peepholes, advertising the latest developments of the attraction, and more. What’s going on at the Polynesian Resort though has been kept quiet…very quiet.
Several months ago, rumors surfaced that Disney was about to break ground on its newest addition to Disney Vacation Club (DVC), a timeshare program offering real estate ownership at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California, and beyond. After the recent addition of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort, I was surprised to hear that another DVC add-on was about to emerge. Very early on, the Polynesian Resort was mentioned, which would make every hotel on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop a part of DVC. At first, I did not believe it. The Polynesian already had undergone refurbishment in various areas. Why would Disney start it again and on an even grander scale?
Well, Disney’s “best kept secret,” as the original DVC marketing campaign labeled it, has become extremely popular. More and more guests are buying into the program everyday and enjoy the spacious accommodations, theme park discounts, and opportunities to travel off Disney property using membership points. To date, there are 12 DVC properties including Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas, Aulani Villas in Hawaii, and more. Due to the success of Bay Lake Tower and the predicted success of the Grand Floridian Villas, Disney made the move to include the Polynesian as the thirteenth DVC resort.
Officially announced in September, Disney confirmed that new units would be added to the already existing resort, but offered few details as to what exactly they had planned. Reports indicate that the villas will sit directly on top of the water near the beach area and be in the form of deluxe bungalows. When looking around, it was obvious to see exactly where these units would go and get an idea of their size.
When I was looking at the construction, it came to me that I never realized just how close it would be to the Grand Floridian. Shown in the picture above, the yellow outline for DVC units is not far from the Villas. In a way, this will really affect the view and ambiance of both resorts. When you’re bathed in Victorian elegance, the last thing you want when stepping out onto the balcony is a view of dark longhouses and tiki torches. The same can be said for the reverse. I hope Disney has taken this into consideration. Otherwise, it will be slightly awkward in terms of keeping true to theming.
In addition to the DVC arm of the Polynesian Resort, the Great Ceremonial House Lobby is rumored to change in a big way. Remember that rainforest-like fountain mentioned earlier? Well, the latest is that it will be completely removed in order to expand the front desk area due to the influx of additional resort guests. How this is going to be accomplished is beyond me. There are over 75 types of plants in the fountain along with waterfalls and extensive stonework. Removing something like this is going to be a big undertaking. The length of the rehab, March through December, supports this rumor then. I think that it is a bit of a shame that Disney will remove something that has become so well known to the resort. I can remember entering the lobby as a child and being in awe. Here’s hoping that something fabulous will replace the fountain – a miniature version is rumored; otherwise, I believe this to be a big loss.
All in all, I am excited to see the improvements made to the Polynesian Resort – which, by the way, is supposedly going to be renamed Disney’s Polynesian Village as it was in the early days of the hotel. As time passes, I hope that Disney pays careful attention to the space between it and neighboring areas so as to not intrude on dedicated theming. For now though, we can only speculate as to what we may see. What do you think about the new DVC units at the Polynesian? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.