Disney’s Polynesian Resort is Changing in a Big Way

| February 24, 2014 | 38 Replies

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.


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Big changes are coming to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. One of them might just surprise you.

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?


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


Image Credits:

N. Mancini



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Category: Disney World, Rumor Mill

  • Keith

    Boo!!! Removing that water feature will take away much of what the Polynesian theming was all about. All in pursuit of more money. Fail!!

  • Over_reaction

    I think the remodeling of the Resort is badly needed. In regards to the potential loss of the water feature, I have to disagree with Keith that is all in pursuit of money and that is a bad thing. The lobby is extremely dated. If you look at AKL or WL I think you see a more up to date look that somehow does not take away from the theming of the resort. The Lobby currently gives you limited seating, limited visibility and to me is long overdue to be updated. Are they doing it in pursuit of money, I hope so, that means they see an investment worth spending on and that guests will enjoy. I have not seen any actual plans for the Ceremonial House so while the water feature may be going doesn’t mean it’s not being redesigned to something better

    • suker

      Taking this logic to the ultimate conclusion means the lobby should be a casino floor.

  • Kathy

    My thoughts are this will turn one of Walt’s original ideas into something else. It will no longer be the welcoming resort it is, but just another expanded way to add money. Change is not always the best. DVC’s additions are not always the best and I feel they have changed the feel of the original resorts that they have been added to and not in a good way.

  • yankeesusa

    I really hope the fountain stays. That is one reason why we go there. I love walking in from outside and seeing this beautiful setting and then going and having breakfast at Kona cafe. This move and raising annual pass price by $25 is really not good. This will be the last year I have disney annual pass. I just don’t see the reason to pay the xtra $25 per pass when the only new thing will be mine coaster. Maybe I’ll get it again in 2015.

  • Dis

    Just don’t remove the water feature entirely. It would not be the same resort without it. Disney knows melancholy sells, so getting rid of it is not likely, but then again, who knows the knowledge of the decision makers. Someone thought a OKW extension was a good idea… now that was a fail that has cost them tremendously.

    • melvin

      what was the OKW extension that failed?

  • Denise Rambo

    I’m really glad I’m not one of the guests who has scrimped and saved for years to take a Disney vacation and stay at the Polynesian this year.

    • shoggetts

      I am one of those guests! Booked last May for a stay in July this year. A dream come true for me and long awaited and saved for. Don’t know what to think. trying not to be negative but very frustrated and anxious.

      • Denise Rambo

        You might want to think about changing hotels.

      • Robert Roberts

        Ya, there are reports coming in and you may want to get out of that hotel for now.

    • robin

      We booked last Sept for Sept2014 due to a free dining bounceback offer. I am so upset about this. Back then we could have booked anywhere, now most have been booked and we are very limited when I tried to call to discuss

  • Kyle M Wenner

    You’re dead on Keith. The Rain Forest is what makes the Poly such a unique and truly amazing resort. Without that, there is nothing really special about the resort. Growing up I was always in such awe over how Huge it was and how so many plants were inside. Now I love relaxing with a drink from the bar in one of the chairs just listening to the waterfall. It is definitely a disgusting thing in the pursuit of money getting rid of it. The people in charge are so out of touch with what the people want and more importantly what WALT wanted!!! This was Walt’s creation from his own visions and they’re just tossing it aside all for the sake of the mighty dollar.

  • Mrs. E.

    I am so glad that we stayed there in April because it will never be the same again. They are destroying something that was already perfect! :-(

  • Poly Plus

    I would welcome a DVC at the Polynesian because our family feels the more “home” like living quarters to be preferable to a “hotel room”. It is nice to not have to eat every meal out and have the option to spend time back in the room without having a small table and chairs or your bed as the only places to sit. The added space for everyone to spread out a bit and enjoy is a must for our vacation comfort. Our family doesn’t tend to spend all of our time in the parks as many Disney goers do, we enjoy just relaxing and enjoying the resort a bit more instead of the fast pace at the crowded parks every day. To each his own. Disney has a reputation for it’s fabulous theming, they will probably not dissapoint at the Poly either. They didn’t ruin the Grand Floridian or Animal Kingdom’s theming by adding DVC, my guess is the Polynesian will be a success story as well.

    • MWD

      They didn’t put the other resorts DVC spots though in an area that means so much to so many. The beach and grass area that is now gone was a spot people got engaged and married on. It was a fantastic stop to watch fireworks. Now, unless you are DVC, your options are very limited at Poly. Not everyone can afford DVC. Some have to save years to be able to take a trip and yearly just isn’t affordable. I hate to cook as well so having to cook to make the trip affordable ruins a vacation for me. If it was to the side like the others instead of right in the middle…

      • suker

        Spot on. I was on my way to bringing the kids in for 3rd gen Disney guest. It’s coming to an end. Why, because of this mentality, it really is getting to be no fun anymore.

        • Dvc and love it

          Really? You are not bringing grandkids because they took out the hunk of rock out of the lobby?

    • Dvcforever

      I totally agree as a 12 yr DVC member. We hang more at the hotels than the guests rushing off on their once in a lifetime vacations. We go several times a year so there is no need to rush. Having a washer and dryer is a godsend. Actual table to eat at is great too. I don’t make most of my meals in the rooms because I hate to cook, but it is nice for breakfast to not have to run somewhere early. Gives you the opportunity for better snacking and dinner watching a movie relaxing at your” home”. With kids it is great. Non-DVC members to not understand the luxury we have. I also just took advantage of the $199 4 park 4 day ticket special. When can you ever buy 4 days of park ticket for just $199? I also love getting the discount on the merchandise we buy and the annual passes. It isn’t for everyone but it looks like a whole lot of people love it.

  • Dee and Jerry

    I can’t believe that they would take away the beauty of the Polynesian, inside and out. We love the waterfall. We were just there in Dec of 2013 and my husband said he would just like to sit on the rocks in the waterfall when he retires. He loves it so much. We wanted the Polynesian to be our last trip to Disney whenever that was as it was our first trip in 1982 when there was just the Magic Kingdom. Boo! to whoever came up with this idea. We’ll think twice about going there now.

    • Crazy for disney

      Who wants to sit on the fake rocks in a hotel lobby in retirement? Who plans their last time? Pretty depressing. As long as they take scooters and wheelchairs I will be there in old age. Woohoo! I already am old and my daughter is grown and I still go to disney every year. No place like it on earth..unless you are at another disney park!

  • Dash

    I was disappointed they squeezed the GF DVC between the GF and the Poly, instead of putting it on the far side of the GF. Now they are squeezing in more???

  • Linda

    We spoke with a waiter at the Kona Cafe in November, he told us about the waterfall being removed from the lobby. He said there isn’t enough seating for the two restaurants and the lobby. He also said they will be happy to see the waterfall go in Konas since the restaurant is so open there is so much added noise which makes it more difficult to hear customers when taking orders. He said you don’t realize how loud it is till they turn it off.

  • Disney Happy

    I love the waterfall and plants in the Polynesian, but it could work if made somewhat smaller. When the kids were young the Polynesian was our first trip and I was just there for the 5th time in November 2013 and noticed all the construction. While on my Disney cruise when we joined the DVC at the Floridian and they expected to be adding the Polynesian in the next 2 years. I, too, am concerned about how close the Polynesian and the Floridian will be and the theming. They definitely need to do something at the Polynesian with the fast food service as it is very limited and very small and the worst of all the resorts. But, I love going to Disney, the Polynesian, and I just hope they do the right thing so you still feel like you are in a tropical paradise.

  • James

    And this is why DVC is terrible. It’s all about the $$$ DVC is quick and easy money. Why do you think Disney is building DVC additions constantly in record time.

    • Sandra

      Completely agree. DVC is not all that. I did a 40 year projection based on my current vacation spending and its still cheaper to do it the way I have been. Plus you may get the feel of home, but the housekeeping services are less. Honestly, shouldn’t they be better service that what you would get daily at a value resort?? DVC should re-consider the basics!!!!

      • MWD

        Agree. I go on vacation to get away from the work of daily life, not continue it.

  • Helene

    Stayed at The Polynesian last month & it was the best Disney Resort experience we had! Stayed at The Contemporary & The Grand Floridian in the past & while we enjoyed both, The Polynesian was a true vacation. A calmness came over us as soon as we arrived & we found the resort to be the most convenient & the most child friendly . Knowing Disney, the renovations & upgrades will only enhance the already beautiful, peaceful & magical Polynesian! Looking forward to staying there again when it is all done.

  • Michael

    Trader Sam’s Eastern Outpost!

  • Pam

    Glad my family and I got to stay at the Poly before the rehab…we have great memories of playing cards while sitting by the awesome rainforest. Sad to see it go.

  • food for thought

    They should build a separate check in area for the new DVC building and leave the original lobby design alone.

    • Love the dvc

      There is no new DVC building other than the bungalows. They are refurbishing existing rooms. Usually DVC members do online checkin so we have our own desk in every resort anyway. We just walk to the desk and they hand us our packet in two seconds and we are off!

  • Wayne

    Why not white wash the dome in the US Capitol Building while you are at it. Removing the fountain from this resort would be like taking the monorail tracks out of the contemporary or erasing the mural on the interior wall. EPIC FAIL. some things should NEVER be altered. Very sick and saddened to hear this. I am sitting in the bar of the hotel and the sound of the fountain is a calming sensation in the background. I guess I will have to enjoy it while it lasts. EPIC FAILURE PLAN!

    • Disneycrazy

      Things change. 43 years looking at the same tired looking lobby, it was time.

  • Robin

    I am booked end of sept and I am very concerned that I was told that guest can use the pool at the grand Floridian since the volvano pool will be closed. This is ridiculous that they expect us to pay the high rates and then expect us to go to another hotel for the “cool” pool

  • Kim

    I understand that some people may like the idea of the DVC, however accomodating the ‘influx of more guests’ is not the problem…until you try to get into the parks! How about adding on to the parks? Enough with the DVC’s already!

  • Shea Murphy

    Disney’s time share BS has officially taken money grubbing presidence over the quality of the resorts. This infuriates me to no end.

  • Disneynut2

    Don’t knock the DVC. I have been a member for 11 years. It is the only way I can afford a disney vacation every year. The DVC is great. Your hotel choices are top notch. I have booked without being a member. I can only afford the value or moderate hotels. DVC gives you the top hotels on the property. I have also stayed at disney’s Hilton head property. It is an omg place. Can’t wait to try aulani. None of which I could ever afford without my timeshare. DVC chnages to the Poly will make it even more upscale. I have read this hotel is never full ever due to the high per night price. DVC timeshares have a higher booking rate than regular guest. Disney is a for profit business so it makes sense. Even though you think there are too many guests in the parks…if there were less disney would start to close up shop. It is in business to make money in the process they make us happy.