It might take more than beauty and charm to be considered a flagship resort, but the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian lives up to its status with a stately grace that just might make up for its high-end price tag.
Set on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Grand Floridian tops the Disney World resorts list with the white clapboard sides and red-topped roofs acting as a natural extension of the turn-of-the-century theming across the water at the Magic Kingdom. If the uninhibited views of the ultra-modern Contemporary Resort and the island feel of the Polynesian Village, also located across the Lagoon, are a bit jarring, the shock is softened by the fact that you could spend your visit within the confines of the flagship Floridian without ever noticing them, depending upon which of the six buildings you are lucky enough to call home during your stay.
In fact, “welcome home,” was the first thing we heard upon entering the lobby, greeted by a tall gentleman sporting typical Grand Floridian garb. Despite the crowd checking in on Thanksgiving weekend, he took time to greet everyone, and spoke to us at length about the online check-in process, how we would be notified by text when the room was ready and what I could do in the meantime. Since we received the room text while chatting, he then proceeded to direct us to the correct building and offer us assistance throughout our stay.
This used to be standard procedure at any of Disney’s deluxe resorts, but since the advent of online check in, it seems many other Disney properties have forgotten how far simple pleasantries can go. A similar stay at the Polynesian a few years previous had netted less than cordial communications with cast members, a lack of knowledge about many particulars, and a general unwillingness to be helpful. By comparison, everyone from housekeeping to grounds keepers to general managers at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian had a smile and a friendly greeting.
Walt Disney World Grand Floridian Rooms Amp up the Amenities
The Walt Disney World Grand Floridian takes its role as leader of the Disney resorts quite seriously. Upon entering our Disney World GF room, a welcoming light was on as was the television, tuned into the park hours. While some may decry this as a waste of electricity, it was a nice way to enter the room, a simple pleasantry that was missed later in the week when we switched to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and entered a dark room on the first night of our visit.
Overall, the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian resort hotel goes above and beyond other resorts in welcoming guests to the room. Upon entering, we found a towel folded in the signature Mickey Mouse shape waiting on the bed with a welcome letter, inviting us to enjoy all of the magic of a Disney World stay.
There were other small amenities that made the stay worthy of flagship status as well. The rooms are bright and airy, and while a few may look onto the parking lot and driveway, the majority offer a pleasing view of the lush grounds, the theme park or the lagoon. Our lagoon view room in the Boca Chica building faced the Contemporary Resort but afforded us a full view of the Magic Kingdom, including the nightly firework show.
Inside the rooms, we found plenty of space to spread out. Our king bed room also had a sleep sofa which, when extended, did take up a good portion of the empty area in the room, but we still found it easy to move around. An additional chair made for a comfortable place to sit throughout our stay.
No matter which building or room you are assigned, you should find a balcony. We were on the top floor of a dormered section of the building, so our outdoor area was a little smaller, but also slightly more private. We found that the dormered rooms offered a nice high ceiling that added to the feeling of space and roominess.
The room was equipped appropriately, with several USB ports for charging devices, a mini-fridge nicely hidden within the portmanteau and a Keurig machine, complete with several K-cups of various types of coffee. Unfortunately, those preferring tea, or even hot chocolate, will have to get their heated beverages outside the room or bring your own supplies from home.
Toiletries are plentiful and include the standard H2O products that are available at other deluxe resorts, but the Grand Floridian is equally as grand in its gestures, offering a small toiletry kit including Q-tips, a fingernail file and cotton facial cleansing pads. Terry bath robes are also available.
If you’re a morning news junkie or just like to catch up on the weather before heading out for the morning, you might enjoy the television that displays from the vanity mirror, making it easy to catch your favorite updates as you prepare for the day.
Within the bathroom, the vanity was spacious and the two sinks very handy as separating the bath and toilet areas made it much easier to get ready in the morning or at night. Lighting was perfect for applying makeup
Unlike other resorts on the property, the Grand Floridian also offers a laundry basket for used towels a well as upgraded, more decorative waste and recycling baskets.
Walt Disney World Transportation to the Parks, Where Flagship Fails
Disney’s complimentary transportation system providing travel to the parks is one area where the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian falls a little short. While located on the monorail line, this report is the last of the three Magic Kingdom resorts, meaning that the cars could be quite full by the time the train reaches the stop.
Since we traveled at off-peak times, it wasn’t as much a concern for us, but returning to the hotel on an evening when many were heading out for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I could see how it could easily be a problem. The cars were full as they reached the GF station and only a handful of us departed, leaving few open slots for the overly full platform full of people. At the time, the line, extended into the building itself, not so surprising when you consider the small size of the waiting area.
This is a similar problem at the bus stop. The loading area is big enough for only one bus to park to for guests to get on and off the bus. This was particularly problematic when scooters or wheelchairs needed to enter or exit. Since this process takes time, it wasn’t uncommon during our stay to have two or more buses waiting in queue to pick up passengers while a single bus was loading and unloading.
At other resorts, the loading areas are bigger, providing enough space for more than one bus to park. That means that more than one bus can be loading at a time, eliminating the type of log jam we witnessed at the Grand Floridian.
If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere during your stay, it’s good advice to order an Uber or Lyft.
To learn more about the different types of transportation available during your stay at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian, check out our Disney World transportation comparison.
Visiting Disney World Grand Floridian Pools
You’ll find two pools at the Grand Floridian has two pools at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian, each worthy of the resort’s flagship status. The Courtyard Pool is located east of Grand Floridian’s Main Building and features a hot tub, kiddie pool and water play area.
This zero-entry pool, once referred to as the quiet pool in Disney lingo, now sports the moniker of leisure pool. No matter what you call it, guests commonly understand that the Beach Pool is reserved for the quieter swimming activities, such as wading, floating and enjoying the sun.
If you’re looking to make a bigger splash, head over to the Beach Pool. Here you will find a water slide themed amid the oasis of a rocky spring. You can lounge poolside in full view of the Seven Seas lagoon and corresponding beach. This once made a more pleasant prospect than it does today, when you’ll be viewing the discordant Polynesian Village bungalows located nearby.
The Beach Pool also features and Alice in Wonderland themed water play area and splash pad for younger children. Just beware the tipping hat. As water cascades throughout the structure, the hat will fill. As it begins to reach capacity, it will tip and send a cascade of water onto the guests below.
All Grand Floridian’s pools range in depth from around 3 feet 6 inches to around five feet and are heated to 82 degrees, even in the summer. It’s a nice touch when the weather gets cooler, but those from northern climes may wish for a bit more chill in the summer when temps reach 90 degrees or higher.
The Beach Pool in particular makes a great place to hang out while waiting to get into your room or if you have a late flight out on the day of departure. After stowing your luggage with bell services, you can change and even shower in the nearby locker rooms. If you’re worried about any valuables, lockers are available.
While hours can vary at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian pools, they generally open around 9:00 am, but may unlock the gates as early as 7:00 during busy seasons and close between 8:00 and 11:00 pm. These are the hours when lifeguards will be on duty, but you may be able to access the Courtyard Pool after hours.
There is no need to bring towels from your room when using either of the pools on the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian property. Towels are provided poolside and can be easily disposed of in special bins on your way back to your room.
What to Do at the Grand Floridian
While the main reason for a stay at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian is to visit the four theme parks, you’ll find plenty to do if you fancy a day outside the thrills and adventure. The resort also offers many excursions to enjoy on evenings or mornings away from the park.
One of our favorite things to do is to hop on the monorail and take a ride over to the Polynesian. It’s like taking off to visit a tropical island, but you’ll get there in a fraction of the time and can even enjoy a Disney World signature Dole Whip or float without leaving to battle the crowds inside the park. The If you’re in the mood for a stroll, Polynesian Village can also be reached via the short Disney World GF walkway.
In the evenings, you’ll find musical presentations in the lobby. These range from classical pianists to vocalists on occasion and are always enjoyable. Given the calming spaciousness of the lobby, you’re sure to find a comfortable spot to sit and relax for a bit.
As with other Disney deluxe resorts, you’ll find water activities beyond the pools. The Walt Disney World Grand Floridian marina offers boat rentals, including the two-seater Sea Raycer. For larger parties, you can take out a Boston Whaler® Montauk or pontoon. After a short introduction to your new craft, you’ll be free to explore the Seven Seas Lagoon and adjacent Bay Lake.
If you aren’t feeling the need to pilot your own vessel, you can always take a ride on the water taxi that serves the Magic Kingdom. It’s a pleasant ride on a nice day or a nice way to watch the sun as it sets over the lagoon.
For pure decadent pleasures, the Senses spa at the Grand Floridian offers a number of relaxing treatments and salon services. From a Citrus Grove Signature Facial to the standard mani/pedi, you’ll find a relaxing escape from the day.
The nightlife at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian is of course family friendly and less upscale than many of the resort’s other amenities. You can gather around a campfire, complete with S’mores and munch away on your ooey gooey treats while taking in a moving on the big screen or simply sit back and watch the stars dance over your head.
Another favorite nighttime activity is to catch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. Since speakers located around the beach and walkways play the music score, it’s like being there—sometimes better. When viewing the fireworks from across the water, you’re ablet to see the spectacle in its entirety.
Christmas at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian
Since our stay at the Walt Disney World Grand Floridian was close to Christmas, the resort was in full festive attire, including full beds of red poinsettias. Bringing the season home is important to a flagship resort, so the lobby of each of the six buildings was decked out with its own decorated and lit tree. While not as spectacular as the display in the main lobby, it was a homey touch that made our stay feel just that much more special.
Another hallmark of Christmas at the Grand Floridian is the signature life-sized Gingerbread house. Coming in most years around fourteen feet tall, it takes a lot of flour, sugar and time to create this holiday spectacle, but it’s a touch that is certainly worthy of flagship status in our book.
Restaurants at Disney’s Flagship Resort
Disney has spared no expense when it comes to dining experiences at the Grand Floridian. Fare ranges from the simple grab and go to world-class signature meals. Here is a run-down on what to expect when dining at the GF.
1900 Park Fare
Characters come alive at 1900 Park Fare where you can feast on waffles with Mary Poppins and friends, or don your finest and enjoy a stately dinner hosted by Cinderella and Prince Charming.
Billed as American cuisine infused with Mediterranean flavors, this upscale resort is open nightly for dinner
Loosely inspired by the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the Enchanted Rose Bar and Lounge offers nightly cocktails with delectable eats.
Victoria & Albert’s
Dine in luxury at the AAA Five Diamond Award winning Victoria & Alberts. Here modern American cuisine is infused with far-off flavors. Disney World’s signature dining dress code is required.
Narcoossee’s is the place to go for surf and turf in an elegant upscale atmosphere. This waterfront restaurant offers incredible views of the Seven Seas lagoon, does adhere to Disney’s Signature Dining dress code.
Grand Floridian Cafe
Grand Floridian Cafe offers casual breakfast, lunch and dinner with a view the resort’s elegant courtyard.
Gasparilla Island Grill
Grab and go never had as good as it’s served at Gasparilla Island Grill. It’s definitely a step up from the normal Disney counter service fare, with dining available indoors or outdoors on patio overlooking resort grounds.
Garden View Tea Room
Step inside the world of Mary Poppins or at least enjoy a spot of tea in this elegantly themed tea room. Open only for morning or afternoon tea.
You can dine poolside at either the Beaches Pool Bar or Courtyard Pool Bar featuring snacks, drinks and sandwiches.
Guests from other Resorts or the parks can access Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort by a walking path, boat, or the Monorail from Magic Kingdom, or by bus from any of the other three theme parks and Disney Springs.
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