Managing Editor Rebecca Tobin this month spent three days at Walt Disney World, checking out the Polynesian Village Resort and the four parks. Her first report follows:
Each of the resorts at Walt Disney World have their particular charms, but I've always enjoyed the location and the lush, tropical vibe of the Polynesian Village Resort, now back to its original name after finishing a refurbishment.
The resort's update has changed the lobby of the Great Ceremonial House, added a Trader Sam's Grog Grotto (expect to wait for a table) and redone the main swimming pool.
But it's the new accommodations, which opened April 1, that have people buzzing. We're talking about the new Disney Vacation Club accommodations: 350 studio rooms and 20 overwater bungalows. (The resort also has 484 traditional hotel rooms with tropical decor. Each can sleep up to five guests.)
The bungalow accommodation is an absolute showstopper. We spent three nights in one. (View more images here.)
The 20 bungalows fan out over the Seven Seas Lagoon and are connected via a boardwalk accessible only to bungalow guests. The exterior is fairly simple but the entrance hall is dramatic: A long, cool hallway with wood floors leads past two bedrooms to a large, high-beamed living room and full kitchen, complete with a surfboard-shaped dining table with room for eight. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view to a private deck and beyond to Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
The deck has a gorgeous plunge pool, perfect for a cool-down after a long day of walking in the parks. A side extension to the deck holds two hanging wicker chairs that make for a cute picture, though they aren't quite as comfortable as the deck chairs.
The piece de resistance to the master bedroom is a huge bathroom with double vanity, a hot tub and shower with rain-shower head. There's also a second full bathroom accessible off the main hallway. Foldaway doors reveal a clothes washer and dryer.
The bungalows technically sleep eight: two in the master suite, three in the second bedroom and three in the living room (though a Pack-n-Play and highchair in the closet suggest that a baby could be added to the total). The beds include two foldout twin beds that fold down, Murphy-style, from the wall __ one in the living room under the gigantic television.
The nightly light show in the Seven Seas Lagoon passes just a few hundred feet from the bungalow's deck and music from the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom is piped into the deck's speaker system.
Disney calls the bungalows "a tropical haven filled with Disney touches," but aside from the picture of Lilo and Stitch sleeping in a hammock that was our daughter's backdrop on her foldaway bed, there wasn't much overt Disney theming in the bungalow. But it was an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the parks, and we looked forward to returning for a dip in the plunge pool or just sitting and decompressing for an hour in the air-conditioned living room (my husband) or on one of the lounge chairs on the deck (me).
We couldn't get reservations at the Polynesian's Ohana, so we ordered takeout sushi from the Kona Cafe, grabbed a hot dog kids meal from Captain Cook's for the kid, and ate our meals ''at home."
The 350 studio rooms, in longhouses with names like Pago Pago, are rolling out in stages through the summer. They are pleasant and roomy with a queen-sized bed, pullout sofa bed, and fold-down twin bed. A kitchenette with mini-fridge and microwave is useful for breakfasts and quick meals; connecting doors enable larger parties to stay together.
The studios and bungalows are part of the vacation-ownership program, but you don't have to be in the Disney Vacation Club to book them.
If the bungalows are a showstopper, then so may be the price. During Disney's value season, which runs roughly from mid-August to mid-September, the bungalows start at $2,137 per night. The studios start at $439.
On the other hand, $2,137 divided by eight is about $267 per person. And that might be a good deal, factoring in the plunge pool, the privacy, the in-room washer/dryer, the gorgeous setting, the closet space, the bragging rights and even that eight-person dining table __ perfect for cooking your own meals or for getting takeout sushi and chilling a bottle of white wine in the fridge.