By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Review: The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa



By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from yourfirstvisit.netThe Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (a Disney Vacation Club (“DVC”) resort paired with the Grand Floridian, one of the Monorail resorts) is a wonderful place for returning visitors to Walt Disney World to stay, and for many room types is the most livable and flexible of the DVC resorts.

For typical first-time visitors, I don’t recommend the Disney Vacation Club resorts.

That said, these “DVC” resorts can be a great choice for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Among the Disney Vacation Club resorts, the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa ranks fifth overall for first-time visitors, and is particularly strong for quality of dining, compactness, convenience to the Magic Kingdom, and very livable rooms.

THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA AND THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS

You can have a spectacular visit at any Walt Disney World resort.

However, this site recommends that typical first time visitors to Walt Disney World avoid the Disney Vacation Club resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first.

(You can find extensive detail on the DVC resorts here.)

Kitchen in One and Two Bedroom Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from yourfirstvisit.netThe recommendation comes from the simple fact that the distinguishing features of these resorts–extra space and full kitchens–will not be of much value to first-time visitors following one of the itineraries on this site, as they won’t be used much.

However, the Disney Vacation Club resorts represent more than 10% of Walt Disney World’s total rooms, and are very appropriate for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Because of this, I provide up-to-date reviews based on our recent stays in these hotels. The images in review are from our November 2013 visit, a little less than three weeks after the October 2013 opening of the Villas at the Grand Floridian. I stayed here again twice in July 2016, and found my observations essentially unchanged.

REVIEW: THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA

Resorts are ranked on this site for first time visitors based first on their kid appeal, and then on their convenience.

On this basis, the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa comes in fifth overall of the Disney Vacation Club resorts. (See this for resort rankings.)

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Kid Appeal.

Pool at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from yourfirstvisitThe kid appeal of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, such as it is, comes from largely the “Beach Pool” it shares with its parent resort  Grand Floridian, and not its design, architecture, or theme.

There is a bit of Mary Poppins theming in both the lobby and the rooms.

No so Mary Lobby at the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from yourfirstvisit.netFor example, there’s the sculpture above in the lobby fountain…

Mary Poppins Theming at the Villas at the Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.net…and in our villa, this silhouette drawing in the master bedroom.

But this is comically subtle–so subtle that many will miss the Mary Poppins references entirely.

Mary Poppins from yourfirstvisit.netI would have liked to have seen a more literal Mary Poppins theming…for more kid appeal.

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Convenience.

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is the third-most convenient of all the Walt Disney World resorts in carrying out the itineraries for first-time family visitors on this site, and the second-most convenient of the DVC resorts.

All of the Monorail resorts are convenient to the Magic Kingdom.  The Grand Floridian is just one monorail stop away–but the 4th stop on the way back–there’s a low-capacity boat which can be a better choice for returning.

Epcot requires three monorail stops and a transfer to the Epcot monorail.  The return trip is faster, but figure 30 minutes (including time waiting for the monorail) or more per trip.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are accessed via buses shared with other nearby resorts.  This sharing adds on average just one stop in each direction per round trip, but is much complained about.

OTHER DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA

Chocolates from the Turn-Down Service at the Villas at the Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.netThese villas have a number of other positives.  They share in some of the extra amenities you’ll find at the Grand Floridian–robes and a turn-down service with chocolates, for example! (No turn-down service if you pay by points…)

They are also participate in the other positives of the overall resort–wonderful dining, except for kids, and the short monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom.

Among the Disney Vacation Club resorts, there’s a number of innovations (some not so obvious–like unequal bays) and top features in the rooms themselves. Each room type except for Grand Villas is the second largest such on property–only Old Key West rooms are larger.  Grand Villas are the largest.

Floor Plan Two Bedroom Lockoff Villa Disney's Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.netI’ll have more on this later in the review, but for now:

  • Villas at the Grand Floridian Studios were the first on property that can sleep 5 (studios at the Villas at the WIlderness Lodge added fifth sleeping spots in May 2014), and uniquely add a shower to one side of the divided bath, complementing the shower-tub combo on the other side (see the right side of the floor plan above)
  • One-Bedroom Villas have a really nice kitchen/dining/living room layout, and this space is larger than, and seats more than, any other DVC resort on property except for Old Key West. The shower is likely the largest most of us will ever see… (See the middle and left side of the floor plan above)
  • Two-Bedroom Villas combine the virtues and innovations of the studios and one-bedrooms, and are particularly livable for larger families
  • Grand Villas are the largest on property, and are the only ones where the fold-out couch aimed at the 11th and 12th guests is in its own space with a door–the media room.

More on all these room types–including many more photos and floor plans–later.

BEST AND WORST ROOMS AT THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA

Map The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and SpaOn the map (from Disney World’s website), the Villas are the circled T-shaped building at the bottom.

The Grand Floridian itself is the rest of the red-colored buildings above the Villas. The Villas are convenient to the shops, dining, services, and monorail stop in the main building, which is just north/above, separated by the more kid appealing of the Grand Floridian’s two pools, the Beach Pool.

The Villas at the Grand Floridian is very compact, so room location matters less than at some other resorts.

View from My Standard-View Room at the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.netIt has two view types: Standard and Lake.

Standard views are better than most such, with even the weakest–at the stem of the T–looking out over a grassy lawn. The image is the view from my “standard view” villa–not bad!!

Most guest services are in the Grand Floridian itself, but the villas have their own check-in and concierge desks.

Parking is available behind the small square building, on the map just below and to the left of the Villas–much more convenient than Grand Floridian parking.

There really aren’t any bad rooms, but higher floors are quieter than lower floors,  balconies are better than patios, and some of the rooms are a little closer to the main resort services at the Grand Floridian than others.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort Online Check-in from yourfirstvisit.netThe room request form lets you pick levels, and how close to the lobby you want to be.

BEST FOR:

First time family visitors looking for extra or more comfortable space, and preferring its location on the monorail to a DVC resort with more kid appeal, such as The Villas at the Wilderness Lodge. Families who need a 5-person Studio.

WORST FOR:

Families on a budget; families looking for the highest degree of kid appeal.

This review continues here.

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7 comments

1 Christine { 11.19.13 at 9:55 am }

Popping in to see the pictures before I can get over there myself. Looking forward to the continuation of this post! Pretty lobby!

2 Dave { 11.19.13 at 4:42 pm }

🙂 Christine!

3 Lindsay Davis { 09.30.14 at 11:51 am }

Thanks so much!
Why are balconies better than patios at the GF Villas? (i.e. better views, more space, or justpersonal preference?) Just curious! 🙂 We are looking at renting a Studio Villa and usually prefer a ground floor for quick accessibility of going back and forth from the pool, so I thought I would check and see your thoughts.

4 Dave { 09.30.14 at 6:32 pm }

Great question, Lindsay–because higher floors are quieter and have better views than lower floors! This building has a small enough footprint, and enough distance from the Beach Pool, that getting a patio won’t matter that much–but if that’s what you like of course go for it!

5 Lindsay Davis { 10.01.14 at 12:53 pm }

Good to know. We haven’t visited GF since the new villas have been built and we are used to giant layouts/campuses like Pop Century or Coronado Springs, so I wasn’t quite sure about the spacial layout and walking distances with the villas.
Thanks, Dave!

6 Taylor { 08.20.15 at 10:12 am }

Hi Dave, we are booked for a standard, one bedroom GF villa next April. Can you please clarify what you mean about the “weakest” standard rooms being on the “stem” of the T. Do you mean the long, vertical part of the T? I figured that the top of the T must face the lagoon, so those would not be standard rooms anyway. I would really appreciate any guidance on how to request a room with a decent view (not HVAC or other equipment) that is likely to be relatively quiet during the day for napping. Thanks so very much!!!

7 Dave { 08.21.15 at 12:04 pm }

Taylor I coulda been much clearer. The weakest views are the opposite of the lagoon view end, but even so are fine!

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