Review: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA
Our most recent stays in November 2013 and April 2014 confirm that Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is the fifth best deluxe resort at Walt Disney World for first time family visitors.
You can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort hotel.
However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World who can afford it should stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a deluxe resort, and that those who can’t should stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.
Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the deluxe resorts are distinguished by having (on average) the most amenities, nicest views, best dining options, best transport options, largest rooms, best service, and highest prices.
Among the deluxe resorts, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, a monorail resort, has a lot of positives.
It is the third most convenient of the Disney World resorts, bested only by the Contemporary and the Polynesian. The quality of dining at the resort is unparalleled. The overall architecture, and its associated Victorian detailing, is as delightful as is to be found at Walt Disney World. Standard rooms–at ~440 square feet–are bigger than those at any other Disney-owned resort except for the rooms in the newer part of the Polynesian.
Its Disney Vacation Club offering, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is also marvelous.
On the other hand, it has perhaps the least kid appeal of any Disney-owned resort at Walt Disney World.
It’s the only Disney World resort with a restaurant (Victoria and Albert’s) that does not allow younger kids, and the only Disney World resort whose largest, most central pool (the Courtyard Pool) is not also the pool designed to most appeal to kids.
The architecture and Victorian detailing, delightful to adults, will have no special appeal to most kids. And the public-space decorating scheme–the floors, walls, public furniture, paintings and such–will have little appeal to kids either.
Adults will recognize the decoration as typical of international high-end hotels that do not wish to risk for even a moment appearing stylish. Those with comfortable elderly aunts will recognize the decor as well.
Guest rooms have just ended a refurb cycle which has made them much less fussy than before. This paradoxically broadens their appeal while losing a bit of the sharpness of the Victorian theming. All in, for most guests the simpler rooms are an improvement.
It’s not that kids aren’t welcome; kids are completely welcome (well, not at Victoria and Albert’s) and will have a ball here. Rather, it’s that there’s next to nothing about the architecture, detailing, and grounds of Disney’s Grand Victorian Resort and Spa that reinforces that welcome and makes the resort feel kid-appealing.
(See this for much more on resort distinctions by price class–value, moderate, deluxe, etc.)
Standard rooms at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort are sized at the top end of the deluxe resorts.
They are larger than those at any other Disney resort save the rooms in the newer buildings at Disney’s Polynesian Resort–which all seem to be disappearing into Disney Vacation Club rooms anyway.
Most of these rooms sleep five–two each in two queens, and another in a convertible daybed. Rooms with one king bed are also available, as are multiple other room types, to be discussed later.
Standard rooms are quite spacious, and the overall effect is enhanced by 10′ ceiling heights in the bedroom area.
These rooms were refurbished in late 2013 and early 2014, with much simpler fabric schemes that lose a bit of the Victorian theming but make them more broadly appealing.
You can add to this capacity of five a child younger than three who sleeps in a crib.
DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPA
On this basis, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is the fifth-best deluxe resort for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.
- Three of the deluxe resorts–the Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Polynesian Resort, in that order–have spectacular kid appeal.
- None of the moderates do.
- All of the value resorts–Disney’s All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies, its Pop Century Resort and its Art of Animation Resort–have strong kid appeal.
Nothing about the design or architecture of the Grand Floridian shouts out that it was built for kids. I rank it fifteenth among the Disney resorts for kid appeal, but it’s really simply tied for last on this measure.
It is on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom is the first stop. Returning to the Grand Floridian via monorail is the opposite, as it is the last, fourth stop heading back. At busy times this can be a 30 minute or more trip.
If lines for it aren’t too long, the best choice for returning is the boat, which leaves from near the resort monorail stop at the Magic Kingdom–convenient for assessing lines at each. The Grand Floridian is the first stop on this boat when returning.
These boats are small and don’t permit standing, so checking the line is important.
Epcot requires a trip on the resort monorail to the TTC (the third stop) and a transfer to the Epcot monorail; the other two theme parks are served by buses shared with other resorts.
Best places to stay. This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms or concierge rooms.
This is because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms.
The single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views.
On the map (click it to enlarge it), the building at the bottom right is the DVC Villas at the Grand Floridian (separately reviewed here). The main building (center) and Sugarloaf Key building contain only concierge rooms. The Sago Key building (top center) is a little too far from the pools for family visitors, while many rooms in the Boca Chica and Big Pine Key buildings (which make a corner in the center right) are a little too close to the pool and subject to noise–though for reasons noted above this is probably the most quiet of Disney World main pools.
This leaves Conch Key as the recommended building, especially its side closest to the main building. It’s a little far from the main building with its shops and bus and monorail access, but it is quiet without being too far from the central pool, and the closest building to the boat dock.
If you are willing to take the risk of pool noise, then a room in Big Pine Key is the next best choice, as it is the building best positioned among the pools and transport options.
The current on-line request form is above. Click it to enlarge it.
Any first time family visitors who can afford it, but can’t get into or don’t want to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Families seeking kid appeal. Families too large to fit its 5 person rooms. See this for more on large families at Walt Disney World.
PHOTO TOUR OF A ROOM AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT
This review continues here.