This article is part of our series called, “A Spitting Match,” where two of writers go head to head, to read the other side of story by Steve Rhodes go here.
Hello Not Club 33 readers! I’m the Bitmoji avatar’d entity known as the Disney Cynic, and my particular brand of nonsense can be found over at www.cynicaldisney.com. Cynical is certainly an apt description of what we do, but it’s done all in good fun and you’ll probably never look at some attractions the same way again after reading our stuff.
Steve and I met like so many couples do these days, online. Our blogs were matched on Twitter and a mutual respect was born! I won’t call it a full blown bromance yet, because I feel like we’d need to actually meet in person for that to occur. I certainly respect everything that the guys over here do, and get the impression that they’ve laughed a good bit at some of my work, but even though we’re somewhat cut from the same cloth, we certainly don’t always agree on everything. One of those disagreements has been over the Polynesian Resort, which I named the 2nd worst resort on property behind only the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds in an article on my site.
I think I just heard that audible, cartoonish “GASP!” from you all the way in Atlanta.
Before you start looking for your pitchforks and torches, hear me out. “Overrated” or “Not valuable” would have been more accurate choice of words, as “Worst” was a bit imprecise for my argument from an objective sense. I’m not over here doing bath salts thinking that All Star Music is a better resort. I may have ranked it 2nd worst originally to get a rise out of people, but the more that I’ve sat down to think about it, the less I end up liking the resort as a whole.
If I’m going to Disney World, I’m going to do a basic cost/benefit analysis so I stretch that dollar as much as possible for what I’m looking for in a vacation, and that’s where the bulk of my argument lies. You almost have to take emotion completely out of the equation and become a Vulcan (“GASP!! A STAR TREK NOT STAR WARS REFERENCE FROM A DISNEY FAN?!?!”) when committing to spending such a large amount on a vacation. I may not be able to completely persuade you, because I know that I’m fighting an uphill battle here. My goal at this point is to make you go “hmmm….he may be an asshole, but he has a point…” So, shall we begin?
- It’s really a Moderate Resort in disguise:
Oh, it’s not priced like a Moderate resort. At least there you’ll find a price of less than $200/night. The minimum you’d pay per night at the Polynesian is $475. The rooms are smaller than the average newer deluxe or DVC studio, but it’s priced the same. Basically what I’m getting at here is that it’s a waste of money. If you’re going to spend the money on a resort on the Monorail line, spend the money on a better one. Both the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian are MUCH better resorts, the Grand is only $100/night more and the Contemporary is $75/night CHEAPER. So you get more bang for your buck elsewhere.
Steve says: This is measurably false The rooms at the Poly are the second largest on property in terms of Standard Rooms at 415 square feet (#1 Grand Floridian) and the DVC Studio rooms are the largest at 440 Sq feet. For reference the standard room at the Contemporary is 394 sq ft which ranks 3rd largest and the other Deluxe rooms fall off from there with Animal Kingdom bringing up the rear at just 344 sq ft.
- It isn’t the same quality as other Deluxe/DVC Resorts:
Since the Polynesian has a DVC component, it deserves to get thrown into that ring too. There are much better accommodations available to you elsewhere on property. For instance, the Beach Club, literally a good tee shot away from Epcot (a park I favor more than Magic Kingdom) with the best pool on property, and Animal Kingdom Lodge, an awe inspiring resort where literal fucking giraffes are grazing on trees outside your balcony, are available to you at a cheaper rate (in terms of cash and DVC points) than the Polynesian. The fact that you can see Cinderella’s Castle is not enough to balance a sometimes stark difference in quality between the Polynesian and other resorts in the same category.
Steve says: To Bobby’s credit, Animal Kingdom Lodge when considered solely as a hotel and not factoring in location (which drastically alters your time value for money because it’s so damn far away from everything) AKL is the best hotel on property, which I’ve said before. The Polynesian in terms of theming is a heavy-hitter in its own right (every Disney hotel that is not AKL is vying for second-place) The Poly has the second best pool (Beach Club) the second best food situation (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and the second best location (Contemporary) (sorry Epcot hotels as much as I love you, numbers don’t lie and the masses have chosen Magic Kingdom year in and year out as the most attended theme park on earth thusly you cannot ever objectively have he best location.) Taking all things into factor Poly is the best resort in the WDW portfolio. While it’s fun to talk about hotels as if they were on an island by their lonesome that is not the case and the overwhelming majority are looking at these places as a big picture and the Polynesian ticks all the boxes.
- The Bungalows are a rip-off:
Every now and then, I draw some cynical inspiration from my dear old Dad. My parents have been DVC members since the late 90’s, and he is of the belief that DVC artificially sets the bar high on the number of points one must use to stay at a Bungalow to prevent them from selling out so that Parks and Resorts can sell the rooms at a cash rate of between $2500-$5000 (after taxes apparently) per NIGHT. Not per week, like one might pay for the same accommodations in a real Pacific island. Is that a conspiracy theory? If it is, it’s got more merit to it than any of the JFK ones. To stay there on points, it would cost DVC members at least 125 points/night, which is about half of the average allotment per year for members. If DVC doesn’t book the room 60 days out, then the reservation is optioned to Disney to sell for cash. Honestly, the only “cool” thing about them is that they are out on the water, but to a clumsy Polack like me who enjoys the adult beverages, that’s an alligator death sentence waiting to happen.
Steve says: This is coming from the guy who wants Disney to offer actual Yachts as accommodations. It’s a private house that’s literally on a lake looking at Cinderella Castle with a massive private lanai and plunge pool with speakers that play the fireworks music at night (if you wish- which of course you do). And it’s owned by Disney, so yes it’s expensive – shocker.
- It’s the oldest resort on property:
Technically, by 10 minutes it’s the oldest (#DisneyWorldTrivia). Just because it’s OG doesn’t make it great. In fact, to me it makes it outdated. The exterior is close to 40 years old in some places, and while the rooms have undoubtedly been updated to the point that nothing truly original to the resort is still in existence, the basic feel of the resort hasn’t changed. It literally looks like the hotel from that one subset of Saved by the Bell episodes where the gang goes to Hawaii to stay at Kelly Kapowski’s Grandfathers hotel, and for some reason the old guy on the brink of bankruptcy takes business advice from a bunch of teenagers, who use hijinks to take down the competition. Basically what I’m saying is that it reminds me of the tacky 70’s and shitty but lovable 90’s sitcoms for kids, which is nice, but not something I’m going to spend a premium on.
Steve says: The oldest? So I guess we should bulldoze the Magic Kingdom since it’s the oldest Park? For the record this resort was remodeled in 2015 which is so so long ago, I know.
- It’s not really an “experience”:
It’s an experience going to the Grand Floridian, let alone staying there. It’s a vacation unto itself to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. There’s enough to do at Boardwalk that you could stay there a couple of days and not run out of things to do. With that in mind, let’s isolate the resorts from the parks all together as a thought exercise. If you can tell me that in a vacuum that you’d find the Polynesian just as enjoyable as other resorts without the Magic Kingdom being a 10 minute Monorail ride away, then I cede this argument to you. In my opinion, that’s just not the case. I’d be sitting back watching the loop of Stacey and the Must Do’s by hour six.
Steve says: Start ceding – being welcomed at your hotel with an “aloha and a lei around your neck. watching fireworks from the beach, eating Dole Whip, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Ohana, Lava Pool, actual bars at the pools unlike the some monorail properties (for shame Contemporary), Every food location behind good or great, winding pathways thru tropical landscaping with soft yuekele music playing in the background, private patios (again for shame Contemporary), nightly torch lighting ceremonies, a sushi bar, watching fireworks with the music piped in at Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace whilst your Dole Whip and rum cocktail, Lilo’s Playhouse (you’re welcome parents), being able to just relax in a laid back environment without being sent to the principal’s office for talking in the library (looking at you Grand Floridian).
- Transportation is a pain in the ass:
I don’t like the Monorail as an adult. Half of the trains are older than I am, they always smell of baby vomit and sweat, and particularly at the Poly, the cars are already filled to the brim by people from the TTC who don’t want to take a 20 minute ferry ride to get to the Magic Kingdom. The Monorail, for all of its nostalgia and Disney wonder, is also trying to kill us, with two (see them here and here) major failures in the past six months. Even compared to its Monorail line brethren, it has the longest of commutes to MK. On top of that, there is no bus to Epcot, my favorite park. To get there, I’d have to walk over to the TTC or take the Monorail all the way around, change over to the Epcot line, and repeat the process over to get back. That’s highly inefficient, and if you don’t have a car, you don’t have a choice. Boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom is ok, but not as consistent as the Monorail. If one peruses my site, you’ll notice that I have an unadulterated love of The Beach Club. There’s a reason for this. It’s centrally located on property, has bus fast bus transportation to the Magic & Animal Kingdoms and Disney Springs. Its boat service to the other parks is much more reliable and has higher capacity. Plus, it’s an easy walk to Epcot, and not the worst walk to Hollywood Studios. There is no walking to the Magic Kingdom from the Polynesian, only to the TTC.
Steve says: If I’m shelling out Deluxe level dollars you damn sure better believe I will be avoiding the bus as much as possible. Also The monorail is exactly two stops away which means it’s the second shortest not the furthest from resort to the castle. The Contemporary is 4 stops away making the monorail ride to the magic kingdom the longest. Also, your monorail car to the Magic Kingdom is not likely to be full unless you are there during a major holiday because your average non-resort guest will be taking the “express” monorail to Magic Kingdom which DOES NOT stop at the hotels. As far as the monorail system itself they do need to update the shit for reals these are the same ones going since 1989 and they are supposed to span only 20ish years, however this isn’t a Polynesian problem it’s a Disney World issue. When it comes the boats I think Bobby has this mixed up with the Contemporary/FortWilderness-Lodge boating which is brutal. The Polynesian shares boats with the Grand Floridian and it’s quite efficient. In fact, after boarding fromm the docks at the Polynesian the first stop is the Magic Kingdom.
- It has the worst signature dining on the Monorail line:
The Grand Floridian has Victoria & Albert’s, literally the second best restaurant in America. The Contemporary has California Grill, one of the toughest reservations to get at WDW and certainly in the top 5 restaurants on property if not #2 behind only Victoria & Albert’s. What does the Polynesian have? O’Hana and the Spirit of Aloha. I’m not saying that those aren’t good experiences in their own right, but let’s just compare them to the signature dining of the other two. The food is going to be measurably better at both Victoria & Alberts and California Grill. You’re going to get a MUCH better view of fireworks at California Grill than on the beach. You’re going to talk about Victoria & Alberts for the rest of your life, but not about sitting in sand and watching a fat dude spin torches shirtless. To get the value out of O’Hana, you’d have to have the appetite of a 400 pound man. Plus, O’Hana is overrated. There, I said it. The breakfast there sucks, I’m forced to deal with the mascot versions of my least favorite Disney movie, and I hate pineapple. It’s a fruit with a foreboding exterior, not unlike Sheppard Smith on Fox News.
Steve says: I’d bet neither of us or most of you reading this blog is going to Victoria and Albert’s anytime soon (go ahead and Google that menu) But even if you are trying to compare a $185 per person meal at a legit five star restaurant to a $60 per person churrasco, which is assine, doing so puts the number in favor of the churrasco (O’hana). Surely V&A’s is better, it’s AAA 5 diamond. Is it 300% better??? I think not but it costs 300% more. Comparing it to California Grill falls into the same boat just Cali Grill doesn’t even have the diamonds to back it up. As far as fireworks viewing you can get a fireworks table at O’hana which goes overlooked by many, conveniently Bobby forgot this fact. Don’t even bring up the character breakfast lest I remind you of 1900 Park Fare at the Grand which is a crime against the senses and Chef Mickey’s leaves the food out on hot ass burners so unless you’re up there when the new pan hits the bar – good luck. . O’hana is probably the best character breakfast in a Disney hotel food-wise because everything is served directly to you table- FRESH. Characters are a moot point everyone is gonna have their favorites so pick what you like. Pro-tip if you want a superb character breakfast go to Tusker House (you need a park ticket but it’s worth the price of admission).
- The Beatles officially died there:
Is it really fair to hold the resort responsible for the demise of one of the most important musical groups of all time? Nope, but I’m going to anyway. Even though I’ll listen to the Rolling Stones over the Beatles every time (hot take, I know), I know that I don’t get the music I listen to without the Beatles. Obviously this was a long time coming, but John Lennon put pen to paper at this resort, thus ending one of the biggest music groups of all time. Lennon went on to have a notable solo musical career and marry the biggest shrill of a woman in Yoko Ono, while Paul McCartney went on to write the best Bond theme ever, the worst Christmas song ever, and is the subject of my favorite conspiracy theory (that the real Paul died and was replaced by a body double). The last time I was there, I’d had a few too many at Trader Sam’s and asked the front desk if they knew what room it happened in. According to the front desk manager, he was told it happened in a conference room that is now occupied by the gift shop underneath Kona Café. So think about that the next time you’re buying your souvenir t-shirts.
Steve says: Hot Take – who gives a fuck.
Look, it’s not all bad at the Polynesian. If you remove the hype and minimum price tag of $475, it’s a great resort, and I’m more prone to stay there over the likes of Port Orleans and Coronado Springs. I LOVED drinking at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. That place is bat shit crazy, and I think it’s the most fun bar on property. The pool is one of the more spectacular looking ones that Disney has to offer, though it’s no Stormalong Bay to me (or to Disney, since you don’t have to scan your magic band to get in). You also get a wonderful view of Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach, and there is a beach there for you to walk on and lay in.
To cut to the heart of the matter though, there are options with better accommodations and locations, many of which are available at cheaper rates that don’t rip off the customers, have better dining options on site and better access to transportation. Oh, and none of the others killed the Beatles. Alright Steve, I’ve got seven rock-solid, data driven arguments and one emotional one. What do you have?
Come at me bro!
To read Steve’s positive review and Bobby’s rebuttals click here.