WW GOES TO WDW at Yesterland.com

The Villas at
Disney’s Grand Floridian
Resort & Spa


Great Inside!
Outside... Well, take a look.
The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from the Ticket & Transportation Center ferry dock

This week, on Wednesday, October 23, 2013, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa officially opened. I visited this new Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort with my camera and notepad.

The villas themselves are luxurious and beautifully designed—exceeding even the high standards of the other DVC resorts at Walt Disney World. But the outside of the building could have been better.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, October 25, 2013.


From the Seven Seas Lagoon, at first glance, the new DVC resort next door to the 25-year-old Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa could almost be mistaken for the box that its older neighbor came in. In reality, it’s not a box; it’s a T-shaped building with a porte-cochère at the top of the T.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2002

The original Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa opened July 1, 1988 on the monorail route around Disney’s Seven Seas Lagoon as the flagship Walt Disney World resort hotel. The square peninsula site was originally meant to hold a Thai-inspired Asian Resort.

The Grand Floridian is an elaborate pastiche of gables, turrets, towers, cupolas, dormers, and cascading rooflines. The Victorian seaside resort is supposed to represent Palm Beach’s golden era, but, in truth, it looks more like the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California, or the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, than any hotel that was ever in Palm Beach or any other Florida location.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photos by Werner Weiss, 2002 (top) and 2013 (bottom)

Before and after

DVC members who wished for a DVC resort on the monorail had that wish granted when Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort opened August 4, 2009. But what about the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian?

In March 2011, leaked plans showed another DVC resort on the monorail—this one on a small site between Disney’s Grand Floridian and Disney’s Wedding Pavilion. And now those plans have become a reality.

It’s the six-story Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Although the style of the new DVC resort is supposed to match the original, it’s likely that guests will see a difference. The original resort brilliantly captures the historic style. The DVC part? Well, not so much.

By the way, do you see the how Sunset Point at Disney’s Polynesian Resort is torn up in the 2013 photo above? That’s early work for a DVC resort at the Polynesian.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The new DVC resort and the original deluxe resort

Urban planner, author, and MiceChat columnist Sam Gennawey compared the original resort and the DVC building. According to Sam, “The old Grand Floridian looks glorious. It was designed beginning with its exterior, with rooms then being fit into that form.”

Sam explained why the new building is disappointing: “It lacks delicacy. It was designed from the inside as an efficient arrangement of rooms, more like a suburban Sheraton, with an exterior then applied to the resulting form. A building of that era would not have blank walls. The Victorian era was before air conditioning, so the entire exterior would have had windows. The Villas building is a giant visual contradiction.”

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The Villas building beyond the Grand Floridian water activities pool and beach pool

Part of the challenge that the architects faced is that DVC members expect consistent accommodations. If some villas are better than others—such as corner villas with additional windows—then every member would want those “best” villas. One solution for the blank walls could have been faux windows, just like the faux dormers on the peaked roof.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Walkway to the Villas building

The architectural shortcomings of the new building are most evident from the Seven Seas Lagoon. It looks better when viewed from other angles.

Borrowing a page from The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, a covered walkway connects the original resort to the DVC building.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Fountain adjacent to the Villas building

A delightful surprise along the walkway is an elegant stairstep fountain.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Porte-cochère

The DVC resort has its own porte-cochère, its own lobby, and its own check-in desks. However, the DVC resort does not have its own pool, restaurant, lounge, retail space, or exercise room. Fortunately, the original Grand Floridian offers arguably the finest collection of such amenities of any Disney resort hotel at Walt Disney World.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Penguin fountain

Penguins from Mary Poppins populate a bronze fountain in the new building’s lobby. Although Mary Poppins takes place in Edwardian times, not in the earlier Victorian period—and although Mary Poppins is set in London, not Florida—it’s a terrific centerpiece for lobby, and it feels appropriate at this Disney resort.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Chandeliers in the six-story atrium

Again borrowing a page from the Wilderness Lodge, the DVC building has an atrium lobby, but on a much smaller scale than its sister resort next door. Two five-tier custom grand chandeliers feature a light antiqued-brass finish and decorative green crystals.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Check-in desks

Instead of standing at a traditional hotel check-in counter, guests at the Villas resort will sit down at a desk. It’s a friendlier approach than the usual barrier between the guest and the desk clerk. There are three desks. Hours are limited, but the main Grand Floridian front desk can provide 24-hour service to guests of the Villas.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Lobby television.

As at other Disney resorts, kids can watch videos on kid-size furniture while Mom or Dad checks in.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Deluxe studio

Of course, what really matters are the “villas” (vacation rooms and suites) themselves.

And this is where this new DVC resort excels!

There are deluxe studios (sleeps 5, approx. 374 sq. ft.), one-bedroom villas (sleeps 5, approx. 844 sq. ft.), dedicated two-bedroom villas (sleeps 9, approx. 1,232 sq. ft.), lock-off two-bedroom villas (sleeps 10 in deluxe studio connected to one-bedroom villa), and three-bedroom Grand Villas (sleeps 12, approx. 2,800 sq.ft.).

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Pull-down bunk-size bed

Instead of relying on sleeper chairs that convert into singles beds, as at some DVC resorts, the deluxe studios and one-bedroom villas provide pull-down beds. They’re meant for children—and are a wonderful feature for families of five.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Kitchen in one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Master bathroom of one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas

Befitting its association with the flagship Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, this DVC property strives to be the flagship of the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World. From the tilework in bathrooms to the snazzy built-in refrigerators with ice drawers, everything is topnotch.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Grand Floridian H2O toiletries

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Bathroom TV

Each bathroom—even in the studios—has a television built into the bathroom mirror.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Grand Villa dining table

The deluxe studios are better than regular hotel rooms.

The one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas are spectacular.

But the three-bedroom Grand Villas are over-the-top amazing! There are six of them in total, all stacked at the end the building. They each even include a separate media room with a home theater system.

The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Resort monorail approaching the Grand Floridian station

But why spend time in the media room when a monorail station is just a short walk away, and the Magic Kingdom is the next monorail stop?


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Updated October 25, 2013.