The New “Grand” Vacations

by David S. Abel
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 3, 2013 Issue #741 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Lobby FountainMy sister loves all things Victorian; she has Victorian decorations for her Christmas tree, and every year gets a Victorian calendar. So when I heard the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa were opening three days before our joint Epcot Food and Wine Festival visit this year, I knew I'd have to try to transfer our reservations from Kidani Village to the Grand Floridian. I successfully completed the switch of the two-bedroom reservation on the morning of the four-month mark. Seems like an eternity ago, but we have finally arrived.

The resort is every bit as beautiful as one would expect. I'm sure by now everyone's seen bunches of photos or videos of the new villas, so I thought I'd take a closer, more practical look at the new villas — and I'm writing this as we are actually staying in the resort.

When we arrived by Magical Express, we were greeted by a cast member. Check-in would have occurred in the main building, but since my sister and her husband had arrived and checked in a few hours earlier, the cast member escorted us directly over to the villas. The villas are about a 3-1/2 minute walk from the main building, but there is a nice covered walkway, much like that leading from the Wilderness Lodge to its villas.

When we arrived at the villas' lobby, we sat with a concierge to add a credit card to our portion of the account (even though I'd already entered a credit card when I did on-line check in last week) and validate our MagicBands.

The lobby of the villas building is beautiful, much like the lobby of the main building — except after Alice spilled that bottle that said "Drink me" and it shrank! It has the same grand feeling, though, just on a smaller scale. But we have a beautiful Mary Poppins themed fountain in the middle that the main lobby doesn't. The Mary Poppins theme carries through to the elevators, where her umbrella serves as the floor indicator above the doors. Surprisingly, after the villas have been open for only three days, there's already one umbrella missing, and another has the background peeling off. (Note: When we were checking out, I saw the bent-up background of the one elevator indicator had been fixed.) Every time we ride the elevators we think Mary Poppins' voice should announce the floors, and when the door opens on the main floor, she should say, "Have a Practically Perfect Day!"

Villas at Grand Floridian BedroomOur room is on the 6th floor with a lake view. It's a beautiful view over the Seven Seas Lagoon, even though we're right in the corner of the T-shaped building. We can see the Wedding Pavilion just peeking around the end of the building in front of us. It's a little difficult sitting on the balcony in the morning, though. The sun rises over the lagoon and not only shines on this side of the building, but also reflects off the water.

Since the second bedroom also has a walk-in shower, we let my sister and her husband enjoy the master bedroom and we took the second. The room has a nice small "sofa table" furnishing right inside the room (where the entry door would be if this had been a lock-off unit) that, with a chair, serves as a small desk. There is an outlet on the wall right behind it for plugging in a laptop and cell phones. Unfortunately, the table has a privacy guard, which hides the outlets so the only way to access them is to move the table away from the wall.

It's really nice having both the walk-in shower and a bathtub in this bedroom. On the first morning, we found it took quite a while for the hot water to climb the six floors to our shower, but by the second day it was better. Even though the bathroom has three doors, they're all sliding doors and can't support a towel hook. As a result, there's only one double-prong hook in the bathroom to hold towels. On a positive note, the toilet paper holder is just where it should be. Too many of the vacation club properties have the toilet paper holders in inconvenient places.

The television in the mirror is cool, but I'm not sure how practical it is. In this room you can't see it from either the tub or the toilet, although we did find it handy for listening to the news while getting ready in the morning. But with all the bathroom doors open in the morning, the reflection of the sun shining into the room makes it difficult to actually see the news in the mirror.

This second room technically sleeps four people, but it's really more practical for two people for a few reasons. The two queen beds in the room have one nightstand between them. Someone sleeping with a CPAP machine, or even just wearing glasses for that matter, may need to place things on the floor at night. But one nice feature about that nightstand, it has two outlets and a [charging] USB port under the top shelf. It's not really noticeable unless you're almost kneeling on the floor looking into it, so I'm afraid this will often be overlooked and unused.

Grand Floridian Villa KitchenLately, it seems to me that many of the Disney Vacation Club resorts have been getting uncomfortable furniture in the living rooms. I often feel like I'm going to fall off the front of the sofas (particularly at Bay Lake Tower). Here, the furniture is a little firm (primarily from being brand new, I believe), but it seems a bit more comfortable to sit on. There are two hassocks that offer some storage and even two drawers in the half wall (under the back of the bench of the breakfast nook), providing a bit of storage for anyone using the living room as a bedroom.

The kitchen is very nice. I particularly like the way they "hid" the refrigerator and dishwasher to blend in with the cabinetry, maintaining the "turn-of-the-century" feel. Unfortunately, it really makes the microwave appear out of place. One other oddity is that due to the design of the farmer's sink, there is little storage underneath for the usual trash and recycle bins. Here, the trash bin is located between the stove and the refrigerator on a roll-out shelf that still maneuvers stiffly, and the recycle bin is similarly found across the kitchen in a sideboard cabinet.

Villas at Grand Floridian ViewIf you're a person who often gets the refillable mugs for your vacation, the new villas present a challenge. There are two locations at which the mugs can be refilled; one is the Gasparilla Island Grill all the way over on the other side of the main building. The other is the Beaches Pool Bar & Grill, which is halfway between the villas and the main building. The pool location is only open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., so if you're looking for early morning or late night beverages, you're going to take a hike.

Now don't get me wrong, the Villas at the Grand Floridian are still an elegant place to stay and I'm extremely excited we got to experience them. I've just pointed out a few things we found 'quirky' that might need to change if this were a permanent residence. But for a vacation home, it still contains enough magic to overlook its quirks.

Now, if you'll excuse me, we're off to listen to the Grand Floridian Orchestra. After all, that's one of the best reasons for staying at the Grand Floridian Resort!



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David Abel has been a "Disnoid" since his first visit to Walt Disney World in 1969 when only a Preview Center existed to show plans for the future resort. Since then, he has visited Disney World countless times, along with Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland Resorts. He's been a DVC member since its inception, enjoyed the Disney Cruise Line and toured Italy with Adventures by Disney. He resides with his partner in Pennsylvania, where he is a computer programmer.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.