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Spirit of Aloha luau Archives

April 2, 2015

Families will find a lot to enjoy at renovated Polynesian Village at Walt Disney World

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One of the original hotels at Walt Disney World, Disney's Polynesian Village has long been known as a favorite among families. And the completion of the recent renovations and expansion have reinforced that family comes first at this South Pacific-inspired resort.

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The biggest change certainly is the addition of Disney Vacation Club villas and Walt Disney World's first over-the-water bungalows. The Polynesian is the third and final hotel on the monorail loop to add DVC accommodations. Although DVC membership appeals to many types of repeat visitors, there's no denying that families often consider the timeshare company because it allows them more room and more dining options when traveling.

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"With the DVC bungalows and studios, you have so much more flexibility," said Kate Melody, a Disney Parks Moms Panelist and DVC member. "I have four children and so really the bungalows would be a better choice for us. Being a larger family, we like the flexibility of the villas. The new setup for the studios actually has a split bathroom, so for us in the morning trying to get four children plus Mommy getting ready - you want to look good for those PhotoPass photos - is a little bit of a challenge in a standard hotel room. That's one of the reasons we purchased Disney Vacation Club."

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Kate Melody (left) and Juliette Merchant

Juliette Merchant, another Disney Parks Moms Panelist, DVC member and mother of four, agreed, adding that she enjoys cooking when staying at Walt Disney World. "I cook every day of the week at home except Fridays. And when I come to a DVC resort, that's what I do," she said. "We may do one meal outside the villa each day, and that's probably lunch so the kids get a little bit of a treat. I cook breakfast in our villa, and I cook dinner. I love being able to feed my family the foods that I want to feed them. Of course, it's cheaper, but I know that they're going to eat what they're used to eating. For our family, coming to the resort is such a big draw for them they don't feel deprived if we're not going to every park (or restaurant.)"

Regardless of whether guests stay in hotel rooms or the DVC villas and bungalows, they share access to the resort's many amenities. The centerpiece for many families is, of course, the pool deck. At the Polynesian, the main pool -- the Lava Pool - has been under construction for almost a year. It's expected to reopen within the next two weeks with an additional 35,000 square feet of deck space, said Polynesian Village General Manager Norm Noble.

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Norm Noble

"The volcano [by the pool] has been redesigned, and it has a much more natural feel," he said. "I think people are going to connect with that. It's unique and different."

In addition, a new children's interactive water play area, Kiki Tikis Splash Area, has been added. It contains two smaller slides, while the volcano in the Lava Pool still houses one water slide.

A new eight-person infinity hot tub that overlooks Seven Seas Lagoon opens with the Lava Pool this month. That's an addition that guests repeatedly have requested because the Polynesian was the sole deluxe resort at Walt Disney World without one. A renovation completed in 2001 added warmer water areas and seating to one end of the pool, but they were a far cry from a hot tub.

The quiet pool is set to close for renovations when the new Lava Pool opens to guests.

"Nothing has changed with the marina and its offerings," Noble said. "However, the one thing we have created is the lawn where we are going to be able to do some different experiences. We're going to be able to move the lighting of the torch that we typically would do at 6 o'clock every evening. That's now going to be done on the lawn. And then we're also going to show movies for kids on the lawn. We did show them on the beach."

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You can read about other entertainment, such as hula lessons with Disney Legend Auntie Kau'i and the Spirit of Aloha luau, in my blogs from when we stayed at the Polynesian two years ago. Those entertainment aspects remain unchanged. Also, my AllEars newsletter feature gives an overview of our vacation experiences.

Disney's Polynesian Village houses two table-service restaurants, Kona Café and 'Ohana, plus two bars on the second floor of the main Ceremonial House. The recent renovations extended to the quick-service Captain Cook's restaurant and the new Pineapple Lanai, home of the famous Dole Whip ice cream, on the first floor.

The most-talked about location for adult beverages and small plates of food, however, is the new Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. This intimate, interactive bar and lounge is modeled after its very popular counterpart located in the Disneyland Hotel. The Florida edition also has additional seating outdoors at Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace, which has its own bar with live entertainment that is Polynesian-themed.

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Trader Sam's is the first bar at Walt Disney World to restrict access during some hours to those only 21 and older. You can read more about the policy in my previous blog.

In California, Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Room is set in the 1930s, while the Orlando location has 1,200 props based on a 1960s theme. And that timeframe is indicative of the newly designed areas throughout the resort.

"What we had here was an opportunity to look at that time period when tiki really hit its stride: post WWII to mid-20th century," said Kyle Barnes, the Imagineer responsible for overseeing the design and direction for the entire renovation at the Polynesian Village. "So we took that era as an inspiration for our furniture and then melded that with the original design of the resort itself."



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July 11, 2013

Review: Spirit of Aloha luau at Disney's Polynesian Resort

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During my family's recent stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World, we had the opportunity to attend the Spirit of Aloha dinner show, which is modeled after a traditional luau. Although I have been to an authentic cultural feast in Hawaii, I was looking forward to experiencing Disney World's long-running version for the first time.

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Category 1 luau seating

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Categories 2 and 3 luau seating

The event begins when the check-in opens at the Great Ceremonial House about 45 minutes before show time. The luau is offered twice each night -- at 5:15 and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. In general, seating is based on the category of table you select when you book the luau. For example, we paid for Category 1 seats (the most expensive) and were in the second tier of tables off to the side of the stage. A cast member told me the front row and the center tables were released to those who checked in before me. So, checking in as early as possible is key for getting those seats.

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Also, getting to the lobby early means you're less likely to have a long line ahead of you for the professional group photos being taken there. There is no obligation to purchase the photos, so why not get a shot of the family wearing leis in front of the waterfall? A PhotoPass photographer will bring prints of the photo to your table at the end of the meal. One package is offered: a 5 x 7 and four 4 x 6 prints of your group, plus a stock photo of the luau performers, for $35. We chose to buy the package, even though it was expensive, and my husband appreciated that I stopped asking him and the kids to pose in front of the waterfall afterward!

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After photos, guests can wander back from the Great Ceremonial House to Luau Cove, a short walk along the waterfront and beside the beach toward the Grand Floridian. Once seating begins, it moves quickly, but there is quite a queue in the beginning. A hostess explained that the meal is served family style, so we should ask if we would like more of any of the foods brought to our table. Also, she said, kids meals could be ordered separately (at no additional charge).

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The appetizers were waiting for us at our table: pineapple-coconut bread, mixed greens with honey lime vinaigrette, mango slaw, soba noodle salad and fresh pineapple. My husband and I enjoyed trying each item, but our young kids zeroed in on the bread and waited to see what was coming next.

Unfortunately, that's when our experience really went off course. It took our server at least 15 minutes to stop by to take our drink orders, and he was very rude and rushed in that first interaction. The inappropriate behavior continued when we tried to ask for more pineapple and bread and order a kids meal for my 8-year-old daughter. I have never been treated so poorly by a cast member in all the years I have been going to Disney World, and I was shocked at how he was behaving. So, as the stage production was beginning, I left the table to find a manager and ask for another server. That took quite some time, and the manager was of no help, either, stating that he could not reassign our table to another server. He offered no solutions himself.

So, I headed back to my table disheartened and angry that I would have to continue dealing with our server for the two-hour experience. There was no incentive for his behavior to change because the gratuity is included in the price of the luau, which is expensive, even with the inclusion of alcoholic beverages. The total for our family of four was about $250. (See full pricing information on the AllEars.Net resource page.)

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By now, I had missed the set-up for the show, so I had no idea what was going on, and the main courses already had appeared at our table. They included Aloha pulled pork, BBQ pork ribs, roasted chicken, jasmine rice with nori and a vegetable medley. My 10-year-old son was happy with the ribs, and my daughter settled on baked chicken nuggets. My husband and I tried each of the dishes, but weren't overly impressed with any of them.

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We tried to focus on the dinner show, which tells the story of Auntie Wini hosting a fun-filled luau to welcome home one of the local girls who has been living on the "mainland." It moves along slowly, but seeing the Hawaiian Wedding Song and the Birthday Hula performed are fun touches. Audience members are invited to join the professional dancers several times near the stage.

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The main attraction, however, is the final third of the show, which features traditional dances from Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Hawaii. The dancers and the costumes are mesmerizing, and who could look away when the Samoan fire knife performer takes the stage? A dessert of warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce is served during this act, and we found it to be the best part of the meal.

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Still, our server's behavior, though out of character for most Disney cast members, certainly affected our evening and left my husband and I with little spirit of aloha (which means love in Hawaiian). We walked out of the open-air restaurant feeling like the dinner show was overpriced for what we received. Our kids weren't as aggrieved as we were, so perhaps the show is best recommended as a tropical -- though expensive -- diversion for youngsters after a long day in the theme parks. Aside from this, though, it's hard to think that our family will be saying aloha to this show again any time soon.

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About Spirit of Aloha luau

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Spirit of Aloha luau category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Lilo and Stitch Best Friend Breakfast is the previous category.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.