Polynesian Village Diary 2014

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This page is a collection of blog posts from November 2014 that was my diary of our family vacation at Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort

Day 1. 01Nov2014

So here we are, back in my happy place, 18 months after our last visit. Well, technically, that’s not true. I was here briefly back in January on business, for my company’s annual sales meeting, and although we were put up at The Yacht Club near Epcot, a few colleagues and I snuck away one morning and caught the bus to the TTC and made the short trek to The Polynesian. For breakfast. At Kona Cafe. But I digress.

We had reservations about booking this stay here, because of all of the construction going on. The two longhouses where we’ve stayed in the past, Rapa Nui and Tahiti, are both shut down for renovations, as is half of the Great Ceremonial House, the Volcano Pool, and the main path to the TTC. No matter, I told my wife Jess. I’d still rather stay at a construction zone Polynesian Village than any other resort on WDW property. I think. Over the next 8 days, we will find out!

We arrived today at about 3pm and immediately noticed the construction as we walked into the GCH. The front desk was moved to the left side of the entrance, and the entire center of the building was behind temporary walls. They’re getting rid of my beloved indoor waterfall, but that’s okay, because I’ve seen the plans for the new courtyard and it looks pretty cool. Check-in was pretty smooth, and we’re staying in the Fiji longhouse, which is on the Marina (west) side of the resort. We’ve never stayed on this side, but so far I like it.

The one new part of The Polynesian we sampled today was the Pineapple Lanai, which is the new place to get Dole Whips here. It’s not a big deal, just an outdoor seating area and a walk up counter where the art gallery used to be, but it’s a nice enhancement. They serve you now, instead of the self-serve deal they used to have inside Captain Cook’s, and you can get a Dole Whip float in addition to the Pineapple, Vanilla, and swirled soft-serve. Tasty!

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today, as it’s been a long day of traveling. I look forward to sharing more observations of the under-renovation Polynesian Village during our stay, as well as any other vacation nuggets that you may find interesting. Until then, aloha!

Day 2. 02Nov2014

Today we planned to spend the day at EPCOT. We woke up to a beautiful view from our balcony, of the sun coming up over the GCH and the new bungalows being built out back on the water. Unfortunately, it’s been cold here our first 2 days. Not Florida cold, but PA cold: 40s at night, low 60s during the day. We’ll never make it to the quiet pool at this rate! Fortunately, we’re supposed to get back into the 80s by Wednesday. Let’s hope.

Since we were headed to EPCOT, that meant a trip to the TTC to catch the monorail there. Normally, we would take a short walk from Rapa Nui, across the special path where the tiny lizards darted between the log fences. Not today. That path is closed, as is Rapa Nui for that matter, so we headed out front from the GCH to the temporary path by the bus stop and the parking lot.

The one nice thing about walking this way was getting to walk by the new Polynesian Village Resort sign at the street entrance to the resort. What an awesome sign! I rarely noticed the old sign in the past as our Magical Express bus pulled into the Polynesian, but this sign is something else completely. Cascading water, burning Tiki torches, and the retro style of the typeface make this new element a winner. It looks even more impressive at night. So much so, I actually stopped to take a video of it!

Do I still miss the old path? Absolutely. I hope they reopen it once they finish the renovations. The walk took twice as long, but we’re talking 10 minutes instead of 5, so not much to bitch about there. As Jess mentioned today, our new digs are lacking in the foliage we used to enjoy on the East side of the resort, and the old path to the TTC took us right through the heart of it. So yes, we do miss walking on the old path. Tomorrow I will go exploring over to the other side to check out the construction. Hopefully I’ll get to enjoy the lush vegetation once again. Until then, aloha!

Day 3. 03Nov2014

This morning I got up early, grabbed some coffee in my refillable mug at Captain Cook’s, and decided to take a walk around the East side of the resort. As I was filling up my coffee, I noticed the cool new art hanging in the dining area, representing each of the Polynesian countries that have longhouses named after them. The prints were so colorful, I was inspired to take a picture of each one. Here’s my favorite, Fiji:

My first destination was Tangaroa Terrace, where my buddy Tikiman Steve asked me to snap some pictures of the Tiki masks on the outside walls. The only change to the place was the children’s play area, which they’ve renamed Club Disney. Next I walked over to the Quiet Pool, which was as quiet as ever, especially since it was 7:30am and still closed:

My final destination was the beach, where I wanted to get a good look at the new bungalows they’re building over the water. In the past, we would walk from Rapa Nui, past Tahiti, along the east side of the Quiet Pool to get to the beach. Unfortunately, since Rapa Nui, Tahiti and Tokelau are all closed and behind construction fencing, the only access to the beach is now by walking around Hawaii to the west end of that longhouse and turning north, where the fenced-off Volcano Pool sits. It felt like walking through a tunnel to get there, but it was quite a sight when I finally reached the beach.

The now quite narrow beach area still has sand and beach chairs to hang out in, and a spiffy new fire pit which I bet is pretty cool at night. The biggest new construction visible at the Polynesian are the DVC bungalows rising over the water just out from the beach. They look stunning! It reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of houses on stilts in Tahiti or Bora Bora. Sadly, these bungalows will be for DVC members only and cost an arm and a leg to rent ($2,000 per night?), but they will be a wonderful new addition to the Polynesian Village Resort experience. The first of many, I trust. Tomorrow I’ll explore some of the other enhancements coming to our beloved Polynesian. Until then, aloha!

Day 4. 04Nov2014

Today we spent the entire day at Animal Kingdom, including dinner at Sanaa, the restaurant at the Kidani Village (DVC) section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I would highly recommend this place to anybody! We went there mainly for my mother-in-law Phyllis (yes she comes with us to WDW and she’s wonderful!), so she could watch giraffes out the window as we dined. Phyllis loves giraffes. The food was African-Indian fusion, and anybody who knows me knows I hate Indian food, but I was feeling adventurous tonight and tried some new things, and I was pleasantly surprised. The food at Sanaa was fantastic! We will be back.

Anyway, I bring up Kidani Village as an example of a Disney DVC resort done right. They were so true to the Animal Kingdom theme that it really feels like an extension of the park. I’m hopeful the new DVC sections of the Polynesian Village will build upon the legacy of this wonderful resort. I’m cautiously optimistic after seeing the plans for the renovations here at the Polynesian.

Some of those plans are on display on the temporary walls in the Great Ceremonial House. This is a smart use of the otherwise unsightly space created by these walls. Since they block your view of what’s being destroyed from the past, they might as well show you what their removal will reveal in the future. In the case of the central area of the GCH, I like what I see. The grand old waterfall is being replaced by a bright and airy new courtyard, with the Polynesian Village logo rendered as a 3D sculpture prominently featured in the design. I think that will look really cool, and will be a nice tribute to the original logo.

The other renovation I’m excited about is the addition of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. This new bar and seating area is going in the northwest corner of the GCH, where the old arcade used to be. You can’t see any of the construction going on, as the door leading out of the west side of the GCH is temporarily closed and the new seating area is behind the outdoor construction fencing. This area feels claustrophobic as you walk through it now, but it should look amazing once it’s finished next Spring. I’ve been to the Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland, and if our version here turns out even half as well, we’re in for a treat!

Tomorrow we return to Ohana for breakfast with Stitch, one of my kids’ highlights of our stay. I will also try to make it to the Tambu Lounge and blog from there tomorrow night. Until then, aloha!

Day 5. 05Nov2014

Tonight I’m blogging live from the Tambu Lounge, sucking down my first Mai-Tai of the trip. I opted for the traditional Mai-Tai rather than the Captain’s, and sadly, my young bartender wasn’t familiar with Auntie’s Mai-Tai. Oh well. I’ll have to try again later this week when Walter’s behind the bar.

This day is ending right next to where it started, at Ohana for Breakfast with Stitch. This is a regular event for us, along with dinner at Ohana, which we did on Monday. It’s great to stick with the traditions we’ve embraced from previous trips to the Polynesian, especially in light of all of the changes going on around us. My kids adore our breakfast at Ohana, because they get to meet and greet their favorite character, Stitch, along with Lilo, Aloha Mickey, and Pluto (my son’s 2nd favorite). We also all love the passion fruit/orange/guava juice they serve with breakfast; they need to bottle and sell that stuff, we miss it so much after we leave!

We did get one new wrinkle at breakfast this morning: the introduction of the Stitch waffle. As if this great breakfast couldn’t get any better! My kids will be talking about this for months. Our server told us this new taste treat would be replacing the ubiquitous Mickey waffle, but I don’t believe it. Maybe just at the Ohana breakfast? Stay tuned.

For something new this trip, we decided to try Blizzard Beach. Since the Volcano Pool is closed for renovation, the good folks at Disney offered free passage to Blizzard Beach for all Polynesian Village Resort guests. The process went very smoothly. We boarded a bus from the Polynesian directly to Blizzard Beach, and when we arrived, there was a small kiosk set up especially for us. They gave us passes to the water park, towels, and free sunscreen. Nicely done.

As for Blizzard Beach itself, we really enjoyed it there! From the lazy river to the family tube ride, our kids had a blast. So did we adults. The weather broke perfectly for us, giving us the mid-80s on the day we planned to try a water park. Yet again, we tried something new this trip and were rewarded with another must-do for our next trip. I recommend Blizzard Beach for any Polynesian guests missing the Volcano Pool.

So now I’m finishing my 2nd Mai-Tai (Captain’s this time), so I need to wrap it up for tonight. We have an early day at the Magic Kingdom tomorrow, so until then, aloha!

Day 6. 06Nov2014

Today we returned to the Magic Kingdom. We had to try the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which was like a smoother, shorter Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. With Dwarfs (sic). We also took in the new parade at 3pm, Festival of Fantasy, which brought a lot of new color to Main Street. But I believe we spent the majority of our time today in Adventureland.

Since we first arrived at the Polynesian last Saturday, I’ve noticed a recurring theme: Adventureland is being promoted throughout all of the parks and resorts that we’ve visited, through a collection of new Disney merchandise celebrating this theme. It seems to be a mashup of the Polynesian Village, Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, and other exotic elements. There are plates, bowls, glasses, figurines, t-shirts, and many other items celebrating Adventureland at Disney. This woven throw sums it up best (and can be yours for the low, low price of $74.95!):

Today I picked up 3 Aloha plates (available in blue, green, and red) and 2 Adventureland glass tumblers (available in orange and green) to take home. We also stopped at Aloha Isle Refreshments, after taking in the show at the Enchanted Tiki Room, where I had my first-ever orange-pineapple swirl Dole Whip. What a taste sensation! It was like a party in my mouth. I believe Aloha Isle in Adventureland is the only place where you can get orange Dole Whip, to swirl with either the traditional pineapple or vanilla. I’m sad it took me 5 trips to WDW to figure this out, but I’m happy I now know this little nugget of info.

Tomorrow we return to EPCOT, where I hope to report on the Food & Wine Festival. Until then, aloha!

Day 7. 07Nov2014

If it’s Friday, it must be EPCOT. We returned for another go at Food & Wine Festival, and although it was nowhere near as packed as last Sunday, it still got pretty crowded as the day went on. We didn’t really spend a lot of time sampling the country kiosks, but I did try the Aulani Sunset drink from Hawai’i. It was pretty tasty, a nice mix of rum and fruit juices.

The other foods sampled and approved by my family included the filet at Canada and the waffle at Belgium. Anecdotally, we heard rave reviews about the lamb chops in Australia and the pierogies and kielbasa in Poland. While we we were in the World Showcase, we also did the Kidcot activity, where my kids got to color their own Duffy Bear on a stick and get them stamped and colored in each country. We managed to get them all, starting in Canada and ending in Mexico. I highly recommend this activity for any family looking to keep their kids entertained while also exploring the countries in a little more detail.

Some of the highlights from our travels around the World Showcase included the Oh Canada! movie in Canada, ice cream in France, the Mitsukoshi department store in Japan, the Karamelle-Kuche shop in Germany, the Yong Feng Shangdian shop in China, and the Gran Fiesta Tour ride in Mexico. Once we made it around the world, it was back to Future World for some shopping at Mouse Gears before boarding the monorail to get back to the Polynesian for dinner.

Tonight we dined at Ohana for the second time during this trip. Ohana is our favorite dining spot in all of WDW. Two dinners and a breakfast during an 8-day stay should attest to that! God forbid Disney should ever mess with Ohana, as that may change my opinion of this resort. So far, the only changes they’ve made are replacing the salad with lettuce wraps and doing away with the chicken skewers. I can live with that. The key ingredients are all still here: pineapple-coconut bread, chicken wings, pork dumplings, lo mein noodles, grilled veggies, pork/steak/shrimp skewers, all served family style. All-you-care-to-eat, which for me is a lot! Tonight I took it easy to make sure I saved room for the tasty dessert: bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and bananas Foster syrup. Yum. I am pleasantly full as I prepare to call it a night 🙂

Tomorrow is our last full day at WDW, and we plan to split the day at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. I’m not sure if I’ll have anything new to write about, but I’ll try. Until then, aloha!

Day 8. 08Nov2014

Saturday is our last full day at WDW. We’ve done everything we wanted to do on this vacation, so now we go back and revisit some of our favorite spots and catch up on some shopping. We spent the morning at Hollywood Studios and the afternoon at Animal Kingdom with dinner at the Yak & Yeti. In between, we came back to the Polynesian for lunch at Captain Cook’s and a dip in the East Pool. Or, as most people refer to it: the Quiet Pool.

I’m sure some people have avoided staying at the Polynesian because their main pool, the Volcano Pool, is closed for renovation. I don’t know what the finished product will look like, but it sure is torn up right now. No matter to me and my family, because we have always preferred the Quiet Pool.

We’ve been to the Quiet Pool 3 times during this vacation. The first time was Monday night around 7:30pm, the first day it was warm enough to swim. There was 1 other person in the pool. The second time was on Wednesday at around 2pm, and there were maybe 6 people in the pool with us. The third time was today at 1pm, and we had the pool to ourselves until 5 minutes before we left, when 1 kid slowly dipped in.

Talk about a great time to be at the Polynesian if you like the pool! With the Volcano Pool closed, Disney is doing their best to make the Quiet Pool more enjoyable. There are 2 lifeguards there at all times, where before it was swim at your own risk. They also placed 3 cast members in brightly-colored outfits poolside with loud music and games, trying to have a pool party during the daytime. They didn’t have many takers. The attempted pool party was the only thing keeping our pool from being “quiet.” Frankly, I liked the way it was before, but, if anything, it’s even less crowded now. Unless you really liked spending time playing in the Volcano Pool, the fact that it’s closed is no reason to avoid the Polynesian Village Resort. Quite the contrary!

Well, tomorrow is our getaway day, so this will be my final report for this trip. I want to thank all of my new readers for checking out my blog, and a big mahalo to everybody who has supported me since day 1, about 1 year ago. I hope you’ll all keep reading my posts, as I typically write something every two weeks on the world of Tiki. Until then, aloha!