VIDEO: Tour of Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows

I love the nostalgic feeling I get from Disney Vacation Club’s new Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. The dark woods, tiki accents, Mary Blair-inspired artwork and Lilo and Stitch pull-down trundle bed makes me wish the Poly was my home resort!

Check out the video below for a look at the new studios that sleep five.

The Polynesian’s dining options are exceptional, with Kona Cafe and ‘Ohana in short list of favourite Disney restaurants. Plus, this year Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar opened its doors, and it promises to be a great option for an evening out.

The resort also a short monorail ride from Magic Kingdom and a brief walk from the Ticket and Transportation Centre (with easy access to the Epcot monorail).

What do you think of the tropical touches of Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows? Let me know in the comments below.

Welcome home!

We will be hearing those magic words on our next Disney vacation, because on our last trip to Walt Disney World, we became members of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC).

Welcome Home! Heading to the DVC Centre at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

Heading to the DVC Centre at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

This decision took us a long time to make–it’s a huge commitment–but at the end of the day, we know that whether we visit every year or every three years, we will see the value in it. Especially as prices continue to rise at Disney-owned resorts.

DVC can make sense if you are looking to vacation at Disney often. Membership (whether you purchase resale or direct from Disney) comes with some perks, including discounts on dining, merchandise, and sometimes park admission.

We were able to purchase our points at the Villas of the Grand Floridian (VGF) before they sold out in mid-April. I’m so glad we did, because the small size of this resort can make booking difficult if you don’t have the home resort advantage.

The overall purchasing experience was relatively low-pressure and, dare I say, fun. We also received a $50 Disney gift card just for taking the “tour” at the DVC Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa sales centre.

So, what’s next for DVC? The Polynesian Villas and Bungalows are currently being promoted as the new hot item (more on that later this week). Rumour has it that Wilderness Lodge will receive more DVC units in the near future, with the possibility of over-the-water cabins being developed in the next few years.

Have you ever considered DVC membership? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section below.

 

 

Review: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort ~ French Quarter

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort is known as a hidden gem on Disney property. I heard many great things about French Quarter, and it’s sister resort Port Orleans Riverside, leading me to book an early spring stay at the resort.

The theming is colourful and evokes the feeling of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The resort’s lush landscaping, black wrought-iron fountains and lantern-lit pathways gives this Disney resort an adult feel that’s still fun for kids.

Mickey POFQ

Why, hello there Mickey.

PRICE AND VALUE

French Quarter is classified as a moderate Disney resort. You can easily book a night’s stay in the $175 to $200 per-night range, which I felt was reasonable considering you can to take advantage of Disney perks such as Disney’s Magical Express airport shuttle, transportation to and from the parks, and Extra Magic Hours at the parks.

So what makes French Quarter stand out from Disney’s other moderate resorts?

Although the parks were close to capacity during our post-Easter weekend visit, the 1,000-room French Quarter never felt like we were visiting during one of the busiest times of the year. French Quarter is definitely the smallest and easiest moderate resort to get around–walking from one end of the seven-building resort to the other took no longer than five minutes. After walking around at the parks all day, you will be thankful to reach your room in such a short time.

Building 5: Lovely view of the pool and lush gardens, and close to transportation and dining.

Building 5 provided us with a lovely view of the pool and lush gardens, and was also close to transportation and dining.

ROOMS

Our room in Building 5 faced the pool and had easy access to dining, the gift shop and transportation. We were nestled behind trees on the second floor, which was surprisingly private and quiet despite having exterior corridors (like other value and moderate resorts).

French Quarter’s rooms are a modest size and sleep four, with separate shower/toilet and sink areas. This division makes getting ready in the morning much easier. A curtain separates the double sinks from the main room, which provides more privacy if needed.

The beds and pillows were comfortable, and looked like they had recently been refurbished. As much as the room met our needs, I felt the resort’s theming didn’t transition as seamlessly into the room itself, but French Quarter’s beautiful exterior made up for it.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation at French Quarter was much more efficient than I had anticipated. Buses transported guests to all of the parks–and, luckily, we never had to wait longer than 20 minutes for one.

Gorgeous view of Downtown Disney from our riverboat.

Gorgeous view of Downtown Disney from our riverboat.

Our party of 12 was especially impressed with the time it took to get to Magic Kingdom–approximately 10 minutes. We never had to share a bus with sister resort Riverside to reach any of the parks. With smaller children, minimizing the amount of time spent in transit was definitely a priority for us.

In addition, French Quarter offers a boat to Downtown Disney. This was a beautiful (and fun) way to head to Disney’s dining and shopping district!

DINING AND RECREATION

With only one quick-service restaurant onsite, and no table-service options at French Quarter, I found that we often wanted to eat offsite.

Doubloon Lagoon features a sea serpent water slide--the kids loved it!

Doubloon Lagoon features a sea serpent water slide–the kids loved it!

While the food was good at French Quarter’s Sassagoula Floatworks Food Factory, we found a variety of delicious options at Downtown Disney.

Dining aside, we loved French Quarter’s themed pool area (“Doubloon Lagoon”) which is located in the centre of the resort. The sea serpent water slide was a hit with the kids, and the pool’s quieter corners were perfect for lounging adults. Daily afternoon pool parties, hosted by Disney’s excellent recreation staff, kept our kids entertained, giving us an opportunity to relax and enjoy the Florida sun!

If you’re seeking more onsite recreation opportunities, take a 10-minute walk up the river to Port Orleans Riverside, which includes amenities such as a full-service restaurant (Boatwright’s Dining Hall), a well-themed pool and recreation area, and numerous other quiet pools. Riverside also offers surrey bike rentals, cane-pole fishing and evening carriage rides.

Heading down to the pool for an evening swim, we were greeted by the French Quarter Gator Band :)

Heading down to the pool for an evening swim, we were greeted by the French Quarter Gator Band 🙂

LAST WORD

I’m confident that visitors to Disney World who are looking for a quieter resort option will enjoy Port Orleans French Quarter.

Whether you are a family of four, or a couple on a quick Disney getaway, Port Orleans French Quarter offers great value for a moderate resort.

Value, Moderate or Deluxe?

If you are heading to Orlando anytime soon, you will be faced with a few decisions to make about your accommodations.

Will you be staying at a Disney Resort, or off-site at a nearby vacation home or condo?

Now that I’ve had the experience of staying at a Disney resort, I’m not sure I could ever make the decision to stay offsite, unless the time I planned to spend is Disney was absolutely minimal.

People often ask me if staying onsite at Disney is worth the often-added expense. My answer is usually yes.

There are so many perks to staying at a Disney resort (free airport shuttle, transportation, access to dining plans), and luckily there are different accommodation levels that can help you budget the right resort for you. Don’t let the prices scare you from booking–while rack rates seem to be pretty high, you can usually get a great deal–sometimes up to 30 per cent off–during spring and fall months.

Can you find the hidden Tinkerbell?

Can you find the hidden Tinkerbell?

Disney resorts fall under three categories: value, moderate and deluxe.

Value resorts are made up of the smallest rooms of any Disney resort, and have limited amenities. They do, however, have a food court/quick service restaurant and pool areas for guests. It’s a great option if you plan on hitting the parks early in the morning and staying out until closing time. These resorts are typically farthest from Magic Kingdom.

Moderate resorts include enhanced amenities. This can include more dining options, upgraded pool and lounge areas and generally more recreational opportunities. Buses and boats transport guests to and from nearby resorts, Downtown Disney and the parks.

The Polynesian Resort: Home to Ohana, a volcanic pool, and the infamous Dole Whip!

The Polynesian Resort: Home to Ohana, a volcanic pool, and the infamous Dole Whip!

Deluxe resorts offer the best amenties–a great selection of restaurants (some that offer character dining!), elaborate pool settings, a variety of shops and usually more transportation options (especially true with the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian resort, which are on the monorail line). Deluxe resorts provide a great getaway from the parks, and offer some recreation opportunities as well. You could spend a whole day at some of these resorts without having to leave.

My three picks to try from each category?

Value–Art of Animation
Moderate–Port Orleans French Quarter
Deluxe–The Polynesian Resort

What are yours?

A look at DVC and The Villas of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

While vacationing this past May at Walt Disney World, I kept hearing about “Disney’s best kept secret,” the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Essentially it is a timeshare.

While it’s marketed as a cost-effective way to vacation (save as much as 70 per cent on your Disney vacations!), I’m not entirely convinced. However, I can see how DVC can save you a some money over time if you prefer to stay in deluxe resort accommodations on property.

The Grand Floridian at dusk

The Grand Floridian at dusk

Speaking of deluxe properties, my love of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is no secret. Some say they are turned off by the “stuffiness” of the well-manicured resort and grounds, but our experience has been one of feeling at home.

This is why I am especially excited for the opening of this resort’s brand new DVC villas, opening in October.

The new building (under construction during our recent stay) will house 147 villas–a mix of deluxe studios, one- and two-bedroom villas and grand villas featuring three bedrooms and a media room.

A Mary Poppins theme will pull together the classic Disney touches that make this resort so enjoyable.

Check out the video below, courtesy of DVCNews.com for a look at the model rooms. There is so much to love–the tub! The chartreuse accents! The gorgeous window with muntins!

From the research I’ve done, DVC stacks up better than a lot of the competition out there.

For starters, DVC uses a points system that will allow you to vacation at any time of year (not just a pre-determined week each year). Points can be banked (from the immediate past year) or borrowed (from the immediate year ahead). Each resort has point values assigned for room types, according to the time of year.

If you’re thinking of taking the DVC plunge, you may want to ask yourself a few questions.

Are you planning to vacation in Florida (or at other DVC resort locations in California or Hawaii) at least every two-to-three years? The answer should be yes, as you won’t want to lose your points.

It’s important to note that there are many resorts at Walt Disney World that you may not have even known were Disney Vacation Club resorts–take Old Key West Resort for example. You can get great “value” for point use at this resort.

Olivia's Cafe at Disney's Old Key West Resort

Olivia’s Cafe at Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Buying direct from Disney will cost a minimum of $15,000 for 100 points. Will you be able to pay cash? Otherwise, potential vacation cost savings may be wiped out by interest payments. You must also account for annual dues on the timeshare for resort maintenance.

Purchasing a DVC membership on the resale market is also an option. Check out The Timeshare Store for more information about DVC resales.

One last thing–unlike most other timeshares, DVC contracts have an expiry date. The property with the lengthiest contract is the Villas at the Grand Floridian, which has an expiry date of 2064. While it might seem that you may not be vacationing to Disney well into your 80s, it’s comforting to know that there is an end date, and you won’t be on the hook forever.

I have to admit, the Villas at the Grand Floridian are making me think about becoming a DVC member. A number of other DVC resorts are on my bucket list (The Beach Club Resort, Grand Californian and Aulani), and this could potentially make getting there easier.

What do you think? Have you ever considered buying a timeshare? Are there any good news stories out there?