Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: Our Dreams Came True
My family and I recently completed an eight-night stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Given its status as Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, I had high expectations for this property. While I have read plenty of “meh”-type reviews of this property, I tried to reserve judgement until I experienced it myself. Let’s take a look!
Booking and Payment Strategy
When 2020 Disney World reservations became available in June 2019, I directly booked with Disney World Reservations. We subsequently were able to obtain a 30% discount on the reservation via Disney booking. I paid for the resort deposit via US Bank’s Real-Time Rewards, and I paid for the remaining balance upon arrival with Disney gift cards, mostly obtained by redeeming other travel currencies. I also paid for various Walt Disney World incidentals with rewards from my PNC Premier Traveler Visa card.
Location and Transportation
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is conveniently located in the deluxe resorts area next to Magic Kingdom. Excellent views of Magic Kingdom and the lagoon abound. The resort has direct access to Disney World’s monorail system, making this resort an optimal pick for trips focused on Magic Kingdom. Foodies also get direct access to a variety of dining options, as the monorail also stops at the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts. Epcot enthusiasts access the park via monorail with a transfer at the Transportation and Ticketing Center. Visitors access Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios via bus transit.
Lobby and Check-In
Upon arrival at the Grand Floridian mid-day via Disney’s Magical Express, we were initially struck by the spacious lobby and warm reception by the Disney cast members. The main building holding the lobby also includes Disney Vacation Club units, several restaurants, shops, and monorail access on the second floor. The Grand Floridian band periodically performed as well, playing Disney standards, both old and new.
Luckily, we seemingly arrived at a lull in the day; cast members in charge of check-in were armed at the ready with tablets in the lobby. As usual with Disney World, the cast member checking us in requested room payment as part of the check-in process. When I presented the cast member with the Disney gift cards, I received the expected eyebrow-wrinkle as he manipulated gift cards via the payment reader affixed to the tablet. All went well, though, and he proceeded to mark up a previously-immaculate map of the property, noting the building with our room and a few other resort landmarks with his thick Sharpie.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – Room
Our room was located in the Conch Key building, close to Narcoossee’s restaurant and the boat docks. Upon entry, we walked into the strong flowery scent that turned out to be prevalent throughout the property. I didn’t mind it, actually – it reminded me of the strong, distinctive scent of the Garden Wing at the Singapore Shangri-La. We proceeded to our third floor room facing the courtyard and main pool.
Upon room entry, we immediately felt that this standard room was much more spacious than our tower room at the Contemporary Resort in January 2019. The extended entry area with closet and bathroom access contributed to the roomy feel.
The layout of two queen beds, sofa, desk/chair, entertainment center area, and lounge chair all flowed seamlessly. I particularly admired the clean, crisp look of the large LCD TV mounted to the wall above the cabinetry holding the fridge and chest of drawers.
The room came equipped with a coffeemaker which, unfortunately, took up most of the desk surface. Fortunately, a wheeled desk/tray compensated for the busy desk area. This wheeled desk came in handy for the little ones’ in-room dining.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort has among the best resort dining choices throughout Disney World, including Victoria & Albert’s, Citricos, and Narcoossee’s. However, my family particularly enjoyed the Grand Floridian Cafe and 1900 Park Fare character dining. Certainly not to be forgotten, Gasparilla Island Grill was a pleasant surprise.
Grand Floridian Cafe
The Grand Floridian Cafe fit in with the overall Victorian decor of the resort but did not feel overly stuffy. Service was timely and portions were hearty without sacrificing quality. In retrospect, one kid’s meal could easily feed two children. Our two little ones could not even get through half of their breakfast orders. I skipped lunch after enjoying steak and eggs at the Cafe. We had dinner at the Cafe on another day, but breakfast was the standout to us at this restaurant. Much like other Disney restaurants, waitstaff service was attentive yet relaxed.
1900 Park Fare
On the final morning of our stay, we attended the character brunch at 1900 Park Fare. We took advantage of the brunch hours, showing up at 11:30 am. This fit great with our schedule, given that we were able to check out prior to brunch (check out time is 11:00 am). The brunch spread was vast, including omelets made to order and glazed ham. I felt the food was comparable to Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom, but tables were packed in much more tightly than the Palace. The characters were great, offering the rare character meet and greet location for Alice and the Mad Hatter. Pooh and Tigger joined in the fun as well, but you can also meet them at the Crystal Palace.
Gasparilla Island Grill
I consider Gasparilla Island Grill to be a hidden gem at Disney World; it is easily the best quick service restaurant that I’ve experienced at a Disney resort or park. While prices seemed a bit inflated due to its location at the Grand Floridian, the food quality and variety was impressive. After arriving back late from the Animal Kingdom on our first night, we enjoyed the family-style Grand Pizza. It easily fed my family of four and was our favorite Disney pizza option other than Via Napoli at Epcot. At other meals, my wife loved the Blackened Fish Reuben, while I was a fan of the Hot Italian Sandwich. While we regularly had meals onsite, we easily arranged takeaway orders to enjoy in our room. This restaurant’s location was also convenient for viewing the Happily Ever After fireworks at Magic Kingdom. Another huge plus: Gasparilla Island Grill is open 24 hours a day!
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – Property and Amenities
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is a vast, sprawling property with myriad amenities and activity options. Multiple pools and jacuzzis dotted the property, along with nightly movies on the lawn. There are countless daily activities available for those not venturing to the parks, including arts & crafts, sandcastle building, and rubber duck races. While we didn’t have any off days from the parks, it was great to know of all the activities were available as a contingency. Fully winded from the parks on a few days, we opted for afternoon naps in the room. Those comfortable beds could not be ignored. While the resort has a full service Senses spa, we did not use any of their services.
Finally, while not technically a Grand Floridian “amenity”, the view of the Happily Ever After fireworks from the Grand Floridian docks is excellent and convenient. We routinely showed up a couple minutes prior, and we easily obtained an unimpeded view. For us, this option clearly beat out waiting among the huge crowds at Magic Kingdom for the fireworks then getting caught up in the nightly mass exodus from the park.
New! Enchanted Rose
Recently opened and replacing Mizner’s, the Enchanted Rose bar is located on the second floor of the main building. Enchanted Rose features four different rooms with understated decor inspired by Beauty and the Beast. I enjoyed a couple beers at the main bar featuring a chandelier reminiscent of Belle’s dress. Based on the conversations I overheard, this bar was a hit with the business trip and conference crowd. Periodically, I had to remind myself that I was at Disney World.
Plenty of Disney-inspired drinks highlight the menu; appetizers arrive in the evening, as well. As proof that not every bar in the US has been Buffalo Wild Wings-ified, there are no TV’s in any parts of Enchanted Rose. (Full Disclosure: I do patronize BWW. They have a loyalty program!)
Also, the library features a more relaxed, spacious seating area; I saw references of Lumiere throughout. This room was so laid back, some visitors had laptops and paperwork spread across the tables for what appeared to be the long haul. The only items missing were Starbucks cups.
Another room’s decor resembles the forest leading to the Beast’s castle. From the outside, it had a dark, creepy basement feel. However, upon entry the forest vibe definitely came out. It definitely worked, in my opinion. If I hadn’t visited solo, I would have chosen this room.
Finally, the fourth “room” aka the balcony, supposedly resembles the Beast’s terrace. From my perspective, it looked like a generic balcony with harsh lighting and dated lawn furniture. It was forgettable.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – Service
Overall, we were happy with the service provided throughout the resort for the entirety of our stay. Housekeeping was a highlight, surprising our little ones with towel animals and a Mickey balloon on occasion. I particularly appreciated the balloon, as my children had been asking for a $12 Mickey balloon for a couple days. Once one appeared in our room, those requests ceased.
From a travel hacking perspective, the cast members were agreeable to (unknowingly) assist with my experiments. One example: I was able to make small (and large) payments for room incidentals to my fairly-new PNC Premier Traveler Visa card, fully confirming that I can redeem rewards with Disney in this fashion.
We considered our stay at the Grand Floridian Resort to be stellar overall, as we had expected. While our travel budget (even while using points, miles, and cash back) will preclude us from staying here too often, we will be back. That will most likely be when our little ones are no longer little. I highly recommend this resort for anyone who wants the shamelessly luxurious Disney World experience, but be sure to incorporate some easy Disney hacks to make it much cheaper! Have you stayed at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort? What’s your take?