Home » 4 Disney Hotels That Aren’t ANYTHING Like They Used to Be

4 Disney Hotels That Aren’t ANYTHING Like They Used to Be

happyskrappy, Flickr (license)

Sometimes, it’s easy to think of hotels as things that largely stay the same over time. Yes, rooms might get a slight refresh or restaurants might get new menus, but on the whole, a hotel is a hotel — whether it’s at Disney or not.

But, that’s not always the case. At Walt Disney World, the hotels are the lifeblood of the resort, and Disney makes sure that each hotel is as exciting and fun as it can be. For some, that means small alterations. For others, it means a complete overhaul.

These four hotels aren’t just some of the best on Walt Disney World property — they’re also the hotels that have become even better over time.

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

 happyskrappy, Flickr (license)

Image: happyskrappy, Flickr (license)

Unfairly, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort has often been maligned as a “conventioners” hotel, designed only with khaki-wearing lanyard models in mind. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and Coronado Springs’ unique Southwestern charm provides a fun reference to some of the Walt Disney Company’s older works of animation, like Saludos Amigos and the Three Caballeros.

Because of this, the resort tends to be overlooked when people consider places to stay on the Walt Disney World property. Some think it lacks the Disney bubble feeling that draws so many in.

Well, Disney wants to change that — and add some hotel capacity at the same time.

The Coronado Springs Resort is in the midst of a large-scale overhaul that will bring not only a new amenity-filled tower to the property, but also add dining and better walking infrastructure to a complex that has often been derided as too big to navigate easily. Couple that with the classic room aesthetics that have earned the resort a cult following, and you have a fantastic iteration of a great hotel.

Bridges extending over the water will help cut down on walking times between the major areas of the hotel, and that will only bolster the Coronado Springs as one of Walt Disney World’s greatest gems — a once-hidden gem that will be hidden no longer.

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

 larkyn, Flickr (license)

Image: larkyn, Flickr (license)

For years, the Caribbean Beach Resort was Disney’s quintessential moderate resort. Bigger and nicer than the Value-class All-Star Resorts, the Caribbean Beach was the perfect middle ground between sensible accommodation and deluxe sleeping quarters.

But, over time, it started to show its age. The once charming Old Port Royale food court looked like a 1990s anachronism. The concept of checking into the resort at a separate “custom house” was out of sync with the way guests travel now in the 21st century — an unnecessary and confusing step in the check-in process.

Long ago, Disney decided to refresh the property by adding themed rooms, around such properties as the Pirates of the Caribbean films. But now, in 2019, Disney has unveiled its most ambitious revamp yet — turning the Caribbean Beach resort into one of Walt Disney World’s premier hotels.

A new restaurant, Sebastian’s Bistro (replacing the mediocre Shutters), joins a reimagined food court, gift shop, and arcade to make up the gorgeous new Centertown area of the resort. In all, the renovation is so deep that the Caribbean Beach feels like a new hotel — one that has never looked so good.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

 frankfranc, Flickr (license)

Image: frankfranc, Flickr (license)

The Polynesian has seen quite a few different eras since its construction in 1971. It has seen a massive volcano fountain grace its interior, and it has seen that fountain removed. It has seen multiple different versions of its kids club come into and out of existence, and several restaurants and bars.

But the Polynesian that exists today is the best version of the hotel that we have ever seen. 

From its simple yet spacious lobby interior to its stunning beachside views, the classic charm of the Polynesian is still on display. But it’s the new additions that have really turned it into the most uniquely Disney experience you can have outside of the parks.

The Pineapple Lanai — a purveyor of Dole Whips — serves as a hidden treat. The Bora Bora Bungalows reach out over the water and add a stunning bit of architecture to an already gorgeous lake view. 

And then, of course, there’s Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto — the Polynesian’s showpiece. Yes, Ohana gets the rave reviews and, yes, the Luau is something to behold. But, Trader Sam’s is the bar every Disney fan always wanted to see at Walt Disney World.

Yes, some people were sad to see the Polynesian’s 1970s charm played down, in part, with the most recent renovations. But the result was a modern luxury resort that still stays true to its roots. That’s impossible to pull off, but Disney managed it.  

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

 christiantlambert, Flickr (license)

Image: christiantlambert, Flickr (license)

Technically, the Swan opened six months before the Dolphin, but these resorts are inextricably linked in Disney history. When they opened, they must have felt a bit lonely out in the Disney wilderness. Sandwiched between Epcot and the then-Disney-MGM Studios, there wasn’t much going on in the area at the time. The two resorts had their share of restaurants and lounges on property, but that was about it.

Now, while elements of the resort have grown and improved over time, including introducing amazing restaurants like Todd English’s bluezoo and Il Mulino, the greatest reason for the Swan and Dolphin getting better over time is the same thing that might have seemed like a liability back when they opened — their location.

Just a few months after the Swan and Dolphin opened, Disney finished construction on the Yacht and Beach Club resorts — adding more restaurants and shops near the area and constructing the international gateway to Epcot.

Then, just a couple of years later, Disney built the Boardwalk Resort and Inn — a combination entertainment district and hotel that added shops, restaurants, games, dance clubs, and more to the Crescent Lake region. Boat service took guests from the Swan and Dolphin to either nearby theme park, or to the other resorts. Within walking distance were all kinds of activities — where once, there was just forest.

Now, the Swan and Dolphin still enjoy those amenities — so even as the Yacht and Beach Club improve with things like the Ale and Compass Restaurant, the Swan and Dolphin prosper too.