Fantastic theme parks. Water water parks. First class dining and golf courses. These are the things that first come to mind for many when considering a vacation stay at the Walt Disney World resort. But to really immerse yourself in the "Disney experience", it's really recommended that you stay on-site in one of the many Disney World resort hotels.
In their infinite wisdom, the Disney company has a variety of different style and price-range hotels for their guests to choose from. The categories of Disney resorts falls generally into 3: Deluxe, Moderate, and Value.
Of the Disney "deluxe" resorts (those that are considered the upper tier resorts and of which are the most expensive), one of those that really stands out as a great place to stay - if you can afford to - is Disney's Polynesian Resort. This resort is located in the Magic Kingdom area of the Walt Disney World resort with the added perk of being on the monorail line, meaning this resort has its own monorail stop, which can provide its guests with a quick ride over to the Magic Kingdom and back. The only other resorts on this line (also in the "deluxe" category) are the Contemporary resort and the Grand Floridian. The Bay Lake Tower, which is connected to the Contemporary via a raised walkway isn't a deluxe resort, but a Disney Vacation Club resort.
Set in the theme of a South Pacific Seas tropical island paradise, the Polynesian resort is an 847 room resort, which is located on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, directly across from the Magic Kingdom park. It's theming includes a sandy beach, lush tropical landscaping both inside and outside, and even some waterfalls and tiki torches and lighting scattered throughout. The main building is the Grand Ceremonial House, which is where the front desk is located for checking in/out or for general assistance with your stay. It is also the main center hub for dining, being home to several restaurants, gift shops, and basically being your main stop for your general needs during your stay. The Disney company really did an outstanding job with the theming of this resort, which you'll notice right away just before you walk into the Great Ceremonial House when you get there and immediately afterwards when you walk in and enjoy the sounds of running water and see the arrangements of beautiful plants and flowers in the center atrium.
* ACCOMMODATIONS *
The layout of the Polynesian resort is not as one big building, but rather one big building (the Grand Ceremonial house) surrounded by a series of separate and detached "longhouses", each located within a certain proximity of the main hub, and each in themselves uniquely-named and falling into a certain category of room. The longhouses are named as follows: Tonga, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tuvalu, Hawaii, Samoa, Niue, Rarotonga, Tokelau, Tahiti, and Rapa Nui. For location purposes, those buildings closest to the Grand Ceremonial House (which is where the monorail station is) are: Tonga, Rarotonga, and Niue. The others are all a relative short walk away.
The longhouse rooms have all been renovated within the past several years with updated wallpaper, carpeting, bedding, and additional flat-screen tvs for their guests. They also provide different views per building. Those fall into Lagoon Views (showing you the Seven Seas Lagoon), Theme Park Views (views over Seven Seas Lagoon where at the very least you can see the top of Cinderella Castle), and Standard Views (which shows off the resort landscaping and grounds).
Personally, I've stayed at the Polynesian several times now and have managed to request and get the same room, in the Aotearoa building. This particular room is on the top floor and while technically considered a "standard view" room, was on the side facing the Seven Seas Lagoon, and by simply opening the drapes and stepping out onto the balcony, we could clearly look right over and see Cinderella Castle. Needless to say, it is a great spot and not one of the more pricier options, either. We were able to sit out there and watch the nightly fireworks show, or just enjoy the overall view.
The standard room has a comfortable queen size bed (2 I believe) and sitting space, table, modest bath, sliding closet with safe, and small fridge.
Some longhouses (Hawaii and Tonga specifically) are set up as "club level" or "concierge" longhouses. For more $$, there are special amenities that concierge level guests have that are not extended to those in the other longhouses. For one thing, concierge level has their own check-in area and special cards to get into those buildings. These longhouses also have the best views of any other, AND guests in these areas are treated to complimentary food and beverage snack services throughout the day. - - - - If $$ wasn't a factor me, I'd love to take advantage of their concierge facilities, but alas, I cannot. Still, I enjoy my stay here every time regardless.
* ROOM RATES *
Being a deluxe resort also means you will pay deluxe prices to stay here, regardless of what kind of option you choose. But just as Disney tiers the kind of resort offerings they have for guests, they also tier their pricing structure based on the time of year a guest comes to Walt Disney World. There are several different seasons that the pricing structure falls into: Peak, Regular, Value, and Holiday. Clearly, the "value" season is the one where the rates are the lowest and each of the others fall into a higher (or highest) rate time of year (which typically includes times like Christmas, New Years, or the summer months). To give you an idea of what you would pay for a standard view room at the Polynesian, in a "value" season, in 2013 prices, would run about $422 a night in the week and $425 a night on the weekends. To counter that, a theme park club level (concierge) stay during that same value season would run $746 a night. So there you go.
* AMENITIES & OTHER PERKS *
Basic amenities for resort guests include in-room fridges, safes, coffee makers, and free wi-fi internet service throughout the resort. There are two different swimming pool locations, and certain rooms have wheelchair and handicapped accessible options (just inquire when making your resort reservation or the front desk cast members for help in those areas).
Another plus for guests who stay in the Magic Kingdom area resorts is the nightly Electrical Water Pageant that goes around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. This series of barges pulls along tall lighting displays that showcase various Disney characters and play Disney tunes, before culminating in a tribute to America at the end. For guests staying at the Polynesian, the EWP passes by the resort at 9:00 pm, and for the best views, you can head out to the boat dock or watch it from the shore.
* TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS *
Right off, the main transportation option guests would enjoy most here is having the monorail right there, especially if you (like me) spend most of your stay going to and from the Magic Kingdom park. Having the monorail really does make a difference, although you also have the option of taking a motor launch (or ferry) from the boat dock to and from the park as well. One other thing about the monorail......from the Polynesian, the Magic Kingdom park is two stops away. If you want to head to Epcot, you can either wait for the bus, or you can walk a direct path to the Ticket & Transportation Center, and hop the other monorail that goes directly to Epcot and back.
Towards the front of the resort is the bus stop where guests can wait for and catch Disney buses heading towards the other Walt Disney resort locations like the other theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney, and so on.
* DINING OPTIONS *
There are several possibilities for getting a good meal while at the resort:
Captain Cook's Snack Company - A 24 hr quick service snack bar where you can get a hot sandwich or two, or pick up some ice cream, drinks, chips and it is the prime location at the Polynesian for filling up your refillable drink mugs.
'Ohana - This family friendly restaurant is a personal favorite of mine and is a very popular eating restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. Here you get an all-you-can-eat feast whether for breakfast or for dinner, while overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon with a direct line-of-sight view of Cinderella Castle. The meals are served, not buffet, but family style. In the mornings, they offer the character breakfast where different Disney characters in costume will come around for photo opportunities.
Kona Cafe - This sit-down restaurant provides meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is well known for the Tonga Toast, a concoction of bread which has been stuffed with bananas, coated in batter, and then fried and covered in cinnamon. I haven't tried it, but hear plenty of raves about it.
And, there is the special Polynesian luau dinner show called "The Spirit of Aloha" located in the resorts's Luau Cove. It is held every Tuesday through Saturday (if the weather permits) and features authentic Polynesian dancing (including fire-twirling) and a full meal including drinks (alcoholic ones may be extra). Note that in the cooler months of the year, if the temperature falls below 55 degrees, they have been known to cancel shows on those occasions.
* SHOPPING *
As with each Walt Disney World resort there is plenty of shopping to be done at the Polynesian. Various locations (all within the Great Ceremonial House) include BouTIKI, Samoa Snacks, Trader Jacks, and the Wyland Gallery. In these areas you can find souveniers, sundries, snacks, mugs, clothing, and a variety of things.
***** FINAL THOUGHTS/COMMENTS *****
If I had the opportunity, I would stay here on every visit. It's ideally situated and my wife and I love having the monorail right there for us. We honeymooned here and for each of the succeeding two stays there, I faxed in a room request ahead of time asking for the same room.....and got it each time. There's just so much at this resort to love and plenty of time could be spent simply in wandering around and enjoying the scenery and theming. My only real complaint, which is general and one many people would probably share......is the high cost of a stay here. But that's Disney for you, and there are other options like saving up money a little longer to stay here, or going for another level resort altogether. Still, a stay at the Polynesian is well worth it.
ONE LAST BIT OF TRIVIA: On Dec 29, 1974 at the Polynesian Resort, that is when and where John Lennon signed the paperwork that officially dissolved The Beatles as a musical group.