Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Walt Disney World: Polynesian Village Resort


Throughout past trips to Walt Disney World, I have shared several reviews of Disney resorts as well as tons of food reviews from the parks and beyond.

I recently headed to Walt Disney World with my sister, and took advantage of her Disney Vacation Club (DVC) membership by staying at a Deluxe Resort that was at the top of my Disney bucket list: Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. The DVC portion specifically is referred to as Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, but it's the same property and has access to the same facilities.

View of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort from California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Disney Vacation Club is essentially a Disney timeshare program. You use points to book rooms of various sizes, ranging from Deluxe Studios to 3-Bedroom Grand Villas or even Bungalows (in the case of the Poly), depending on the resort and what kinds or rooms are offered there. The Deluxe Studios feature kitchenettes, while the larger villas boast full kitchens!

The prices/number of points required to book rooms vary throughout the year based on different seasons designated for popularity. Even if you're not a DVC member, there are many websites that will allow you to rent points from a member, or you can even book the suites with cash, but you will definitely save money by renting the points instead!

We spent four fabulous nights at the Poly! It was always a dream to stay at one of the resorts on the Monorail circuit, and the easy access did not disappoint.

View of the Grand Floridian from the beach

The layout of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort features the Great Ceremonial House as the focal point. It contains the lobby (complete with ADORABLE tiki statue), shops (BouTiki and Moana Mercantile), and several dining/bar options ('Ohana, Kona Cafe, Kona Island, Tambu Lounge, Captain Cook's, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace, and Pineapple Lanai).

It also includes access to the Monorail, which connects you to Disney's Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Magic Kingdom, and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) where you can hop on a Monorail to nearby Epcot.

The balcony in our room

The rest of the property is made up of longhouses named after locations in the South Pacific. They include Moorea (DVC), Pago Pago (DVC), Tokelau (DVC), Hawaii (Club Level), Tonga (Club Level), Samoa, Niue, Rarotonga, Fiji, Tuvalu and Aotearoa.

Pago Pago

There are also two pools (the Lava Pool and the new Oasis Pool--each with a hot tub), a really awesome splash area for kids (Kiki Tikis Splash Play), a marina, and a beach, complete with fire pit and view of the Magic Kingdom across Seven Seas Lagoon.

Kiki Tikis Splash Play

Lava Pool

Lava Pool

Lava Pool (without a thunderstorm on the horizon--see above)

Oasis Pool Entrance

Oasis Pool

We requested in advance to stay in a Deluxe Studio room on the 3rd floor of Pago Pago. Although it's technically the furthest from the Great Ceremonial House, it's a quick walk.

The reason we selected this longhouse is because of its proximity to the TTC. We had a very quick walk to the neighboring TTC for purposes of heading to Epcot, but also to the other Monorail resorts and the Magic Kingdom if we didn't feel like walking to the Great Ceremonial House to board the monorail there.

As far as general location is concerned, Disney's Polynesian Resort ranks very high on the list. Personally, I think the location is even preferable to Disney's Contemporary Resort, which has a lot of fans because it's within walking distance to the Magic Kingdom. Personally, I love the view of the MK right across the lake, and having super easy access to both the MK monorail, but also the monorail to Epcot. Double win!

The Magic Kingdom across Seven Seas Lagoon

Seven Seas Marina with a view of the Grand Floridian

The themeing is absolutely fantastic! I honestly felt like I was on a tropical island with all the tiki torches, tiki statues, Hawaiian music, and more. The tiki statue in the lobby is my absolute favorite! Its image is used throughout the resort on trash cans, room number signs, and it is even replicated in the adorable lamps found in the DVC rooms.

I was told by a Cast Member that these lamps are only in the DVC rooms and not the standard rooms, but I'm not sure if that's accurate. Also, they JUST started selling these lamps last Friday, May 20th at BouTiki, and my sister was the first person EVER to purchase them! The staff took a photo of us to commemorate the first sale of these popular lamps.

Pago Pago hallway

Tiki hallway light

So a visit to Disney's Polynesian Resort definitely sets the mood for a tropical, island-themed getaway, right in the heart of Disney, but what about the rooms? As I mentioned before, we stayed in one of the Deluxe Studios at Pago Pago. The Deluxe Studios at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows are the largest Deluxe Studios on property.

*Note* Most of the room photos were taken the night of our arrival (while everything was still neat and clean), hence the poor lighting quality. I prefer natural lighting when I can get it. Sorry, folks!

The Deluxe Studios feature the following:

  • Both lake view and standard view rooms
  • Sleep up to 5 
  • 1 queen-size bed, 1 queen-size sleeper sofa, 1 pull-down bunk size bed 
  • Kitchenette
    • Paper plates, bowls and plastic utensils 
    • Small refrigerator 
    • Microwave
    • Wet bar 
    • Toaster 
  • 1 1/2 bathrooms
    • One has shower and sink
    • One has toilet, sink and tub/shower 
  • Private porch or balcony

Tiki carpeting

Pull-down bunk size bed

Pull-down bunk size bed features a Lilo and Stitch mural!


Half bath

Gorgeous wooden sliding doors for both bathrooms

Full bath

Here's a video tour of the room!

One thing these Deluxe Studios lack is storage. They include a closet, two drawers under the bed, one on either side, a small drawer in each nightstand, and storage in the coffee table (it opens up like a trunk). For a room that sleeps up to 5 people, there isn't a lot of room for those 5 people to store their things. Just something to keep in mind. It was perfect for the two of us, and we got to spread out with all that extra room!

I had a fantastic time at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. It seriously rivals Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village as my favorite Disney resort I've stayed at so far. There are definitely perks to staying at the Poly, such as location, excellent themeing, great dining options (and close access to many others via the Monorail), but it only features two room sizes for DVC (Deluxe Studios and the extremely expensive Bungalows) with nothing in between.

Although a stay at the Poly may be out of many people's budgets, if you visit during an off-season period, and consider renting DVC points, it's not nearly as obscene as one would think. In any case, I'm absolutely in love and can't wait until I have another opportunity to stay here!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more from my recent Walt Disney World trip!

Disney's Polynesian Resort
1600 Seven Seas Dr
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 824-2000

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hawaiian Grilled Cheese


Today I'm on my way to one of my absolute favorite places: Walt Disney World! I'm particularly excited because for the first time I will be staying at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, which has ranked very high on my wish list for years.

I plan on sharing several posts upon my return, discussing the resort as well as all of the amazing food I try during my brief visit to "The Happiest Place on Earth." Stay tuned!

In the meantime, in honor of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, I've decided to share a recipe for Hawaiian Grilled Cheese. It's from an excellent cookbook I recently reviewed, entitled Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

The inspiration for this sandwich derives from Hawaiian pizza—"gooey mozzarella, sweet-tart pineapple, savory ham, and spicy tomato sauce."

Although the tomatoes seem a little off-putting at first, they really do make sense in the context of Hawaiian pizza, in terms of the pizza sauce. They add a bit more acidity and sweetness to the sandwich, whereas the tart/sweet pineapple really is the star, along with the salty ham. Baking the sliced pineapple and tomato helps reduce some of the wetness, and yields for a perfectly balanced juicy but not soggy sandwich.

I couldn't find Hawaiian sandwich bread at my market (only the small slider-sized King's Hawaiian Rolls), and in the future would plan on baking my own Hawaiian bread. For this endeavor, I opted to use sliced French-style white bread sourced from a local bakery via Whole Foods. It's a bit crustier than a standard white sandwich bread, but it also boasts a lot more flavor, and a great hearty texture.

I substituted another great melting cheese, Havarti, for the Fontina specified in the recipe. Honestly, either would be fantastic here, alongside the mild but super gooey fresh mozzarella.

This Hawaiian grilled cheese is pretty phenomenal. If you love Hawaiian flavors, this sandwich is definitely for you! It has way more character than your standard grilled cheese, and it's considerably easy to make.

I can't wait to share all of my exciting experiences from Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, and of course the rest of Walt Disney World. Please check back in the coming weeks for my series of posts discussing all the fun and food from my trip!

Hawaiian Grilled Cheese
Serves 2
(From Grilled Cheese Kitchen)

4 slices fresh pineapple (about 1/4 in [6 mm] thick), cored, or 1/2 of a small can of pineapple rings in juice, drained
6 to 8 slices ripe plum tomato (about 1/4 in [6 mm] thick) (I used 2 plum tomatoes)
1 Tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
4 slices Hawaiian bread (slightly sweet white bread) or artisan white bread (I used French white bread)
4 slices (85 g) fontina cheese (I used havarti)
4 oz (115 g) sliced ham
3 oz (85 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Arrange the pineapple and tomato slices on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until the surfaces appear dry but not yet browned, turning the pieces over halfway through. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

Spread the butter on one side of each bread slice, dividing it evenly. Place two slices, buttered-side down, on a clean cutting board. Layer two slices of the fontina, half of the ham, three or four slices of roasted tomato, two rings of roasted pineapple, and half of the mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes (if using). Finish with the remaining slices of bread, buttered-side up.

Using a wide spatula, place both sandwiches in the pan, cover, and cook until the bottoms are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the second sides are browned, the cheese is melted, and the other ingredients are heated through, about 4 minutes longer.

Cut the sandwiches in half, if desired, and serve immediately.


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