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Category: Grand Floridian

Villas at the Grand Floridian.

The newest in property in the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) collection opened at the Grand Floridian last fall and it’s been at almost full capacity since.  While DVC owners have priority when booking rooms, you can stay here on a cash basis as well if you book well in advance. Since it’s a new property, you won’t find any discounts yet, but you will enjoy the most luxurious accommodations Disney has to offer, just a short walk from the Magic Kingdom monorail and one away stop from that beloved park.

Most DVC properties are attached to a deluxe resort and in this case, it’s the Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship resort. It’s about a five minute walk from the DVC lobby to the pool and about five more minutes to the Grand Floridian lobby. As a guest, you’ll enjoy the Grand’s pools as well as the resort’s other amenities.

This DVC property has deluxe studios and one, two and three-bedroom villas. Both the studios and the one-bedroom villas sleep five. The two-bedroom villas sleep nine and the three-bedroom villas sleep twelve. You’ll find full kitchens and a washer/dryer set up in the one, two and three- bedroom units.

The kitchens are small, as you might expect, but they have gorgeous cabinets and stainless steel appliances.  I really appreciated the marble counter tops and attention to detail in the backsplash.

The rooms also have a mixture of carpet, wood flooring, and ceramic tile that make it feel more like a comfortable, well-appointed home than a vacation rental.

The bathrooms are gorgeous, with soothing colors, subway tile, and deep tubs. This one comes with air jets.

Disney has learned a lot about what guests want since they started building their own hotels in 1971, and one thing guests want? Lot of storage space.  These little ottomans open up to hide toys or whatever else you may want to secret away when not in use.

These clever twin-sized beds fold out from underneath the television in the living room.

The bathrooms have a nice amount of storage space as well, with roomy counter tops  (I’m looking at you, Bay Lake Tower). 

And that image in the mirror? It’s a television, so you can watch from the bathtub. The studios have a comfy couch that folds out into a double bed.

I’ll admit it, I’ve tried but I can’t find any downsides to this resort other than the price. The location is prime, it looks gorgeous, and the cast members are the same excellent cast members you’ll find anywhere on property.  If you love the Grand Floridian, you owe it to yourself to book a stay at the villas. Yes, it’s pricey. But the accommodations are bucket-list level and worth the cost, if only once.

Quick Bites: Grand Floridian Burger

Why hello there, gorgeous.

The Grand Floridian Burger, which is found on the lunch menu at the excellent Grand Floridian Cafe, is an Angus chuck burger topped with buttered poached lobster, red onion marmalade, crispy prosciutto, and arugula served on a soft and warm Brioche bun with a side of chips, all for $19.49.  No, that’s not a typo. It’s a $20 hamburger. Is it worth it? In a word – yes. In another word -yum! 

The Angus burger was cooked to perfection, meaty and juicy, while the lobster meat was fresh, succulent and tender.  I was pleased to see that the Grand Floridian chef did not skim on the amount of lobster, either – I’d guess there was an entire lobster’s tail worth covering the hamburger. The red onion marmalade added just the right amount of sweetness without overpowering the flavors of the hamburger and lobster, while the arugula added a nice crunch. To be honest, I didn’t even taste the prosciutto, but that’s because I was enjoying the rest of the flavors too much.  For their part, the chips appear to be homemade, or at least cooked on site; these are not store bought potato chips thrown on a plate, and have a crispiness and perfect crunch, with just the right amount of salt. 

This may be the perfect burger.

The meal is served with a side of mango ketchup, which by itself is very pleasing to the palate, but is too sweet when tried with the burger. It would benefit, I think, from perhaps some hot peppers or something to give it a little heat or bite at the end. Luckily, I only tried it on a small portion of this delicious burger, and you should do the same.  The multitude of flavors stand on their own, and to add any condiment would be a crime.

Although the price is steep, if you can get past that, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Besides, you’re on vacation. It’s okay to treat yourself every once and awhile.

Grand Floridian Easter Egg Display

Can’t think of a better place to celebrate spring!
A very happy Easter/Passover weekend to our readers who may be celebrating. I had the opportunity yesterday to head over to the Grand Floridian and check out their amazing Easter egg display.
Just a few of the eggs on display.
For the past 15 years, the Disney bakery team has been hand decorating the Easter eggs for display throughout Disney restaurants, but this is the first year that it was decided the eggs would all be displayed in one place for all guests to enjoy. 
Amazing detail is found on the front….
and the back of each egg.
The eggs measure between 16-20 inches and weighs in at a whopping 9-12 pounds. And yes, they are all completely edible, made up of such things as fondant, cocoa butter, and royal icing. The hand painted bunnies next to the eggs are also edible, sculpted from cocoa butter. It took the team of 19 bakers three weeks to design each of the eggs, which reflect both original art and tributes to famous paintings.
It’s hard to believe that’s painted on an egg.
The display is only up for the Easter season and will be taken down after April 9, 2012 this year. Not to worry if you miss it this year though -this year marks the “First Annual” display, meaning it will return in following years.


It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I think this is mine.

Interested in seeing my entire album of Easter egg photos? You can find them on my Facebook page, here.

Quick Bites: Roasted Chicken Breast at Citricos

As wonderful to eat as it is to look at. 






   




Located within Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort you’ll find Citricos, a signature restaurant featuring the cuisine of Southern Europe. 

As this is a favorite dining destination for my wife and I, I’ve had the opportunity to try a variety of dishes, such as the roasted chicken breast ($29.00).

This dish consists of a free-range chicken served with saffron and green pea risotto, mojo picon and garnished with micro cilantro. There are a number of ways to ruin chicken, but I am happy to say that this was expertly prepared. The skin was left on during roasting, which preserved the moisture, leaving the meat juicy and succulent (there’s nothing worse than a dried out piece of chicken); it also gave the skin a hint of crispiness. 

The mojo picon (a type of garlic sauce cooked with paprica, cumin seed and dried chilies) lent a hint of spice to the dish without being overpowering, while the saffron and green pea risotto complimented the chicken perfectly, the peas adding a subtle, summer flavor. 


Like everything served here, the presentation was elegant, even if the course itself was simple. The contrast of color on the plate and the simple garnish for an added touch left no doubt that I was eating somewhere special. 

Citricos is two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan; they also gladly accept the Tables in Wonderland card. Advanced dining reservations are strongly recommended.

Authors note: The menu changes frequently at Citricos, typically with each season, so some dishes may not be available year round.

Grand Floridian Cafe: Lunch Review

 Walk ups can be easy to get here.
I’ll admit that when I hear the words cafe, I don’t think of a small coffee shop in Paris, where lovers sit outside drinking espresso out of small cups and ogling one another. Maybe it’s from what I was exposed to living in New Jersey, but “cafe” was usually code for “run down diner with perpetually sticky floor and wobbly tables that owner is trying to make sound upscale in an effort to attract business.” Luckily, the Grand Floridian Cafe is not code for anything but a delicious lunch (or breakfast or dinner). Read on for my review.
Atmosphere

Located towards the back of the first floor of the main building of the Grand Floridian, the Cafe is easily overlooked by many guests. This, coupled with its surprisingly large size meant that my wife and I were easily able to get a walk-up table for lunch, even though it was both the Princess Marathon weekend and the NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, and crowds were noticeably heavier.

I’m not in love with the decor -the flowery wallpaper and curtains remind me of a grandmother’s home. But it does fit the overall Victorian theme of the hotel and certainly isn’t out of place in that sense. And I do love the high trey ceilings, as well as the fresh flowers throughout the restaurant, including a fresh rose at each table. My wife and I had a table near the window with a beautiful view of the grounds and the pool. 
I love the trey ceiling and how bright and airy the Cafe feels!
The dress code is theme park casual.
Service
Our server, Robert, was excellent. He was friendly and personable not only with us, but with all the tables he was helping. He was prompt with our drink and food orders and was always there checking in and making sure we had enough to drink and didn’t need anything else. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for him again or recommend him to others.
Ask for a table by the window and get a great view of the grounds.
Food
For lunch, the Cafe offers a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches. My wife had the Grand Sandwich, an open-faced hot ham, turkey, bacon, and tomato with a rich Boursin cheese sauce and fried onion straws, served on Focaccia bread ($12.49), while I had the Reuben Sandwich, which includes corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut on rye bread ($10.99), though I substituted the rye for Focaccia as well. It comes with a side of chips, fresh fruit, or a cucumber salad, I chose the salad.
The Grand Sandwich.
We both liked the Focaccia bread, finding it crispy, yet still soft. Our only complaint was that it seemed a bit too salty, especially when combined with the ham on the Grand Sandwich. The sandwiches themselves were extremely tasty though, and the meats fresh and flavorful. We both ate up every bite. The cucumber salad was a nice compliment, the oil and vinegar mixture proving the right balance of sweet and tart, while refreshing on the palate.
The Reuben comes on rye but I substituted Focaccia bread.
While we didn’t save room for dessert, there were a number of smaller offerings to satisfy any sweet tooth, ranging from a Key Lime tart to a Boston Creme pie. 
Who’s up for some dessert?
Prices for lunch range from $15.99-$35.99, and there is a kid’s menu. The Grand Floridian Cafe is one table service credit on the Disney Dining plan, and they also accept the Tables in Wonderland card.

Rumor: New Disney Vacation Club Property to be Built at the Grand Floridian?

Recently, Disney applied for and received permission to change and make improvements to the shoreline along Seven Seas Lagoon in preparation for a new Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property to be built as part of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  The T-shaped building will be located between the Wedding Pavilion and the resort’s beach pool, with the Grand Floridian Health Club and Spa to its rear. Part of the building will be constructed over the Lagoon, a small portion of which will be reclaimed in the process.  The space is currently a large grassy area and beach.

Based on the number of projected parking spaces, the resort is expected to be on the small side, adding around 200 rooms to DVC’s inventory.  According to the plans, the building will be no more than six floors high. This information was also confirmed by cast members at the wedding pavilion and at the Grand Floridian itself.  Rooms on the higher floors are expected to offer Magic Kingdom views, a perk most consider a necessity for any resort located on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop.  Rumor has it that some of the rooms in the Grand Floridian will be converted over to DVC rooms in much the same way they were in Animal Kingdom Lodge when Jambo House was built.  If this is the case, it’s possible that some of those rooms will be concierge level.  Finally, there will be a covered walkway between the  DVC building and the Grand Floridian’s main building.

I’m seeing a lot of excitement over this project, but I’m also seeing a great deal of worry.  Most concerns surround how it will effect the shoreline of the Seven Seas Lagoon. The view of the Grand Floridian from the ferry as you go to and from the Magic Kingdom is one of the prettiest sights at Walt Disney World.  The buildings, beach, and vegetation are simply beautiful.  How will a large building, possibly one that’s taller than the main building of the Grand Floridian, effect this view?  Another potential problem has to do with the site’s location next to the Wedding Pavilion.  Fair warning:  Brides (and nervous mothers of the brides!) can expect construction noise for several years.  From a practical standpoint, how will adding two hundred more rooms full of guests effect transportation and check-in?  Finally, what will happen to the scenic, peaceful walkway between the Polynesian Resort and the Grand, arguably one of the nicest spots for a relaxing walk in all of Disney World?

I’m hoping that Disney will do what it did with Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort, which is seamlessly create a resort which appears to have always been there.  If you read here, you’ll know that I love the Grand Floridian:  It’s airy, peaceful (even when it’s crowded) and relaxing. I’m looking forward to seeing what Disney has planned for one of my favorite resorts in the future.

Disney Resort Showdown: Pop Century vs. The Grand Floridian.

The other day I was talking to my best friend and fellow Disney nerd fan about the differences between the Grand Floridian and Pop Century.  She loves the Grand Floridian and was shocked when I told her that if I wasn’t staying on DVC points (Disney Vacation Club), I’d rather stay at Pop. After determining that I’d probably lost my mind, I decided to break it down like this:

Cost: A full-price standard room at the Grand Floridian will cost about four times what a standard full-price room at Pop costs. Kind of staggering when you put it down in writing, isn’t it?

Advantage: No question, Pop is a better deal no matter how creative your math when you explain it to your spouse. And believe me, I can get pretty creative.

Amenities:  All Disney resorts have great theming; it’s what sets them apart from off site hotels.  But some have better amenities than others.  If you’re wondering what pools your kids will prefer, Pop wins with fun, lively kid-friendly pools.

On the other hand, for adults travelling without children, the Grand wins hands down with some of the most quiet, elegant pools on property.  You can also rent a cabana for a day or half day at the Grand  Floridian and hang out in your own private space.  And while it comes with a fairly high price tag, the Grand Floridian has a spa where you can also get a poolside massage.  There’s also has a beach and cabanas for relaxing.

For me, deciding where to eat is a big part of planning a WDW vacation.  I want variety and easy access to good food.  With four table-service restaurants on site, including the top rated restaurant in Central Florida, Victoria and Albert’s, the Grand Floridian outshines Pop, which has no sit-down restaurants.   For a casual meal however, I think Pop’s food court beats  the  Grand every time, as its has really excellent variety and quality.  The quick service location at the Grand is slightly worse than what you would find in a mall food court, but you are a short monorail ride away from the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian, both of which offer better quick service meals.  

The first time you walk into the Grand Floridian you’re bound to be just a little bit awed.  The lobby is really extraordinary, the best on Disney property in my opinion. You could easily pass a couple of hours sitting there, just people watching and soaking up the atmosphere.   An orchestra plays there daily.  Yes, I said an orchestra. 

Pop, on the other hand, has a small but lively little lobby decorated with memorabilia from the latter part of the 20th century.

Notice how shiny it looks?  Yes, it’s that clean. 

What really sets the Grand apart from Pop is that it’s on the monorail. When you stay at the Grand Floridian, you’re just a couple of minutes away from the Magic Kingdom.  This is a huge advantage if you’re planning on taking a break during the afternoon.  Should you tire of the monorail, there’s always boat access to the Magic Kingdom.  Of course, you’re just a few minutes away from the Ticket and Transportation Center and a monrail transfer to Epcot.

Advantage:  The Grand Floridian.  It’s beautiful, on the monorail, has four table service restaurants, and a gorgeous lobby. The grounds are amazing enough that even non-guests schedule photo shoots there. 

Rooms: At around 260 squre feet, Pop’s rooms are small, the kind of rooms that bring new meaning to the term  “family togetherness.”   Fearturing two double beds, a TV with stand, and a small table and two chairs, Pop’s rooms have very little theming other than a couple of framed collages representing the building’s decade and a Disney themed border on the walls. The rooms at the Grand Floridian are, not surprisingly, far roomier with two queen sized beds, a desk and chair, a large TV armoire, and a daybed. There’s also a balcony.  While Pop’s decor is very basic but upbeat, rooms at the Grand are airy with subtle, feminine patterns and furniture.

What about bathrooms and closets?  At Pop you get a small rod and shelf right next to the sink for a closet as opposed to an actual roomy closet at the Grand Floridian. Bathrooms at the Grand Floridian are spacious and pretty, with a separate sink/dressing area and a shower/bath combination and toilet in its own room. The bathrooms at Pop are tiny; in fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints about Pop. The small sink area is in the actual room, with the toilet and tub occupying the actual bathroom, which is so small that it requires a bigt of  gymnastics to actually close the door. There have been complaints about soundproofing, but I can’t personally confirm this as I slept like a rock during my stay there.

I found both resorts to be equally clean and well-maintained, both the rooms and the common areas.

Advantage: Well, okay. This is getting unfair. Of course the Grand’s rooms are better. Next!

Customer Service: If you’re staying at a deluxe resort because you think the service is better than at a value, save your money. From my experience, cast members at all Disney resorts are stellar, regardless of the level. It’s true that the Grand Floridian has a higher number of cast members per guest than does Pop, but I didn’t feel that effected the level of service I received. Keep in mind that we didn’t require anything special during our stay, nor did we have any emergencies, so I can’t speak to how my interactions with cast members might have been under special circumstances, but for the normal guest experience, both resorts were great. In both cases, I arrived at MCO in 9:00 in the morning and was in the Magic Kingdom by 11:00, which is pretty impressive given that it’s a longer ride from Pop than it is to ride the monorail from the Grand Floridian. In truth, I might have gotten to the Magic Kingdom from the Grand sooner if I hadn’t been gawking. It’s such a beautiful hotel.

Advantage: Tie, with a slight advantage to Pop for trying harder like an awkward, funny girl at a Sadie Hawkin’s dance.

Grounds/Atmosphere: I don’t think Disney resorts really photograph as beautiful as they are. You miss out on the scale and the full experience.  The Grand looks stuffy and old fashioned, when in fact the buildings feel very light and airy. It’s also not as feminine as you might think from the photographs.

Pop, bless it’s heart, looks garish in photographs. And to a degree, it is, but that’s really the whole point. The atmostphere is a both a bit frenetic and nostaligic, meant to be evocative of the old roadside motels that one might have stayed in as kids on the way to Disney World. But unlike those old motels, the grounds are beautifully maintained, the pools are clean, and the common areas are nice. I love the lobby at Pop. It’s a bit more subdued than the rest of the resort but it’s still fun and the memorabilia is fun to look at. Pop has a great feeling, full of families and couples having a good time. There’s a great energy to the place that I don’t find at any other resort.

I know a number of people who don’t feel comfortable at the Grand Floridian, but I think that’s mainly an internal thing.  I honestly haven’t seen a huge difference in the guests from values versus deluxe resorts; everyone is sporting a kind of resort casual look that gradually gets more rumpled as the day goes on.  And certainly the casts members are no less friendly at the Grand as they are at Pop.  You’ll be treated just as well if you come into the Grand Floridian in a t-shirt as you will if you’re dressed to the nines. 

What about for families travelling with kids?  All Disney resorts are kid friendly, but in my experience, the Grand Floridian seems to attract more adult guests than children.   That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of activities for children at the Grand Floridian and that there aren’t plenty of kids.   But comparatively speaking, particularly when contrasted with the  All Stars or Pop,  it’s just a more “grown-up” resort.   One reason is that its popular with couples celebrating honeymoons and other special occasions.   It’s also wedding central, with the Wedding Pavillion and reception areas located at the resort.  If you’re looking for a relatively quiet, romantic hotel on Disney property, the Grand Floridian is it.

Advantage:  Tie.  Both are nice-looking resorts.  It depends on your tastes.

Summary. Obviously, a comparason between Pop and the Grand isn’t entirely fair. The Grand Floridian is Disney’s flagship hotel. Pop, while loved by many, is a value resort. But look at it this way: You can go to Disney World at lot more often and for a longer amount of time if you stay at Pop. Sure, the room is smaller. And it’s not on the monorail.  You have to decide how important theming and convenience is to you.  If you’re juggling costs and trying to figure out how to make a Disney vacation work, Pop is a great solution.  You certainly shouldn’t feel that you’re missing out on something because you stay at  Pop instead of a deluxe hotel.