Honeymoon Trip Report: Monorail Resorts

Since we couldn’t afford to stay at a Deluxe Resort on our Honeymoon we thought we would act like we were rich by touring as many resorts as possible in our US Polo Assn. polos, pastel shorts and Sperry’s (Neither of us actually own any of these. The closest we come is a fake, Meijer-brand pair of Top-Siders I got for Christmas last year that I wear to work paired with khakis).

Deluxe Resorts were somewhat of a mystery for me before our Honeymoon. Sure, I had ridden the Monorail around the loop and stopped at the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian but other than going to Chef Mickey’s I had never explored any of the Monorail resorts. I had never been to the Wilderness Lodge; heck, I hardly knew where it was. I had never been to the Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan or Dolphin (which are only half-Disney resorts if you think about it) and besides walking around the actual boardwalk, had never explored the Boardwalk Resort.

The only Deluxe Resort I had ever been in for more than a few minutes or a meal was the Animal Kingdom Lodge. One family trip shortly after 9/11 resulted in a super deal on a 3-night stay in a Savannah view room. Always the person to jump on a good deal, my mother booked it and we enjoyed a split stay between AKL and one of the All Stars. At the time, I thought it was really “cool” but didn’t like how far we had to walk to the buses or how small the food court was. When you are 9-years-old you don’t care about Jiko, Boma or Sanaa: I wanted some chicken nuggets damn it!

This trip was a completely different experience when it came to Deluxe Resorts. Being on the Dining Plan helped in our “Journey through the Deluxe Resorts” as we were guaranteed to visit at least three of them: Contemporary Resort (California Grille), Grand Floridian (Narcoossee’s) and Wilderness Lodge (Artist Point). Staying at Port Orleans French Quarter helped with our “Journey through the (slightly less expensive but still beautiful) Moderate Resorts” as Port Orleans Riverside was right next door, which was good because we didn’t have time to visit either Coronado Springs or Caribbean Beach. Our “Journey through the (cheap by Disney standards and still awesome because it’s Disney and they know what they are doing but some people think they are trashy) Value Resorts” was short; we only visited the Art of Animation since it had only been open for a few months prior to our trip and we had already toured the other Value Resorts during our last stay in March of 2011 when we stayed at POP Century.

The second morning of our Honeymoon was supposed to begin at the Animal Kingdom. Not surprisingly, it was pouring when we opened our hotel room door; Hurricane Isaac made our Honeymoon a little wet the first few days. We mulled it over for a minute or two and decided to alter the plans (SHOCKING!). We grabbed our newly acquired Disney ponchos (which are clear now by the way and have been for a while. Apparently the yellow ones became accomplices to gift shop theft as it was relatively easy for somebody to grab an item and hide it under their poncho as they exited through the gift shop (Side note #2: When I first saw a poster for “Exit Through the Gift Shop” I thought it was a documentary about Disney. It’s not.).) and headed for the Magic Kingdom bus station. Our plan was to ride the Monorail over to the Contemporary to see if we could walk in for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, explore the resort after that and explore the rest of the Monorail resorts as long as it continued raining.

Here’s the Grand Floridian from the Monorail station in front of Magic Kingdom.

Our chariot awaits: The Silver Line.

Since this is a post about the resorts and not the restaurants (later post) I am going to skip talking about Chef Mickey’s in favor of the Contemporary Resort. We visited the resort twice: once that morning and again a few days later for dinner at the California Grille. I had been to Chef Mickey’s a few times as a child with my family so that level of the Contemporary wasn’t new to me. Ashley, however, had never been so she was a proverbial kid in a candy store.

There are many gigantic murals on the walls. It looks Native American but I don’t want to speculate.

We walked around the two shops on that level and I didn’t notice ANY resort specific merchandise. I either 1) forgot about it since then 2) missed it or 3) they really don’t have any. We didn’t ride the elevator up to the top levels of the tower to look down at the lobby because it would be terrifying. We didn’t walk down to the other “boring” wing either. Instead, we hopped on the Monorail and headed to the Polynesian.

Perry the Platypus merchandise was everywhere. I’ve never seen the show but have heard good things about it. This hat was my favorite piece. Two hats for the price of one, fun, fun.

Going into the day, the prospect of visiting the Polynesian was the most appealing. Ever since we rode through the Monorail station as a young child I have wanted to stay there. The $400+ a night price point made me realize this will most likely never happen but a guy can dream can’t he? Anyway, as we exited the Monorail and made our way to the Polynesian doors my insides were going crazy. We walked inside but it still felt like we were outside, brilliant.

The doors to the Monorail are on the far left of the image. I am standing on the East side of the walkway as you enter from the Monorail.

The theming inside and out is spectacular. It feels like a cross between the Jungle Book and Neverland. Looking back we probably picked a terrible time to go as the main floor and second floor were buzzing with activity. The normal vacationers were still having breakfast or scrambling to get their kids together to head to the parks. Because of this, I was turned off a bit from the resort. The noise inside was incredible as well: LOUD. If we had gone at 11 a.m. instead it probably would have been a much more enjoyable experience.

Compared to the Contemporary, the Polynesian had a plethora of resort-specific merchandise. I got my mom a t-shirt and fridge magnet since (I’m a great son and) she has always wanted to stay at the Polynesian. I also got in on the fun and bought myself a nice, big window cling. If you ask Ashley she will tell you that my car looks stupid, ridiculous and even trashy because of all the bumper stickers on the back. If you ask me I will tell you that it’s almost 15 years old and I’m doing it for fun; when I get a new car there will be no, I repeat, NO bumper stickers on it. I just need this blog to hit the big time and I’ll be getting a new hooptie in no time.

Outside of the gift shop.

We never left the Great Ceremonial House because of the weather but luckily there is a lot to see and do in the one building. All of the restaurants and the lounge are split between the first and second levels. We didn’t venture over to Capt. Cook’s but that is the food court at the resort and Ashley found out after we returned that they serve Tonga Toast there. Had we known, we would have stopped in since we were contemplating having some at Kona Cafe even though we had just finished a gut-bomb of a breakfast less than an hour earlier. Right next to each other on the second floor are Kona Cafe and ‘Ohana. The Tambu Lounge is also on this level. I wanted to get a drink and watch Wishes from the beach one night but we never had the time. Another trip I suppose.

‘Ohana sign.

Kona Cafe sign.

Tambu Lounge in the background. Seating area in the foreground.

Overall the resort seems like a very cool place and if I had a couple thousand dollars to spend on a hotel for a week I would have no reservations about making a reservation here.  We need to return some time and explore more of the outdoors at the resort and grab a Lapu Lapu or two (LINK).

One more picture for you of this happy Tiki man.

Next up on our tour was the Grand Floridian resort. Once again, we stopped here twice: Once that morning and again towards the end of our trip for dinner at Narcoossee’s. All of the pictures are actually from when we went for dinner. I was too caught up in the snobbery to take pictures that morning.

A view of the entire resort from the TTC/Magic Kingdom ferry. The construction on the far left is for the soon to be DVC Grand Floridian. It’s hard to fathom how much those will cost. YIKES! Oh, and I lied about all the pictures being from when we were there to have dinner. This was from earlier in the week. Sue me.

I can’t deny that the resort itself is beautiful. Everything is so white and pristine and I can see the appeal. The main lobby is as grand as grand comes. Personally, I’m not a big fan. I don’t like the way the rooms look, I’m not too fond of the Victorian theming and probably wouldn’t stay there unless it were free or very cheap. LOTS of other people like it though. I’m not saying only rich people stay there but I didn’t notice any ordinary folk walking around the two times we visited.

The lobby is very striking. That’s an elevator to the right and an uninhabited bird cage to the left. It’s hard to make out but that large balcony on the second floor in the back is where the small orchestra/band plays every evening.

The ceiling is both very high and very elegant.

Everything is peaceful there. It reminded me of Port Orleans French Quarter but much fancier. Even the pool area was relatively quiet. All of the landscaping around the resort was immaculate and the red roof topping each building contrasted nicely with the perfectly white exterior.

The pool area is quite lush.

I don’t remember where I was when I took this. It’s big though.

That’s the boat dock with Cinderella Castle in the distance. That’s a laundry cart in the way. I flipped it over in rage and slashed all the tires. I think he learned his lesson.

This is the building closest to Narcoosssee’s. The lagoon is just off to the left.

One more picture of a Grand Floridian building. I think this one was named Sugarloaf. It’s across the way from Narcoossee’s. It’s the main building you see walking from the lobby to Narcoossee’s.

One of the many benefits for all of these resorts is the proximity to the Magic Kingdom and the Monorail to and fro. If you are at the Grand Floridian you could conceivably be at the Magic Kingdom in under five minutes. At the Contemporary you can WALK to the Magic Kingdom in less than 10 minutes. The Polynesian is the best in my opinion. Not only can you take the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom but you can walk to the TTC and take the Monorail to EPCOT. Of course you could take the resort Monorail to the TTC and transfer to the EPCOT Monorail from the other resorts but being able to walk to the TTC would be invaluable.

One of the worst parts of these three resorts seems to be the bus service. Not only do they share a bus to and from the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios but it seemed to take longer than usual for a bus to show up when we waiting for one at Animal Kingdom. When we left the Contemporary after dining at the California Grille and went to another park it took a good 45 minutes because we had to stop at the Polynesian, unload, load, stop at the Grand Floridian, unload, load, navigate the service roads around the Magic Kingdom and make our way to the next park. When we stayed at POP we had a dedicated bus to every single park. Guess who’s trashy now!?

Since I’ve already rambled on for much too long I am going to talk about the other Deluxe Resorts as well as Port Orleans Riverside and Art of Animation in separate posts. Those of you that were disgusted and offended by my writing won’t have the pleasure of reading them. Those that continue to punish themselves by reading this blog have something to look forward to. Here’s my plan: Fort Wilderness and Animal Kingdom Lodge in one post, Port Orleans Riverside and Art of Animation in another post and Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk and Swan and Dolphin in yet another agonizing debacle of “writing.”

TTFN.

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