When I think of luxury travel, the first thing that pops into my mind isn’t Disney World.
But last month, all my expectations of “luxury” and “Disney” were upended when I went to Disney World on a press trip to experience the 12th and newest property in the Disney Vacation Club: The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
First, a little background:
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is Disney World’s flagship resort–it’s been around since 1988–and holds a very special place in Young Jolie’s heart, since it’s where I desperately wanted to stay on a theoretical childhood trip to Disney World that never materialized. (I don’t remember the details now of our aborted trip, but its legacy was enduring. To this day, I derive almost as much pleasure from the plotting, planning and dreaming that goes into a trip as I do from actually taking the damn thing. Sometimes more!)
Genuine Disney happiness.
Designed to look like an old Victorian-era hotel–think The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island from Somewhere in Time, or the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego–Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is arguably Disney’s nicest and most upscale property…that is, until the debut of its smaller next-door neighbor The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
Featuring 106 units (by contrast, the Grand Floridian has 865), The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa offers rooms ranging from studios to a huge 3 bedroom villa with 4 bathrooms. There are Mary Poppins touches everywhere: penguin fountains, a carousel horse, and a massive 4-story chandelier that dominates the elegant lobby. Both The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian and the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa are only one monorail stop away from the Magic Kingdom, with a prime location on the Disney “campus.”
The lobby, including multi-story chandelier, a carousel horse, and penguin fountain
You feel like you’re living at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, rather than simply staying at a hotel; each time you return to The Villas, the greeters say, “Welcome home,” which is a nice touch.
Meanwhile, the check-in process at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian was a breeze: you sit with a dedicated concierge, who helps set up your Magic Band and gets you sorted while inquiring about special needs and requests. By contrast, the check-in at the Grand Floridian (where E. and I stayed for 2 nights of the trip) was much more of a hassle, involving the cliched lines you’d expect at Disney. But lines at The Villas? No siree. Nothing to see here!
When E. and I stayed at The Villas, it was on opening day, so we were literally the very first guests to stay in our room, 1406. How cool is that?!
Our Villa was a two bedroom, two bathroom suite that could comfortably house 9-10 people (there’s a King bed, 2 Queen beds, a Queen pullout couch, and a trundle bed). Rooms are designed for comfort, with fully-equipped kitchens featuring a refrigerator, dishwasher, stove and oven, a washer and dryer, a private balcony, bathtubs with air-jets, and walk-in rain showers.
Views of the master bedroom with king-size bed
The second bedroom, featuring two Queen-sized beds, lake views and its own bathroom
Views of the master bathroom
The private balcony wraps around the entire length of The Villa, with views of the lake. Another feature: there are mirrors in the TVs, which is oh-so-Vegas! And the living rooms have an especially cool touch: a pull-down twin-sized bed that allows an extra (child-sized person) a magical little sleeping nook.
The sleeping nook in the living room
All the comforts of home
If you’re staying at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, you can enjoy all the amenities of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, including the various pools, Seven Seas Lagoon beach, Senses Spa–which I visited; more about that in a future post–and the award-winning restaurants. The best restaurant at Disney is called Victoria & Albert’s, which is a AAA Five-Diamond Award winner 13 years in a row, with a strict dress code, a wine list 4,200 bottles deep recognized with a Wine Spectator “Best Award of Excellence,” and restricted to kids over 10 years old. (I like where your head’s at, Victoria & Albert’s!)
DISNEY VACATION CLUB
I was unfamiliar with the workings of the Disney Vacation Club, but apparently it is A Thing.
To join, you make a one-time investment and then pay an annual fee. Buying in means you can stay at properties like Aulani in Hawaii, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, and can experience accommodations and private tours in places as far flung as China, New Zealand, Venezuela and St Maarten.
Using my Magic Band, which connects to your room key, credit card, and Park Hopper tickets
Meanwhile, staying at a Disney Resort means extra perks like extended theme park Magic Hours (where you can get in early and stay late), complimentary airport service, and complimentary parking.
E. and I loved the convenience of the Disney Vacation Club experience, and were exceedingly impressed by the direction Disney World is moving in. (The Magic Bands, which act as park ticket, room key and credit card, are genius. You can set them up at check-in, or can use the Disney app to organize.)
While in Orlando, I also experienced Disney Golden Oak, which is a community for those who love the Disney Vacation Club and want to kick it up a notch further by living the Disney life, and had a hard-hat tour of the new Four Seasons Orlando, which is within the Disney Golden Oak community. More on those gems to come soon!
Brand-new The Villas at Grand Floridian elevator, designed to look old-timey!
Being the dorks that we are, E. and I loved our mini-vacation at Disney World. I was genuinely impressed with the luxury side of Disney, and will be giving you guys a peek behind that curtain soon. (Let’s say after the wedding, ‘k? Less than a week to go!)
Disclosure: Although I was hosted for free by Disney Golden Oak to highlight The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort, all opinions remain my own. E. and I paid for one night’s stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa ourselves.