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This review of Disney’s Polynesian was written by my friend and fellow Disney parks superfan Tatjana Lazar, who is also the Marketing and Social Media Manager of WDW Magazine.
It’s always been a dream of hers to stay at the Polynesian, a Walt Disney World (WDW) deluxe resort hotel and she accomplished that goal in January. Sadly, her stay didn’t go exactly as she had hoped. She recently wrote about her visit and now I’m here to share her experience.
Obviously, the following story and opinions belong to Tatjana, but I trust Tatjana’s opinions greatly and even more so when it comes to WDW. I thought her stay at the Polynesian was an important one to share, especially since I help others with Disney planning and want to ensure they have the best trips possible.
With that, keep reading for Tatjana’s review of Disney’s Polynesian and be sure to also follow her on Instagram for more of her Disney adventures.
Staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort had been at the top of my Disney bucket list since my very first visit to the World. I had regularly played out fantasies in my mind of leis being delicately placed over my head by smiling cast members, sipping tropical cocktails by the pool, and enjoying an endless feast of ‘Ohana bread pudding.
Unfortunately, sometimes dreams look a little different in reality.
“Would you like a blue or purple lei?” the cast member asked in a less-than-enthusiastic tone. Her lack of excitement didn’t faze me. I had enough bounce in my step for everyone in the entire lobby.
“I’ll take a purple one please! It’ll match my hat!” The cast member turned and walked away to retrieve the flower necklace for me.
“Remember, we have to be at ‘Ohana by 3:55 p.m.,” my husband reminded me as we waited for the cast member to return.
“Yup! She said we’ll receive a text as soon as the room is ready, and then we can drop off our bags and head to the restaurant,” I told him.
That text never came.
LESSONS TO LEARN
“It’s this one,” my husband said, beckoning me past the quiet pool towards one of several buildings named after Polynesian islands. We had left the front desk with new magic bands on our wrists, and a promise that our room would be ready by 4 p.m. somewhere in the Tokelau building.
It was already almost 4 p.m., and with a 3:55 p.m. reservation at ‘Ohana, I was anxiously refreshing the My Disney Experience app, hoping our room number would finally appear under our reservation information.
At just after 4 p.m. we were issued a room number. We hurried up to the second floor of Tokelau and tapped out magic bands to the door, waiting for that green light to flicker.
“It’s not working,” I said, tapping and re-tapping my band against the door sensor.
“Let me try,” my husband suggested. His luck was not much better, and neither one of us felt like walking back and forth to the front desk while we should have already been enjoying our first course at ‘Ohana.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Luckily, there’s a button that will allow you to open your hotel room door directly inside the My Disney Experience app.
My husband quickly located the button, opened our room door and tossed our luggage inside. There was no time for a peek at the room, we were already late for ‘Ohana.
“Weren’t they supposed to send you a text when the room was ready?” My husband asked as we half sprinted back towards the Polynesian’s Great Ceremonial House. “If we hadn’t been checking the app, we wouldn’t have ever known the room was ready.”
“Yup, but they probably didn’t realize I have a Canadian phone number,” I replied. I hadn’t even considered that the automated system that texts you when your room is ready only works for U.S. phone numbers. But that would explain why my text never came.
SO MUCH FOOD, SO LITTLE TIME
“Reservation for two under Lazar, please!” I said to the cast member standing behind the ‘Ohana check-in podium, where we were then swiftly lead inside to our table.
I had worked hard to get this coveted ‘Ohana reservation, and now we were finally getting to see why this restaurant has such a huge fanbase. Our server promptly appeared and asked if we’d like anything to drink.
I ordered a Dragon Iced Tea, then sat back and waited to be whisked away on a Polynesian culinary adventure.
Fifteen minutes later, we had been served both the first course as well as the second course, and I still didn’t have my drink.
“Is this feeling rushed to you?” I asked my husband. He nodded vigorously, mouth full of noodles.
Our server was already coming around with the meat skewers by the time my drink arrived. Not the best timing, but nothing to be too upset about. What did upset me however, was when our server practically tossed our bread pudding dessert down on our table, and proceeded to pour banana caramel sauce all over it without asking us if we wanted it.
I’m not a fan of caramel sauces, so it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to taste the sauce without committing my entire dessert to it. On top of which, our server had poured the sauce so aggressively, that my husband’s jacket was somehow now covered in it.
At this point, I should have asked to speak to a manager. But we were both in less than magical moods, and really just wanted to get back to our room.
SHARING IS CARING
We left ‘Ohana with a bitter taste in our mouths. So far this whole resort experience wasn’t feeling as blissful as I had hoped. But that’s okay! Things don’t always go as planned, and it’s important to keep an open mind and stay positive.
Before heading back to our room, we swung by the check-in desks to have our Magic Bands reset, so that they’d be able to open our room door this time.
As the cast member assisting us fiddled with our bands, she asked us how everything had been since we arrived earlier that afternoon.
“Honestly, it hasn’t been quite what I expected.” I told her, and proceeded to explain our ‘Ohana experience. While she seemed sympathetic, her only response was, “Well, hopefully everything is better from here on out!”
“Me too,” I replied as we turned and headed to the Tokelau longhouse.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, SPEAK UP!
If you’re ever checked in to a Walt Disney World Resort, you may have noticed a piece of paper laid carefully on your bed with a note from a manager welcoming you. That note also contains a link to a digital form you can fill out to notify a manager when something has gone wrong.
Upon our arrival back in the room, my husband picked up the note and handed it to me. “You should probably contact someone” he said.
While part of me wanted to just forget that anything hadn’t been perfect, I knew he was right. The Polynesian and ‘Ohana are both bucket list items for many Disney fans. While this was my first time staying at this resort, I’m lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World quite frequently.
The thought of a family saving up for years, then arriving for their once-in-a-lifetime vacation to find lackluster cast members checking them in and then be rushed through dinner, is not okay.
I promptly picked up my phone, pulled up the link provided, and submitted my grievances to the management team.
“Okay, now I need some magic,” I said to my husband. “Let’s go to Magic Kingdom.”
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
A hour later we were standing in line for Monsters Inc., Laugh Floor, already laughing at some of the cast member shenanigans we had witnessed.
“Uh, I think your phone is ringing,” my husband said, pointing at my pocket. I pulled it out and answered it to find the General Manager from the Polynesian on the other end.
He listened intently as I described our experience to him, then asked if he could have my husband’s jacket dry-cleaned, and if we were comfortable in our current room.
I thanked him and explained that we didn’t really need anything. We just wanted to let him know these things had happened, so that he could ensure they wouldn’t happen to a future family. He told me he’d make sure to put better training processes in place, and that all current staff would be undergoing additional training.
I hung up, feeling hopeful that I had potentially saved a future family from an unwanted experience.
“Come on, let’s go see Mike Wazowski” I told my husband.
A POLYNESIAN PARADISE
That night, as swarms of people exited the park and lined up for the Monorail, we decided to brave the wind and hop on a boat back to our resort.
It was a freezing night, so we were happy to huddle up next to some friendly strangers in the boat. We chatted with them about their day, where they were from, and their plans for the week.
At the Grand Floridian stop we bid them farewell, and continued on towards the Polynesian. As soon as we docked my husband and I hopped off the boat and hurried up the ramp, holding our jacket hoods tightly around our faces.
We passed by the Great Ceremonial House, it’s warm golden glow looking as inviting as ever, and veered right towards our Takelau longhouse. The tiki torches were now lit, and I couldn’t help but slow my pace just a touch to take in their flickering flames.
I took a deep breath, sucking in the unusually cold Florida air, and smelling its damp, lush scent as I continued on towards Takelau. I could see the building ahead, its giant blue orb light hung with fishing nets floating above the entrance.
This is why I’m here. I thought to myself. For these unexpected moments of bliss. Things don’t have to always be perfect for these moments to happen. They come when you notice something beautiful, something mesmerizing, something magical in the air.
The Polynesian, in typical Disney fashion, holds an atmosphere that transports you away to a whole other place. You don’t need to talk to a cast member, or eat something delicious to experience it. You just need to open yourself up to the possibility of it. That’s when you might find that Polynesian paradise you were looking for.
If you want to book a Disney vacation, contact CJ Ayd from Magical Vacation Planner by requesting a free quote, reaching out via email, or by calling (443) 610-2773. Be sure to mention my name when booking. Full disclosure: I may receive commission.