On the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, so close to the Magic Kingdom that guests can sit on the lawn and watch the fireworks at Cinderella Castle, this award-winning red-roofed Victorian emulates the style of the great railroad resorts of the past. The beautifully appointed rooms, rambling verandas, delicate, white-painted woodwork, and brick chimneys combine with exemplary service to take you back in time. Afternoon high tea and a pianist at the grand piano nightly in the lobby are among the many genteel touches. Amenities include a serene spa, an award winning gourmet restaurant, and a dock from which you can rent a yacht for a romantic cruise; you can also take the free water taxi across the lake to the Magic Kingdom. Rooms with Magic Kingdom views are more expensive.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The hotel is looking good for a 30 year old, but the monorails, closing in on 50, are showing their age, and often break down. Frustrations can rise when guests who have paid premium prices for the convenience of monorail service, have to resort to buses.
The decor in the rooms is tasteful and traditional, as one would expect in a Victorian-style lodging, with neutral walls and carpets, beds with crisp white linens, and bright burnt sienna and gold striped bolsters and matching coverlets. Flat screen TVs have cable, and charging stations, along with free Wi-Fi mean you can bring your own entertainment.
YOU SHOULD KNOW While there is a desk in the rooms, the chairs are decorative, not ergonomic, thus not suitable for working for any length of time.
Beige marble vanity tops offer lots of room for personal items. The bath/shower has a handy grab bar for stability when stepping into and out of the bath. Loads of rich cotton towels, bathrobes, and Disney's H2O Spa toiletries ensure a luxurious stay.
The six-story lobby atrium, with its floral arrangements, gold chandeliers, giant birdcage, creamy white railings, birdcage elevator, and grand staircase, echoes with the sound of a grand piano during afternoon tea, or a band playing soft jazz for evening cocktails. It's like a living room in a huge, luxurious home, where people gather on comfortable couches and chairs at all times of the day just to sit and listen and crowd gazing.
Be sure to say hello to Richard Gerth, the legendary 91 year old greeter at the front door of the resort. He's been the face of the Grand Floridian for years, wearing his jaunty straw boater, cream-colored suit and spats. He has stories to share, if you'll just stop and engage him in conversation.
The Beach Pool has a zero-depth entry that makes it feel as if you are entering a lake, which is appropriate, since the pool is on the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon. A 181-foot-long water slide and a nearby splash zone let youngsters burn off some energy while cooling off. Cabanas are available for those more inclined to laze through the day. The heated Courtyard Pool, located just outside the grand lobby, offers a less hectic experience, along with whirlpools designed to take the edge off those muscles and feet made weary by park-hopping.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The Seven Seas Lagoon and other bodies of water in Disney World are lovely to look at, to skim over in a variety of watercraft, and to circle on the monorail. They are NOT for swimming. These are real lakes in the heart of Florida, despite being located in the heart of a theme park. Real Florida lakes can be home to real Florida alligators and snakes, despite the best efforts of Disney authorities to keep them out.
Senses - A Disney Spa at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, offers a full roster of facials, massages and body therapies in addition to manicures and pedicures. The soft green glass mosaics on the walls join soothing smells and sounds designed to relax sore muscles, rejuvenate stressed skin and basically make you feel so much better than you did when you walked in. Spend some time looking for the hidden Mickeys in the mosaics. Even that is soothing.
A small fitness area adjacent to the spa has weights and cardio equipment.
The perennial award winner, Victoria & Albert's, offers one of the most decadent dining experiences you will ever have. Each table, set with Wedgwood china, real silverware, and Italian linens, has its own servers, whose wish is your command throughout the evening. The dinner can last for hours, as multiple courses are prepared by a team of superb chefs, using the best ingredients from around the world, including some that are locally sourced. The Chef's Table evening can include 10 courses and wine. Other on-property restaurants include Citricos, where fine Mediterranean style dining can be had in a more casual setting, and Narcoosees, a cozy, waterfront eatery with a varied menu and spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from its porch. One of the features at the Grand Floridian is the traditional afternoon tea, with tiny sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries served on flowery china in the Garden Tea Room. It's fit for a princess, or a queen, or just a tea lover.
If you want the full V&A experience, book far in advance, particularly if you are interested in the Chef's Table, and be prepared for a hefty bill.
Citricos and Narcoosees both have welcoming lounges for pre-dinner drinks, or an evening of sipping. Mizner's Lounge, tucked behind the bandstand on the second floor gallery, is a hidden spot perfect for listening to jazz with a Manhattan in hand. The pool bar offers cooling umbrella-topped drinks at poolside.
If your holiday is focused on Disney, you shouldn't need a car. The Grand Floridian offers monorail, bus, boat and taxi transportation. Ride sharing or taxis are readily available for speedy transportation to Disney Springs. If Universal, SeaWorld or Orlando are on your itinerary, a car would be recommended. Parking, both at the hotel and at the parks, is free for guests at the Grand Floridian.
If the eateries on-site don't appeal, hop on the monorail or the water launches, and head to the Contemporary's California Grill, or the Polynesian's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show and luau (8-minute drive). If Epcot is on your agenda, the restaurant choices there span the globe. Further afield, Disney Springs offers 50 dining choices (20-minute drive), from celebrity chef restaurants to quick and classic hamburger joints.
The Polynesian's South Pacific vibe is the perfect spot for a tropical drink or two, especially since it's just 1 stop away on the monorail. No need to worry about being over the limit. The Contemporary Resort's California Grill Lounge is a sophisticated spot perched atop the A-frame tower of the resort, again just a couple of stops from the Grand Floridian. You could (and many do) bar hop around the Lagoon, stopping at each of the three resorts for a drink and a small snack, then hop on a water launch to hit Geyser Point, the open air lounge at Wilderness Lodge, where you can see (and hear) passing pirate ships.
WHY WE LIKE IT
For old-fashioned, classy ambiance, you can't beat the Grand Floridian. Reminiscent of San Diego's Hotel Del Coronado, the red-roofed splendor, wide rocking chair porches, Victorian vibe, and waterfront vistas are simply adorable. If seeing Mickey and pals, and being right in the heart of the magic is the goal of your vacation, there's simply no better place. The price is steep, but the experience is worth the effort of saving your pennies, and dollars.