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Disney Vacation Club Expansion Coming to Grand Floridian Resort

Disney Vacation Club has announced plans to expand the Villas at Grand Floridian by “reimagining” one building of existing hotel rooms at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. In this post, we’ll share details and a timeline, share our opinion of the expansion and why this is likely happening.

We’ll start with a copy and paste job of the press release that DVC sent out: “This is great news for Disney Vacation Club and our Members,” said Terri Schultz, senior vice president, Disney Vacation Club. “It will provide us with new and diverse inventory at a resort that is cherished by our Members and their families.”

Located on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon and on the monorail line to Magic Kingdom Park, the proposed project will transform Big Pine Key (building nine) at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa into approximately 200 Resort Studios, accommodating up to five Guests.

Featuring the Victorian elegance and charm of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, these new Villas will offer Members luxury accommodations and amenities, with some Villas boasting stunning views of Bay Lake and Magic Kingdom. Projected to open in summer 2022, these new Villas are an expansion of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and will be a part of its current condominium association. Information regarding the start of sales and rental bookings will be released at a later date.

Since 2013, Members have reveled in the Victorian splendor of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, enjoying the comforts of home, impeccable service, amenities and fun-in-the-sun recreation available at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa currently has 100 Disney Vacation Club homes and offers a mix of accommodation styles, ranging from Deluxe Studios to three-bedroom Grand Villas.

As for our commentary, this is categorically great news. There’s possibly a downside to it, but if there is one, I’m not seeing it. Perhaps that’s partly bias. We absolutely love the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and are not fans of the hotel side of the resort in the least.

In fact, our Deluxe Villas/Disney Vacation Club Resort Rankings placed the Villas in the #1 slot, whereas our Rankings of Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World put the Grand Floridian dead last. We’ve had to explain away this “discrepancy” numerous times by perplexed readers, but stand by it.

For us, the critical distinction is the price difference. Our point-cost of the Villas at Grand Floridian is a fraction of what we’d pay for the hotel side of the Grand Floridian, even with a considerable discount. Obviously, that’s only the case for DVC Members…but that’s primarily who’s booking VGF.

In addition to that, the rooms are markedly better in the DVC wing. There’s greater attention to detail, luxurious finishings, and just generally more personality to the rooms. By contrast, the Grand Floridian regular guest rooms are among the dullest at Walt Disney World. You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish them from a mid-range Hilton or Marriott.

Of course, that alone is not sufficient justification for converting hotel rooms to Disney Vacation Club units. After all, that energy could arguably be better spent building an innovative and impressive new hotel or DVC resort. However, if recent projects and proposals are any indication, “innovative and impressive” is probably a stretch right now.

The reason an expansion of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a good thing is because it’s incredibly difficult to book. This is in part because it’s such a popular resort, and in part because the existing room inventory is so limited. Adding more units should help alleviate that–at least to a slight degree.

On that note, it’s worth pointing out that Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is not popular or difficult to book. Even in normal times, the hotel tends to have a lower occupancy rate than most of its counterparts on the monorail loop.

We haven’t heard recent occupancy numbers for the Grand Floridian post-reopening, but they’re probably not too hot. Grand Floridian has offered more aggressive discounts than any other hotel, including a targeted bounceback deal sent to past guests of the resort. It has also become the de facto upgrade option, with a steady stream of guests upgraded from All Star Movies, which Disney is overbooking, to Grand Floridian. (Hilariously, some try to decline this upgrade, saying that the Grand Floridian is less appealing to their kids!)

It’s actually a pretty common strategy for Walt Disney World to take hotel inventory at “underperforming” resorts and reallocate that to Disney Vacation Club. In recent years, this has happened with both Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian. It also happened indirectly at Caribbean Beach, as buildings were demolished there to make way for Disney’s Riviera Resort.

Obviously, sales of DVC are lucrative, but the thinking is that reducing the overall number of hotel rooms helps prop up the occupancy rate, and in turn reduces the necessity of discounting. Consequently, there has been an explosion in the number of DVC rooms at Walt Disney World in the last decade, whereas the hotel side has declined.

Personally, I hope this is one component of a larger announcement about an overhaul of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. As noted above, the guest rooms on the hotel side of the resort are bland and nondescript. If you had to play the Price is Right and guess this room’s nightly rack rate solely by the above photo–divorced of Walt Disney World context–there’s no way you’d come within $200. You’d probably be off by $400 or more.

Currently, the Polynesian is in the process of a “Moana Makeover” that will breathe new life into its rooms. Something similar is almost certainly happening at the Contemporary with an “Incredibles Injection.” These are controversial among Disney fans, but not us. I’d love to see that same idea, but take it a step further…

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel has converted many of its standard guest rooms to character rooms, which are incredibly popular with its target demographic. These rooms often command premium prices as compared to the regular rooms–much like the Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach or Princess Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside.

This is going to be heresy to some fans, but I think Walt Disney World should test out a similar approach with the Grand Floridian. Pull a page from the Tokyo Disneyland playbook and convert some of the inventory to character rooms and remodel the rest to give them more Victorian detail, character, and charm.

Additionally, Citricos closed for a top to bottom restaurant refurbishment just prior to Walt Disney World’s multi-month closure last March. Disney never released specific details, but the project was rumored to be a significant overhaul, on par with that of the Enchanted Rose Beauty and the Beast Bar from the previous year.

Citricos has remained closed and walled-off since Grand Floridian reopened last fall, and it’s unclear what, if any, work has occurred. It would be nice to see something ambitious undertaken there, and perhaps in a couple other venues at Grand Floridian. Otherwise, the main lobby and common areas look pretty good, not much need to touch those beyond some light decor refreshes.

Ultimately, we’re very much on board with this expansion of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. It kills two birds with one stone, adding to the very limited Disney Vacation Club inventory while reducing the oversupply of hotel rooms at the property. It also more or less locks current management into an existing style template, meaning the finished product shouldn’t deviate too much from what already exists.

At some point, I’d love to see more new hotels and standalone Disney Vacation Club resorts built at Walt Disney World. I know that’s an unpopular opinion among many fans, who feel more focus should be put on the parks. (Disney can do both–the last ~4 years are proof of that.) However, at this point I’m inclined to agree with that crowd. Between recent unambitious project architecture and the reality that it’s going to take some time for conventions and other group bookings to return, I’m perfectly content waiting things out. Accordingly, this is a perfect consolation prize in the near-term!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Happy that DVC is expanding the Villas at Grand Floridian, or wish they’d build a new stand-alone resort? If you’re a Grand Floridian (hotel) fan, are you upset by this or indifferent to it? Hoping that more of a comprehensive overhaul will be announced? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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