The Better Half and I enjoyed a week at Aulani in Ko Olina, Hawaii for our 25th Anniversary. Some observations below:
The resort itself is beautiful, the theming effectively mixes Disney and a broad Hawaiian theme. While I'm sure cultural experts would find items to criticize, for a holiday destination it's appealing to visitors looking for the Disney feel.
The staff was courteous and attentive. In one instance a staff member went above and beyond in assisting us with a flat tire. Readers will likely note the reference to "staff" versus "cast members". Attentive and courteous, the level of guest services were on par with any high end resort. On the Disney scale it was a B+ perhaps A- overall. Except for the theming, the staff could have been any staff in a high end resort. I had the impression the they were still learning the "Disney way". Again, helpful and courteous, not quite fully performing at the "Disney Difference" level.
Dining. Limited dining options as to be expected at a single site. Amaama the table service served an excellent breakfast. Had our anniversary dinner there and found it to be satisfactory. We had planned ahead, for instance ordering an anniversary cake ahead of time. The staff again was friendly, but the coordination we had made ahead o time was not conveyed to the servers and we had to specifically note we had pre-arranged a cake, bottle of proseco etc. Normally we are used to these pre-arrangements being conveyed to servers at a restaurant, it was awkward when were asked if we wanted dessert to note that we ordered a cake. This especially in light of receiving a telephone confirmation the night prior of our dining reservation and arrangements. A minor issue, but unexpected.
As to be expected, dining and beverage costs are higher than the local average, however that is expected at a resort, and simply a planning consideration.
The Quick service dining options at Ulu and Off the Hook were Disney Standard, something for everyone. The buffet at Makahiki was very good, a wide selection to choose form and excellent seafood options. For price and quality, the best value at the resort.
One item that was exceptionally disappointing was the Ka Wa'a Luau. It is an externally catered and run event. At over $120 per person for standard experience (VIP is considerably more), we waited in line with no information updates for over half an hour, while watching the VIP quests participate in craft, face painting etc.; received one adult beverage, and tepid water at our table. The food was standard luau quality, fine, but not note worthy. The entertainment was standard, with storytelling songs and a fire dancer, again not=nothing noteworthy. From our perspective the Spirit of Aloha Experience at WDW Polynesian was a superior experience and better value. I can say with regret this was the first time I felt I did not receive anything near value for the cost paid at a Disney event.
Recap, the staff was courteous and attentive, the costs were in line with resort prices. The resort itself is beautiful with many activities. The dining was standard, however the Luau was very disappointing. The location is good for day trips throughout the island. Certainly worth a re-visit in a few years, we'll skip the luau.
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