Walt Disney World Delays Polynesian Return Until 2021

August 31, 2020, 12:32 PM · Another Walt Disney World Resort hotel has delayed its reopening.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort will not reopen until "Summer 2021," Walt Disney World published on its website this morning. When Disney World earlier this summer announced plans for its hotels' return, the Polynesian was set for an August 12 reopening. But Disney pushed that back to October 4 last month. Now, the Magic Kingdom monorail loop property will not reopen to overnight guests until next year.

Two hotels being used to house the NBA's "bubble" — the Grand Floridian and the Coronado Springs — will return over the next two months, with the Grand Floridian reopening to guests on September 21 and the Coronado Springs coming back on October 14. (The NBA is using the Gran Destino Tower at the Coronado Springs.) That leaves Disney's Art of Animation Resort to return on November 1, followed by the Polynesian next year.

Disney still has not announced any reopening dates for the All Star, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Port Orleans, and Wilderness Lodge resorts.

Disney said that it will renovate guest rooms at the Polynesian while the resort is closed, with Moana as an inspiration.

Many area hotels have been closing, delaying reopening, or reducing available inventory as travel to Central Florida remains minimal during this pandemic. Universal Orlando recently announced that it will temporarily close its Aventura and Sapphire Falls hotels, and its partner Loews Hotels this week announced the layoff of hundreds of employees as hotel demand in the market continues to be soft.

Replies (14)

August 31, 2020 at 12:39 PM

Am a bit surprised given this is one of the better and more popular resorts. Some issues about it like plant life, etc that demand more prep or just Disney limiting more monorail stops?

August 31, 2020 at 12:43 PM

If they wanted to do a room refurb here, it would make sense to just close the whole hotel and finish it now, when demand is soft across the resort and no one will miss the unavailable rooms. It's a better customer service decision than renovating the hotel in segments over a couple years, with guests present elsewhere in the hotel complaining about the noise.

August 31, 2020 at 1:01 PM

Or perhaps Disney recognizes that the few guests actually booking resort stays don't want to pay the exorbitant prices to stay at Poly right now, and is opportunistically performing a light rehab on the resort as cover for the underwhelming demand for the overpriced rooms (typically over $500/night).

It's also possible that Disney is sanitizing the "cultural appropriation" rampant at the Poly by revamping it around Moana. By making the decor more associated with the animated film instead of a caricature of Pacific Islander people, it allows them to avoid the PC police. The Poly was one of the first resorts at WDW, and still has some of those stereotypical theming elements that may be frowned upon today, and shifting the decor to a recent movie with more modern sensibilities and treatments of minorities keeps it clear from critics. I'm kind of kidding with this theory, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

The question is will this affect DVC owners that have points for the Villas and Bungalows. Will those sections of the resort, which are only a few years old, also remain closed?

August 31, 2020 at 1:23 PM

Of course, what made the Polynesian so fantastic was that romanticized version of Hawaiian culture, and each step they take away from it--removing the lobby fountain, removing the "fun" cultural elements--the quicker it becomes just one more boring resort hotel. I remember a time when the Polynesian and the Contemporary were themed paradises all on their own (who remembers that ground-floor arcade!), now they're just hotels with odd architecture. A shame.

Maybe Disney can also use this time to check the lake for gators.

August 31, 2020 at 1:32 PM

The Poly is like a cartoon version of Aulani. Yes I know that the Poly came first, but it mimics its Polynesian subject matter through 1950s tiki-culture lenses whereas Aulani does it’s best to reflect it with respect and reverence.

Perhaps, as Russell says, Disney is course-correcting and from what I’ve seen of the Poly on video that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

August 31, 2020 at 3:39 PM

Polynesian is one of my favorite resorts and it's going to be hard to not see it for a year. I do hope that they don't stray too far away from that charm of what the Colonel described as romanticized version of Hawaiian culture, but I do look forward to the refurbishments. Anyway, I'm gonna guess that they are considering a Trader Sams expansion, but that's pure speculation on my part.

August 31, 2020 at 4:16 PM

I can't be the only one thinking Disney expecting to not have the demand to open up one of their most iconic cash cow resorts literally right next to the most popular theme park in the world until next summer is really, really bad news? While its nice they are renovating the rooms think of how they gutted half of Caribbean Beach, built a tent city of temporary facilities, and built a huge new hotel right on its front lawn, with all that construction equipment and noise, while the hotel was open. If it had demand it would be open.

August 31, 2020 at 4:59 PM

Running a resort like the Poly is a labor intensive endeavor that would be flooded with red ink under current circumstances.

Also “thecolonel’s” joke about the gators and the like was about the most tasteless thing I have read in a TPI post

August 31, 2020 at 5:10 PM

TH, you may not have heard that an alligator killed a little boy playing on the lake's shores a few years ago-- I was suggesting they could use this time to ensure that doesn't happen again. I used to play in that lake as a kid, took many a "pirate boat" excursion in the evening (aka, themed babysitting), and yeah, it's terrifying to think of someone getting chomped again.

August 31, 2020 at 5:15 PM

They already took measures to ensure it doesn't happen again right after it happened. There is now a big fence there with rocks behind it keeping people from entering the water.

August 31, 2020 at 5:50 PM

thecolonel: "I was suggesting ..."

Me: It's apparent what you were suggesting. And it was tasteless.

September 1, 2020 at 12:05 AM

Also just to point out that saying The Polynesian is “Hawaiian” themed is like saying the USA is “Texan” themed. And therein lies the problem of cultural appropriation (or "well-meaning ignorance") that Disney is going to need to contend with in the years to come. I hate to say it but even The Tiki Room attraction is looking problematic right now, let alone Trader Sam’s. I’m not advocating that any of these things change but Disney must be somewhat worried about them.

September 1, 2020 at 12:40 PM

They should permanently shutter the resort and tear it down. It is the place where the Beatles were officially broken up.

On a serious note, I have never understood the mystique with this particular hotel. As a non-hotel Disney guest, I didn't feel welcome when I went to visit Trader Sams just to see what it was like. It started from the point I went past the gate security to find a place to park. Maybe it was because I was staying offsite or that I wasn't a local, but it didn't feel right. I'll never understand why anyone would pay a ridiculous amount of money to stay in one of the bungalows on the dirty green lake when there are so many better options available, both at Disney or in an actual island locale (with crystal blue water) for the same price.

September 1, 2020 at 1:17 PM

@Russell Meyer Disney has announced that the DVC bungalows and villas of the Polynesian will remain available (which leads me to believe that they aren't part of there-theme or that they will work around guests using their DVC points to stay there).

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