Private plunge pools, double bathrooms and all the amenities of home – from full kitchens to washer/dryers – await guests at Walt Disney World’s new Bora Bora Bungalows. But what makes these additions to the iconic Polynesian Resort truly spectacular is that extra fairy-dusting of (you guessed it) Disney magic.
“That’s what this is all about,” says Ken Potrock, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club, which has added the property to its portfolio for members. “We talk about making dreams come true, and it sounds trite, but it’s not.”
In fact, he says, it’s part of what make the 20 new bungalows “totally off the charts!”
Tahiti comes to Orlando: the Bora Bora bungalows beneath idyllic blue skies — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Visitors to Orlando come in droves to see both the nightly Electrical Water Pageant and the fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle. Guests here will do so from their own, private, over-water decks.
“When the parade goes by, you can practically reach out and touch it,” says Potrock. “And no matter what time the fireworks happen, you have this great, private, unimpeded view over the lake – with the audio piped in from the Magic Kingdom to your porch.”
Each bungalow has its own plunge pool, with views of Disney's Contemporary Resort in the distance — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
These homes-away-from-home can accommodate up to eight guests in their smart, open spaces with mid-century furnishings and tasteful, tiki-torched touches throughout. It’s all brand-new, "but nothing feels that way,” says Potrock.
“We didn’t want guests to come here and think, 'There’s the new stuff and the classic stuff,'" he adds.
Reservations aren’t limited to Disney Vacation Club members, however: anyone can stay here. And, say execs, everyone will want to. The Polynesian, says Potrock, is one of the company’s most frequently repeated and highest rated properties.
“The bungalows are an ideal place for special-occasion stays – from honeymoons to grandma’s 80th birthday celebration,” he says.
Surf's up in the bungalow's aloha-infused second bedroom — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
They’re a star attraction in phase one of renovations and upgrades at the resort cast members and Disney-philes simply call “The Poly.” You don’t have to book accommodations to enjoy all of them.
A redesigned lobby and cozy 50-seat bar – Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto – are luring in both lookie-loos and lounge lizards willing to wait up to a couple of hours to enjoy a rum-infused beverage inside.
Those more interested in refreshments than in imbibing alongside the tiki goddess Uh-Oa (who’s infused with a bit of Disney animatronic magic herself) can enjoy the Grotto’s drinks-and-bites menu outside on an 82-seat patio with views of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
This new tiki statue towers in the lobby; a mascot of sorts, you'll find him in various incarnations around the property — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Fans of its sister establishment, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, will see a few of its specialty cocktails on the menu, along with a few new ones exclusive to Sam’s Orlando outpost.
“Disneyland’s [Tiki Bar] is based in the 1930s, while here we’re in the ‘60s,” says Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Beverage Manager Jason Cha-Kim.
And the tiki kitsch amassed for its décor – an amalgam of Disney-spun touches and genuine era-specific collectibles – is copious, the latter culled from all manner of places to find a home amid the artfully arranged clutter.
“Twelve-hundred artifacts are unique to this place, as well,” Cha-Kim adds.
The renovation’s second phase will feature more than 100 new deluxe studio rooms and a newly redesigned Lava Pool with children’s interactive water features and extensive additional deck space. Seamless theming throughout will doubtless enhance the experience for guests, says Potrock.
“It truly is an emotional connection that families are able to make here,” he says. “And if we can foster that, then we’ve done our job.”
The wrath of the tiki goddess Uh-Oa awaits those who dare order the drink honored with her name — Photo courtesy of David Roark / Disney