Local 6 Theme World: Aloha to change

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By Ken Pilcher - Producer
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April 3, 2014

Aloha to Change at Disney's Polynesian

Aloha! and welcome to a little corner of paradise at Disney World.  Disney's Polynesian resort doesn't look quite like this anymore.

Fresh off of a rehab of most of its guest rooms, the iconic resort is about to undergo the biggest changes since it opened in 1971, with the Magic Kingdom & Contemporary.

When it opened, it was hailed as a masterpiece of innovative design. Like the Contemporary, rooms were manufactured in one place by US Steel, rolled to the resort -- and stacked into frames complete with furnishings already in place.  Not to mention the welcoming, serene atmosphere of the lobby.

That's what it looked like shortly after opening, in 1973. The lobby, shops, restaurants and rooms have undergone many changes since then, of course. But despite the change of tile, the organic-looking rock waterfall and lush planter at its heart has remained about  the same as this photo from the late 80's/early 90s:

Sure it added and lost some live parrots and planted more orchids. But that's been about it  'til now.  While Disney has quietly mentioned that it is adding Disney Vacation Club amenities to the resort, it has been mum on the exact changes. Management did tell cast members the atrium will "be re-imagines to highlight the cultural elements of Polynesia & provide more expansive views." What does that mean? Think of the phrase every real estate agent or designer on HGTV hears in their sleep: "open concept." I understand the plan is to open the view up so as you walk into the lobby you will see all the way out to the pool and lagoon.  I don't know how, but the guru of all things Polynesian Resort - a blogger who goes by the name TikiMan swears there will be a new water feature, just not at the heart of the entrance. I will keep an open mind until the changes are finished, but it is hard to imagine the Poly without the waterfall. TikiMan also says a hip tiki bar is coming.

Poly guests are all receiving letters warning there will be construction and that part of the beach is closed (permanently). Cast members received this timetable of the changes coming (though I understand the dates are still a little up in the air)

The arcade did close yesterday, on schedule. Wyland galleries shut down permanently earlier this year. Captain Cooks (the quick service food place) is moving temporarily to the cast cafeteria, but that has been pushed back a few days.
And the Neverland Club (Group babysitting and fun service) has been closed for months.

When it reopens late this month, Peter Pan and friends will be gone from the theming.  The resort's quiet pool will get a mini-makeover.

But when the main pool goes down in "late July" it will be  for a major makeover. If current plans hold, I understand the Nanea Volcano Pool is going to need a new name.  The slide will stay, but the volcano itself appears to be heading to Yesterland after a brief 14 years. Well, that's brief by Disney standards.

Most of these changes are coming because the resort is becoming the final monorail resort to add Disney Vacation Club.

If you look at the whole resort (above) the furthest two longhouses  (Tahiti  and Rapa Nui ) are closed now for renovations. Their rooms are being tranformed into DVC rooms.  An even bigger change is underway on the waterfron, where boardwalks and bungalows are going up fast. How fast??

 The top picture was taken about a month ago. Just 3 concrete pads. The second photo taken last week shows 5 bungalows under construction. Eventually they will stretch the length of the boardwalk.

You can see a few steel walls going up a month ago. Last week, roofs are going on.
They are designed to mimic the shape of the existing roofs and are being assembled on site. one at a time.

 Those villas promise to be some of the most expensive rooms in all of Theme World.
I'll be talking a closer look soon at DVC and how it has transformed Disney. I recently had a fascinating conversation with a man who truly understands how Disney started that lucrative program.
 But I close today with a look at the Poly's next-door-neighbor. You may recall I mentioned Disney was building a second ferry dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).

That view from Sky 6 last week shows that the new dock appears to be ready to open any day now. It could be a big help with the Easter mobs and with the monorail still undergoing extensive maintenance work. (The Magic Kingdom loops are down much of the weekdays).

Keep your emails, questions, tips and comments coming! I always appreciate the feedback. You can always find all of my blog entries at www.clickorlando.com/themeparks

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