Disney World rushes to finish Polynesian Village Resort renovations, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

Though an official announcement has not yet been made, fans of Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort are salivating at the prospects of the long-awaited Tiki bar Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto opening as early as the end of March.

See below: Recent photos of the Polynesian Village Resort construction, renovations
* See all our updates on the Polynesian refurbishment

A look across the second floor toward Kona Cafe. (Feb. 26, 2015)
A look across the second floor toward Kona Cafe. (Feb. 26, 2015)

The leading non-Disney authority on the Polynesian, Steve “Tikiman” Seifert, is predicting an opening of the East Coast’s version of Disneyland’s popular Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar as early as Thursday, March 26. This would coincide with the completion of much of the construction on the resort’s main pool, which has been undergoing a massive renovation since closing in July.

The reason for this rush to complete construction is the announced April 1 opening of the first phase of the resort’s Disney Vacation Club (DVC) timeshare units. On that date, the Polynesian Village will welcome the first guests to its 20 high-profile Bora Bora Bungalows, which were built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon, off the beach on the east side of the resort. Also opening are some of the deluxe studio units in the Moorea and Pago Pago longhouses that have also been under renovation. These buildings were formerly known as Tahiti and Rapa Nui, but have now returned to their original names.

Construction work at the Polynesian, particularly around the pool and Trader Sam’s, seems to be moving at a rapid pace. Much of the work being done outdoors, though walled off, is in clear view of guests who have been sharing a steady stream of photos online. Seifert was there in late February, and he published a full report on his website with news on renovations and changes throughout the resort. He’s also posting photos and reports sent to him by guests almost daily on his Polynesian Resort Facebook page. Seifert also shared some news and answered questions on last week’s Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast. [Click to listen].

The service bar for Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, the roofed structure to the right, is being built on the back of the Great Ceremonial House.  (Feb. 26, 2015)
The service bar for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, the roofed structure to the right, is being built on the back of the Great Ceremonial House. (Feb. 26, 2015)

The Atomic Grog also visited the Polynesian in late February, and we got our first look at the reimagined lobby of the Great Ceremonial House, as well as the massive work in progress. On the day we were there, there was a lot of activity around Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and the outdoor patio that the bar/restaurant will share with the neighboring counter-service restaurant, Captain Cook’s. Unfortunately, nobody has been able to get a peek behind the doors to see what magic Disney’s Imagineers have cooked up for guests of the immersive Tiki bar. Scroll down to see photos from last week, plus our December visit.

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Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party

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Previous coverage: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Related: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival | More on Disney World

Masses of mouse-minded fans flocked to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, Oct. 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. And while initial crowd forecasts were low, interest in the birthday bash quickly grew among the Disney faithful and resulted in a sometimes overwhelming throng even though actual celebratory festivities were modest.

The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Oct. 1 opening date was selected in 1971 because it was considered the slow season, and it typically remains so today. But Disneyphiles came out of the woodwork for the anniversary party last week and took advantage of the late park hours at the Magic Kingdom (it was open from 9 a.m. until midnight).

My wife and I combined this event with a visit to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Sunday, and it’s a good thing we did. The overflowing crowd on Saturday made for a hectic day and not much time to relax and enjoy the Disney experience. That’s not to say it wasn’t memorable. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights):

We stayed at the Caribbean Beach, one of Disney’s moderate resort hotels, and were pleasantly surprised. We had previously enjoyed Port Orleans Riverside, and this was on par with that experience.

The rooms were spacious and clean (with the great details that Disney is known for), the grounds (200 acres, including the 45-acre Barefoot Bay) were huge and full of amenities (be sure to take a walk around the lake) and the theming was spot-on. It was closed when we wandered by early Sunday, but I’ve heard the pool bar makes a great Piña Colada.

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