The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was one of the original resorts that opened at Walt Disney World in 1971. Last year, the South Seas-inspired hotel began undergoing major renovations. Some changes have been universally welcomed (Trader Sam’s!), while others are more controversial.

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The “re-imagined” interior of the Great Ceremonial House (i.e. the lobby) was unveiled in December 2014. Many longtime fans of “The Poly” lamented the removal of the grand centerpiece of rock waterfalls and dozens of varieties of tropical plants.

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The new focal point is now above — an impressive display of giant netted fishing floats and rattan lamps that give off a subtle glow. Venture upstairs to see them in all their glory (and get a drink at Tambu Lounge if it’s after 1 p.m.)

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A much smaller waterfall feature has been installed in the middle, but it seems kind of silly in comparison. The concept art included a statue of the Polynesian mascot on top of this, but it hasn’t made an appearance yet. (I’m guessing that’s still part of the plan since the Disney Parks Blog had a merchandise preview for a mini-figurine based on it.) (3/23/15 Update: The tiki has finally arrived!)

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From a practical standpoint, it makes sense why they removed it. (Rumor has it that the maintenance was a major factor.) It also opened up the space for more seating areas for guests waiting to check in or just relaxing. (And if you squint you can see Cinderella Castle off in the distance.)

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The downside is the feeling of stepping into a Hawaiian tropical rainforest has been lost. Hopefully they’ll be able to recapture some of that when they finish the waterfalls along the entrance path from the parking lot.

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Near the elevators you’ll find beautiful concept art from two of my favorite Disney Legends: Rolly Crump for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Mary Blair for the New Guinea scene of It’s a Small World.

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Just outside the far end of the lobby is Pineapple Lanai, a new walk-up counter serving Dole Whip (pineapple, vanilla or swirl) with the option of getting a souvenir tiki bowl. This is where you get your fix since they removed the self-serve Dole Whip machine from Capt. Cook’s.

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So far, the restaurants ‘Ohana, Tambu Lounge and Kona are still relatively the same, but Capt. Cook’s recently received a makeover. (Stay tuned for a full review.) And as I mentioned, on its way very soon is Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Orlando’s own version of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.

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On top of that, there’s the April 1st debut of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, featuring 20 brand-new Bora Bora Bungalows perched over the Seven Seas Lagoon. They were built for Disney Vacation Club members but guests can also rent these two-bedroom accommodations for upwards of $2,000 per night, reportedly. (I love Disney, obviously, but that’s more expensive than staying at some of the actual overwater bungalows in Tahiti…)

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For more information on the renovations, I suggest checking out Steve’s updates on Tiki Man Pages. He also discussed Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto more in depth on episode 71 (March 2, 2015) of the Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast.

Tiki Island Volcano Golf – Orlando, FL

Tiki Island Adventure Golf
Somehow I was under the impression that there wasn’t that much tiki in Florida, at least not in the coastal bars that call themselves “tiki.” I guess they all must have migrated inland—how else can you explain these two tiki-fied mini golf courses within a few miles of each other?

Apatosaurus in front of Tiki Island Volcano Golf

On our last day in Orlando we went to check out Tiki Island Adventure Golf, where an impressive apatosaurus (I still want to call it a brontosaurus, or maybe a longneck) guards the entrance.

Tikis and a triceratops

The two courses were not only entertaining, but also informative! Each dinosaur had a sign with its name and a description. I like how it looks like that triceratops is keeping an eye on that sneaky tiki.

Dinosaur dome

This dome at the top of the course has a golden Moai inside—and also serves as a good shelter during a somewhat-expected downpour.

Tiki Island Volcano
According to a video on their web site, this volcano/waterfall can spew fire Mirage-style. But we saw nothing, so it must lie dormant during the day or supposedly until someone gets a hole in one on the last putt.

Brontosaurus Boats
I thought these “Brontosaurus Boats” were pretty awesome. Except it doesn’t look like there’s much room to maneuver them around the moat.

Volcano Golf Tiki Island

Tiki Island Volcano Golf
7460 International Dr.
Orlando, FL 32819
407-248-8180

Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf – Orlando, FL

Wonder Works

Tourist traps in Orlando have the juggernaut of Walt Disney World to contend with, so many of the spots along International Drive have taken it to the next level to draw attention to themselves. Case in point, the Wonder Works children’s museum above, which looks as if a hurricane flipped it over.

Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf

Even normally humdrum mini golf attractions have stepped it up. The Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf has a 50-foot volcano/waterfall and at least half a dozen tikis that we spotted from the street.

Tikis at Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf

I think I spotted photos of these tikis in albums at the Mai Tiki gallery, so I would guess that their studio had a hand in making them. We only stopped by so I could snap a few pics myself as we were actually on our way to yet another tiki-themed golf course in Lake Buena Vista — Tiki Island Adventure Golf.

Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf
8969 International Dr.
Orlando, Fl 32819
407-351-7733