Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel Has Some Serious Problems, As we Saw First Hand: Having traveled worldwide for business, conference presentations, lectures, and consulting, I am pretty used to some less-than-perfect hotel experiences. I even stayed in a hotel in Tokyo, Japan, back in 2012, where the window opened into a brick wall. Not good.
Such is the life of a business traveler. For a few years before the pandemic, I became a hotel expert, spending countless hours using hotels as my office as I did TV interviews from my room, writing hundreds of op-eds, turning countless hotel suites into my home office for days at a time.
Sadly, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would have something negative to say about Disney’s so-called “flagship” resort and hotel, the Grand Floridian. At nearly $1,000 a night for a club-level view (Room #4407), looking out directly at Disney’s Magic Kingdom – using the hotel as my base of operations for meetings in the Central Florida area from August 11 through August 16 – I was disappointed. Honestly, Disney needs to rethink not only this hotel but how it can consider this its best resort with the problems I found.
But I have another reason to complain that is much more near and dear to my heart: my wife was able to travel with me for the first time since 2010. After surviving a life-threatening battle with Kidney failure and nearly going into organ transplant rejection, I was grateful to have booked at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Spa – somewhere we stayed back in 2004 and fell in love with. After my meetings and business functions were complete, we had hoped to celebrate my wife’s accomplishments and epic health comeback after being gravely ill from 2015 all the way to mid-2021. After nearly dying last year, what better way to celebrate life than with Mickey Mouse at the Grand Floridian?
At least, that was the goal.
We had visited Disney together on six different occasions and expected to have a fantastic time. Sadly, the Grand Floridian we knew and loved seems to be gone for good. Below is my take on why the ‘Grand’ isn’t worth the money using as many of my own pictures and videos as to showcase the challenges.
Those Little Black Bugs are Everywhere in the Grand Floridian
One of my biggest complaints – and it was voiced to cast members on several occasions – are what looks like some sort of small, flying black bugs that lurked all over the hotel.
My wife and I noticed them literally crawling out of the Club Level fourth-floor cheese platters and fruit offerings, as shown above. We also noticed these same flies in the Grand Floridian Cafe on August 11 when we first arrived and in the halls and common areas. I had to kill three of them just to eat our meal peacefully at the cafe.
When we showed staff members the flies, our complaints were dismissed, stating something to the effect that we are in Florida and it is part of life. We even saw cast members on the Club Level food areas waving off dead bugs onto the floor from the food stands.
Flies may not be a big deal for most people, but my wife is on immune suppressant drugs due to her kidney transplant, and eating contaminated food would be bad, as she does not have a fully-working immune system. So we had to be very careful what we ate at the Grand Floridian and often left the resort for food – even when the snacks and continental breakfast on the Club Level were included.
The Grand Floridian Looks Beaten Up
No matter where my wife and I went in the Grand Floridian, we noticed a lot of wear and tear. And that might be the reason why there is significant construction going on – more on that in a moment below.
The best examples I can share were in our room, again, on the Club Level, and it was not cheap. Below are some examples I captured.
The first is where the closest connects the doors. I was always afraid the entire door set would fall on me when I used it.
The room also needed new carpet badly, as it was coming apart right near the slider and looked very worn. It looked very, very old.
We also noticed that quite a few times, the TV screens posted all around the hotel were down. One example was on the Club Level on the fourth floor, one of the viewing screens was constantly out. These are important as they give information like parking opening and closing times and the latest weather and park transportation information.
We also noticed that many of the common areas and hallways were in a warn-out state. One odd thing was that we saw a lot of fired-looking electrical outlets and cosmetic issues in the halls.
You Share a Bus with Other Hotels (Most of the Time)
While many book a hotel like the Grand Floridian to use the Monorail for fast service to Disney’s Magic Kingdom Resort, there are times you do need to use bus transportation.
For example, you need to take the bus if you want to head to Disney Springs, Epcot, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Now, one would think you would not have to share the bus with other resorts, considering the expense of staying at the Grand. It makes sense that bus sharing would be geared for cheaper resorts, like Pop Century, something my wife and I experienced when we stayed there in the past and expected and read about when we researched our Disney property resort options.
Sadly, it now seems Disney is doing bus sharing at the Grand as well – sharing many times service with Disney’s Polynesian Hotel. While not far from the Grand Floridian for sure, it does make the bus cramped and adds ten minutes of travel time for anywhere you want to go.
Now, to be fair, this did not happen all of the time, but about seventy-five percent of the time, it did. And, of course, always when returning back to the Grand Floridian.
As you can imagine, this was very hard for my wife, who was already exhausted, having to leave the Grand Floridian as she was worried about the food fly issues and dealing with pain and discomfort from her Kidney transplant.
Toward the end of our visit, we took the Lyft-based Minnie Van service – at an extra cost.
The Wi-Fi Is Slow and Unreliable
As many seasoned travelers who have to work out of their hotel know all too well, it always seems like hotel Wi-Fi is never the best. But at the Grand Floridian, the internet speeds are what I had back in 2005 regarding download speeds. This was a speed test I did from my iPhone 13 Pro Max.
While that isn’t horrible, the connection would drop constantly no matter what device I used. Try doing video conferencing with that or editing and uploading large video or picture files as the connection was not consistent at all – with many video conference calls getting dropped. It was tough, to say the least.
This is something Disney needs to focus on, as any stay at Disney is dependent on the Disney My Experience App. If your Wi-Fi is not good and your cell internet service is slow with so many people around using it for the same thing, you have a problem.
I did try to see if other hotels had the same Wi-Fi issue, so I jumped on the Monorail and went next door to the Polynesian to see if the results were any better. Sadly, they were precisely the same for the most part. Again, I used my iPhone 13 Pro Max for this test. The speed was the same, and the connection dropped quite a bit.
The challenge with low speed and reliability issues like this is that during times of heavy user activity or if any Wi-Fi interference is present, the connection can only get worse. And, in fact, from 8-10 pm many nights, I found the connection really tough to use for anything more than reading text-based articles. Business travelers might want to take note.
I did try to stream off my AT&T cellular plan but also found the speeds not much better. I would assume that’s what happens when tens of thousands of people head to one place to see a theme park, all using the Disney My Experience App to do basically anything on Disney property. Combine that with everyone wanting to upload their videos to YouTube and TicTok on an internet infrastructure that was not designed for it or can’t handle it, and you have some pretty big connectivity challenges.
While Warned Many Times, the Construction Is Loud and Safety Is a Major Concern
This was my biggest complaint, and I think the one anyone who considers a stay at the Grand Floridian should pay attention to.
While you are warned in phone calls, emails, messages on the My Disney Experience App, and postings all over the property after you arrive like the above, the level of construction is pretty astonishing – as is the noise level.
Here is just a sample of what is going on and some of the safety issues that need to be addressed. This video was taken on August 13, a Saturday, no less. It shows one of the many construction teams flying around the common areas coming a little too close to guests. My wife and I witnessed this on at least five different occasions from our balcony.
Next is a series of photos taken right below my room that show construction crews transporting massive pieces of material around the resort – many times right behind guests. There were no flaggers or anyone out in front or on the sides directing them or keeping guests away. The noise was also insane and took away from the resort’s experience altogether. Keep in mind that this was near the entrance of Gasparilla Island Grill. Many times construction crews were using the pedestrian walkways in front of it to move large building materials.
Here is another example:
Here is one image of the general construction around the resort. Also, keep in mind that one of the main buildings overlooking the pool is also being gutted – so your pool experience will be a noisy one.
What was of most concern to me was the level of congestion in the walkways between patrons and construction teams competing for the same space. This image below was from August 15, when guests were flocking around 9 am to get to the parks and dodging construction teams. Someone could have been hurt for sure, as there were actually construction vehicle traffic jams on the pedestrian walkways.
And then there was the noise. This video shows the epic level of noise created when construction crews, ground crews, and pressure washer teams all do their work simultaneously. This was filmed from room 4407 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel, Club Level, on August 15. Not what you would say a ‘flagship’ experience should look or sound like.
So Should You Stay at the Grand Floridian? That Depends
While we were very disappointed in the Grand Floridian, my wife and I both agreed considering her long health journey, we would not let this make us upset one bit. And in the coming days, I have many more Disney World reviews and analyses to share – and many are pretty positive and inspiring.
But when it comes to the Grand Floridian, Disney does seem to have a lot of things to improve upon. From food safety issues to general hotel updates that would not require extensive work and small touches that can be addressed, the hotel can rise again.
But Disney must do a better job of ensuring guest safety when construction is being done and focus less on Disney’s insane profits. My wife and I witnessed too many situations where construction teams were moving fast to move heavy material and dangerous construction equipment around the Grand Floridian, coming very close to small children. That doesn’t seem like the most magical place on Earth to me.
My advice: stay away from the Grand Floridian until the construction is over and the flies find a new home.
Expert Biography: Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree focusing on International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of the book The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization.