The second day of my trip to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, I got up and was excited to be heading back to Shutters for the character breakfast with Goofy and Donald. This breakfast is one of the best character meal values I’ve ever seen at under $18 for adults. It is family style usually, but since I wasn’t eating meat, I was permitted to order off the menu and got the pina colada pancakes with pineapple and rum sauce. Incredible!!!
Shortly after breakfast, I heard from Shalon, who had asked if she could come visit for lunch since she had not been to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort before either. I told her no problem. We met up, and I showed her around before we had lunch at the Green Cabin Room, another casual restaurant and bar at the resort that is open for lunch and dinner. In the evening they also sometimes offer live entertainment in the form of musicians. We had a nice lunch, with me ordering a roma tomato, basil, roasted garlic and buffalo mozzarella flatbread, and Shalon got the oak-grilled breast of chicken on crispy pretzel. We were both very happy with our selections. After lunch we decided to try out the miniature golf course since it looked like fun (and it was, until that six on the last hole) and it was such a great value. Shalon headed back home after a quick stop in the gift shop where we found out one of the CMs I had spoken to the evening before for almost an hour about the turtles, turned out to be our friend Matt’s mom. It is indeed a small world after all.
Playing hostess, even for just a few hours, can really take it out of a girl. Bed called, but not before I called down to the spa to see if there was a pedicure appointment available. Luckily, there was for late afternoon, which would still allow me some more reading time before my dinner reservation at Sonya’s, the more upscale restaurant at Vero Beach. This trip really was shaping up to be the ultimate in R&R. If only I had been able to splurge even more on the massage, but there’s always next time. The pedicure was great and again, with an ocean view from the spa, and phenomenal service.
Sonya’s vegetarian trio, along with the spectacular service and the triple chocolate dessert made the evening even more magical. I finished earlier than I expected, so I again was able to go back to my room to read for an hour or so before the campfire. Although very different, I would say both nights’ singalongs were equally enjoyable. I even saw the couple from New Jersey from the night before, as well as some other guests from Orlando that I enjoyed speaking to earlier in the trip. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort very much has the feel of a family resort that guests return to year after year and the CMs get to see the families grow up over time. I loved this feeling of kinship and recognition. Even though I was only at the resort for a couple of days, I was remembered and called by name from the restaurant staff at Shutters to the recreation cast. It was really a nice feeling that I don’t typically experience at most WDW resorts just due to the sheer size and turnover of the resorts.
On my last evening at Vero Beach, upon returning to my room, I found my favorite movie of all time, Casablanca, on Turner Classic Movies and felt compelled to watch the rest of the film as a great ending to the night. I read for a bit longer to finish my book after the movie ended, and set my alarm so I would have enough time to grab a bite to eat before checking out at 11 before heading to work. I slept so well, hearing the waves crashing on the shore just outside my window. It is one of the most peaceful sounds, yet backed by so much power. It was entrancing! I missed it from my youth and miss it now.
There is a Sunday brunch offered at Shutter’s, with additional seating in Sonya’s, but seeing as I couldn’t eat the majority of the items on the buffet, I chose to order a la carte and got the heavenly orange oatmeal french toast. Even the chefs in the restaurant remembered me from day to day due to me having food allergies and needing to consult them before ordering. Also, the table service restaurants at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort even take Tables In Wonderland, excluding the Sunday brunch. This was meal a great way to end my trip.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort was most definitely the breath of fresh air that I needed to recharge and renew myself. It was absolutely one of the best weekend vacations I’ve ever taken. I cannot wait to go back and experience some of the amazing culinary options I wasn’t able to try this trip. I relished the fact that I could unplug (literally and figuratively) and get the rest and relaxation I was so wanting and needing. This trip and resort completely exceeded any and all expectations I had. I think this is due so much in part, possibly in whole, to the incredible Cast Members. I even took the time before leaving to get the manager of the resort to personally compliment him on the exemplary service everyone provided. I do not think there was a single thing I would have changed about this visit, other than to maybe extend it by a week or two.
I hope that everyone will take the opportunity to visit this magnificent resort at some point. Have you ever been to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort? What did you enjoy most? Did you take it easy like I did, or did you take advantage of the tons of activities at the resort and in the area?
After a rather hectic first few weeks of the year between some personal adjustments and a very busy time at work, I needed a break. I decided it was far past time to explore Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and went ahead and booked a solo weekend stay as it was the last Disney resort in Florida that I had not had the chance to visit.
I really didn’t know much about the resort before I went and thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences in case you are, like I was, unaware of the fantastic offerings this resort has.
The resort is similar to many of the Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World in that it offers deluxe studios as well as one, two and three bedroom villas that can accommodate up to 12 guests. In addition to these, the resort also has standard rooms with either a garden or an ocean view. For my stay, I opted to splurge and go with the Inn Ocean View Room since it was only slightly higher than the studio, plus I wanted the convenience of staying in the main building.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is about an hour and a half to two hours from Walt Disney World theme parks by car, and is a pretty easy drive on highways (some routes may include toll roads). I arrived at the resort not really having looked at many pictures or knowing what to expect of a Disney resort that wasn’t right at Walt Disney World. I was immediately welcomed by the familiar logo on the resort’s sign as well as a security guard to check me in to the parking lot. I pulled up to the porte cochere as instructed and left my vehicle there until I received further directions on where to park from the front desk.
When I stepped in to the lobby, I felt like I was stepping back in time and to a place that was very familiar to me. For those who don’t know, my background is in hospitality management, and I got my start back in high school at a four diamond resort on the coast of Maine called Inn By The Sea. Although Vero Beach is a good 1500 miles plus from that resort, there was a very comforting familiarity to it. The vibe felt like a combination of the Boardwalk and Beach Club to me and was very welcoming. Hardwood floors in the lobby are softened by rugs in the great seating areas that feature comfortable chairs for relaxing in the open four story atrium. Two themes seem to be prevalent throughout the lobby and are carried throughout the entire resort: oranges and sea turtles.
Welcome home is a greeting customary at the Disney Vacation Club resorts, but in this instance, it really felt like I was coming home, but not to one I had ever visited before. The Cast Members seemed to genuinely be inviting the guests to enjoy their stay at this, their home away from home. Arriving shortly after noon with check in not being until 4 pm, I was not expecting my room to be ready, but was very pleasantly surprised (a theme for this trip). After parking my car in the brilliantly located parking garage under the main inn, I took the elevator up to the third floor to find my room.
Full disclosure, I had a friend who had stayed at the resort a few months ago and had booked the same ocean view room. His view of the ocean was noticeable it seemed only from the balcony and then, only a sliver of blue. Having seen pictures of his view, this was honestly what I was prepared for when entering my room, but again, had luck on my side. I ended up with one of the most spectacular ocean views! This is coming from someone who spent her formative years spoiled with an ocean view from her bedroom.
I haven’t really spent much time on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, since I live on the Gulf Coast and prefer the typically warmer waters we have here on the west coast. Expecting gray or dark blue waters, perhaps tainted by my memories of the Maine coast, I was happily greeted with gorgeous turquoise water seemingly feet from my room. Again, the view was spectacular! I had, I came later to find out, one of only three rooms that have double sets of windows facing the ocean. Most of the rooms in the inn that are ocean view have one set of windows facing the water and then longer side of the room faces the grounds. Mine was the opposite. I could see the ocean from my balcony on the one side, the double set of windows in the middle on the long wall, and then also from the window on the other side above my reading nook. Fantastic!
My trip was off to an amazing start! In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, my primary objectives on this trip were rest and relaxation. The priorities, in no particular order, were to sleep, eat, read, and unwind. I took a few pictures and dumped my luggage before heading down to the pool area to grab a quick lunch at Bleachers, the counter service location open for lunch and early dinner. Since I was not eating meat, drinking soda, or partaking in an adult beverages at the time, I did a little research prior to arrival to make sure there were vegetarian offerings and I wouldn’t be stuck eating a salad every day. The menus for the restaurants looked great, so I was excited to see what they had when I actually arrived.
As is often the case, things change and menus online on third party websites are not always as reliable as you would like them to be. I read about a veggie burger that had gotten decent reviews from guests, but when I looked at the menu board didn’t see it as an option. When in doubt, ask. I did and was happy to hear they did still have them, but were phasing them out, so no guarantees whether or not they will be there on your next visit. While I was ordering I noticed the thing that to this point pretty much made my day (okay, aside from the jaw-dropping view from my bed) DOLE WHIPS!!! Again, for those who don’t know me, you may not be aware of my love of this delicious pineapple treat (Vero Beach also offered Vanilla and Orange) found at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom and Captain Cook’s at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Others are very well aware and have been with me on after midnight trips to acquire this great dessert/snack/breakfast/what have you. Anyhoo, I had a great lunch sitting out by the pool on a sunny afternoon with my veggie burger, fries and dole whip.
After the taxing drive (not really) and lunch, I needed to start working on my to do list. Next up was nap time! I went back to my room, on the way stopping by the front desk to make a dinner reservation for that night at Shutters, the casual table service restaurant. Before I crashed, I took a look at the recreation calendar to make sure there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t mind sleeping through. I am one to try to find the more unique offerings, and was intrigued by a wine tasting (which I wouldn’t be doing, but to investigate for journalistic research, and for future visits) and a musician who sang and played banjo on the back deck. Deciding I needed to check this out, I set an alarm to make sure I got in a good two hour nap, but allowed myself enough time to get to the activities before dinner.
Napping is seriously like one of the best things ever invented. If I could go back to my childhood and bank all that nap time I fought and didn’t want to take as a kid and cash it in now as an adult, that would be amazing … maybe a trip in the DeLorean can fix this. Back to the story at hand … I woke up sufficiently refreshed from my nap and brought out my DSLR camera to take some pictures around the resort. I discovered that there was a spa just off the lobby. Who knew? I put that in the back of my brain for not so future use. I also stopped by the desk again to pick the brains of the Cast Members to see if there was anything I should know or was missing about the resort. They told me I should go check out the recreation facilities across the street. Since A1A, the road on which the resort is located, is a relatively busy street, the resort built a tunnel under the road to safely get guests over to the other side. A tunnel!!! The only thing that would make this cooler and more like one of my favorite movies, Clue, would be if there was also a secret passage since there was already a library-like area off the lobby.
The trip across the street was well worth it! I found a beautiful lake with a dock for catch and release fishing. There is a pavilion with picnic tables and an area setup for a campfire by the shore of the lake. There are also soccer fields, walking paths, basketball and tennis courts. Equipment for most of these activities can be found by the pool, acquired from the recreation staff with your room key, and most free of charge. There are also bikes to rent and a great little 9 hole miniature golf course by the pool in addition to the waterslide, kids water play area (very jealous I couldn’t play in the pirate ship), hot tub, sauna, ping pong, and pool table. Miniature golf is only $2 a round for guests, $1 for DVC members. Then, of course, there is the beach itself. There are cabana rentals, jetskis, small boats and kayaks, as well as bodyboards and surfboards for rent.
Recreation opportunities at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort are seemingly endless! I’ve only scratched the surface with the list above. As with most DVC resorts, you have a Community Hall location with games, arts and crafts and activities for the kids primarily. They also have the standard pool games, dance party, etc. on the pool deck weather permitting.
After talking to the front desk CMs again, I learned the resort even helps take part in protecting the local wildlife with turtle watchers during certain times of the year. There are signs along paths and the beach reminding guests of the sea turtles and to be cognizant of the dangers brought by shining bright lights that can attract the turtles and potentially cause danger to the animals by misleading them away from the ocean. During the warmer months, guests can sign up to participate in watching the mother sea turtles coming in to the beach late a night to give birth to the babies.
After exploring for a bit, I settled on the back deck to listen to “Unca Banjo” play and sing. It was a cool late afternoon and it was only a nice couple from New Jersey and me enjoying the music so Unca (aka recreation CM Mike), told us great stories in between songs. I consider myself pretty well versed in the music field, but he played some songs I had never heard before, and I loved them nonetheless. It was one of those practically perfect moments that you just get lost in conversation and storytelling and great music. I will never forget that hour we spent just enjoying and living in the moment. On that note, I opted for almost the entire weekend (except when I was expecting an important text message) to leave my phone in the room. For those who know me well, I am never without my phone, but this weekend I was unplugged, much like Unca Banjo. 😉
Following the concert, dinner at Shutters was fabulous! There was a separate vegetarian menu and I opted for the Caprese El Forno Melt with portabella mushrooms, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, spinach, caramelized onions with a panko bread crumb crust and basil in a red pepper sauce with balsamic vinegar and great fresh rolls served with Mickey-shaped butter. After dinner I returned to my room to read, something I hadn’t done in book form in quite some time.
The other activity I wanted to make sure I caught was the nighttime campfire and singalong with s’mores. Heading out to the campfire after adding an extra layer of clothing, I found I was the first guest to arrive. I was greeted by two great recreation CMs, Josh and Maria. We talked for a bit before the other guests showed up, and was amazed to find out the s’mores were free! And unlimited! Maria said the record was held by one guest who ate 28 in one sitting. I opted to be a bit more modest and had one, followed by a perfectly burnt marshmallow. But first, to earn your food, you must first sing, and dance, and let it all out. Josh and Maria led some traditional camp songs, even a Disney song or two, and a couple I wasn’t sure I’d heard before. He played guitar, and when it was over, Josh encouraged me to come back the next night to see how another CM, Trey, put his own spin on the singalong without an accompanying instrument. I agreed I would return Saturday night, and retreated to my room to read before an early bedtime.
The sounds of steel guitars and ukuleles skip across the lagoon and you immediately think “mahalo.” Sun sets off to your left as you sway peacefully in a hammock between two palm trees on the beach and you truly believe you are in heaven. To me, these are just a couple of the things I equate with my happy place, otherwise known as Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Now for those of you who don’t know, I love almost all things Hawaiian. My house is decorated in Hawaiiana, with tropical accents, travel posters, surf boards large and small, hibiscus prints, and even some vintage maps of the islands. This is right up my alley, but let me explain why so many others agree with me in choosing the Polynesian as their favorite deluxe resort at Walt Disney World.
One of three resorts that opened at WDW in 1971, along with the Contemporary and Fort Wilderness, this classic features some of the most beautiful landscaping on property. The resort is situated on the shores of the man made Seven Seas Lagoon and is directly across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom. It is one of the three monorail resorts that is accessible to the Magic Kingdom, and it also offers boat transportation. I personally prefer the peaceful cruise by resort launch to the theme park as it relaxes me and is often less crowded than the monorails tend to be. The main building, the Great Ceremonial House, is home to the shops and restaurants as well as the front desk and monorail station. There are two shops on the first level in Boutiki and the Wyland Gallery. Boutiki is where you find mostly the latest and greatest Disney gifts and apparel in addition to resort specific merchandise. The Wyland Gallery is home to beautiful oceanographic art, some even featuring Disney characters in the paintings and sculptures. Upstairs you find Samoa Snacks (appropriately named for snacks and drinks) and Trader Jack’s which is aimed more at the kids with clothing, toys and games.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort features standard rooms that accommodate up to five guests plus an infant under three with two queen sized beds and a day bed, in addition to club level rooms and larger suites that can accommodate up to nine plus an infant. This is the only one of the deluxe resorts that can guarantee the bedding of two queens and a day bed, whereas it is a request at the other deluxe resorts aside from Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodges which offer two queen beds standard. The rooms are some of the largest at WDW and offer a mini fridge, coffeemaker, ceiling fan, full bath, desk area, complimentary wifi, and either a patio or a balcony.
A great draw to the resort is the variety of restaurants and bars between the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (a luau!!!), ‘Ohana, Kona Cafe, Kona Island Coffee/Sushi Bar, Capt. Cook’s, Barefoot Pool Bar, Tambu Lounge, and of course, private dining. Now, being that this is my favorite resort in all of Walt Disney World, I have experienced the majority of these dining experiences with the exception of ‘Ohana for the character breakfast, Kona Cafe for lunch and private dining (WDW’s nomenclature for room service).
The Spirit of Aloha in Luau Cove was a great time with good food and fun for kids and the adults with a story at the beginning and more adult geared cultural information and dances towards the end of the show. Capt. Cook’s is a wonderful counter service location on the first level of the Great Ceremonial House, and is one of only a handful on property that is open 24 hours (the grill is usually closed from 11pm to 6:30am). One of my favorite things ever is here in the self serve dole whip, which you can get in either pineapple, vanilla, or my favorite twist. I have been known to take my dole whip creating to a whole new level. 😉
Kona Cafe is located on the second level of the Great Ceremonial House and features awesome meals for breakfast like the infamous Tonga Toast (which you can also get at Capt. Cook’s), a thick slice of sourdough bread stuffed with sauteed bananas and covered in cinnamon sugar. Another great breakfast find is Kona coffee in a French press and the pineapple macadamia nut pancakes. Lunch and dinner offer nice salads, sandwiches, pot stickers, coconut chicken and an awesome teriyaki strip steak. The adjacent Kona Island Coffee Bar in the morning and Sushi Bar at night, shares the same menu and also offers a few other grab and go items in the morning. The tuna poke at the Sushi Bar is one of my go to quick, but delicious sushi meals on property. It is awesome being able to watch the sushi chefs prepare your meal right in front of you if you are lucky enough to get a seat right at the counter.
Now if you like meat ‘Ohana is the place for you to go for dinner. The restaurant has an open concept and serves their meals family style, bringing the meat straight from the open wood fire grills. Shrimp, pork, chicken and beef are served off of giant skewers that are brought table side by the servers. Side dishes are just as tasty as the meats and accompanying dipping sauces. The salad features a honey lime vinaigrette that is one of the best in my opinion. Coconut bread, asian noodles, pot stickers and broccoli are also served with the meal. And then comes dessert. The bread pudding. Oh my goodness the bread pudding. Now in general, I am not a fan of bananas cooked in things or banana flavored food, despite the fact I love bananas themselves, but the bread pudding at ‘Ohana and the Tonga Toast at either Capt. Cook’s or Kona seem to be the exception to the rule. I don’t know what they do to it, but that bread pudding is magical. Thank goodness it is all you care to eat because you will be asking (maybe even begging) for more! As I mentioned, I haven’t had the breakfast at ‘Ohana, but I have heard great things about it and have snuck in to take a few pictures for the sake of reporting back to you fine folks. It looks like it is a great time with Mickey and friends (please be aware characters may vary), which on the day I visited featured Mickey in a very festive Hawaiian shirt as well as Pluto, Lilo and Stitch.
Tambu Lounge is probably my favorite place to stop for an adult beverage at Disney World. It offers great views of the grounds and even a peek at Cinderella Castle across the lagoon. On top of this, it also is home to one of my favorite drinks, the backscratcher. This is not for the faint of heart as it consists of rum, more rum and some Jack Daniels, along with some tropical fruit juice and is typically garnished with an orange, a cherry, and of course a backscratcher. No, I’m not kidding. The drink is served in a hurricane type glass and comes with a backscratcher, which is usually placed in your drink by the bartender. It is fruity, but not too sweet, and hits the spot if you are just looking for a nice drink to help you unwind while in this tropical paradise. They also make a killer zombie as well as the standard fare found in almost all the bars across property. If pool bars are more your thing, check out the Barefoot Pool Bar for gorgeous views of the Nanea Volcano Pool and the beach as well as the Magic Kingdom. If mom and dad want to have an evening to themselves while enjoying a few cocktails they can always look into enrolling the kids (ages 3-12) at the Neverland Club from 4pm – 12am. This is the Children’s Activity Center located right at the Polynesian and offers a kid’s club atmosphere with dinner, snack, movies, games, arts and crafts (call for pricing). Hey, parents are on vacation too you know!
Speaking of pools, the Polynesian offers two: the aforementioned Nanea Volcano Pool, which is the main theme pool complete with a slide running down the volcano and zero entry at one end, and the quiet pool. For views, I don’t think the main pool can be beat with a beautiful panorama of the beach and lagoon as well as a direct sight line to Cinderella Castle. The only thing I feel the resort is lacking is a hot tub. They offer great private cabanas with poolside service, restrooms and showers by the pool, hammocks on the beach, lounge chairs and the bar. Other recreation options at the resort can be found in pool activities and games like trivia, name that tune, diving for toys in the pool and dance parties. The resort also has its own marina, called the Mikala Canoe Club. Sea Raycers, pontoon boats, Boston Whalers, sailboats and bicycles can all be rented here. For those who favor more of the indoor activities, the Polynesian also has an arcade called Moana Mickey’s, which is next to Capt. Cook’s on the first level of the Great Ceremonial House.
The beach at the Polynesian is beautiful and offers sweeping views of the Magic Kingdom resort area with the Wedding Pavilion and Grand Floridian to the left, the Magic Kingdom straight ahead, and Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary to the right. One activity that I love to partake in when I stay at the Polynesian is the nightly movie on the beach. Each night (subject to cancellation due to inclement weather), the resort inflates a large movie screen and sets up lounge chairs on the beach for guests to watch a Disney movie free of charge. This is a great way to spend a nice evening at the resort relaxing after being on the go in the parks all day. Sometimes they even set up a small fire pit and sell smores kits or marshmallows to roast. Another classic, not to be missed nighttime display is the Electrical Water Pageant, which has been around since the 1970s, shortly after the resort opened. If you are lucky, you may even be able to time it right to where you can see Wishes from the beach of the Polynesian with the water pageant in front of you. Talk about magic!!!
I don’t know what it is about this resort that makes it just feel like home to me. Maybe it is the welcoming smell of grilled meats and the flickering tiki torches along with the mellifluous sounds of familiar (to me) Hawaiian music. Or it could be that I have a hammock on the beach that I have claimed as my own and I have spent many hours there enjoying the sounds of the faint train whistle off in the distance of the Magic Kingdom across the water. Perhaps it is the aesthetically pleasing tropical decor found across the common areas of the resort and in the rooms. Backscratchers are always a compelling draw, but no, I think it must be the dole whips. 🙂
Please check out my youtube video of some more pictures from the Polynesian.