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Entrance to the Grand Californian

 By Aulani Diva

My review of the Disney Grand Californian is based on me being a travel agent AND a Disney Vacation Club member. Our room was in the villas section which is where they put you if you are booked with the Disney Vacation Club. We had reserved a studio room for 4 nights. When we arrived at the resort, I knew to expect our room to not be ready as it was very early afternoon. We were greeted by a very friendly cast member who had an IPad in her hand and took my information along with my credit card and then took me to a check in agent. The girl at check in was pleasant, but really the only information I got from her was the room wasn’t ready and they would text me when it was. She didn’t go over the add ons I had put on the room (like the Character Breakfast and Dinner at the Carthay Circle Restaurant ) all of which I had made sure were tied in to my room reservation. She didn’t go over the fact that as resort guests we could go in to the park an hour early every day (promo they had running at the time). As a travel agent I knew these things, but she didn’t know I was an agent and I feel a 5 star resort resort ( let alone a Disney hotel ) should go over the fine details that are bonuses.

We got the text for our room at about 345 pm, but we were already in the park enjoying ourselves so we didn’t head to the hotel until around 8pm. We didn’t have to go back to the front desk as the room keys were already set up ahead of time even though they didn’t tell us our room number until the text came. To our dismay, our room was on the main floor and with an infant we didn’t want her wandering out on to the patio as there was nothing sectioning it off. We called the front desk and were told no they couldn’t move us until another day. So, since we had ordered a ton of groceries from VONS to be delivered (easily done on the Vons website), and we didn’t want to cart the groceries to another room on another day, we decided to stay where we were. But I have to say, I was very disappointed in the lack of a view since most DVC members seem to comment that they get a great view of California Adventure from their rooms. I did ask if it was because we chose a studio over a 1 or 2 bedroom and they told me that every floor has the same amount of studios, 1 bedrooms and 2 bedroom villas.

The room was done in all dark wood to fit the style of the hotel and it was spacious even being a studio. There was a great big area when you walked in that we left our stroller in each night. The kitchen area was a sink, fridge and microwave which was plenty for us. And, of course, the typical Disney bathroom where the sink is outside of the bath and toilet area – which is GREAT! We didnt get our villa cleaned at all – on day 4 we just got fresh towels (which is typical of a DVC stay). The room amenities were great. My husband thought the TV should be bigger than a 32 inch flat screen, but we survived. Since this is the only option in California for DVC members, we know we will be back at this resort, but it definitely didn’t blow me away. The grounds are great and I loved being a few steps from the private entrance to the park. I loved Downtown Disney on our doorstep. And I loved the lobby. They even have mini rocking chairs and cartoons for the kids while they wait for their parents to complete the check in process.

Lobby of the Grand Californian

Lobby of the Grand Californian

But in all my travels, I would say I had hoped it would have been comparable to all my stays at Ritz Carlton resorts and it definitely wasn’t. Ritz Carlton blew me away and this did not. But, I give it a thumbs up for location and the benefit of entering the park before the rest of the public (right now the line up for Fast Passes to Carsland rides start an hour early with the Disney resort guests and believe me it is a bonus when you see the thousands of people waiting behind a rope after you walk away with your pass). We are also big Starbucks fans and did enjoy the Starbucks located in California Adventure, which was easily accessed by the Grand Californian guest private entrance. It was super quick to walk there through the Disney guest entrance. My preferred room location would not be in the villas section, but rather in the preferred viewing rooms that overlook either California Adventure or Downtown Disney.
We did eat at the resort. We did the Chip’N Dale breakfast buffet at the Storytellers Cafe which we have done on multiple occasions and love. Out of all the character breakfast dining I would still pick Goofy’s kitchen located at the Disneyland Hotel. But, the Chip ‘N Dale breakfast buffet is great for guests staying right on site at the Grand Californian as the location is very close to the private entrance in to the back of California Adventure. Also they have the best Caramel French Toast that I can not seem to find anywhere else at Disney. Reservations are a must as it is constantly crowded in the restaurant.
The Grand Californian has a lot of bonuses based on location more than anything. Thus the reason so many people love to stay there.
I know we will be back!

Mahalo – Aulani Diva

Pool at the Grand Californian