During my time on the Disney College Program, I was lucky enough to be placed at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as a merchandise Cast Member. Before going into the program, I had no idea where I was going to end up spending six months of my life working crazy hours. I did a deep dive into what could have happened on my program.
I watched a lot of vlogs describing that while the benefits of working with Disney are amazing, the workload is a main part of the program and you absolutely get out what you put into your work. I quickly learned that almost every detail throughout Disney has a story behind it. Not only do you step into a paradise while at this resort, but did you know how much history and culture there is around you? Here are some of the things I learned while working at the Polynesian.
First isn’t the worst
I’m going to take you back to October of 1971. The Polynesian Village Resort was one of the first resorts to open at the Walt Disney World Resort during the opening of Magic Kingdom. While the park opened on October 1st, the official grand opening of the Polynesian was October 24th. Complete with a ceremony and luau on the beach, and among the stars attending you could find Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, and other members of the Disney family. In the hotel lobby walking towards Captain Cook’s, you can find pictures behind a glass display of what the luaus looked like before the were moved to Luau Cove.
The Beatles’ last bite
The Polynesian is no doubt one of the pricier resorts as it sits just across the lake from the Magic Kingdom and is accessible by boat and monorail. Drawing in many guests a year, you might catch celebrities staying there from time to time. One thing I learned after only working there a couple months is that John Lennon penned the termination letter that would later end the Beatles as a band while on vacation with his family at the resort in 1974.
Nuts about you
If you wander around the resort long enough you’ll notice all of the tiki statues, the tall palm trees and dense lush greenery around you, and… a huge tree. What most don’t know is the tree itself has so much history within its roots! Called a Kukui Nut Tree, you can find it right outside the Great Ceremonial House. The name means “Candlenut” and is the state tree of Hawaii. A real life tree given to the resort from Hawaii, it symbolizes protection, peace, and enlightenment. If you notice any of the Cast Members wearing a Kukui Nut lei during your time there, they are most likely management as the leis symbolize how the management Cast “lights the way” for guests and other Cast Members.
Everybody’s favorite aunt
By welcoming you right as you enter the hotel lobby, you are greeted with a lei and instantly you can feel the relaxation around you. When you look around the lobby, you see all of the plush seats and the music swaying in the background. You turn a little to the left and you see a small desk full of fresh flowers. Behind those flowers, you can find Auntie Kau’i.
She is the Hawaiian Ambassador of the Polynesian Resort and has been the warm welcome since almost the opening of the resort in 1971 when she moved from Oahu to Disneyland for their Polynesian Show and then relocating again to Walt Disney World where she has been a light in the lives of so many Cast Members and guests ever since. Don’t be fooled! If you can dish it, you better take it from Auntie! She’s still such a firecracker while she makes leis at her desk and even still joins in the hula in the lobby!
What I took away during my time as a Cast Member at the Polynesian Village Resort is that you don’t have to be in Hawaii to experience the rich culture, tropical plants, and delicious food. It’s all around you while you’re there. Just open your eyes, and take a little time to immerse yourself in such a beautiful
culture and a resort that you can take away so much from.