Disney's Polynesian Village Resort has been undergoing some renovations and it recently debuted a couple of new features, including Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, which is not to be confused with Trader Joe's. For one thing, there's plenty of parking available at the Polynesian.
Not that it would take many carloads of people to fill up Trader Sam's, a couple of SUVs should do it. That's because this new bar inside the resort holds only 50 people at a time. No surprise that people are waiting for hours for their turn to go inside.
What's the attraction? Well, the small space is chockfull of atmospheric gewgaws, from tiki style knickknacks to high-tech special effects.
The latter kick in whenever someone orders one of the specialty drinks. During a media preview recently I got to experience what happens when someone orders the drink called the Uh-Oa. The name is pronounced by the cast members as if it were an actual Polynesian phrase, with a guttural, shortened "uh" followed by "oh-ah." Should you order this drink, which has various rums and fruit juices served in a souvenir vessel, the cast members will start to chant the name of the drink, and you'll soon realize that what they're saying is "uh-oh," as in, "Now what have I done?"
The lights dim, the Hawaiian music fades away, drowned out by the sound of the rising winds — there is actual wind, too, from hidden fans. The view through the "windows" of a sunny and serene bay changes to a typhoon of torrential rain with ominous thunder. And overhead, a statue of a tiki goddess becomes animated, with glowing red eyes and a witchlike voice. And in a few moments it's all over. The winds die down, the lights and music return and the bay is sunny again.
Waiter, I'll have another.
There are some other specialty drinks that trigger special effects, so you can pretty much figure this stuff will be going on constantly.
Food is served there, too, though basically small bites, including sushi, lettuce cups, pork tacos and Hawaiian style poke. I didn't sample any of the food, so I can't tell you about it. Not sure I have the patience of the multi-hour wait to get inside, either. (Hopefuls are issued pagers that will alert them when a space opens up.)
The other thing that was debuted at the event didn't have anything to do with food or drink, but it's pretty cool. That's the collection of new bungalows that are part of the Disney Vacation Club offerings at the Polynesian. What makes them interesting is that they were built over the water, like something you might see in Tahiti. But these are not rustic huts, they're gorgeously appointed, two-bedroom apartments, with beautiful kitchens, state-of-the-art entertainment centers, bathrooms you won't want to leave, and wrap-around decks, complete with private dip pool, overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom beyond. And during the nightly fireworks show over Cinderella's Castle, the accompanying music plays inside the bungalow.
It would be a nice place to sit and wait until your Trader Sam's pager goes off.
Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is open nightly. There is also an outside deck where drinks and food may be ordered, but you won't be able to experience the special effects if you order the Uh-Oa. Unless, of course, and actual hurricane comes through. Which could happen. Kids are allowed early in the evening but then it switches to a 21-and-over policy.