Spirit of Aloha: A Review

Last Wednesday evening, my family took in the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at Polynesian Village Resort to kick off our vacation. Our group included me (44 F), DH (48 M), and our DD15 and DS11. Please note that, except for me, my family is the most picky group of eaters to roam the planet. I find myself vacillating between being frustrated by them and feeling sorry for them going through life with no enjoyment of wide varieties of food. Anyway, I digress.

We selected the 5:15 show knowing we would be up super early and traveling that day as it was our arrival day. This still gave us 5 hours to enjoy the resort, settle in to our room, take a nap, and even enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at Trader Sam’s. The instructions at time of reservation said to pick up our show tickets from concierge any time before the check-in time so I made a stop there earlier in the afternoon. Turns out this is not necessary; the concierge said she would happily print out the reservation for me, but checking in at the stand in the hotel lobby 30-60 minutes before the show would be sufficient.

My DH and DS checked us in at about 4:45 while DD and I dealt with a minor luggage issue. When we met back up in the lobby we had our pre-show photo taken which populated to our MDE account. We relaxed in the lobby and browsed the hotel store until it was time to wander over to the Luau Cove located just beyond the Fiji long house between Polynesian and Grand Floridian.

I’m remembering now that I wanted to go back to the Cove on one of my early morning walks! It is such a pretty little area, with a winding path meandering through the trees and a couple of seating areas set up along the way! I guess I’ll just have to go back.

We were greeted by a group of Cast Members and shown to our table which was Category 1 and located center stage. Great location close to the action with a good view of everything. I feel sure I would have been disappointed by almost any other location, so if you can swing it pay the little upcharge for this seating. Some of the tables, especially in Category 3, seemed very far from the stage. Note that if you are using the dining plan to pay for your meal you can only select Category 2 or 3. Our server promptly arrived and reviewed the menu with us, pointing out that kids could select from a couple of alternative items if they did not want what was otherwise served. She took our drink menu - I had the white sangria which was included in the cost and we settled in.

Along with our drinks we were served our appetizers and bread. The appetizer platter featured rice noodle salad, green salad with ginger dressing, and fresh tropical fruit. I found the noodle salad to be a little bland, but the green salad was delicious and the fruit was super fresh. The bread was a sweet pineapple coconut bread that was a little dry but tasty.

Soon the show began. The show is set in context of a hawaiian dance teacher who wants to throw a going away luau party for one of her dancers who is moving on to new adventures. I honestly would much prefer to cut out that whole storyline and just feature the dancing. The story didn’t flow fantastically and was super corny - yes, someone said recently that it is more corny than Hoop Dee Doo and I would wholeheartedly agree. Perhaps a better word is “cheesy”. I don’t know, but in any case it felt too forced and kind of grated on me a bit.

After the opening number our main course was served: roasted chicken with chimichurri sauce, pork ribs, sausage, pulled pork, jasmine rice, and broccolini. All of this was out of this world delicious! I wish I could have had room for more. The meats were tender and everything was perfectly seasoned. We polished off most of the platter and were happy with that but they would have brought more of anything had we wanted.

A little side note here: my picky son wasn’t sure he would like the food so he requested the cheese pizza which was an alternative for the small set. He seemed fine with it but honestly I was pretty pissed about it. It was a soggy, floppy, obviously microwaved crappy thing. Not delicious and certainly not appropriate given the cost of the meal. I expected a cheese flatbread from Captain Cook’s to have been served. Not okay and they need to rectify this. As I said, he seemed fine with it and he did pick at a couple of things from the main platter but it bothered me a lot.

After the main course had been served, the performers returned, this time presenting traditional dances from several Polynesian islands. This part of the show was magnificent! We loved the music, costuming, and obvious talent that was displayed. My son especially enjoyed the fire dancer. The whole show should have been more of this; I’d rate it much higher if that were the case! They did continue to weave in the storyline, and included a couple of numbers that involved the kids and one that had couples come forward to slow dance in front of the stage (only one couple did - it was awkward), but by and large it was the more entertaining part of the show.

Throughout the performance our server returned frequently to check in with us. She made sure we had plenty to eat and drink and was friendly, funny and warm. It occurred to me that since the entire meal was prepaid, including tip, that these servers are not particularly incentivized to provide more than acceptable service. But our server was super great, and I’d have loved the opportunity to tip accordingly (pipe down, @mousematt )

Somewhere along the way our dessert was served. I wasn’t super impressed by it, honestly. There were some rice krispy treats alongside the main offering which was pineapple cake? It was nothing super special and I only had a small bit. This was disappointing as I’ve heard people rave about it and so was expecting something of the same caliber as the bread pudding that is served at 'Ohana. This was something more like my unskilled relative would bring to a family party: edible and qualified as dessert but not worth the calories or getting over-full from.

The show wrapped up at just about 2 hours. We exited out onto the path between Poly and Grand Floridian, at the quiet beach. Some families congregated there and it was a great spot for photos as the sun was setting and the light was wonderful. We made our way back to our room and got ourselves ready for the rest of our evening!

Overall I would say this was probably a 3 out of 5 stars for me. Some of the food was great, some of it was not great. Some of the show was great, some of it was not great. Service was great. The sangria gave me an awful raging headache overnight. I had only two small glasses with ice, and was not inebriated, so feel it was probably the quality of the ingredients that led to this.

Even for Disney, given our experience I would say this was overpriced. I’m glad went, and it was a fun way to kick off the trip but it didn’t blow me away and I don’t think we’ll do it again.
While enjoyable, this was definitely a one and done for me. Next time we’ll go to 'Ohana, or if we are looking for a show, to Hoop Dee Doo.

Any questions? Fire away!

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Love the level of detail here. Thank you.

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You’re welcome! I enjoy sharing my experiences so that others can make good decisions for themselves about their own trips! :smiley:

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{snort}

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Big question:
For cheesy fun:
Would you rather do HDDR 2 times, OR, HDDR and SOA once each?

HDDR twice.

Edited: wait - in the same trip?? Once each. In my lifetime? HDDR twice

Thank you for posting this. This is very helpful. We were considering doing this on our next trip. I’ll be running your review past my DW.

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TY so much for posting this - been so wishy washy on this show - i actually booked this then cancelled as i wasnt really sure we wanted to spend the 2 dining plan credits on this - we would have been in Tier 3. Might still reconsider rebooking but will definitely pay out of pocket for Tier 1 if we do.

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Great report - thanks!

I have fond memories of going to the luau on my first trip in the cough 1970s.
Would like to take our kids one day, but we still haven’t done HDDR so that’s higher up the tiki pole.

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The story, I would say, is VERY “1960’s Disney camp.” If you look at movies like a Beach Blanket Bingo, it has a very similar vibe.

I agree wholeheartedly about removing that part and making it more an exhibition of culture and history of these dances.

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I’m glad to hear some positive things about the show since I have to go in August (the thing my sister most wants to do on the trip). I had mostly heard really negative things, so I am thrilled that there were some highlights to look forward to!

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They used to have a papaya cake that wasn"t “the most amazing thing ever” but definately a 4 out of 5 and way better than the pineapple cake (which you describe beautifully).

Great way to describe the first part. I don’t know if the talent could do a full fledged longer show and the real dancing started after the food was served and the crowd was focused. I enjoyed SOA but would vote for a revamp of the first part for sure!

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I haven’t seen the Poly Luau, but have seen cheesy luau performances in Hawaii that made me squirm! Sounds like WDW needs to return to showing a more respectful show honoring the Hawaiian and South Pacific culture. I have very fond memories of our family’s annual dinner show DL Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland from 1962-1992. I will say it’s nice that the Poly Luau serves meals to your table instead of a buffet. if you are ever in Maui, go to the Old Lahaina Luau…It’s the best luau I’ve been to outside of the South Pacific!

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Question: Bottom line: If I’ve never done it before, should it be one-and-done, or just skip? Thanks for a comprehensive honest review.

Is there something you would do in its stead? If yes, probably do the other thing. If no, it’s a nice way to spend part of an evening.

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I posted before on this subject. I won’t waste my money again on it. Do HDR instead. Cheaper and better food. Great show as well. My opinion.

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Interestingly I found the 2nd half to be straightforward and respectful: here are the dances with brief insight into their origin. AND different parts of Polynesia are shown has having different history and dances. Disney really just needs to change the 1st half. I welcome any Pacific Islander’s thoughts on the accuracy of this view!

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