I knew I didn’t want to make the same mistake after running my second runDisney Half Marathon as I did the first time. I needed to book a massage, and I needed to do it early. With currently only two full-service spas at Walt Disney World Resort, I had a tough choice to make: Mandara Spa at Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel or the Grand Floridian Spa at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa? Since decisions are hard, and I wanted to bring you this review of the spas at Walt Disney World, I checked them both out. You’re welcome.
Here’s how it happened:
Two months before the race I logged into my My Disney Experience account and looked up “spa.” Both spas offer similar treatment menus and both are easily bookable online. Given my plans to have lunch at Kona at Polynesian Village Resort the day after the race, I decided to check out The Grand Floridian Spa, just a monorail stop away.
Grand Floridian Spa
Once you arrive at the Grand Floridian, getting to the spa is a bit of a walk, so allow time for that. I entered the grand lobby, exited that building, walked through the Villa building a to the standalone spa building on the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Wedding Pavilion. Yes, it’s a hike, but I still arrived an hour before my scheduled appointment to enjoy the facilities.
The spa is decorated with subtle sea green and ivory florals in a nod to the resort’s Victorian theming. The end result is a serene opulence. After being escorted into the relaxation rooms and given a brief tour, I was struck by how cozy (read small) the common areas are, especially for such a large spa offering so many treatment options.
I put on a bathrobe and spa slippers, and the required swimsuit to go to enjoy the hot tub and steam room. After a quick steam, soak, and refreshing eucalyptus towel I rinsed in the shower and headed back to the relaxation room. There I enjoyed hot tea the refreshments and curled up in a warmed slipper chair under a plush blanket and waited or my 90 minute personalized massage.
The treatment room was dim and cozy. The music was soft. Before we began, I chatted with my masseuse about my race and how I was feeling. She asked me about problem areas and preferences and offered me a choice of scents (rosemary, vanilla, orange blossom, or lavender). The massage itself was excellent and not at all the cookie cutter massage for runners that I was afraid I’s have.
After my massage I went back into the dressing room for a shower. Again, the common areas are small, with only two shower stalls. It never felt crowded though, and I never saw more than 2 people in the dressing room at a time. It is also worth mentioning that the only provided toiletries are body wash and body lotion. If you need shampoo or conditioner, you can ask the attendant. Other items are also available for personal use: mouthwash, disposable razors and combs, etc.
As I checked out of the spa, I was asked one question, “Sunrise or Sunset?” I went with sunrise and was given a sample of Eucalyptus Lemongrass Signature Bath Salts. They smell divine.
(if you’re curious, the guest before me said ‘sunset’ and got lavender)
Mandara Spa at Dolphin Resort
As wonderful as my massage at the Grand Floridian Spa was, running without properly training and then spending the next several days running around Disney World left me hurting. I needed another massage. And you needed to know which spa is better. What a happy coincidence!
On Wednesday I was surprised to be able to secure two 80-minute personalized massages for Jen and myself for that Friday at the Mandara Spa. Perhaps it was far enough after race weekend that demand was down a little? I did have to call to schedule two massages at the same time, vs being able to book online.
Getting to the spa was easy. You can walk from any of the Boardwalk area resorts. Once at the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel, all you have to do is take the elevator to the spa.
The decor at this spa is totally different from the Grand Floridian Spa. Imagine Asian-inspired creamy marbles, rich mahogany wood, and deep rust velvets. It’s more grand than cozy, though, and may border on sterile.
We were checked in by courteous staff and directed to have a seat in a large waiting area where we could help ourselves to water as we filled out forms and waited for a tour. In the locker room we changed into comfortable robes and spa slippers and made our way to the relaxation room.
This room was large, with a central fireplace and large, floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the front courtyard of the hotel. With no hot tub, sauna, or steam room for use, we slipped into warm chairs by the window and closed our eyes to relax. But….it was loud! It was the Food and WIne Classic at the Swan and Dolphin, and even though we were at the spa 4 hours before the start of the event, the DJ stationed just below the windows was pumping. I like great music just as much as anyone, but it was a start contrast to the zen I was going for. Unfortunately, I could even hear it in the treatment room.
Nevertheless, the massage was wonderful and as a special treat I was offered champagne before I hit the showers.
Again, this locker room was small, but offered all the essential toiletries and Elemis brand products available for use.
Grand Floridian vs Mandara Spa: The Winner
Overall, of the two spas at Walt Disney World Resort, I prefer the spa at the Grand Floridian. I find the Victorian, floral vibe there a little more luxurious and peaceful than the Asian, zen vibe as they do it at Mandara. And that’s not considering the noise of the special event at Swan & Dolphin. Both spas lacked a sauna, which was disappointing, but Grand Floridian does have a whirlpool hot tub and steam room to enjoy. And, despite the very tight quarters and dim lighting of the relaxation room there, I preferred it to the spacious and bright relaxation room at Mandara. Where Mandara wins is the locker room amenities, but just barely, and mostly because I like Elemis products. Ultimately, if you’re looking for some pampering and relaxation to add on to your Disney vacation, you can’t go wrong with either choice.