I had done the luau at the Polynesian while growing up. I didn’t really remember much about it, aside from thinking the show was neat and that the space they host it in was a cool little secluded spot. Last year my best friend Denise and her family came down to Orlando for some Walt Disney World fun, and I decided to join them the first night for the luau.

When we arrived, a Disney Cast Member signed us in and directed you into the waiting area, where another cast member placed leis on us and a Photopass photographer took a few shots of us. From there, we hung around at Laua Cover, enjoying the lovely weather while some others took advantage of the mobile tiki bar.

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Important side note: it was here, in the magical waiting area, that my friend’s sister and I realized for the first time in our lives why the Bird of Paradise plant is named that. (I know, I know)

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Once dinner time started, a cast member escorted us to our table. We were near the back side which still offered a nice view (It’s hard to get a bad seat with how the open-air theater is laid out). Our waiter came by and took our drink orders – I got Pele’s Fire Punch, which according to Disney is “The Volcano Goddess’ blend of Bacardi Rum, Myer’s Original Dark Rum, Banana Liqueur, Blackberry Brandy, Pineapple Juice, and Grenadine served in an authentic hand-carved Monkey coconut – YOU KEEP THE COCONUT.”¬†Keep the coconut, I did (although the “Made in Indonesia” sticker on the bottom was a bit of an authenticity buzzkill).

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The food is all you can eat, and served family style. For appetizers, we got pineapple-coconut bread (super yum!), Asian apple pear slaw, and Hawaiian potato salad. The main course consisted of BBQ pork ribs, roasted chicken, a vegetable medley, and my favorite: the Aloha Pulled Pork. I’ve made Hawaiian style pulled pork a few times and it’s come out great, but Disney managed to nail it! Dessert was a warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce. Another yummy treat in an overall solid meal.

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The luau show is going on while the courses are being served, although the most interesting parts happen after most of the crowd has finished eating. The show is centered around¬†Auntie Wini. Wini is hosting the luau as a goodbye for one of the “local” girls that’s going off to the “mainland,” and the crowd are all honored guests. There are various performances throughout, some with singing and most with dancing. There are various parts of the show where the audience is invited on stage to join the festivities, during which many exuberant Northerners rush up to show off their best Hawaiian shirts.

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The grand finale of the show (and my favorite part) is the showcase at the end that features traditional dances for various Polynesian islands (Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand and Tonga). This culminates with the fire-knife performer, who comes out right as the sun is coming down and throws that flaming stick of wonder around as if it were a baton. The music and drumming picks up as his fire-related acrobatics amp up, and you end up leaving the Spirit of Aloha dinner show on an adrenaline high from watching this insane (but highly well practiced) man do his thing.

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While the somewhat high price tag and lackluster service (tip is included in the price, which always seems to encourage poor service) discourage this from being a frequently repeated outing, it’s definitely worth indulging in at least once. Good good, fun show, great atmosphere…plus a guy that throws around a stick that’s on fire! What’s not to love?

All photos in this post shot with a Sony A7, with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens (using a Metabones converter).