I’m not a DVC member (nor do I play one on TV), but I have been in a few DVC rooms over the years—mostly thanks to one specific Disneyland CM friend from way back. I’ve been meaning to take a DVC tour at Disney World, if for no other reason than to report about it here, though I’ve yet to do so because I fear the sales pitch and the hard sell. Granted, this is much more common with those scams off property than with Disney. Disney has a reputation for NOT giving prospects the hard sell, but that said, I’ve spoken with at least one person who was, indeed, badgered to buy while at a DVC presentation. So I’ve held off.
Besides, I can do the math on my own. There is a savings if you plan to stay at Disney hotels every year the rest of your life, but first, I greatly prefer flexibility rather than being “locked in” by Disney, and second, I happen to live nearby and don’t need a hotel. Generally speaking, I’ll save money by paying rack rate when and where I want when traveling to Disney or indeed around the world, because I usually don’t need deluxe hotels and because Priceline means I don’t really pay rack rate. And I don’t usually stay at “official” hotels, but rather, nearby. I’ve never stayed at a Disney World hotel (DVC or otherwise)—I’ve only poked my head in on a few occasions. I have stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, so it could be argued I’ve been “surrounded by the magic,” but I found it not really worth much of a premium.
All of this is background for my skepticism about visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, located about 90 minutes south-southeast of Walt Disney World. I was invited by a (different) friend who promised a surprise. We got one, all right—turns out the “room” was in fact a beach cottage—the equivalent of a grand villa at this particular hotel. It has 3 bedrooms, and with various pullout beds it can sleep 13 people. The rack rate for this room is $800 in value season, or $2,000 per night in the summer. The room is right on the beach, with amazing views, and balconies facing both directions. It was, needless to say, bliss.
I drove down a little doubtful that there would be much to do at this resort. With no theme parks, we’d be talking about just a hotel complex. Sure there would be a pool and related amenities, but would that be enough?
Not the backside of water, but the backside of the resort (which FACES the water!)
The main building looks to be about four or five stories tall—not grand and overpowering like many Walt Disney World hotels. Inside, the lobby reminded me instantly of the Wilderness Lodge (or DAK Lodge) lobby, but on a smaller scale. The diminutiveness at first was a letdown – maybe I’m used to the grandeur of oversized everything at WDW? – but after a while, I felt it was not only appropriate to this resort, but indeed even “cute” and preferable to an oversized building. The vibe here at Disney’s Vero Beach (DVB) is one of relaxation and a slower pace. There’s none of the frenetic activity here that one sees at WDW and even WDW hotels, so it makes sense for the architecture to reflect that mood.
At first, I thought the hotel to be unthemed. After only a few moments of consideration, though, I realized it was themed… as a seaside resort in Florida. It was kind of like the theming of Paradise Pier at DCA. It’s themed to look exactly like what it is.
It wasn’t until later still that I realized even this was off. There is a theme here, after all. Turtles. There are turtle motifs in the chairs, on some of the floors and murals, and in wall designs. It eluded me at first because it’s more subtle than most theming at Disney parks, which usually attempts to be so all-inclusive that you feel “transported” to someplace else. Here, there’s no attempt to transport you… but there is an attempt to provide a pervasive undercurrent of focus in the form of these turtles.
The view from our cottage.
Why turtles? Because this region is famous for its turtle nests. During several months around the summer, it’s turtle season. Adults come here to build a nest up the beach and deposit eggs, then later, the hatchlings will struggle by themselves down the beach into the water. Even our upgraded beach cottage had a turtle-oriented name (examples include loggerhead cottage, green sea turtle cottage, hatchling cottage, etc).
The cottage was reason enough to make the trip. It had three downstairs bedrooms (two with double queen beds, one with a king bed), and three bathrooms. Upstairs was a mega-lounge (TV, sofa) and a pretty big kitchen area (including dining room). There was a balcony over the front door, but that view was fairly mundane. There was nothing mundane about the view out the back. We were right on the beach, and with clear skies at night the stars came out in force. I haven’t seen that many stars since visiting the American West desert at nighttime.
There’s plenty to do on the beach. First, it’s a beach (and a private one, if the required keycard is any indication). You can rent boogie boards or even Jet Skis (we didn’t have time to try the latter). You can play in the sand right alongside the turtle nests (which are marked off with stakes and ribbons so you don’t straw into it by accident).
There’s a pool, with a pretty large waterslide. The pool area also include a water/splash zone, and a traditional playground for little tots. Nearby is the 9-hole miniature golf course (which has only minimal theming—a bit disappointing for a Disney course, actually).
Some of the holes don’t even have this much theming.
A small arcade sits nearby, as does a (free) sauna. Kids can sign up to join hosted activities in a separate room, though this costs extra (as do many of the activities throughout the day. My memory was that many activities at WDW Hotels are free).
Speaking of money, you’ll want to come ready with cash if the spa is your destination. Clearly they can’t offer free services, but I was hoping the prices wouldn’t be typical of Disney (alas: they were). Surprisingly, though, the restaurants (there were two) were pretty affordable. There didn’t seem to be TOO much Disney markup on the meals. And the food was mostly pretty in quality, too.
The pool was a big draw, fortunately it’s a big pool (and not very deep)
They even have a completely free offering, in the form of the campfire sing-a-long and s’mores. We didn’t stay for the s’mores—we opted to go right next door to the resort to the well-reviewed pizza place. That was a worthwhile trip too! But it wasn’t until that night (and the next morning, and all the next week) that we realized the full legacy of our trip to the campfire: bites. Specifically, sand fleas (also called no-see-ums). I got easily more than forty. My wife got 96. The bug spray we were wearing must have been geared to mosquitoes instead, since it didn’t work. In hindsight, I should have been wearing pants and socks and shoes, despite the searing heat in summer. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
In sum, DVB did indeed offer enough to do. In fact, it was kind of pleasant NOT to have the parks around as a distraction. By the end, I was drawing comparisons to a place near San Diego we visited in my childhood. Then called Vacation Village (now Paradise Point), the prices were apparently high enough that the resort could offer amenities—the point to the vacation was not to use the resort as a home base for other adventures, but to BE the adventure itself.
This week’s presentation brings you even more photos of Disney’s Vero Beach resort. We’ll be back with more updates from around Walt Disney World parks next time. There’s sure to be progress in Fantasyland!
As a reminder, look below the video for a bullet-point list of what’s talked about. For those of you about to watch the video, don’t peek at the bullet points! They would be “spoilers”.
Outside of Vero Beach resort looks like Wilderness Lodge
Towel animals await you on the hotel beds
The Green Cabin Room bar has live music
Like all WDW bar menus, there are sketches of attractions
Shutters restaurant is seafood inspired – look for a “Disney Vacation Club” sandwich!
A mouse hand points to the elevator’s current floor
Trashcans are themed to the resort!
Personalized paver bricks, like at the Magic Kingdom, here have turtles on them
The campfire and s’mores are free
Watch out for turtle nests, some of which are marked by signs with Crush on them
The pool zone has a big slide, a water playground, a dry playground set, and a 9-hole mini golf course (with minimal theming)
Other tidbits include an arcade, a sauna, a weight room, and an activity room for youth babysitting
Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.
Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:
The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.
In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.
Also recently issued...
Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:
As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.
The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.
The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.
Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.
Also written by Kevin...
Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children's book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the
first authentic glimpse of what it's like to work at Disneyland.
The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their
menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo
Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free
for non-speakers of Japanese.
Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland
park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller
story on this place rich with details.
101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented
book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book,
namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides
101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World
follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages
in the four Disney World parks.
More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.