The theming of Old Key West is right up our street – exactly what we want from a holiday. The official line on its theming is that is it is based on the “Conch Republic” but as that means nothing to me, and I’m guessing to most Brits, I’ll describe it a little more. The reason we liked it is that it is totally laid back and for me this was the biggest “theme”. The chilled but friendly atmosphere, combined with its beach and pool made it feel like a sea-side town – in a good way.
We don’t use a car in Orlando so for us, the bus service to the Disney parks is a really important factor in the enjoyment of our holiday. And except for a few exceptions it was excellent.
1. Peninsular Road
2. South Point
3. Old Turtle Pond
4. Miller’s Road
5. Hospitality House
The time to get around all the bus stops was almost always 10 minutes. If there was one or more wheelchair passengers this could add a little to the time. Worst case scenario and you’ve just missed your bus, this means 30 minutes while you wait and get around the resort before you leave for the park. I can’t compare this to any of the other villa resorts, but I would say we had a similar experience at the larger moderates – Port Orleans Riverside and Coronado Springs.
Getting to Hospitality House is easy – a bus for at least one of the parks comes every 5 minutes or so and as the last stop is Hospitality House, you can hop off here. However we generally visited this area after we returned from the parks and found that even easier – we simply hopped off at Peninsular Road and crossed the road back to Hospitality House – it is a minutes walk. Getting back to our building was also easy – we went back to this bus stop and carried on round to our stop.
We also found the buses to be extremely regular – we only occasionally had to wait more than 10 minutes. During our two weeks we only had two bus problems. We once had to wait half an hour for a bus to Epcot, prior to the extra magic hours, when we were eager to get there and 4 buses for Hollywood Studios came by in the time we were waiting, despite the park not yet being open. Very annoying. Our only other bad experience was when we waited 45 minutes for a bus to return to the resort from Magic Kingdom. 25 minutes in, a bus came and dropped off at a different stop, with OKW on its sign, but left again without coming to us. This happened again 20 minutes later and this time we managed to stop the driver and ask and he said he was going back to the resort and took us from this other stop, but he didn’t stop at the right stop either. I’m not sure what was happening here and while it was extremely annoying at the time, it was definitely the exception to what was usually an excellent service.
Oh and if you’re trying to get to Hollywood Studios from Old Key West, you’ll have no problem – I swear every other bus you see goes there!
Most reviews of Old Key West state that it is a very large sprawling resort. We were concerned that if we weren’t exceptionally lucky in our room allocation, that we’d be too far from Hospitality House. Hospitality House is the main area which features its checking in area, the shop and Olivia’s Cafe and leads out to the recreational area, where you can find the pool, Goods to Go quick-service bar, a gym and the Conch Flat Community Hall, among other things. However I don’t think we did ‘get lucky’ and yet still neither of these things caused an issue.
One of the options when booking Old Key West as a DVC resort, is ‘near Hospitality House’ – a sort of ‘preferred location’ request that you can book but don’t have to pay additionally for. Therefore as that option is not available to us, we were fairly certain we wouldn’t be placed anywhere near it. It turned out that we weren’t – we were placed at South Point – geographically the furthest region from it. And we loved it! If we wanted to get to Hospitality House we had two options – a five minute walk (probably 10 from the very furthest point) or hop on any of the buses (except Downtown Disney). In previous trips we bought the refillable mug which meant we went to ‘base’ every day. We didn’t bother this time round (and didn’t miss it) and found we only stopped off a handful of times and we didn’t use the main pool at all. If you’ve got kids and plan to be at the pool more often, you might find the time to get to it a little long – but I do think it is comparable to the distance from the further spots to the main pool at most of the moderate resorts.
We stayed in a newly renovated studio room at Old Key West. My initial impressions were very favourable, although I did develop a few reservations over the time. We were originally deciding between this and Port Orleans and we definitely made the right decision, especially in terms of the room.
The studio room comes with two queen sized beds, separated by a bed-side table, a flat screen TV on top of a dresser and a table with two chairs. The kitchenette featured a coffee maker, fridge, sink, toaster and microwave and came with 4 mugs, 4 glasses, paper plates, bowls and plastic cutlery. It also had a small bottle of washing up liquid, tea towel, paper towels and a can opener. Opposite was a wardrobe, which had coat hangers, the safe, vacuum cleaner, cot and ironing board and iron. The bathroom has a shower set above the bath and one sink, set in a large cupboard giving lots of space for storage.
In general we loved our room. There was lots of space – the main room was very spacious – more than enough for just us two and the extra floor space means that it would house extra people more comfortably than a standard room too. It was also lovely having a balcony, although we didn’t actually find the time to use it. If you took more advantage of the kitchenette, e.g. for breakfast I could see that it would be a nice spot to sit out at.
However, over the time I also found a few issues with it too. The main one was that I don’t think they really did that good a job of the refurbishment. In general its lovely – we liked the blue colours and the flat screen TV. But the bigger things didn’t seem to have been improved. The air conditioning was so noisy we left it off at night and just had the ceiling fan on. The bed-side table that was between the two beds had one small drawer and a door for the main section but we couldn’t keep anything in it as the door wouldn’t close. But our biggest issue was with the bathroom floor. It was really horribly sticky. At first we assumed it hadn’t been cleaned properly and requested that it was but it made no difference. You could see the wear on the tiles and it was where it was worn that it was sticky. If I hadn’t liked our room location so much (and couldn’t be bothered to re-pack everything) I’d have asked to change rooms. Instead we solved the problem by keeping towels on the floor at all times. Which isn’t what you want from a room you’re paying quite a lot for.
But the towels also raised an issue with housekeeping. As we were there as paying guests, rather than using DVC points, we got daily ‘mousekeeping’. There is a sign in the bathroom explaining that to save energy, your towels aren’t automatically replaced every day, however if you would like clean towels, to leave them on the floor. Given our floor issue we generally left all our towels in a pile so they would be replaced every day – we didn’t want to run the risk of using the towels that had been used for the floor. Half way through the second week though we noticed that one of our ‘clean’ towels had marks on it – makeup that I’d spilled on it the evening before. Which means for that day at least, the towels hadn’t been replaced but simply re-hung. We have no idea how many times that happened, but at least once we were using towels that had been used on the sticky floor. Ick ick ick! There was also a lot of information about what to expect from housekeeping if you were staying on DVC points, but it didn’t mention at all what the deal was with paying guests – if this was my first trip, I would definitely have been confused. Oh and on a side point, apart from the Mickey on the bed our first day, we didn’t get any towel animals – I know they’re only a ‘bonus’ but once in the two weeks would have been nice.
Some studio rooms at other resorts feature a bed and a sleeper sofa. For us, that would have been better as we only needed the one bed – but that’s not an issue, just a preference. There were also some other factors in the room that I found less preferable to other rooms. For instance the wardrobe is quite small and is pretty much full – with the vacuum, folded crib, ironing board etc. There isn’t really enough floor space so you have to squish your shoes in. As the floor is full of stuff there is not much long hanging space so dresses got scrunched up. And using the safe is a little awkward as you need to move your clothing all the time. Larger wardrobes usually have enough space to make all this easier. The other thing I found to be inconvenient was the lack of dressing table. In the moderate resorts we’ve stayed at not only are the sink and mirror separate from the bathroom, they also have a separate dresser. With this missing, when my hubby was in the shower and steaming up the mirror in there, I had to use the mirror over the sink in the kitchenette, make-up and hair stuff balanced around the sink. Not a big thing but if there was more than just the two of us, this would definitely make getting ready slower.
Check-in and Concierge
We also found the check-in and concierge service a little disappointing this time round. We checked in without any problems but apart from the printed information, the cast member told us absolutely nothing about the resort, despite asking if we’d stayed here before (which we hadn’t). She asked us if we were walking to our room (which we always do if we can so we can see a bit of the resort) and then showed us where our room was on the map and sent us off but failed to mention that it was actually quite a long way to go with our cases and her directions were so poor we were wandering around for about 10 minutes before we gave up, found bell services and asked them for a lift.
We also used the concierge service several times during our trip to change dining reservations. This was generally fine but one woman was down right rude when she realised we wanted a second reservation as she had to re-enter our details again – apparently we should have said so, but then she didn’t ask. She also gave us some wrong information – that Sanaa used to be a 2-credit table service meal and said that they must have downgraded it because people complained! I assumed she was mixing it up with Jiko and just let it go, but what a thing to tell people!
Despite having a few complaints, I do think we were simply unlucky in getting the nasty floor and the rude concierge. If I were to do it again, I think I probably would ask to change rooms. But would I stay here again? Yes. I liked the theming, I thought the bus service was efficient and I loved the extra space in the room and the ‘flat’ feel to it, making it seem much more private than a hotel. I didn’t love it enough to think I’ll never stay anywhere else – in all likelihood we’ll probably try somewhere else next time, but I certainly wouldn’t think twice about staying at Old Key West again.