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Zamgwar's 2Cnts on Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
by Zamgwar, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the
September 13, 2005, Issue #312 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
While it may come as a shock to many faithful ALL EARS(R) Readers, "She Who Must Be Obeyed" and I do enjoy a number of other vacations that do not involve in any way (other than in our hearts) a mouse in bright red pants. On top of the list is an every-other-year cruise with a large group of old friends (feel free to e-mail me for links to reviews of the "Grand Princess" and "Explorer of the Seas"). On our first cruise, we were very happy to have a porthole to peek from and enjoy the sea. On our next seafaring adventure we moved up to large windows, and could never go back to a porthole. Our third outing found us upgraded to a balcony cabin. Had we never stayed in a balcony cabin, we never would have wanted a balcony cabin. Having had one, the coin jar for our February 2006 cruise vacation aboard Celebrity's Millennium must be that much larger, because we now can't sail without one.
In many ways the same could apply toward the Disney Vacation Club's newest resort, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.
As with all the Disney properties, Saratoga Springs is (or will be when completed) a spectacularly beautiful resort. It is perfectly located for a family resort, with easy access to Downtown Disney shopping by foot or by boat. It is also just a nine-minute drive (without traffic) to the Crossroads Shopping Center off-property. There you'll find a supermarket, a variety of inexpensive restaurants, a pharmacy, and a liquor store, making stocking or restocking your villa very easy. Those who golf will find themselves just steps away from a terrific course. Midnight fireworks from Pleasure Island's nightly New Year's celebration are directly opposite the resort, and are a great way to cap off each night.
Wonderful Victorian architecture adorns the buildings around the property, and as with all the great hotels on-site, it is peppered everywhere with theme motifs. The resort is centered around what will be a large lake, with just acres and acres of rolling green grass and trees in what appears will ultimately be an idyllic park-like setting. The property is dotted with wonderful small fountains (there were four in the immediate area of my building in Congress Park), planters, arbors and statues all adding to the ambiance.
All the action in the resort is set around the main pool area "High Rocks Springs" and the check-in point, The Carriage House. The central setting has a village feel to it similar to its neighbor, Old Key West Resort, with a variety of building styles being mimicked, including a church. I was not at all put off by the limited choices offered at the local "market," Artist's Palette, nor that it did not have table service. The breakfast choices were perfectly fine, freshly made, and the Cast Members were great. There were tables to sit at and enjoy the light, colorful atmosphere of the room while I sipped my coffee and pondered my route back.
The resort's lounge, the Turf Club, is another nicely decorated room, with a great pool table. For me, however, it lacked the cozy warm ambiance of most other resort lounges. It's very bright -- perhaps a tad too bright -- and actually seems to work better as a room in the day than as a lounge a night. The quiet pool behind Congress Park was extremely quiet, and at midnight was almost private and a great place to enjoy Pleasure Island's fireworks from. I did, however, get a tad disoriented when leaving the pool (it could have been a cocktail-related thing), and returned home to the wrong building. In fact, for a very short while, I was hopelessly lost and had to make my way to the front of the buildings to find mine.
There are several nearly identical arbors around the pool; make sure you note which one you entered through.
For most, Saratoga Springs is another delightful resort destination added to the list of on-site themed hotels.
While I could go on in great detail, that has already been done admirably by the marvelous Deb Koma (in ALL EARS® issue #247, June 15, 2004 -- http://allears.net/acc/faq_ss1.htm). Rather than be repetitive, I will do what I do best, which is just give My2Cents on my four-day adventure at the resort.
As with my cruise cabin experience, had I never stayed anywhere else other than the Caribbean Beach Resort, I would have loved this place. Saratoga Springs in fact, does have the feel of sort of an upscale moderate resort. It is a vast complex. I realized how vast it was at check-in.
When I inquired how to get to my room, I was asked, "Do you have a car?"
When I was new to the Mouse, walking a ways for my morning bacon fix was a joy. At large moderate resorts like the Caribbean Beach or Port Orleans (Riverside), the walk to the main pool or food area was always an adventure, along winding, tree-covered pathways, or around a beautiful lake. My walk from the Congress Park buildings (which are relatively close to the main building) was via a path that parallels Broadway, the main bus and car route. Pretty as the village motif is, skirting the bus route is not what I usually have in mind for my morning breakfast walk. I'm sure the same area could be reached by walking out of the back of my building, and along the waterfront view of Downtown Disney. This would, I'm sure, have made for a much more magical walk. My room, however, was directly in the front of the building, on the first floor, and it was the shortest route. When the resort is completed, those in the farthest buildings will need to pack water, a map, a compass and survival gear to reach bacon for breakfast.
If they've had a few martinis at the Turf Club at night and attempt to walk home, their pictures will surely show up on a milk carton.
That's the rub about Saratoga Springs -- for me, anyway. It's just too danged big, and I have become just too danged spoiled. While the resort is indeed a home away from home, in my mind at least, it was not my home, but somebody else's home. Maybe it's your home, and if it is, I am grateful for you letting me use it. I left it in good shape and had a great time as always. Thanks.
As I age, I find there is some comfort in familiarity when it comes to my annual resort stay in Mousedom. Seeing Cast Members that I have seen for years and years is, in a way, a comfort akin to what it must have been like for families in the '50s and '60s who went off annually to the same resort hotels in places like the Pocono Mountains, or the Catskills. Not that my family ever did that (a day at Jones Beach on Long Island was as close as we got to a family vacation), but I've seen documentaries on the many families who used to pack off to these post-war vacation meccas.
My Disney home either has Hazel or Hannane at the front desk and Beaches & Cream vanilla malts just a short stroll away, or has a cozy bar called the Belle Vue Room, with a Boardwalk full of activities right in front of it. The last four days of our vacation were spent back at our beloved Beach Club, with a warm hug from Hazel welcoming me back, and a fine salute from Art saying, "Zamgwar, good to see you. How has your year been?" As my wife put our things in the drawers of our room, she said, "Now this feels like home." She IS "She Who Must Be Obeyed," so I had to agree with her.
I'm sure guests will develop favorite Cast Members at Saratoga Springs over time, as well as enjoy wonderful vacation memories there. For now, though, we are happy with our own personal favorite hotels, and would be hard-pressed to find something better, because they suit us perfectly. Your favorite hotel may be Coronado Springs, the Wilderness Lodge, or the All-Star Music Resort. It may even be Saratoga Springs. To me that is one of the wonderful things about Disney World.
There always seems to be something, which will eventually suit almost everyone, perfectly.
That's My2Cnts. What's yours?
Office of Location, Location, Location
The Zamgwar Institute
Read Zamgwar's other ALL EARS® features here: http://allears.net/btp/zamgwar.htm
Saratoga Springs Spa and Resort Fact Sheet: http://allears.net/acc/faq_ss.htm
Saratoga Springs Spa and Resort Photo Gallery: http://allears.net/acc/g_ss.htm
Saratoga Springs Spa and Resort Slideshow: http://allears.net/acc/ssrss.htm