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Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
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OTHER LOCATIONSAulani - Disney's Resort and Spa
w/DVC Villas - Hawaii
Disney's Vero Beach Resort
Reeds, July 2005
We just returned from a 3 night stay at Disney's Vero Beach Resort. WOW! The place was excellent. It was a nice change of pace after 7 days at the WDW. For 2 days we had a room in the main building overlooking the pool, but still had some ocean view. The third day was in a cottage room. Both rooms were excellent. I would recommend this resort for anyone coming to FL to visit WDW. They have activities all day that guests can attend. Most are for children and teens. The pool and slide are top notch. It feels like you are on property just a monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom, but have a prime beach outside your window. The staff really understands the Disney idea of customer service and satisfaction. It will be a must visit next summer while planning our next WDW trip.
by Joe Lupia
Located roughly two hours from the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, but feeling like a world away, Disney's Vero Beach Resort has proven popular with both DVC members and nonmembers alike. We stayed at the resort from July 28-August 2 and I would like to take the time to tell you about the resort.
The architecture of Disney's Vero Beach Resort is really well done. It gives that Victorian seaside resort feel, different from the Grand Floridian style, it's very unique and it's just beautiful, especially with the color scheme. You can definitely tell it's a Disney resort. Stepping into the lobby, which at once feels both grand and welcoming, you feel at home instantly.
We stayed in the Inn, which is the main building you see in pictures. The resort's main Inn is flanked by 4 Villa buildings, which are made up of studios, and one and two bedroom villas, and then you have the individual Beach Cottages, which there are 6 of.
We had two Inn Garden rooms on the fourth floor, rooms 2401 and 2402 (by the way, if you get a picture of the resort from the front, one of the rooms we had is the one right smack in the middle with the huge balcony, so it's easy for me to show you where we were lol). We never were able to request an ocean view when we booked because they were already requested. So we got a lovely view of A1A (my room's view was better though because it was a side balcony looking towards the villas and you never saw the road at all) But view aside, it really wasn't even a bad view either, the rooms were really nice.
The furnishings all have that Disney touch, meaning they made it look worn for that special antiquated feel. The Inn rooms are spacious enough, with the standard stuff, but you also get a wet bar. This makes the Inn rooms and the studios practically the same except for floor layout and the fact that inn rooms have two beds instead of one pull out and a queen. The wet bar had a microwave and a toaster and a mini refrigerator which is pretty big, we were able to fit quite a lot of stuff in it.
The Cast Members at Vero Beach were really great. Definitely as courteous and friendly as the CMs at WDW. There was one CM who seemed to be a little harried that day and didn't seem to have a clue about what was going on. All the other CMS were extremely friendly and helpful. My favorite CM was a guy at Bleachers. He always struck up a nice conversation and cracked jokes and stuff, he was really great. And when my brother dropped his frozen yogurt one day and we went back to get another one, he gave him one for free. Just nice things like that is what makes me believe still in Disney's CMs.
The front desk is very attentive as well. We made a request for a larger room if possible when we got there, and they kept right on it, informing us every day on the status of it. Of course, one Two Bedroom Villa opened up Thursday but by then it didn't pay to pay the move fee and be without a room until 4 PM for just one more night, so we never bothered, but it was really nice how they kept on it.
They also are happy to help recommending places to visit and to shop at and give directions. The resort is not exactly in Vero Beach proper, it's on the barrier island which has the best beaches and is more residential so you have to drive a ways inland to get to stores. I couldn't imagine living there, it's great for a vacation but everything's way too spaced out for me.
The dining options at the resort consist of Shutters and Sonya's restaurants; The Green Cabin Room which is a lounge; in-room dining; and Bleacher's Bar and Grill, a poolside eatery which serves affordable lunch and snack food like burgers, chicken strips, salads, etc. (Click here for menus.)
We ate at Shutters on Sunday night. It was crowded when we got there but we got a seat in about 5 minutes. The dinner was really good. I had this chicken in grapefruit glaze with smashed potatoes and grilled carrots. It was really a gigantic portion and I couldn't manage to eat it all. Others in my family got a pizza, a steak, and some shrimp and linguini I believe. My father also got a Caesar salad for an appetizer, which was so gigantic that he shared with everyone. They also give you rolls and those cute Mickey Mouse butter pats. lol The food was really very good and well prepared. The prices were kind of high though, and we couldn't see first of all being able to stand those huge portions every night, and also it would be way too expensive to eat there every night. So that was our only night eating at Shutters. We never ate at Sonyas. (I would say using Disney's dining pricing scale they have at WDW with those dollar signs, Shutters is a $$ and Sonyas is a $$$) We improvised the other nights because we never were too hungry. Two nights we got light fare from Green Cabin Room, which we took up to the room and ate. We got the Chicken Caesar Salad, 3 orders of Buffalo wings (they're boneless, like Chili's, and are REALLY good lol) and an order of Mozzarella sticks, but those were for those who didn't eat the chicken. It was cheap enough to do it too, only about $25 and we were full too. There are dining options outside the resort as well of course, however we had to go a little farther than we thought we would, but it's not too bad. But if you're used to being at WDW and having so many dining options within your reach, you may be a little disappointed, but it's nothing that takes away from the resort at all.
For breakfast, we ate in the room every day except Wednesday. We got bagels from downstairs and toasted them or had cereal. You have cupboards so you can store the stuff in them. lol They also give you a coffee maker, two mugs per room, a basket of tea, coffee, creamer, sugar, and Sweet and Low. You can buy a number of frozen foods, soda, and other things downstairs in the Island Grove Packing Co. For people who have been to other DVC resorts they carry the same goods as those at OKW, Boardwalk, and Beach Club Villas. Some prices were right on, other things were downright expensive, such as soda and other non-necessities. So for those things you're better off going to the Eckerd right down the road or shopping at a food store in the area.
Wednesday morning we decided to do the character breakfast. I was happy to find they added Wednesday because we wouldn't be there for the usual Saturday (they seem to add the extra day during the summer, they did it last year too) You definitely need Priority Seating for this one. We had to go to the 8 AM breakfast since all the other times were taken up (sure everyone laughs at me for planning ahead but if they would have listened we could have went at 9 lol) It was really cute. My brother loved it, and we all loved it as well. It was a Goofy and Max breakfast. I never before had a character meal with Goofy so it was a great experience. I think it was well worth the money. It was a little costly of course, as are all character dining events. They had a set menu, where they delivered a plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast (kids got Mickey Waffle instead of the French toast) and potatoes. You get drinks of course and you also get a basket of muffins, danish, cinnamon rolls, and country biscuits, which you can request more of. You could ask for more of anything, so since I didn't like the eggs (none of us ever seem to like restaurant scrambled eggs, they're always too runny for our tastes) and I don't like bacon, I got more French toast (that is some good French toast might I add) The characters were great, they really interacted with the people, and they give the kids a sheet where you have the characters write messages. It was really cute. Like I said, a little expensive, running $12.99 an adult and $9 a child I believe but well worth it, and considering that's what you would pay at WDW we didn't mind.
For lunch every day we ate from Bleachers. They had a good variety of food there, ranging from burgers to fruit plates. I had chicken tenders twice, a burger once, and a grilled chicken sandwich once. It was really good, and you got enough food for your money. They also sold mixed drinks, ice cream and frozen yogurt. This is also where you buy and refill your refillable mugs. They're $10 a mug, and they really pay off because an individual drink is $2. So ours paid off in one day. lol They're seasonal here at Vero, so our mugs said "Summer 2002" and had Lilo and Stitch surfing on them. You also can use the mugs at the other restaurants, which I didn't know until we got there, which adds on to the value. They refill them at Shutters, Sonya's and the Green Cabin room, and they also have a little drink cart doing double duty at the pool to ease the crowd at Bleachers. lol Oh, and the food prices at Bleachers is really decent, it would be a $ on the price scale, as would the stuff at Green Cabin.
Now for the activities. I'll start with the beach. I had read mixed things about the beach at the resort. Some loved it, some really liked the beaches on the Gulf coast better. I didn't know what to expect, but when we walked along the boardwalk and saw the ocean the first time I was very happy. The water was turquoise and crystal clean, the beach was great too. The sand is not powdery soft, it's more rough and is broken down shells and stuff, which is the natural environment there. Vero Beach is on a barrier island, and the beach is supposed to be dunes. I say supposed to be, because Disney preserved these dunes, but down a ways to the north you had some older homes which put up sea walls. The more prominent developments to the south though kept these dunes like Disney, which really adds to the charm of the area. It's really beautiful to look at the resort from the ocean. They rent out chairs and umbrellas, boogie boards, jet skis, kayaks, etc. Members get a discount of about $5 per rental, which really adds up.
The pool is really great too. It has a Mickey shape, though not a true Mickey shape, if you've ever seen it. The water slide there is awesome, it's really long and you go sliding back and forth, I almost felt like I was going to fly off! The pool was a big draw as well as the beach. It was warm too. Disney always keeps their pools at 82, of course with the heat the water got much warmer. One day it was a little too warm, so I didn't stay in long, but the other day I really went in, which was Thursday, it was really nice.
In the pool area (which along with other things at the resort) is key accessed. Disney is really protective here, mainly because it would be very easy for people to come from the public beach a little ways down and sneak into the pool, and they definitely don't want that. In the immediate area you have the pool of course, Bleachers, a miniature golf course (really fun too) Community Hall, which consists of Anchors A-Weigh fitness center (I went in here, it has awesome equipment, it probably cost a lot to fill the place) a sauna, an arcade, and a massage room. You also have at Community Hall Eb and Flo's Rentals (get it? lol) Here you rent bikes, golf clubs, board games, tennis rackets, balls, etc. Some things like balls and games are free (members get the rackets free as well) others you have to pay a small fee for, but it's really affordable and same as at the other Disney resorts. Oh, I almost forgot to add they have this cute Peter Pan themed little kid area with a ship and playground for kids up to 5. Oh and in Community Hall they also have bathrooms, but I didn't think you'd be so excited about that, but it's good to know they're there.
We played mini-golf 3 times and it was really fun. We also rented bikes twice, once on Tuesday the other on Thursday morning. You can ride your bike in the area Disney owns across the street and along A1A on the bike path. You can rent the bikes by the hour or for a whole day. It was really relaxing and a lot of fun. We also played tennis, and it was fun but I stink at it!
Speaking of the land Disney owns across the street, on it you'll find a basketball court, two tennis courts, a lake and lakeside pavilion, soccer field, volleyball, and picnic tables with grills if you want. There also is set way aside to the north of it a CM area where they must go in the morning and they also stock stuff there for the resort, like soda, food, etc. What was cool about this is, because it's across the resort and you obviously need a way to get across A1A, Disney built a tunnel breezeway, which you just walk down across and come out the other side. Really cool. They made it Peter Pan themed, and you have this one song from Peter Pan playing, something like "You can't make friends with a crocodile" lol That's the only lyric I remember. They have the characters painted on the wall and they also have painted on the ground these green croc footprints. It was a cute touch. It was really fun to go speeding down on your bike in that tunnel.
They have a gift shop called the Island Grove Packing Co. at the resort. They sell DVC and Vero Beach merchandise as well as WDW stuff suitable for Vero Beach, like Pirates of the Caribbean themed things and things from it looks like Typhoon Lagoon. They also sell Disney candy (who makes their chocolate? It's really good!) and sundries like film, sunscreen, and they also sell food as well, like milk, eggs, bread, etc. The necessities like milk and eggs are right on par with the pricing you'd get at a Walgreens. The soda and ice cream is very expensive though, as is the film among things. Surprisingly the sunscreen there was just as expensive as at the Eckerd up the road. At first we thought they were out of their mind but when we went to shop around we found it was MORE expensive. lol Go figure, so we wound up getting it there. lol They had some good stuff in the gift shop, I got some cool things there. Oh, they also have video rentals. Every room at the resort has a VCR! . Members get free rentals, nonmembers pay $3 per rental. We rented movies every night. It was a nice way to end the day. You can rent up to two per room at one time.
I would have to say the atmosphere at Disney's Vero Beach Resort made it really feel like you were at Disney even though you are about an hour and a half away. Even though there are hardly any characters around you know it's Disney from that special feeling and the wonderful service you get. They sell Disney tickets there for those guests that want to head into WDW for a day, or are going there on another leg of the trip and want tickets, which is really convenient, as well as park maps for those that want to plan their trip to the parks out.
The resort was completely full while we were there. They design it so you don't really feel it though, but heading into the parking garage (yes, they have parking garages under each building, which is again key protected, and you park under each building, like we parked under the inn and Villa guests park under each villa building. I didn't know they did that and it was cool how they utilized the space) Almost every space in the parking garage was filled, and there were spaces outside the building that were filled, and from the lack of room availability it obviously was at capacity.
A lot of people there were from right here in Florida, though there were people there from everywhere. Not many foreigners at all, I saw one Italian family and two British families, but that was really it. That's probably why Disney's theme park attendance and resort occupancy is down a little, they need the international tourism back, but I really can't see how Disney's tourism is hurting, I mean we even tried to get a room at WDW for the same week to get a bigger room and every resort was full! But anyway, it seemed like a lot of people incorporated it into a WDW vacation. I overheard a lot of people who were either at WDW or were going afterward. One family was at WDW, came there for 3 days, and was going back tomorrow to WDW! And at checkout yesterday about 4 families were then heading over to the Beach Club Villas.
Vero Beach is definitely a resort we would add on at, but we won't be able to because it's supposed to sell out in the next two months at the very latest. Hilton Head is also selling out by November, so I wonder what they'll be doing next? Will they stick to WDW or will they build a new off property DVC resort? The two are going to be sold out in roughly the same time span, since Vero opened a few months before Hilton Head.
Disney's Vero Beach Resort is a perfect getaway, allowing you to experience the beauty of a Florida seaside resort with all the magic of Disney. I have a feeling we'll be returning many times in the future.