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Old 08-11-2012, 08:16 PM   #1
gatordoc
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Jacksonville, FL
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First...and probably last...VB trip

Just back from a week at VB. I suppose I can see why it works for some, and I don't want to bash it for being what it is, but it mostly didn't work for us.
My wife and I booked the trip early this year as an easy get-away for our anniversary. We wanted something relaxing that would only be a few hours drive away, and having some extra DVC points on hand, VB seemed to fit the bill.
I'll try to go through the different aspects of the trip as far as what worked and what didn't.
The room - we were limited because the only category available when we booked was a garden view inn room. And honestly, I would have been fine with that, but what we ended up with was a second floor room overlooking the pool (not a garden). No other rooms were available, so we were stuck with all the noise, including piercingly-loud music, cast members leading games with microphones, etc. Not relaxing at all. The appointments of the room were problematic, too. I really missed having a couch or even comfortable chair to sit on. I suppose I shouldn't complain because I knew what I was getting into booking an inn room (would have booked a studio, but none were available), but not having a comfortable place to sit and read (if you could even do so over the noise) was annoying. We ended up spending a few hours each day in the lobby on the very comfortable couches so that we could do some reading. That also was necessary because the wifi in the room was unusable - neither my wife's iPad nor my MacBook could ever connect to it. The lobby was only slightly better - slow, but at least we could connect. The TV in the room was tiny, which made watching the DVDs we borrowed a challenge. The kitchen area and bathroom were fine, though, and the beds were comfortable for sleeping (though unfortunately not for reading).
The pool - again, this is likely just our experience, but it's overrun with kids, and has lots of great activities for them. But if you're adults who'd like to sit by the pool and read, it's not going to happen. We did enjoy the miniature golf course one day when we went right at opening before it got overcrowded.
The fitness center - a disaster. Two of the three treadmills were out for the whole week, despite my receiving a number of reassurances that they would be fixed "soon". The fact that they had apologetic signs on them wishing me a magical day did not make up for having to wait up to 30 minutes to use the one that was working on more than one occasion. And why have a sign stating that children under 11 are not allowed in if you're not going to enforce it? In fact, the lack of a staff member is a real problem, because no one notices that the wipes have all run out, etc.
The beach - very nice. I love east Florida beaches. The sand is what you would expect, there's plenty of space to spread out, and the waves were great. Bringing our own beach chairs and umbrellas allowed us to set up camp wherever we liked, and it was only a short walk to go refill the mugs from time to time. My only complaint is that we like to take walks on the beach in the morning, but they don't unlock the gate until 8AM. We could have easily jumped the little fence, but didn't want to cause any trouble. It didn't seen to have anything to do with the turtles, because there was plenty of daylight by 6:30-7AM, and besides, there were plenty of people from adjacent locations enjoying a nice morning walk.
Speaking of turtles - it was VERY disappointing that the turtle walks end in July. It's not as if the season is over - we spoke to one of the biologists who assured us that laying and hatching are still in full swing. He had no good reason why the walks weren't still going on - I can only assume Disney is trying to save money.
The Spa - hmm, how to put this? The worst massage I've ever had. I'm not sure what the person doing it was trying to achieve, and I told her several times that she was using too much pressure. But I ended up with a sore back for the next couple of days, and my wife nearly had a stroke when she saw how bruised my back was the next day. Plus it's really not much of a spa - no changing rooms or showers or anything like that. As best as I could tell, just a few treatment rooms.
Food - let's start with the good. We loved the Green Cabin Room. Great to sit on the deck for lunch and a drink after a morning at the beach. Appetizer-type food seems to be what they do best at the resort. Breakfast at Shutters was acceptable, but nothing special (can't they get a better brand of bacon or sausage?) and dinner there was mediocre at best. Dinner at Sonya's wasn't much better. They certainly try hard, but it's still not really fine dining. Having the TiW card helped ease the sting, but our best meals were still off property. Highly recommend the Citrus Grillhouse. Highly. Don't miss it. The Lobster Shanty was pretty good (though a real 70s time warp), and the pizza from Orchard Island was acceptable (certainly a step up from the chains).
The cast - excellent! Uniformly friendly, tried to help whenever they could. We weren't making a big deal of it being our anniversary, but once one waiter found out during some casual conversation, he insisted on having another cast member come up, make us buttons, take our picture, get us a free dessert, etc.
So overall we got some rest, enjoyed the beach, and were able to catch up on a little reading, albeit in the lobby. Perhaps we would have enjoyed it more if we'd had a studio, but we liked being in the main building close to more of the services. Again, I'm sure it's the sort of vacation that works for many (at least I hope it does) but it just wasn't for us.
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Old 08-13-2012, 11:28 AM   #2
bwvBound
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gatordoc,

Wow -- sorry to read of such a disappointing stay.

Room Location and noise: If it helps to know, even after the fact, we find the Villa units in the side buildings to be very peaceful and relaxing. We *loved* spending time on our patio this past June. Even though we were on the 1st floor, we enjoyed sufficient privacy thanks to the surrounding landscaping. I'm sure I'd go nuts in a room facing the pool -- please do try again sometime when you can book a Villa vs Inn unit?

Turtle Walks: We were advised by the good folks at the Sebastian Inlet on how and where to conduct our own turtle walks. Their tips were excellent and on our final night we were thrilled to witness the a turtle leaving the ocean, digging her nest and later returning to the sea.

Gates in morning hours: Hmm, interesting to learn they don't unlock the gate until 8AM. I wonder if that is a recent change? We took walks every morning at about 6A to watch for turtle tracks and never had to jump any gates or fences. We typically used the gate on the north end of the property (just beyond the north-most Beach House).

Again, sorry to hear this trip had such memorable flaws. I'm hoping you two can brainstorm on a few of the bright points and allow selective memory to do its magic work! (Remember the good stories ... laugh at the bumpy points when you can.)

Last edited by bwvBound; 08-13-2012 at 11:29 AM. Reason: fixing typos ...
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Old 08-13-2012, 06:52 PM   #3
Murron
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bwvBound View Post
gatordoc,

Wow -- sorry to read of such a disappointing stay.

Room Location and noise: If it helps to know, even after the fact, we find the Villa units in the side buildings to be very peaceful and relaxing. We *loved* spending time on our patio this past June. Even though we were on the 1st floor, we enjoyed sufficient privacy thanks to the surrounding landscaping. I'm sure I'd go nuts in a room facing the pool -- please do try again sometime when you can book a Villa vs Inn unit?

Turtle Walks: We were advised by the good folks at the Sebastian Inlet on how and where to conduct our own turtle walks. Their tips were excellent and on our final night we were thrilled to witness the a turtle leaving the ocean, digging her nest and later returning to the sea.

Gates in morning hours: Hmm, interesting to learn they don't unlock the gate until 8AM. I wonder if that is a recent change? We took walks every morning at about 6A to watch for turtle tracks and never had to jump any gates or fences. We typically used the gate on the north end of the property (just beyond the north-most Beach House).

Again, sorry to hear this trip had such memorable flaws. I'm hoping you two can brainstorm on a few of the bright points and allow selective memory to do its magic work! (Remember the good stories ... laugh at the bumpy points when you can.)
This is my experience as well. If you get a Villa unit, it is indeed very relaxing. I've done the Inn twice before, and probably will not reserve there again. Also, we usually go in September, which is a much quieter kid free time. We were also on the beach for sunrise with our coffee which is well before 8 a.m. so I'm also wondering if this is a new rule? If I recall, the room key opened the gates.

That being said, the wi fi was awful. I had to check in with my work each morning and found a spot in the corner of the lobby were I could easily connect. Frustrating!
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Old 08-13-2012, 07:07 PM   #4
leighnsean
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Not our favorite either. One or two days at the most
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Old 08-14-2012, 04:27 AM   #5
gatordoc
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During the day the beach gates opened with our room key. But when we went out one morning at about 7AM they were padlocked. The sign said beach hours from 8AM (and it looked like a permanent rather than a temporary sign). I don't know if this is a change as it was our first visit. As I said, we easily could have jumped the little fence, but again, didn't want to cause any trouble.
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