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Westgate Vacation Villas
This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at the Westgate Vacation Villas in Kissimmee, Florida, near Orlando.
The resort had many pools (we believe 16 total). Some of the units are quite a distance from a pool; we were fairly close to ours. The pool area was surrounded by a fence and contained ample lounge chairs. Towels (albeit small and non-absorbent) are provided in the units. Our pool area contained a whirlpool meant to hold 8 with jets that were constantly running. There was a small pool (the bathing load was listed as 20) with steps in one end whose depth ranged from 3’ to 5’. It was not a diving pool, but numerous children and adults persisted in diving into it anyway. The pool was heated very high, which was nice in the evening but not refreshing in the daytime. We estimated the pool temperature to be generally over 90 degrees F. Sometimes the water in the pool was hotter than the whirlpool! There was also a small baby pool, neglected by most of the children. There was a small cabana that contained public restrooms as well as a water fountain. We noted another pool near ours had vending machines at the cabana area; ours did not. There was no lifeguard protection at our pool, so we would recommend parents closely supervise their children. There was one pool near the lobby that advertised adults only between 9 and 12 p.m. We visited that pool (which had a pool bar) one day; it was packed with screaming children, so we returned to our own quieter pool.
The resort boasts children’s activities. That is available at the lobby. From our unit, it was driving distance. They have a “fully equipped” weight room. We spoke to a guest who said the exercise facility was not very up-to-date or clean. They also advertise tennis courts, volleyball courts, and basketball courts. They have a convenience store off the main lobby. The selection was limited, and we opted not to shop there. There are desks in the lobby for purchasing Disney tickets and tickets to other local attractions.
Westgates Villas had limited food service. There were a couple snack bars, which we did not visit. On our last night, we ordered a 6-pack of beer and a pizza from their Pizza Hut delivery service. The beer was cold, the pizza was hot, and the delivery was prompt.
There were a couple pool bars, but we opted to avoid them, as they looked packed.
Service is an area where we feel the resort could use some major improvement. When we checked in, we had to wait in a queue similar to those found in a theme park. When it was finally our turn, the woman at the desk did not even smile or greet us in any way. She simply asked us for our confirmation and name in English that was very bad and difficult to understand. Since this was the US, we had expected to be dealing with resort personnel who at least spoke the English language, and we feel Westgates should ensure all guest-facing personnel speak decent English. (Obviously if we were outside of the US this would not be an expectation of ours.) Our non-cheerful greeter could not find our reservation at first and it took her a very long time to check us in. It seemed she had never done this before, and we started to get nervous. Finally she found the reservation, handed us two keys, and pointed us towards Guest Services, where we were told to wait. That was a little better – at least the guy spoke English. He told us to get our car and to follow his golf cart to our unit. He said he was the bellhop but did not offer to help with our luggage. He merely opened the door, showed us the bathroom and where the whirlpool was, and left. We are usually generous tippers, but we did not feel he had done anything to warrant a tip.
We explored the unit but could not locate any towels, so we called the front desk. After being transferred two times, we were told they would be delivered shortly. Eventually we located the towels – they had been stowed under the bathroom sinks, not an obvious location. We decided to let the towel order stand (they were delivered several hours later while we were out). It would have been nice if the bellhop had told us where the towels were. After we unpacked and settled in, we decided to go out to dinner. We thought it would be wise to use the guest safe to store our valuables (and we recommend that). There were no instructions on the safe. We have used safes like this before and tried several things, but nothing worked. We called Security, and no one answered (an ominous sign). We called Guest Services, stated our problem, and they transferred us to a line where no one picked up (probably Security). Exasperated, we tried a number that was posted in the unit as an extension to dial if we were having issues (we were). Someone did answer and he tried to help us. His instructions weren’t quite right. After some more time, we were able to get the safe to work. Suffice to say we weren’t exactly overwhelmed by the service.
The next day, we ventured over to the lobby (it was quite a distance, so we drove). It was a Saturday, and we were horrified by what we saw. People were waiting in lines so long to check in that we figured they would be lucky if they were in their units by dark (it was about 11 a.m. at the time). The noise level was deafening. Understandably, after long mornings spent traveling, families were frustrated at this additional wait. The lobby was simply too small to handle crowds like that. Our guess is that the resort has continued to expand, but the lobby has not expanded to sufficiently handle the influx of people. We had to fight our way through large numbers of people to get a look at the convenience store (not too convenient). We made our way over to the Disney desk and purchased tickets to Pleasure Island. We went to the other activities desk and had to deal with a woman who spoke worse English than our friendly greeter of the day before. We tried repeatedly to explain that we wanted to reserve round-trip cab service to Pleasure Island the following evening. The woman screwed it up. The following day when the cab did not arrive as scheduled (and we called them) we found out she had given the cab company a nonexistent unit number, and had simply booked one-way service (we were able to find a cab for the way home). Our advice to those staying here is to avoid the lobby and the resort employees as much as possible and make your own arrangements; you will be glad you did. Honestly, the unit was beautiful, but the low level of service is a major factor that prohibits us from labeling this resort “Best of.”
One note on the service: we did have a good experience that we should mention. We had a nagging problem with the toilet in the bathroom off of the dining area – it didn’t like to flush consistently. Finally we had to call maintenance. That was a pleasant surprise – someone showed up fairly promptly and fixed the problem, at least temporarily. The toilet acted up again a couple days later, and we again had to call maintenance. They fixed it while we were out of the unit.
There is plenty to do in the Orlando area, and you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. There are many things we could suggest, but we have decided to write up those things we decided to do during this visit. We also visited this area in October 1996 (see that write-up) and chose to do some different things at that time. Note that we visited the parks as two adults, with no children in tow. We happen to like fast-moving, scary, thrilling rides and recognize that may not be for everyone. If you get motion sickness, stick to the shows. There are height restrictions for some of the rides. If you have very small children, strollers are a must, as there is a lot of walking. Do yourself a favor and wear supportive, comfortable walking shoes (we opted for sneakers). Also remember to take your camera in a bag that you can wear or strap onto yourself. Sunglasses and hats are suggested for warm days. Remember to put on some sun protection. Note that all the amusement parks are now required to inspect all bags (even diaper bags) as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Hydrate yourself and your loved ones by drinking plenty of water, especially on warm days.
Disney/MGM Studios - Disney/MGM Studios Web Page
At this point, we took a break for lunch at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It was worth the 15-minute wait. The restaurant appeared to be a drive-in theater. Diners were seated in retro 50s cars outfitted with small counter type tables, and all faced towards a movie screen that showed clips from old sci-fi movies, interspersed with old drive-in ads. It was blessedly cool. The non-alcoholic drinks are bottomless. We were thirsty and each ordered a pink lemonade, which was cheerfully replaced without our having to ask each time we got down to the bottom (all told, we drank 6 lemonades between the two of us). Keith had an overstuffed ham sandwich and chips, and Lori had a good burger and classic crinkle-cut fries. It is not cheap, but we felt like we got what we paid for.
We knew we wanted to participate in Who Wants to be a Millionaire, so we got the Fast Pass for that. We went on the Great Movie Ride, which was somewhat hokey and tame. We did the backlot tour, which was worthwhile. We walked through the tribute, Disney: One Man’s Dream, then saw the very informative short film (it was nice and cool). We went back to Who Wants to be a Millionaire and were selected to be Fastest Fingers contestants. This is a lot of fun, and a must for anyone who has ever watched the show. The host is excellent. Alas, we did not get to the hot seat, but we had fun. We did not do the shows, which you may want to attend if you have little ones.
Pleasure Island - Pleasure Island's Web Site
Epcot - Epcot's Web Site
At this point, we headed over to the World Showcase. We made a bee-line for Germany, where we got big, cold beers and soft pretzels. We wandered through each prototype country, trying some pastry in France, some sparkling wine in Italy, some Moroccan wine and beer, among other things. We stopped into the pub of the Rose & Crown in England to have a cold beer. Pam Brody began doing her piano bar act just as we were leaving. We both bought shirts to wear for dinner, as it had been a very hot afternoon. We rode El Rio de Temple in Mexico, where guests float under a star-lit sky. It is tame, similar to the Magic Kingdom’s It’s a Small World, but is cool and relaxing. Even if you don’t eat in Mexico, we recommend stopping in. The scene of a Mexican village is absolutely breathtaking. Afterwards, we got frozen margaritas and drank them while standing in line for the Maelstrom at Norway. It’s not a very thrilling ride, and it is a lot more entertaining after a margarita. We changed shirts and went to dinner at Nine Dragons in China. We ordered a bottle of Spring Moon (Chinese) wine. Lori had wonton soup, pot stickers, and scallops with black beans. Keith had hot & sour soup, chicken salad (Chinese salad), and some of the best Kang Bao Chicken he has ever had. It was a long, full day, and we left the park at 8 p.m. after spending 10 hours there.
Universal's Islands of Adventure - Islands of Adventure Web Page
Islands of Adventure is made up of separate “islands”: Suess Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. We started out at Marvel Super Hero Island with the Incredible Hulk Coaster, probably the best coaster we rode on this particullar trip. Next we went to Doctor doom’s Fearfall, which we assumed would be something like Disney/MGM’s Tower of Terror. What a disappointment. After an initial rise and drop, the ride is over. We stood in a brief line that took us through the offices of the Daily Planet, to ride the amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. This was a truly creative ride, and our favorite on this trip. Everyone puts on 3D glasses and rides in cars. It is not a virtual ride; the cars do move. The visual effects are spectacular: Spider Man and the villains appear to reach out and touch you, and it genuinely feels like you are whipping through the streets of New York, diving up and down. It was fabulous and is difficult to describe. We went to Toon Lagoon and rode Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. There were signs all along the walk that warned us we would be drenched. They weren’t kidding. There is an area in the middle of the raft where riders can secure things like cameras and snap down a water-proof cover: make sure you do that and take off any watches that aren’t waterproof. We did get soaked. There is also a flume ride, which we opted out of after our drenching. We strolled through Jurassic Park and considered goin on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, but there were warning signs about getting wet, and we were still wringing out our clothing, so we kept on going. We made it to the Lost Continent, and rode the Flying Unicorn, a tame small coaster. We ate lunch (basic burgers) at the Enchanted Oak Tavern. There are two more extreme coasters called Dueling Dragons. One is Fire and one is Ice, and supposedly they are different rides. We had to walk a long time through a twisty-turny castle to get to the one coaster, so we were content with riding only one. Suess Landing is really for the little folk. At this point, the skies opened up, and we ducked into a bar at Point of Entry for a drink. We decided we enjoyed Spider Man so much that we wanted to do it again, so we went back and stood in line for 45 minutes to repeat the ride. It was worth it. Note that we were at Islands of Adventure when it opened and were finished by early afternoon. We wished we had opted for the pass to both parks, as we would have gone over the Universal Studios at that time.
Cattleman's Steak House -2940 Vineland Road, Kissimmee, FL 34746 407-397-1888
Carrabba’s Italian Grill - 7890 W. Irlo Bronson Hwy. (Route 192), Kissimmee, FL 34747 407-390-9600
Wolfgang Puck Café Disney - 1284 E. Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 407-938-9653
Jiko (The Cooking Place) - Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, 407-WDW-DINE
Nine Dragons Restaurant - Epcot
Narcoosee’s - Grand Floridian Resort 407-WDW-DINE
After running around at theme parks all day, walking miles, and sweating under the hot Florida sun, we were up for much nightlife. We did manage to make it to Pleasure Island after a full day at Disney/MGM and were pretty impressed with ourselves for that (we took the next day off to simply relax around the pool). Our nightlife pretty much consisted of hanging out in our whirlpool and – after a long day at Epcot – returning to our unit and taking a cold drink out to the heated pool. Ahhh! To be sure, there is nightlife available, but our best recommendation to those seeking nightlife would be to stay closer to downtown Orlando. Kissimmee/Lake Buena Vista is filled with family hotels and timeshare which accommodate…families.
Florida is a hot, humid state. We were there the third week of March. Every day (except for our last, when it cooled off a little) it went up into the high 80s F, and dipped down in the 60s at night. We saw very little rain in 7 days – a few brief downpours on our last full day. We understand Florida, like other parts of the US, was experiencing a drought, and that the temperatures were slightly above average for that time of year.
We took bug spray along with us and sprayed ourselves liberally before going outdoors – either to the pool or to theme parks. And we were not bothered by bugs. Be sure to take plenty of sunscreen and use it. Even with layering on the sunscreen, we came home with nice tans which could have turned into sunburn if we weren’t careful. If you are going to the theme parks, be sensible and wear comfortable, supportive walking shoes. We saw people in high heels, and teenagers in platform shoes nursing blisters. It may sound old-fashioned, but you will be doing plenty of walking, and you will be thankful you wore something practical. Flip-flops are a no-no because they can come off in some of the rides. Make dinner reservations when you can (especially at Disney restaurants). If you cannot make a reservation, try to eat at off-peak hours. We noted that Disney is especially handicapped-accessible – it was great to see those in wheel chairs gaining access to many different rides. Pace yourselves. Remember, this is supposed to be a vacation. We did one day on, one day off – a theme park one day, a day by the pool the next – for 6 days. This worked well, as we got to do what we wanted to do, yet relaxed at the same time. If you want to, you could be doing something 18 hours a day, every day, but you would leave needing a vacation. There are plenty of theme parks we did not get to: the water parks, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc. We hope to get to some of these on a future trip.