The year is 1991. It’s Christmas time at Walt Disney World and Disney just got it’s greatest present, and so did we. What is it you ask? It’s The Disney Vacation Club (DVC). On December 20, 1991 Walt Disney World open the first DVC resort, at the time called the Disney Vacation Club, later renamed Disney’s Old Key West Resort. The first of it’s kind for Disney, a resort focused around timeshare and “homestyle” living with kitchens, and laundry facilities in some of the room types. We’re kicking off our DVC Duo resort reviews where it all started – Disney’s Old Key West Resort.
Themed around turn of the century Key West, Disney’s Old Key West has that laid back “island” feel. The pastel colored buildings and gingerbread architecture and takes you back to a time period where you could picture Hemingway sipping a daiquiri by the docks. With the rhythm of the steel drums playing as you make your way around the resort, take notice of the little details sprinkled throughout, like how the sidewalks have shells and the concert is made to look like sand.
Your Home Away From Home
Disney’s Old Key West is not your normal hotel with one large building filled with guest rooms. The resort is laid out, well, like Key West! Surrounding the main lobby area “downtown” are 46 buildings designed like large size island style cottages. Each of the buildings has a variety of different room types, yes room types. With Old Key West being a DVC resort the types of rooms offered vary size. Below are the options:
- Deluxe Studio – Similar to your normal hotel room with two queen size beds and a bathroom. Sleeps 4 people.
- 1 Bedroom Villa – Similar to 1 bedroom apartment, as these rooms have a kitchen, laundry room, living room and large master bedroom with a jacuzzi tub. One bathroom with a standup shower. The living room couch can convert into a pull out queen bed. Sleeps 4 people.
- 2 Bedroom Villa – The 2 bedroom villa is made up of a deluxe studio and 1 bedroom villa. The only difference is the addition of a walk-in closet in the deluxe studio portion where the entrance would normally be located. Sleeps 8 people.
- 3 Bedroom Villa – A two story “house” that has the same facilities as the 1 and 2 bedroom villas with the following additions: a larger dining room, 4 bathrooms, and 3 bedrooms (1 king bed, 2 queen beds in the same bedroom, 2 double beds in the same bedroom ). The couch in the living room converts to a queen bed. Sleeps 12 people.
Passholder Insight: Please be aware that not all the buildings have elevators and if you need a elevator to let your Disney travel agent know when booking. Additionally, the 3 bedroom Villas are two stories and do not have elevators within the units.
Over the years we’ve stayed in all the different room styles. In our opinion, the villas are great if you plan on taking advantage of the kitchen or are looking to have your whole group in one room. For more on traveling with a group see our Destressing Disney Group Travel article. The rooms are very spacious and were completely updated in 2010. The one thing to be aware of is the location of your building to the bus stop. The rooms closer to the bus stop can get a little loud with the buses coming through. Disney does a good job sound proofing the rooms, but some lighter sleeps may notice the noise.
Passholder Insight: If you’re not going to use the kitchen facilities we would recommend looking at getting multiple deluxe studios. It tends to be cheaper either to book on DVC points or cash.
Let’s Go “Downtown”
The main area of Old Key West, the downtown, is where you’ll find the majority of things you would look for at a resort. This is where the Magical Express would drop you off as well as any Uber or taxi. As you walk towards the resort you’ll see bell services on the right followed by the lobby. Off to your left you’ll see the General Store, which is so fitting for the themeing. In the store you’ll find souvenirs, and food items for your room. No, were not talking your run of mill food items, but a decent supply of grocery items like cereal, drinks, frozen pizzas, etc.
Passholder Insight: If you’ll be using the kitchen a lot during your stay and are looking for a full grocery store, we would recommend checking out the app called InstaCart. They will deliver groceries from a local store based on the shopping list you provide. They deliver to the hotels and they tend to have a larger food selection and is less expensive than picking up things piecemeal at the General Store.
Continuing your journey down the “main” road you’ll walk into the dock area where you can rent boats and ride through the waterways that connect Old Key West with Port Orleans and Saratoga Springs. Additionally, pick up the boat that brings you over to Disney Springs. The boat rentals range in price depending on the boat and the amount of time.
Taking a hard left you walk into the main pool area where you’ll see a lighthouse and sand castle water slide. Keep an eye out for the hidden mickeys around the pool! The pool area is where you’ll find all different activities from the afternoon poolside games, to the nighttime movies, and even a variety of sport related activities like basketball, tennis, and even shuffleboard (it’s a sport, right?). There are three additional pools, with a second “larger” pool located in the Turtle Pond area of the resort. The additional pools tend to be a little quieter as all the activities will be located at the main pool.
Passholder Insight: Only the main pool and the pool at Turtle Pond have food and drinks available for purchase.
Pump You Up!
We know, we know, it’s vacation and working out is the last thing our minds. However, if you’re look to get in a quick gym session you’ll want to head to the main pool area. The gym is well equipped, similar to an average hotel gym. You can find the gym next to Good’s Food to Go.
If running is more your speed. (ha, we can’t help ourselves, we’ve got to make the dad jokes), there is a running path between Old Key West and Saratoga Springs/Disney Springs. You can also use the path the walk over to Disney Springs during the “light” hours, as the path is not lighted. Ask the front desk for the map (or follow the signs) and you’re good to go!
Where to Eat?
Old Key West has a couple of different food options at the resort. The first is the main restaurant, Olivia’s Cafe, which is located directly across from the lobby. A casual sit down restaurant serving up all 3 meals, it feels like you went to your mom’s for dinner if your mom lived on the Islands. We’ll do a full restaurant review in another article, but for now we’ll just get the fried chicken! Best on Disney property. You heard me right, Art Smith, best on Disney property.
Beyond the main restaurant you’ll have two different quick serve places located at the larger pools. Good’s Food to Go at the main pool and the Turtle Shack at the Turtle Pond pool. They both have your standard fare pool treats like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, sandwiches, etc. At Good’s Food to Go, you’ll also find breakfast options like fresh fruit, and pastries, with a few hot items like breakfast sandwiches as well
Tucked away next to Good’s Food to Go is the Gurgling Suitcase, which is a place where you may find Jimmy Buffet hanging out – the bar. Known for their tropical drinks like the Turtle Krawl (it lives up to its name and serves 2), it’s a great place for an adult timeout.
We truly enjoy Old Key West, the only part we’re not a huge fan of at the resort is the limited amount of travel options to and from the parks. There tends to be fewer buses than most resorts and less walking options. If this isn’t a problem for you, it’s a great value with a much more community vibe than the other resorts. Have a Turtle Krawl for us!