REVIEW: Disney’s Old Key West Resort

May 24, 2016 – Since its opening on October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has done its best to expand and cater to nearly every travel budget. Over 25 Disney Resort hotels can be found on its more than 27,000 acres in Central Florida, which Disney groups into budget categories: Value (6 hotels or sites), Moderate (5), Deluxe (8) and Deluxe Villas, i.e., Disney Vacation Club (DVC)  timeshares (10). The full list can be found HERE.

Disney’s Old Key West Resort is the first and oldest DVC on property. It opened on October 1, 1991, under the name “Vacation Club Resort at Disney World“. By January 1996, the casual and laidback resort had adopted its current name, reflecting its Florida Keys theme and style.

Rear view of the Hospitality House at Disney's Old Key West Resort. The watercraft transports you to Disney Springs about every 20 minutes. (Photo Credit: EasyWDW.com)
Rear view of the Hospitality House at Disney’s Old Key West Resort. The watercraft transports you to Disney Springs about every 20 minutes. (Photo Credit: EasyWDW.com)

Old Key West is available to both DVC members and cash-paying guests. You do not have to be a DVC member to stay here. If you are not paying with DVC points, then the following rack rates for 2016 apply:

OKW-2016 room rates

OKW is one of the better deals on Disney property. With few exceptions, you can expect to receive more living space dollar-for-dollar compared to other Disney resorts. Here are the 2016 ranges:

Deluxe Studio Standard View range from $368- $550
1 Bedroom Villa Standard View range from $508- $788
2 Bedroom Villa Standard View range from $695- $1215
3 Bedroom Grand Villa range from $1,395 – $1,923 (2015)

The spacious studio rooms (390 SFT) include two queen-sized beds and a small balcony or lanai.
The spacious studio rooms (390 SFT) include two queen-sized beds and a small balcony or lanai.

I stayed in a deluxe studio for 4 nights/5 days in mid-May 2016. While by no means “fancy”, the studio felt roomy for two people. It can easily sleep four, e.g., 2 adults and 2 children. But if you have 4 adults, it might get “busy” and you may wish to upgrade to at least a One Bedroom.

The deluxe studios are clean and bright, allowing in lots of sunlight. Shades and heavy curtains block out the light if needed. Entry door is on the left. A (locked) door on the right can be used if you have an adjoining unit.
The deluxe studios are clean and bright, allowing in lots of sunlight. Shades and heavy curtains block out the light if needed. Entry door is on the left. A (locked) door on the right can be used if you have an adjoining unit.

The studio has a kitchenette equipped with an under-counter refrigerator with a small freezer area toward the back of the refrigerator. On this visit, the refigerator/freezer worked too well – all our bottled drinks were frozen solid by the next morning, so you’ll have to experiment with the temperature-control knob to your liking.

The ice bucket is your first clue that there is no ice maker. In fact, for the "Deluxe" Studios, there is no ice maker in the building. You have to cross the street to the bus shelter, where an ice machine is located.
The ice bucket is your first clue that there is no ice maker. In fact, for the “Deluxe” Studios, there is no ice maker in the building. You have to cross the street to the bus shelter, where an ice machine is located.
The kitchenette also includes a toaster, microwave, coffeemaker, and bar sink with sponge, dish soap & paper towels. Disposable paper plates and plastic utensils, manual can opener, corkscrew, 4 coffee mugs and 4 drinking glasses are also provided. While you will find a single packet each of coffee (enough to make a pot) and tea, plus several packets of creamer and sugar, you may want to bring your own coffee/tea/creamer if staying more than a day. Alternatively, you can order more coffee packets at $3.00 each.
Across the kitchenette (and out of picture range, to the right) is a large closet with a small old-style key-lock safe, ironing board and iron, hangers and luggage rack.
Across the kitchenette (and out of picture range, to the right) is a large closet with a small old-style key-lock safe, ironing board and iron, hangers and luggage rack.
The bathroom is extremely large for a studio. (You could probably hold a small intimate party in there.) An elevated frosted glass window allows in daylight. The bathroom sink includes generous counter space and lots of storage under the sink and in a single drawer. The walk-in shower/tub has a small ledge if you get lazy and want to sit and contemplate your day during your shower.

For a deluxe studio, these bathrooms are very roomy.
For a deluxe studio, these bathrooms are very roomy.
Four sets of bath towels, hand towels and washcloths, a hair dryer, and the usual Disney small soaps, shampoo, bath gel and lotion complete the set up.

Free Wi-Fi (standard across Disney property) and a 32-inch flat screen TV on an armoire (more storage space!) allow you to channel surf or to surf on your iPad/laptop. A round table and 2 chairs provide additional seating.

While everyone has their favorite resort, Disney’s Old Key West Resort appeals to many because of its quiet and seclusion. If you don’t want to hear children running up and down the hallway, the ding of an elevator door, or car traffic outside, then Old Key West is for you.

Many rooms offer good views of the canal, a pond, or the golf course amidst lush landscaping.
Many rooms offer good views of the canal, a pond, or the golf course amidst lush landscaping.
All rooms are located in clusters of two- or three-story buildings scattered among lush palm trees and landscaping. Most all buildings have adjacent parking.
Hospitality House is the main building containing the main lobby, a concierge, Olivia's Cafe (a full-service restaurant), a general store and other amenities.
Hospitality House is the main building containing the main lobby, a concierge, Olivia’s Cafe (a full-service restaurant), a general store and other amenities.
What if you don’t have a car? Not a problem. The Resort is very safe and walkable with wide sidewalks. If you check in at the lobby, a Cast Member can give you and your luggage a lift to your room in one of their many golf cart-style vehicles.

OKW-050816-N The drawback is that if you end up at one of the farthest buildings from Hospitality House, you could easily spend about 15 minutes walking each way. This can be a challenge if you have mobility problems or if the weather (Florida heat/rain) discourages walking.

OKW-051016-E The answer, of course, is Disney’s free bus service. OKW has an internal bus system which loops throughout the expansive grounds. Busses arrive every 10-20 minutes at five sheltered stops. The order of stops is: Peninsular Road (1st stop and a 5-minute walk to Hospitality House); Old Turtle Pond Road (10 min. walk); South Point; Miller’s Road; then Hospitality House.

The free bus service will also shuttle you to and from Disney’s theme parks and water parks. You should budget sufficient travel time, especially if you have a dining reservation at another resort or theme park. For example, if your bus doesn’t arrive for 20 minutes, and if it takes 10-15 minutes to loop through the Resort, it might take another 15 minutes or so to reach your destination. So budget at least an hour.

If you are in a hurry, you can always hire a taxi cab.

For my 4-night/5-day visit, I stayed in Building 35 – conveniently located right across the road from the Old Turtle Pond Road bus stop. Walking to/from Hospitality House to grab a bite or drink, to visit the general store or lobby, or watch a free movie at night, was only 10 minutes each way. In fact, once we parked our car, we never touched the car again for the entire visit.

While the main swimming pool is at Hospitality House, there are three smaller “quiet” pools throughout the complex, so you don’t have to trek far. And at least one of them, on Old Turtle Pond Road, has a seasonal snack bar (called Turtle Shack) usually open from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Predictably, Disney’s busses are always fullest and busiest during the early morning (when everyone is trying to get to a theme park or water park) and evenings, returning guests back to the Resort. Sometimes, however, in late morning or early afternoon, you might nearly have the bus all to yourself.

DISNEY SPRINGS: There are two pleasant ways to get to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), the shopping and dining complex. You can either take the water taxi (departs about every 20 minutes), or you can walk the long path. If you are fond of walking, then consider requesting Building 55, which is nearest the walking path to both Sarasota Springs (another DVC) and Disney Springs.

FOOD/DRINK: Olivia’s Cafe is the only full-service restaurant at OKW, which may be a negative to some guests. However, the meal quality, courteous and efficient service, and reasonable prices (for Disney) may make you a regular visitor. During the busy season, reservations are recommended. However, if you arrive during the early or late part of a meal window, you might be able to do a walk-up. Read the Yelp reviews HERE and dinner menu HERE.

The Mallory Square Cobb Salad ($19) is excellent: "Romaine Lettuce with layers of Chilled Shrimp, Crab Salad, Bacon, Egg, Blue Cheese, Tomato, and Avocado with a Key Lime-Mustard Vinaigrette"
The Mallory Square Cobb Salad ($19) is excellent: “Romaine Lettuce with layers of Chilled Shrimp, Crab Salad, Bacon, Egg, Blue Cheese, Tomato, and Avocado with a Key Lime-Mustard Vinaigrette”
If you want comfort food, try the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken ($18). The fried chicken and mashed potatoes are smothered in gravy and come with a side of vegetables.
If you want comfort food, try the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken ($18). The fried chicken and mashed potatoes are smothered in gravy and come with a side of vegetables.

Other options include Gurgling Suitcase, a very small bar (open 11:30am-midnight) and the quick-service Good’s Food to Go, both located near the main swimming pool. The Conch Flats General Store (7:00am-11:00pm) also features packaged foods and some beer/wine/non-alcoholic beverages.

The fire pit is a secluded area at the end of a path, just past the main swimming pool and a sandy volleyball court. Come here in the early evening to sit around the campfire and make S'mores.
The fire pit is a secluded area at the end of a path, just past the main swimming pool and a sandy volleyball court. Come here in the early evening to sit around the campfire and make S’mores.

So relaxing ....
So relaxing ….

OTHER ROOM TYPES (not reviewed here):

  • One Bedroom Villas: 942 SFT. A large “great room” with queen-size sleeper sofa, loveseat, chair (opens to a single bed), ottoman, ceiling fan. Dining table with 4 chairs. Full kitchen with small appliances, wine glasses, mixing bowls, pots, pans, cooking & eating utensils. Full size refrigerator with icemaker, dishwasher with soap, stove/oven, microwave, double sink with disposal, paper towels, dish soap. Laundry room with washer/dryer & detergent. Single coffee, tea, creamer, sugar. 32 inch flat screen TV.

Master bedroom has a king bed, chair and ottoman, two nightstands, 32-inch flat screen TV on armoire, hope chest with drawers and ceiling fan. Connects to a divided bathroom with full closet & safe, pedestal sink, wooden shelves, and large two-person Jacuzzi tub. Second area of bathroom has a toilet, large shower, and second sink with large vanity. Both the master bedroom and great room have glass-panel doors to the patio or balcony, with table & 4 chairs. Sleeps five.

  • Two-Bedroom Villas: 1395 SFT, basically a One Bedroom & Studio combined. Sleeps eight.
  • Three-Bedroom Grand Villas: 2374 SFT & two stories tall. Four bathrooms. Sleeps twelve.

OKW-MAP SUMMARY: WHAT WE LOVE:

  • Spacious rooms ● Very quiet, peaceful ● Lush landscaping ● Easy access to car
  • Frequent bus service at 5 stops ● Boat to Disney Springs ● 4 pools ● Free Wi-Fi
  • Near Hollywood Studios & Disney Springs ● Olivia’s Cafe: great food, service, good prices
  • Digital check-in/check-out: Disney will mail you a Magic Band (RFID-implanted wristband), which is your access key to your room. Disney will also text you when your room is ready. You can bypass the lobby and simply go directly to your room (check-in) and leave by 11:00 am on your last day (check-out). No more standing in line in a lobby!

SUMMARY: WHAT WE DISLIKE:

  • 15 min. walk to Hospitality House (dining/bars/main pool) from furthest buildings
  • Bus must loop through 5 stops before leaving for your Theme Park.
  • No ice machines in Studio Villas (must walk across street to bus stop shelter)
  • Only one table-service restaurant (Olivia’s Cafe)

_________________________________________________________

ADDRESS:1510 North Cove Road, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
TELEPHONE: 407-827-7700

DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 4 (I-4) to Exit 67 Epcot Center Drive. Take the exit toward Downtown Disney Resort Area. Keep left at the fork, follow signs for Port Orleans/Eagle Pines and merge onto Disney Vacation Club Way. Old Key West Resort is on your right.

From Orlando International Airport (code: MCO), you can take Disney’s Magical Express if you have made reservations in advance. The deluxe motorcoach is a complimentary roundtrip service between the airport and select Disney Resort hotels.

NOTE: OKW will be undergoing refurbishment between Spring 2017 and 2019. While the Resort will still be open, Disney promises to limit major construction to the daylight hours of 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

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3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Disney’s Old Key West Resort

  1. We absolutely love OKW. As a family of five with three adult children, we enjoy the tranquility and peace that this resort offers. Your comments are accurate throughout, but I cannot stress enough the joy of the emptiness of the busses to and from the resort, especially at night. We often had a bus to ourselves after 9 pm. We know there are more luxurious resorts, especially of the DVC variety, but we’ll go back to OKW time and time again.

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