We were recently gifted a week at a HGVC resort, and after researching a bit decided on MarBrisa. Check-in was very smooth and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. The location is fantastic, just East of Legoland (with its own private entrance) and elevated enough that there are wonderful views of the Pacific, especially at sunset.
When we got into our rooms, they were nice. My wife remarked that it felt more like a very nice hotel room rather than the homey feel you get at some vacation properties. Each unit had its own small balcony, which is a plus. I thought the couch in the living room was very comfortable, and the bed in the bedroom was also very good.
On the downside with the rooms, soundproofing is shockingly not adequate. From the main room, I could constantly hear doors opening and closing around our room. This is helped by the fact that the bedroom does not share a common wall with the outside traffic areas (bathroom on one side, living room on the other), but I could see this being problematic in a studio. Also water pressure/temperature in the shower was pretty erratic during our stay, which I found unusual since the resort was not very crowded.
The pool and hot tub area looked nice but it was too cold to use during our trip. It seems undersized for the number of units that are in phase 1, as is the parking lot, and I don't see these working well during busy season.
There were a lot of nice little touches available such as free dvd rental, a game room, and an activity room (some of which weren't really explained in any of the material in the room and I only found out about from the staff.) One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the flier that listed activities for the week seemed to nickel and dime you a lot. I understand that there are costs associated with extra activities, but when you are charging $1 for smores night, that just feels tacky to me.
I am going to speak a little on the sales presentation. My wife and I own a timeshare, our parents each own timeshares, generally, we are the audience who is receptive to a timeshare presentation. I've been through one at my home resort and whenever we exchanged and went to a different resort, and have never had any issues. This was the first time I have ever left in the middle of a presentation. The sales associate was rude, and spent most of her time speaking on how this resort is so much nicer than other HGVC resorts. (An odd tact to take, and not close to remotely being true.) We looked at Phase 2, which looks like they are building a few new pools which don't seem like they'll be able to handle the number of units that are being built. (Plus, I was informed that they are also going to be building condos there as well, which isn't going to help that issue either.) The salesperson kept going on about how much better this resort was than anywhere else in the world, which really made me question whether she was delusional or outright lying. I left after 45 minutes and should have left after 10. I do not believe the sales presentation should affect the overall rating of a resort (way too many variables, depends on the individual sales person, etc.) I just needed to report on this experience since it was so singularly bad that hopefully someone sees it and can improve this aspect dramatically.
As a hotel, this is a 4 out of 5. As a resort, it's a 2. There are just too many glaring things wrong and or missing. Here are the pros and cons looking at this property as a resort:
Pros: New and clean
Great location (besides Legoland, the flower fields are right down the street)
Mostly friendly staff
Not complete yet so there is still a chance to deal with some issues.
Cons: There is ONE restaurant, and it is actually at the Sheraton. Which is also where the spa is, the fitness center, and the private entrance to Legoland. As a resort, this just is not acceptable. Most luxury HOTELS have more than one restaurant, for crying out loud.
Inadequate planning for size: the resort was nowhere near capacity and the lot was actually crowded by Friday. What I saw for Phase 2 was not encouraging in this regard.
Not enough things to do to really make this a resort. The activity and game room is nice, as are the bbq grills, but it just feels half done in this department.
Overall, this location was good for my needs (travelling with wife and infant daughter), but if I had come here with grown children I would have felt this was terribly inadequate. I wish there was a half star rating, as I keep wavering between a 3 and a 4, and would rate this a 3.5. THe tipping point for me was at checkout and my one bad experience with the resort staff. At checkout, I was told there were $28 in phone calls made. I asked if this was in our second unit because I found my daughter playing with the phone right after checking in and disconnected it from the wall right away and put it up. I was told no, these were made from our main unit to a number of local numbers during different dates of our stay. I can say with 100% certainty that the only call made from the room was to the front desk to get help unlocking the second unit's door. My wife and I both have cell phones and also don't know anyone in the area (evidently a group of the calls were to the same number.) I was told that the charges would be refunded as a one time convenience and that "the next time, I will not be able to refund this." Well gee, thank you for the courtesy of not fraudulently charging me for calls that I did not make! Figure out if your staff is making calls from the room or if there's something messed up with your billing system, but do not talk about doing me the "courtesy" of refunding the charges. I am so glad that I did not see this "gentleman" earlier in my visit. I do want to stress that the rest of the staff was extremely professional, nice and helpful.
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