In September we spent 14 nights at Disney’s Old Key West resort in a studio room, which is like an ordinary hotel room but with a small kitchenette. We have stayed at several of the other Disney resorts but this was our first time at Old Key West, and it was not as we expected. From everything we read we were expecting a quiet, laid-back atmosphere but we didn’t find that to be the case.
We were aware that the buildings near Bonnet Creek Parkway could have traffic noise but, despite looking at maps of the resort, we hadn’t realised just how much traffic noise there could be throughout the resort. Unlike other Disney hotels where the road either leads up to the hotel and stops, or it goes around the perimeter, the roads at Old Key West weave their way through the resort giving direct access to all buildings. These roads are routes for the Disney bus service to the various theme parks and are not used just by guests driving to their rooms. Because the resort is so spread out, the roads are also in constant use by housekeeping and maintenance vehicles at all times of day and night, including the service vehicles towing laundry dollies.
The studio rooms are a ‘lock-off’, ie an extra bedroom to convert a one-bedroom villa into a 2-bedroom villa. On most of the buildings they are right at the end, as ours was, and having looked at other buildings we believe this makes them more susceptible to road noise than the larger villas in the middle of the buildings. When we checked in we were pleased to be given a room in one of the buildings (45) that had been recommended as quiet. It was in a lovely position, next to the canal – which our balcony looked out onto. However, the window on the opposite side of the room looked onto a road junction with a stop sign, so not only did we hear all the passing traffic, it all had to stop and start again which made it even noisier, especially the regular Disney buses.
The following morning we asked if we could be moved to a quieter room but were told nothing was available. Given that we were there for 14 nights, we asked if something would become available in the next couple of days. But we were told that we would have to go to the front desk every morning to check if anything was going to be available the next day – they either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look ahead for us or let us know if anything came up. We didn’t want to start each morning of our vacation this way so decided we would just have to put up with the road noise. (Which, by the way, for a few days of our stay was increased when they resurfaced the roads!)
The resort certainly didn’t give the impression of being full and for the whole of our stay there seemed to be very few people staying in our building or the one next door. This was somewhat irritating as we had said that we’d be happy just at the other end of the same building or the one next door as those studio rooms were away from the road junction. It was obviously too much trouble for the staff, which is not our usual experience of Disney. So, we put up with the road noise and tried to make a joke of it, but it ruined all pretence of the resort being quiet and laid-back, and left us feeling somewhat short-changed by Disney.
The room itself was pleasant but odd. The OKW studios are apparently the largest of any of the Disney Vacation Club resorts but it didn’t seem that way. The studio is a very odd shape, sort of a wedge, with the wider, squared-off bit containing the beds then it narrows into a corridor that has the kitchenette one side and the wardrobe the other, leading into the bathroom at the narrow end of the wedge. The bathroom was huge and must be what makes up the additional space when compared to other DVC studios. To us, it was wasted space. The bedroom had the window then a narrow space – queen bed, bedside table, queen bed – then the balcony. Looking from the beds, the entrance door was over to the right and the connecting door (to the one-bedroom villa) to the left. By the connecting door was a small table and 2 chairs. Directly opposite the bed was a set of drawers on top of which was the flatscreen TV. These drawers were narrower than in the studio we had at Villas at Wilderness Lodge because they have to fit in the space between the wall from the entrance door and the kitchenette corridor.
The balcony was a nice space, larger than those we’ve had at other Disney resorts. It looked out over the canal, with the boats to Downtown Disney passing by. Looking the other way, some nights we could see the Epcot fireworks. Opening the blinds on the balcony doors was a challenge, which we had read about. Whoever designed those blinds and whoever decided to fit them on those balcony doors should be made to come to your room each day and open/close the dratted things! They may look pretty but they’re completely impractical and a menace to your fingers. Vertical blinds would be much more useful in the Florida sunshine and far easier to open and close.
The kitchenette was narrower than the one we had at VWL, just the width of a single cupboard and the fridge (no drawers in between like at VWL). Above the fridge was just a mirror – not much practical use in a kitchenette! The only storage space was the cupboard below the sink (pretty much taken up with the bin and kitchen towel holder) and a small cupboard high up above the microwave. (At VWL there is a shelf and another cupboard above the sink.) It is very poorly designed, especially given that there isn’t much storage anywhere else in the room – except the bathroom, and we didn’t particularly want to keep food there. The fridge had a tiny freezer compartment that is as good as useless, only about 2 inches high so won’t hold a pint of ice cream. And when we decanted ice cream into a container that would fit in the freezer, it didn’t keep it frozen.
The wardrobe opposite the kitchenette was also smaller than at VWL. The floor space in the wardrobe was taken up with the iron and ironing board, the vacuum cleaner and the fold-up crib thing (a ‘pack and play’?) so there was nowhere to even store shoes, let alone suitcases. The hanging space was adequate for 2 of us for 14 nights although, unlike VWL, there was nowhere to hang coats up except in the wardrobe. Again because of the odd shape of the room, in the morning the sunlight came in through the peephole in the door directly onto the bed so we had to cover it up.
We definitely got the impression that the studios are the poor relation to the larger villas, really designed as the extra bedroom rather than a room in their own right. The room seemed much smaller than our studio at VWL, even though we know it was bigger, and it certainly wasn’t as practical and comfortable. At VWL we felt that we had a good sized hotel room with the useful addition of the kitchenette. At OKW it was like staying in someone’s spare room that wasn’t quite designed for the purpose.
To add to the poor relation feel, there are no ice machines in the OKW buildings – but this only matters to those staying in a studio as the larger villas all have full kitchens with fridges with ice makers. The ice machines are located at the bus stops; our nearest was a 10-minute walk (round trip) which may not sound far but in the heat of the Florida sun it’s quite a distance just to get some ice. We got into the habit of carrying a ziplock bag in the car and calling for ice as we returned to our room each day. Again, not quite the usual Disney experience.
Another strange experience was that several times during our stay, the people in the one-bedroom villa next door tried to get into our room through the connecting door! We’re pretty sure that it wasn’t the same people, more likely that it was each time the occupants changed. They didn’t just open the door their side, they then jiggled the handle on our side and tried to open our door. One time this was after we’d gone to bed, which was a bit disturbing. Despite staying many times in hotel rooms with connecting doors, this was something we’d never experienced before – occasionally we’ve heard people open their side but never then try to get through the second door.
The restaurant facilities at OKW are limited, with one table service restaurant (Olivia’s) and a fast food kiosk (Goods to Go). We had breakfast at Olivia’s and were not impressed – it’s the first place I’ve ever ordered a waffle (just a waffle, not with anything else) and not been offered anything to go with it, not even butter or syrup! The server seemed surprised when I flagged him down and asked for syrup so presumably he thought I planned to eat it completely dry. The ordinary egg and sausage breakfast wasn’t much to write home about either, especially the potatoes which appeared to be like warm potato salad. The food at Goods to Go was fine, the usual Disney fast food offerings. But it is a kiosk, outside on the boardwalk, so open to the weather (which in September was, as expected, occasionally very wet), and it gets very busy so it can be a long wait for your order. And this was at a time when the resort seemed far from at capacity.
OKW is undoubtedly a very attractive resort, set around the golf course and the canal, with plenty of trees and other greenery, and the boat ride to Downtown Disney is very pleasant. But we found that the reality isn’t always the quiet, laid-back experience the advertising portrays. It is handy to be able to drive right up to your building, close to your room, but the pay-off to that is the road noise. We’ve seen people complain that the Disney bus service is lacking but, trust us, if your room is near a stop sign then you’ll know that the buses do, in fact, provide a very frequent service and quite late into the night/early morning! The larger villas are, by all accounts, extremely nice accommodations but the studios leave much to be desired. Despite DVC resorts being classed as Deluxe, we thought OKW compared more closely to one of the Value resorts than even the Moderates we’ve stayed at – it was only the size of the room which was comparable to a Deluxe, nothing else.
From everything we’d read, we thought OKW had the promise of becoming our new favourite Disney resort, it sounded as if it would suit us down to the ground. But we were disappointed, and we won’t be returning.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.