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Old Key West - Disney Vacation Club - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


Today’s article about Old Key West marks a mini-milestone in my blog history with AllEars. See if you can figure out what it is. The answer will be at the end of tomorrow’s blog.

(This really is a MINI-milestone. Don’t put too much gray matter into it.)



Old Key West Logo


Disney’s Old Key West was the first Disney Vacation Club (DVC). It opened on December 20, 1991. In the beginning it was called “Disney's Vacation Club Resort” – hardly a romantic and alluring name. It was called this for several reasons. First, since it was the first vacation club, it didn’t need a unique designation. But there was a more important reason for the moniker. Disney did not like the word “timeshare.” They wanted the public to know that what they were offering in “vacation ownership” was different than everyone else’s product. So they decided that by including the words “vacation club” in the resort’s name, it would bring this point home.

On October 1, 1995, Disney’s second DVC opened in Vero Beach, Florida and on March 6, 1996 their third on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In addition, a fourth DVC was under construction at WDW which would become the Boardwalk Resort. It was now time to give the first DVC a unique identity to separate it from the rest. So in January, 1996, the name was officially changed to Disney’s Old Key West Resort.


Vero Beach DVC

Hilton Head DVC

Boardwalk DVC

Old Key West DVC


Old Key West is located off of a small road that connects Bonnet Creek Parkway with Buena Vista Drive. For many years, this road was called Community Way, but it too received a name change. After the opening of Saratoga Springs in 2004, the road was renamed Disney Vacation Club Way.

Folks enter Old Key West on Peninsular Road. Like all Disney resorts, they are greeted by a guard who will acknowledge them with a friending “Welcome home.”


Guard Shack

Street Sign


The first stop at Old Key West is Hospitality House located at Conch Flats (Conch rhymes with honk). Conch Flats is where guests will find most of the resort’s facilities. Underneath the porte-cochère guests can arrange luggage handling with Bell Services.


Porte-cochère

Porte-cochère

Bell Services


Next to the porte-cochère is one of the resort’s bus stops for transportation to the parks. More on this later.


Bus Stop

Bus Stop


The lobby and check-in can be found off of a charming breezeway.


Breezeway

Lobby Entrance


The lobby is very inviting. The floor uses dark woods that have been polished to a luster. A beautiful inlay can be found in the center of the room. The check-in desk is made up of lighter toned woods. The ceiling planks are white-washed. On the back wall, a watercolor featuring the architecture of Key West can be found. All of this combines to create a sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere.


Old Key West Lobby

Old Key West Lobby

Old Key West Lobby

Old Key West Lobby


To help speed up the check-in process, Disney resorts have begun stationing one or two cast members out front of the check-in desks. In hand they carry an electronic tablet that is connected to the central reservation system. These helpful individuals have access to everything their behind-the-desk counterparts have. In essence, they can also check you into your room. Remember, the official check-in time for DVC units is 4pm.


Cast Member Assisted Check-in


Off of the lobby is one of my favorite spots in all of Walt Disney World. This sitting room is extremely comfortable and inviting. A fireplace, bookshelves, bric-a-brac, and overstuffed furniture combine to create a relaxing retreat. If ever the parks become too much for you, find a good book or magazine and snuggle up in this lovely lounge. A television can be found in the corner of the room, tuned to Disney cartoons for the little ones.


OKW Lobby Lounge

OKW Lobby Lounge

OKW Lobby Lounge

OKW Lobby Lounge


Across from the check-in lobby is Conch Flats General Store. Designed to resemble an old-time general store, the type that might be found on the island of Key West, this spot offers “cargo and provisions” for your stay. Open from 7am to 11pm, Conch Flats General Store sells a small selection of Disney souvenirs, magazines, DVC-branded merchandise, and foodstuff for your unit’s kitchen.


Conch Flats General Store

Conch Flats General Store

Conch Flats General Store

Conch Flats General Store

Conch Flats General Store


Prior to your stay, DVC members may order “provisions” by faxing a Disney grocery list to the resort. After arrival, your items will be delivered to your room. There is a nominal fee for this service. For more information, check out the Vacation Planning module on the DVC Member Website.

Next to Conch Flats General Store is Olivia’s, the resort’s restaurant. The atmosphere here is relaxed and comfortable. In the main dining room, a row of booths line one wall, while wood-topped wrought-iron tables and painted wooden chairs make up the rest of the seating. Nautical and Key West memorabilia adorn the walls and an attention-grabbing fan turns overhead.

The backstory for Olivia’s is rather simple. Olivia was a local resident of the island and a good cook. Friends and neighbors kept dropping by at mealtime for a bite to eat. Eventually, Olivia decided to hang a shingle out by the door and turn her generosity into a profit.


Olivia's

Olivia's

Olivia's

Olivia's


In the early years of the resort, it was the custom for members to present Olivia’s with a framed photograph of their family. One by one, these pictures were added to the walls of the restaurant, eventually covering every square inch of space. However, when the dining room needed a fresh coat of paint a few years ago, most of these were removed and retired. Today, only the restaurant’s lobby and secondary dining room sport these smiling faces.


Olivia's

Olivia's

Olivia's


Besides the two indoor dining rooms, Olivia’s also offers outside seating. When the weather is nice, this is delightful place for a meal.


Olivia's Outdoor Seating

Olivia's Outdoor Seating


I like Olivia’s very much. I eat here so often that many of the cast members know me by name and treat me like family. However, I’ve watched these same cast members interact with other guests and I realize that I’m not being treated any differently than anyone else – everyone is made to feel at home here.

I do have one negative comment about Olivia’s. The noise level can get a bit loud when the restaurant fills up. This is because the flooring is tile and there is very little fabric to absorb the sound.

Here are the current hours:

Breakfast: 7:30am to 11am
Lunch: 11:30am to 5pm
Dinner: 5pm to 10pm

Note, lunch and dinner service use the same menu. To see what is offered at Olivia’s, click here.

Beyond Olivia’s is a promenade that runs the length of Conch Flats. Located along this walkway is where you’ll find most of the resort’s recreation facilities and services.


OKW Promenade

OKW Promenade


The first stop we come to is D.V.C. Ferry. This is where you can catch a water-taxi to Downtown Disney. The hours are 10am to 11pm and the boats run every 20 minutes. The boat makes no other stops along the way. Note, if you’re thinking of taking the ferry as an excursion ride only, you may be required to disembark and reload if a line has formed at Downtown Disney.


D.V.C. Ferry

D.V.C. Ferry


Next to Olivia’s is Gurgling Suitcase. This hole-in-the-wall spot serves hard and soft drinks along with a limited menu from Olivia’s.

Although the name of this establishment might seem rather strange, it actually harkens back to the days of Prohibition. As Key West is just a stone’s throw away from Cuba, rum was often smuggled into the United States through the Florida Keys in false-bottom luggage – thus, “Gurgling Suitcase.”

The hours of this establishment are 11:30am to midnight.


Gurgling Suitcase

Gurgling Suitcase

Gurgling Suitcase


“On the way or coming back, Good’s is best for meals or a snack.”

This is the motto for Good’s Food To Go, the quick-service establishment that satisfies the appetites of those poolside. There are also several picnic tables nearby for guests wishing to eat in a more “dignified” manner than reclining in a lounge chair. As you would expect, burgers, hotdogs, and the like are for sale here.

Good’s is open for breakfast between 7am and 11:30am. Lunch and dinner is served between 11:30am to 10pm.

To see the complete menu, click here.


Goods

Table


As we proceed along the promenade we come to Electric Eel Gameroom. As the name implies, this is the spot for electronic game wizardry. Although a somewhat small facility, there is still a lot of fun to be had here.


Electric Eel Gameroom

Electric Eel Gameroom

Electric Eel Gameroom


R.E.S.T. is the acronym Old Key West uses to help guests remember what is offered at Conch Flats. It stands for Recreation, Exercise, Swimming, and Tennis. To that end, Hank’s Rent ‘N Return can help you out with the recreation end of things. This is the place to rent a bicycle, surrey bike, pontoon boat, and a Sea Racer. Shuffleboard, tennis, volleyball, and basketball equipment can also be secured here. All of the courts are conveniently located nearby. This is also the spot to rent DVDs to play in your room.


Hank’s Rent ‘N Return

Hank’s Rent ‘N Return

Tennis

Shuffleboard

Volleyball

Surrey Bikes

Ping Pong


Next to Hank’s Rent ‘N Return is Conch Flats Community Hall. Most DVC resorts have a Community Hall and they all offer similar diversions. Games, videos, and arts & crafts are available for the younger set. Pool (or other “table” games) is on hand for the older kids. Be sure to check the Community Hall schedule to see what activities are on hand each day.


Community Hall

Community Hall

Community Hall

Community Hall


The “Exercise” portion of R.E.S.T. can be taken care of in the Exercise Room. A number of cardio-workout machines are available as well as a limited number of weight training options. For jogging trail information, check with the Concierge Desk in the lobby of Hospitality House.


Exercise Room

Exercise Room

Exercise Room


In the shadow of a towering lighthouse is the resort’s main pool. The theme here is “fun at the beach” as the pool’s slide is hidden inside a giant castle of “sand.” The nearby playground continues this theme with more sand structures and giant beach toys such as a plastic bucket and shovel.


Lighthouse

Main Swimming Pool

Sand Castle Slide

Sand Castle Playground

Plastic Bucket

Plastic Shovel


Inside the lighthouse is a sauna. To my knowledge, no other pool at Disney offers this amenity poolside.


Poolside Sauna

Poolside Sauna


Adjacent to the pool is a children’s playground with slides and other energy-burning apparatuses. Further down a path is a lovely fire pit and benches.


Children's Slides

Fire Pit and Benches


Old Key West is large. Although there are sidewalks throughout the resort, the distance from your room to Conch Flats may be more than you’d like to traverse on foot. To help you out, Disney offers an internal bus that continually circles the various sections of Old Key West, pausing at each of the bus stops. These same stops are where you’ll catch a bus for the theme parks.


Bus Stop


Old Key West wraps around the Buena Vista Golf course, affording many of the units a wonderful view of the greens. This layout necessitated that the various buildings be positioned along a number of “spur” roads rather than laying the property out in a circular pattern. This means that the buses must navigate in and out and around when traveling from one bus stop to the next. I am prone to motion sickness. For me, the bus ride through Old Key West is a little tough on my tummy. If you also suffer from motion sickness, I thought you’d like to know and plan accordingly.

Besides the main swimming pool, there are three other pools scattered around the resort. All of them are nice, but none have any particular theming.


Secondary Pools

Secondary Pools

Secondary Pools


The pool located between buildings 41 and 42 offers food and beverage service at Turtle Shack Snack Bar. This spot is operated seasonally, weather permitting.


Turtle Shack Snack Bar


One, two, and three bedroom units at Old Key West have their own washer and dryer. Studio units do not. For them, laundry facilities can be found near all four swimming pools.


Laundry Room

Laundry Room


That’s it for the facilities and amenities offered at Old Key West. To see a film of the overall resort, check out the video below. Check back tomorrow when I’ll discuss a studio and two-bedroom unit.




The previous post in this blog was Port Orleans French Quarter Room Refurbishment.

The next post in this blog is Old Key West - Disney Vacation Club - Part Two.

Comments (20)

Ronald Stalsberg Jr:

Thanks for the great article Jack. We have stayed at OKW many times over the years. Since we are DVC owners our points go much further here. We last stayed at OKW this past December and had a wonderful time. Looking forward to the second part of you report tomorrow.

Mike Venere:

We stayed here 4 years ago in a 2 bedroom villa with another couple. We were lucky to get a room just across the street from the lobby.
However, a big negative to me was the "quick service" options or lack there of. I understand this is a DVC resort and many stay here and cook thier own. At the same time though Disney is offering this resort (along with Saratoga) with large room discounts or free dining plans to anyone not just DVC members and for breakfast specifically the options are very very limited. I do not see the same at other DVC resorts that I have stayed at.....just OKW.

mini milestone...does this post mark the completion of you blogging about EVERY WDW resort? Or just post # 'x'? Regardless, you were my favorite blog long before I ever bothered blogging and I still think you're awesome. Cheers to whatever your milestone may be :D

melissa:

I think your mini achievement is reviewing all the Disney resorts... I really appreciate the level of detail you go into for each resort, the photos and walk-thrus are great and I use your blogs when making decisions on where to stay. Thanks and keep up the good work!

thomas mangano:

is it's your first post of OKW, and OKW is the oldest DVC

side note what happen to your Hoop-Dee-Doo blog

Jack's Answer:

Here is the link for my Hoop-Dee-Doo blog.

http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/10/hoopdeedoo_musical_revue.html

Kait Rose:

Boy do I have a ton of posts to catch up on...definitely been delinquent lately and reading here and there...

Is your mini-milestone that you've written about every resort?? :)

Josh:

hey Jack
Old Key West seems absolutly wonderful. I have not had the pleasure of staying there yet but after reading this blog it is at the top of my list. There is something for everyone and the resturant seems very cozy. can't wait for part two and as always keep up the great work.

Wendy Crober:

Hi Jack,

You saved our home resort for last. We are members here and love it - especially the quiet and relaxing atmosphere. It may not have the food court like Riverside (another favourite) but Olivia's is great especially eating on the patio. And it's great to have the boat to Downtown Disney.
I agree Ronald that as members your points go a long way here.
You won't be able to say you're done for long - GF villas are looming :)

Can't wait for part II!
Wendy

Hi Jack -

We stayed at Old Key West for the first time this past August - thank you for bringing back the memories! It's amazing, I always seem to see more in your videos than I see in the same place with my own eyes; I guess it's just information overload and brain in hyper-record mode trying to take in everything and some of the fine details are missed or forgotten. It could also be because I was trying to note the Disney Bus fleet and put the number of every bus I could read into my phone to analyze later (see I was paying very closed attention to one detail!).

My guess for your mini-milestone is that the video is now in HD - but I'm probably incorrect.

Hope your settling in to your new digs is going well.

- Jeff

Douglas:

Me and the folks went to Olivia's for lunch one day during our vay-kay and found the place charming, quiet and relaxing. The few kids we did see were very well behave, same went with GF, had us rethink about staying at the Values.
The only downside was my dad. He asked the most inappropriate question to the waitress. He had ordered the ribs and asked if they were spicy enough to make him go to the bathroom, much more explicit than I typed, causing her to pop her eyes for a second before saying that they could substitute the BBQ with the Mojo-style BBQ. You can tell how embarrassed me and my mom were when he said that but it something that was bound to happen since he doesn't think about what he says in public. I can be as thoughtless as him when talking but I know how to talk and act when I go to someplace as nice as the Disney Parks.
But personally out of all the resorts we saw the only one he looked impressed at was the Wilderness Lodge. He acted like GF was too high-class, thought the AOA was kiddy, and gave no reaction to the others. Sometimes I want to vacation without him one of these days because of how bad he acts in public.

Brian:

Hi Jack -

Your resort profiles just keep getting better and better. We're heading to The World on Saturday and staying at the Poly, but after seeing your pictures and video I think I'm going to give Old Key West consideration for our next trip. What a gorgeous place. All these years of going there and I never realized how beautiful that resort is.

Thanks for all your work on these resort profiles. As someone who works in TV, I know how much work it takes to get these just right. Kudos to you, sir!

Wendy Snelgrove:

Jack,

Thanks for the blog. I felt my blood pressure decrease about 10 points looking at that photo of the OKW breezeway. I love all the DVC resorts and they all have their own special charm, but I think the special charm of OKW is that it exudes relaxation.

A picky little note - Beach Club Villas does not have a Community Hall, although DVC members staying there can use the one across the way at Boardwalk Villas.

Cheers, Wendy

Nicki Selley:

Hi Jack,
Thanks for bringing back more lovely memories. We had an ADR for breakfast at Olivia's on our final day last vacation. The plan was to check in our luggage at the Virgin Airlines desk at Downtown Disney and then head over to OKW. There was a glitch with the computers at Virgin and things were taking forever to process and hubby and I were getting so worried that we would miss our reservation which we were so looking forward to having never been to OKW before. I managed to get the assistants attention and explain the situation, she kindly allowed us to queue jump (along with anyone else who had ADR's) and we made our time slot with ease. Really glad we did as our breakfast at Olivia's was amazing ( I had the banana bread french toast which was to die for and hubby had the breakfast cuban) We loved every minute of our time on this beautiful resort, so much so that I am determined we get to stay there at some point, fingers crossed. Just gotta save up now! We are timeshare owners outside of Disney, really wish we could swap in but don't think that is possible these days, unfortunately.
Thanks again Jack for a fab blog and for keeping the memories alive, Nicki

Jenny Sperandeo:

Hi Jack! I just ate breakfast outside at Olivias last Wednesday morning. It was an absolutely glorious day.

I have eaten lunch there twice before, but my husband and I were dying to try a different meal. I'm sure glad we did. The food was awesome, and the service was as great as ever. My family and I are trying dinner on July 1st, when we visit WDW for the second time this year.

This restaurant is truly one of Disney's hidden gems. I almost don't want to give away the secret...:)

Paul:

Wow! What a treat! We just returned from our first trip to OKW in early April. We ended up there quite by accident. We had reservations for a suite at Art of Animation in our quest to stay at every Disney resort. When we checked in, we were told we were being moved over to Saratoga Springs. We were disappointed only because we had already been there a few times before. We also live just outside of Saratoga in upstate NY and we like to see something different when we travel south after a long winter! When we got to SS, we were told we were moved again to OKW. That was really exciting as it was a new resort to us. The moment we walked in, we knew we had a new favorite resort. The theming is wonderful, the rooms are much larger and overall, it was soooooo calming! Just what we needed. Ironically, we had made reservations before we left at Olivia's just so we could see the resort and our meal was wonderful. You're right about the odd bus routes which take a bit of getting used to. Only complaint was the lack of elevators in the buildings. We will look forward to using our DVC points here in the future. Thanks for the great report. Paul

You missed the most fascinating story about Old Key West Resort. It's brilliant. The cast member in reception told us about the library. Its called Papa's Den, and is a head nod to Earnest "papa" Hemmingway's who is famously from the Key West. Its full of real books that you can read and take a moment out to relax. In 1904, Henry Flagler decided to extend his railroad to Key West from Florida wanting greater links, theres a model train and bridges just outside of papa's den which is a model of one of the key west trains that was destroyed in the 1909/10 hurricane which destroyed the link.

Wendy:

We have our first stay at OKW upcoming in October! My brother is getting married in Orlando so 8 of us are staying in a two bedroom villa for 7 nights! I was amazed at how far my points stretched for such a large villa. :) I'm looking forward to part 2....

RAY BERTONI:

Great job Jack. Do you have to be a member to vacation here.

Jack's Answer:

Florida law requires that all timeshare properties set aside a certain percentage of their rooms for non-members to rent. All Disney DVCs are open to non-members. But these rooms are extremely limited. Disney also rents additional rooms to non-members during slow times.

Andrea Eckhoff:

Hi Jack,
I always look forward to your in depth look of Disney hotels, parks, and restaurants. Back in 1996, I attended the Disneyana Convention at WDW. There was a masquerade party attended by all the "conventionears". Our group won 1st place overall. We were the 101 Dalamations (Cruella and henchmen included). Our group shot was hanging on Olivia's wall. I don't know if we made the cut, but it was fun visiting our portrait and sharing the memories with the staff.

Janet Cooney:

Thanks for the tour. We love Old Key West,going to stay there this December.
We have stayed there before an love the atmosphere, and the cast members are all wonderful!!! Enjoyed the memories :)
See you in December,looking forward to eating at Olivia's.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 15, 2013 6:56 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Port Orleans French Quarter Room Refurbishment.

The next post in this blog is Old Key West - Disney Vacation Club - Part Two.

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