A brief write-up on the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort at Walt Disney World.
This was our first time staying off-property and, having been in DVC accommodations for the past four years, we were very interested to see what you can get for your money if you book outside of the DVC universe. How would the staff be? The rooms? The front desk and room service folks at Disney resorts are consistently five-diamond + happiness. We have roomed at Animal Kingdom, Port Orleans Riverside and other moderately-priced properties and found the rooms to be clean and adequately furnished. We have a family of five, not four (which seems to be the sweet spot in family hotels), so our options at Disney are limited.
Earlier this year, we found surprisingly dingy paint and tired-looking grout in the master bathroom of our one-bedroom villa at Port Orleans, but our overall disposition is that we're there with three kids to spend time in the parks, not agonize over our room. A five-diamond traveler might have called the resort to task over the room's appearance. In my somewhat distant past, I worked in event services at Fairmont Hotels and Four Seasons properties, so I also weigh my nearly flawless Disney experiences and personal hospitality knowledge against what I see when I stay in hotels.
It isn't fair, but these Wyndham folks would have a high set of benchmarks to live up to!
BOOKING / RATES:
Booking through Vacation Strategy (via VRBO) we got $716 for four nights, taxes and booking fees inclusive for a 2-bedroom condo. The same range of dates returned 1-bedrooms at Disney resorts for $126 (Pop Century) - $475 (Polynesian) and up to $1,100 per night.
The Bonnet Creek property two bedroom suite:
- King Bed Master Suite
- 2) Queen Bed (2nd Bedroom)
- Full Pull-Out Full Sofa in LR
- Stacked Washer/Dryer (essential for travel with kids / packing lighter)
- Full Kitchen
- Multiple Swimming Pools (bars at pools, water slides, lazy rivers, visited four of )
- Sand Volleyball Court
- Pool, Air Hockey, Fitness Center
- Golf Courses
- Shuttle to Parks ($6pp / All Day, Unlimited Use)
The Wyndham is actually located on-property as a part of the Bonnet Creek area of Walt Disney World, directly to the east of the Caribbean Beach resort property. One turn out of the Bonnet Creek resorts puts you on Chelonia Parkway, which intersects Buena Vista Drive - one of the primary WDW thoroghfares. Once you hit BV Drive, all Parks can be reached easily by following the excellent signage that is everywhere on Disney's property. Siri helped us navigate our way back to the resort each night, as you are on your own to find the Bonnet Creek area (Disney resorts have signage).
The spacious lobby area had many staffers during business hours and two people behind the front desk when we arrived at 9:30PM on Wednesday, July 3rd. The first desk clerk, who was very friendly, welcomed me and checked us in. Surprisingly, no credit card was required when we did so, they only asked to see my driver license.
Having booked through Vacation Strategy ($150 deposit, balance due closer to travel date), we were told that "our name was our confirmation number" and both my wife and I were a bit nervous about this. A few emails to VS for various questions over the next weeks were answered promptly and we felt somewhat confident that things would work out after reading so many positive reviews about VS / Bonnet Creek vacations online.
One curve-ball I discovered at the front desk was that our reservation was split in two. The first was for 7/3 - 7/5 and then we would have to come back to check-in from 7/5 - 7/7. The desk clerk assured me that there would be "no problem" and that it was just a "paperwork" formality and that we would be in the same room for the duration. Having avoided the credit card imprint for incidentals, I was happy to not agonize over this and signed the paper that clearly stated "check-out 7/5 by 10am." Sure enough, I did return before going to Epcot on 7/5 and signed a new check-in authorization, which was good through 7/7. Odd, but completely painless.
After my initial check-in, I was dispatched to a "courtesy desk" for my parking pass and to be scheduled for a timeshare appointment. I let the agent know that I wasn't looking, but agreed to an appointment that we later cancelled. On two occassions during our visit, our room phone rang and messages were left by the sales team. We did not return the calls, but did see well-dressed sales agents escorting other guests around the property. It looked painless enough. We were told that people who sat through a presentation would receive 7-night (she emphasized "last-minute") accommodations at any RCI property or a $75 American Express card. I believe she was low-balling me on the card, because I'd heard that others have received / been offered cards up to $150 at this same property. She was friendly enough and emphasized that she was there to answer any questions we had about the resort.
We believed that we'd have a view of the lake and pool areas, which are well-landscaped if less than awe-inspiring, but ended-up overlooking the parking lot from a 2nd floor room in Tower 2. The towers also vary in size - ours was seven floors - while others were more or less. The landscaping is lush, and our view of the parking lot was almost completely obscured by well-established palms and other plantings. Again, we spend little time in our rooms, so the [lack of a] vew wasn't an issue.
The cozy lobby area of our building was always deserted, but inviting enough with a few new looking couches, chairs and tables. Three quick elevators served this building and we never waited, even at peak hours, for more than a moment or two for a ride. A nice juxtaposition from lugging five people's suitcases up the villa stairs at Port Orleans!
The photo gallery on Wyndham's site somewhat accurately depicts the rooms, though our living room did't seem quite as lavishly appointed. The furniture appeared to be nearly new and the sofa bed was a huge full or possibly a queen. A newish Samsung 50"+ flatscreen monitor and Bluray player was in the living room and each of the bedrooms have something on order of 42" monitors of the same make. It was nice to be able to play one of the movies we brought for the kids as they settled-in at night.
Linens for the pull-out sofa bed weren't complete, but housekeeping did bring flat sheets and pillow cases up by 11PM. A stacked washer-dryer were quiet and did a better job of it than the units we have at home! Four complimentary packs of detergent were laid out on the washer.
The master bedroom was comfortable and clean. The king bed had Radisson-style white linens with accent pillows, sham and other upscale touches. The king bed wasn't too big for the space, but I would have given a bit more over to that space instead of so much for the bathroom. We did discover a very small spider (eight legs, not six, so not a bed bug) on my pillow when we went to bed the last night of the trip, but I don't believe that there is a cleanliness issue at all. Corners of the room, where you'll sometimes see evidence of poor housekeeping, were spotless. AC unit was interior-mounted next to the open-design kitchen bar. It kept up with incredibly humid conditions outside, even after we'd opened the balcony to look around.
As it is in many modern resort hotels, too much room is given over to massive master bathrooms and all five of us could have gotten ready in the nicely-appointed space. Complaint to all hotel designers: If you're going to have a 400 or 500 square foot master bathroom area, please put the toilet into a small, well-ventilated room that is separate from the shower. I don't need 80 square feet for conducting my business and it would be great to be able to do so without tying-up the entire shower area.
Outside the toilet / shower area there was another sink / vanity and a large jacuzzi bathtub. Naturally, we couldn't figure out how to control it and my wife called engineering, who told her that she should turn it off at the circuit breaker on the wall.
The 2nd (common area) bathroom was good-sized and very typical of a standard rack-rate hotel bathroom. Vanity sink, train-style towel rack, curvy shower curtain and so on.
Late one night, we took the kids for night swim and hopscotched from pool to pool to see how they differed. The main pool, with lazy river, is located near the main building. There were an abundance of deck chairs, tables with umbrellas and we didn't feel too crowded even with July 4th crowd levels. Towels can be checked-out at no charge and must be returned to any of the pool activity desks prior to check-out if you want to avoid a $25 per towel fee. These same offices also offer golf clubs, volleyballs and other activity items. On Friday, three hotel staffers had set up a nice ice-cream sundae station with all the fixings. $2 got you a root beer float or massive sundae. Each pool area has a full bar, where we found reasonably priced draught beer, cocktails and wine. Bar food was available here.
We did not take advantage of golf or the hotel restaurant(s), so I'll let others comment if they have used either.
SHUTTLE SERVICE TO PARKS
Having AP parking, we decided to drive and park on this trip. However, we saw small crowds gathered at the main building to take advantage of the bus service to the Disney parks. The flat rate per day, per person for the bus service is $5 or $6 - I saw both rates posted. You'll have to contact the resort for schedule, if any.
My wife and I are certainly debating the merits of moderately-priced Disney resorts after staying at Wyndham Bonnet Creek. She feels like the experience isn't at the Disney level (e.g., "Welcome home Olson Family" greeting as you pull up to check-in), while I thought the accommodations were above the level we'd recently experienced at a resort like Port Orleans. In spite of our free AP parking / valet at the Disney properties, we really do like taking monorail and bus service. Parking at Magic Kingdom in particular is a hassle and we are looking for ways to get around that when not staying on a Disney O/O resort.