OK, in the name of full disclosure, I need to preface this review by stating that the only other resort that my wife and I have stayed in is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It just so happens that we seem to navigate toward the remotely located accommodations but I don't think it's a conscientious decision.
The decision to stay at Saratoga Springs was made solely based off the fact that it's our home DVC resort. We felt that our inaugural stay at Walt Disney World with our DVC points should be in our home resort.
Based on our experience at Disney World the previous September, we knew that due to the immense heat and 100% humidity, we sweated through all of our clothes and didn't really want to take all those clothes again. Plus, we knew we'd have to take more than last time because we didn't have nearly enough socks to handle the 2+ pairs a day I wore because I had to keep changing them.
Because of this, we booked the 1 bedroom because it comes with a stacked washer and dryer unit. To us, this was an important feature to necessitate the consumption of the extra points to pay for the upgrade.
We really had no idea what to expect when we got there because the memories of the "model unit" had already faded from our memories.
But, we did know, thanks to Kitty-Chan at Broke Hoedown, that location of your room was key if you were going it sans automobile like we were (see Car-free and Staying Sane at Saratoga Springs Resort).
Thanks to her article, we knew to ask for the Grandstand section of the resort when we were offered the option to move when they found out that we didn't have a car.
With all that introduction taken care of here are our impressions:
OMG! The room was awesome. Granted, the building was relatively new having been opened in April 2007, but still. Our breath was taken away the moment we stepped through the door. I swear the unit was only slightly smaller than the 1500 sq ft apartment we were renting at home. I know, in reality, it was much smaller than our apartment, but it just felt more spacious.
The kitchen had everything that we could need plus it had granite countertops! The refrigerator wasn't a full-sized unit that you might find in your own home, but it wasn't a dorm fridge either. It was plenty sufficient for the storage of groceries one buys for a vacation.
There was a nice sitting room/living room. It had a TV, pull-out couch and a table to sit and eat at. The TV also came with a DVD player. So you could bring your favorite movies from home or rent them from the Artiste's Point (which are free if you are DVC member)
The bathroom was nothing to sneeze at either. The shower was quite spacious. It could easily accommodate two average sized adults in there without the need to do the little dance that comes with trying to pull that off in the standard tub shower. I cannot guarantee there aren't any cold spots in the shower, but you'll at least not be giving your spouse black eyes as you try to shampoo your hair (who says that romance doesn't happen at WDW...haha).
The shower was in it's own space that was between the toilet and the bathtub. The toilet was in it's own room which gave a bit of privacy for people who like that. Plus, you had two doors that you could use to get to it. Granted both doors took you to the shower area but you could get to the toilet from there.
You are graced with a giant jetted garden tub that overlooks the bedroom. You can easily shut the shutters that separate the tub from the bedroom if you don't want to be staring at the bathroom all the time.
You also have one of two sinks next to the bathtub. The other sink is next to the shower. This sink, the one next to the bathtub, comes with tons of drawer space to stash all those necessary toiletries.
Off of this section of the bathroom is the closet. It's not a walk-in but it's also a tad larger than a reach-in. Plus, this is where they stashed the safe, the playpen, and additional bedding.
Between the Master Bedroom and the living space was a closet storing the stacked washer and dryer. They were by no means full-sized units, but sufficient for the vacationer.
The bedroom, was your typical Walt Disney World bedroom. It had a desk which sported your connection to the high speed Internet ($9.95 per 24 hours), a plush chair, an armoire with TV and drawers for clothes, a sitting bench with storage under the cushion, 2 nightstands and a King Sized bed.
There was hidden Mickey's in the scrollwork on the headboard.
I must apologize that we didn't do much exploring of the grounds that wasn't encountered during our walks to and from Downtown Disney. My wife, did make a trip to the main pool to get a quick dip and soak up some of those fabulous Florida sun rays (I'm cursed with fair skin and burn when looking at a picture of the sun).
She really liked the pool. Her comment was that she likes going to the pool because no matter how she is feeling about her body, there is always something or someone there that makes you feel better about what you are working with.
On the flip side, she was a bit taken a back by some of the younger females who were there who were sunning topless and wearing thong bikinis. She just didn't expect to see that at a Disney pool. I told her that just because you are at Disney doesn't mean that one's pool culture is left at the borders
I'm not familiar with the Saratoga Springs, NY area but I did get the impression that I was in a very horse-race friendly environment when I walked the grounds of this resort.
Saratoga Springs Resort also sports a top notch exercise facility. It has many of the pieces of equipment that I use when I'm working with my personal trainer at the gym. Plus, everything is very new which means less chance of malfunctioning equipment. In addition to weight training equipment, the facility has quite a few eliptical trainers, recumbent bikes and treadmills
This is probably the one section of the review that most people care about or are concerned with.
We didn't really see any problems with transportation, but planning was in order. Here are a few things we learned (all observations are based on a stay at the Walt Disney Resort between Sept 9 - 17th which is supposed to be one of the slower seasons):
- If it's a thundering out, water taxis aren't running. That means you are walking to Downtown Disney, or you are riding a bus to a park and then switching busses to Downtown Disney. That could be quite an unnecessary ordeal compared to just getting an umbrella and walking.
- If you are planning on going from Saratoga Springs to any other resort, you should still give yourself 1 hour. Most of our "fancy" dinners were at the Monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary). Our preferred route was going to EPCOT, switching to the Monorail to the TTC and then switch to the Resort Monorail. It just happened that way because we'd plan on catching whichever came first (Magic Kingdom or EPCOT). EPCOT always seemed to come first.
- There are 5 bus stops at Saratoga Springs Resort. The first one is at the Grandstand Section. Hence, the preference for staying there if you aren't sporting a vehicle. With each successive stop, you run a greater risk of not getting a seat (The Springs is the last stop and is the one closest to the main office where you check in). Even in this slower season, we saw situations where it was standing room only for the people at the last stop (The Springs).
- Between 9AM - 10AM seemed to be the peak time for people leaving the resort going to the parks. Those days when we went to the parks at that time, the busses were quite busy compared to leaving an hour earlier.
- There are often just one way to get between parks. For example, if it's served by a monorail, don't expect to find a bus to get there. If there is a water taxi, don't expect a bus. We often found this out to our own peril because we were in a rush. For example, to get from MGM to the Yacht & Beach club, you cannot take a bus. You must take a water taxi.
- Patience will get you far. Yes, you may have blistered feet or be standing around it rain soaked clothing but yelling at people doesn't make the bus show up any quicker.
- Even with bad weather, 45 minutes was the longest it took us to get from the resort to some other place. Yes, you could've gotten there quicker by car, but for me, it was nice to know that no matter how tired I was I didn't have to try and drive back. Plus, I could enjoy the occasional Guinness and not worry about driving (I don't drive even if I've had one beer).
- If you can handle walking EPCOT Center, then you can handle walking to Downtown Disney. There were many a time we walked the entire way from the Boat Dock at Saratoga Springs to Downtown Disney without ever seeing the Saratoga Springs boat. Translation: You could get to Downtown Disney faster by foot than if you waited for the boat. Plus, the boat doesn't run if there is lightening. I think my wife and I timed it and from Bus Station at Downtown Disney it took us 15 minutes to get back to our room. Granted, we are swift walkers and in fairly good cardiovascular shape.
In comparison to our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge the previous year, getting around by the use of Disney Public Transportation was a breeze. We had to utilize taxis quite a bit to get to the various fancy restaurants we patronized. This time we were able to pull it off without hailing a cab. That saved us between $20-$40 (plus tip).
When comparing the use of busses to get to the parks, it seemed as if there were more frequent buses showing up at Saratoga Springs than at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I swear, we felt like we were waiting for 30+ minutes at times at Animal Kingdom Lodge to get a bus places.
I also think Saratoga Springs is closer than Animal Kingdom Lodge so we were able to stay at the parks a little later before we had to head back for the pre-dinner shower and wardrobe change.
We MOST DEFINITELY will be staying at Saratoga Springs Resort again. Despite the various travails we had with the Disney Transportation System (crowded busses, late monorails, broken down vehicles, etc....see my trip reports), it wasn't enough to dissuade us from staying there again or force us to rent a car. It may be the fact that I rode the METRO bus system in Houston for so long, but I'm not as impatient with quirks of public transportation as other, not so seasoned people might be.
The rooms were great and really gave us the feeling of staying in a home away from home. The fact that we didn't have regular maid service didn't bother us at all. We knew if we were in a pinch, we could do our own laundry to get clean towels and/or sheets.
The bathroom and shower facilities were much nicer than what you'd see in any of the Deluxe hotel accommodations. This may not be important to all, but it is definitely a nicety for my family.
I don't know if my ruminations were of any use to my readers or those who stumble across this via an Internet search, but I hope it was of some use.
This is Grumpwurst reminding all my lovely readers that only you can make your day a Grumptastic one!