My wife and I just came back from the Orlando, Fl. area. I had a 3 days work related conference in Buena Vista, and since my wife was also on vacation, and the kids were spending some days with the grandparents, we decided to take a break and combine work and vacation for a total of 5 days.
It worked out great. I took two days off from work (Monday and Tuesday) and the conference was held from Wednesday through Friday. While I was on the conference, my wife was relaxing by the pool or shopping at the outlet stores nearby.
West Gate Resort
First I want to write a little bit about West Gate Resort, where we spent our first two nights thanks to the free accommodations I got.
There is nothing spectacular about the resort. I mean, it definitely beats any hotel, but there are plenty of other resorts in the Orlando area that have much more amenities, bigger swimming pools and more stuff to keep the kids occupied. I browsed through their daily activities program and nothing caught my attention (nor it would have probably caught my kid’s attention either).
Another issue with West Gate Resort is parking. If you come back to the resort after 9:00 PM, forget about parking next to your apartment building. Most likely you will have to park at the entrance, and then wait for the free resort shuttle to take you back to your room. This happened to us on both nights.
The rooms are nice. We stayed in a two bedrooms unit. The master bedroom had a nice Jacuzzi and the room was spacious. The bed was comfortable and in general the room was well kept. The kitchen had everything you need to cook, which will help you save money if you are traveling with the whole family for several days
The resort offers wireless internet connection through a third party. They charge $9.99 for 24 hours access, but they also offer other packages for more days. The connection on my room (we were on building 1200, 4th floor) was terrible or none existing at times. I called the provider’s tech support line twice and all they did was take my name and number with the promised that someone will call me back. They never did. I know that West Gate does not sell the wireless service directly, but they should make sure that the service is reliable at least, since you are paying for it. I finally gave up trying to connect to the internet from my room.
The best part of the resort is its location. International Drive, where Universal Studios and other attractions are located is only a couple of miles away. There are also plenty of restaurants and shopping centers nearby.
We had an issue with the room key; which kept deactivating itself and locking us out. Apparently it was something with their computer system. After my third trip to the front desk I was not happy, but they finally figured out what was wrong and fixed.
In general, if you want a place to rest after you come from the parks, then West Gate Resort can be it. The resort is conveniently located and the rooms are clean and spacious (at least the two bedroom unit). On the other hand, if you are looking for a resort with lots of activities, huge swimming pools and more amenities, I would look someplace else.
Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa.
From Wednesday through Friday we stayed at Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa. The hotel is beautiful, clean and very well kept. But perhaps the best attribute of the hotel is its location. Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa is practically within walking distance of Downtown Disney, and only a couple of miles from all the Disney parks.
Most of the rooms (not sure if all of them) have a small balcony, enough to sit two people. This is a nice addition since you can see Disney’s fireworks every night at 10:00 PM. from your balcony as long as your room is facing the right direction.
The hotel offers you both free and valet parking (valet costing as much as $14.00 per day) Downstairs it has a small coffee shop, the spa, a couple of computers connected to the internet, a small arcade and the gym which is free to use to all hotel guests.
I always expect to pay higher prices for certain things when I am staying at a hotel, but I think Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa really crossed the line when it comes to things like coffee, doughnuts and even a slice of bread. A price for a small (12 oz) cup of regular black coffee is $3.75. A single slice of white bread is $1.00, while a plain bagel is almost $4.00 (cream cheese is extra) The same thing for doughnuts. People were complaining right and left about the prices to the poor cashier girl (these items were sold at the small coffee shop downstairs). She kept apologizing and letting them know she only worked there and she was not the one who set the prices. At one point I felt sorry for her for having to face so many disgruntled customers.
Internet access charges are also higher compared to other hotels in the area ($14.00 per day). I must add that the majorities of hotels in the Kissimmee/Orlando area now offer free wi-fi, yet a few hotels and especially resorts, still charge you for the service. If you are an AT&T customer, you are in luck, as AT&T has an agreement with the hotel to provide internet access, so all you have to do is log in with your AT&T account user name and password and the wireless access will be free.
My wife went to check the spa, but came back to the room disappointed. According to her, all their services cost almost double of what she usually pays for them at home.
The room was nice and clean. The bathroom had a good size, although we stayed at a handicap accessible room (there was not other room ready when we checked in). My only complain was the beds. For some reason they were really small and two people barely fit in one of them. The last night we decided to sleep in separate beds, so we could sleep through the night without waking up every time the other one moved in bed.
The hotel pool was nice, large and not overcrowded. As everything else, the drinks at the pool bar are overpriced. I think I paid $13.00 plus tips for a piña colada for my wife. I didn’t mind too much because it tasted really good.
Overall, the hotel is great, and the location is perfect. Staffs are courteous, professional and willing to help you with any trouble you might have. The bartender working at the lobby’s bar is very friendly and chatty.
I would definitely recommend this hotel to couples, who want to enjoy the night life in Downtown Disney or nearby areas.