Disney’s new Treehouse Villas – Nice, but….

| June 3, 2009

Anyone who has ever taken a ride on the Sassagoula River connecting Port Orleans with Downtown Disney has probably noticed the Treehouse villas.  Nestled, appropriately enough, in the trees on the far end of Disney’s Saratoga Springs resort, for many years these villas were vacant and in various stages of disrepair.  While they were used at one time as housing for the Disney College Program, the decor remained a throwback to the 1970’s when the villas were first built as part of the Golf Course Villas .

Now renovated, the Villas are available to Disney Vacation Club members (or to those who want to rent them by the night).  We fell into the latter category, choosing not to use DVC points for our visit.  At $700 a night, our expectations for the villas were high, and ultimately those expectations went unmet.  The villas are 3 bedrooms and claim to sleep 9 people, although I find that claim a bit of a stretch (the only way to fit 9 people in this villa is to use the pullout couch to sleep 2 and the pullout chair to sleep 1).  9 people in this villa would be uncomfortably cramped in my opinion and given the remote location of the resort, you’d probably do better to look at off-site timeshare rentals as a much more cost effective option to these.

The decor of the villas keeps in concert with it’s surroundings – lots of earth tones (pale greens and taupe) and wood trim carry the ‘treehouse’ theme throughout the villas.  There are three bedrooms, two with queen size beds, one with bunk beds – each room contains a 32″ flat screen television.  There is another flat screen in the living room, bringing the total number of televisions to 4.

The galley kitchen is well appointed with a full size oven with glass cooktop, refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave.  While the microwave is small, it will fit any of the plates or platters that come included with the room.  Cupboards are filled with stoneware dishes and cups (as is standard issue with any Disney Vacation Club property).

It goes without question that Disney spared no expense in this upgrade – appliances are first rate, fixtures (including faucets) are of superior quality.  The two full baths are are finished with granite and marble and are undeniably beautiful.

By happenstance, the villa we rented was handicapped accessible.  A ramp leading from the street level up to the villas was long, and while I don’t doubt it’s ADA compliant, I have trouble imagining that most people in a standard wheelchair wouldn’t find it very difficult to get up this ramp of their own accord.  In my opinion, handicapped accessibility should make it so that a person in a wheelchair could navigate any part of the villas unassisted, and I’m not sure these ramps fit that bill.  Again, not being in a wheelchair myself, this observation is anecdotal at best, so that should be considered.

With that being said, there was just something about the experience of staying in the villas that I found wanting.  While we did have difficulties with the air conditioning that required repeated calls to maintenance, I’m willing to write that off to opening day issues.  I found the cast at Saratoga Springs to be indifferent at best, and in some cases, downright rude.  On one call to maintenance about our air conditioning, we could hear the cast member on the phone talking to the maintenance man on a two way radio, inquiring how long it would be before we could get someone to fix our A/C.  Maintenance’ response was “tell them we’ll get there when we get there”.  At any Disney resort that attitude is unacceptable, but at $700 a night it borders on obscene.

Then there is the matter of parking.  Each villa, while they are billed as sleeping up to 9 people, only allows for one car per unit.  The suggestion made at the front desk was a) park at the main building and walk to your unit (a 15 minute walk, in Florida heat, no thanks) or b) leave one car at the main building and shuttle the rest of your party back and forth – again, very inconvenient.  Why accommodations weren’t made to create a better scenario for parking is beyond me – if a unit can sleep 9 people, chances are you’ll need two cars.

The location of the villas puts them a good distance away from the main building.  You can use internal bus transportation to get to the rest of the resort, as well as the theme parks.  As I mentioned though, if you choose to walk to the main building, expect it to take about 15 minutes.

If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, you can expect to spend between 243 and 415 points for a week at the Treehouse Villas (same as a 2 bedroom unit at Saratoga).  Under NO circumstances should you rent these at the prices Disney is charging.  They are simply not worth the money.  Instead, I would recommend renting points on our DVC Rent/Trade board.  At an average of $10 per point, you’ll pay roughly half of what Disney is charging for these.  At $300 a night (renting points, depending on season) these are a much better deal than at $700.

If you insist on spending $700 a night though, I’d consider two cabins at Fort Wilderness instead.  You’ll have more room for your group and a much better ‘nature’ experience if that’s what you’re looking for.

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Category: Disney World, Editorials

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