TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

REVIEW: Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas

Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas actually includes two time share resorts- the original and the Westin Kaanaapali Ocean Resort Villas North built a few years later than its sister property. The resorts timeshare properties managed by the Westin and its parent organization Starwood. Each is comprised of a number of six story buildings on the beach about two miles from the main part of Kaanapali. This leads to some confusion as there is a Westin Hotel in Kaanapali and some guests assume they will be able to amble down the beachfront walkway to their resort. It will be a LONG walk.

The resort includes hundreds of studio and one bedroom units that can be combined into spacious two bedroom suites. Studios include a queen be and sofa bed in the room and the one bedroom has a separate bedroom with a king bed. Each unit has a kitchen area though the studio features a small rangetop and microwave. All units have washers and dryers which can be a godsend to families with small children. Televisions are in every living room and separate bedroom.

A significant difference between the two resorts is that the Noth property has studios with small lanais; the south resort studios have a patio door and a railing to allow fresh air but no chairs. All one bedroom units have lanais. the grounds are luxuriantly tropical with palms and other foliage that whisk in the wind.

As the resort is on the west side of Maui, guests have a beautiful view of the islands of Lanai and Molokai across the strait. There are several large pools and a kiddies' pirate ship play area. A full range of resort activities is published weekly and the resort offers free shuttle buses to Kaanapali and Lahaina- a boon as parking can be difficult in these tourist meccas. Snorkeling is exceptional here as there are schools of tropical fish as well as a number of green sea turtles.

The resort has several restaurants and bars as well a a spa in the North property. There is a business Center and free WiFi for guests.

During holiday seasons and Spring Breaks the resort is apt to be crowded and getting a poolside lounge chair can be a challenge.

This is not an inexpensive resort- studios range from $300 to $450 per night depending on view to $500-$700 for a one bedroom. Units can be rented through the Westin or Starwood's SPG.com website though you might find better buys on sites like VRBO.com where owners (like us) rent their units out to others.

Room Tip: Upper floors are best as is ocean view. Island view rooms in the South property may face a parking lot and highway. In the North property all units face the ocean or pool/garden area.

REVIEW: Westin Desert Willow Resort

We were guests at this resort from August 21-28 when the heat was absolutely sizzling. Our party of eight were in a two bedroom unit that we reserved as timeshare owners with Westin. For three days prior to this stay a smaller group in our party were in a smaller standard one bedroom. The first room was in Building 6 near the new construction. The unit was on the first floor of the three story building with all windows and the lanai facing a parking lot or dusty construction. Avoid building 6 until construction is completed in 2012. The two bedroom was in building 1 on the second floor. A short walk from the pool area and lobby building.

The two bedroom is comprised of two separate one bedroom units- a smaller unit with kitchenette, living area, standard bath, and queen bedroom; a second larger one bedroom with full kitchen oversized bath with whirlpool and shower and a king bedroom. Despite the redundancy of two kitchen areas, the extra space allowed our four adults and four teens some modicum of private space. The rooms are well appointed with earth tones and desert themed art. Kitchen areas are well equipped and guests have access to several well-maintained and clean gas barbecues on adjacent patio areas on the ground floor.

Due to the heat much time was spent near the pool area that includes a waterside pool, an activity pool, child's pool, and larger pool on a upper level of the pool deck. There is no specific adult pool which is regrettable as adults often had to avoid splashing young ones in the larger pool area. Besides a plethora of umbrellas, there are a few cabanas for rent and large pavilions with sofas and tables where one can escape the direct sun if not the heat.

A small deli/gift shop was open only 7-11 AM during our stay. The Agave restaurant is near the lobby building though we used the barbecues for our dining. Concierge services are available for Palm Springs activities. The resort has a sales office for Starwood Vacation ownership. The concierge desk can arrange discounted excursions if you attend a timeshare sales presentation. Be forewarned; your vacation time is precious.

Retail costs for the resort are discounted during the summer and higher during the Spring and summer. Check out www.spg.com for current rates. Parking for guests who are not owners and staying on their ownership time is $15 per night.

TRAVEL TIP: Disney's Paradise Pier Resort

My son and two grandsons spent three nights here during the D23 Expo, a Dismey fan convention. We had a 10th floor city view room with a nice view of Anaheim, pool area, and parking. The room was very spacious with room for five as there is a fold down sleeper sof- along with two queen beds.
The bathroom is large and there is plenty of storage.

Guests have early theme park access and, while we were there we were given FastPasses for Disney park attractions.

We have previously stayed at Disney's Gramd Californian hotel and find these rooms more spacious and as well appointed, though without the easy access to Downtown Disney.
We stayed at the resort using our Disney Vacation Club ownership point; real rates for our stay would have been about $220 per night plus taxes and parking.

REVIEW: Disney's Old Key West Resort

We have stayed at Old Key West since 1994 as we are Disney Vacation members who own there. and we have stayed at at least half of the Disney hotels in Disney World over the past 20 years. Old Key West continues to provide rooms superior to most other Disney hotels.
In our most recent stay we were in a second floor one bedroom unit in building 46 adjacent to the river leading to Downtown Disney. The room features a large living area with kitchen. The sofa is a sleeper ad the easy chair fold out into a smaller twin bed large enough for a teen. A flat screen tv is hidden in the kitchen island. Off the living area is a large patio with table and four chairs. The mast bedroom has a king bed, tv, and an adjacent spa tub and sink. The bathroom proper offers a large sink and counter and a spacious shower. There is ample storage. The one bedroom has a fill size washer and dryer. Studio units do not have these and guests can use units adjacent to the pools areas of which there are four including a large pool with sandcastle themed water slide and small children's pool. All pool areas including the three smaller ones in different areas of the resort have spas and ample towels for guests.

Recently renovated the units in OKW feature pastels with tile accents and tropical prints. Furniture is designed for durability rather than comfort as the cushions and fabrics are a bit
hard. The fully equipped kitchen is great for cooking though there are no outdoor barbecues

other than rustic campground types that require briquets and appear in need of cleaning. Disney could take a lesson from Westin/Starwood time shares that offer clean well - maintained gas barbecues. Of course, Disney has lots of restaurants they would love you to visit.

The resort has a gift shop near the check in building as well as a restaurant Olivia's and a smaller walk up grab-and-go counter and. Small outdoor bar. Prices are comparable to other Disney eateries and offer children"s menus.

The resort is spread out in 46 buildings with the most distant at the south end of the
property being a half mile from the main building. All buildings have rooms accessible from the outside not through hallways. The resort is on the Lake Buena Vista golf course and many rooms feature golf views. Lanes with palm trees and lush landscaping add to the tropical feel. While there is Disney bus service to parks and within the resort, a car is a MUST to fully enjoy this resort and to travel around the square miles of Disney World. Even if you use Disney's Magical Express to and from the Orlando airport, we advise guests to rent a car. Once at the resort you can get picked up by Alamo, Enterprise, and National and be taken to a rental car office near the Magic Kingdom if you need a car for a few days. Rates are competitive.

While we are Vacation Club members and do not pay rack rates, one bedroom units a can run over $400 per night depending on season. In shoulder seasons Disney often offers free dining programs for guests paying full rack rates. Experts online have suggested this is not a good buy as rooms discounts for these large units can exceed the cost of free meals.

Room Tip: If you do not nave a car, request a room near the Registration Building and restaurant. We like rooms at the south end which has a nice smaller pool. Second floor rooms are quieter but there are no elevators in buildings we have stayed. Avoid buildings that run parallel to Bonnet Creek Parkway (19-22 and 38-42).

REVIEW: Sheraton Suites Orlando Airport

We have stayed at this hotel near Orlando International Airport several times most recently in May. Coming from the West Coast, we generally get into the Orlando area in the late afternoon or, more likely, late evening. The Sheraton Suites offers transportation to the hotel, so we sometimes do not even rent a car until the next day when the hotel returns us to the airport where car rentals are cheaper. We have also been shuttled back to get Disney's Magical Express transportation to Disney World resorts.

The hotel is a large rectangle surrounding a pool garden area. There are three floors, though elevators are difficult to find. We have had to walk a couple of times to one in the back corner of the hote as the front elevator was being used by workmen.

Rooms are two rooms with a living area with sleeper sofa, TV and desk and a bedroom with either one king or two queen beds.

There is a small restaurant with Starbucks cafe, though we have used neither. A few computers are in the lobby for customer use and their is a slow WiFi service.

Getting late into MCO? Try this place for a night. For a longer stay? There are better places.