Orlando Resort: Tropical, Relaxing, Fun, and 10 Minutes to Disney
I love a resort. But even more, I love a resort that gives me the freedom to live out each day of vacation the way I want to. And, the way my family wants to. Like Mystic Dunes, an Orlando resort.
No vacation is right without doting staff and intuitive touches, the things that make us love luxury resorts. But sometimes we just need to be left alone to amble around on our own. And, all those attentive luxuries can be pricey; even if you can afford to drop $100 each morning for breakfast from room service or $8 for a pack of M&M’s, who wants to?
The Vacation Condo: A Travel Lifestyle
This is why the resort condo has become so popular: it is, or should be, the best of both worlds. Even better, for those of us who don’t like to be dependent on busses and shuttles while on vacation, or who prefer driving to flying to our destination, the vacation condo is often the ideal option. You can cook in, sample local restaurants, keep snacks and drinks on hand in the condo’s kitchen, and you have more room to spread out than in a hotel.
And for those who really like the vacation condo as a primary travel option, there is the vacation time share, which is the foundation of Diamond Resorts business. I recently spent some time at one of their properties, Mystic Dunes Resort, and got to see what the future holds as Diamond Resorts implements a $35-million+ renovation and improvement project.
Diamond Resorts bought Mystic Dunes a few years ago, along with a number of other down-on-their-luck properties, and the company had good timing: as the recession sunk to its low point, the market was saturated with unsold vacation properties that had great bones but needed love and attention. But now, as families return to planning yearly vacations and have more money to spend, the company is poised to be a vacation partner of choice.
Like Club IntraWest and other vacation ownership companies, the goal of Diamond Resorts is to turn customers into owners. The resort has a huge area in its reception center set up for sales, a VIP area for owners, and is offering discounted packages to visitors who are interested in hearing the sales offer. To become an owner, you buy points that can be used to vacation at any of their properties or those of their trade partners. But if your family loves Florida, you might just return to Mystic Dunes next year.
Learn To Say This Right: Ki-sim-ee
Mystic Dunes, in Kissimmee, Florida just 10 minutes from DisneyWorld brings a ‘best of both worlds’ advantage to its guests. Kissimmee is a short drive to Disney parks, to Universal Studios, Sea World, outlet shopping and many restaurants. And if you’re adventurous, it’s only an hour and a half from Tampa area beaches. Mystic Dunes is a sprawling complex of new-ish condos with 986 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom condos; there are four pools, two
Tiki bars, a kids activity center, bike rentals, mini golf, a golf course, pro shop and restaurant. Among the improvements currently being implemented are renovated units and expanded restaurant offerings.
Newly Renovated Rooms, Outfitted For Your Week
I stayed in a newly renovated one bedroom unit. It was pleasant, with an open feel and nicely appointed with new fixtures, appliances and furniture. A screened porch overlooked the grounds and was a peaceful place for coffee in the morning or a cocktail before dinner. Soon, all units will have barbecue grills, too. The one-bedroom unit has a pull-out sofa that I was told was “the most comfortable pull out I’ve ever slept on, as comfortable as a regular bed.” Quite the endorsement and not what you usually hear about pull-out beds. The king-sized master bed was really comfortable, too, with crisp linens and a new, very comfortable mattress.
The kitchen area is complete with dishes and necessities and ample space to set up housekeeping for a week, and the single bathroom was partitioned off so even with four people getting ready for the day or evening, there’s plenty of room. The units are accessible via an elevator off the parking lot. The elevator an hallways seemed a little downmarket compared to the rest of the property—the pools, restaurant and visitors center, but hopefully, that is an area Diamond Resorts will improve as they finish the renovation.
The Best Part? Four Great Pools
The unit I stayed in was right across from one of the four pools, the Courtyard Pool, and perhaps the most low-key; it was quiet and relaxing, surrounded by palm trees and lush greenery. But for those who crave a little more action, the main Dunes Lagoon pool has a water slide, pool-side activities such as dance and a karaoke, cabanas available for rental, and a Tiki bar where you can get a drink with an umbrella in it. The Garden Pool also has activities and a Tiki bar, and the Terrace Pool, like the Courtyard Pool, is more on the quiet side. All pools are sizable and can accommodate a good number of guests. They all have 0-degree shallow ends, which are beach-like; you walk in and the water gradually gets deeper. There are no hot tubs on the property, but the resort will add them soon.
If You Saw Him On ‘Under Cover Boss,’ You Know What to Expect
Diamond Resort’s CEO Stephen Cloobeck has taken on a starring role in several episodes of the CBS Television program “Under Cover Boss.” In buying up distressed vacation properties renovating them, Cloobeck realized he had to renovate the culture, too. Going undercover and discovering first hand what needed to be done was helpful.
I watched the “Undercover Boss” episodes last year, so I wondered if I’d find the resort and its employees similar to what I saw on the program: a pleasant place with helpful, engaged employees trying to create a happy experience for guests.
Thankfully, I did. In fact, watching that program prepared me for pretty much the experience I had. The property was in good shape while (quietly and unobtrusively) undergoing improvements; the staff was friendly, helpful and most importantly, flexible: when I asked for things they don’t normally do, they worked it out for me, and to me, that is gold. For a resort that has a fairly low per night rate (about $150 a night for a one bedroom; however, once all the units are sold, the property will no longer operate like a hotel), it’s a great value just for the pools, the attractive property, proximity to all things Orlando and the resort amenities. That the family has time to spread out is a bonus.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Mystic Dunes; opinions expressed here and photos (taken with the Panasonic Lumix camera) are all my own.