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By Stephanie Rouse
Okay, so I will admit it: when it comes to Disney, I am a complete “on-property” snob. We pass all of the hotel chains on our way to “the World,” but rarely do we stay at one of these places. On our latest trip to Kissimmee, though, I wanted to experience a bit more than just Disney World. We decided to arrive early and spend a night or two off-property.
I was unsure of how long the drive would end up taking. It’s a long way from Indiana to Walt Disney World. We usually make it in one day (the excitement of getting there keeps us going), but I didn’t want to lose any money on a hotel room if we did decide to stop for our first night. Because of this, I only booked one night of our possible two-night stay prior to arrival. We planned on arriving in Kissimmee on a Thursday and checking into Pop Century on Saturday. That left Friday as a great time to try something new.
I scoured the Internet. I wanted to try something new, but this is The Mouse for Less, after all, and I had to get a great deal!
After a few weeks of “maybes” and driving my poor husband crazy with options, costs, and amenities, I found a great deal for Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista., I made the reservation. Done.
We arrived at Disney just a bit behind schedule. We booked an old standby for our first night and would be checking into Embassy Suites Friday afternoon.
As time does at Disney, Friday afternoon arrived in what felt like a minute later. We would be driving from Downtown Disney to Embassy Suites, which is located at 8100 Lake Street, Orlando. We had already programmed the GPS with the address, so we were off. We soon found out the GPS may not have been necessary. The hotel really is located minutes from Downtown Disney.
We pulled up to the guest drop-off. The bellman got the door for me and asked if we needed help with our luggage. Since we were staying just one night, we packed only an overnight bag for this portion of our trip, so no help needed.
I headed inside to check in as my husband Rick headed off to park the car. He found a visitor parking area, since you can only enter the guest parking area with your room key.
The lobby was decorated in a tropical motif, with plants and a waterfall near the check-in desk. The elevators are glass and offer great views of the lobby as you ride up to the rooms. Our room was located on the fourth floor.
Upon entering the room, there was a very nice seating area. (A small sofa along with a TV area and a small table and chair set.) Beyond that was a counter with a sink and a mini fridge. And, ahh, one thing I wish Disney World resorts featured…a microwave!
The decor was a bit more out of date than I expected. The room wasn’t exactly run-down, but for a higher-end chain, I expected better with the bedding. No fluffy comforters, just basic bedspreads. They actually reminded me of my childhood. They were very similar to the 1970s ones that my grandmother always had!
After checking in, we decided to head to the pool. My daughter wanted to swim, and I, being on a purely research mission, decided we just had to attend the Manager’s Reception—free drinks and snacks at the pool bar. My husband, also a slave to research, was eager to go in on this mission! They would begin serving at 5:30 and it was to run until 7:30 p.m.
We took the elevator down to the lobby and saw where the reception was set up. The bar area had two separate lines, one for alcoholic beverages and one for non-alcoholic beverages. They were serving cherry and blue raspberry slushies for the non-alcoholic options. As for your alcoholic options, Rick and I decided that we would each get one of the daily specials so we could try them both. They also offered many other bar drinks, and did I mention, they were free! To that note, I will mention, for free drinks, I found them to be very strong. I am not a big drinker, so that could have something to do with it, but I was expecting watered-down versions of these drinks…not so.
For the snack portion, there was a popcorn cart, along with a pretzel snack mix and homemade potato chips. The chips were a hit with my family. They were absolutely delicious!
We took our snacks and drinks outside and found a table near the pool. Rick took our daughter to swim as I relaxed. After a drink (or two…this was a vacation, after all!) I decided to go inside and do some exploring.
I checked out the arcade room. It was pretty much what you would expect for a hotel’s arcade. It was small, but had your basic video games, both the arcade standing versions and the types that you can “drive.” It’s hard for me to get overly excited about an arcade, but the tween boys that were there during this time seemed to be having a lot of fun.
I also walked back into the lobby, taking a turn before getting to the front desk. Here I found the public restrooms, payphones, and banquet rooms.
We decided to spend the evening in Downtown Disney. Again, this hotel is great as far as location. I would estimate the drive to the Downtown Disney area takes between 5 and 10 minutes.
The next morning, we headed down for breakfast. When staying off of Disney property, I always look for hotels that offer a free breakfast. We have had some hits and some misses, but Embassy Suites was definitely a hit!
The breakfast, served in the atrium, featured several hot options, basic meats, potatoes, and an omelet station. There was also a beverage station, offering coffee, milk, chocolate milk, orange juice, and soft drinks. In the middle of the atrium, there was a cold station consisting of various cereals, breads, muffins, donuts, yogurt, and fruit. There were also bagels with spreads and a toaster oven to warm them in.
After our breakfast, it was time for us to go! Check-out time is not until 11:00, but we wanted to get to Disney and check in at Pop Century early. There was no need to go to the front desk, since I had paid via a credit card, so any charges would be applied to that. We reviewed our bill, everything was correct, and we headed out.
My family was really pleased with our one-night stay here, and my husband has already requested we stay here again for our off-Disney portion of our upcoming 2009 trip. Because we always stay on-property at Disney, I think our standards are set somewhat high and Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista lived up to our expectations. I am looking forward to my return trip!