June 18, 2024

Old Key West vs. Saratoga Springs Resort

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Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are two of Walt Disney World’s largest resorts. Both are considered Deluxe Villas, with sprawling footprints and ardent fan-followings among the many DVC members who own at both resorts.




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Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are two of Walt Disney World’s largest resorts. Both are considered Deluxe Villas, with sprawling footprints and ardent fan-followings among the many DVC members who own at both resorts. In this, we’ll compare and contrast the accommodations, crowning a champion in categories including theme, rooms, dining, transportation, pools & cost. (Updated March 24, 2024.)

If you’re a long-time Disney Vacation Club Member, you’ve probably been faced with this dilemma at some point–whether to book Old Key West (OKW) or Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (SSR). Both are on the low end of the demand and point chart spectrum, which makes them great for last minute reservations or saving money by renting DVC points.

We know there are bound to be fans of each of these resorts; fans who call each of these resorts “home” or their favorites. That’s totally fine. We love a lot of things at Walt Disney World that are unpopular (Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, and Impressions de France, just to name a few…). That does not change the fact that a lot of (most?) people debating between these resorts are doing so due to a lack of other options.

Aside from Old Key West and Saratoga Springs having low demand in common, there are a few other commonalities between them. Both are massive resorts. They’re both located in the same general area, adjacent to Disney Springs. Both have similar slates of amenities. Both they also built with the main purpose of being prototypical timeshare resorts, as opposed to hotels with a DVC presence tacked-on.

(Note that although they’re DVC resorts, you can book both directly via Walt Disney World, pay cash rates, and not be subjected to any slimy timeshare sales pitches. That’s not really Disney Vacation Club’s “thing” anyway. DVC pretty much sells itself–no nefarious tactics necessary.)

As with our other comparison, we use 6 elements of these two Walt Disney World villa hotels to determine which is “the best.” With that preface, it’s time to compare and contrast…

Theme: Old Key West – Despite the two being very similar in style, this is no contest. Old Key West captures the feeling of a bygone-era community in the Florida Keys that Disney has dubbed “Conch Flats,” with a mix of Victorian and Gingerbread architecture. The lush grounds and other thematic details go the extra mile in reinforcing the sense of community.

The way it is romanticized sufficiently distinguishes it from the (nearby-ish) real thing, and the overall ambiance has a relaxed, Jimmy Buffett-esque vibe that works really well for vacationing. If anything, Old Key West is underrated on the thematic front.

I’d argue that Saratoga Springs is the worst-themed resort at Walt Disney World. I know there’s bound to be some backlash to that, particularly from upstate New Yorkers who contend that it’s “just like how actual Saratoga Springs looks!” The threshold question, for me, is whether a theme is interesting, not whether it’s authentic. This is the same trap people fall into with Dino-Rama. Sure, it’s authentic as a tacky roadside carnival sorta thing.

Likewise, Saratoga Springs is authentic as a cookie-cutter condo development in a slightly upscale area of New York. That doesn’t make either interesting concepts that Walt Disney World should have replicated. In its defense, SSR has received several plussings over the years that have actually improved its themed design. But it’s still not on par with Old Key West or, honestly, any other resort at Walt Disney World.

Thematically, I’d take any one of the All-Stars over Saratoga Springs. No joke. I couldn’t drive 5 minutes and see an oversized Mighty Ducks helmet; I could see about 5 condo developments. Maybe not this nice, but the point still stands. (If we’re speaking strictly about atmosphere, it’s fair to say Saratoga Springs has a good vibe. But it’s not an exemplar of themed design.)

Rooms: Push – This is incredibly tricky. Saratoga Springs does a decent job with theme inside of the guest rooms, while also maintaining a certain level of quality. It still feels like a high-end condo unit, but not so much a cookie-cutter one. This is especially true after the most recent reimagining–see Splendid New Rooms at Saratoga Springs Resort.

Sure, they’re not my favorite resort rooms at Walt Disney World, but they nicely balance style with substance and are a big improvement over the old rooms at Saratoga Springs from a usability perspective. Lots of really nice ‘quality of life’ features that will improve your stay and make better use of the space.

Then there’s Old Key West. This resort also completed a room refurbishment not too long ago, but it happened about one year before SSR, which was prior to the “cut off” for good redesigns at Walt Disney World. The end result of that was toning down the “grandma’s cottage” look significantly, but without the same functional improvements and more scattershot themed design. Ironically, the new rooms are exactly like your grandma’s cottage in Florida would look if she bought sometime in the last decade–the old rooms had a Golden Girls look to them that was quite nice, and is going to come back into style (if it hasn’t already).

However, the rooms at Old Key West are much more spacious, even if they don’t utilize the floor plans as well. That’s really what makes this a push. If you want larger rooms, go with OKW. If you want newer and nicer ones, pick SSR. I can’t say I feel all too strongly about the rooms in either resort, and Saratoga winning on quality and Old Key West winning on size is enough for me to consider this a push.

Dining: Saratoga Springs – If you did a survey of Disney fans and asked them to name a restaurant at either of these resorts from memory, we’re guessing many would come up empty. Of those who could name one, it’d probably be Olivia’s. It’s about the only option between the two that has any sort of following.

Despite this, our pick goes to Saratoga Springs for having a more well-rounded slate of options. On more than one occasion, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the menu depth of The Artist’s Palette at SSR, and Good’s Food to Go at OKW is weak by comparison. Gurgling Suitcase at OKW is arguably underrated as a bar, though.

Saratoga Springs also has a second quick service restaurant (Paddock Grill) offering added convenience. We feel quality of quick options when you’re on the run is the ultimate criterion here, as those wanting an excellent table service meal are better-suited heading over to Disney Springs.

With that said, it is difficult to pick a winner on the basis of table service restaurants. Again, Olivia’s has a following. It’s basically the DVC family kitchen (we love all the member photos). The fried chicken is amazing, and several breakfast options are likewise delicious. However, we think that Turf Club Bar & Grill is criminally underrated, and arguably deserves the same fan following as Olivia’s.

Transportation/Location: Saratoga Springs – Both of these resorts have the same kind of multi-stop bus transportation. Whether you view this as more or less convenient is a matter of personal preference. Anecdotal experiences to the contrary aside, neither is better or worse. (We’d recommend these as good places to have a car.)

Both also have boat service to Disney Springs, which is convenient. The reason Saratoga Springs wins here is because its walking path (and they both have them) to Disney Springs is more convenient, and makes it quite easy to drop into Disney Springs for a quick meal.

Pools: Saratoga Springs – Neither of these has a single pool that is going to blow anyone’s mind. However, Saratoga Springs offers a more formidable slate of pool options, and its secondary/quiet pools generally bring more to the table.

I prefer the theme and atmosphere of the Sandcastle Pool at Old Key West, which I would consider the single-best pool at either of these two resorts. Still, it’s not that special, and certainly not enough to overcome the supporting cast of pools at SSR, each of which brings something unique to the table.

Cost: Old Key West – Room rates are identical almost every night of the year and discounts are going to be comparable at each (both offer some of the deepest discounts at Walt Disney World). In our estimation, these two resorts are tied for dead-last in terms of value for money if you’re paying out of pocket.

Still, Old Key West claims a decisive victory here for one, simple reason: DVC point charts. We are guessing (and hoping) most people trying to decide between these two resorts are not paying out of pocket, but instead are scrambling to find last-minute DVC availability and are left with these two choices–and these two choices only.

Whether you’re a non-member looking to rent or an owner trying to book on “too little” notice, both OKW and SSR can be excellent options. In fact, that’s why this comparison exists in the first place–because these are both great options for those wanting value for money when booking relatively last-minute!

Regardless, the bottom line is that the point charts at Old Key West are typically more favorable, and it wins as a result.

Verdict: Old Key West – Theme ultimately carries the day here, as Old Key West brings much more to the table in that regard. It’s difficult to articulate, but OKW also has a certain x-factor (actually, let’s call it the “Buffett-Factor”) that just makes it so much more pleasant of a place. If we’re looking past that at amenities and convenience, it’s hard not to give a victory to SSR. So…like almost all of these comparisons…it’s going to come down to how you weigh each variable, along with individual preference.

Personally, I like Old Key West a lot more. Sarah prefers Saratoga Springs. With that said, neither of us would consider either resort our favorite, or in our top 5…or even in our top 10. In fact, they’re both towards the bottom of our Rankings of ALL Walt Disney World Hotels from Worst to Best.

We would never consider paying out of pocket for either as the prices are astronomical for what you get. In fact, even when we book one of them with DVC points, we always make a waitlist for something else. While we don’t mind staying at either, and can find the silver linings in each, there is always a better use of those points. As you can probably see, we’re not all that passionate about this showdown.

(There is one exception to that, which isn’t covered here at all since they’re basically their own thing: the Treehouse Villas at SSR. I am incredibly passionate about these accommodations, but they’re more like an extension of Wilderness Lodge that just happens to be located near SSR. See our Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort Review for why they’re so special.)

With all of that said, we’re guessing some of you are passionate about SSR or OKW! As the original Disney Vacation Club resort, a lot of long-time members and Disney fans harbor nostalgia for it. On the other hand, Saratoga Springs is undoubtedly the home resort for a lot of newer fans, and its ‘freshness’ will score it points with many. Both of them are large, which means more members own here than, say, Beach Club or Grand Floridian. In addition to reading the comments before making your own decision, we suggest supplementing this with our full review of Disney’s Old Key West Resort and our Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Review.

If you’re thinking about joining DVC, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” with the recommendations in How to Save BIG on Deluxe Disney Accommodations Renting DVC Points.

Your Thoughts

Which do you prefer, OKW or SSR? Is money or points the deciding factor for you? What about the room size or quality, dining, or anything else about Saratoga Springs or Old Key West? Is there another variable you can think of to make one or the other the better pick? Are we missing a key variable that could, potentially tilt the scales in the Saratoga’s favor? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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