Having just completed my first stay at Vero Beach, I have some thoughts to share, and as such, this article has grown into equal parts review and wishful thinking.
For those new to this game, Disney Vacation Club has three resorts that are not theme-park adjacent: Hilton Head, South Carolina, Vero Beach, Florida, and Aulani, in Ko Olina, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. To be honest, Vero Beach and Hilton Head always were kind of a mystery to me. I never really understood their place or their justification for their existence. Aulani was an easy sell. A Disney resort in the middle of the very definition of paradise with easy intellectual property tie-ins with Lilo and Stitch, Moana, etc. Vero and Hilton Head, not so much. As a Disney Parks fan, I just couldn’t see the value of Vero and Hilton Head in this particular product line.
Having visited Vero Beach for the first time, I get it now. So much so that I’m already heavily invested into point math, trying to figure out a Hilton Head trip next year. These properties reminded me, in a very clear way, why DVC has value outside of Walt Disney World.
First of all, Vero Beach as a town is beautiful with a lot more to do than I originally understood. We didn’t have nearly enough time in our less than 48-hour stay. Of course, there are the resort activities that have become synonymous with DVC: Pool, waterslide, history tours, dining, etc. Vero is unique in that it has a beach onsite with beautiful Atlantic views. The resort itself offers several environmental tours, with staff on loan from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to talk about the sea turtle nesting grounds and habits, as well as other local wildlife. The resort itself is beautiful, and we had no complaints about our dining experience whatsoever. We ate dinner at The Wind and Waves Grill, which served us one of the best steak fillets I’ve ever had at Disney, though it should be noted that this was a special item and not a regular menu offering. We had breakfast at the Wind and Waves Market, a quick service location with a surprising number of dishes. We took it back to our room and enjoyed on our patio. The Green Cabin Room, Vero Beach’s lounge, offers views of the ocean from its patio seating.
That’s really just the surface of what the town of Vero has to offer. Vero is a typical seaside village that, turns out, is anything but typical. Visitors have their choice of pier front dining or dining in town. The Indian River Nature preserve is a short drive, which boasts the most diverse biological estuary in North America. Here you can see manatees (1/3 of the manatee population can be found here), river otters, and even bottlenose dolphins. Elsewhere in Vero, you can rent canoes/kayaks, go on a seaplane tour, walk the Treasure Coast Wine and Ale Trail, visit the sunken treasure museum, surf, and so much more.
Before this trip, my intention was to check Vero off the DVC list. After visiting, I can see myself booking the occasional stay just to unwind and relax. Disney’s Vero Beach isn’t a typical Disney resort, but that’s what makes it special.
A few weeks ago, Amy Krieger posted this article titled “What Will DVC’s Next Move Be?” Reading that, combined with my surprising experience at Vero, it got me thinking, and I’ve decided…I’m all in. I think they should absolutely double down on this business model. Disney has a very unique, very profitable product that they could absolutely take advantage of. I’m not an expert, I don’t know how the point math fits into the current business model and how that would overload the WDW adjacent properties, but this article is more of a “pie in the sky” what-if scenario.
I know there will be comments that “Disney would never do this,” “it hasn’t been profitable,” and “the dues are too high.” I fully realize this isn’t a likely scenario, but let’s take a walk down fantasy lane and see where this model could work elsewhere in the country. These are my top 5 of what the future of DVC could look like.
1. Times Square, New York City.
An ever-popular destination, New York City, still holds a lot of people’s attention, and major hospitality developers still see Times Square as a gold mine. Nearly every hotel chain, timeshare company, and real estate developer has a footprint in Times Square. Margaritaville just built a beautiful resort in Times Square, and it’s a proverbial gateway to the world where it would be easy to add a few days onto a European trip, cruise, or just take in the city itself.
2. Hawaii, Kauai, or Maui.
Aulani has made a name for itself, ranking in the top of DVC resorts for anyone that’s visited. The only issue with Aulani, in my opinion, is that it’s on the wrong island. Outside Aulani, Honolulu, Waikiki, and really the island as a whole is a sprawling metropolis with traffic problems, tourist traps, and all the other problems big cities bring. In Waikiki, on busy days, you can walk from Kalakaua Avenue to the ocean and never touch the sand simply by walking on people. Whereas on Kauai, you can visit many beaches and be alone or nearly so. Both Maui and Kauai offer a much more relaxed, nature-filled vacation. A DVC split stay with an island hop is a paradise I can get on board with.
3. Park City, UT or vicinity.
I might be biased on this one, having grown up here, but the mountains near Salt Lake offer both winter and summer activities and are at the top of their class. “The Greatest Snow On Earth” was the state’s motto, and for good reason. The infrastructure build-up for the 2002 Olympic Games is still largely in place and popular among tourists. Park City is a boutique town that draws locals and celebrities alike all year long. Nearly a dozen ski resorts within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake City, most of which offer summer activities such as alpine slides, mountain biking, world-class restaurants, and other activities that make it attractive year-round. The Sundance Film festival, usually in January, brings in a massive boon to The Park City area, and celebrity watchers can have a field day. As far as timeshares go, Disney is the only one not in the game here. Oh, and Walt himself almost built a ski resort in Colorado, so it’s not like it’s out of the question.
4. Las Vegas, NV.
I know, I know, but hear me out. About a mile south of the Mandalay Bay Resort, which is about the end of “The Strip” portion of Las Vegas Blvd, several timeshare properties exist. Tahitian Village, The Grandview, and a few others which are fine and fun, but Disney could really knock the “non-gaming/non-adult” resort game out of the water. We’ve done the “family-friendly” Vegas trips a few times, and it can be done, both at these timeshare locations as well as Strip adjacent hotels, but it’s getting harder and harder. Circus Circus hasn’t been updated in decades, and most of the other Strip properties tolerate families rather than welcome them. A Disney Property near, but not directly on, The Las Vegas Strip would be sold out nearly year-round. It allows a gateway for family-friendly fun while also being close enough for those traveling without kids (or that bring babysitters with them) to have the adult fun Vegas can offer. If they did a true Aulani-style resort with pools, water slides, restaurants, and the Disney touch, it would be a home run.
5. Galveston Bay, TX.
This one may seem like a strange choice, but it has the same type of feel as Vero Beach, with similar amenities. Nature and ecological preserves, miles of beaches, golfing, art and antique shops and museums, and obviously the Galveston Cruise Port, which Disney already utilizes. Who wouldn’t want to add a few days before or after a Disney Cruise in Galveston Bay? Additionally, Galveston is only an hour from Houston, which offers its own variety of entertainment, like the Houston Space Center.
I know this is wishful thinking, but I can see the value in expanding the DVC portfolio to include some options around the country (or even internationally). I’m fine going back to Vero, and I’d like to soon, but the older I get, the less I find myself crushing a theme park from open to close, which is one of the things that’s attractive about DVC: I know I’ll be back. If DVC could open the world to us in the way DVC can, I’d be very interested in that future.