It might shock you to find out that this Orlando, Florida local is also a Disney Vacation Club Member. Many of you probably figure that a local doesn’t really have much need for DVC, after all, at night we can just drive home. Remember though, as discussed in my earlier blog post about Moving To The Mouse, I did not always live here. In the late 90s Cheryl and I had already entered the two trips per year phase, and even then coming down was not cheap.
So one fine day in 1999, after taking the DVC tour for our second time, we signed up. By that point I really didn’t have any real choice – I’m still talking with the guide, and Cheryl is busy writing a check for our down payment. There is no doubt in my mind that this was one of the best decisions we ever made. Since then, we’ve had a number of really great trips that we owe completely to the ease of use and flexibility of the DVC system including: a 2 week family vacation for our very first DVC trip, a trip to the Whitehall Hotel in Chicago, and several Disney Cruise Line cruises with trips (yes plural) planned on the Dream for next year.
A lot of people say that trading out of the core DVC system isn’t worth it, but to me that’s a bean counter’s perspective. Value isn’t all about dollars and cents. Instead, especially when talking about a vacation, it’s all about what you get out of that trip. So yes, I may loose money when I use my points to go out of town, or trade them into cruise, but I never feel that at any time I’ve lost any value in doing this.
Now, after 10+ years, our original Boardwalk Villas points are paid off, our add-on at Saratoga Springs is not far behind, we’re actually considering adding on more points. We are literally at a shortfall of points year after year. We do spend a lot of time also staying on property and we often do that out of pocket. More points would help offset that over time. So, of course, every time DVC announces a new resort we try to learn as much as possible about the resort to determine if it’s for us or not. So when DVC announced the Hawaiian Homecoming for the new Aulani resort event we signed up to go. After all I’ve never been to Hawaii.
To be honest, I hadn’t been keeping up to date on the resort itself. Oh sure, I’ve watched shorts and read some articles on it as they’ve passed through Google Reader, but I really had not done any research on the resort. I knew it was on Oahu, and I had seen a few early concept sketches when it was announced on a DVC Member Cruise. That’s it. So I went in with a fairly open mind. And despite being a bit freaked out by Joe Rohde’s earring, I learned quite a bit.
For starters the resort consists of 21 acres on the western side of Oahu, known for being the dryer side of the island – meaning less rain. It is now part of a pre-existing resort area known as Ko Olina – an area of the islands that is known for being a former “playground” for Hawaiian royalty. Which is really not surprising in the world of DVC, it just seems a true fit. And like many of the resorts in that area they are trying to capture the beauty, tranquility, and majesty of the islands.
We learned a little bit about the Hawaiian language, and the fact that from a literal standpoint it’s Hawai’i and O’ahu not Hawaii and Oahu as we were taught in grade school on the mainland. And they taught us that names are exceedingly important in Hawai’ian language, and are therefore chosen with great care. And the name Aulani really isn’t any different. The literal translation is “messenger of a chief”, but like several languages usage is important as well when translating. So what we end up with is “place that speaks on behalf of something greater than itself”.
That’s a lot for such a small word and I don’t just mean in word count. Disney chose this name because they wanted to enforce that their theming of the resort was rich in Hawai’ian culture and tradition. Much of the art at the resort has been created by ethnic Hawai’ians, and they have been given a wide berth in terms of freedom of expression in the art. Some have been very traditional, while others are more modern, and in some cases abstract.
There are also going to be two really cool pieces of artwork that will be presented to you in the lobby of the resort. For starters when you walk in there will be a 200 foot mural created by Martin Charlot a native of Hawaii and son of the renowned artist Jean Charlot who had authored a book that had once upon a time caught the eye of Walt himself, “Art from the Mayans to Disney”. And then, behind the front desk there will be a giant photo collage called the “Colors of Hawai’i” that will be created by children from around the state of Hawai’i.
DVC founders, those that buy first, will also get to help create a traditional Hawai’ian carving/mural known as a Pohakus. They will be able to choose from one of several carving designs and these will be pieced together to form a design that will become a permanent part of the resort. It was not clear how many of these there would be, but from their size I’d say there are likely to be a few.
Like many Disney resorts, Aulani will have both a convention center and an 18,000 square foot spa, but not a lot of information was provided on either of these, though you can see their locations in relation to the rest of the resort in the scale model of the resort. As well as two large parking garages. One section of the buildings, just to the right of the grand hall, will be hotel rooms and the rest of the rooms in the buildings will be DVC villas.
At the center of the resort nestled between the main buildings of the resort and the Kolola lagoon – one of the 4 lagoons at Ko Olina, the other 3 being Hanu, Nai’a, and Ulua – is a jungle area that was referred to as the Wai Key Lo Kai Valley (sp?). It will contain a lazy river attraction as well as several pools. But the centerpiece of the area will be a large volcanic rock structure that will contain caves, water slides, and water falls. Its size will be about the same as the water slide found at the Boardwalk Villas.
During the presentation they really stressed two key design factors of the resort: family and adventure. They want you to explore this resort, learn, and discover. The whole resort is designed around this concept of “look once, think twice.” This adventure is actually rooted in the resort rooms as there are things in your room that you may not know what they are until you venture out to learn about them.
There will be a Menehune Adventure Trail. Menehune (Meh-nay-who-nay) are mischievous helpers that live in the forest and come out only at night to build things. During the day they remain hidden. And they really will be all over the resort, many in places that only children can squeeze themselves into. Designed to be a fun adventure for the kids to find them. Everyone attending got a Menehune statue.
Many amenities of the resort have been designed with family in mind. From the pools and waterways to the dining which will have quick service, table service, and character dining options. And lets not forget “Auntie’s Beach House” which is a day care program for your kids to keep them occupied. Auntie will also provide supervised activities for older kids (e.g., snorkeling) and organized family activities.
To me, the two most interesting things were mention of a high tech adventure garden where kids can interact with the environment and make special things happen. It was unclear to me if this was part of the adventure trail or not. And a movie theater that will only show movies when it rains, and it seems like it’ll be capable of raining every night as Disney apparently has a way to make it rain on demand. I seriously want to see how both of these work some day.
Then after some hula demonstrations we got down to brass tacks. The most interesting thing I learned was that DVC lumps members into two categories “network” and “destination”. If I understand correctly, I’m a “network” user meaning that I move around from resort to resort trying them all out. A “destination” user is someone who keeps returning to the same place or resort. They were very honest in that Aulani points were best when sold to a “destination” user, someone who just wants to keep returning to Hawai’i year after year.
The Aulani event only deals were pretty straightforward:
- $114 per point with dues of $4.31 per point for 2011
- 100 points gets an $8 per point credit ($106 per point) for $800 total
- 125 points gets a $10 per point credit ($104 per point) for $1250 total
- 250+ points gets a $12 per point credit ($102 per point) for $3000+ total
- Additionally for all of 2012, DVC will pay your Annual Dues for you – approximately $450 per 100 points
For “network” users they’re pushing Bay Lake Towers and Kidani Village. BLT is actually slightly more expensive then Aulani, but it does have the cheapest dues of any DVC resort right now at $3.78 per point.
Overall, I’m sold on the Aulani resort – it’s very attractive both in terms of looks and amenities. Some day I’d definitely like to go there, though I’d like to get to Disneyland again first. And whereas before I’d have had no idea where to go when I went to Hawai’i, now I have a place to head to with my family and discover. However, with the whole “network” vs “destination” thing both Cheryl and I are convinced not to buy into it.
So, since Cheryl and I are still considering another point add-on, where would that be? While I really liked our stay at BLT during our Anniversary, to me it screams “hotel” not “resort” and I’ve got no real interest in ownership there as a result. Kidani is both gorgeous and tempting, and I’ve got nothing against it. But, right now our “true love” resort is still Wilderness Lodge Villas – we just find ourselves returning there again and again. And that means resale, which I don’t mind because I’ve heard of some recent contracts going for as low as $75 per point (holy cow!).
What about you? Are you interesting in buying into Aulani? What about going there? Have you been to Hawai’i before? If you’re not interested in either what is your dream destination? What are your home DVC resorts? What DVC resorts do you love? Mahalo nui loa.