From point reallocations to room refurbishments to new resort additions, come along as we recap ten key events and milestones which characterize Disney Vacation Club throughout the 2010s.
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Choosing a list of key milestones across an entire decade is never easy. Disney Vacation Club added five new destinations, was led by four different individuals and made millions of memories for its owners. Here is our list of some of the most memorable moments of the past 10 years.
10. Abandoned Ft. Wilderness Resort
Construction is currently under way on Reflections, a Disney Lakeside Lodge. The sixteenth Disney Vacation Club resort will open in 2022, located roughly on the site of the old River Country waterpark near Disney's Ft. Wilderness Resort.
But before this project was unveiled, Disney eyed other plans for the site. Back in 2010-2012 there were persistent rumors of a DVC addition to the site. Disney even took steps to relocate the Tri Circle D Ranch, ostensibly to pave the way for the new DVC project. Eventually the rumor mill cooled and DVC moved on to other projects.
Abandoned Ft. Wilderness Concept
But in 2014, an anonymous poster leaked the (alleged) DVC project plans to the Internet. Disney has never confirmed authenticity of the plans and limited information on Reflections prevents us from comparing these leaked sketches to the green-lit project. Still it remains a curious bit of "what might have been" in DVC history.
9. Annual Pass Discounts
Ask any long time member about their favorite Disney Vacation Club discounts and they'll probably bring up the $399 Annual Pass.
Members first gained a discount on Walt Disney World Annual Passes in 2005, saving more than $100 off the prices paid by non-members. Periodically, Disney Vacation Club offered extra deep discounts on Annual Passes, and boy do DVC owners love those additional savings!
In late 2012, members could purchase a Premium Annual Pass offering year-round admission to all of the Florida theme parks and waterparks for just $399--a savings of $300 off the regular price at the time. In 2014--just as many owners were looking to replace their $399 pass--the same AP was offered for $484, a savings of $245. The 2014 offer also included rare discounts on Disneyland Annual Passes and the Premier pass covering all domestic parks.
This 3-year span will likely stand as the golden age of DVC AP discounts as no similar offer has ever materialized. In 2016, members gained access to the Walt Disney World Gold Pass. The Gold Pass features about 4 weeks of annual blockout dates around Christmas and Easter, but is priced considerably lower than the current year-round Platinum Pass.
In more recent years, Disney has occasionally offered modest Magic Your Way ticket specials but nothing approaching the legendary $399 AP.
8. Annual Dues Increases
"If it's not one thing, it's another." That seems to summarize Disney Vacation Club annual dues over the last decade. Rising costs are a fact of life but dues consistently outpaced the rate of inflation. Reasons included rising property tax rates, high DVC villa occupancy and wage increases for Disney Cast Members.
Members did manage to avoid nightly parking fees (they are already covered by dues) and will benefit from more frequent refurbishments on resorts (more on that later.) But we all know prices are only headed in one direction.
7. Villa Refurbishments
Most DVC ownership contracts run for 50 years following the resort opening. The original refurbishment plan called for just one major / hard goods refurbishment during that useful lift, after 25 years of use. In the midst of this decade, DVC realized that plan was less than ideal and accellerated its update schedules. Resorts now receive a minor soft goods update after 7 years and a major refurb at 14 years.
Disney's Vero Beach Resort
Due to this change in schedule, the vast majority of the DVC resorts saw updates in the 2010s. The oldest properties including Disney's Old Key West Resort, Disney's Vero Beach Resort and Disney's BoardWalk Villas had major updates. Newer properties like Bay Lake Tower and Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas have already received a light refresh.
Response to the refurbishments has been mixed. Some 1990s hotel staples like wall-to-wall carpeting, bright colors, patterned bedspreads and Jacuzzi tubs have been replaced with laminate flooring, a muted color scheme and pedestal tubs. Many Deluxe Studio villas have also been enhanced with a pull-down twin bed to sleep a 5th guest.
In 2018, concept images were revealed for the upcoming major refurbishment at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Easily the most noteworthy change was replacement of the traditional pull-out sofabed with a "sofa-wallbed." This unit features a full bedframe and mattress which is stored vertically behind the sofa during the day. At night, the entire unit is pulled down, folding the sofa underneath the newly-revealed bed.
This dorm-style enhancement provides guests with the best of both worlds: a comfortable sofa during the day and a comfy bed and mattress at night.
In addition to the sofa-wallbed introduction at Saratoga Springs, the units are also featured prominently in the design at Disney's Riviera Resort which opened December 2019. Unfortunately their introduction has been a bumpy one. In the weeks immediately following Riviera's opening, Disney has prohibited guests at both Riviera and Saratoga Springs from using the wallbeds. The situation is still developing as our decade comes to a close. Hopefully it will be quickly forgotten as we move into the 2020s.
5. 25th Anniversary of Disney Vacation Club
2016 signaled the 25th anniversary of Disney's timeshare program which launched with Old Key West back in 1991. DVC spared little expense celebrating the occasion with a series of new member perks and benefits. Most noteworthy were the launch of Moonlight Magic events and the debut of a members-only lounge at Epcot.
Moonlight Magic is similar to a members-only version of Extra Magic Hours at the Disney parks. Owners enjoy exclusive access to most park attractions with a cap on attendance. Admission includes free food and snacks, unique entertainment and an opportunity to meet with DVC executives. The events are free to owners and their guests, not even requiring the purchase of theme park tickets.
Moonlight Magic has since become the signature perk of DVC ownership. In 2019, events were hosted in all 6 theme parks in the US along with Disney's Typhoon Lagoon waterpark.
Meanwhile, DVC also met one long time request of owners: a place to call their own in one of the Disney parks. On the second floor of Epcot's Imagination Pavilion is the private members-only lounge. Inside, owners can take a break from the heat, recharge their phones, grab a drink and a snack while enjoying an amazing view of the theme park. The loung also stuck around after the 25th anniversary celebration ended, and will continue into the next decade.
4. DVC Management Changes
Disney Vacation Club has experienced a bit of management upheaval in the 2010s. Long time head Jim Lewis abruptly departed in 2011. Lewis, along with several other DVC execs were linked to dues irregularities which arose shortly after the opening of Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas. The apparent miscalculation in Aulani dues prompted the company to issue a subsidy to owners who had already purchased points.
Claire Bilby was brought in on short notice as a replacement for Lewis. Although her tenure was short, Bilby is fondly remember for those great Annual Pass discounts early in the decade.
By 2013 Bilby had moved to greener pastures, paving the way for the arrival of Ken Potrock. Potrock guided the the business through three resort openings--Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows and Copper Creek Villas and Cabins--and development of at least one more (Riviera), while also serving as architect of the 25th Anniversary events.
In 2018 long time DVC staffer Terri Schultz was elevated to the top position with Potrock moving to a position in Disney Consumer Products. Schultz has continued many initiatives from Potrock's tenure including Moonlight Magic and the Epcot lounge. She recently earned praise from members for the forthright manner in which 2021 point charts were released.
3. Resale Restrictions
One of the less popular developments of recent years are restrictions which block owners from accessing most member perks if their points were acquired via the resale market.
Effective April 4, 2016 members were required to own some number of points purchased direct from DVC in order to access most Membership Extras. This included attendance to Moonlight Magic, ticket discounts, shopping discounts, dining discounts and even the ability to book a DVC members-only cruise.
Meanwhile, DVC also sought to limit the use of resale points to specific resorts. Resale points purchased after January 2019 for any of the first 14 Disney Vacation Club properties cannot be used for stays at Disney's Riviera Resort. Meanwhile, any Riviera points which are later resold will not be usable at those same 14 destinations. While these restrictions are clearly designed to encourage the purchase of points direct from DVC, they may also negatively impact the value of points when/if members later choose to sell a contract.
The Disney Vacation Club points charts are intentionally designed to encourage visits on less-popular days by charging fewer points and to discourage visits during peak periods by charging more. These trends are constantly changing, which is why DVC has the right to periodically "reallocate" points on the charts. In the end, the cost to book all rooms for the entire year must remain unchanged but specific nights can be raised or lowered as needed.
Aside from one minor adjustment in the mid-1990s, DVC left the charts largely untouched for almost 20 years. That changed with the 2010 points charts as DVC began a 2-year process of lowering the cost of weekend (Friday and Saturday) stays while rasing the costs on Sunday - Thursday.
In 2018, DVC attempted another radical reallocation which would have raised prices for Deluxe Studio villas. Likely prompted by questions from owners, this particular reallocation was completely withdrawn.
A new adjustment followed in 2019--which goes into effect in 2021. These changes add two more seasons to the year for Walt Disney World properties, along with raising and lowering costs during select seasons.
1. New Resorts
Likely the most exciting development for owners throughout the decade has been the addition of new resorts. No less than five new resorts were added in the prior decade, adding nearly 1500 villas to the program and increasing the the number of destinations from 10 to 15. Among the additions were:
- 2011: Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas
- 2013: Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- 2015: Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- 2017: Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- 2019: Disney's Riviera Resort
Changing trends in the 2010s included the addition of elite accommodations in the Polynesian Bungalows and Copper Creek Cabins. While limited in number, their extremly high nightly point requirements leave some members questioning whether demand for these rooms truly equals the number of points sold.
Disney's Riviera Resort represents the first dedicated DVC resort since the debut of Saratoga Springs way back in 2004. Located adjacent to Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, the property has direct access to Disney's Skyliner for transportation to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, along with a rooftop restaurant with fireworks views of the two parks.
DVC already has plans for more variety in the 2020s with the announced Reflections resort and an unnamed destination proposeed for Disneyland.