Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Living In a Tree

As many of you may know, I have been lucky enough to work at Walt Disney World twice now. Whilst taking my time out of my Royal duties, I was able to work for a year between 2004 and 2005, and then again for 6 months in 2006.
Treehouse Villas
During my second placement in the World, I was lucky/unlucky enough to stay at the Treehouse Villas. With the recent news that the Villas are going to be reopening as part of the Disney Vacation Club and the Saratoga Springs Resort, I thought it would be nice to talk about them a little here.
Hidden Mickey Door
The Villas were open to guests between 1975 and 2002, and were built about 10 feet off the ground and designed to blend in with the environment around them. The Resort is located between Old Key West and Saratoga Springs, and are right next to the Lake Buena Vista golf club. The Villas were badly damaged during the hurricanes of 2004, and it would take them another couple of years before they were refurbished enough to accommodate Cast Members.

When I went out in 2006 to participate in the International College Program for the summer, I was given accommodation in the Treehouse Villas. Whilst I was super-excited to be staying on Disney property, there were a lot of negatives to this. I won't go into too much detail, but let's say needing a chemist or a supermarket and not being able to walk to one isn't very convenient for a start!
Kitchen in Treehouse Villas
But let me tell you a bit more about life there 3 years ago. The Villas were home to mainly internationals working at the Magic Kingdom - especially a lot from Hong Kong and Brazil. There was a pool area and a spot for barbecuing, but no gym amenities (which the other communities housing Internationals had at the time). Anyway, each Villa would sleep 5 Cast Members - there was a basement room (which had a lovely double bed but also no door and you had to get through to go to the laundry facilities!), and two bedrooms upstairs, one an en-suite. The kitchen and the dining room were in one small area and the living room was at the entrance. In my opinion, each Villa was far too small to sleep 5 complete strangers - I will be very interested to see how they could sleep up to 9 guests, without some major changes!
Tree Impression
The first Villa I stayed in, I slept in the basement room, which was actually great fun! The main downside was that the Villa was just off the golf course, and sometimes I would be woken up with a golf ball hitting the windows!
Inside Treehouse Villas Inside Treehouse Villas
The area itself is beautiful - a very natural area, with tall trees and a lot of wildlife passing by! It was strange how we were living in Walt Disney World, with the Magic Kingdom mere minutes away, but it never felt like it... During the first couple of months, there was no internet access within the Villas - we were told they couldn't upgrade due to conservation laws. But as the months progressed, we were gradually given internet access - I guess this was because in the long run Disney had other plans for this Resort!

Whilst this is a very brief introduction to my stay in the Treehouse Villas, at the time I didn't appreciate the history behind them. I look forward to seeing what Disney will do with the Villas - and maybe I will, one day, be able to stay in them and reminisce over my time as a Cast Member who lived on Walt Disney World Property!
Around Treehouse Villas View from our Treehouse

Head on over to this article at allears.net about what the new Treehouse Villas will 'house' - including some great artist's impressions. Click on photos to enlarge!

3 comments:

George Taylor said...

WOW!

I can't believe that you have been holding out on us for this long!

Great shots.

Richard Harrison said...

Fee, these are fabulous. I'm sure, as you mentioned, there were drawbacks but they do seem quite wonderful on the whole.

Thanks!

Jeff B said...

I recall stumbling upon these amazing photos a while back on your FLICKR account. We had stayed there in the late 70s. My brother and I thought they were amazing but my parents were a little less enthusiastic about them. I am very eager to see the new villas - the concept art looks fantastic and pretty faithful to the original. Thanks again for posting these!