There is a lot of hidden value in the Choice Hotels portfolio. Sure, I’ve stayed in some not-so-nice Rodeway Inn and Econolodge properties to satisfy Choice Hotels promotions and earn relatively difficult-to-obtain Choice points, but there are also some surprisingly nice properties, especially in Choice’s Ascend Collection. Ascend Collection properties each have their own feel — generally like independent hotels that just happen to be bookable though Choice.
One such property is the Bluegreen Vacations Fountains resort in Orlando, Florida. This property is part of the larger Bluegreen Vacations portfolio, which operates as a vacation ownership program. But you can also book stays at the property in one-, two- and three-bedroom units through Choice Hotels using points or cash.
My husband, JT, and I recently stayed at the Bluegreen Vacations Fountains. Here’s my take on the resort.In This Post Booking
We booked a seven-night Bluegreen Vacations Resort Explorer package for $499 during Choice Hotels’ Members Only Madness week in November. We needed to attend a two-hour timeshare presentation, but we also received 10,000 Choice points (which TPG values at $60) and a $100 gift card. For our first three nights of the package, we booked a 1,190-square-foot, two-bedroom suite with one king bed and two double beds that could sleep six guests at the Bluegreen Vacations Fountains resort in Orlando, Florida. We’ll use our other four nights at another property later this year.
But you don’t need to be on a marketing stay or be a timeshare owner to stay at this resort, since it’s also part of Choice Hotel’s Ascend Resort Collection. For our dates, we could have reserved the same suite for $157 per night before taxes and fees. All in, our three-night stay would’ve cost $529 at this rate.
I would’ve paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. But the no-annual-fee Choice Privileges Visa Signature card, is a better option, since you earn 15 points per dollar spent — a 9% return, based on TPG’s valuations.
Alternatively, we could have booked through Hotels.com/Venture using the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit card to earn 10 Capital One miles per dollar spent. Doing so provides a 14% return, based on TPG’s latest valuations, plus an additional 10% return from the Hotels.com Rewards program. Since this Ascend property doesn’t recognize Choice Hotels status (based on our experience), you’re not losing much by booking through Hotels.com as opposed to Choice Hotels if you’re paying cash.
The main benefit of booking through Choice Hotels is booking this property with points. We could have booked the same suite using Choice Hotels points. During our dates, the property cost 16,000 points per night. American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to Choice Hotels at a 1:1 ratio.
The rate jumped to 30,000 points per night on April 16 and will stay at this rate until at least Sept. 15.
The resort is on International Drive south of Orlando near the popular Orlando amusement parks — a 3-mile drive from SeaWorld, a 5-mile drive from Disney Springs and an 8-mile drive from Universal Studios. The area immediately surrounding the resort is mostly filled with residential apartments and other vacation properties, although there are various dining options within a short walk from the resort. And it’s a relatively walking-friendly area with sidewalks and bus stops on International Drive just outside the resort’s entrance.
When we arrived, we first stopped at the welcome center. The main purpose of this building seemed to be to sell tickets to local attractions, but this also served as the first stop for guests staying on a timeshare marketing package. Here we presented our driver’s licenses and signed forms regarding the two-hour timeshare presentation that we were required to attend the next day. For actual room check-in, we were pointed toward the Clubhouse. If you won’t be doing a marketing presentation during your stay, your first stop will be the Clubhouse.
The Clubhouse was deeper inside the resort, so we needed to drive past a guard booth to reach it. The Clubhouse had four well-marked desks visible when you walked in — one for timeshare holders to check in, one for purchasing attraction tickets, one marked “Guest Services” and one marked “Concierge”. We went to guests services and were helped immediately.
Check-in went quickly, although we were frustrated to learn we’d need to pay a previously undisclosed $10 plus tax per day as a “marketing tax.” We were also told that although the property was part of Choice’s Ascend Collection, we wouldn’t get any of the benefits associated with JT’s Choice Platinum status. The reception agent was able to get us a one-hour checkout extension to 11am, but that was all he could provide.Room
We were in Room 2211 on the second floor of Building 2, right across from the Clubhouse and in the middle of the property. All units in Building 2 had patios that overlooked Lake Opal toward the resort’s main pool area.Building 2, where we stayed.
Our suite had two bedrooms. The master bedroom had a king bed and was off the living room, with windows overlooking the lake. There were nightstands on both sides of the bed with a lamp, two USB outlets and two power outlets on top of each nightstand. The bed had seven pillows: two decorative pillows, two king-size pillows and three normal-size pillows.
Across from the bed was a three-drawer dresser. On top of the dresser was a 48.5-inch flat-screen TV. Next to the dresser was a door that led to the suite’s patio.
There was a large lounge chair in the corner of the master bedroom.
There was a large closet near the room’s en-suite vanity. There were drawers under the sink, as well as plenty of space on the counter.
Alaffia shea butter-citrus-vanilla amenities were provided on the counter. The shampoo and soaps weren’t overly scented, but they worked effectively.
A small room next to the sink area had a toilet and a stone-tiled walk-in shower. I liked the stone, as it made the shower feel a little more “homey” than some other hotels.
The suite’s second bedroom was near the room’s entrance and had two double beds. Each double bed had six pillows: two decorative pillows and four normal-size pillows. There was a nightstand between the beds with a lamp, alarm clock, three USB outlets and three power outlets.
Across from the beds was a six-drawer dresser with a 48.5-inch flat-screen TV on top. Next to the dresser was a large closet.
Just outside the second bedroom was a second bathroom. This bathroom had a sink, similar amenities to the master bathroom and a normal hotel-style shower with a built-in tub.
The suite had a fully equipped kitchen.
Specifically, the kitchen included a full-sized refrigerator with freezer, oven with four-burner stove, microwave, coffeemaker, blender, toaster and dishwasher.
The kitchen seemingly had everything you’d want to prepare meals during your stay.
Just off the kitchen was a closet with a washer, dryer, laundry basket, trashcan, iron and ironing board and some cleaning items.
Next to the kitchen was a breakfast counter with two stools as well as a dining room table with six chairs. There were placemats and drink coasters on the table. The chairs at both ends of the table were padded, so they were the most comfortable place for us to sit and work.
Next to the dining room table was a living room with two chairs and a three-seat sleeper sofa.
There was a 54.5-inch TV across from the sleeper sofa. The TV was on top of a large cabinet with shelving for additional storage.
Bedding for the sleeper sofa was in a small closet across from the dining-room table. There was also a safe in this closet, as well as additional storage space.
Finally, there was a sliding glass door to the patio from the living room. The patio had a table with four chairs as well as a ceiling fan. There were two power outlets on the patio, and the patio was screened in, so it was a pleasant place to sit and work without having to worry about bugs.
Power outlets were abundant throughout the suite. My biggest complaints were the noise from the plumbing and people moving chairs in surrounding suites. Plus, since our room was relatively close to Wakoola Grill, the activities at the grill and pool in the afternoons were surprisingly loud even inside our room with the patio door closed.The view from our bedroom and patio. Food and Beverage
Since each unit had a kitchen, most families seemed to cook or drive to nearby restaurants. On site, there were two poolside bars that served food, a takeout pizza kitchen, a lobby bar and a lobby grab-and-go market.A poolside bar served drinks and limited food next to the indoor/outdoor pool.
Prices at the grab-and-go market weren’t great, especially since a Publix grocery store was just a 10-minute walk or two-minute drive from the property.
We ate dinner one night at the poolside Wakoola Grill.
We ordered the loaded fries ($8.49) and Hangover Burger with seasoned fries ($13.99), as well as a Weekend at Wakoola bucket drink ($21.95) to split.
The bucket drink was a splurge, but the pours were relatively strong. The loaded fries and burger were large enough to split and be filling to both of us. We particularly enjoyed the fries, which were crisp and well-seasoned.
We ordered pizza from on-site Perky’s Pizza another night. An 18% service charge would’ve been charged for delivery, so I went over to the Clubhouse to pick up the pizza about 15 minutes after we ordered. We ordered a large (14-inch) pepperoni pizza, which came out to about $18 including tax. The pizza had an herb crust and was clearly freshly made, so we wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.
This is a resort with 10 buildings of accommodations. Although many guests are in Orlando to visit the parks, the pools and activities on site make this resort a good option if you want to alternate amusement-park days and resort days.
At check-in, we were given a hotel guide that included a useful map of the resort.
it also included a set weekly schedule of activities, most of which didn’t didn’t cost any extra.
The highlight for most families with kids will likely be the Wakoola Springs pool area, which included two dueling waterslides usually open from 11am to 7pm.
The pools themselves were usually open from 9am to 10pm. There was a volleyball net, multiple hot tubs and children’s water-play areas.
There was plenty of seating around the pools, as well as cabanas that could be rented.
There were also two other pool areas on the property. One was a so-called Zen Pool by Building 1 with a kids pool and hot tub next to the main pool. However it wasn’t Zen-like anytime we walked by.
There was also an indoor/outdoor pool near the Clubhouse between buildings 3 and 4, open from 7am to 11pm. There was table tennis next to this pool.
Swim-in movies were held in the indoor part of this pool most evenings.
We noticed many people fishing on the boardwalk by Lake Eve. Although you were allowed to fish here, you had to return your catch.
There were also lounge chairs and pool chairs on docks extending into Lake Eve, which were peaceful for relaxing in the afternoon and evening.
There was a full basketball court, as well as the possibility to set up a volleyball net, between buildings 1 and 3.
In the Clubhouse basement, there was a modern fitness center open from 6am to 11pm.
In the top floor of the Clubhouse was a game room and children’s activity center.
There was a business center tucked in the corner of the game room, which seemed like a strange place to put people trying to work.
There were grills for cooking as well as simple children’s play areas near most of the residential buildings.
There were also a few fire pits — for viewing purposes only — near the buildings around Lake Opal.
We attended a family s’mores and live music one evening at the bonfire area near Building 4. S’mores material, a guitarist and a bonfire were provided, so it was a relaxing event by Lake Eve for both families and couples.
The resort had Wi-Fi coverage in the suites. At 5 ms ping, 13.46 Mbps download and 13.82 Mbps upload, the Wi-Fi was good enough for streaming TV shows and music, as well as our general work needs.
The suites came stocked with towels, coffee, salt and pepper, soaps, paper towels, laundry detergent and generally everything you’d need to use the suite’s facilities. Refills of these items were included, so you just needed to call to request more. They delivered the items to your room — when we requested coffee one morning, a bag of four additional coffee packets was delivered 26 minutes later.
I had relatively low expectations for the Fountains Resort when I arrived, as I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bluegreen or from a timeshare property in Orlando. Although the resort wasn’t posh or elegant — don’t expect a Westin or InterContinental resort — it’s well-located for Orlando parks and is a place I’d happily return to with friends, family or just as a couple. The suites are well-designed, clean and up-to-date, and there are amenities and activities to suit a wide range of guests. The resort is child-friendly, but it’s approachable and welcoming to other types of groups as well.
If you have ample Choice points or have enough Amex Membership Rewards points that you don’t mind transferring them to Choice at a 1:1 rate, this property can be a great redemption, since you can book one-, two- and three-bedroom suites for the same number of points. Even though Choice is now charging 30,000 points per night through at least Sept. 15 for this property, it could still be a good value if you’re looking to accommodate a large group of people. After all, the three-bedroom suites can hold up to 10 people, and the property has enough activities and pools to keep guests busy on days they don’t visit the nearby parks.
All photos by the author.