The house was ideally located in Emerald Island Resort which is a community made up mostly of homes that are vacation rentals and only about 15-20 minutes from Disney. It's a lovely area, nicely landscaped with quite a dramatic entrance and gated. The club house sported its own pool (mainly for the condos, I think) and a gathering room where there were some scheduled activities if you weren't at the park and a fitness center, if you felt the need. There was also wifi available there, for a price, which was not available in the house.
We had booked this house through a group called Villa Direct. We liked their website. It was easy to navigate and we could compare homes. The home that we chose was called Casa Sol y Sombre. Upon first glance, the house looked wonderful. It was clean and the tables were set with dishes and napkins--very inviting. We have rented condos and homes before but this was the first time I ever went into one where there was not a lick of anything either leftover from previous guests or supplied as starters (other than TP and little soap squares). Usually we find some dish soap and laundry detergent.
We soon discovered the ice maker didn't work in the fridge. Neither did the back burner of the stove. An algae ring around the pool didn't go away the entire two weeks even though the pool was "cleaned" and treated. There were several other irritating malfunctions I won't bore you with but there was no lack of little posted notes all over the house, neatly put into 4 X 6 wood frames telling us what not to do. It took us two weeks to find them all.
The big letdown in all of this was finding out we could have saved $500 with a AAA discount had we known it was possible when we booked. As it was, Villa Direct said they would have to cancel our reservation and rebook for the discount. The cancellation would have wiped out the savings. [Update 5/2010: Villa Direct has agree to pay us a part of the discount.]
The house we had two years before was called the Hideaway at Terra Verde it only had six bedrooms (Sombre had 7) and was a little farther away from Disney especially when you factored in traffic. But the quality of the house and the amenities were much nicer. They even had two Disney themed rooms that the kids loved.
It was tough to decide whether we'd made the right choice--being nearer Disney or having the other house which was nicer. It was especially frustrating when the refrigerator started to alternately defrost leaving pools of water around the food and then freezing. At least the ice we bought didn't melt.
Still it was nice to come home for an afternoon break of swimming and not loose a lot of time traveling. As I always say, a good travel experience is based largely on attitude and if you learn to roll with the punches a bit it works out in the end. Even if you end up flat on your back with bronchitis.