Starwood Vacation Ownership is another one of the major hotel chains in the vacation ownership business with around 20 resorts in North America, Mexico and the Caribbean with some 6,000 condominiums.
The resorts cater for a number of leisure activities including fishing, skiing, sailing and boating, swimming, shopping, golfing, hiking and horseback.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide operate their Starwood Vacation Ownership timeshare business under three different brands:
- Sheraton Vacation Ownership Resorts (mid-scale resorts)
- Westin Vacation Ownership Resorts (up-scale resorts) and
- St. Regis Residence Club which offers whole and fractional ownership
Starwood Vacation Ownership Resorts
Starwood got into the timeshare vacation ownership business with the acquisition of Westin Resorts in 1997 and in 1999 they purchased the Vistana brand with its 100,000 members.
Today Starwood Vacation Ownership incorporates Westin, Embassy, Sheraton and Vistana, offering resorts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, South Carolina, the Bahamas and US Virgin Islands. All their properties are Gold Crown/5Star status.
Starwood Vacation Ownership have four resorts in Florida of which two are in Orlando:
- Sheraton PGA Vacation Resort, Port St. Lucie
- Sheraton Vistana Resort, Orlando
- Sheraton Vistana Villages, Orlando
- Vistana's Beach Club, Jensen Beach - Hutchinson Island on the Treasure Coast
The Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort in Orlando is currently undergoing an expansion and at the end of this phase, will have 615 villas.
The Starwood condominiums range from studio to one, two or three bedrooms and come with full kitchens, whirlpool tub, washer and dryer, living room with a sofa bed and a separate dining area and most have a private balcony or terrace.
The two bedroom apartments will sleep up to 8 people and the three bedroom, up to 12. Some two and three bedroom units have a lock off facility so that the unit can be split into two separate apartments if required. All the Florida apartments are either one, two or three bedrooms.
Starwood Vacation Ownership Membership
Starwood villas are purchased under deeded ownership either fixed or floating week, which means you own them in perpetuity and they can be handed on to family or friends.
Prices at the Sheraton Vistana Villages in Orlando currently start from around $13,900 and $18,000 will get you a 2 bedroom villa in the low season ($24,000 for high season)
Annual maintenance fees are based on the size of the unit, the resort and the season.
Though you purchase a particular sized unit at a specific resort for one week (fixed or floating) every year or every other year, you can then use a points based system called StarOptions, which then gives you a particular allocation of StarOptions to use in the Starwood Vacation Network.
Membership of Starwood Vacation Network costs $99 per annum and includes membership to Interval International. It is usually included in the annual maintenance fees and is mandatory at some resorts and voluntary at others.
Note that if you buy on the resale market, you may or may not be able to join the Starwood Vacation Network and some older properties are affiliated with RCI instead of II.
Starwood Vacation Ownership StarOptions
You can convert your vacation week into StarOptions points and use them to purchase time at another resort in the Starwood Vacation Network. This includes all the other Sheraton and Westin Vacation Ownership resorts.
Each unit size is allocated a specific number of StarOptions for each day of the week and each season and hence you can calculate how many StarOptions points you need to stay at a particular resort.
Starwood operate several different seasonal bands depending on region, such as silver (low), gold (medium) and platinum (high) or winter, fall etc.
The Florida resorts are classified as advantage (low), high (mid) and prime (high), but not all resorts offer all season bands.
If you are planning to stay in your designated villa at your home resort, then you can make a booking up to 12 months prior to your arrival date.
If you want to stay in a different unit and/or season at your home resort or at any other Starwood Vacation Network resort then you can book up to 8 months in advance.
You may also be able to reserve part of a week at any Starwood Vacation Network resort, up to 90 days in advance. There are no booking fees for using the Starwood Vacation Network.
If you don't want to stay at a Starwood Vacation Network resort, then you can book a property through the Starwood Preferred Guest® program or the Interval International® exchange program which gives you access to more than 2,200 destinations. Note some resales may not offer these perks.
StarOptions are very flexible but they cannot be carried over into a future year; they must be used in the current year.
Starwood Vacation Ownership Perks
If you buy a new villa week from Starwood then you are given you automatic Gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest® program which is Starwood's frequent stay program. Membership then gives you access to more than 850 other hotels and resorts worldwide in the Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide group with no blackout dates.
The program includes Westin® Hotels & Resorts, Sheraton® Hotels & Resorts, Four Points® by Sheraton, St. Regis® Hotels & Resorts, The Luxury Collection®, Le Meridien® and W Hotels®.
To book through the Starwood Preferred Guest® program, you must convert your villa allocation into Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints (fees apply). As well as hotel accommodation, the Starpoints can also be redeemed for airline miles with around 32 airline partners, car rental and merchandise.
You can only convert your villa allocation into Starpoints every other use year. If you own a lock off unit, then you can convert one half one year and the other half the following year.
Starwood also operate an Elite program to encourage multiple-week ownership and offer a number of benefits including special rates at some golf courses, referral bonuses, the ability to convert Starpoints every year and villa upgrade perks.
If you own two or more weeks worth at least 159,000 StarOptions then you qualify as a three star member, at least 359,000 gives you four star status and 559,000 five star status.
One of the benefits of five star status is Platinum membership of the Starwood Preferred Guest® program.