The information presented here has been gathered from Vistana member experiences, membership materials, and conversations with other owners and VSE personnel. The authors have no affiliation with Vistana Signature Experiences, other than being an owner. Any errors or omissions are the authors’. VSE reserves the right to modify the program at any time. Please visit Vistana’s website at http://www.vistana.com.
The original version was written in 2001. Many thanks to the growing number of TUG- contributing VSE owners who help us all stay current with the changes on the TUG Vistana owners forum.
Vistana began operations in 1980, developing the first timeshare resort in Orlando Florida the Vistana Resort with the Courts phase. Vistana quickly grew to become one of the major players in the timeshare industry. By September 1997, the company had more than 1,500 units in its six resorts and approximately 68,000 vacation ownership interests sold(1). In 1996, Vistana entered in to an agreement to manage and market vacation ownership properties under the Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and Homewood Suites brand names.
In 1999, Starwood Hotels & Resort purchased Vistana to establish an immediate presence in the vacation ownership segment(2). In 2016 Starwood Hotels & Resorts was acquired by Marriott International. Prior to the acquisition, Vistana was spun off from Starwood and acquired by Interval Leisure Group (ILG) as a wholly owned subsidiary. Vistana has the exclusive rights to manage and market vacation ownership properties under the Westin and Sheraton brand names. Vistana currently operates and manages 21 vacation ownership properties along with 3 hotel properties. Vistana operates the properties in their system under the Vistana Signature Network (VSN).
Vistana properties are a combination of developed and purchased properties. These properties are all premier resorts and properties in terms of size, amenities, and furnishings. Properties originally developed by Vistana prior to 1999 will be referred to as legacy Vistana properties below.
Vistana plans to convert the following properties over time to timeshare vacation ownership. The two resorts in Mexico will become, along with the Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas & Spa, part of the Westin Adventras Flex ownership program. See Flex ownership later in this article.
In late September 2011 it was reported that the owners of the Villas of Cave Creek had decided to terminate its relationship with Vistana. As of this writing that termination seems to be final effective December 31, 2011.
During the time eight to twelve months in advance reserve only at the deeded (home) resort, use year and season. The reservation must be for a full week. This is considered the home resort priority period. There are several properties that have special reservation rules that may deviate from the eight to twelve months in advance home resort priority period. Fixed week owners should confirm their reservation at least twelve months from the start of their fixed week. At some resorts the fixed week can be confirmed longer in advance.
VSN properties are deeded resorts with a perpetual deed. While the deed has a specific week and unit number, the vast majority of units were sold as float weeks and units. Fixed weeks and/or units can usually be purchased from the developer at a premium. When purchasing resale, the buyer should understand if the purchase is a fixed or float week and/or unit.See the resale section for more details on resale purchases.
While ownership is technically not points based. Vistana uses an overlay system where for all intents and purposes VSN is a points system. All units purchased from the developer, and some units purchased resale, have a point assignment, called StarOptions. The number of StarOptions for a given unit is based on the resort, season, and unit size. StarOption values for each resort/season/size are in this pdf: StarOptions Value Chart.
As an example, below are some StarOption values. The chart shows the unit size, the season, and the number of StarOptions needed to stay each night and for a week.
Westin Mission Hills
|1br pre||Gold Plus||4,400||4,400||4,400||6,600||8,800||8,800||6,600||44,000|
Sheraton Vistana Villages
|1br pre||Gold Plus||4,400||4,400||4,400||6,600||8,800||8,800||6,600||44,000|
VSN members wishing to make reservations at a property other than the one they own or within a different season than they own can use StarOptions to make a reservation 8 months in advance of check-in. Reservations are best made online at midnight or by phone at 9:00am Eastern Time eight months to the day in advance of the desired stay.
Reservations can also be made by phone at 9:00am eastern time eight months in advance. There is no charge to use StarOptions for a reservation a week. There is also no fee for changing or cancelling a StarOption reservation, but owners may be subject to housekeeping fees if multiple StarOption reservations using their single week ownership.
Cancelling a reservation close to check-in date may have additional penalties. The reservations agent will detail the fees and penalties when completing the reservation.
Effective August 2011 StarOptions can be banked for up to two years. For example, StarOptions banked from the 2017 use year will be available for StarOption reservations through December 31st 2019. There is currently a $99 fee to bank StarOptions. Banked StarOptions cannot be converted into Starpoints or used to make reservations at your home resort 8 to twelve months in advance. Banked StarOptions also cannot be used for deposit for exchange through an external exchange company.
Vistana now sells a pure point product where buyers can purchase any number of Home/Flex Options. Home/Flex Options can be used to reserve any view or unit size for up to the number of Home/Flex Options you own from twelve to eight months in advance. Vistana also sells Home/Flex Options in popular increments based on specific weeks based reservation types from the StarOption chart. For example 81,000, 148,100. The following Flex Ownership programs are available:
This product allows owners to reserve any of the available properties in the eight to twelve month home resort booking window. At eight months, Flex Options become StarOptions and can be used to book other VSN resorts in the network float period. The following properties are available for booking in Sheraton Flex.
This product allows owners to purchase either Ocean Front Home Options or Resort View Home Options. Home Options can be used to reserve any villa size within the view purchased for any length of time up to 21 nights for any time of the year starting at 12 months in advance for the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas. At eight months, Home Options become StarOptions and can be used to book other VSN resorts in the network float period.
The Coral Vista and Summer Bay phases were/are sold as Home Options. Owners can use their Home Options to book any villa size for any length of time up to 21 nights within their owned season from eight to twelve months in advance. At eight months in advance owners can use their Home Options to book any season, even outside their owned season to book any villa size for any number of nights up to 21. Also at eight months, Home Options become StarOptions and can be used to book other VSN resorts in the network float period.
This program allows buyers to purchase vacation ownership interest in several properties in Mexico. This product allows owners to reserve any of the available properties in the twelve to eight month home resort booking window. At eight months, Flex Options become StarOptions and can be used to book other VSN resorts in the network float period. The following properties are available or will be available in Westin Adventuras.
The Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas & Spa is currently the only resort of the three that is available for Home Option or StarOption reservations.
Vistana properties have an active resale market. Timeshare resale sites and EBay have many listings for Vistana properties. As with any purchase the buyer should only deal with reputable sellers and take appropriate purchase precautions.
Because of the conglomerate nature of the Vistana network of properties, resale benefits within VSN vary based on the property purchased. Some resorts are mandatory and StarOptions transfer to the resale purchaser. Others are voluntary and StarOptions do not transfer. In neither case does the ability to convert the week in to Starpoints transfer to the new owner. Nor do resale StarOptions count toward Elite Owner status. Mandatory properties are usually sold at a premium to voluntary properties due to their additional flexibility.
In 2005 Vistana introduced the Elite program to encourage multiple week ownership. There are 3 membership levels with increasing benefits:
Vistana’s primary external exchange company is Interval International (II). Some older resorts also trade through RCI. II membership is automatic with purchases from Vistana and resale purchases at mandatory properties and the membership fee is included in the annual VSN fee. This II account is only for Vistana properties. Resale voluntary properties or non Vistana timeshare properties must be in a separate II account.
Deposits into an external exchange company are for a full week. Lock off units can be split and one or both sides deposited into II. Lock off ownerships eligible for StarOptions can also lock off and utilize one side of their unit as either home resort or StarOptions and also deposit the other side of the lock off in to an external exchange company.
Vistana determines the value of the deposited week. The value determines the trade power assigned to the deposit and thus types of properties and weeks that the deposit can be traded into.
Not to be confused with StarOptions, Starpoints is the currency used in Starwood’s Preferred Guest Program (SPG). SPG is similar to other major hotel frequent stay programs. Owners who purchase weeks directly from Vistana are automatically enrolled (if they are not already members) and given Gold-level membership.
Starpoints may be used for hotel stays (no blackout dates), plane tickets (by converting to frequent flier miles or through www.spgflights.com), special experiences, etc. For more information, see http://www.spg.com
Weeks or ownership purchased directly from Vistana may be converted to Starpoints at a fixed exchange rate that is listed in the purchase documents and within an owners account on www.vistana.com/dashboard. Weeks can only be converted every other year (unless a certain Elite level); however, a lock off unit can convert only part of a unit to Starpoints if desired. There may be a fee to convert a week to Starpoints.
Disclaimer: This information is accurate to the best of my knowledge. The information is provided for the enjoyment and use of TUG members and guests!
If you have questions, please post them on TUG’s Vistana Signature Experiences Forum, located here: Vistana Signature owners forum! There are many knowledgeable owners willing to help!
Credit and Thanks: About the latest author: “Dioxide45” has been a Vistana owner since 2016 and is a ten year timeshare owner.
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