Just returned from a long stay with family; I've stayed here and at the neighboring Ritz-Carlton for work several times in the past.
First, the considerable pluses: this is a beautiful resort, and it is well-maintained. The staff are exceptionally friendly - as solicitous as the Ritz-Carlton staff next door, but a little less stuffy. On the whole, our not-too-high-brow family felt really welcomed here. The restaurants are very good, featuring local food prepared inventively; even the pool bar had some different options that were very tasty. The lobby and conference areas were very nice, the rooms are comfortable (the executive suite even more so!), and the conference center is top-notch. The little conveniences, like enough elevators to get you up and down without a wait, are there. But the lazy river pool is the true differentiator here. It is spectacular, and where my family spent the entire trip (while I worked)!
Now the few downsides: Disney's Yacht and Beach Club is my point of comparison, and it's pool is legendary for being an attraction. The JW's is better, in my book, especially because the lazy river is so much more extensive and the landscaping is so lush. It is transporting. But at the Disney pool, a team of lifeguards watch every square inch of the pool, which allows parents to relax and give tween kids a little more freedom to roam. Here? Not so much. There are staff around who are lifeguards, but they primarily are picking up trash, refilling water jugs, etc. I recognize that the nature of the pool would require a big increase in lifeguards to fully staff, but it would be welcome. The JW also has activities for kids, similar to a Disney resort, but far fewer, more that you have to pay for, and generally not poolside with music. The other area resorts make the activities and music work together to give you the feeling of being at a pool party, and that isn't the case here. But the biggest beef is the inner tubes.
You can't go down a lazy river without somethimg to float on, right? Except here, you have to BUY the float, for $7 and up. Which means unless you want to buy a new one every day, you have to keep track of it and carry it up to the room. Which looks absolutely ridiculous in a nice hotel. There HAS to be a way to do this more easily - let people check out floaters (maybe even charge them, and maybe even give them the option to buy them to take home) without dragging them around the hotel all week. My daughter was bummed when her first floatie sprung a week, and devestated when someone walked off with her second one. The staff was great in both cases, but, really? A check-out system as with towels would have avoided a lot of hassle and heartache.
Others have noted the prices here. $18 to self-park, more to valet. Starbucks markup is about 20%. I had a yogurt parfait and fruit cup my first day that cost $12 (though to be fair, it was the best yogurt parfait I've ever had); the breakfast buffet in the restaurant ran almost $30.
Finally, a pro/con on location. You are isolated from the sprawl of I-Drive theme parkland, which is wonderful. The resort is in an area of town that feels almost residential as you drive in, but within the resort, all you see is green. The downside is, you are a captive audience. The closest place to go is the RaceTrac gas station, which is the Ritz-Carlton of RaceTracs, but you can't even walk THERE. One note, by the way; it's a lot easier to get here via 417 to John Young Parkway than to go I-4, and at the exit onto John Young there's a nice towncenter with a great breakfast place (Keke's) and a Publix.
But the other thing about the location that, even as a non-environmentalist, bothers me is that this beautiful golf course resort was built at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, one of the nation's ecological treasures. Now, the Ritz plays up its eco-friendliness, and teh JW certainly does its part, too, but having read that the most devestating thing to Florida's ecology is a golf course, which pumps immense amounts of water out of the aquifer and dumps tons of algae-feeding phosphates back into the system, the eco-stuff all felt...hypocritical. Here's hoping the Grande Lakes folks discovered a "green" way to run a golf coursethat avoids these hazards. If so, that would be a super story to tell while plugging the kayak eco-tours.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Enjoy a truly memorable luxury hotel experience at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. We welcome you to our resort in a superb location just moments from Orlando's best-loved attractions. Each of our nearly 1,000 hotel rooms and suites feature elegant decor and luxury amenities, including marble bathrooms and 24-hour room service. Onsite dining options, including fine Italian cuisine at Primo and fresh sushi at the Sushi Bar, are sure to please every palate. Pamper yourself at the onsite Ritz-Carlton spa, or tee off from our Greg Norman-designed golf course. Children will enjoy our Lazy River outdoor pool, as well as a host of special programs created just for them. Though you might be excused for not wanting to leave the resort, you should certainly take advantage of our prime location near Orlando's legendary theme parks. We offer shuttle service to SeaWorld, Walt Disney World, and Universal Orlando Resort - making it easy for your family to enjoy the best of the area. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Jw Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes Hotel Orlando
- Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
- Orlando Marriott