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A quiet, luxurious contrast to Orlando's busy theme-park and business hotels
The JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
This is an impressive hotel, but not only because shares all its features with the adjoining Ritz-Carlton. The JW, Marriott's most upscale brand, has always been a step or two behind in the world of luxury hotels, but this is not the case with this massive, 1,057-room resort. With its beautiful marble lobby, large (and very comfortable) guest rooms, enormous lazy-river pool, and fine-dining restaurant from a James-Beard-Award-winning chef, this JW is one of Orlando's best resorts in its own right. And getting to the massive spa and the 18-hole golf course (technically, on the Ritz side of the Grande Lakes property) only takes a five-minute walk through a bright, indoor corridor or along a paved path beside the Greg-Norman-designed fairways. Both properties were renovated in 2011, with rooms receiving even more luxe updates, including a tiled entryway.
And unlike the towering, hyper-dense business hotels of International Drive or the themed-out, rugrat-packed properties at Disney or Universal Studios, the JW Marriott Grande Lakes is a calmer, more self-contained mega-resort. It's about a 15-minute drive from the Disney or Universal theme parks, but its full stock of on-site features keep many guests on the property for the duration of their stay. The on-site convention center draws a great deal of group traffic, but a hefty contingent of family vacationers keeps the vibe mellow and fun. Here, quiet relaxation takes priority over business-trip hustle and theme-park bustle.
Despite slight differences in the rooms -- only some have balconies, and none have iPod docks -- the JW Marriott is virtually identical to the Ritz. Choosing between them is easy: Book at the cheaper of the two.
Excellent conveniences; friendly, accommodating staff
Nightly turndown service
The scope of JW's services covers the necessary (porter service) to nice flourishes (nightly turndowns). And the staff is remarkably friendly -- they always offered to help me with bags, directions, or restaurant recommendations, each time with a smile.
- Nightly turndown service; free chocolates and bottled water
- Poolside drink service
- Concierge, Universal Studios ticket desk, and Hertz car rental counter on site
- Express, in-room video checkout
- Full array of business services -- shipping, transcription, on-site notary public -- available Monday through Friday, with limited weekend hours.
- Free copies, faxes, and black-and-white printouts at the front desk (up to 20 pages); at the business center, copies are charged per page
- Same-day dry cleaning and minor alterations; two-hour pressing; self-service laundry open 24 hours
- Daily fee for valet and self-parking
On the 500-acre Grande Lakes property, near convention-centric International Drive; at least a 10-minute drive from any major theme park -- or anything at all, really
Like the Ritz-Carlton to which it adjoins, the JW Marriott sits on the sprawling Grande Lakes resort property, bordered by two four-lane parkways and suburban-style residences. On the property, there's a golf course, lots of open space, and -- you guessed it -- lakes. It's all very peaceful and even a little naturalistic, which is uncharacteristic for Orlando. Still, there really isn't anything to do nearby, so you need to drive to get to anything worthwhile off-site.
- Five-minute drive to International Drive, a 14.5-mile road parallel to Interstate 4 that's chock-full of hotels, strip malls, outlet shops, and restaurants. In the middle of this stretch is the Orange County Convention Center, the second largest convention center in the U.S.
- Five- to 10-minute drive to Universal Studios theme parks
- 10-minute drive to SeaWorld Orlando
- 12-minute drive to Orlando International Airport
- 20-minute drive to Disney theme parks
- 20-minute drive to downtown Orlando. There's not much to see downtown, though Orange Avenue has a notable dining and nightlife scene, and non-theme-park attractions like the Orlando Science Center and Harry P. Leu Gardens are popular among tourists.
- One-hour-and-15-minute drive to Kennedy Space Center
Comfortable, spacious, and high tech -- the Ritz has a few better touches, but the difference is minimal.
A Standard Room
Wonderfully soft beds, all-marble bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, high-tech appliances, and space -- lots of space -- make the rooms at the JW Marriott a significant step up from similarly priced hotels elsewhere. Compared to the Ritz, the size of the rooms and the in-room comforts are about the same, though a room at the Ritz comes with an iPod-docking radio (rather than a CD player) and Bulgari toiletries (rather than less notable Nirvae bath products).
- Big, 420-square-foot standard rooms with either a king-size bed or two double beds (only some have balconies); bigger than average for Orlando, though Loews Portofino Bay and Caribe Royale have even larger rooms
- Very soft bed: pillow-top mattress with a featherbed, down duvet, and seven down pillows
- Large marble bathroom with a separate shower and tub, Nirvae bath products, and waffle-weave cotton bathrobes
- Stocked minibar with a handy cocktail-making manual
- 37-inch flat-screen TV with 57 channels (including HBO HD) and pay-per-view movies; Video games, CD Jukebox/Radio Interactive ($10 for two hours, just so you can listen to music on the TV), and Internet TV accessible through the keyboard
- No Wi-Fi; per day fee for hard-wired Internet, which includes unlimited local and domestic long-distance calls
- CD player and clock-radio; no iPod hookup
- Electronic safe, large enough for a laptop, that also includes an inside power outlet -- an unusual, thoughtful touch
Impressive facilities on-site, free access to even more at the adjoining Ritz-Carlton
The tennis courts
Counting its shared features with the Ritz-Carlton next door, the JW has a great array of features.
- Streaming, lazy-river pool (see Pools section)
- Bright, well-equipped fitness center (free to access); personal training and fitness classes, including yoga, available; access to steam room and sauna, charged per day
- Business center with three computers, a printer, copier, and shipping materials; Internet access is charged per minute.
- Free access to three tennis courts (lit in the evening); free used balls, racket rental costs is inexpensive
- Beach volleyball court
- Small game room with six, coin-operated arcade games and air hockey
- Surrey bikes (four-wheeled bikes that seat four) with kids seats attached, available for 30 minute rentails; mountain bikes also available, scenic routes are a 25-minute ride away.
- Shops sell snacks, convenience items, gifts, resort apparel and local guide books.
- 70,000 square feet of meeting space
Massive, streaming, lazy-river pool, plus a smaller (less "windy") pool on the Ritz's property
The entrance to the lazy-river pool
Holding 900,000 gallons of water, the hotel's lazy-river pool can accommodate 1,562 people at one time. A canopy of trees dips towards the winding river, which opens up to two bays, one with a zero-entry entrance and a sandy shore. But if you prefer a pool that doesn't draw its inspiration from The Jungle Book, JW guests have free access to the elegant pool at the adjoining Ritz-Carlton resort.
It might be part of the Ritz-Carlton, technically, but guests have free easy access to an excellent spa.
Guests of the JW Marriott can easily walk to the massive, 40,000 square foot Ritz-Carlton spa. In true Floridian spirit, the spa emphasizes citrus-based treatments, and even has a full-time "Citrus Consultant" on staff. Specialty treatments include Tuscan Citrus Cure and the Ionithermie Cellulite and Toning Program. The spa building also houses a lap pool, a beautiful fitness center, and a sauna and steam room.
The 18-hole course was designed by Greg Norman.
This challenging, 18-hole course winds through the woods, lakes, and wildlife that surrounds the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties. Golf Digest rated it as one of the top courses in Florida in 2006.
- 18-hole, 7,122 yards, par 72; designed by golf great Greg Norman
- Driving range, practice putting green, 55,000-square-foot practice tee, 16,000-square-foot teaching tee; full-size bunker and short-game area
- Calloway and Taylor Made clubs and FootJoy shoes available for rent
- Reduced green fee for hotel guests, which includes golf cart rental and use of the driving range (rediced twilight rate after 2 p.m.)
Lots of family-friendly amenities, though it's not connected to a theme park
The game room
On its own terms, the JW is incredibly family-friendly. It's of a different level, of course, than some Disney and Universal Studios hotels, where kids can get a wake-up call from their favorite movie character, but it is still an excellent choice for families looking for a little more luxury from their Orlando vacation.
While the JW has the better pool, the adjoining Ritz-Carlton does have a couple extra features that the JW doesn't have: a kids' check-in desk that provides its junior guests with a welcome kit, and Kids' Suites, which have kid-size furniture, games, toys, and kids' robes and bath products.
- Standard rooms can include two double beds; rollaway beds are charged per night and cribs are free.
- Concierge can arrange 24-hour babysitting services through a separate company with 24 hours' notice.
- Kids' menus available for in-room dining as well as at the Citron and Quench restaurants
- Long, winding, lazy-river pool and a splash pool
- Giant chess set, tether ball, and playground.
- JW guests can enrool their kids in the Ritz Kids day camp, which offers supervised activities like swimming, tennis, golf, arts and crafts as well as video games and movies; "Kids' Night Out" evening care, which includes dinner
- Arts and crafts activities include tie-dye T-shirt making and building electronic race cars. Some activities, however, cost extra.
- Free outdoor family-appropriate film sceenings every Saturday evening
- Specialized kids' treatments available at the spa
- Free golf for kids, with each paying adult; golf etiquette class for kids ages five to 12
All rooms received new furniture and carpets in 2010.
Four restaurants, including one helmed by a James-Beard-Award-winning chef
Dinner at Citron
There's good dining variety at the JW -- a fine-dining Italian restaurant; a sushi bar; a poolside grill; and a brasserie with New American cuisine. Once you've tried all of these, you can always head next door to the Ritz, which has several other upscale options.
- Helmed by James-Beard-Award-winning-chef Melissa Kelly, Primo is an Italian restaurant (open for dinner only) with a menu focused on fresh, local ingredients (some of which are grown on-site, in the restaurant's organic garden).
- Citron is a charming brasserie (i.e., a casual restaurant) that features American standards with a twist, like an egg salad with arugula on brioche, and meatloaf with tomato jam spread on foccacia
- Quench Bar and Grill (open lunch and dinner) serves burgers, salads, and quesadillas poolside.
- The Lobby Lounge (open for dinner) has a sushi bar and also serves traditional bar food, like pork sliders; the lounge's outdoor patio is a great place to sip a cocktail beside a firepit.
- On-site Starbucks coffee shop
- Cafe Bodega is the hotel's grab-and-go sandwich shop, also featuring pizza, wraps, and snacks for lunch.
- 24-hour room service -- delivery fee and gratuity added automatically
- Five-minute indoor walk to the Ritz-Carlton, which has another four on-site restaurants, including Norman's (from another James-Beard-Award-winning chef)
The 998-room JW Marriott is one of the most luxurious resorts in Orlando, and not just because it shares a gorgeous golf course and spa with the adjacent Ritz-Carlton. Its big rooms, streaming lazy-river pool, and acclaimed Italian restaurant are all among the best in Orlando -- a great choice, for business or a family vacation.
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Things You Should Know About JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
- 4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837
Hotel Is Also Known As...
- Marriott Orlando
- Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes
- Orlando Marriott
- Deluxe Lakefront Room
- Deluxe Room
- Executive Suite
- Grande Suite
- Presidential Suite
- Studio Suite