- Valet and self-parking are each charged per day.
- No Wi-Fi; daily fee for wired Internet
- No off-site activities within walking distance
A quiet, luxurious contrast to Orlando's busy theme-park and business hotels
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
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.
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.
Comfortable, spacious, and high tech -- the Ritz has a few better touches, but the difference is minimal.
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).
Impressive facilities on-site, free access to even more at the adjoining Ritz-Carlton
Counting its shared features with the Ritz-Carlton next door, the JW has a great array of features.
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.
Beautiful, 18-hole course 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.
Lots of family-friendly amenities, though it's not connected to a theme park
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.
All rooms received new furniture and carpets in 2010.
Four restaurants, including one helmed by a James-Beard-Award-winning chef
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.
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