Solid range of services; efficient, but not doting, staff
As it usually is with humongous hotels, you'll have to get through a line to get any service. People queued at the Starbucks counter at all times of the day, and dinner reservations are necessary if you don't want to wait half an hour for a table. Waiting aside, the hotel performs a solid range of services efficiently: The bell staff are quick to help with bags, the front desk staff checks people in and out with remarkble efficiency, and an online concierge service facilitates guest requests like booking tickets to Disney. In short, they'll get the job done, but don't expect them to remember your name or make a lot of small talk when 10 people are in line behind you.
Room service available throughout the day
Poolside drink service
Staff concierge; online concierge enables guests to buy theme park tickets and get local area information
Business services: shipping; copying; faxing; PC, phone and pager rentals; signage printing and audio-visual support for groups; business center attendant available
Express and video checkout
Free flight boarding pass printing station
Babysitting referrals can be made through the concierge
A Five- to 10-minute drive from Disney World on World Center Drive, a divided highway dotted with large hotels and occasional chain restaurants
The hotel is located just three miles outside the entrance of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, an area 25 minutes south of downtown Orlando. It's difficult to get around without a car -- there are no restaurants or attractions within walking distance -- and the nearest strip mall is about a five-minute drive away.
Five-minute hotel shuttle to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom parking lot, followed by a 15-minute ride on a tram and monorail to the park itself; similar commute to Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios
15- to 20-minute hotel shuttle to Universal Studios theme parks
10- to 15-minute drive to International Drive, a 14.5-mile road parallel to Interstate 4 that's full of hotels, strip malls, outlet shops and restaurants. In the middle of this stretch is the Orange County Convention Center
10- to 15-minute drive to SeaWorld Orlando
20- to 25-minute drive to downtown Orlando. There's not much to see downtown, although 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 with tourists.
One-hour-and-15-minute drive to Kennedy Space Center
Full-service spa and nail salon; nine treatment rooms; "Around the World in Eighty Minutes" is the spa's signature massage, a sampling of different international massage styles.
Large, well-lit, 24-hour fitness center (free to access) with two dozen cardio machines (each with an individual TV), 10 weight machines, free weights, and fitness balls; free warm towels and headsets to borrow
24-hour business center with five computer terminals, two printers, and two copiers
Four lighted tennis courts (one of which is also a basketball court); base fee for two rackets and four tennis balls
Spacious game room with a dozen video arcade games, air hockey, and table tennis
Free resort activities include family movies shown poolside and karaoke hour
Excellent family option -- daily activities, a huge waterslide, and large rooms that can sleep a family of five
The Marriott Orlando World Center Resort doesn't offer all the elaborate, child-focused atmosphere of the Disney or Universal Studios resorts (or the arguably even more kid-centric Nickelodeon Suites Resort) but it does have all the requisite features to make it a superb family vacation destination.
A family of five can fit in a standard room with two double beds and a single-size sofabed -- most rooms at the Disney resorts can only sleep four people; larger suites also available
Free, organized kids' activities throughout the day, like bingo or a water ballon toss
Bill Madonna Golf Academy has covered bays, putting and chipping areas, bunkers, and manicured grass tees; hourly, half-day, one-day, and two-day lessons available, including swing analysis using video
Clean and well maintained, rennovations completed as of early 2011
Of the hotel's 2,000 rooms, all were upgraded (beginning in 2009 and ending in early 2011) with new carpets and flat-screen TVs. The new rooms are bright and spotless.
One small cleanliness issue, however, pertains to the free-roaming wildlife. I spotted wild ducks swimming in the pool, yet no staff member bothered to shoo them away. For some guests, however, the avian visitors were more than welcome -- some kids took the opportunity to feed the admittedly cute (but probably unclean) quackers.
For dinner, you have a choice of three restaurants -- Ristorante Tuscany (homemade pastas), Mikado (Japanese, teppanyaki-style meats cooked in an iron griddle in front of diners), and Hawk's Landing (steak, seafood, and a great wine list); reservations are essential.
The world's largest Marriott, drawing much of its business from conventioneers
There are only two obvious reasons why you would book a room at this hotel. The first -- and, apparently, the most common one -- is that you're attending a conference, caucus, or convention within the hotel's 400,000 square feet of meeting space. Vast as that is, the free-standing convention center takes up just a small portion of the world's largest Marriott, a sprawling, 200-acre property that includes 2,000 large, comfortable guest rooms (each with a balcony), an 18-hole golf course, scenic pools, a full-serivce spa, and time-share villas.
Which brings me to the second reason -- you plan to visit Disney World, a shuttle ride away to the parking lot (and a 15-minute tram ride from there). Of course, if you opt not to stay at one of the Disney resorts, you miss out one some of their nice perks, like extended hours to access the park with fewer crowds, room options that include bunk beds, and over-the-top thematic decorations that help to keep you immersed in cartoon land, rather than the corporate world. But the advantage of staying at the Marriott for a Disney vacation is a big one -- more comfortable beds.
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