This imposing, 26-story resort, set in 500 acres of natural beauty, caters to a wide range of guests. Convention clientele, leisure-seekers, golfers and families are given equal attention. A European-style spa, a Greg Norman–designed golf course, and a lazy river pool complex offer plenty of scope for relaxation. Rooms have ergonomic workstations and flat-screen TVs, in addition to deluxe linens on beds. The organic farm supplies the restaurants with produce, the golf course utilizes eco-friendly practices, and guests can explore the streams and forests in the area through educational eco-tours. A long hallway connects the hotel to the Ritz-Carlton, where Marriott guests may use room charge cards in restaurants and shops.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The nightly resort fee of $35 includes internet access, shuttles to theme parks, unlimited phone calls, access to driving range, pool floats, some fitness center classes, bike rental. Unlike in some European hotels, guests may not opt out of paying the fee, even if you are not using any of the benefits. If you are parking a car, the nightly fee is $25.
Two queen sized beds or a king bed (some king rooms add a sofa bed) with deluxe duvet style linens provide a truly delightful night's sleep. Subtle neutral colors and pale turquoise highlights set the serene tone. An easy chair by the floor-to ceiling-windows offers spectacular views of the large lake on the property, or the pool complex, or the golf-course and forest beyond. Ergonomic work stations and plenty of plugs for charging devices provide ease for those who must work while at the hotel. And a 65-inch flat screen TV that's Internet ready provides your own choice of distraction.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Despite the luxurious appointments in the room and the resort, there is a lack of sound-proofing between rooms or between floors.
As befits a luxury resort, the roomy, marble-tiled bathroom has a granite topped vanity with plenty of space, a separate soaking tub with helpful grab bar, and generous glass-enclosed shower. The WC is actually in a separate water closet, a nice touch that offers extra privacy. After a luxurious soak, using the hotel's Aromatherapy bath amenities, scented with ylang ylang, rosemary, geranium, patchouli, tuberose, lavender and vanilla, you can wrap up in the rich terry robe and relax.
The bath products, along with the linens, robes, and even the beds, may be purchased through the hotel website.
A vast, marble floored and tiled rotunda, with arched beams and a central fountain, contains sufficient check-in stations to handle even a large convention crowd. The windows of the lobby, with ample comfy seating, look out over the huge pool complex, lake and golf course beyond. The lobby is also home to The Kitchen restaurant. Impressive corridors branch from the lobby, heading for the massive meeting spaces, or heading to the Ritz-Carlton, next door.
YOU SHOULD KNOW It's likely a long walk from the lobby to your room, or from your room to the meeting facilities, or from your room to your dining choice. You'll get plenty of exercise.
This is one of the best pool complexes in the area, with several separate pools plus a long lazy river where you can float with the current on tubes, past rock cliffs, tropical landscaping, under waterfalls and pedestrian bridges, or you can get some cardio exercise by swimming against the slow, but powerful current. The large pool has plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas if all you want to do is take a dip and enjoy the sun. For even more serene sunbathing, guests can go next door to the Ritz-Carlton pool.
This huge (40,000-square foot) multi-story spa, located between and shared by the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton, contains 40 treatment rooms, its own heated lap pool, a full-service salon, a co-ed relaxation conservatory and its own cafe. You can spend an entire day there, between getting a massage or facial, relaxing, swimming, having a snack at the cafe, relaxing, using the steam rooms or sauna, and relaxing some more. You could finish up with a hammock massage, in which your limbs are gently stretched and loosened while you are rocked in a hammock in the open air garden.
The 6,000-square-foot fitness center in the Ritz-Carlton Spa, offers high-tech cardio and strength training equipment. For a separate fee you can partake in fitness classes.
The restaurants in this vast resort take farm-to-table dining so seriously that they opened Whisper Creek Farm, an on-property, 7,000 square-foot garden that supplies the resort's restaurants with produce. Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, a casual eatery just off the lobby, serves small plates and sandwiches using seasonal fare from the farm and from Central Florida farmers. Honey from the farm's apiaries is used in the restaurants and the spa. PRIMO by Melissa Kelly, which offers contemporary Italian cuisine, even has its own organic herb garden right outside the window. Citron, An American Brasserie, offers a buffet or a la carte menu for breakfast. Other on-property eateries include a lobby sushi bar and a poolside grill. Golfers can fuel up at Fairways Pub.
It's worth the time to arrange a trip to Whisper Creek Farm to see the gardens, apiary and chicken coop.
The Lobby Lounge offers a creative menu of cocktails; the bar at Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen serves craft beers; PRIMO by Melissa Kelly has a substantial wine list; and you can quench your thirst with a tropical drink at Quench Poolside Bar & Grill.
Guests can play at the Ritz-Carlton's 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed golf course, set around the picturesque lake shared by the two resorts. The course is designed not only to provide enjoyable play but also to protect the fragile ecosystem in which it sits, rich with ponds, wetlands, live oaks and cypress hammocks. The contoured greens, short roughs and five sets of tees cater to all levels of skill. Fairways Pub, overlooking the 18th hole at the course, offers casual fare from salads to steaks.
Guests have a rich choice of activities in addition to golf. One of the unique assets of this resort is its location on Shingle Creek, one of the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. Guests may participate in an eco-tour along this splendid waterway, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, either by kayak or canoe. You will encounter native birds including eagles, egrets, wood-storks, ospreys, ibis, herons and more in the oak and cypress canopy and along the waterway. In addition you may experience deer and alligator sightings. The pristine condition of the water and of the area says much for the resort's attention to ecology. This is also reflected in the Ritz Kids program, for children aged 4 to 12, and open to guests of this resort too. The youngsters may be dropped off at the Ritz Kids center, where they learn about ecology, get to see a variety of animals, and partake in supervised physical and creative activities.
Sitting amid 500 acres of golf course and Florida wilderness, at the headwaters of the Everglades, this resort is pretty remote from civilization, though you can see the lights of Disney and Universal in the distance. A car or ride share service would be ideal if you want the independence of exploring on your own. But complimentary shuttles are offered to Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, making a car unnecessary if those are your sole destinations.
The closest spot for some fine dining is right next door at the Ritz-Carlton, where celebrity chef Norman Van Aken's acclaimed restaurant Norman's (5-minute walk) offers New World fusion food inspired by the Caribbean. Highball & Harvest (5-minute walk), arguably the best-smelling restaurant in the area, serves up Southern comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Ritz-Carlton (five minute walk) offers some very pleasant watering holes. Highball & Harvest is known for creative cocktails, The Lobby Lounge, new in 2017, is a great place to have a drink and people watch, and Norman's lounge has a wide array of wines and whiskeys.
WHY WE LIKE IT
What's not to like, except perhaps the price, but you knew it was going to be expensive. The good thing is that you get real value for your money. The surroundings are exceptionally beautiful, the accommodations are luxurious, the amenities are excellent, the service top notch, the activities endless, the children's program delightful.