Orlando's only Ritz-Carlton is a particularly extravagant link in the luxury chain, which shares a lush 500-acre golf course and natural landscape campus with the JW Marriott, and offers exemplary service that extends from the porte-cochere entrance to the 18-hole golf course, restaurants, children's programs, and 40-room spa. Suites have balconies, decadent white-marble baths, and deluxe bedding. Children are treated with special care in the Ritz Kids program, which offers supervised physical and creative activities. An enclosed hallway connects the Ritz to the JW Marriott next door, where you'll find more restaurants and a kid-friendly lazy-river pool complex.
The resort charges a daily resort fee of $35 that includes access to recreation, shuttles, Wi-Fi, and more, but best of all for family vacationers, it includes two hours a day for two children to attend Ritz Kids, an educational and entertaining children's activity center.
Spacious standard rooms offer two queen beds or a king bed, with deluxe feather bedding, pillows and duvets, which are so comfortable you are practically lulled to sleep. A private balcony with chairs and small table overlooks the pool, or the lake, or the golf course, and some afford views of fireworks from the distant theme parks. A 65-inch flat screen TV ensures you will not miss a single pixel of your favorite shows or movies; a generous writing desk offers ample data ports and sufficient charging options to guarantee you remain connected. A pod-style coffee maker ensures your early morning wake-up call comes with sufficient caffeine. To top it all off, housekeeping visits twice a day to restock supplies and keep your surroundings impeccable.
The Ritz offers a Royal Suite that will satisfy even the most noble guest.
The generous white marble bathrooms come with a separate WC, a two-sink vanity, a soaking tub and glass enclosed shower. Plush terrycloth robes and slippers, and an endless supply of oversized, thirsty towels make sure you stay warm and dry. The Asprey Purple Water amenities add to the refinement at the Ritz. Asprey has been producing luxury goods in England since the 18th century.
From the moment you drive up to the porte-cochere of this 15-story Italianate palace, you are made to feel like a special guest. The staff is welcoming and helpful, and open the doors for you to enter the marble lined lobby. The registration desks are to the right, with ample seating where you can wait during check-in. Straight ahead is the elegant Lobby Lounge, new in 2017, that provides even more seating, and a cool drink to help you defuse from your flight or drive.
The Ritz Carlton pool is a quiet, more formal bathing area, with beautiful blue striped cabanas that come with butler service, as you might expect at the Ritz. The cabanas also feature a mini-fridge, a large TV, because we wouldn't want to miss a moment of our favorite shows, lounges and chairs for four people, a snack basket with fruit, and a selection of magazines. If you seek a little more excitement, the pool at the JW Marriott next door offers a huge lazy river and pool complex with playground and water activities.
This massive (40,000 square feet) full-service spa with 40 treatment rooms, and a separate 4,000-square-foot pool, offers a wide range of treatments, and uses herbs grown in the resort’s organic garden, and honey from the resident bees, to produce natural beauty products. The massage menu includes deep muscle, hot stone, relaxation and stress relief. One of the special massages is performed as you lie totally relaxed in a hammock. The spa also features skin treatments, and offers a full-service beauty salon and a cafe.
The fitness center, connected to the spa, offers cardio and weight training equipment including equipment by Technogym, which gives you the ability to customize your experience. The Kinesis One station allows you to explore a range of natural movements and exercises, while connecting via a tablet to music, TV and training videos.
The onsite restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando offer fine dining at Highball & Harvest (the best smelling restaurant in Central Florida), which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Norman's, run by celebrity Chef Norman Van Aken, whose New World cuisine spearheaded the fusion of Caribbean and Asian recipes with traditional European technique. Both eateries are supplied with produce, chickens and honey by the resort's own 7,000- square-foot Whisper Creek Farm. Casual options for dining include Bleu, for poolside noshing, and Fairways, for the golfers.
The Lobby Lounge offers a full bar and a selection of small plates and sushi to get you through until dinner. Highball and Harvest concocts cocktails using seasonal fruits and herbs fresh from the farm. Bleu, the restaurant and bar at the pool, offers a full bar plus frozen drinks, and Fairway's Pub, the golfer's haven, is known for craft beers and scotches.
Designed by Greg Norman, the 18-hole golf course is designed to blend with the landscape, and is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, meaning it protects natural resources and animal habitats, but still offers golfers a challenge.
Located on Shingle Creek, part of the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, the Grande Lakes resorts are well-situated to offer a unique activity to their guests. A professionally trained Florida Master Naturalist Eco Tour Guide leads two-hour tours by kayak or canoe through pristine stands of cypress, pine and palm trees. You can observe wild birds such as eagles, hawks, herons, egrets, anhingas, ospreys and owls in their natural habitat as you drift silently by in your own water craft. The guide shares tales of the earliest settlers of the area, and points out wildlife, including alligators. The comprehensive and educational tour is well worth the price: $60 adults; $30 children 17 and younger (with an adult).
The resort offers shuttle service to the Disney parks, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando, so if these parks are your destinations, you won't need a car. But the resort is decidedly remote, and the independence of driving offers a lot when you are this far from everything. A ride sharing service or taxi could also be useful.
If you tire of the offerings at the Ritz-Carlton, there's always the JW Marriott (5-minute walk), where James Beard Foundation’s Award-Winning Chef Melissa Kelly's Primo offers Mediterranean dishes made with ingredients so fresh and local they are harvested right outside the window at Primo Organic Garden. Citron serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and features the best of Florida seafood and meat from local farms. Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen is a casual eatery also featuring produce from Whisper Creek Farm, the resort's onsite restaurant.
Plenty of choices for drinks at the JW Marriott (5-minute walk) including Whisper creek Farm: The Brewery, an onsite producer of craft beer. Each of the fine dining restaurants has a lounge attached, and best of all, there's no driving involved, just a long stroll back to that great bed at the Ritz-Carlton.
WHY WE LIKE IT
What's not to like about a resort that exudes the comfort and security of wealth. From the beautiful exterior to the elegant design of the lobby and public areas, to the luxurious rooms, award-winning restaurants, premier golf course, natural setting, Ritz Kids activity center, and relaxing pools, there's nothing here that fails to satisfy. And, any resort with twice daily housekeeping services is the height of luxury.