The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, Orlando Renovation, A Triumph of High Hospitality
The Americans are on the move – to the southeast, apparently. According to a report by Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism planning source, approximately 31.4 million domestic visitors (in person-trips) visited Florida in the second quarter of 2022, up from at the same periods in 2021 (+1.7%) and 2019 (+8.3%). The report further cites that quarterly hotel demand, particularly in Florida, exceeded pre-COVID (2019) levels for a second consecutive quarter in the second quarter of 2022 with growth benchmarks across the board: hotel sales up +7.5%; average daily rate (ADR) up +14.4%; and occupancy rate up +2.7%. All of these indicators illustrate that Florida is flexing its tourist muscles as travelers increasingly flock to the Sunshine State.
An unmistakable draw in Florida is the Orlando Tri-County area, which boasts a year-round mild climate, an abundance of theme parks and other activities, and more than 127,000 guest rooms including choose – from budget hotels to 4 and 5 star resorts.
Speaking of luxury accommodations, I had the pleasure of visiting Orlando, Florida for a resort experience that actually exceeded my decidedly high expectations: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
This beautiful, award-winning hotel is located within Grande Lakes Orlando, a 500-acre oasis of natural beauty, which is also home to the JW Marriott Orlando. With its expansive natural setting, legendary hospitality and array of world-class on-site experiences, Grande Lakes Orlando is Central Florida’s premier multi-hotel resort, hidden away in the heart of Orlando.
The five-hundred-eighty-two-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando recently emerged from an extensive multimillion-dollar transformation, which unveiled a series of upgrades to its seven restaurants, common areas, Club Lounge, pool , its private cabanas by the pool and its rooms and suites. all of which feature generous amenities and balconies, double vanities and views. Families needing more space can choose from the expansive three- and four-bedroom Ritz-Carlton Residences.
Every interior detail has been impeccably updated with the highest quality luxury fixtures, textiles and furnishings, drawing inspiration from the natural beauty of the lush grounds of Grande Lakes and the surrounding eleven lakes.
Guests who upgrade to the Club Level enjoy exclusive privileges and access to the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge, where they can enjoy five daily food and beverage presentations. Club Level amenities also provide access to Ritz Kids programs, organized events and activities, exclusive areas and balconies for watching fireworks, and dedicated concierge service.
All guests enjoy access to a stellar collection of bars, lounges and restaurants, including Primo – a Michelin “recommended restaurant” at sister property JW Marriott which is within walking distance, as well as the Ritz-Carlton Knife and Spoon steak and seafood restaurant from award-winning chef John Tesar, proud recipient of a Michelin star since June 2022.
The hotel is also home to the 40,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa, which is a rejuvenating stopover for resort-style wellness programs and treatments, and the newly renovated pool with luxurious cabanas.
Hotel guests can also enjoy the Grande Lakes Orlando Championship Golf Course which serves as the PGA Tour Challenge event site, and the eighteen thousand square foot Whisper Creek Farm which is located on the property.
There are also plenty of sports and recreational activities, including serene fishing spots, falconry adventures, fast mountain biking, guided canoe eco-tours on Shingle Creek, a Sunrise Safari, tennis, and more.
I learned even more about the property from Jon McGavin, Regional General Manager of Grande Lakes Orlando. Here are some highlights from that conversation.
MK: While there’s a lot to love about Grande Lakes, Orlando, how would you sum up the area as a whole?
JM: With its vast natural setting, legendary hospitality and array of world-class on-site experiences, Grande Lakes Orlando is the region’s most unexpected luxury resort destination. An oasis inspired by Florida’s golden age of hotels, the destination actually offers accommodations and services from two iconic luxury hotel brands: The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott. The vast grounds they share, including 11 lakes, provide a spectacular setting for an unrivaled collection of rooms and suites, amenities and leisure activities. Grande Lakes is a paradise for those who want a different Orlando Experience.
MK: I know there have been recent renovations. What can you share about this?
JM: Yes, we are committed to always improving the customer experience. A multi-million dollar investment has been made in property-wide renovations, covering both the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels and their common amenities. The renovations have meant reinventing, expanding and building new areas which include accommodation, lobby and lounge, restaurants and bars and swimming pools offering a full water park experience and luxury cabanas.
MK: As a luxury-oriented establishment, how would you describe your ideal clientele?
JM: Modern affluent client-guests who are on a journey for deeper meaning and satisfaction. They choose brands that share their values and reinforce their beliefs. Our approach to hospitality resonates with luxury travelers who don’t want the typical Orlando experience. Those looking to visit a place that is a destination in its own right. That once drawn to Florida, their primary intention of traveling here is not necessarily the area’s surrounding attractions, although that may be part of their plans while there, but rather those seeking the full satisfaction of their respite directly linked to their accommodation. We appeal to customers who expect and see the value in a certain level of hospitality that can only be found at select establishments and by brands that have earned that reputation.
In short, we offer GREAT service that is: Gracious, Relational, Aspirational, Nostalgic, Diverse, Excellent.
MK: With a fair amount of completion in the Orlando Tri-County area, what are a few things that really set the Ritz-Carton Grande Lakes apart from other luxury hotels and resorts in the area?
JM: For one thing, in a lush and natural 500-acre multi-resort property setting, our resort amenities and bespoke activities are second to none. We have many high caliber resorts, including an 18-hole championship golf course that hosts the PNC Championship. We also have a sprawling 40,000 square foot spa where we are the exclusive provider of Organic products and services in the United States. In fact, in 2002 USA today honored The Spa at Grande Lakes, which he dubbed “the grande dame of spas”, by naming it “Best Hotel Spa” in America.
Our natural environment is another one of our unique discriminators. With 11 lakes, mountain biking, fishing, falconry, eco-tours through the headwaters of the Everglades, a newly expanded water park with fun features for all ages, and more, being outdoors in Florida has never been easier. nor more fun.
As a few fun facts, we are the only resort in Florida to offer falconry experiences and we also have an Olympic champion ice sculptor on site and a fishing director.
For foodies, our culinary program also sets us apart. This notably includes MICHELIN award-winning restaurants led by James Beard Affiliate Chefs: Chef John Tesar of Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton which achieved a 2022 MICHELIN Star, and Chef Melissa Kelly of Primo at JW Marriott which is a Restaurant recommended in the MICHELIN Guide Florida 2022.
In all, there are over 12 indoor and outdoor dining options across the property. Many of these outlets draw inspiration and ingredients from the property’s working farm and lush garden, allowing us to offer true farm-to-table cuisine.
Our location is private and expansive compared to neighboring resorts. Sure, we’re conveniently located for access to local attractions, but guests still feel worlds apart. Grande Lakes Orlando is truly hidden in the heart of Orlando.
MK: COVID-19 has certainly presented its fair share of lingering challenges. How will the property continue to weather the challenges presented by the pandemic?
JM: In response to the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we have implemented a variety of new protocols and elevated practices in keeping with our high standards of cleanliness and luxury service.
This includes the engagement of internal and external experts in the areas of food and water safety, hygiene and infection prevention and hotel operations. Our Marriott Cleanliness Council has, in fact, redefined our cleaning and safety standards. We are actively monitoring and developing our solutions to respond to current events and conditions and otherwise ensure continued attention to the health and safety of our guests and associates.
Customers also appreciate the ability to check in contactlessly and easily access their loyalty information. The Marriott Bonvoy app has several features to enhance the guest experience, including area and restaurant information, mobile chat to communicate with guest services, and the ability to also submit service requests.
From my own experience at the Ritz-Carton Grande Lakes, I can attest that they create such an exceptional and personal service-oriented hospitality experience that not only do those memories stay with the guest, but also foster guest loyalty. customers – the kind that inspire repeat visits year after year. The genre also helps guests believe that the setting, experiences, and service provided make the property a perfect choice for special celebrations of life and business events.
In my opinion, for an Orlando vacation, there is no greater experience than the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.