Hotel Guide: The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando

Marriott loyalists will find a lot to enjoy at this recently revamped resort.

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The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes is looking spiffier than ever before following a major renovation that updated the guest rooms, the club lounge, public areas, recreational facilities and more. It’s a family-friendly destination that is sure to please, especially if you like earning and redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points.

The Grande Lakes complex counts three accommodation options within the property:

  1. The Ritz-Carlton.

  2. JW Marriott.

  3. The Ritz-Carlton Residences — a community of more than two dozen multi-bedroom, luxury rental homes.

With more than 580 rooms and suites total and 11 dining venues, there is a lot of space to enjoy, whether for vacation or work.

Location

The Grande Lakes complex is about 15 minutes from Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World. While not on or next to Disney property, the hotel does offer shuttle service to SeaWorld, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando if you provide 24 hours’ notice. Many guests may want to have a car to get around on their own schedule, but they will surely appreciate the serene grounds here. With 11 lakes and a golf course surrounding the hotel, it’s like you are on a private estate.

Design

With a classical, architectural look, the interiors saw a recent refresh to infuse more contemporary style with tropical, Florida touches. A nautical theme abounds with light colors, and large windows throughout help to bring the outdoors inside. Beautiful greenery and modern furniture add to the look. Guests can see the gardens, swimming pool and lakes from the main lobby, which is awash in marble and comfortable seating.

The staff of the Ritz-Carlton use name recognition and greet guests at every turn. It’s an impressive display of hospitality for which this Marriott Bonvoy-participating brand is well-known.

Stairways lead guests down from the lobby to the main recreational area where a new pool design showcases pool cabanas for rent, splashing fountains, whirlpools, and plenty of umbrellas and chairs. During warm weather, this is the hub of the resort.

Food and beverage

Guests at the Ritz-Carlton can also visit restaurants at the JW Marriott next door and make charges to their room. Among the most popular dining rooms here is Knife & Spoon, the hotel’s high-end steak and seafood restaurant. Chef John Tesar is a two-time contestant on Bravo's "Top Chef" and has worked with Anthony Bourdain. On the menu are rack of lamb, dry-aged akaushi bone-in ribeye and jumbo lump crab creole.

Highball & Harvest serves three meals a day from a menu that includes southern favorites and craft cocktails. Fresh Mediterranean fare is served at Primo, within the JW Marriott, and much of its produce comes from the restaurant’s own organic garden. Also at the JW Marriott, Citron serves a casual breakfast cafe while Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen is known for its farm-to-table fare courtesy of local farmers. An onsite nano-brewery produces some tasty beer, too.

Poolside dining at Bleu offers up a menu of delicious burgers and salads.

There’s also:

  • A spa cafe.

  • Grill at the golf club.

  • Lobby bar and lounge.

  • And a coffee shop.

Many of the hotel’s food and beverage venues receive attention from an Olympic Champion ice carver and chocolate sculptor that the hotel has on staff. He makes numerous showpieces for the resort often offering live demonstrations and lets guests carve pumpkins with him or create chocolate masterpieces to taste or take home.

Accommodations

Fresh from their renovations, the clean look of guest rooms is minimalist and bright. Rooms and suites overlook the gardens, lake or swimming pool and come with spacious bedrooms boasting framed nautical prints. All rooms are the same generous 480 square foot-size with only suites providing extra space.

The color scheme of white and gray makes the rooms feel even bigger, and the furnished balconies are perfect on nice-weather days. Ritz-Carlton bedding is a fan-favorite with a pillowtop mattress piled high with pillows and a soft duvet.

Designers did a great job catering to the modern-day traveler with bedside power and USB outlets, which are also available by the desk. Designer cabinets fold up to reveal a coffee maker and refrigerator with bottled water. Other snazzy equipment includes large flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations.

Bathrooms feature dual marble vanities stocked with plush towels, luxe toiletries, shower stall, water closet, soaking tub, and robes.

The suites are at least double the size of the guest rooms with the largest Presidential and Royal Suites more than 2,600 square feet with separate living areas and dining room. The Royal Suite has eight individual balconies.

Club level rooms offer access to a decadent and beautifully redesigned lounge. Here, guests can indulge in five food and beverage presentations throughout the day with some of the friendliest and most welcoming service in the hotel. Expect attention to detail remembered day after day and complimentary open bar available throughout the day with the option to take refreshments to go.

The hotel charges a $40 nightly resort fee, but it does pack in plenty of perks, including:

  • Area transportation.

  • Mountain bike rental.

  • Driving range privileges.

  • Pool floats at the lazy river at JW Marriott (Ritz-Carlton guests have free access).

  • Workout classes.

  • An hour on the tennis courts.

  • A free appetizer for Marriott Bonvoy Elite members.

Amenities

The pool features a new design and complements a spa swimming pool as well as the JW Marriott’s lazy river pool open to all guests. It’s hugely popular with families who come here to relax or to take a day off from visiting amusement parks.

Guests booking one of the swanky poolside cabanas enjoy private butler service with day beds, large-screen TVs and a refrigerator stocked with complimentary drinks. They can also order from a pool menu, but chips and guacamole, fruit plates and several snacks are complimentary.

In addition to the pools, the resort offers one of the region’s most spectacular spas. At 40,000 sq ft and with 40 treatment rooms, this expansive facility draws guests and locals for its impressive amenities. Massage and beauty treatments fill the spa menu, and relaxation areas for men and women feature whirlpools, sauna and steam room facilities.

As the surrounding area shows, golf and tennis are another popular activity for guests here. There are lots of outdoor activities including kayaking and bocce ball plus a Ritz Kids facility with supervised activities for young guests.

Meeting groups will find the shared space between this hotel and the JW Marriott to be expansive including the option to host events outdoors.

How to get to The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes

Orlando International Airport is the city’s main international airport and is served by all major U.S. carriers as well as numerous international airlines. A secondary airport, Orlando Sanford Airport, is primarily served by Allegiant Air.

Two major carriers at Orlando International Airport include Southwest and JetBlue making them ideal options for many travelers looking to travel to The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points are tied to the cash price of a ticket (valued at 1.5 cents per point in our most recent calculations). The cheaper the ticket, the fewer points you will need for a redemption.

JetBlue TrueBlue point redemptions are also pegged to the dollar cost of the ticket (1.5 cents per point) meaning good cash deals are also solid redemption bargains.

Delta Air Lines and United no longer offer award charts making it hard to know how many miles you need to save up until you know your exact travel dates.

American, on the other hand, still offers an award chart, which provides a benchmark (generally 25,000 miles roundtrip), but you can also find tickets sometimes as low as 6,000 miles one-way. The airline’s AAdvantage award map tool allows you to search the cheapest destinations using miles from your departure airport.

Planning your Orlando trip with miles will depend on the dates of travel, but there are plenty of options. A points-redemption stay at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando will also depend on the date, especially now that Marriott Bonvoy has ditched its award charts and hotel categories. On the dates we checked, a standard room redemption would cost as low as 50,000 points per night.

Once you arrive at this popular resort, the vacation experience is one of the best in town. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with the whole family, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes is a winner.

Photos courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.


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