Before I book anywhere I have started reading all the reviews for lodging and I have found more frequently than not that the most experienced travelers are the ones who know what to complain about in relation to the expectations set forth by star ratings and such. I have to say I agree with most of the positive ratings but also agree w/many of the negatives. First, the property is just phenomenally beautiful. The landscaping and decor, design, flow and function of the place are superb. It is immaculately kept. If I were reviewing just these factors, it would be TEN stars. It is both luxurious and friendly, romantic and suitable for families (who know how to behave, that is...). I stayed in a deluxe room with two small children (ages 4 and 6) and found it to be very comfortable for the three of us, and one night we had local guests and slept five with a rollaway squeezed in, had in-room dining twice, and we made it work. The room is very well equipped for a business traveler and is less comfy for children- no DVD player, lots of hook ups for business equipment., teeny fridge packed to the gills with the Ritz' "entertainment items" (read $8 water, etc) and I was barely able to squeeze in a few things I picked up for my diet-sensitive family. Big closet, generous hangers and valets. Not enough drawers for all of us. The room was mainly prepared as I'd asked. My son is sensitive to down and I'd asked for it to be removed entirely from one bed, and it was, but they had 4 foam pillows on one bed and only two down on the other bed. Kind of odd. We all got luscious robes (ask for robes in your children's sizes and don't forget the slippers) but for some reason my housekeeper (who was NOT tipped, read on there...) refused to leave me slippers all five days we were there.
As others noted the bathrooms are HUGE for hotel baths in any case. Elegant and well appointed.
We did not eat at the Grill or Norman's. We ate outdoors mainly at Bleu (food, great. Service, sketchy... the first time I ate there after I had to get my own adult menus. the waiter asked how we were and I responded I'd be better if I did not have to get my own menus... hmmmm... then it took ten minutes to get the kids' menu... which BTW is the same throughout the resort. Just memorize it day one and you'll have an easier time of it).
Bleu is only open mid-morning to 4:30 and I don't suggest trying it too close to closing time. Quench next door at the JW is a fine alternative... food is not as good but I found the staff. and bar staff to be friendlier and more service-oriented. I could care less how polite you are so long as I get my food, as ordered, and provide me with prompt and efficient service. Omne not so great experience was followed with one that was just great so I'd call it hit or miss.
Complaints about pool service are warranted. There was generally one person on staff for the entire pool... for towels, chair set up, refreshments, spontaneous fun stuff they include for kids/families like S'mores at the firepit near the pool, etc... so Glen who we saw most (and was GREAT!) had to tapdance quite a bit and I heard people grumbling about him, but he is only one person spread thin. The pool itself and seating, great. Towels soft and warm if you don't mind getting them yourself. The lazy river next door was great and while the floaties are overpriced for us it was worth the $14 to have them pre-blown up and my kids loved that we wrote all over them and we brought them home with us. The pool at the Ritz is not deep and just fine for the kids. They have nice adult size foam floats, big fountain spray was fun for them.
We booked on the kids-free program and it was well worth it. In fact we paid less overall. including food here at the Ritz than we did for Concierge-level service at a luxury Disney resort and I think the kids liked it just as much.
Now other service... the valets do a poor job of handling busy times and provide complete service. For the daily cost plus tips (still worth it if you will be in and out a lot, otherwise park with "the peasants" as a guest said...) I timed it so that I wasn't in or out at peak times, mostly, but that should not matter in a five star, ever. The bell staff mainly held the main central doors open. I did not find them particularly helpful other than taking bags to/from the room. Unlike others I did not find it took too long to get the car but I made a point of calling down for it ten minutes in advance.
I did have a maintenance issues that went unresolved that was quite annoying. The bathroom (lovely. well equipped. gross mouthwash tastes like the shower gel which does smell great... but lay off if you have sensitive skin as it is drying as other reviewers noted) water pressure is awesome and the showerhead feels like acupuncture, in a good way. However- that same pressure made the toilet that has (I say has., sure it still does) a slow leak the NOISIEST toilet in the UNIVERSE. No kidding, the re-fill on it woke me up at night with the AutoMystery Flushing. It would slowly leak just enough to flush itself and refill. I could not hear the leaking. I COULD hear the toilet refilling.Not just a little. I mean it sounded like a water cannon blasting the porcelain top tank. It was so bad my last night there I went to the bar and had two drinks (I am a lightweight) in the hope of sleeping all night and even over my snoring, it woke me. I called maintenance too many times for this issue which could have been easily resolved and was not, ever. It's a toilet, not rocket science.
I did share another negative experience that others ran in to with billing. I was supposed to present a voucher everywhere for the kids eat free program. That in and of itself is a silly annoyance. It is one child per paying adult so I should have been paying for one of my two children's meals. Every time for the first three days I had an issue. I heard "we'll fix that for you" frequently. We got in-room service a LOT and every time I'd have to call for a correction which did not happen. It was resolved to my benefit however in response to my other issues, and all the children's meals were taken off the bill.
Lastly I had an issue with housekeeping. No- a few issues. As other posters reported, sometimes you get turn down. Sometimes you don't. There was a glass in my bathroom that had a black icky thing in the bottom of it, so I put it at the edge of the counter to see if it would be washed the next day. It was not. Same thing the next day. And the next day. And the next day. The first day the coffee bar was not completely refreshed and since I'm a caffeine head, this was an issue. The maid took a soaked floor mat (still a mystery how it got that way...) and moved it instead of replacing it with a fresh one. The maids at Disney were more thorough and thoughtful.
It was not all bad by any means and in general we enjoyed many things about the property. Rent one of the Italian bikes and drive around the properties! There are bunnies everywhere that are not afraid and my kids loved that. Try to time it so there are no weddings to interrupt... and a lovely place for a weddind it is. Inm fact I'd say it's a better business property than anything else. Many locals visit the restaurants and the lobby bar which is very nice.The chef's garden and butterfly garden were delightful for my children. The children's play area was safe and fun for them. You will not be served food there from the outdoor grill but you CAN get room service there. Go figure.
Gratuities are included. Good if the service warrants it and I'd say it's up to you to be sure that you get your money's worth there. I found the meals there no pricier than at the Marriott and the Angus burgers were excellent. Breakfast was ok. Pastries - the danishes good, everything else just ok. Skip the bagels. The tomato basil flatbread at Bleu was huge and could feed two
In all the annoyances were **not** a deal-killer, but they do not at all equate to 5-star service. 5-star property with maybe 3.5 service at best. I am planning on going back twice this year because it is STILL better than what else you'll find out there no matter the cost.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This 500-acre nature inspired luxury resort is located 10 miles from Walt Disney World; 10 miles from Airport and 7 miles from Universal Orlando. Guests can enjoy on-site eco-tours, kayaking, fishing, tennis courts, championship golf course, award-winning spa with adult-only pool and dining by James Beard award-winning chefs. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes Hotel Orlando
- Ritz Orlando
- The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes Florida