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Hotel Check: The Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes

Orlando, FL

BACKGROUND The Grande Lakes complex includes The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, and a new section called The Ritz-Carlton Residences with nearly three dozen multi-bedroom luxury rental homes. With 582 rooms and suites, this is the largest Ritz-Carlton by room count. Nevertheless, the hotel deserves kudos for its ladies and gentlemen (how the brand refers to its staff) who remember personal preferences.

WHERE IS IT? Fifteen minutes from Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World, the Grande Lakes complex is convenient to many area attractions.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation, The Ritz-Carlton was getting a makeover with rooms expected to be completed by early 2021 and many public areas and the pool complete even earlier. Notable is the resort’s COVID-19 protocols reminding guests of mask usage, social distancing and hand sanitizing.

Despite coronavirus setbacks, the hotel has not cut back on expected amenities, from nightly turndown service to an impressive club lounge with multiple food and beverage presentations plus an open bar. While Marriott Bonvoy members do not receive free upgrades to the club level, it is available as an add-on to most rates. The $38 resort fee includes benefits like shuttle transportation to area parks, daily bike rental and access to the Ritz Kids program among other benefits.

ROOMS The garden or lake-facing rooms feature beautiful foyers that lead into spacious bedrooms with Florida-themed photography and a clean palette of white and grey hues. The showpiece is the pillowtop mattress with cloud-like duvets and enormous pillows. Bedside power and USB outlets are convenient with even more by the leather-topped desks. Beautiful cabinetry folds up and out with storage space and drawers including space for a Nespresso machine and an honor bar. Enormous flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations come standard as do free wireless Internet and plentiful bottled water. Bathrooms feature dual marble vanities stocked with plush towels, Asprey toiletries, separate shower stalls and water closets, soaking tubs and robes. Most impressive are details like toothbrush and shaving kits, hair dryers and hair straighteners in bathrooms.

FOOD AND DRINKS Fine dining is a hallmark especially since the October opening of Knife & Spoon, the hotel’s decadent steakhouse with prime cuts of meat and seafood prepared in an exhibition kitchen. Other restaurants include the all-day Highball & Harvest with craft cocktails, a spa café, lobby café, pub, sushi bar and poolside café with burgers and frozen drinks. Guests staying at The Ritz-Carlton can dine at the adjoining JW Marriott’s restaurants while charging to their room (and vice versa).

LEISURE FACILITIES Unlike the crowded resorts close to Disney and Universal parks, this property has ample space for outdoor pursuits including hiking, biking, kayaking and fishing. Multiple pools include a lazy river at the JW Marriott and an adults-only spa pool here.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Conference rooms ranging from breakout to full ballrooms are an essential part of this bustling resort. Meetings and events are a mainstay here, and events are starting to return in small sizes. Free wireless Internet and a full-service business center add to the amenities.

VERDICT Traditional Ritz-Carlton attention to detail and a total renovation will keep this on top of Orlando’s best hotel list for years to come.

BEST FOR World-class dining and newly renovated guestrooms

DON’T MISS The Knife & Spoon’s house made selection of breads and tasty cheese cart (on par with Paris)

PRICE Internet rates for a traditional room start at $313.

CONTACT 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, Florida 32837, Phone 407-206-2400.