This review was from our first experience at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando in 2010. We have since returned many times, and an updated review from summer of 2012 can be found here.
This past weekend, my wife and I joined some great friends at the Waldorf=Astoria Orlando in celebration of their anniversary. The hotel has been open just over a year, and I've been wanting to stay here for quite some time. For the last few years, I've equated the Waldorf with a jinxed trip to New York, which thanks to two canceled flights never happened, and resulted in us canceling both hotel and dinner reservations there, as well as a loss of several hundred dollars of theater and Yankees tickets. For whatever reason, I have always unfairly connected the Waldorf to this lost trip, so I was anxious for this visit to clear the slate with the most storied name in hotels.
I was fortunate enough to stay in the original location several years ago, and I was anxious to see how this, the first Waldorf outside of New York, compared. Well if memory serves me correct, there are few similarities between the original and the Orlando location in terms of decor. The Waldorf in New York struck me as very dark, with classic oak paneled walls, floral print carpets, etc. The Waldorf Orlando is the exact opposite in this regard, with enormous floor to ceiling windows in the lobby which overlook the pool, and beautiful white marble floors. As best I could tell, the only similarity between the two properties is the giant clock in the middle of the lobby.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of our visit was what we found when we arrived at our room. A friend and former colleague of mine at the Grand Bohemian had learned we were coming for a visit, and arranged for an upgrade from our standard room to a one bedroom king suite with balcony. This suite was gorgeous, with a huge living/dining room, a bathroom which was bigger than my master bedroom at home, and of course, a balcony which overlooked the pool area and two of the Disney theme parks.
|The view from our suite.|
Again, when it came to the guest room, the similarities between the two Waldorfs were quite few. The mauve colored walls, floral bedspreads, and stiff patterned sitting chairs of the original, have been replaced with marble and trendy cut-pile carpet, a comfortable couch, and a bed which was so soft it nearly swallowed us whole.
After admiring the room for quite a while, we set off to explore the rest of the resort, including the Hilton Bonnet Creek next door, which shares many of the facilities of the Waldorf. I admired the golf course from afar, as it appeared quite challenging, with no shortage of water hazards in play. Having seen all of the resort, we returned to our room, and were again surprised to find a bottle of wine and cheese plate waiting on us. We were heading to dinner at the hotel's signature restaurant, Bull and Bear, and this served as a great pre-dinner snack. Some would call it, our Amuse Bouche...
We set off to the Orlando outpost of Bull and Bear Steakhouse, where our perfect stay at the Waldorf was about to get even better. So much so, that it will require its own blog entry for description.
The next morning, the four of us had breakfast at the buffet next door at the Hilton, and then spent a few hours at the pool. Thanks to the generous 4pm check out we were given, we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the day. The Hilton and Waldorf both have great pool areas, but they are definitely a contrast in character. The Hilton has a lazy river, a water slide, and as a result, many more screaming kids. The Waldorf has a zero entry lap pool, a hot tub, and attendants there to ensure you are comfortable and have plenty of cucumber infused water. It should be pretty clear which of the two areas I preferred.
As with all good things, it was time for our visit at the Waldorf to come to an end. However, we will be back, and I have a feeling it will be sooner rather than later. For quite some time, those who wish to visit Walt Disney World didn't have an option for a true 4-5 diamond hotel, as Disney's version of "Deluxe" is far from it. Well in the Waldorf~Astoria, those seeking such a property need to look no further. Unlike its sister in New York, which has its best days long behind it, the Waldorf~Astoria Orlando breathes new energy into an iconic name who's best days just might lay ahead.
Enjoy Your Stay