The final stop on Deej's Florida Swing is an iconic name in luxury hotels, in a city you might not expect. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando...
Perhaps the most storied name in luxury hotels - Waldorf Astoria - has spent the last several years reinventing itself into a brand of its own. The first hotel to carry the trademark W=A logo outside of New York, wasn't built in Chicago or L.A. or Miami; of all places, Orlando was the launching pad for this iconic name's new brand.
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando is part of the Bonnet Creek resort complex, which is surrounded on all sides by Walt Disney World. The adjacent Hilton Bonnet Creek might as well rename a room in my honor, however, this would be my first experience in over two years visiting her more refined sister next door. Easing past the line of waiting towncars and into the portico, I wished we had become better acquainted far earlier.
With a warm welcome from the gentleman at the door, we enter the lobby to a familiar mark of the Waldorf Astoria brand...the clock. It's far too early to check-in, but we have more important places to be, with our tee time on the resort's golf course just an hour away. The front desk is slammed with people waiting to check-out, so the concierge takes the initiative to preregister our room, check my luggage, and forward our golf bags to the course. It was no surprise that her lapel bore the symbol of the prestigious Le Clefs D'or...
After a hot, muggy, and challenging day on the golf course, a dip in the Waldorf's pool was just what the doctor ordered. A host of attendants made sure that our every need was met. Between the comfortable umbrella and chairs, refreshing cucumber infused water, frozen grapes, and of course, a tall mojito, there wasn't much more a man could need. Well, actually there was...sunshine.
The outer bands of tropical storm Debby cut our afternoon at the pool short, so we retreated inside to explore the rest of the hotel. In addition to the famous clock, there are several other similarities between the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the New York flagship property, specifically the dining outlets. In both hotels one will find Sir Harry's bar, Peacock Alley lounge, Oscar's Brasserie, the legendary Bull & Bear Steakhouse.
|The Bull & Bear Steakhouse|
Later in the evening, we popped into the Peacock Alley for a nightcap and enjoyed a few songs from their live band. The next morning, the entire lounge had been converted into an area for continental breakfast. At the Waldorf, however, even continental breakfast deserves a little champagne.
Instead of the continental, we headed downstairs for the buffet at Oscar's. The spread was just what one would expect from a place like the Waldorf, leaving me satisfied yet barely moving under my own power. I'm not saying I made four trips to the buffet, but I'm not saying I didn't either...
The "Wow Factor" of the Waldorf wasn't limited to the golf course, pool, and food, but continued upstairs to our room as well. After giving in to my urge to ring our own doorbell, I opened the door to our one bedroom suite, and promptly did a cartwheel.
OK, so I didn't do a cartwheel, but there was plenty of space to do so if I weren't a 31 year old klutz. The living room featured an insanely comfortable couch, flat screen TV, and beautiful cut pile carpet.
In addition, there was also a small dining room table, perfect for playing cards on a rainy afternoon, and a full wet bar, with refrigerator and espresso machine.
In the bedroom was another flat screen TV, king size bed, and the all important white duvet. There was also a phone who's screen read "Welcome Mr. The World of Deej." I'm not sure why I thought that was so cool considering it's 2012, but regardless, it was something I hadn't seen in other hotels.
Finally, my favorite feature in any hotel room is the balcony, and thanks to the persistent rain, I got to enjoy plenty of time on this one. If you're a balcony junkie like me, then be sure to book one of the Waldorf's suites, because they are the only rooms at the property that have them.
I looked long and hard to find the Waldorf's flaws, but for the first time in many hotel stays, I came up empty handed. The resort is home to every amenity that a great hotel should have both inside and out, but it's the most important amenity of all which makes the Waldorf great. The people...
|Sir Harry's Bar|
There was a time when luxury hotels were synonymous with employees trained to serve guests with a slight upward lift of their nose. Modern luxury hotels have come to understand that this sort of service doesn't work in 2012. Today's guest demands warm and genuine service; not over the top in artificial friendliness, but free from snobby pretension. After two days at the resort, it's clear the Waldorf Astoria Orlando not only understands what the modern guest wants, but delivers as well.
Every staff member we encountered at the Waldorf was friendly, yet refined. Eager to serve, but not in Disney fashion. I encountered no less than 25 staff members during our visit, and each and every one made sure to extend a greeting, regardless of how busy they were at the moment. This may seem like a small thing, but it's the small things which separate good from great.
Waldorf Astoria has been a leading symbol of luxury for well over a century. While the landmark hotel in New York might date to a bygone era, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando connects with modern luxury in a way that would make her namesake proud.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando for hosting Deej's Florida Swing. As always, all opinions are my own.