Almost a year ago, MJ and I won a contest for a weekend stay at the Villas of Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando. This was exciting for two big reasons. First, all of those hours spent entering every travel contest on Facebook imaginable had finally paid dividends. More importantly, it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with a place that as a kid was the site of many family vacations. We had a great weekend and the Villas were just as I remembered them. Translation: Not much had changed in nearly two decades.
What a difference a year makes.
Well, a year plus about $14 million. A serious chunk of change for a resort with only 146 rooms. The huge investment brought with it an even bigger transformation of the resort. Some hotels put out new bedding and call it a "renovation," while others might update the bath but leave the rest of the room untouched. Grand Cypress, on the other hand, completely gutted each and every one of their villas, replacing the "Old Florida" decor of yesteryear with arguably the best resort accommodations in all of Orlando.
|The always lush Villas.|
Think I'm exaggerating? You be the judge...
The first thing I noticed with the new and improved Club Villa was how much bigger the room appeared. The dresser, TV and closet have all been built into a wall unit that runs the length of the room, removing a lot of the clutter that can eat into valuable space. The same thing goes for the desk, which helped to expand the feel of the sunken living room. If the success of the renovation at Grand Cypress was to be based on the creation of space alone, it would be hard for even the Russian judge to give anything less than a perfect 10.
|Yes, that's a Keurig in the corner...|
Besides the impressive new furnishings and layout, the Villas at Grand Cypress are also some of the most technologically forward guestrooms I've ever experienced. Most of the time a Keurig coffee maker, free Wi-Fi, and an iPhone dock would be enough to make this hotel junkie twitch from excitement, but at the Villas these tech friendly amenities barely scratch the surface. For starters, an interactive control panel on the TV puts virtually all forms of entertainment - from movies and games to Facebook and YouTube - right at the guests finger tips. The goal is to soon expand the technology so the TV acts as a command center for the room, controlling everything from lights and temperature, to ordering room service and wake up calls.
|The interactive command center on the TV.|
But wait, there's more...
Those like yours truly that enjoy working on the bed instead of at a desk will also find a power strip conveniently built into the bedpost, eliminating the annoying search for available electrical outlets. Finally, one of the best ideas I've seen in a long time is the module by the door which communicates to the housekeeping department when the "service room" button is selected. A small touch, but a useful one if you've ever been out of a hotel room all day only to return in the afternoon to find it still needing service.
|There once was a trolly which connected the Villas to the nearby Hyatt.|
Today the tracks are mostly grown over by grass...
If you thought the new layout and tech friendly amenities were great, wait till you get a load of the bathroom. First there's the shower with three separate heads - four if you count the hand held wand - that does a pretty awesome job of recreating an Irish Spring commercial. Then there's the separate jacuzzi tub which I'm sure would pair nicely with champagne and strawberries. And finally, the most mind-blowing bathroom amenity of them all - the mirror with a built in TV. Usually I'm more of a white duvet and balcony kind of guy, but at the Villas of Grand Cypress it was the bathroom that really won me over.
In addition to the massive renovation of the villas, the other amenities at the resort are being given a transformation as well. For example, a previously unused space by the pool has been reimagined into a state of the art fitness center, with a wide range of equipment each with their own private flat screen TV. I've never used a hotel gym - or any gym for that matter - but out of the few I've walked past on my way to the coffee shop this one appeared to be top drawer. The next phase of the renovation will also see an overhaul of the pool area, updating the furniture and finally making use of a wide open space near the snack bar. I spent many summer weekends at the Villas of Grand Cypress pool, and from the sound of things that's a tradition which I look forward to rekindling.
|Not a bad place to kill an afternoon, or four.|
When the Villas of Grand Cypress debuted in the mid-1980's they were an easy choice as the best golf resort in Orlando. A lot has changed in 25 years, thanks mostly to an explosion of new resorts opening their doors over the last two decades. Names like Waldorf Astoria and Ritz Carlton, among many others, have crowded the landscape of Orlando golf resorts, and in some ways the Villas found themselves lost in the shuffle. Thanks to their incredible transformation, however, the Villas at Grand Cypress are once again near the head of the class in Orlando, and solidly among the who's who of golf resorts in all of Florida.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to the Villas at Grand Cypress for hosting this edition of Check-In Florida. As always, all opinions and pontifications are my own.