The 582-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes and its sister property the 1,000-room JW Marriott sit within their own special complex removed from Orlando’s never-ending list of attractions, but close enough to step into that whirlwind of theme park activity when a guest so chooses (it’s hard not to be lured by Ariel’s siren call). However, there is so much to do right on site at the Ritz-Carlton, a guest need never leave this oasis.
welcome home Grande Lakes is set amidst 500 acres of stunning grounds that are home to both properties and upon entering the Ritz-Carlton, guests are met by what you would expect a luxury property to feature—an elegant lobby with Italian furniture and mosaic floor evoking a palazzo feel. Though formal, the lobby features comfortable furniture set into intimate clusters for meeting friends before setting off for a daytime or evening excursion.
Beyond lies a world in which every whim is catered to. Spa? One of the largest in Central Florida. Top-of-the-line golf courses? Eighteen holes; Greg Norman—enough said. Fine dining? Does the name Norman Van Aken ring a bell?
In fact, take a look past the lobby and what guests see is the large outdoor pool, framed by private cabanas, with the resort’s namesake Grande Lakes as a backdrop. A walking path winds around the border of the lake and the resort, which we took full advantage of during our relaxing stay. Another option is for guests to rent bicycles built for two or four if they prefer wheels to their own two feet. If you keep walking along the path guests reach the JW Marriott’s outdoor pool, itself a winding river design and guests can rent tubes for use for the day and float along as much as they’d like. Use of floats at the Ritz-Carlton pool is complimentary and we spent some time just floating along enjoying the hot Florida sun.
In between the two properties lies the truly impressive 40,000-sq.-ft. spa, one of three resort pillars. It is secluded by lush gardens and boasts Spanish-Moorish architecture. The Ritz-Carlton Spa philosophy of sanitas per agua, “health through water,” incorporates water therapies, and this spa also features citrus-inspired health and beauty treatments that pay homage to its Florida locale.
Inside the spa is the expected but even more so with 40 treatment rooms, sauna, steam, wet areas and salon. The unexpected comes in the form of an outdoor rooftop eco-space with herb garden and Scrub Bar. The Eco Garden Scrub Bar was introduced last year and has its own dedicated spa Mixologist who helps guests create their ideal scrub. Guests will have fun choosing among the freshly picked herbs from the resort’s own gardens to create a personal scrub, which is blended with essential oils and Himalayan salt or ground poultice. The personal scrub is used during the spa’s exfoliating body scrub treatments or pedicures, and guests get to take the remainder home, along with a recipe card.
Those who come to the spa for fitness won’t be disappointed with a 6,000-sq.-ft. Wellness and Fitness Center filled with the latest in cardio and strength training equipment. It is also the spot for classes that again go beyond the expected with yoga, indoor power cycle, Zumba and Broadway cardio. An extensive “Tranquility” Spa Boutique is staffed by truly helpful associates, who do not just sell you products, but educate you on what works best for you. Spa Cafe Vitale features signature smoothies and healthy foods.
Dining is the second pillar of the Ritz-Carlton experience and the culinary staff actively seeks out the best food products, including flying their bagels in from New York and using butter from New Hampshire. The onsite herb garden is used not only in the spa, but also on the tables of some of the resort’s 10 dining venues sprinkled between the two properties. The organic garden’s herbs and vegetables are used in Chef Melissa Kelly’s cooking at Primo at the JW Marriott. The restaurant features Italian dishes from Kelly, who is known for her Maine restaurant of the same name.