Power Play at the World’s Largest Marriott Resort
written by COLLEEN ANN MCNALLY | photos courtesy of Orlando World Center Marriott
TWENTY MINUTES AFTER EXITING THE ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, I STEPPED INTO THE LOBBY AND EXHALED. For starters, the instances of Mickey Mouse paraphernalia in sight could be counted on one hand. Next, the long line of travelers waiting to check into their poolside suites was expedited by the number — well into the double digits — of smiling faces behind the counter. Beyond the revolving door of arrivals, windows afforded a peek at the water waiting below as well as cast the scene in a glow, complementing its contemporary multi-million dollar renovation.
Set in the context of America’s most visited city, certainly any hotel calling Orlando home should live up to magical expectations. With Walt Disney World located a little more than a mile away, a convenient shuttle service is included for guests. Yet, other than the Magical Kingdom’s nightly fireworks seen from a suite’s balcony, the proximity can be easy to forget. Watching friends in their resort best reunite for a wedding weekend among business-attire-clad travelers, I realized not all come crazed for theme parks. The Orlando World Center Marriott, now an energetic and culturally diverse destination for all ages, succeeds as an accommodating landmark hotel.
WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES
As the name suggests, the Orlando World Center Marriott is the brand’s biggest, with 28 floors and 2,009 guest rooms in 10 varieties under one roof. Sure, the sheer size and scope will thrill your inner kid – one look at the Falls Pool Oasis’ two 200-foot winding waterslides and a 90-foot speed slide is confirmation – but what’s more impressive is the innovative thinking. With such a high volume of visitors, the hotel is on the cutting edge to introduce new elements from incorporating stylish design to raising the bar on the food and beverage program with master mixologists and locally sourced, organic ingredients. This level of attention to detail, expected at a boutique property or a craft restaurant with a niche clientele, is commonplace onsite.
Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen’s inviting open space is located just off the lobby, and feels miles away from a hotel restaurant. Blending modern aesthetic with time-honored Italian customs of camaraderie, Chef de Cuisine Kyle Anderson’s farm-to-fork philosophy excels with artisan cured meats and cheese plates and other family-style dishes served on oversized wooden planks. This vision for experimentation, sampling and sharing hasn’t come without attention. Florida Trend magazine recognized Siro as the “Best New Restaurant” in Central Florida after opening in 2013, and they were recognized with Achievement of Excellence at the 2014 American Culinary Federation National Convention. Award-winning dinners can be enjoyed with a carafe of paired wine, a flight or the experience of garden-to-glass in a whole new way. As added incentive for exiting your comfort zone, bartenders will stamp your “Passport to Relaxation.” From the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar at Solaris to a Mai Tai at the Mikado Japanese-style Steak House, guests that visit all seven bars on property and turn the booklet back into any restaurant manager will return home with an extra souvenir and bragging rights.
SOME WORK, ALL FUN
While the passport is another great excuse to linger on a chaise with a cool drink, it wouldn’t be Florida without soaking up the sun. Between children’s activities and the 6,602-yard, par-71 course at Hawk’s Landing Golf Club, it’s hard to decide which age group is positioned to have more fun. Go for something different with a round of FootGolf or improve your golf game with a lesson from the best at the Bill Madonna Golf Academy. Consistently ranked “Top 100 teachers in America” by Golf Magazine, the sage has decades of experience teaching pros and amateurs alike, guaranteeing improvement — no matter the skill level — after just one session.
If something more relaxing strikes your fancy, go “Around the World in 80 Minutes” while face down. The onsite spa’s signature massage uses a variety of globally inspired techniques to soothe, as well as offers a menu of chamomile body polishes, enticing aromatherapy journeys and more. Believe it or not, work does get accomplished too, or so we’re told that’s where the 450,000 square feet of flexible gathering space for meetings, conventions, weddings, receptions and social soirées come into play.
Although with expert event planners and caterers ready to assist with all details of business or social events (insider tip: Executive Pastry Chef Ramon Ramos could give Willy Wonka a run for his money), we won’t tell if you spend a free hour here or there spoiling yourself.