By Marcia, Bradford, Orlando, Florida, June 9 -12, 2016
With 2,009 guest rooms, 120 suites and 450,000 square feet of event space, The Marriott Orlando World Center truly is a world onto itself. In fact, during the three nights and four days I was there, the only time I left the property was to to go to one off-site attraction for about two hours.
Staying on-property was fun and easy, because this resort has just about anything you could ask for, including nine dining establishments, several pools and water-based attractions, an 18-hole championship golf course, an arcade and a full-service spa and salon. At the same time, it never felt crowded or chaotic, as it is spread out over 200 acres. Just 14 minutes from the airport and right in the middle of Orlando’s most popular attractions, the location provides easy access to the Walt Disney World theme parks, Sea World, Universal Studio and other popular attractions.
During a recent group media tour, I was among 11 writers who got to enjoy nearly all aspects of this property.
The Lobby Bar & Veranda, an open and spacious gathering area that overlooks the resort’s largest pool, was a great place to get acquainted before moving on to Mikado, a Japanese-style on-site restaurant, where we got to watch our Teppanyaki-style cuisine prepared by expert chefs, who helped break the ice by adding a little comedy to their cooking routine. Even though we were all “stuffed,” we then managed to find room for dessert and after-dinner drinks in a special back-of-the-kitchen space set up for smaller group functions. From ice cream sundaes to sweetened bacon and beyond, the treats were delicious and the atmosphere was lots of fun.
Because I arrived a bit late, I did not get to experience my room until after dinner and dessert and what a wonderful surprise to enter the suite I was provided, which had a full kitchen, living room and separate bedroom with a large balcony from which I could see the resort’s nightly laser show at the Oasis Pool as well as fireworks from the various Disney theme parks. This was one of 10 types of suites, with all types having been recently renovated, and it was both stylish and comfortable. In addition to the suites, there are 699 rooms with king beds and 1,190 rooms with two queen-size beds.
Off to a Flying Start
In addition to an on-site Starbucks, Solaris is an expansive on-site restaurant offering a large buffet that features lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as more standard breakfast fare. We were advised to eat well and eat early because the first activity on our schedule (and the only off-site adventure) involved a lot of excitement. We got to choose either the adrenaline rush of free-fall flying or a ride on Mako, SeaWorld Orlando’s newest attraction, which is a shark-inspired roller coaster that reaches a top speed of 73 mph and drops 200 feet, currently the fastest, tallest, longest thrill ride in Central Florida.
I’ve long thought it might be fun to skydive, so I chose the iFLY Orlando adventure. This looked a bit scary at first, but after a short training video we all donned jumpsuits, helmets and safety glasses and took our turn falling into an air tunnel and being propelled up, down and around at high speeds. It was truly a blast!
Assisting the Chefs
Returning to the Marriott, we got to experience another of the property’s dining establishments, Hawk’s Landing Steakhouse & Grille. We were supplied with aprons and chef’s hats then divided into groups to work with various chefs on preparing fish, steak, salads, desserts and signature cocktails for another fabulous meal.
Awesome Meeting Spaces
Gary Dybul, director of sales and marketing at the Marriott Orlando World Center, who was with our group throughout the event, took me on a tour of the property’s vast amount of meeting space, much of which has been recently renovated. Since 85 percent of the hotel’s business is group-based, up-to-date and easily-accessible meeting and event space is essential to the property’s success, Dybul said. While the convention center offers its own parking facility, and 22 loading docks, it is easy to get around and all meeting facilities are within a short distance of the hotel rooms.
Of the 450,000 square feet of space, there are four ballrooms — ranging from 105,000 square feet to 1,310 square feet — all on the main floor of the convention center and all featuring registration areas. One of these, the Cypress Ballroom, is the nation’s largest pillarless ballroom. Like the hotel lobby, the public areas of the convention center are spacious and full of natural light, with many cozy seating areas.
Smaller groups may choose to use the 14,000 square feet of meeting facilities in the North Tower, which features walk-out access to the deck of Solaris restaurant, the 7,300-square-foot Florida Ballroom and six Caribbean meeting rooms.
There are also several great outdoor spaces for special events, such as the Falls Function Lawn, which accommodates up to 500 people, the Falls Fairway Terrace, along the golf course and secluded, The West Terrace Lawn, overlooking the golf course and the Solaris Deck off the hotel lobby.
Getting The Kinks Out
Just in case some of us needed to recover from the morning’s adrenaline rush (not to mention all that eating), we got a chance to experience one of The Spa at Orlando World Center Marriott’s signature treatments. In addition to the spa’s indoor facilities, there is a full-service salon and the West Terrace Spa Pool, which offers a serene place to relax, separated from the main pool facility.
Six Courses, Six Cocktails
We had our own special dining area and were attended by some of the leading chefs at Siro Urban Italian Kitchen, another on-site dining venue that features creative Italian cuisine. Our special “Farm to Fork” meal included such specialties as 100-Layer Lasagna, Broiled Squab with cauliflower and truffles and Roasted Lamb, with white beans and asparagus. Each course, including the appetizers, soup and dessert, came with its own special (and fortunately, small) cocktail, giving us a great sampling of a special dinner event that can be created for groups of 10 to 50 people.
I’m not much of a late-night person these days, but for those who wanted to keep the party going, High Velocity, an on-site sports bar and restaurant, was the place to be later that night.
Saturday morning started off with a group golf lesson at the driving range of the property’s Hawk’s Landing Golf Club. Two of the professional trainers at the Bill Madonna Golf Academy taught both the novices and the experienced golfers in the group how to improve our swings. Both individual and group lessons, as well as tournaments, can be arranged for groups of all sizes on this 18-hole course.
A 220-acre championship course designed by Joe Lee and later re-designed by Robert Cupp, Jr., this beautiful golf course is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary facility which has received the Environmental Sustainability Performance Award (ESPA).
Lunch on the Lawn
We then moved on to enjoy another popular group function site, The Falls Function Lawn, an event lawn next to the Falls Pool Oasis. This deck and grassy area can be used for meals, receptions and outdoor games. Located next to the Falls Pool Oasis, which features two 200-foot waterslides, a 90-foot speed slide, a kid’s splash park and a nightly laser light show, this area is the central gathering spot and offers a beautiful focal point from many of the guestrooms.
Movin On Up
For our grand finale, there was nowhere to go but up and so we gathered in the International Suite on the 28th floor of the hotel’s center tower for special cocktails and a gourmet meal. This elegant space has its own catering kitchen, a lovely dining and seating area which can be arranged in a variety of ways, and a huge outdoor deck that provides expansive views of the property and the Orlando area. The suite also features two large bedrooms with their own large bathrooms and a number of top-tier amenities, making it a perfect spot for VIPs, association presidents or special guests that a group might want to impress.
Even with all that we were able to experience during the media tour, there were many other aspects that are left to be explored, such as the 24-hour fitness center and the new pool bar and grill. The hotel offers shuttles to the theme parks and children’s programs, an interactive game room and a Kids Activity Center. There are four lighted tennis courts, two sand volleyball courts and a basketball court along with a 24-hour business center. In short, a world of things to enjoy before, after, during and between meetings and special events.
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