from Toledo, OH
Submitted on 01-23-2017
I‚??m in my thirties. I‚??m married. I have four children between the ages of 8 and 2.
So whenever I‚??m in central Florida it‚??s usually for one purpose‚?¶. to spend as much time as possible with a cartoon mouse, and his friends, or a fairytale princess. So, before I go any further, I want to reiterate, that if the traveling circumstances for you and your family are even remotely similar, then please read this review very closely, before booking at the Grand Floridian or The Four Seasons. ...
I‚??m in my thirties. I‚??m married. I have four children between the ages of 8 and 2.
So whenever I‚??m in central Florida it‚??s usually for one purpose‚?¶. to spend as much time as possible with a cartoon mouse, and his friends, or a fairytale princess. So, before I go any further, I want to reiterate, that if the traveling circumstances for you and your family are even remotely similar, then please read this review very closely, before booking at the Grand Floridian or The Four Seasons. Otherwise, I‚??ll cut to the chase; The Four Seasons Resort is, by far away, the best resort in central Florida. Therefore, to repeat, if you‚??re in town for any reason other than a mouse or a princess (i.e., business, friends/family, other attractions such as Lego Land and/or Universal studios, Orlando magic basketball game, etc.) then there is no question where you should stay‚?¶ The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.
I recently spent 11 nights at this pristine establishment and if you, as a reader, can spare a few minutes, I would love to share my thoughts and opinions.
First and foremost I have to start with the front desk. I‚??m starting my review here not only because they were incredible but also because they were truly an awesome extension of the hotel‚??s general management team in every way shape and form. And this was made apparent by the accountability and ownership they took in the personal satisfaction of the hotel‚??s guests. My first experience with the front desk came by means of a random phone call I placed on a Tuesday afternoon. I requested to speak with any manager who might be available to take my call, Mr. Ray Valle, not only took the call but was so hospitable that I was left feeling like I was a VIP and taking my phone call or answering my questions was the most important thing he had to do on that particular day (which obviously was not the case). Initially, I thought to myself, that Mr. Valle‚??s approach was unique to him, so when I called again, and found out that he was not available, needless to say, I was bummed. However, little did I know that this would eventually become the exact moment where I would realize, that I should cancel my reservation at The Grand Floridian and book at the Four Seasons. With much reservation, and hesitation, I agreed to speak with another manager, albeit from a different department (reservations), by the name of Keith Stracke, who was just as gracious and patient with me as I asked him a hundred-million questions. He never pressured me to ‚??wrap it up‚?? or hurried me off the phone. As frequent guests of The Grand Floridian (3 times in the past 15 months), my wife and I wanted to make sure that no stone was left unturned before changing our reservation for this particular visit. So between the both of us we tried to think of every possible question. Nevertheless, despite how many times we called Keith, or how many questions we asked him, he was never too busy to take our call, nor did he ever let us feel that any of our questions were too trivial, although I‚??m sure some of them undoubtedly were. It was this kind of reception, and attention, given to me, as a stranger to the four seasons, that lead me to believe the service and treatment would only get better if I became an actual guest. And it did. Eventually, after I became a guest I had the good fortune of meeting, yet another front desk manager; Mr. Will Pence. And, true to form, he was as great an ambassador to the Four Seasons brand as his predecessors, Ray Valle and Keith Stracke.
Depending on how much you travel, by now you probably know that there is no such thing as a perfect vacation. Something will inevitably go wrong. And it may not necessarily be the fault of the hotel, it‚??s just the nature of travel. Depending on your flight and/or drive in to town went, you may arrive to the hotel already exhausted, and have little tolerance for things that are not necessarily that big of a deal, for example your room is not made up and its already a few hours past check-in, or it wasn‚??t made up exactly the way you requested (i.e., you requested the sleeper sofa to already be made up upon your arrival or you requested to have extra towels in the bathroom, or step stools in the bathroom for your younger children, etc.), or room service takes an unreasonably long amount of time and when it finally does arrive it‚??s cold and not prepared appropriately. Again, while none of the aforementioned scenarios are necessarily deal breakers when trying to decide if you‚??ve made the best choice for you and your family, it‚??s what ensues that is most telling. If you‚??re anything like me, when/if something like the aforementioned scenarios transpires, you immediately reach out to a supervisor and/or manager to explain why you were disappointed. At this point the hotel can respond in one of two ways: dismiss your complaint, albeit nicely, by apologizing for the oversight and assuring you that it will never happen again or, they can recognize, that, it‚??s been a long day, travel is never easy, especially with young children, and rather than tell you its not a big deal, treat it as a very huge deal, because, on this particular day, it‚??s obviously a big deal to you. And this, my esteemed Trip Advisor readers, is one of the things that separates the best hotels from the great hotels. Orlando is filled with great hotels, some are Disney properties, others are not, but one of the most important things that distinguishes a hotel from all the others is how well it prioritizes what is important to you and your family, even if, in the big scheme of things, it‚??s not that important. In this category, in all honesty, The Grand Floridian, is the establishment that has set the standard, by which all other Florida hotels should be measured. Thus, since we have stayed at The Grand, so many times, in the past, The Four Seasons had big shoes to fill. Fortunately, they didn‚??t disappoint, and were able to meet the very high standard set by the Grand Floridian.
Let‚??s move on to the pool, actually, to be honest, The Four Seasons does not have a pool‚?¶. They have a water park. And it‚??s suitable for all ages. And when I mean all ages, I mean if you‚??re a human being and you like water, even a little bit, then they have a pool for you. First and foremost, there is the Oasis, which is geared towards adults seeking peaceful retreat with a pool. That, in a nutshell, is the Oasis. Then there is the infinity-style family pool with a volleyball net, a 3-and-under waterslide and zero entry. This pool offers great views of the golf course and the gorgeous bodies of water that surround the hotel, full-service cabanas and tiered seating so that no guest‚??s view is obstructed by the guest seated in front of them, and also, this allows the servers when delivering food and/or drinks to not have to try and maneuver in between other guests. Next is the lazy river, with is speckled with a few surprises, to keep you on your toes so, spoiler alert, you will most likely get wet, but this keeps it fun. Then there is the splash pad, which is great for the little ones who love the water but are not necessarily able to swim, however, if ,at this point, you‚??re thinking that ‚??splash pad‚?? is just another name for ‚??kiddie pool‚?? nothing could be further from the truth. What makes the splash pad fun are the numerous fountains and waterfalls, some that come out of the pool floor others that come out of stone pillars, which all children, young and old, really seemed to enjoy running through. Then there are dueling water slides, both of which were very fun to ride with my wife and children. And finally another pool area, located immediately outside the ‚??hideout‚?? (the name of the kids club that‚??s intended for older children (those above the age of 12 or younger ones accompanied by an adult) which has a volleyball net, two basketball hoops and provides access to the lazy river without having to get out of the water. And, despite all of the aforementioned pools, there are still many outside activities, a rock climbing wall, multiple pool tables, a ping pong table, multiple foosball tables, a life size chess table, just to name a few. Thus, when it comes to the pool, while The Grand Floridian also has more than one, it‚??s just not as well thought out as the very-well-designed aquatics area of the Four Seasons. Oh and before I forget I need to mention the pool attendants that made our stay enjoyable, Brian, Josh, Keith, and Jose. And the recreation manager, Ms. Brittany Giardina was incredible as well.
Before I move on, to talk about Food/Dining, I need to dedicate some time to talk about the Kids For All Seasons club (ages 4-12) and the Hideout (12 and older if unaccompanied by a parent). First of all these are not glorified daycare centers whose only purpose is to chaperone your children. On the contrary, these are bonafide entertainment centers for children. My children liked them so much, that I distinctly remember my kids asking if we could be done with EPCOT so they could go back to the kids club‚?¶. And it was only noon. And that isn‚??t because EPCOT isn‚??t fun; my kids love Test Track and Soarin‚?? as much as the next Disney lover, but they just loved the treatment they received from the awesome staff of the kids club. LaTonya, Alexka, Liz, Kelly and Amy were just a few of the outstanding staff members, I‚??m sure I‚??m not remembering all of them and I wish I did because they were all definitely all-stars. They took their jobs very seriously but, at the same time, and maybe more importantly, you got the feeling they really loved spending time with the children. Whether it was water balloon fights, arts and crafts or swimming with them in the pool, my children walked away feeling like they just became best friends with the coolest kids at the hotel. Oh, and before I forget, I need to mention Ethan, who unfortunately has gone back to school so may not be there as much as he was during our stay, but Carlos will be and he‚??s fantastic. Again, another area where the Grand Floridian just could not compete because they do not have a designated area on their property that serves a similar purpose.
Now, lets talk about the food. First of all, there are a plethora of dining options. Personally, I recommend starting your day off right at Ravello which offers a beautifully appointed extensive breakfast buffet, and is very accommodating towards children who are 5 and under. The hotel is well aware that children of this age group barely eat, and when they finally agree to order or put something in their plate, they hardly ever finish it, thus Ravello, like the other restaurants on the property, does not charge them. And it‚??s also worth mentioning that I am supremely confident you will enjoy your dining experience because of the manager, Ms. Katherine Holt, who runs a very organized operation. Whether it is because of food allergies or religious reasons she makes sure that your food is prepared to suit your exact specifications, regardless if you‚??re ordering a la cart or from the buffet. For lunch I recommend dining pool side (the best servers were, by far, Kirsten, Andrew and James) and/or PB and G (which stands for Pool Bar and Grill), which is a restaurant that is literally on the water, accessed by a bridge and flanked by a pool on one side and a beautiful pond and golf course on the other. For dinner, the Lobby Bar can take care of most of your needs, the service is superb, friendly and very accommodating. The outdoor seating is very comfortable, and offers a picturesque view of the water and the exquisitely well landscaped campus of the Four Seasons. However, if you prefer more of a social vibe grab a drink or cocktail inside with an appetizer while watching one of the multiple flat panel televisions which contribute to the very nice ambiance. If fireworks are your thing then look no further then Capas on the 17th floor, where you can see the elaborate fireworks shows of all three Disney Parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. It‚??s a little more upscale but still very family friendly. Again, the Grand Floridian does have multiple dining options, but they are just not as good. And to be honest I can‚??t really put my finger on it, but I assure you the dining experience, regardless of the venue, even if you‚??re ordering room service, is better at The Four Seasons. However, in fairness to the Grand Floridian, you do pay more for your food at the Four Seasons. Furthermore, its worth mentioning that one of the restaurants on the property of The Grand Floridian, Victoria and Alberts, according to reviews, is one of the finest dining experiences in all of Orlando, however I have never had the chance to try it, primarily because, when I am a guest at The Grand, there is no place like the Kids For All Seasons club where my children can have a great time while I enjoy a nice meal with my wife.
Next up lets talk about bell services. The importance of bell services can often be overlooked by hotels and travelers, alike. But what many people fail to realize is why this is such an important job. They are often the last people to bid you adieu as you embark on your day‚??s upcoming adventure and the first to welcome you back home. The bell services team at The Four Seasons understands the significance of their position, especially Tony, Roy, Paul and Chris. They were great. Not only because they always made sure we had enough cold bottles of water for our entire brood, but also because they always received us with a sincerely warm smile that conveyed a genuine interest in our day‚??s activities. More importantly, they took the time to learn our names and address us as such every time they saw us. Chris even took the time to perform some magic tricks, much to my children‚??s delight, when we were waiting for our car to be pulled around. I can‚??t say enough about this team. Again, I don‚??t know if its due to the sheer volume of people that they need to service but, for whatever reason, the bell services team at the Grand Floridian, with the exception of Richard Gerth (the 88 year old living legend) is not nearly as personable. Score another for the Four Seasons.
I don‚??t like to dedicate too much time to shopping while we are on vacation however, that being said, if I am staying at an upscale hotel I expect the retail boutiques to be upscale as well. That is the case for the stores at The Four Seasons, not so much at The Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian has nice shops, well maintained, but comparatively speaking, they‚??re lacking. Their products are geared more towards Disney enthusiasts and less towards clientele and/or consumers who have discerning taste.
Just to briefly recap, at this point we‚??ve covered 7 categories: 1) Front Desk 2) Making up for when things go wrong 3) Pool 4) Kids Club 5) Dining 6) Bell Services 7) In-House Boutiques. Six of the categories, in my opinion, were decidedly won by the Four Seasons, and one was a tie. However, if you‚??re still reading, let me please share with you some definitive advantages to staying at the Grand Floridian.
Transportation to and from the parks, is just not easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, when you are not staying on a Disney property. This is especially the case when you and your family are accustomed to saying at any of the three hotels which provide direct access to the monorail (i.e., Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian). The Four Seasons does indeed provide a very nice motor coach complete with foot-rest-equipped-seating, televisions, and a half bathroom in the back. However, through no fault of the hotel, since they are not a ‚??Disney‚?? property, Disney World does not allow them to park as close as the other buses, so, now, not only are you not riding the monorail from your hotel, but, when you arrive, you can feel like a second-class park-goer, because your bus is not permitted to park as close as the others. In defense of the Four Seasons, their bus is definitely nicer than any Disney bus which I have ever ridden, but nothing can compete with the monorail for transportation to and from the Magic Kingdom.
Next up is the concierge services, this, I‚??d have to stay, given my personal experience was the biggest disappointment. When staying at the Grand Floridian, their senior concierge, Mr. Dan Allen, was so good at making ‚??magic happen‚?? for me and my family in the form of extra fast passes and hard-to-get dinner reservations that, upon conclusion of one of our previous Disney vacations, I felt inclined to dedicate an entire review to his unparalleled service. I trust this part of the hotel will definitely get better with time, the establishment is not even three years old, but for right now, the concierge services at the Grand Floridian were, in a word, magical. And, in fairness, to the Four Seasons, maybe it‚??s not their fault. Maybe the concierge at an elite Disney hotel, such as the Grand Floridian, just has ‚??more pull‚?? with certain coveted dining establishments, and attractions. For whatever the reason, the concierge at the Four Seasons was not as on-point as the rest of the hotel. However, there was one man who worked tirelessly to bridge the aforementioned gap: Adam Tuttle. He is the manager of the guest experiences and he was absolutely great. Very polished, very professional and, basically, very nice. And not nice, like in a cheesy way, but in a purely kindred way. He was great. Under his leadership and mentorship, I am sure the guest experiences/concierge will only get better with time. But for now, I‚??d have to give the nod to The Grand Floridian. And one more person I‚??d be remiss for not mentioning is Mr. Luciano Aoki. I made his acquaintance on the last day of our trip, albeit our interaction was brief, but he left a lasting impression on me and my family. We were having difficulty with a lingering issue regarding our Disney PhotoPass and he made sure the issue was swiftly resolved in a very timely manner.
And, in conclusion, the last topic I want to cover is the Disney Planning Desk. They‚??re just not great, plain and simple. The Desk, located across from the Front Desk and Concierge, in the main lobby, on the second floor, is run by Disney Cast members, not Four Seasons employees. But over the course of my stay I felt that they were great at dispensing information (i.e., cost of tickets, park hours, fast passes, etc.) but not necessarily at making magic. It‚??s purely a gut feeling, but I felt like if this same desk was on a Disney property they could make more magic happen for the guests. Again, this is no fault of the Four Seasons, but rather a reflection of Disney World and another way they make it a little less convenient for you as park visitor if you are not staying at a Disney property.
If you, as a traveler, are still reading, I‚??d like to thank you for taking the time do so. I understand that the review was very lengthy, and for that I am truly sorry, but I couldn‚??t leave anyone out. This is an immaculate resort run by a true professional; Mr. Samuel Sutter.