I admit, I am a Four Seasons junkie. Having worked for them for seven years during my former life at an advertising agency, you could say that I’ve drunk the Kool Aid. It’s also worth noting that Forbes has bestowed their prestigious five-star rating on more Four Seasons properties than any other chain in the world (and every property in the brand is at least a four-star).
Every Four Seasons marks an improvement from the last. When the company opens a new resort property, it is something that one takes seriously as it is an opportunity to observe the latest standards of excellence.
Opened in August 2014, Four Seasons Resort Orlando raises the bar even further. With 443 rooms, this makes the Orlando property one of the largest properties in the chain. For those who have been to the hometown of Disney World® and the amazing series of related theme parks, you already know how easy it is to be scared off by the mass of stroller-toting families and the conventioneers flooding the impressive International Drive Center. It is not a destination that comes to mind when considering a quiet vacation. So, I was intrigued to see how Four Seasons balances the family target demographic with the understated privacy and quiet that are both hallmarks of the brand.
Located on Disney property just a short drive away from the Disney theme parks, one enters the resort, and the Golden Oak residential area surrounding it, through a gatehouse. The drive exudes a grand sense of place as you wind past multi-million dollar homes, waterways and the golf course that abuts the hotel structure. There was the usual assortment of luxury vehicles parked about the carport and each guest receives a warm Floridian welcome. VISIT FLORIDA is right: It must be the sunshine!
Entry to the resort was slightly different than traditional. Walking in revealed an opulent staircase leading downward (instead of upward) because the property is on a small rise. The front desk, concierge and reception are nowhere to be seen as they are about 50 feet to the right of the entranceway. This makes the property feel more like a splendid villa than a hotel.
The entire lobby gleams with fresh marble, dazzling mini-spotlights and natural light bouncing off of the polished wall materials. Also unusual, the main restaurants are nowhere near the entranceway – only a bar and a coffee grab-and-go. There are actually four restaurants and two bars in total, however, signature restaurants are located on floors above and below the lobby level.
Since this is a resort, the grounds are also critical; it must be equally as impressive as the interior. Four Seasons Resort Orlando satisfies this requirement with five pools; the adults-only pool is well-separated from the others while the family fun area houses a lazy river, kids splash zone, waterslide and enormous lakeside infinity pool, not to mention sand volleyball, a sport court and rock climbing wall.
My tour of the guestrooms included the presidential suite which, of course, was excellent. I was more interested in the core rooms, though, to see what I could learn that was applicable to the everyday guest. First, the size of all four room categories is 500 sq. ft., with suites ranging from 825 sq. ft. to 3,300 sq. ft. for the Royal Suite. Bathrooms all feature double sinks with a separate tub and shower. Fortunately, the rooms are not inundated with added complex electronics (top end suites aside), except for the large LED 4K and in-mirror televisions. As a great situational touch, all guestrooms include furnished balconies, and guestrooms on the resort’s Park View side offer views of the nightly fireworks from Magic Kingdom Park.
It’s All About Family
Orlando is all about family, and here is where the Four Seasons Resort Orlando demonstrates break through ideas:
- Bar fridge location. It sounds simple enough, but the in-room bar fridge is located higher so that toddlers cannot easily access the contents.
- Mini-bar stocked on-demand. If the guest needs the space for baby formula or milk for the kids, there is room. Mini-bars contain only bottled water and can be customized with the guests’ preferred snacks and drinks, ready upon their arrival. No added fee is charged to stock the mini-bar; snacks ordered are charged to the room bill.
- Large balconies. Florida is blessed with great weather most of the year. A large balcony gives parents a chance to spread out, even when the rooms are 500 sq. ft. and more.
- A convertible sofa-bed in each room. This is a family resort, so with the exception of weddings and groups, typically, kids will be in tow. Having the pull-out makes sense.
- Give the kids something to do and reward them. The property has a fantastic Passport to Adventure booklet that encourages younger travelers to explore the property, getting ‘visa stamps’ along the way. The reward? Free gelato.
- Child size hangers in the closet. Not expensive, but a very nice touch. And definitely reinforcing the notion that the hotel deeply cares about specifically meeting families’ needs.
- Kid friendly welcome. Just opposite the reception, there is a large touchscreen monitor with an interactive map of the property. That’s standard fare, but this one is positioned at eye level for small children. Moreover, there are many kid-friendly amenities, including whimsical accessories, waiting for wee ones to discover upon check in. .
I could add more, but my recommendation is to take a visit and explore the property yourself, especially if your current hotel is located in a family-dominant tourism zone. And if you’re planning to build a property in the near future that you want to appeal to children as much as it does their parents, this may be a good place to start your search for ideas
(article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by eHotelier on April 18, 2016).