Waldorf Astoria Orlando resort at Bonnet Creek: A wealth of luxury, civility
ORLANDO, Fla. -- In the heart of Orlando's family-friendly resort district sits an exclusive playground for the adult-minded traveler, the new Waldorf Astoria Orlando resort at Bonnet Creek.
Bonnet Creek is a 482-acre nature preserve, bordered on three sides by Walt Disney World property. In fact, you have to drive into Disney property and pass the purple road signs just to get there. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando is the first of the brand to be built outside of its flagship property in New York City and is the most luxurious of the three hotel properties at Bonnet Creek.
But despite its proximity, Waldorf isn't Disney, and it's plenty secluded. The resort is family friendly, sure, down to the complimentary transportation to the Disney parks. The difference is that kids aren't the center of attention here. For once. In both public areas and guest rooms, attention has been paid to the adult first.
And proof positive is the golf course, a newly built Rees Jones design within the preserve that takes on the Waldorf name and upholds with the best service you'll find in Orlando.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers a slew of amenities beyond the golf course next door. There are some similarities to the original Waldorf Astoria in New York City, and its dining options take on a decidedly Manhattan flair. The Bull & Bear Steakhouse, the premier dinner choice here, is set in a dimly lit, club-like decor and serves the highest-grade angus steaks. Sir Harry's Lounge takes on a club-like feel with checkerboard tables and the same signature Manhattan recipe that is served back north.
On the lower level near the pool, Oscar's is a more casual option serving breakfast and lunch, serving such dishes as Pineapple Upsidedown Parfait. Outside, Waldorf's pool area is tasteful and plenty relaxing, with private cabanas and plenty of space to spread out -- and no fear of getting sprayed in the face with a squirt gun or fire truck.
As you'd expect, Waldorf Astoria Orlando guest rooms here will be a bit larger than what New York can provide, whether it's a deluxe room or suite, and rooms feature 42-inch HDTVs, plus the bathrooms are especially pampering: marble tubs with separate glass showers.
For further relaxation, there is the hotel's Spa by Guerlain, which offers one of the more creative treatment menus you'll find during your travels. Specialties include treatments for pregnant women or those who just gave birth. There is a three hour-plus Jet-lag treatment that includes foot therapy and hydrotherapy.
And for men, there's a massage that promises to firm and tone your abs -- in case the beer gut you accumulated during the winter isn't Florida pool worthy.
It's adult-minded relaxation here all the way, which is also why Waldorf Astoria Orlando used the bulk of its acreage on a new golf course.
Waldorf Astoria Golf Club
In today's age of golf course architecture, luxury doesn't have to mean flashy, as evidenced by the new Waldorf Astoria Golf Club.
"The owners wanted a traditionally styled golf course," said Rob Turner, director of golf at Waldorf Astoria, "small greens, intricate bunkering and no residential or time-share properties on the course."
The Jones routing also has greens and tees are also very close to one another. Walking is always allowed here and is a breeze (when not too hot, of course). Playing 7,108 yards from the championship tees, it has the look of a course that could easily host an important area golf tournament in upcoming years, whether in the pro or amateur ranks.
It's also a golf course that puts everything right in front of you. There are only two dogleg holes on the entire course -- one of which is the par-4 13th hole that wraps around a lake and is drivable from the tee at just 324 yards.
Rather, it's an understated, classic design that lets the service and conditioning of the club seal the deal. Whether you're a guest of the hotel or an Orlando local who booked a tee time, this is a member-for-a-day experience from the time your car is valet parked.
Club attendants cleaned and installed new spikes in my golf shoes while I helped myself to the complimentary muffin and danish bar -- and on the course, rangers help look for balls that find the high grass, and club attendants keep your cart stocked with ice cold water.
And the club is never over-booked, as evidenced by the driving range with just a few stations set up, and pace of play is speedy. This is high-roller, exclusive stuff in a land where turnstile lines are all too common -- and they're long gone here.