It wasn’t very long ago that the only luxury hotels around Walt Disney World were owned and operated by Disney itself. The price for a room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa rivaled those of other top-notch luxury hotels in the US, including the hotel that Disney totally ripped off for the design, the Hotel Del Coronado (part of the Hilton Curio collection) (Cuz yeah, if you didn’t know Disney totally stole the design of this hotel for their crown jewel, now you know).
Disney cornered the market on luxury hotels in the area until 2009, when Hilton opened a Waldorf=Astoria hotel on a property adjacent to Walt Disney World. In fact, it’s so close to Disney that the only way to access the hotel is from a road inside Disney’s property. While I’m sure Disney wasn’t thrilled about this competition within its perimeter, they weren’t worried. In 2014, Disney leased off a section of the “World” to developers to open the Ultra-Lux Golden Oak development. Besides a plethora of multi-million dollar homes, the property also includes a 443 room Four Seasons hotel.
We’ve visited this hotel more than once and I even had a birthday dinner at their rooftop bar/restaurant that makes the area’s best gin and tonic.
These were the only two true luxury hotels at or close to Walt Disney World for a while.
Until 2020 when, in the midst of a pandemic, Marriott opened a JW Marriott hotel on the far end of the same Bonnet Creek development as the Waldorf=Astoria. This first Marriott luxury hotel near Walt Disney World offered a rooftop deck to see the fireworks from every Disney park. Of course, before it opened, Disney stopped all of its fireworks shows due to COVID-19 and for a while, all bars were also closed. It also has family suites that sleep up to 7 with bunk-beds.
In addition to this, Marriott is also opening the Swan Reserve, an Autograph Collection hotel across the street from the Swan and Dolphin this summer. Are we the only ones who think this is a horrible name for a hotel that will only cause guests to get confused about where they’re staying? Regardless, Autograph Hotels is not a luxury brand.
Not to worry because Hilton Hotels has just announced they’ve partners with a massive redevelopment of the Villas of Grand Cypress (formerly a Hyatt property). Part of the development planned to add 10,000 bedrooms to the area is a brand-new 433 room Conrad hotel.
With world-class conference spaces, a rooftop lounge, and several restaurants, this hotel is obviously being built with a post-COVID-19 sensibility. They have that luxury since the first guests aren’t planned to stay at the property until the Summer of 2023.
When it comes to us, we’re looking at travel plans for weeks to months into the future. If you’re involved in building new hotels, you have the luxury of planning for the ultra-long term. Sure, conferences might be limited for the time being but in 5-10 years, planners will be looking for a state of the art location to hold their conference. That’s obviously what the Evermore Orlando Resort developers are looking to.
But for the rest of us, the arrival of a Conrad Hotel in Orlando in 2023 doesn’t suck.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary