Less than five miles away from Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom; the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is a true gem within the realms of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy. Since opening last summer, the resort has certainly got people talking; just take a look on social media. Already, it has been named as the only property within Central Florida to have received the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award; which is outstanding.
Last year, I decided to take the plunge and book a short-stay so I could experience why so many people recommend a stay at a Four Seasons resort for their vacation time and time again. Combining it with a trip to Disney was a match made in heaven, saying I was excited was an understatement to say the least.
The resort is located in arguably one of the most secluded areas to be found within Walt Disney World: Disney's Golden Oak.
It's a residential resort-style gated community designed by Walt Disney Imagineering; inspired by and paying homage to Walt Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in California. Divided into four neighbourhoods; Marceline, Carolwood, Silverbrook and Kimball Trace; you’ll find quaint streets lined with colonial-style properties that full of special Disney touches. If I ever win the Euromillions; this would most certainly be my place in the sun.
The gentle drive from the gatehouse to the resort itself is beautiful. You'll be able to get a glimpse of the exclusive properties and might even spot Bambi along the way.
Four Seasons Orlando
10100 Dream Tree Blvd
Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 32836
+1 407 313 7777
Transfers to and from the resort can be arranged directly by the hotel or through well-known transportation providers such as Mears or Supershuttle. As a rough guide, here are the distances from Orlando's major gateways:
Orlando International Airport (MCO) - 21 miles
Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) - 47 miles
Port Canaveral Cruise Port - 63 miles
You'll be pleased to know that as a Four Seasons guest, you have your own dedicated transport to and from the theme parks aboard luxury air-conditioned coaches. You won't even have to stand up for the journey!
About a month before my arrival, I received a lovely e-mail which directed me to visit an online planning centre. From here, I was able to arrange transportation from the airport, make reservations for the restaurants and spa, and to also select items for the in-room bar.
From here, I was able to arrange transportation from the airport, make reservations for the restaurants and spa, and to also select what items I would like to find stocked within the in-room private bar, which is optional.
I don't know about you, but six 355ml cans of your favourite soda (Coke, Sprite, Ginger Ale etc.) for $12 or six cans of beer for $24 is pretty good value. 1/2 bottles of wines and spirits are a little more, and you can't go wrong with a variety of snacks starting from just $3. Tax is additional, of course.
Check-In takes place from 16:00, although the hotel will always try to accommodate should you be arriving slightly earlier. Your bags can be stored at the concierge so you can get straight to the parks or start to unwind by the pool. Not that I want to fast-forward, but when it is time to check-out (12:00) it is good to know a departure lounge is available.
I ended up arriving at the resort in the early evening after a long international flight. As soon as I stepped out of the car I was delighted to be greeted by one of the bell services represantives, whom took my luggage, noted my name and ushered me through the doors and towards the reception area.
Directly as you enter the lobby, you'll spot the charming starburst chandelier and the lush grounds surrounding the resort beyond. This was a mandatory photo opportunity, so I did end up stopping right in the middle and taking a photo or two before taking a right turn and heading to the reception desk.
When I was approaching the check-in desk, the clerk greeted me with "Welcome Mr. Montgomery, we are delighted to have you here". This was a nice touch, and really made me feel special. The entire check-in process only took a matter or minutes and felt more like a casual conversation with a long-time friend. They were professional at all times, but made me feel right at home.
With just a mere 443 guest rooms ranging from those with a standard view to ones looking towards the Disney theme parks, the resort is large, but never felt crowded - even though it was almost at capacity. When I eventually reached my room, it was lovely to find a staff member already waiting outside with my luggage.
I was staying in a Park View Room, which are located on floors 6 to 16. At 500 square feet, the room was arguably one of the largest I have stayed in, and can easily accommodate either three adults or two adults and two children. Here's a look at a floor plan.
The room was incredibly spacious and there were plenty of storage areas, including what I would say is like your own personal dressing area. All rooms feature either a king bed with a queen-sized sofa bed or two double beds, which are super-comfy. I don't think I have ever had a nicer nights sleep and can honestly say I soundly drifted off to sleep to music which I streamed from my iPhone to the wireless Bose music station.
Additional amenities include a large LED screen television, a desk, in-room telephone and safe, minibar, Bose bluetooth speakers, an iPod docking station, a Nespresso coffee machine and complimentary high-speed internet access throughout the resort. Each room is also equipped with it's very own iPad; but more on that a little later.
The expansive marble bathroom was well-equipped and featured a deep bathtub, separate shower, his and her's vanity and a separate shower. There was also an television within the mirror... now that is something you don't see everyday.
Saving one of the best features for last... the views!
These rooms come complete with our very own private furnished balcony which offers commanding views towards the Magic Kingdom. At 80 square feet, the balcony was a decent size and the views were simply to-die-for.
Technology that makes things simple
As technology continues to evolve, hoteliers are always looking at new ways in how they can incorporate this into the guest experience. The Four Seasons Resort Orlando has partnered with Intelity in order to create a mobile application which is available to download from the Apple and Android app stores.
As mentioned previously; all guest rooms come complete with an iPad, which also doubles as a very handy alarm clock.
From the mobile application or iPad, you are able to submit requests to the hotel's concierge, make dining reservations and view the menus, order amenities and a load of additional features. It is like having the hotel guide you'd usually find on the desk in the palm of your hand, whenever you need it.
Boasting four restaurants and three lounges, from a Spanish-style steakhouse to an upscale Italian, poolside grill and a chic bar complete with an ice-cream counter - there is something for everyone. Here are the highlights:
Boasting breathtaking views towards EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom; the 17th-floor steakhouse and bar serves up an array of small bites, seafood and the finest grilled cuts, all with a Spanish influence. This is one place where the open-kitchen concept works really well.
The adjacent bar is open for all guests from 5pm and offers a happy hour on most evenings and complimentary nibbles. If you opt to sit outside on the patio; then you'll enjoy awesome views looking towards all four of the Disney theme-parks and the nightly fireworks.
Named after the quaint town nestled along the Amalfi Coast; Ravello serves up a variety of hearty dishes for breakfast and dinner, all with an Italian influence. For breakfast, you can either help yourself from the buffet or order something from the A' la carte menu.
In the evenings, Ravello features a number of speciality dishes, fresh breads and piping hot pizzas from the wood-burning oven.
Just up the staircase, the Ravello Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a pre or post-dinner drink inside or out.
Between the hours of 11:00 and 18:00, the pool bar and grill is the place to grab something delicious in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. You'll find southern comforts including rotisserie chicken, smoked briskets and possibly some of the best casual-style meals I have had.
Located within the Tranquillo Gold Club; Plancha is the idea lakeside dining venue where to enjoy the bold flavours of America and Cuba in one place.
Available 24-hours a day, the Four Seasons Orlando offers a fairly extensive menu at reasonable prices. Compared to some hotels I have stayed in, I was suitably impressed! The Key Lime Tarts are simply sublime.
Now this is the perfect place to grab a quick bite throughout the day. From bagels to sushi, Lickety-Split has it all. Speaking of which, the freshly made gelato and sorbetto is heaven, quite literally in a single or double scoop.
Water, Water, Everywhere!
You may only be moments away from the fun of Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water parks, but to be honest - you could say the resort has got all bases covered; within Explorer Island.
Packed to the brim with a series of recreational fun for all. Enjoy a game of volleyball on the beach, test your arcade skills at The Hideout, or head on over to The Mansion where you can hang out around the fireplace, soak in the views from an observation area and even enjoy a game of table tennis or pool.
Spread out across the outdoor areas, you'll find premium-quality towels (I wouldn't expect any less), along with sun lotion and aloe vera gel; two things which you will certainly need when visiting Florida during the warmer months. To keep yourself hydrated, there are plenty of stations offered iced water with fresh lemon and lime; which was very refreshing indeed. Even if I only walked from the hotel itself to a sun lounger!
For H20 lovers, the 7,590 square feet zero-entry Explorer Pool is perfect for the entire family. There is even an underwater system so you can take a swim whilst listening to music - now that is pretty cool if you ask me.
For adults wishing to escape to a calm, serene and tranquil environment, the 92 feet Oasis pool overlooks the lake, and to be frank - it is quite simply the icing on the cake. Cabana's are available to rent for an additional charge.
Additionally, pool attendants regularly deliver pitchers of iced water and a series of additional amenities right to your table. You can either order some light snacks from a condensed PB&G menu.
I simply couldn't resist running through the interactive fountains within the Splash Zone. Like Disney, these bring out the kids in all of us, which makes sense seeing as I spotted quite a few adults happily running through trying to avoid getting soaked!
Feeling a little lazy? Sorry, but you don't get to it out on this one. Grab a rubber ring and gently meander along the waterways on The Drifter. There may be a few mild surprises along the way which may include some bubbling rapids. Count this as a fair warning.
Forget the likes of Wet N Wild, you can zoom down not one, but two 74-metre waterslides from The Mansion's main tower. One is transparent so you can briskly enjoy the views before a rather big splash brings you back to earth.
Disney Planning Centre
Conveniently located close to the front desk, this is the one place to go where you will be able to organise your Disney itinerary, all with the assistance of the ever-friendly Disney Cast Members. They are more than happy to help you with your ticket options, make dining arrangements and organise that special occasion. The staff are so knowledgeable and friendly, and really helped me with planning out my fun-filled days at the theme parks.
Complimentary transportation to all four of the Disney theme parks is provided aboard luxury coaches. Services to the Transportation & Ticket Center for the Magic Kingdom depart every half hour, whilst services to EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom theme parks depart once an hour.
If you love to dine in the company of your favourite Disney characters, the Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy & Pals is for you! This buffet-style character dining experience occurs between 7:30 and 11:00 within the Ravello restaurant on Thursdays and Saturdays, and additionally on Tuesdays during busy school holiday breaks. Unfortunately the breakfast did not fall on the days of my stay; however I heard from the staff that it is incredibly popular with the young and young at heart. It costs $42 per adult and $22 for children aged 3-12 years of age. This includes a photo with Goofy, the buffet breakfast and a choice between tea, coffee, juice or an alternative soft-drink. Tax and gratuity is additional.
Nothing says wow than an in-room celebration, therefore a select assortment of welcome gifts are able to be ordered in advance of your stay. All you need to do is contact the concierge before you arrive and that's it. You could also visit the Disney Floral and Gifts website.
Merchandise Delivery Service
As the resort is located within close proximity to all the fun of the parks, hotel guests are able to arrange for purchases made within the theme parks to be delivered to the hotel. This not only saves you having to carry your shopping around with you all day, but allows you to buy more. That's pretty dangerous in my case.
Weights, Rackets, Caddies and a Volcano?!?
As you might expect from a 5-diamond resort, the Four Seasons has it covered.
The state-of-the-art fitness centre offers an array of fitness classes, weights and equipment to suit your own personal routine. I was amazed to learn the resort provides fitness clothing and athletic shoes for use at no additional charge during your stay.
Aspiring Roger Federer's can practice their serves on not one, but three Har-Tru tennis courts; and for an additional fee, can enjoy the services of top tennis coach, Nick Provenza.
Budding Rory Mcllory's are sure to enjoy the 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed course which makes up the Tranquillo Golf Club. (It's undergone a vast transformation from what-was-then Disney's Osprey Ridge. There's even a very spacious clubhouse too!
The Spa at Four Seasons offers a wealth of treatments in an inviting atmosphere which is inspired by the nearby Everglades. There's even a few magical treatments available for the youngsters.
Speaking of which, the complimentary Kids For All Seasons club for those aged between 4 and 12; and is available every day between 10:00 and 18:00. Housed within The Mansion, the club features everything to keep the little one's entertainment, including an interactive volcano!
World Class Service
As with any Four Seasons property I have read about or walked through (flashback to the Beverly Wilshire), the staff at any Four Seasons establishment really do put the customer first, and nothing is ever too much trouble. This is how service should be, and I was delighted to encounter many exceptional staff members during my stay. From the moment I arrived to when I sadly had to part; I felt special.
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is truly a gem within Central Florida; and without a doubt one of the best places I have stayed. The property itself it a true gem and I have not experienced anything like it. But at the end of the day - it's the staff who really stand out. The little things such as smiling at you as you walk past, and for there always to be someone to ask make a real difference.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the resort and without hesitation, thoroughly recommend that you consider staying here should you be planning a visit to Central Florida. I'm even tempted to book another stay!
To find out more and to book your stay, please visit fourseasons.com/orlando.
Disclaimer: I was able to stay at the resort on a corporate rate. Standard rooms typically start from $449 per night excluding tax and increase accordingly depending upon the type of room you select. All views are those of my own and I would like to thank the team at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando for a wonderful stay.