As I mentioned last week, I’m currently on a Florida blogging press trip with the Florida Marriotts. There are 8 bloggers across the state – with 2 in each of 4 different areas. Surprisingly, the trip is already half-way over, and I’ve really enjoyed learning about three Marriotts I’ve experienced. Full hotel reviews will come later, but here are a few highlights of my trip.
The Gaylord Palms
I’ve stayed at the Gaylord Texan and the Gaylord Opryland before, but never the Palms, despite driving by it every time we visit Walt Disney World. I found that it was more like the Texan in size – still large, but more manageable than the Opryland. Gaylord was recently acquired by Marriott, but still operates under the Gaylord name.
I started my stay with lunch at Wreckers Sports Bar, which is a fun spot to dine and watch a game. My lunch companion Jeff, the PR Director for the hotel, gave me a full overview of the hotel. Like the other Gaylord Resorts, the Palms has a relationship with DreamWorks to include popular characters such as Shrek, Puss N Boots, and Kung Fu Panda throughout the resort. On weekend mornings, they host a Shrek Fast character breakfast at one of the restaurants.
Jeff took me on a tour of the resort, and even showed me some of the employee only areas. Having stayed at Gaylord Hotels before, I know how friendly and helpful their staff are, and now I know why. The company does a great job taking care of them, even offering an employee-only fitness center, complimentary dry cleaning, and a weekly farmers’ market on premises (among other great benefits). During our conversation, I mentioned that my son loves penguins, and the next day, look who showed up in my room!
After unpacking, I headed to the Relache spa for a massage. I always have shoulder pain after flying, and the massage was just perfect. I spent some time in the sauna and steam room after my treatment, and really enjoyed the digital shower, with four different jets.
Dinner that night was at the Old Hickory Steakhouse, the signature dining experience at the Gaylord. While I was able to order off of the menu, the chef also prepared some items for me to taste, so I’d get a good overview of the offerings. My perfectly-cooked filet and the cheese cart were the food highlights of my meal, but I can’t forget to mention my fabulous server Javier, who gushed about how much he loves his employers.
The next morning, I headed out for a day trip to the JW Marriott Grande Lakes, which is adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes. The two sister resorts share amenities, and comprise a 500-acre paradise.
I arrived a bit early, so I brought my Kindle out by the lazy river pool, and enjoyed the view. Surprisingly, it wasn’t crowded at all at this hour. Then, I met my guide for an eco-tour of the on property Shingle Creek, which is considered to be the headwaters for the Everglades. I hopped in my own kayak, bravely armed with my DSLR camera, and lightly glided down for about an hour or so tour.
It’s hard to believe this peaceful little spot sits on a giant hotel property, just steps away from a main road.
Lunch was at the Fairways Pub at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, where I met Michelle, the PR Director of both resorts. I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious the food at the pub was, especially the house-made cole slaw and the desserts. I don’t usually eat cole slaw, but this one had a hint of coconut and was such a refreshing side.
After a very filling lunch, I went to the Ritz-Carlton spa for a signature massage. If I had more time, I definitely could have spent the entire day at the spa – with the hot tub, steam room, sauna, relaxation room, and lap pool, there’s plenty to do (those that don’t want to have a spa treatment can purchase a day stay).
Relaxed and full from lunch, I headed back to the Gaylord Palms, and had a delicious sushi roll at the Sora Sushi Bar.
This morning, I checked out of the Gaylord and headed to the Orlando World Center Marriott, which is where part two of my adventure will begin.
Disclosure: Thanks to the Florida Marriott and Diamond PR for hosting and coordinating my stay.
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