Archive For The “Florida Hotels & Resorts” Category
Marriott Grande Vista — A Home Away From Home
Marriott Grande Vista Resort in Orlando Florida has become my ‘home away from home.’ I go there frequently to host out-of-town family and friends. Grande Vista is a Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare) property, although you do not have to be a timeshare owner to stay there. The majority of their reservations are booked through timeshare exchange companies, but anyone can go to the Marriott website and make a reservation, just like you would for any Marriott hotel. In fact, many people book Grande Vista not even realizing it is a timeshare resort (the Marriott.com website doesn’t make that clear). Some of them are ultimately disappointed to find a humongous, busy facility where kids are plentiful and the noise level in the villa units can, at times, be bothersome. But again, Grande Vista is a family oriented timeshare resort, not an upscale full-service Marriott hotel. There is no room service (other than Pizza Hut delivery), room upgrades, or other perks that savvy hotel travelers have come to expect.
I’ve been a Marriott Vacation Club owner since 1991, currently celebrating my 25th year with them. Although timeshare is not for everyone, it was one of the best vacation decisions my hubby and I have made. It has, and continues, to serve us well. (Since this article is not about the pros and cons of timeshare ownership, I’ll save that for a future publication.) Marriott has a total of 13 Vacation Club properties throughout the state of Florida; I’ve been to all but 3 of them, and most of them multiple times. Each one has its own flavor, and activities and amenities can vary significantly between them. Some are peaceful and relaxing like the ones that are ocean-front properties where the repetitive lapping of the waves and cool ocean breeze can be nothing short of therapeutic. Others, like Grande Vista, are less tranquil and more difficult for the mind and body to unwind and decompress, but serve a purpose nonetheless. Grande Vista’s close proximity to the Central Florida Theme Parks and attractions is, in my opinion, its number one asset. And that’s what we primarily use it for.
For the past 17 years I’ve been a Florida resident. Back then, when we moved to our active-adult community, we also downsized our home. Now with only a futon in the spare bedroom (technically, it’s my office) we have very little space to host overnight guests. But when you live 40 minutes from ‘the MOUSE‘ you have a continual flow of visitors from out-of-state family and friends. That’s when we rely heavily upon Grande Vista. It’s not unusual for us to go there 3 or 4 times a year. Grande Vista has become my favorite place to host our visitors, for the following reasons.
- The Lock-off Feature: A 2-bedroom lock-off villa is essentially a 1-bedroom villa that is connected to a deluxe studio villa, so we get 2 very separate quarters. There is an adjoining door that we can choose to keep open or closed. (In the photo below, the lock-off door is closed and located between the kitchen and dining room on the left-hand side.) For us, the connecting door provides an extra level of privacy when we’re hosting another family. (The door is usually only closed at night while we sleep or during the day when someone is getting dressed, taking a nap, making a phone call, etc.) The 2 bedrooms are on opposite sides, nicely separated with the main living quarters in the middle. Each bedroom, of course, has its own bathroom, sitting area, and private balcony. Each section also has its own front entrance door, so families that choose to do separate activities can enter and exit the villa without disturbing the other family members. Additionally, the lock-off has its own mini fridge and microwave, allowing those midnight snack people to indulge without making noise by going into the main kitchen. And last, but certainly not least, is the separate thermostats in each unit. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but here’s why it’s important to me — without exception, all of our Northern friends and family who come to Florida want to set the air conditioning in the low 60’s. They freeze me out!!! Most Floridians keep their inside temperatures higher, not only because we’re more accustomed to the heat, but the heat and humidity outside is better tolerated if the inside temps are not too low. Separate thermostats in the lock-off villas allow everyone to be comfortable and happy.
- Grande Vista is the Largest of All Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare) Properties: Because of its size, Grande Vista has an amazing activity schedule that is second to none. The daily calendar is jammed-packed from morning till night with offerings for toddlers, kids, teens, and adults. From beach campfires to Vacationology classes, there is literally something for everyone. (Note: some activities require a nominal fee for food or supplies.) On a recent visit we enjoyed the Butterfly Release, the Florida Reptile Encounter show-and-tell presented by Gatorland, and a poolside movie after dark, (all freebies) just to name a few. Donna, my best friend with an adventurous spirit, was brave enough to hold a baby alligator and hip enough to try the unusual hair braiding techniques (small fee required) being done at the main pool. Hubby always manages to squeeze in a round of golf (fee required) on the short 9-hole course that meanders throughout the property. Boredom is not an option at Grande Vista!
Here’s a list of the fun on-site activities and events during my last visit May 2016:
(a dollar sign ($) represents a required fee)
Crayons and Cereal Craze
Paint and Swap Social
Dive In Movie (always family friendly)
Teen Basketball Shootout
Salt Scrub $
Texas Hold ‘Em
Photo Scavenger Hunt
Ping Pong Tournament
Moscow Mule Making $
Teen Ping Pong Tournament
Kids Basketball Shootout
Jelly Bean Tasting
Blind Chocolate Tasting
Lil Chef’s Kitchen $
Jackpot Bingo $
Survival Bracelets $
Kinetic Sand Sculpting
Tequila Tasting $
Wine Social $
Tennis Match Free Play
Craft Beer Tasting $
Teen Challenge Emoji Wars
Bead Buddies $
Tie Dye $
Margarita Making $
Ice Cream Making $
Coffee Cup Creations $
Kids Night Out $
Fishing Derby $
Name that Tune
Nineties at Nine
Teen & Tween Social Hour
Sangria Making $
S’mores Galore Campfire
Ceramic Craft Hour $
Salsa Making $
Salsa Dance Lessons
Bedtime Stories & Snacks
Kids’ Candy Bar Bingo
Wine Glass Etching $
Bocce Ball and Brews $
Dirt Cups $
Duct Tape Wallets $
Soda Floats $
Wine & Design Workshop &
Boathouse Happy Hour $
Cocktail Creations $
***Grande Vista also offers a complimentary group wellness schedule with activities such as Aerobics, Strength Conditioning, Nature Walks, Power Walks, Cardio Workouts, Senior Wellness Options, Yoga, Zumba, Juicing Demonstrations, and Smoothie Sampling. The Wellness Wagon offers rental supplies like yoga mats, healthy cookbooks, pedometers, and resistance bands.
As if that were not enough, additional recreation activities include Fishing Rentals, Boat Rentals (sun loungers, chaise loungers, kayaks, paddle boats), Tennis Program (with tennis pro Bob Newsome), Scuba Lessons, Marriott Golf Academy (private lessons), FootGolf, and The Spa At Grande Vista (massage and beauty services). WARNING: You may have to go back home to get some rest!
With such an outstanding array of activities, it’s no wonder children sometimes prefer to stay at Grande Vista rather than tackle the crowds and notorious long lines at the Central Florida Theme Parks. In fact, during my stay in May, my visiting family had two 5-year-old girls who they treated to a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. To my surprise, they were back at Grande Vista within 4 hours. Even though they had paid a premium price for the Disney tickets, the small girls were miserable and not able to handle the heat and people-packed Disney park. Kind of an expensive lesson learned. The young girls were happier at Grande Vista than the “Happiest Place on Earth!”
- Grande Vista Has 5 Different Food Outlets On Premise: Very different then most Marriott Vacation Club properties is the selection of food outlets at Grande Vista. I appreciate the option to dine without having to drive off-property. Yes, they’re a little pricey as with all resort food, but sometimes a burger just tastes better in a bikini! The convenient choices include:
- The Grill at Grande Vista (a full-service clubhouse-style restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner)
- Copa Loca Bar and grill (poolside fare like burgers, fish tacos, quesadillas, salads, etc. open for lunch and dinner)
- The Grande Cove (a casual food court with sandwiches, pasta, rotisserie chicken, Pizza Hut Express, etc. open for breakfast, lunch and dinner)
- The MarketPlace (a small convenience store and deli with snacks, fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Starbucks and necessities)
- Lighthouse Sweetery (whimsical ice cream parlor and candy shop)
The Negative Aspects of Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort
As with any resort, restaurant or attraction, there are pros and cons. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the negative aspects of Grande Vista. Certainly, the good out-weighs the bad, but here is what I dislike about Grande Vista:
- The Check-in Process: Just as the huge size of Grande Vista can be a benefit when it comes to amenities and activities, I’ve found that it also becomes its weakness. There are usually very long lines at the check-in counter and the lobby becomes lively with children who have been cooped up in planes, trains and automobiles for many hours, looking to release stored up energy. On more than one occasion we have had issues with the check-in process. During a visit in 2015, it was so bad we had to summon the intervention of a manager. In all fairness, the manager was extremely apologetic and offered her assistance in the future, but… the incident should not have occurred in the first place. Also, because Grande Vista is a high volume resort, parking by the front lobby is always challenging. There are designated employees for traffic control, but typically hubby drops me off then searches for a hard-to-find parking space. Of course, these issues become more pronounced during prime check-in times of 3:00 – 6:00.
- Maintenance Issues: I’ve been to Grande Vista probably 15+ times, and it’s a rare occasion we don’t have to call for the maintenance team to come fix something. We’ve dealt with replacing the mini-fridge, broken shower doors, patio sliding doors that won’t open and everything in between. As a Marriott Vacation Club owner, I fully understand they have a prescribed schedule for routine maintenance and about every 7 years the villas get a complete make-over. But again, because of the shear volume of guests (and an abundance of hard-playing children) this facility seems to have more maintenance issues than any other Marriott Resort we have frequented. For instance, during our May 2016 visit, we had the luxury of being placed in a newly refurbished building. My family had two 2-bedroom lock-off villas. Even though they had been renovated within the past few months, both villas had to call for maintenance. We had a broken kitchen cabinet door, broken master bathroom vanity door, shower door issue, and broken kitchen faucets in both units. All of these items were present upon check-in. And yes, these were newly remodeled units! One would expect issues as the units age and especially as they approach the 7-year period for renovation, but it came as a surprise in these units that were newly updated. My personal opinion is that oftentimes Marriott does a temporary fix so as not to disturb and interfere with the guests’ precious vacation time, rather than take the [extended] time to fix it right. Although, as a customer service advocate, the latter solution would produce a much higher guest satisfaction rate! On a positive note, every time we call for maintenance they respond very quickly, sometimes within minutes. And, as with most Marriott employees, they are always friendly and apologetic.
Enjoy the Photo Tour of Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort in Orlando, Florida
DID YOU KNOW…
Marriott has over 50+ Resorts in their Marriott Vacation Club Portfolio! Here’s a complete list of Marriott Vacation Club properties worldwide.
FOR YOU LOWCOUNTRY LOVERS…
I’ve recently returned from one of my favorite Marriott Vacation Club destinations… SurfWatch on sensational Hilton Head Island, South Carolina! Here’s my Review and Photo Tour of Marriott’s SurfWatch Resort.
Do you have a question about Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort? Please ask using the comment box below — I’ll do my best to answer it!