Marriott Villas — A Home Away from Home
So. You’ve decided to take the family to Florida… the whole family! A family reunion, of sorts. Then you started pricing hotel rooms for the clan and almost changed your mind. Where in the world can a larger family stay without booking multiple rooms per night?
Instead of the traditional tiny, cramped hotel room, there’s another option: Marriott Vacation Villas! Did you know you do not have to be a Marriott Vacation Club Owner in order to stay in one of their spacious villas? They are available for anyone to rent on a daily basis, and the Marriott Villas can be booked through the Marriott.com web site. (Of course availability and prices vary from season to season just like a traditional hotel room.)
One of the best parts is this: You get so much more than simply a room. A Marriott Villa is kinda like a ‘home away from home!’
3 Benefits of Vacationing in a Marriott Villa
- Size, size, size… that’s a no-brainer! (This is one of those times when size does matter!) Many of the Marriott Villas are 2 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a full kitchen (includes dishes, utensils, cookware, etc.), bar/counter stool dining, a dining room, living room, laundry room (with washer and dryer), and balcony/lanai. Most Marriott Villas can accommodate 8-10 people, very comfortably. (A few locations even offer 3-bedroom units.)
- With the added benefit of a full kitchen, there is no need to purchase all of your meals at costly restaurants. Typically, hubby and I like to have breakfast or brunch at the villa (works well when you’re not a morning person and prefer breakfast in your jammies!). Then, we usually splurge on dinner each evening, and quite often take a doggie-bag back to the villa to be reheated for lunch or snack the next day.
- Another ‘at home’ convenience for us is the in-villa laundry room. I don’t know why we women (finger pointing at me) feel the need to pack a different outfit for every day of the week… with matching shoes and purse! Having the convenience of the washer and dryer has enabled me to pack a little lighter. Also, I’ve gotten into the habit of doing all my laundry on our final night at the villa, then I don’t have tons to do when I get home. If you’re vacationing for multiple weeks at a time, the washer and dyer option is a God-send.
Marriott Villas in Florida — Take the Virtual Tour
As a Florida resident for the past 17 years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit virtually every Marriott Vacation Club Villa in Florida… many multiple times. I’ve compiled a Top 10 list of my favorites, including a brief description and photo tour for each one. Enjoy! (Have a more specific question? I’ll do my best to answer it; simply reply in the “comment” box at the end of the article.)
# 10 Royal Palms — Orlando
Royal Palms is a delightful destination if you are heading to Disney. Of all the Marriott Villas, this is the closest one to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks. In fact, it’s only about 2 miles to the Disney World entrance. The Marriott Royal Palms Villas are located adjacent to the full-service Marriott Orlando World Center Resort; and the beauty of this Marriott Villa is that guests have access to all the hotel’s facilities and amenities via a free shuttle.
As one of Marriott’s smaller Vacation Club properties, the grounds and landscaping at Royal Palms are not nearly as extensive as most of the other resorts, but still very beautiful and well maintained. The villas are strategically placed along the Hawks Landing 18-hole golf course.
# 9 Harbour Lake — Orlando
Keyword: Kids!!! Extensive and creative water features make this a haven for happy kids. Also conveniently located to all the major Central Florida theme parks and attractions… although, you may have to bribe the younger members of the family in order to get them to leave the Pirate-ship-themed pool.
The atmosphere throughout this property is bright and fun. I enjoyed the 9-hole miniature golf on premise, but not nearly as much as hubby enjoyed his gourmet hotdog from the pool bar and grill afterwards.
I was super excited to have my 20-month-old grandson the last time I visited Harbour Lake. He had a blast, as I knew he would!
# 8 Beach Place Towers — Fort Lauderdale
For the young and young at heart! Marriott Beach Place Towers is a high-rise condo right in the middle of the Fort Lauderdale Beach action that becomes quite lively [noisy] at night. The street is lined with restaurants, bars, and clubs. Upon check-in we were asked which side of the building we would like to have. Since hubby is a boat fanatic, we chose the intracoastal waterway view instead of the ocean view… GREAT choice! Turns out this was the quiet side of Beach Place Towers for us party-poopers.
The parking garage was a challenge for us with narrow ramps and spaces, and was also a very busy public garage as well. On a positive note, we spent endless hours on our balcony watching the multi-million-dollar yachts pass by on the intracoastal. Equally enjoyable were our leisurely strolls on Fort Lauderdale beach, which is [conveniently] right across the street from Beach Place Towers. We also enjoyed the plethora of dining choices within a 5-minute drive. Oh, and the famous Las Olas shopping district… well, what woman doesn’t like to shop? Enough said!
# 7 Doral — Miami
When I think of Doral (on the outskirts of Miami) 3 words come to mind — golf, golf, and golf! Anyone familiar with the PGA Tour has likely watched a telecast from the famous ‘Blue Monster’ course, one of 5 championship courses offered (for a not-so-small fee!).
During our 7-night stay, we took advantage of the amenities at the adjacent ‘Trump National Doral Resort‘ with its incredible pool where we rented a luxury cabana for the day. On another occasion, we had the buffet lunch at the hotel which included unlimited made-to-order sushi, which made hubby happy! Our daughter’s destination that day was a couples massage at their highly acclaimed Spa. Marriott Doral offers free shuttle transportation to Trump’s Resort, which is directly across the highway.
Our day-trips from Marriott’s Doral Resort included the popular Miami Bayside (awesome shopping and dining), the historical Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, the shops at CocoWalk in Coconut Grove, lunch at the prestigious Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, and the world famous Miami South Beach art decor district (better known as SoBe).
# 6 Lakeshore Reserve — Orlando
I fondly remember a Mediterranean mindset at this gorgeous old-world-inspired resort. Elegant, quaint, and traditional were the feelings evoked during our September stay at Marriott Lakeshore Reserve. Bronzed-finished fountains and distressed golden furnishings added to the charm. Stunning old-world architecture provided endless photo opportunities.
The zero-entry heated pool was outstanding and the lazy river so relaxing. The sprawling pool area was most certainly a tropical oasis. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two upscale, luxury hotels that comprise this Marriott complex known as Grande Lakes — the 4-star J.W. Marriott Hotel, and the 5-star Ritz Carlton.
# 5 Grande Vista — Orlando
Living in Florida for the past 17 years, and only 40 minutes from the Central Florida attractions, has provided ample opportunity for us to use the Marriott Villas in Orlando on a regular basis. Marriott Grande Vista is one of our favorites for hosting out-of-state friends and family that come to visit. It’s not unusual for us to stay here 3 or more times a year. We especially like the ‘lock-off’ feature in the villas, which gives a much greater level of privacy when hosting another family.
Grande Vista is the largest of all the Marriott Vacation Club properties — a family friendly resort with an activity schedule, bar none, for both children and adults. During our last stay we enjoyed the Butterfly Release, the Florida Reptile Show-and-tell presented by Gatorland, and a Wine Tasting, just to name a few. My adventurous friend, Donna, was brave enough to try the unusual hair braiding, offered poolside. Hubby always manages to squeeze in a round of golf on the short 9-hole course that meanders throughout the property. We also appreciate the 5 different food outlets available at Marriott Grande Vista, without having to drive off-property to dine.
# 4 Ocean Pointe — Palm Beach Shores
Great location, right on the Atlantic ocean! Marriott’s Ocean Pointe has an abundance of boating activity, including daily sightings of cruise ships as they slowly navigate through the channel en route to the Atlantic Ocean. Water sports abound at Ocean Pointe; jet skies, parasailing, and snorkeling gear are all available for rentals. We loved the boat tour we took through the intracoastal waterway aboard a water taxi, which gave us a birds-eye view of many mansions owned by various celebrities. The nearby Sailfish Marina is within walking distance, where we enjoyed multiple meals throughout the week (as a salmon freak, the potato-crusted salmon is always my favorite here). The fish is so fresh, we literally watched them clean and fillet the ‘catch of the day’ right on the boat docks as we entered!
Our day-trip excursions included the Henry Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, shopping and lunch at the popular City Place in Palm Beach, and a scenic drive down coastal A1A.
# 3 Cypress Harbour — Orlando
A sentimental favorite! Cypress Harbour was the very first Marriott Vacation Club Resort we toured, 27 years ago. We were so impressed by the Marriott quality and service… that we went back home to Pennsylvania as a Marriott Vacation Club Owner! We have never regretted that decision. It has served us well for almost 3 decades, and now as brand new Grandparents, we’re looking forward to many memory-making vacations with yet another generation.
In a few words, Marriott’s Cypress Harbour Resort is immaculate, well maintained, and very well managed. Activity programs for children are ‘off-the-chart.’ We’ve enjoyed outdoor grilling, boat rides on the lake, and walks on the nature trail (with sightings of turtles, ducks, exotic birds, and even alligators).
We especially enjoy spending time here during the holiday season, as Cypress Harbour is so close to all the festivities that the Greater Orlando area has to offer.
# 2 Oceana Palms — Palm Beach Shores
Truly an ocean oasis! (This is one of Marriott’s newer Vacation Club Villas in Florida.) Marriott Oceana Palms consists of twin ocean-front high-rise towers overlooking the majestic Atlantic Ocean. Oceana Palms is contemporary styled with exceptionally appointed spacious villas with upscale surroundings. We have always experienced superior service during our many visits to this location.
I love the little touches at Oceana Palms, like the variety of fruit-infused water selections available (complimentary) all day in the lobby, and their signature scent of ‘melon awapuhi’ that permeates the lobby and common areas. It’s such a fresh fragrance upon entering the building. On a more important note, several times we had lunch or snacks on premise, and hubby says our Jamaican friend at the Reflections Bar & Grill makes one mean mojito! And, the fish tacos are hard to beat… anywhere!
Our adventures from here included the historic Jupiter Lighthouse and Museum, and a day-trip to the Bahama Islands by boat.
And The Winner Is…
# 1 Crystal Shores — Marco Island
Upscale utopia! Marriott Crystal Shores is a luxury beach-front resort located directly on the Gulf of Mexico — Marriott’s only Gulf Coast Vacation Club property. The blue/green waters of the Gulf are reminiscent of those I’ve seen in the Caribbean Islands.
Marriott Crystal Shores villas are spacious with a well designed, open floor plan. The shower is big enough for a small car wash (so says hubby!). The balcony is the largest we’ve ever had in any Marriott villa — the entire length of the villa, with plush outdoor furniture that you would expect only at a 5-star hotel. When we are able to pull ourselves away from this ‘heaven-on-earth’ property, it is usually to go to nearby Naples for shopping or dining. Additionally, one of my favorite day-trips from Crystal Shores was to the Naples Botanical Gardens.
Have you been to any of the Marriott Vacation Club Resorts in Florida? Please share your favorites in the “reply” box below. Our readers would love to know!