PANDEMIC! at the Dis-Co: A trip to Central Florida out of the Disney Bubble
Welcome back to Not Club 33, home of the Disney Cynic!
It’s been a hell of a summer. I’m not even talking about temperatures, I’m just talking about workload. Some of you may recall that my real job entails selling HVAC equipment for a living. As you might imagine, the summer is my busy season, and after months of not having a vacation day, I needed a break this week. Where else do the Cynics go to unwind? Orlando, of course.
This trip we wanted to do something a little different. I won’t lie to you, the COVID-19 pandemic absolutely played a factor in our decision making. We decided to stay off-property for the first time in a while. We looked for high end hotels that were also off the beaten path, a Disney bubble social distance exercise if you will, and decided on the JW Marriott – Grande Lakes. I have to say, it was absolutely the right hotel for this trip.
Was the JW Marriott the same as Disney? No, but there were plenty of similarities, and the differences were both good and bad. First, from a similarity standpoint, the decor was every bit up to par with the Disney standard. The same can be said for their main pool, which had a couple of hot tubs and lazy river. They also had a lap pool should you have the desire to showcase your inner Michael Phelps. The JW connects to the Ritz Carlton, which owns the on-site golf course. I got the itch to play it, but priorities and central Florida weather prevented me from scratching.
Obviously, the most glaring bad difference to me was the significant lack of WDW centric programming, like Stacy and the Must Do’s. I must say, it doesn’t feel like a trip to Orlando without falling asleep to the endless loop of her being suspiciously energetic and excitable. Robin Lopez feels me. Also, for just having been just renovated, and the normal price point, the bed was not up to par with Disney, or even a Holiday Inn standard. As someone with an evermore sensitive back, I’m coming to value the bed more than the view.
This also seems nit-picky, but there were two things that did bug me while on the trip. First, self-service parking is on the complete opposite side of the resort. I suppose they justify this to cater to the conference center, but there were no open hotel access points anywhere near the parking area. It just makes it a pain, and I don’t like that part at all. The other thing that kinda bugged me was that Room Service was not available during our stay. Making a big deal out of social distancing, you would think that fewer gatherings inside the restaurants. We didn’t check in until 8:00. By the time we got unpacked and all, we had to rely on DoorDash for dinner.
Overall, we give it an 8 / 10. It’s a gorgeous resort, which when fully staffed and at optimal capacity is sure to be one of the better resorts in the area. The closest theme park to the resort is Sea World, and it’s well off the hectic atmosphere of International Drive. I’m certain that some sort of bussing or transportation exists to the Disney parks as well. So if you’re looking to bust out of the bubble, or at least maintain some distance from the crowds, I would highly recommend the JW Marriott Grande Lakes as an option.