Luxury Disney World
We found the Orlando oasis that we have been looking for, a peaceful, private, and spacious retreat from theme park stimulation, yet within minutes to Magic Kingdom via a back road. The Villas of Grand Cypress (check rates for your travel dates) is known throughout Florida as a premiere golfing destination, flanked by the Golf Academy run by Fred Griffin, the man who wrote the definitive book on the golf swing and has worked with nearly every player who is a household name. But for many families in the know, Grand Cypress has becomes a repeat destination.
The Grand Cypress property feels massive, and you’ll never see its perimeter. The property’s structures are a golf club and restaurant, a professional meeting center, and the villas, but the superstars are the stunning cypress trees. The villas are spread among five different “courts” of buildings with a swimming pool and fitness center in the center. The villas begin in size as extra-large hotel rooms and increase to two-bedroom units with kitchens and living areas. Larger families and groups can request side-by-side units and even larger connecting units are possible for bigger groups.
Many travel the property by golf cart, but Gareth, our bellman had a super buggy and drove my daughter and I to our villa. We got lucky in that we were facing west (sunsets!) and had one of their thirteen units with an extended patio that went down to the water.
The staff thoroughly prepared our villa. They learned the ages of our children and had the appropriate bicycles and fishing poles waiting for us. The chefs at Grand Cypress like to make fruit-infused waters, so I grabbed a carafe of the day’s flavor—strawberry-kiwi—and glasses and sat on our patio. My children were as relaxed by the peaceful beauty of the place as I was. They began fishing immediately (and frequently throughout our stay), though we actually never caught anything. It never dampened their joy while trying, though. We learned there are even family fishing competitions in the summer, and I know we would not win.
The units were very well designed for the rugged wear and tear of families in lots of various shades of brown and tan. Glass tables and leather sofas are easy to get squeaky clean no matter what your kids do, so this contributed to my relaxed state while we lounged together. The bedrooms each had two double beds, and the bathrooms had stand-alone tubs and fancy showers with extra horizontal shower heads. There was a motion-censored light that came on underneath the nightstand when I got out of bed to guide me in the dark to avoid stepping on a Lego.
The kitchen, with a washer and dryer, was better stocked than any condo hotel I have stayed in. My favorite touch? A sheet in the refrigerator with cookies ready to bake whenever we were ready—a perfect touch as a Preferred Family hotel. The dining room table seated eight. It was time to throw a party.
We wanted to celebrate my son’s birthday, and I asked where I could get helium balloons. They said, “Let us take care of it.” They brought us a gorgeous balloon bouquet as well as a Jake and the Neverland Pirates bag of partyware. We had an impromptu preschool gathering with local friends at the pool that also had a beanbag toss and ping-pong table. Compared with the crowded pools at the Disney resorts, this felt like our own and spoiled us with peace and quiet.
My theory of the service at Grand Cypress is that guests get so cozy and settled in their villas doing their thing, that the staff want to interact with guests whenever they get the chance—like the lonely Maytag repairman waiting for a call. So don’t let the laid back vibe of the place fool you, the staff are ready to show you decadence. We ordered breakfast from room service on Sunday morning, and they asked if we would like to have a chef come to the room to prepare it for us. Who would say no? John, the resort sous-chef, arrived with ingredients for veggie omelettes, bacon, sausage, and more infused waters. We had a great time discussing hotel menus for children and the land beyond chicken nuggets.
We spent time exploring the property by bicycle and golf cart. There is a former section of the golf course that is used to show family movies at night in the summer. There is still an active “watering hole” with cups, water, and ice on the golf cart path. My children thought this was the greatest, most exciting thing ever, so we hydrated ourselves, over and over and over. I was so relaxed, present and cheerful with my kids that they wanted to stop to pick me flowers. The Italian expression, “Dolce far niente,” is finding the beauty of doing nothing, and it was possible to do this with my kids here in a way I wish I could at home.
The Villas at Grand Cypress Resort shares the resort amenities with the Hyatt Grand Cypress, where families can find a more traditional resort pool with water slides, a kids’ club, and activities like rock climbing and a mermaid academy. But those who had stayed before told me, “You’ll never leave,” and they were right. We didn’t need more than what our resort offered. Perhaps if we were there a week, we would have gone to explore the Hyatt, but we also would have signed the kids up for golfing lessons at the academy. I may have used the workout clothes I packed, but probably not.
We spent a day at Animal Kingdom and came home exhausted to a beautiful cookie tray. Even though there was no room service menu for kids, I wasn’t worried. They had no problem making buttered noodles and steamed broccoli for my kids. I enjoyed my sunset from the patio rivaling any Lion King poster.
I had fallen in love with our patio. I woke before everyone else and drank coffee in silence, except for the birds around me. By 8AM every morning, the golfers would appear across the water, and I would hear that ping of a driver hitting the ball. At sunset every night, we would sit outside and watch the ducks swim by.
Another example of excellent service was at check out. Housekeeping arrived, and I mentioned that I couldn’t find my son’s Crocs and to look out for them. One of the housekeepers said, “Why don’t you check the pool where you were swimming yesterday.” Sure enough, they were there, and my son didn’t have to wear his snow boots.
The experience I had at Grand Cypress was an excellent reminder for me. We spent nine days in Orlando on this trip, staying at different places and seeing all four Disney parks. When I asked my daughter on the flight home what the best part of her Orlando vacation was, she said “fishing and riding the bikes” without any hesitation. It is easy to lose sight of what an Orlando vacation can be when there are so many influences dictating the same theme park vacation. I am not one to regret, but we could have skipped our Disney tickets and stayed longer at the Villas of Grand Cypress. I won’t make that mistake again. Trust me.
Although we were hosted by the Villas of Grand Cypress, the opinions expressed in this article are my own.
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