Let’s face it: there are an overwhelming number of lodging options in Orlando, Florida. No surprise here, as the theme park capital of the world is also the most popular travel destination in the United States. Universal Studios Orlando has its own hotels, Walt Disney World does as well, and outside of theme park properties hotels from grubby to top-of-the-line abound. In short, it takes a LOT for a hotel to stand out in this crowd. The new-ish Hilton Hotel Orlando (opened 2009) does just that. And how.
I know what you’re thinking, a Hilton’s a Hilton, right? Wrong. Admittedly, I thought this too en route from the Orlando Airport. I was staying at the Hilton Orlando Hotel for work, and assumed it would be yet another in the long line of business travel-ready hotels I’ve stayed at over the years. But this Hilton goes above and beyond expectations. It’s not just me who thinks so: it was named the Hilton Hotels & Resorts 2012 Hotel of the Year. This means that Hilton WorldWide named the Hilton Orlando Hotel the best Hilton in the WORLD, for 2012. And, every year since the Hilton Orlando was up and running, it won Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ “Connie Award” for the Hilton Hotel in the Americas and the Best Guest Satisfaction Award each year as well (for Hilton properties with over 500 rooms).
Just the facts, ma’am:
- The Hilton Orlando has 1,417 rooms and suites, all non-smoking
- The hotel has the usual amenities like in-room coffee maker, Internet, mini fridge, etc
- Dining options include Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops, David’s Club Bar & Grill, The Bistro, Tropics Pool Bar & Grill, The Marketplace, Lobby Bar, and room service
- The Spa accommodates couples and groups swell as solo spa lovers. It uses Neroli based products (that’s the essential oil from orange blossoms) to help promote relaxation and wellness
- The fitness center is enormous; 4,000 square feet with floor-to-ceiling windows on one side that face the outdoor grounds. There’s a lot of equipment that fits into that fitness center, including treadmills, recumbent cycles, elliptical cross trainers and more
- The pool has “zero entry” on both sides; this lack of any sudden drop-off makes the pool child-friendly. There are six cabanas and a 10,000 square foot pool deck, and a separate “Quiet Pool” for adults. There is also an 892 foot long lazy river with water fountains and water canons
- Tennis court
- Basketball court
- Volleyball court
- Jogging track
- 9-hole putting course
- Schedules weekend and sessional activities
- Downtown Disney — 7 miles away
- Universal Studios Orlando — 5 miles away
- Seaworld — 2 miles away
Now, that’s all very boring stuff, the details you may want to know before reserving a room at a hotel. But here’s what makes the Hilton Orlando the award-winningest Hilton hotel: the unbelievable level of service. Those of us who review hotels know it’s an occupational hazard to become immune to certain details of customer service; the chocolates on the pillows after turn-down service, the towels twisted into animal shapes, the kids’ menus, yawn. When you get down to it, hotels and resorts that offer sometimes unexpected pleasures like those can do so while “phoning it in.” That is, the THINGS are there, but the actual, genuinely friendly staff eager and excited to go that extra mile are not. The Hilton Orlando Hotel is exceptional. Here, every staff member I encountered — and I encountered a lot – was so truly happy to showoff the hotel and to make my stay as easy as possible. There were no phony smiles in sight.
There is something so astounding about seeing all levels of staff be so enthusiastic about their jobs that it must be rare. I certainly was blown away. It’s an extrapolation, but I’d wager that the staff – from housekeepers to concierge desk, from groundskeepers to head chef – must be treated with respect and admiration by the upper management. Even a painter, touching up the sides of the hotel, pausing, looking up, and giving me a truly friendly morning greeting, was a pleasure. It puts a bounce in the step of guests to see happy people all around them, this makes the staff happier, and the cycle repeats itself. Happy guests, happy employees, happy management…you’d think that the Hilton Orlando Hotel is trying to provide some competition in Orlando with the other so-called Happiest Place on Earth.
The Hilton Orlando Hotel has other notable, positive aspects as well, including it being a LEED-certified green hotel with committed plans in action to reduce, reuse and recycle otherwise disposable item, and a majorly locally-sourced list of ingredients for all its restaurants. This is difficult to achieve for a hotel of this size, yet it’s working — and in such a seamless way that it doesn’t affect or detract from the guest experience at all.
There are lots of hotels in Orlando, and lots of Hilton hotels in the world. Only one, though, has this remarkable green philosophy for a hotel of its size, with locally sourced restaurant menu items, service worthy of 5-star resorts, and in the most highly desired family travel destination of Orlando, Florida. The Hilton Orlando will make you happy, and help you enjoy your stay as much as possible.
The Hilton Orlando Hotel comped my stay as part of the first TMS Family Travel Conference.