Detailed review by Newfloridian
North Shields, United Kingdom
On a trip to Tampa, Florida a couple of years ago we spent the weekend over in Orlando cashing in a gift voucher for my wifes birthday (more of this later). I have been a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport scheme for about five years now and have been very impressed by the standards that are maintained in their premises both in Europe and the States. We had often thought that we might try the Grand Cypress because of its reputation (indeed the previous year we ended up at the Hyatt Orlando an establishment which is no longer part of the chain - by mistake!!) but prior to this visit had never made it. Since then we have stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort six times.
The hotel sits in the midst of a 1500 acre estate on the northern edge of Walt DisneyWorld. It towers over the other establishments in Hotel Plaza in Disney Village but paradoxically is not on property. We arrived by car from the West, leaving the I4 (interstate) at the Lake Buena Vista exit (all the interstate road junction numbers have recently changed now reflecting the mileage from some fixed point). The road travels past the entrance to Disney Village (on the left) and the Crossroads shopping area (on the right). The main entrance to the hotel is to the left on the SR535.
The approach to the main entrance is along a well manicured dual carriageway and through a security gate. Our names were on the New Arrivals list and we were presented with our dated parking pass. There are extensive free car parking facilities but we were offered and accepted valet parking which is currently $16 a day.
The foyer is dramatic featuring a eighteen storey atrium serviced by glass fronted lifts. Every level above the ground floor has an open balcony that looks out over the foyer. We had to take a trip to the penthouse floor to appreciate the vertiginous view of the huge Christmas tree just inside the main door. A stream runs through trees and plants of all varieties. A parakeet sits on a perch on one side of the atrium; a macaw on the other. There are bronzes and sculptures with seating areas. Also in the atrium is Trellises bar. The reception desks are to right of the main entrance (Gold Passport members have their own check in) and the concierge staff are to the left.
The hotel has 750 rooms (68 designated Regency Club) and 74 suites all with balconies. Most of these are now strictly non smoking (you will see a prominent $250 clean up notice if you so offend). Depending which side of the hotel you are on there are wide views over DisneyWorld (good to see the firework displays) or out over the resort and Florida to the East. There was an open air observation deck on the eleventh floor where we were able to see the night time launch of a space shuttle from Cape Canaveral. Yes it was visible and spectacular even from seventy miles away!
Out front were shuttle buses which ran to various parts of DisneyWorld, Universal Studios, Millenium Mall and up to the Academy of Golf. Car collection was a simple matter of ringing down to the valet desk prior to leaving our room.
For our first visit we were located on the sixth floor. We had chosen a room with a king sized bed. It was large by modern hotel standards, allowing plenty of space for easy chairs and a desk to be comfortably away from the armoire (furniture which held the television, safe etc). The bed was comfortable and there was a decent supply of pillows. There was an evening turn-down service. The room looked as if it had been recently decorated, the décor was bright, airy and cheery the wallpaper a green lattice design on white background with red flowers. There was a large full height window and the curtains cut out the sunlight completely. We could see the observation tower and the roller coaster ride of SeaWorld with the skyscrapers of downtown Orlando in the distance.
All the usual amenities were also available: mini-bar, ironing board, hair dryer, radio, coffee maker. Newspapers were also delivered on a daily basis. When we arrived we had with us two bags of provisions including two six packs of beer. We were supplied with a refrigerator which was stood in the wardrobe for the duration of our stay. High speed internet access is available in all rooms by Ethernet connection (currently $25.99 for five days).
The on suite bathroom continued the same colour scheme. The shower was over the bath. There were also some comforting small touches; bathroom scales, mist free shaving mirror, bathrobes, a range of toiletries.
For our two most recent visits we have requested (and received) communicating rooms. This is a useful facility when travelling with older teenagers.
THE REGENCY CLUB
As Gold Passport holders and relatively frequent Hyatt visitors we are well aware of the delights of the Regency Club. For a small premium (or upgrade via the passport) access is given to restricted floors and areas of the hotel.
For the last two years our status has been elevated to the Platinum level. This does give you some additional benefits on check in. You can ring ahead or pre-check in on the internet first thing on the morning of arrival. There is a separate check in desk. You have a choice of welcome amenities (bottles of beer, cookies and milk, chocolate dipped strawberries) delivered to your room. There is also a bonus level of points added to your account depending on your spending.
The Regency Club lounge provides a light breakfast (cereals, cold meats, croissants), lunchtime nibbles, coffee and soft drinks, a complementary bar, evening canapés and cocktails. It has its own concierge and provides newspapers and television. It is an ideal place to go for a quiet time and children are excluded after 6pm. The Regency Club also had supplies of a weekly news and events letter.
The Grand Cypress has five restaurants providing a wide range of menus to suit all tastes.
The Cascade is on the lower floor and is approached down a spiral staircase. Tables are set out across a large room which is dominated by a large bronze mermaid in a water fountain that gives the restaurant its name. This is the main breakfast and dining room for hotel residents and is family orientated. The dinner menu is cosmopolitan offering such treats as Buttermilk Fried Calamari and Potato crusted Snapper.
Off to one side is the Palm Café and General Store. This is the light bite snackery the purveyors of cookies and coke. The shop has barrels of sweets and chocolates, soft drinks and postcards - just watch the wide eyed stares of those younger gourmands!!.
The White Horse Saloon on the other hand has a much more grown up feel. A cowboy indicates the way from the foyer. There is a full service bar around which are televisions showing a range of satellite sports channels. The dining booths feature heavy oak tables and lots of leather and polished brass. The menu is predominately beef from the most tender filet mignon right up to a 20 ounce aged prime rib. You need to be aware that this restaurant closes on Sunday night.
As you may imagine, Hemingways takes its inspiration from Key West and sea food. It is a separate building within the grounds of the resort and has its own cocktail bar (Hurricanes). During the summer we are told that the hurricane shutter windows can be opened up to give the restaurant an open air feel. Stone crabs were in season during our earlier visit (October to May) and these make a very tasty (if expensive) appetiser. If you havent tried these local crustaceans, then you really should make the effort. It is noteworthy that when a crab is caught only one claw is taken off and the crab is then released. The claw grows back. (for more information try www.beststonecrabs.com).
The entrees are Floridian traditional Filet mignon and lobster, tuna with wasabi and ginger, grilled, blackened or pan seared catch of the day. There is a good choice of reasonably priced wines (our Californian Merlot was $27 for a bottle) and most of which are available by the glass.
La Coquina is approached by a flight of stairs downwards. In the summer months it is usually dedicated to the service of the hotels conference guests. However during high season, they lay on a Sunday brunch menu which is duly renowned across Central Florida and for which prior booking is most definitely required. For a set price an all-you-can-eat buffet of astonishing array (starters, hot and cold entrees, and puddings) are served with an accompanying never-let-the-glass-go-em pty service of champagne. Dishes are laid out on tables and trestles around the anteroom and in the kitchen. Hot main courses are cooked to order by the chefs as you wait. We went in late (2pm) the day we went, grazed until 4:30pm and then lay back in our rooms while three home movies drifted past us without a care!!
The Grand Cypress prides itself on its conference and exhibition capabilities. To one side of the atrium a wide corridor leads off to the exhibition hall proper, a suite of conference rooms and theatres and a huge ballroom.
There is a small arcade of shops which stocks a variety of leisure wear for both men and women some of which are suitably embroidered Grand Cypress. There is the regulation stock of trinkets, knick-knacks and souvenirs, with only a token nod to The Big Cheese who lives next door. Until recently these shops are managed by WH Smiths.
There is a beauty parlour and hairdresser that offers facials, manicures and pedicures, managed by an expatriate from Oldham. My wife availed herself of this before we left.
It was a quiet time of the year during our stay and we were able to browse the attractions of the resort at leisure. It is obvious from the start that we were in a man-made environment. Everywhere the grounds are landscaped and extremely well maintained. There is a wide range of bronze, brass and wooden statuary. At the rear of the hotel there is a large pool adjacent to which are whirlpools, kids slides and waterfalls. Part of the surround to the pool has been constructed as a series of caves which house a sauna, bar and entrance to the fitness and games rooms.
The fitness centre is equipped with treadmills, cycles, stairmasters, and training equipment. Personal trainers are on hand to advise when things might just be getting a little out of hand!
The rear of the hotel looks out onto a fresh water lake (Lake Windsong). A beach of white sand has been constructed here. There are deck chairs and hammocks for taking the air. There is also a wet bar and towel hut. The lake attracts a large number of birds including swans, black swans, mallards, anhingas and an osprey. It is stocked with fish for the anglers. Although not seen, there is a warning notive to be aware of alligators. A variety of craft, canoes, pedalos, water bicycle, are available.
Leaving the resort is a matter of walking over the rope suspension bridge that crosses the pool. There are three nature trails (1, 2 and 4 miles) that also double as jogging tracks. These initially pass the nine hole pitch and putt course. This was so quiet (early afternoon) that we were able to play two rounds without interruption.
The outer resort area is home to the Racquet Club (which comprises tennis courts, racquetball and basket ball) and an Equestrian Center which caters for instruction and riding for all capabilities.
THE GOLF ACADEMY.
The Grand Cypress has its own Academy of Golf which was designed by Jack Nicklaus. This is set about two miles further up the SR535. In total it has four courses: three nine hole and the 18 hole new course. The Academy has its own registration area and villas, clubhouse, concierge and shop.
As absolute golf tyros, I had booked a two hour introductory session for my wife as a birthday present. This included use of the kit, the services of a PGA golf pro, the use of the driving range and buggy. There was a cold wind blowing that morning but it was a worthwhile experience. I discovered that I was a natural for the St Andrews grip (how appropriate as that was my alma mater and I had never played golf during my five years in Scotland!!)
HOW WE BOOKED
We booked our stay through the Hyatt website (www.hyatt.com). A prepayment by credit card of one night was required as a holding deposit. This would have been refunded in event of cancellation up to 48 hours before arrival. The basic room charge was $209 a night (sales tax added a further $22.99). In the summer months there are usually a variety of special offers and room rates. For the duration of our recent stay our adjoining second room for our daughter (at the time under 18 years) was half price. There was also a resort fee of $12 a day which allowed unlimited use of the facilities (pitch and putt, sailing, tennis) and also provided free local telephone calls.
Some months previously we had been sent a voucher by Hyatt. This allowed us to upgrade our basic stay into a Regency Club stay. As it happened the Regency Club floors were full, but our room key was stamped with the Regency Club logo which allowed access from the lift to the Regency Floor and facilitated access to the lounge. Charging back to the room was available in all the restaurants, shops and other services.
Check in time is 4pm; check out is 12 noon. Full electronic check out is available.
Oh yes just one last thing. Please be aware that the address of this hotel (as is Walt DisneyWorld) is Lake Buena Vista Florida. You may think Im being pedantic but this is not Orlando. Getting to Downtown is a forty mile round trip and Orlando International Airport is about 20 miles away
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress