advertisement

A true resort and a smart choice for a well-rounded vacation, the two luxury towers form a city unto themselves, and indeed, the JW's profile rises like a citadel in a 500-acre plot east of SeaWorld. The JW's 24,000-square-foot pool area, landscaped with fake rocks, jungle greens, and a quarter-mile lazy river, is the poshest outside of the Disney water slide parks, while the Ritz's is formal and refined. The JW's rooms has tile floors and slots for plugging your MP3 player into the plasma TVs. Yes, like many fancy convention hotels, it’s a nickel-and-dime experience—everything costs you. As long as you know that in advance, the hotel’s upscale amenities (gurgling lobby fountain, echoing bathrooms with separate bathtub and shower, palatial beds, narrow balconies on many rooms) are pleasing, even if the remote location 15 minutes from the parks means you’ll have to drive somewhere every time your stomach rumbles if you want to escape resort pricing. At the Ritz-Carlton attached by a corridor, the three-level, 40,000-square foot spa is well reviewed and in the rooms, the pamper factor is yet a notch higher. Both have unobstructed views of a Greg Norman–designed golf course and a nature reserve; west-facing rooms take in sunsets and SeaWorld in the distance. Primo, Chef Melissa Kelly's restaurant at the JW, and Norman's, Chef Norman Van Aken's ode to Florida flavors at the Ritz, are two top-of-the-line restaurants that would be a credit to any resort.