Walt Disney World has experienced a resort boom in recent years, with noteworthy additions including Gran Destino Tower and Riviera Resort, plus Disney Vacation Club expansion, room reimaginings, and enhancements.
Although less attention-grabbing than the on-site offerings, there have also been a ton of third party additions. Flamingo Crossings has seen a half-dozen hotels constructed in the last couple years, and countless other properties have debuted along Orlando’s tourist corridor–including at Universal Orlando.
Then there’s another, smaller category encompassing the best of both world: third party hotels built on-site at Walt Disney World. The upsides of these resorts are obvious, and in this review we’ll examine the newest of these. It’s a palatial property that also happens to be one of the very best on-site luxury resorts at Walt Disney World…
For this, we head to Bonnet Creek, which is located more or less between Caribbean Beach and Disney Springs (when you take the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios, the Bonnet Creek resorts are those “behind” CBR). This is where we find the newest hotel at Walt Disney World, the 16-floor, 516-room JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa.
The JW Marriott is also visible from I-4 and Epcot Center Drive–and is actually closer to both–but it doesn’t have direct access to either, instead requiring entry from Buena Vista Drive and a meandering drive through Bonnet Creek to where that area dead-ends into the JW Marriott. It’s oddly distanced from other properties in the area, which is both good and bad, but perplexing from a master planning perspective.
Upon arrival, you’re greeted by the modernist architecture of the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa. The hotel’s exterior is not the most exciting, but the angular design and geometric patterns do make it sufficiently interesting.
The sharp, minimalist exterior with flashes of brutalism suit the hotel well, and certainly look better than some of the cookie-cutter big box hotels popping up around Central Florida. It’s not going to win any design awards, but it looks fairly nice.
Inside the hotel, the lobby features warm interior styling with inviting social spaces.
Don’t let the lack of people in the photos I took at the crack of dawn fool you; these areas are popular with guests, particularly in the late afternoon and evening.
There’s a variety of seating, and these spaces are broken up to allow for a greater sense of intimacy in the otherwise large lobby of the JW Marriott.
The space utilizes an array of textures, decor, furniture, and fixtures. There’s a lot of variety in lighting, seating, and the arrangement of spaces. It borders on being a bit busy and overly on-trend, but it largely works. As much as I love clean and modern design, I’ll take erring on the side of eclectic over minimalist. The latter would simply feel too cold and sterile.
The intimate lobby lounge is particularly popular.
In addition to bar seating, there are tables outdoors overlooking the pool area and a variety of lounge chairs situated around the area.
The lobby terrace is another relaxing space, offering shade and nice breezes during the day and moody lighting at night.
It’s sufficiently removed from the hustle and bustle of the pool area, while close enough to the lounge so you can enjoy your drinks al fresco. We found the atmosphere out here to be really pleasant.
Adjacent to the lobby lounge is Sear + Sea Woodfire Grill, the JW Marriott’s signature steakhouse. Not much has been written about this flagship restaurant–even on the hotel’s official site–which is really unfortunate, as it is absolutely fantastic. (If you’re staying elsewhere and can’t score an ADR, this is a worthy ‘destination dining’ option.)
As its full name suggests, Sear + Sea features a centerpiece wood-fired oven that produces some sublimely smokey dishes. We loved literally everything we ordered here; the steaks were superlative, and I cannot imagine ordering any other entrees going forward. Beyond any of the steaks, specific recommendations include the grilled octopus, artisanal bread, and mac & cheese.
Continuing outside the lobby, the biggest disappointment for us with the JW Marriott was the pool area. Not because there’s anything wrong with either of them–they’re perfectly serviceable, especially for adults looking to lounge–but because so many of the higher end third party hotels in Bonnet Creek, Grand Cypress, and Disney Springs go big on pools. It’s often one of the biggest selling points over Disney-owned properties.
The JW Marriott features a large zero-entry family pool with a wide variety of nice seating. The pool itself is relatively pedestrian, with no waterslide, lazy river, or other fun features you might find at many hotels in Orlando. (While Anaheim hotels are known for bland and boring pools, Orlando hotels tend to go all out.)
Palm Cover outdoor bar separates the family and adult pool, which does an admirable job subdividing the two areas. However, it can only do so much. There’s definite spillover and overlap between the two areas, meaning the adults-only area isn’t exactly calm or quiet. It feels almost like the pool area was crafted around space constraints, which is odd since there’s a ton of empty space all around the JW Marriott.
For families, there are some noteworthy amenities on the sixth floor. There’s a nine-hole miniature golf course, rock climbing wall, and a kids club play area with toys and books.
The JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort has a variety of guest room options with different view tiers, ranging from a standard king room to suites with fireworks or Disney Springs views.
We stayed in a one bedroom suite; the photo above also illustrates (more or less) how a standard king room looks.
The one-bedroom suite also has a living room with a sofa sleeper, and an extra half bathroom in the entrance (door on the far left of the above photo). There’s also a family suite, which is basically this set-up plus another bedroom.
Either of these room styles are good options for families, or anyone else wanting a bit more space to spread out. We like this type of set-up because it allows one of us to get up earlier and work or watch TV without disturbing the other by staying in the same room.
Arguably, the highlight of the room is the bathroom, which the JW Marriott itself describes as “spa-like.”
That might be a bit of a stretch, but this bathroom is seriously nice.
The spacious bathroom features a walk-in rain shower as well as a large bathtub.
The vanity is large, lighting abundant, and finishings are high end. Lots to like about this space.
As for the style of the room itself, that’s going to be a matter of personal preference. The decor is sophisticated, but more on the subtle side, with smart use of woods, stones, and textures to convey a clean-but-elevated aesthetic.
Other resorts in Bonnet Creek have more of a classical or Mediterranean style; for those who want a look that screams “traditionally luxurious,” that might be more appealing.
Personally, I prefer the style of the JW Marriott. The room is crisp and luxurious, with features and design flourishes that suit its higher-tier status in Marriott’s portfolio. It would be nice if the rooms had a little more personality or defining features–they are admittedly on the boring side–but I’ll still take this over the nearby Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, or Wyndham.
(My photo above doesn’t do it justice, but the room’s lighting is really nice, especially behind the television, and you have a high degree of control over it.)
For a better look at the layout, here’s a video tour of our room at the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort from Sarah:
Nightly rates at the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort start at around $200/night right now on off-season weekdays, increasing to over $300 per night for weekends and holidays. There are also package booking incentives for bonus points and/or resort credits and free parking currently. As travel continues to pick up, we’d expect some of these special offers to fade away and rack rates to increase.
On top of that, self-parking is $29 per night or valet parking is $37. There’s also a mandatory, nightly $35 resort fee. As regular readers know, we hate the anti-consumer practice of resort fees. They’re pretty much unavoidable at higher-end third party hotels in Orlando, unfortunately. At least this resort fee actually includes added-value things: a shuttle to the parks, wellness classes, two alcoholic drinks from the lobby bar, and more.
Keep those added costs in mind when looking at the relatively attractive base rate, which is in line with Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World. Given the quality of the hotel, even the total rates aren’t bad, as the JW Marriott is superior to a Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World in nearly every regard aside from theme and proximity to the parks.
The JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort is a Category 6 property. Using Marriott points, you’ll need 40,000 points for an off-peak stay, 50,000 points for a standard stay, or 60,000 points per night for peak season. This is on par with the Swan & Dolphin, which offers more of a resort experience but less luxury.
In the interest of full disclosure, our stay at the JW Marriott was comped for the purpose of this review. You can judge for yourself whether that impacts the credibility of our assessments. As locals, it doesn’t make sense practically or economically to book a ton of otherwise unnecessary hotel stays simply for research.
Ultimately, the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa ranks as one of our top on-site hotels at Walt Disney World. A big part of this is because it appeals to our tastes more than its counterparts, with smart styling and modern design. It’s luxurious and offers a formidable slate of amenities that should make it appealing to couples or solo travelers looking for a more adult option with convenient access to (or even isolation from) the parks.
However, the JW Marriott is not for everyone. In particular, we have a more difficult time recommending it to families. It’s not that the hotel isn’t kid-friendly–to the contrary, it’s laid back and not even remotely stuffy or unapproachable. It’s more that other resorts cater to families better. That’s obviously true with the Disney-owned options, but even hotels like the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, Swan & Dolphin, or Four Seasons Orlando are better suited to guests with kids. Honeymooners or adults doing luxurious Walt Disney World trips should definitely add the JW Marriott to their shortlist, though!
Have you stayed at the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa? What did you think of the hotel? Highlights and/or lowlights? Doe the accommodations look appealing to you, or is this not to your tastes, preferences, or needs? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!