The Waldorf Astoria Orlando is a hotel near Walt Disney World and featuring luxurious rooms and amenities that make it one of the top resorts in Florida. This review features room photos, thoughts on the amenities and service caliber, and my pros & cons of staying at the Waldorf.
The hotel, known in some circles as “The ‘Dorf” or “The Wald-izzy” or “Statler’s Buddy’s Hotel,” touts a jazz-era Art Deco style, but I’d describe it as being more or less classical luxury. The Waldorf Astoria is near the top of our Top 10 Off-Site Hotels Near Walt Disney World list, and as you’ll read in this review, is an excellent choice.
Starting March 1, 2019, it becomes an even better pick, as guests staying at the Waldorf Astoria (along with the adjacent Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek) will join the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels in receiving the extended 60 day FastPass+ booking window and Extra Magic Hour eligibility. This is huge for those who stay on-site primarily for the perks…
My first exposure to the Waldorf Astoria actually came when I was quite young, and a relative explained to me that Statler and Waldorf on The Muppet Show were named after the two nicest hotels in the world (they might’ve said New York City, but I heard “the world”). I don’t know why that stuck with me–like all reasonable children of the day, I was far more interested in Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters than hotels–but it did.
Fast forward to 2009, and I heard about Hilton opening a new Waldorf Astoria in Orlando as part of its new collection under the flagship brand, with this being the first Waldorf Astoria outside of New York City. I was intrigued, as I still associated the name with being one of the nicest hotels in the world. It was to be built at Bonnet Creek Resort, a location inside of the Walt Disney World gates that made it far more likely for me to visit.
We finally had the chance to spend a couple of nights at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando on our recent trip to Walt Disney World, and it was everything I expected it to be and more. Well, aside from not having a lobby filled with wealthy, white-haired curmudgeons as I envisioned when I was a kid.
Let’s start with some background about Bonnet Creek Resort…
Bonnet Creek Resort has an interesting history. The basic gist of it is that the original owner snatched up this large parcel before Walt Disney because he thought it would be profitable in the future for warehouses or the space industry (warehousing guests, it turned out!).
Thereafter, when he was quietly buying up land around Central Florida, Walt didn’t purchase this plot. Most likely because he couldn’t locate the foreign mystery owner.
The 70-acre plot went undeveloped for decades after Walt Disney World opened, before finally being master-planned and developed in 2000.
Within Bonnet Creek Resort, the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort (both hotel and the largest timeshare within Walt Disney World’s gates), Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, and golf course are also located. If all of this fascinates you, there’s more mystery and intrigue (and history) about the property documented on Yesterland.
In the other direction, back towards the entrance.
I am no interior designer, although I do play a critic of such on the internet, but I felt some elements of the room were a bit old-fashioned (for lack of a better term) for my taste. I get that the Waldorf Astoria is meant to be a stately hotel with “old money” heritage, but a mustard yellow sofa? Really?
That aside, the room is very well appointed with a lot of design upgrades. Little details like crown moulding, patterned carpet, and thick curtains (among other things) are all demonstrative of this.
This quality continues into the master bedroom, which has the same level of detail-work as the living room.
The bedding here was extremely plush, and clearly of premium quality. I don’t know how to count threads in linens, but it was pretty easy to tell the count was high here.
Standard for all types of rooms is turn-down service in addition to daily housekeeping, which highlights the high level of service at the Waldorf Astoria. Truthfully, no one needs a little card on their pillow with a weather report for the following day in this era, but it’s a little touch that makes you feel valued, regardless. The attentive service is what best separates the Waldorf Astoria from the other hotels at which we have stayed (thus far) in Orlando.
The bathroom in the suite is large and spacious with an equally high level of detail and finishing as the other rooms in the suite.
Having both a walk-in shower and bathtub is great; the wallpaper, art on the walls, Italian marble flooring, and tile work round out the look to make this one of the more opulent hotel bathrooms I’ve ever experienced, with the toilet-phone being the icing on the cake.
I’m not sure why, but toilet phones seem to be really common in high-end hotel rooms. Perhaps the time of the C-Suite crowd is so valuable that they have to multi-task at all times? I’d like to think this is where Bob Iger greenlit The Lone Ranger and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow in one particularly long “business meeting.”
The bathrooms are stocked with this brand of fancy soap. I know it’s fancy because this dude who made the soap also has stores in the high-end international terminals of airports with like a total of 10 things on the shelves and pretentious-looking sales people who give me the “don’t even bother walking in, you can’t afford this stuff” look.
Yeah, this soap came home with us.
Here’s the standard Deluxe Room. It maintained the same quality of the larger suite, but in a smaller footprint. Again, bedding here was top-notch, as are the other details that round out the room.
I really liked the layout of the standard deluxe room, and if I were paying out of pocket, this is definitely the way I’d go. While there was no separate living room area (which certainly would be nice with kids), this room was quite spacious and had all of the key features of the larger room, I felt.
As you walk into the regular deluxe room, you’re greeted by the bathroom door followed by the fridge and espresso machine, which I felt was a nice touch as opposed to coffee. I’m only drinking either one for the caffeine, anyway, so I might as well have to drink less of the foul beverage. 😉
This is half of the bathroom in the regular Deluxe room, with there being a shower and a toilet in the other direction. That bathrobe in the foreground is the bomb. I strongly endorse anyone who decides to wear this to the parks (although Walt Disney World may not give it the same stamp of approval). This bathroom utilized its space very effectively and offered everything of the master bath, despite being smaller.
With regard to the rooms, I was impressed. As I wrote in the beginning, I think the design intent with the Waldorf Astoria is best described as ‘stately’ as opposed to ‘modern’ and my personal preference skews far more towards the latter. The rooms were certainly extremely high-end and cannot be described as being cookie-cutter or thoughtless, but the refined, classic style just doesn’t hold a ton of appeal for me.
I prefer rooms that are ambitious and creative from a design perspective. I just find that more interesting, whereas this room is nice, but doesn’t exactly push the stylistic envelope. I fully understand this is my personal preference and the Waldorf Astoria has established itself as a timeless, refined brand, so I guess that’s on me.
Being a resort hotel at Bonnet Creek, the Waldorf Astoria also has a lot of amenities including Walt Disney World theme park transportation, a spa, and other things that you wouldn’t find in a downtown hotel of (otherwise) comparable quality.
One of these is access to the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club. I know literally nothing about golf, but they claim to be a “top” golf course. It was full of what appeared to be affluent middle-aged me, so I assume it’s nice. Then again, that’s the creature inhabiting most golf courses, so I really have no clue.
There’s also a lot of conference space, some of which seems to be shared with the adjacent Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort.
During our visit, there was what seemed to be a huge convention at the hotel(s), which I assume was some sort of conference for social media “experts”, because that seems to be all the rage these days.
The main pool area at the Waldorf Astoria is nice. It’s lined with palm trees and features plush lounge chairs, making for a comfortable experience if you want to just lounge and read.
There’s also a poolside bar (far left, just out of view in this photo), and other poolside seating. This definitely is an adult-oriented pool, which not much of interest for kids, or immature adults like me.
However, the adjacent Hilton has a lazy–wait for it–river! That’s right, a lazy river, and it’s a shared amenity that guests at the Waldorf may also use. I floated around this lazy river and hung out at the Hilton pool for a good couple of hours, and I really enjoyed it. It’s not themed or lush like the lazy rivers at the Walt Disney World water parks, but when you have a lazy river at your hotel, you don’t complain. (For what it’s worth, although I didn’t stay there, what I saw of the Hilton looked nice, and I’ll definitely consider it for a future visit.)
Unless your name is Milton Waddams, this FedEx business center probably can’t top that lazy river tidbit, but if you need to print copies of your social media conference flyer, here is the place.
The fitness center at the Waldorf is exceptional. There’s a lot of equipment, and it all looked brand new (or close to it).
The workout space is huge, and despite the hotel being fairly busy during out visit, there were maybe 2 people in here.
The Waldorf Astoria also has a variety of restaurants in the lobby, ranging from expensive-casual to expensive-fancy. Bull & Bear is the award-winning restaurant that the hotel likes to hype, but there’s a long list of other choices.
I had one meal at Peacock Alley, the casual lobby restaurant, but after dropping $24 on this small sandwich, I quickly realized dining here wasn’t for me.
Overall, the Waldorf Astoria offers a lot as a luxurious and opulent resort hotel, and is unquestionably one of the nicest hotels in Orlando. Nightly rates at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando start at around $280/night once you factor in the mandatory, nightly $30 resort fee. (Ugh. I hate resort fees.) Given the quality of the hotel, this really isn’t that bad, as the Waldorf is superior to a Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World in nearly every regard aside from theming.
On average, it’s less than half the cost of the Grand Floridian (save for Free Dining season, which complicates the comparison), and it’s definitely the more luxurious of the two. If it were my first visit to Walt Disney World and I wanted to fully immerse my family in the experience, I’d still choose a Disney-owned hotel over the Waldorf Astoria, but all other luxury-minded guests should take a hard look at the Waldorf.
Now, for those looking at non-Disney hotels, it’s a different story. I would say this hotel skews towards an older audience both in terms of its classic style, but also given the amenities. Everyone will love the pampering and attentive service, but the resort amenities felt to me like they target a mature audience, rather than the family set.
This isn’t to say families won’t have a good time here, as it’s an excellent hotel no matter how you slice it, but I think families are likely to get more out of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, or other resort with kid-friendly options. This is no knock on the Waldorf–it knows its target audience, and plays very well to that crowd. In strict luxury terms, I’d place this #1 in terms of the hotels at which we’ve stayed thus far in Orlando, and the only hotel that I suspect surpasses it is the Four Seasons Orlando.
Have you stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando in Bonnet Creek near Walt Disney World? What did you think? Considering staying here or another nearby hotel? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!