What’s New In Orlando?

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Orlando cityscape by SeanPavone

Every return visit to Orlando is a new experience, with so many changes at its dozens of hotels and resorts. 

The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando led the country hosting large-scale events safely throughout COVID, starting with the Together Again Expo back in the summer of 2020. “Orlando has been safely welcoming back attendees and visitors for more than a year, offering one-of-a-kind experiences across our world-class theme parks, attractions, restaurants and entertainment venues,” says Casandra Matej, president and CEO, Visit Orlando.  

After an extensive $127 million-dollar renovation, Caribe Royale has debuted a completely new luxury experience that includes re-imagined one-bedroom suites; the new 50,000-sf Palms Ballroom, bringing the property’s total meeting space to 220,000 sf; and a fresh lobby design to foster networking and organic connections among groups. All the changes have come together to create what Amaury Piedra, complex managing director, describes as “the greatest combination of product, service and quality in Orlando. 

“Caribe Royale, after being totally re-imagined, is being positioned as the premier all-suite convention hotel in Florida,” says Piedra. “Being an independent gives us the flexibility to create our own brand, and that is one of casual elegance and service with a smile—what we call the ‘Caribe touch,’ where the customer comes first always.” 

Another exciting, new opening is the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, a 14-story upscale boutique hotel adjacent to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in the middle of Walt Disney World Resort. Its 349 spacious and versatile guest rooms (including 151 suites) offer floor-to-ceiling views of the resort, as does the top-floor venue, aptly named The Vue. 

Making waves is the new Lake Nona Wave Hotel, located within Lake Nona, known as a leading wellness center. The property features 216 guest rooms, 16 one-bedroom suites and two penthouse suites, and 12,000 sf of event space. Beyond the boardroom, attendees can enjoy  enrichment classes from Dr. Deepak Chopra or an introduction to rock climbing, for example. Located steps from the hotel is Dr. Deepak Chopra’s Mind-Body Zone and Spa, and the Lake Nona Performance Club, a 130,000-sf wellbeing center. Events can be held beneath the stars on the rooftop pool deck or beneath a canopy of 300 palm trees. 

The crowds have returned to the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks, with the Orlando Sentinel reporting that Florida tourism numbers are now higher than they were pre-pandemic. At Disney, the year-old Riviera Resort offers groups a Parisian-style coffee shop, Le Petit Cafe, which turns into a wine bar by night, as well as Topolino’s Terrace—Flavors of the Riviera, a signature dining venue with panoramic views of Walt Disney World, and featuring a poolside bar. On the outdoor terrace, groups can take up a game of bocce ball, giant chess or lawn snooker. The Disney Skyliner—a gondola transportation system—transports attendees from Disney’s Riviera Resort to the nearby parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. 

The new JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa, located in the Walt Disney World Resort, offers 50,000 sf of event space, including a 22,000-sf ballroom, 516 rooms and 81 suites, and exceptional views of Walt Disney World’s nightly fireworks, making it ideal for VIP group experiences. 

As part of an ongoing renovation scheduled to be completed in 2022, Orlando World Center Marriott is renovating each of its 2,010 guest rooms and suites and will add 24 breakout rooms of 1,200 sf each to its offering. This will bring its total to more than 450,000 sf of flexible event space, including indoor and outdoor options. 

As part of a recent transformation of the property’s main entrance, the reimagined lobby at Hilton Orlando is flooded with natural light and offers unobstructed views of the resort pool. Hilton Orlando features 249,000 sf of event space and is connected to the south side of the Orange County Convention Center by a covered walkway. 

Also directly connected to the Orange County Convention Center via skybridge, Rosen Centre Hotel offers more than 150,000 sf of renovated meeting and event space that includes a 35,000-sf Grand Ballroom, 18,000-sf Executive Ballroom, 14,448-sf Junior Ballroom and 35 meeting rooms. The property’s guest rooms and suites have also received recent refreshes, as has its VIP lounge. 

Adjacent to its namesake theme park, Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld has added the new Peninsula Ballroom and breakout space, bringing the property’s total event space to 215,000 sf. 

For groups that want to be in the heart of the excitement with easy access to Universal Orlando Resort, Loews Hotels operates 8 properties, the newest of which is the Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, joining sister property Surfside Inn and Suites.  

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.