[ON LOCATION] PALOMA VILLAVERDE DE RICO
We recently made a quick hop over to Orlando to check out some of the goings-on when it comes to meetings and events, and some of the spots we explored—both venues and hotels—are musts to keep on your radar.
Caribe Royale Orlando just keeps upping the ante. We wrote a first-hand review of this four-diamond, 1,337-suite and -villa property in mid-2022, where we stated the “spirit of reimagination is palpable.” For groups who are looking for creative touches, this is one of the best properties in town, with wholly customized events and an onsite team whose imagination knows no bounds. In terms of new, there’s now a sparkling Starbucks in the lobby, a lively Rum Bar right off the lobby (think pre-dinner cocktail gathering featuring a game of dominoes) and a new menu at the fine dining restaurant Venetian Chop House. The latter features a large private dining room—ideal for C-suite gatherings—as well as a terrace that’s perfect for small groups. Gatherings can incorporate the restaurant’s Italian Dessert Tasting, which includes mixed berry zuppa, chocolate raspberry ravioli, cannoli cone and tiramisu panna cotta. Additionally, the resort recently launched its first-ever mobile app, Caribe Royale Orlando Digital Guest Experience. Through the app, attendees can begin the check-in process prior to their arrival, communicate directly with the front desk via chat within the app, request housekeeping and in-room amenities, set up “Do Not Disturb” hours and request valet services.
Evermore Orlando Resort, set to open early 2024, is a 1,100-acre resort complex offering an array of stay experiences, from single homes to villas, flats and hotel guestrooms. It will also be home to the 433-room Conrad Orlando, opening later this year (we’ve got the 411 on that property in the March/April 2023 Checkout column). The focal point of the entire complex is the 80-acre Evermore Bay with a 20-acre tropical beach featuring zero-entry swim areas, bars, cabanas, private fire-pits and an aquatic adventure area with a water slide, rope swing and an array of watersports options. The entire resort complex will offer meeting planners and their groups over 150,000 sf of indoor/outdoor event space, with Conrad Orlando alone offering over 65,000 sf of event space, including 19 meeting rooms. One of the loveliest spots in the entire complex is the 2,500-sf Boathouse and garden lawn nestled on the bay’s edge and featuring a Chris-Craft boat for private use. Think Polynesian-themed beach event. Planners need to look at the Evermore, says Amanda Christian, sr. director of sales & marketing, “as a destination, not just a resort space. One that offers a luxury experience.”
The Alfond Inn at Rollins, meanwhile, a boutique hotel in the heart of historic Winter Park, is set to open its new wing this August. The expansion will grow the accommodation count to 183 guestroooms and suites, and attendees will have access to a new 7-treatment room spa, a second pool with a 6,000-sf amenity deck and outdoor living room (available for private events), a new lobby cafe as well as a new meeting room and boardroom that will add 2,400 sf to the existing 10,000 sf of flexible meeting space. Additionally, during construction, guestrooms in the original building underwent complete upgrades with new interiors.
If you’re looking for unique spaces for your attendees, consider SeaWorld Orlando, where the park’s seventh coaster debuts this month—Pipeline: The Surf Coaster. Ideal for team-bonding, this first-in-the-world surf-style coaster features dynamic seating that affords riders a freedom of movement that’s not seen in traditional coaster rides. After this exhilarating activity, groups can move on to one of the park’s many animal encounters, perhaps Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which holds 100-1,200, and top it off with a dining experience, such as at Sharks Underwater Grill (capacity for 50-240), which brings attendees up-close to these sea animals while dining on award-winning cuisine. For the perfect “ice breaker” event, there’s the park’s sixth coaster, Ice Breaker, located conveniently near the private group entry to the park in SeaWorld’s Wild Arctic Plaza (with event space for 50-200).
On a completely different level of zaniness, Dezerland Park Orlando is the destination’s largest indoor recreation center, featuring 800,000 sf of attractions including bowling, axe throwing, a trampoline park, go karts, a pinball palace, an arcade, glow-in-the-dark golf, the James Bond museum exhibit and the James Bond Restaurant and Lounge, as well as one of the world’s largest auto museums. “Every corner of this space can be used for an event,” says Lana Vegosen, Dezerland’s director of marketing. She tells planners that group can move around from venue to venue within the center and, depending on size, can take up as little or as much of the space as they need. So, one can start off the event with a private tour of the Auto Museum, which houses more than 2,000 movie, celebrity, historical and military vehicles in 18 different themed rooms—ranging from “Welcome to the 20s” to “Hot Rods”—and then move on to the bowling alley or the axe-throwing venue for some team-bonding. There are also bumper cars, a cigar lounge and a laser tag maze.
Over at Disney Springs, you’ll find the 4-story Planet Hollywood, which can host groups from 15 to 1,100. For the latter, it would be a complete buyout. The space offers a 4,500-sf video wall that can display a company’s logo, or whatever other messaging the group requests. Peter Maggio, the restaurant’s director of sales and marketing, tells Prevue that the venue’s four floors are customizable, and include two patios, two balconies, a bar and a vast main floor.
He notes that it’s difficult to find small rooms at Disney Springs, “but we offer that,” pointing to the restaurant’s terrace as an example, which can be exclusive for a group. He says the average size for groups booking the space is between 300 and 400.
cariberoyalemeetings.com; evermoreresort.com/meetings-events/meetings; thealfondinn.com; seaworld.com/orlando/group-events; dezerlandpark.com/orlando; planethollywoodintl.com/group-events