By ANDREA BILLUPS AND BETTY CORTINA WEISS
Luxury travelers are accustomed to nice things. Fine linens, infinity pools, hotel dining rooms named after celebrity chefs. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the detailsthe little features and insider amenities reserved for the very best guests. Knowing about those can turn a special trip into an excursion that's more fabulous fantasy than nearby stay-cation. Here, we showcase five exquisite Florida experiences that are but short drives away: a personal chef whose kitchen has an open door. A private butler to cater to your every need. A novelists South Beach writing retreat. A Disney stay replete with a near-private fireworks show. And a suite aboard a Florida ship that will forever change the way you see cruising. So sit back, read on and bon voyage.
If you want to upgrade the Disney experience...
WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO
Fans of the Waldorfs iconic property in New York City have no doubt come to love its signature restaurant Bull & Bear. Now that clubby gastronomic luxury has found a Southern home in Orlando, where the hotels menu, exemplary service and its staffs creative whimsy combine to offer travelers a little bit of an adult Disney experience, with the iconic theme park literally at your doorstep. Among the resorts most genteel services is what they call dining en suite," where whatever a guest might dream upfrom menu, to flowers, to popcorn machine or live musiccan be proffered intimately in a luxury room.
The concept came from the hotels Food and Beverage Director, Francis Metais, who said he listened to his best customers and their desire for an over-the-top experience to create a hotel stay thats intimate, private and specialbeyond what most vacationers might expect. Special occasions drive it. Our team will really personalize your experience, Metais says. We have a conversation with guests from the beginning and really try to understand what it is they want, whether it's for a marriage proposal or a special anniversary or just a family vacation.
An ice cream maker for the children? No problem. The hotels personal concierge will find one. Special pillows, bed sheets of silk or linen? Consider it done. Theyll even deliver a favorite perfume for your bath or hire musicians to perform live in your room over dinner. We are here to be creative and at the same time provide all the service they are looking for. There are lots of ideas we can give them.
Among the coolest, he suggests, is having a customized dinner of your favorite dishes served in the suite, then taking dessert or cocktails on the outdoor terrace, timing the meals finish to the spectacular Disney fireworks that occur each evening at the park. Its like you are in your high-rise apartment and have one of the best caterers around you to provide everything you need, Metais describes. The views are incredible. And just like Tinkerbells stardust, he adds, memory-making.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando, 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando, FL; 407-597-5500; waldorfastoriaorlando.com.
If youve always wanted a butler (or a Bentley)...
THE ST. REGIS BAL HARBOUR RESORT
To the north of sizzling South Beach is the ultimate in sleek and luxurious confines, a place where no guest detailfrom the unpacking of a wardrobe to a post-shopping snack of champagne and caviaris beyond reach. Meet the butlers of The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.