Click on a label to read posts from that part of the world.
A special sneak peek at the new Waldorf Astoria
"The hotel has taken $70 million in group bookings since June of 2007," said Tom Parke, its Director of Marketing, who said the so-called AIG Effect may end up benefiting the hotel in its opening months. "This whole year, corporations haven't really met. But they've got to meet in the fourth quarter. When are we open? Fourth quarter."
On October 1, 78 years to the day after the opening of its Park Avenue flagship and 38 years to the day after the opening of Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the 497-room Waldorf opens in Orlando. Times are rough for the Florida tourism industry, and the hunger for business may account for how smoothly construction has apparently gone: We're three weeks away, and nearly everything is in place. The AC has been cranking all summer, and the pool has had water in it for three months.
In an effort to make sure everything came in on time and with no funny business, the hotel hired two security firms -- so they could keep an eye on each other. No wonder the management had no shame in inviting Gadling to see their handiwork, through the clutter of ladders and plastic sheeting.
The Florida Waldorf has shaken some of the stodgy trappings that have attracted U.S. presidents and industrialists for years -- this is the cheery Waldorf that Cole Porter might have preferred -- but it's still full of bespoke touches that few other Florida mass-market luxury properties have, including fabric wallpaper, complicated ceiling moldings, marble that won't quit, and that towering lobby clock, a riff on the original. Check out that sumptuous blue carpeting in the new Peacock Alley.
The hotel is more or less swaddled in Disney property, but it won't be beholden to Disney lines. The Waldorf has talked the resort into servicing it with its free bus system, but so guests won't have to endure their crowds and the waits, the hotel will also furnish its own shuttles. Look past the stately pool -- no slide here, although kids can use the one at the new Hilton, next door -- and over the thin parcel of woods in the Bonnet Creek Nature Reserve, and you can just make out the day-glo rooftop of the tacky Disney's Pop Century, the lowest-priced of The Mouse's lodging options.
The new Waldorf is the first of a planned expansion of the brand, with more hotels to come in Jerusalem and New Orleans. Does the venerable name risk, like the once-vaunted Ritz-Carlton, becoming another watered-down brand name in the luxury hotel world? A lovely stage has been set, but the drama will be played out by the hotel's clientele.