Exclusive Interview with General Manager Thomas Steinhauer
The new Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, opening summer 2014, is one of the hotel brand’s most exciting properties. As a luxurious family-friendly destination in the heart of Disney World, the resort will offer world-class amenities, services and accommodations. Located within the Golden Oak community on Disney property, just minutes from the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, Four Seasons Resort Orlando is one of the most anticipated luxury hotel openings of 2014. The Pursuitist had the opportunity to talk with Thomas Steinhauer, Regional Vice President/General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort:
Christopher Parr: In my recent interview with Isadore Sharp (Founder and Chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts), he called out Orlando as one of the most exciting new Four Seasons properties. How is this destination unique to Orlando and the Disney experience?
Thomas Steinhauer: Four Seasons is in a gated residential community called Golden Oak. While it’s on Disney property, it’s also situated in a unique location that, while close to it all, it’s far enough away to escape. We are surrounded by trees and lakes, and most of our guestroom floors offer amazing views. Our location offers the best of both worlds—convenience to all of the Disney parks, and also, the feeling that you are away from it all. We offer a Disney experience by having our Disney Planning Center on site in the lobby, and also, a character breakfast in our restaurant, Ravello. We have the luxury of giving guests as much or as little Disney experiences as they would like.
CP: On the size of scale, how big of a property is it — and how many rooms?
TS: We are on 23-acres (not including the golf course). Four Seasons Resort Orlando is a 17-story building, with 444 guestrooms (323 king beds/ 121 double beds/ 68 suites).
Concept: Four Seasons Orlando Walt Disney World Resort
CP: Let’s talk amenities. For guests staying at the resort, what does the resort offer onsite?
TS: Our guestrooms are the largest in Orlando. They all offer spacious furnished balconies, and every one of our King guestrooms has a queen-size sleeper sofa bed. Amenities in our rooms include flat-screen television, charging station, iPads in our suites, full coffee/tea setup, in-room safe, and bathrooms that include a double vanity, deep soaking tub, separate shower and in-mirror television with in-ceiling Bose surround sound.
TS: For recreational pursuits and activities, our offerings will be unparalleled. We have a new Tom Fazio designed golf course, a Certified Audubon Sanctuary, unique to our region for its rolling hills. We’ll have three Har-Tru tennis courts; a 24-hour lakeside fitness center; and a 5-acre Explorer Island waterpark, which includes a lazy river, climbing wall, waterslides, splash pad, and more. There’s volleyball, basketball, an outdoor gaming center, bocce ball—you name it. We have amazing offerings for recreation that truly sets us apart. Adults are going to appreciate our 21+ adult pool and our 18-room Spa, which offers men’s and women’s private outdoor lounges. For kids, and for parents, a highlight is our Kids For All Seasons program, which is always complimentary, and available for children ages 5-12 daily from approximately 9am to 5 pm. A complimentary children’s program is a unique offering in this market.
Explorer Island, a five-acre playground allows you to experience the warm sunshine at a 7,590-square-foot family pool with a lazy river.
CP: For guests enjoying the Disney Theme Parks, are there any VIP treatments or unique experiences?
TS: We will offer luxury transportation to the parks, in motor coaches with plush seating and TVs. The transportation will run every half hour to Magic Kingdom and every hour for the other Disney parks. For those who don’t want to wait, we’ll have Lincoln MKX cars available for rent on-site. Our concierge and Disney Planning Center team is happy to assist with VIP experiences, such as, the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom, which is a semi-private 3-hour guided safari.
CP: How does the Four Seasons property integrate with Disney’s offerings and technology? From early park entry, their MagicBands and FastPass, can guests of the Four Seasons Orlando enjoy these services and benefits?
TS: We are able to offer Disney perks such as special theme amenities in the guestroom, and access to the Disney Events Group, which is amazing for our group guests who are seeking to integrate their meeting or event with a Disney theme. The Disney Events Group can do it all, from custom theme décor to an on-site event in Epcot, complete with character appearances. Through our Disney Planning Center, guests will be able to make their dining reservations, purchase their tickets to the parks, and more, all in our lobby. We will have MagicBands available to our guests. We’re also excited to offer a character breakfast, twice weekly on Thursday and Saturday, in our restaurant Ravello.
CP: The Four Seasons Orlando certainly competes with the Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship property. How will the experience at the Four Seasons Orlando be different than the Floridian?
TS: The Grand Floridian is a beautiful, established property. We are complementing the Grand Floridian, giving guests a new option to experience. Four Seasons offers a tranquil setting, with the option of Disney integration, but it is not as themed as the Grand Floridian. It’s a choice between a Disney property or a Four Seasons property, with a Disney advantage. Four Seasons is a smaller size property, enabling our team to deliver the personalized service our guests know and love.
CP: Who was the designer and what is the design philosophy at the property?
TS: The interior designer is Anderson Miller out of Michigan. The restaurant designer is Puccini Group out of San Francisco. The main design was to reflect the Spanish Revival architecture of Florida’s golden age. The property features terracotta tiled rooftops, square towers, arched windows and colonnades. Terraces with classical balustrades overlook the golf course and beautiful gardens. The interior design is very fresh and relevant to today’s modern traveler.
CP: Share with us information about the dining and bar destinations at the property. Will there be a taste of Orlando at the restaurants?
TS: We have several dining options. A highlight will be Capa, our rooftop restaurant option for dinner, which is a contemporary Spanish steakhouse. Capa offers indoor and outdoor dining, and views of the nightly fireworks. Ravello, on our first floor, offers modern Italian, including wood-grilled pizzas and a pasta bar. A character breakfast will be offered at Ravello every Thursday and Saturday. PB&G is our pool bar and grill, with a Southern smokehouse concept. Plancha is our golf clubhouse Cuban American restaurant. Lickety-Split offers grab-and-go snacks, lattes, smoothies and more. Stephen Wancha is our Director of Food & Beverage, and Fabrizio Schenardi is our Executive Chef. Both Stephen and Fabrizio join us from Four Seasons St. Louis.
Capa restaurant will be a contemporary Spanish steakhouse on the 17th floor.
Lickety-Split offers grab-and-go snacks, lattes, smoothies and more.
CP: The property has just started to accept reservations — what’s been the reaction and when will the resort open?
TS: We are accepting reservations for August 3, 2014 and beyond. Our initial response has been tremendous. We are so thrilled to welcome our first guests this summer!
CP: Luxury and Disney doesn’t normally go hand in hand. For the affluent traveler visiting Four Seasons Orlando, how will they be surprised by the destination?
TS: Definitely, the scope of offerings available on-site at our Resort is a differentiator. Our recreational offerings, from golf, tennis, the water park, and more, plus our location to all the parks, is truly amazing. We provide an oasis-like setting—close to everything, yet away from it all. I think guests will also be surprised that Orlando has much more to offer then theme parks. There are eco-safaris, water skiing, airboat rides, swamp tours, fishing, shopping, museums, nightlife, and much more. Our guests are going to love discovering all that Orlando has to offer.
The Royal Suite sits on the 16th floor and can be transformed into nine-bedrooms when the three separate living rooms are configured.