Walk out from the glass-walled lobby, a towering A-frame, and stand amid palm trees. Wander down to soft white sand and watch the sun melt into the wide open sea. You could be in Bali. Or you could be at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort & Spa, fresh from its $187 million renovation and expansion, the largest in Marriott history. CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. was on hand in April as the resort was rededicated in a ceremony with customers, media, and owners Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers, an affiliate of MassMutual.
The three-year project transformed a typical Florida resort into an elegant, South Pacific–inspired property that takes full advantage of its rare location: snuggled right up to a mile of wide, private beach. It’s an elegance that is warm and welcoming, not precious, with comfort and convenience an important part of the thoughtful design. Guests will appreciate the dramatic marble and mahogany, but they’ll also love the lobby-level Café San Marco, where they can grab coffee and a pastry and walk right out to a terrace table to sip it in the ocean breeze.
Public spaces are full of special touches, such as tray ceilings in meeting areas and stunning restored floor mosaics (discovered hidden under planters from a previous redo). Attention to detail is evident everywhere: In the Island Ballroom, for example, delicate orchid-petal decorations in chandeliers and sconces lift the space from ordinary to extraordinary.
“This renovation represents a return to our roots” in terms of design and decor, explains Amanda Morris, director of corporate sales at the resort. Those roots took hold in 1957, when the 12-room Voyager Inn was built on the site. (Marriott took over in 1979.) Its original look and feel was created by Herb Savage, who took his inspiration from a trip to Bali.
The property’s 62,000 square feet of indoor meeting space is divided between the two ends of the property, just as the 727 guest rooms are split between two towers, an arrangement that allows two groups to occupy the resort with minimal interaction. Highlights include the new, state-of-the-art Palms Ballroom, which was modeled after a ballroom in the J.W. Marriott Resort in Phuket, Thailand, adding nearly 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and the completely redone Capri and Island ballrooms. Exhibit space is available in the 15,000-square-foot Collier Hall.
Outdoor function space includes the Sunset Terrace, cleverly designed with paving stones and lawn so that a reception is naturally but unobtrusively separated from the paths of leisure guests. Also available for outdoor functions is the largest private beach in southwest Florida, where the resort can cater an elegant dinner or a casual barbecue.
Also new outside: Six private cabanas each with plasma TVs and butler service border one side of Quinn’s Pool, which was moved closer to the ocean and redesigned as a freeform pool with two Jacuzzis. (Why not take a tip from a meeting planner recently in-house and book a cabana as your on-site meeting office?) The new Tiki Pool, with waterfalls, slide, and other fun touches, is great for kids. It’s also right near the redesigned Kids Camp headquarters, which, with its modern yet cozy décor, games, and activities, and even several laptop stations, feels like a space thoughtfully created for kids rather than an afterthought.
For your highest achievers, your CEO, or ongoing hospitality, there are 30 lanai suites, each with exterior and interior entrances, including one whose door opens right onto the sand. Also new are 15 Terrace Suites, divided atop the two guest room towers.
And then there is the new 24,000-square-foot Spa at Marco Island. The resort was a little late in adding its spa, Morris acknowledges, “but we made up for lost time.” The new spa building is elegant, echoing the Balinese ambience throughout the resort with such lovely touches as a hand-carved mahogany balcony and hand-painted ceiling. The spa can do 25 treatments per hour, and spa director Kellie Carriker has created a group menu to make it easy for planners to work a spa day, afternoon, or even meeting break into their conference programs.
Finally, the resort’s semi-private Rookery at Marco golf course, an Audubon-endorsed course, was completely redesigned by Robert Cupp Jr. in 2004. Golfers will also enjoy the new 21,000-square-foot clubhouse, available for banquets or post-celebrations, and the 14-acre practice facility featuring the Faldo Golf School by Marriott.—Alison Hall