Castle Hotel shimmers with royal attitude

Castle Hotel shimmers with royal attitude

There have been two stately Castles in Orlando. Both at one time have been pink, but unlike Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the Castle Hotel on International Drive encourages overnight stays. In fact, after the Castle Hotel became the 9th Kessler Collection  boutique hotel to become part of the Marriott Autograph Collection on October 17, those overnights have gotten cozier.

Two of the 216 guestrooms have magically morphed into the three-treatment room Poseidon Spa and Garden Bistro. The remaining 214 threw off their mantle of yore and are now dressed in modern European furniture and soothing colors. The Castle didn’t shed its spires, turrets or twin rooftop balconies (some of the best viewing of area theme park fireworks and the perfect size for a reception for 120 max), but inside it now more closely resembles an upscale hunting lodge adorned in fine art work. Many pieces—such as the gorgeous chandelier hanging in the Palace Ballroom, came from Chairman and CEO Richard C. Kessler’s private collection.

Upon my visit to the grand re-launch of The Castle as the only Marriott Autograph Collection hotel on International Drive, I couldn’t stop drooling over the two rhinestone-encrusted black-and-white curved chairs enhancing the lobby. I have costumes (for my alter ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady) that aren’t this bejeweled.

As with all 10 Kessler Collection properties in Florida, Georgia, Colorado, New Mexico and North Carolina, this one features local, regional, world-renowned and Kessler Signature artists. The $6.5 million, months-long renovation has repositioned The Castle from a luxury leisure property to one focused on attracting corporate business. There is now more than 9,000 sf in meeting and event space. The new Palace Ballroom can seat 180 in rounds. There is also the Conservatory Ballroom, the two Sky Terraces, the Garden Bistro & Bar, the Bavarian Boardroom, the Pool Courtyard, and the contemporary Antlers Lounge.  Just off the Garden Bistro & Bar, a newly created outdoor space is the perfect size for an intimate gathering can seat up to 30 people.

Kessler says The Castle has always maintained an 80% occupancy rate, in part due to its proximity to the Orange County Convention Center, area attractions and the vast number of restaurants and shopping along the International Drive corridor. “With the millions of dollars being invested in the nearby I-Live entertainment, we felt this was a great time for us to invest in the future of our own property. This also allowed us to add this property into the Autograph Collection along with our eight properties.”

The Castle Hotel's renovated lobby exudes the elegance of an upscale hunting lodge.

The Castle Hotel’s renovated lobby exudes the elegance of an upscale hunting lodge.

I’ve stayed at several Kessler properties. They are each works of art unto themselves. Several, such as The Mansion in Savannah, GA, reflect the flavor of the historic districts in which they are located. Kessler strives to honor the integrity of the surroundings when converting or constructing properties.

For instance, Kessler says the largest project he’s ever undertaken reimagines the Savannah (GA) Riverside Power Plant into a hotel split among five buildings. Originally built in 1912, the 200,000 sf power plant, which sits 50 feet from the Savannah River, will include retail, restaurants, lodging and entertainment (subject to city and community approvals). “We’re retaining the unique massive steel industrial design inside the building but softening the look luxurious draperies and fabrics,” says Kessler.

Kessler begins construction on a 50-room French-inspired hotel in downtown Charleston, SC. Located in a prime downtown area, the Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston will have a large rooftop terrace and restaurant as well as a large art gallery. “The hotel’s unique design can’t be found elsewhere,” says Kessler. “It will be jewel in our collection.” The hotel is expected to open in early 2015.

In early 2014, construction will begin on a 100-room property in Mountain Brook, an upscale area contiguous to Birmingham, AL. The hotel will have a spa, unique wine experience, rooftop restaurant and bar, and a large garden for outdoor events.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.