One of the best things in life: reminiscing about a recent (or not-so-recent) vacation. A few days ago, I shared highlights from our stay at the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa. Of course, there was so much to chat about that I decided to break up my review into two parts; the first showcased the resort and our room, and today, I’d love to give you a sense of the family-friendly aspects of the property.
But first, read: JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa: Nature on Your Terms.
Here’s Part II. And I’ll pick it up exactly where I left off…
After a simple dinner in our room – brought from home and kept cool in the kitchenette – we decided to venture out on a nature walk. After all, we were in God’s country, and while the boys would have happily opted for a return visit to the pool (the central pool is heated all year round!), we concurred that exploring the grounds was a much better way to round out an already fabulous day. Of course, the little guys were all for our plan – once they realized they could bring along some reading material and bugger off in their wagon.
We started at the front of the resort, where the grounds were lush, scenic and painstakingly maintained. There was an underlying feeling of tranquility and relaxation, which was perfect, given the location and surroundings. Large bumblebees buzzed gracefully between tall lavender bushes, and the sound of trickling water provided the most serene backdrop to an ideal summer evening.
Directly across from the main foyer is the Wishing Pond, where coins are collected weekly and donated to support the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. We each made a wish and crossed our fingers… though I think Reid wished for a real, live Angry Bird, and I’m not sure how feasible that would be.
Next, we walked down to the water’s edge and took a stroll on the dock. The vibe of the resort is quite interesting; during the day, the pools were packed and you could find people milling around everywhere. However, just around the 7:00pm mark, the grounds suddenly became quite deserted. I’m not sure if it was specific to the night we stayed, or if this is normal for the property, but to tell the truth, it was kind of eerie!
Nevertheless, one of the beautiful things about having a private beach to yourself is the ability to just sit back and exhale. Although the temperatures had started to cool off, we enjoyed a pleasant evening just watching the water lap onto the shoreline. And when you can get two rambunctious little boys to stop and appreciate nature, you know you’re in the right spot.
Of course, sometimes those rambunctious little boys need a little adventure, too – good thing Daddy knows how to turn a simple hill into a roller coaster.
As we returned to the hotel, we were once again struck by how quiet the grounds were. In fact, we made more than one reference to finding a watermelon to carry to a private, Dirty Dancing-style party, because it was pretty obvious that the resort had fallen asleep… but somewhere, perhaps employees were just beginning their night. (I actually confirmed the next day that there is a staff section to the resort – however, they denied that any dirty dancing takes place at night. Oh, well!)
We retired for the night and enjoyed a relaxing slumber in our warm, cozy and cottage-like room.
The next day, we woke up to partly overcast skies and a decidedly much cooler day. It seems unfathomable that the weather can be close to 30°C one day, and only about 16°C the next, but there we were – dealing with a windy, cloudy day. Of course, there was nothing to do but make the most of it, so we dined at Cottages Restaurant for breakfast, where we enjoyed their buffet on the outdoor patio overlooking the lake. The breakfast was included in the Travelocity.ca package we purchased – for an additional $20, we received breakfast for four, as children under 12 eat free when staying in the same room. The restaurant – though casual and incredibly homey – is on a grand scale, offering perfectly poached eggs benedict as part of the standard buffet! Sacre bleu!
Alas, by the time we finished breakfast the rain clouds had already moved in. And while we didn’t experience any real precipitation, the cooler air had effectively dampened our mood and it made finding an outdoor activity incredibly challenging. So, we set out to locate the resort’s Kids Club in Paignton House.
Now, I unfortunately have to give the area below-average marks for organization and cleanliness. The toys were ridiculously strewn about at 10:30am, which means that either they hadn’t been tidied up the night before, or a gaggle of kids had already plowed through them. Regardless, in addition to them being tossed about, there were toys with broken pieces, missing parts and numerous sharp edges – definitely not what I’d expect from a Kids Club in a luxury resort. Fortunately, it’s a quick fix – simply increasing the housekeeping to the area would effectively solve the problem. It’s also important to note that the area is unsupervised, so take that into consideration when booking your vacation – although the club provides a welcome distraction for children, it will not provide extra alone time for you :)
However, on the positive side, there are tons of toys to keep kiddos aged 2-8 happy; everything from books and puzzles to blocks and a kitchen for pretend play. Since we were effectively killing time until our first planned activity, we stayed at the Kids Club for just over an hour. The boys had a great time and my husband had a chance to just zone out for a bit. Win-win!
Next, we attended our first activity – Candy Kebab Making for the kiddos. The JW Marriott offers a variety of recreational activities for the entire family; some are included in the resort fee, and others are an additional charge. The Candy Kebab making class was an additional $10 per child – in return, they had the opportunity to make two candy skewers each. And on a rainy, unseasonably cold day, the class was a lifesaver as both boys loved making their confectionery concoctions. (And as a germophobe, I appreciated that all children were instructed to wear disposable gloves when handling the food!) Definitely a highlight for the kiddos. The class is half-an-hour in length and suitable for all children; though it’s important to note that the resort does not guarantee allergy-free or kosher candy.
It was finally time for our Pontoon Boat Cruise, an activity we had looked forward to since we had booked our trip. The boat cruise advertises “spectacular views as you cruise among Lake Rosseau’s islands and inlets.” Alas, with the cold weather and the choppy lake, it was a bust.
Also lending to dissatisfaction: the boat cruise is an additional $25 per adult, and $13 per child. However, when taking into consideration the less-than-desirable weather, we had doubts about taking the cruise, especially since our boys are so young. Hence, we set out to inquire if reservations could be cancelled. The information given to us by a member of staff at the front of the property was that we would be charged if we had already made reservations. So, not wanting to be out $76, we decided to go and make the best of it.
Once on the dock, our captain mentioned unceremoniously “it’s freezing!” and offered to cut the cruise short for us twice while we were on the water. The second time she asked if we’d like to cut it short (about 20 minutes in) she mentioned that it was a full cruise but the others were obviously scared off by the cold weather (we were the only passengers). To which I replied, “But wouldn’t they be charged regardless then?” She said no, you’re only charged if you take the cruise. Of course, it was very cold and we did shorten our trip, making it back to the resort in about 30 minutes vs. the scheduled 60 minutes.
(Above: Can you see the face etched into the side of the landscape? One of the few highlights of the cruise.)
Hence, I was slightly irritated with the misinformation – as I had now paid $76 for 30 minutes on a cold, choppy boat ride with an unenthusiastic captain, when I could have simply not shown up and not incurred the charge. Now you know you I’ll never intentionally provide a poor review without giving the company a chance to respond – so, I did make note of alerting the JW Marriott The Rosseau of our experience, and my concerns were forwarded to the owner of Muskoka Sports and Recreation, a partner company that operates the waterfront. At the time of publishing this post, the owner had not responded.
(My intent for sharing my experience is to alert readers when booking the cruise: if the weather is crappy, just don’t show up. It’s not worth ploughing ahead because you will not be charged if you simply skip it, regardless of what the front desk tells you.)
However, during our short ride, we did experience spectacular views as promised, and if you have the opportunity to take the tour on a bright and sunny day, I would love to hear about your experience!
And that friends, is how we chose to #GoSeizetheSummer and spent two days out on the beautiful Lake Rosseau. For the most part, it was an idyllic vacation, and we are set on returning next summer! Of course, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that the weather will be slightly more predictable – but I guess that’s the curse (and beauty) of vacationing in Canada.
Finally, the following video has no relevance except to show me being a bad mother for laughing at the 0:16 mark.
(Hey, if you can’t laugh at your kids, who can you laugh at?)
EDIT: After this review was published, I received the following response from The General Manager of Muskoka Sports & Recreation:
“I want to thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight, it’s not often that people get that opportunity. I am also in the same breath going to apologize for not taking advantage of such a generous offer in a timely manner. For the record better late than never, I want to answer your question. We do have a 24 hour cancellation policy on our boat tours as the front desk associate stated. The exception to this is where there is risk of electrical storms or high winds or dangerous situations in which case there is no charge for reservations made for activities during this time. We also pride ourselves on empowering our associates with the leeway to make financial decisions, such as refunds if they believe there is an opportunity to improve a guest experience. I see this as one of those missed opportunities.
I also see that the communication between our boat tour guide and you, our guest, was poor. For a few reasons. As a business owner I know that our team members are our front line that we rely on to provide an excellent recreation experience. Excellence is what we are striving for and in this case we fell very short. I have to take this as a learning experience and I have determined that I will be using it as an example of how we can be more effective in anticipating our guests needs and be more effective in communication our policies. I see this as a great example of how poor communication on our part can have such a big impact.”