Marriott’s Grande Ocean Review

I recently visited the Marriott’s Grande Ocean with my family over our spring break and decided to pen a review of the resort. I handle quite a few owner rentals for Grande Ocean and the trip served the dual purpose of vacationing with my loved ones and getting to know the property better. I had stayed with my family @ the Marriott’s Barony Beach Club a few of years back and had managed only a brief visit to the Marriott’s Grande Ocean down the beach.

My wife and our two teenagers were joined by two of their cousins, close in age, who had been driven up by my brother-in-law from Florida.

Upon arriving at the Marriott’s Grande Ocean we were directed to our villa, a lower floor unit with a view of the Ocean off in the distance past the pool bar. I quickly took some pics of the unit with my smartphone before it devolved into a cereal-spilt, wet-clothes-on-the-ground den of hyper excited teenagers. With my task complete I retreated to the master bedroom, a feudal king luxuriating on his erstwhile throne of a bed flipping through the cable channels. The young serfs celebrated their family reunion by running up and down the hallways knocking on the doors, irritating my wife and acting as teens have since time immemorial.

My period of travel decompression didn’t last long as I was reminded of my promise to provide food for our extended family of six. Seventeen minutes later, with spaghetti noodles gratuitously plastered on the tile wall above the sink, dinner was served and thus we began our stay at the Marriott’s Grande Ocean in earnest.

Marriott’s Grande Ocean is a Marriott vacation club located on Hilton Head Island in the state of South Carolina, about 45 minutes from Savannah, Georgia. Marriott boasts eight vacation clubs located on Hilton Head making the island the home to over 13 percent of all the Marriott vacation clubs worldwide. Marriott’s Grande Ocean is considered by many to be the preeminent Marriott Hilton Head property due to a number of factors: it’s a true oceanfront resort with a large campus replete with pools, activity areas and enjoys a huge beach. It’s located close to and offers free access to the Sea Pine Plantation nature preserve and home to the picturesque Harbor town located on the Southern tip of the Island. Marriott’s Grande Ocean was built in phases starting back in 1992 making it one the longest standing Vacation Clubs surpassed by only a handful of resorts such as the Marriott’s Monarch (located in the Sea Pines Plantation) opened in 1984 and the Marriott’s Desert Spring Villas, opened in 1988. It’s definitely considered by many owners to be part of an elite group of Marriott vacation clubs.

I have been fortunate enough to have visited nearly every Marriott vacation club and I would definitely score Marriott’s Grande Ocean into the top ten. And the ranking would not be based on just the resort itself, but also for the wonder and beauty that is Hilton Head. Hilton Head a foot-shaped Island connected by a main bridge and ferry to the coastal mainland of South Carolina and features the aforementioned Sea Pines Resort Forest Preserve which encompasses over 600 acres of land, waterways and basking alligators. I also love the proximity to Savannah with its history, haunted house tours and colonial era and retro vibe.

Hilton Head Island doesn’t permit the gaudy billboards so often prevalent in resort towns such as Orlando and Myrtle Beach and offers great shopping and dining options tucked away behind and under the huge live oaks draped in Spanish moss.

Ok, and I do have to admit I loved the Bocci ball courts at the Marriott’s Grande Ocean and got defectively competitive playing with my kids and their cousins. Let’s just say tears were shed. But that’s a story for another time.

One of the interesting tidbits that I picked up during my stay was that of a raging debate over the replacement of the much beloved Pool Bar Jims, a resort fixture since the beginning. The Bar was apparently very popular for its frozen beverage menu and super cool staff and owner. I am not a big drinker and had not enjoyed libations as the previous establishment, so I had no basis of comparison, but a lot of guests around the pool seemed to enjoy taking potshots at the new pool bar and its corporate staff. I read somewhere that removing Jim (the owner) from the Grande Ocean was like kicking Batman out of Gotham. Brain freeze and high sugar content aside, I found myself pining for days of Pool Bar Jims, such were the moving stories told to me by the long-standing owners at the various hot tubs I frequented.

As for the location of our villa: we were assigned Courtyard/Oceanside villa located on the first floor of the Starfish building. We enjoyed some ocean view from a first-floor balcony but were too low to be categorized as Oceanfront/Close to beach.
I am very familiar with the different view categories established by Marriott at their various resorts and in my next post, I would like to review how Marriott determines and classifies their different view categories and what to expect from each one.

I spoke with one of the front desk managers to find out why there as a dual view category assigned. He explained to me that when the resort had opened back in the early 90s there had been significantly less foliage and the resort labeled their villas under two view categories: Oceanfront and Oceanside, however, with the strict Hilton Head regulations on pruning of trees (allowable once every three years according to the manager) branches, leaves, and tree trunks began to naturally block the views. In order to manage the expectations of the guests whose “Oceanside villa” featured a bushy Palmetto fronting a pool area with a minimal view of the actual ocean, Marriott decided to modify the view categories to the more reasonable sounding “Courtyard view” and “Close to beach” in place of Oceanside and Oceanfront view categories.

With just a “Courtyard view” we still loved the view and could witness many a guest throwing their hands up in frustration as they stormed out of the new pool bar area (just kidding).

My wife, kids, and their cousins loved the property and I would be thrilled to be able to bring them back… but I am not going to cook next time.