Hotels

DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay Hotel Review

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13Dec2018

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida is located in the heart of downtown Miami, a mere few miles from PortMiami.  We tried out this hotel as a pre-cruise hotel stay before a Royal Caribbean cruise and have our thoughts on what the hotel offers and our experience staying here.

Being in downtown Miami, the DoubleTree is located quite close to PortMiami.  In fact, many of the rooms in the hotel offer a view of the port. The proximity to PortMiami makes this a compelling choice for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

This particular hotel is a waterfront condominium hotel located next to Sea Isle Marina.  What this means is as you enter the building, you will notice two entrances.  One entrance is for hotel guests and the other for condo residents.  Evidently this is a thing in Miami, where the building owner can invest in multiple revenue streams (hotel guests and tennants).  

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay offers 152 guest rooms, along with 50 condominiums for short or extended stays. Since it is downtown, you can easily walk out the hotel and explore some nearby attractions and restaurants.  Miami is more spread out than some other major American cities, so expect to rely on taxis or ride sharing to truly get around town.

One nice aspect of the hotel is attached to the lobby area is a small shopping plaza, which has coffee shops, restaurants, convenience store, hair stylist and more.  There was a surprising amount of shops in this area, and it is extremely convenient to not have to leave the hotel building and have access to a lot of services.

The hotel does have a large outdoor pool for guests to use during their stay, along with a fitness center and 24-hour business center.

The room itself is quite large, with lots of living space.

The bathroom is large as well, and offers a great deal of space for toiletries and a shower/tub that does not feel confined at all.

The rooms have a balcony, and if you are lucky enough to have a room that faces the water, you not only get extra living space to enjoy, but a fantastic view of the ships in port.

Thanks to John Bamber for providing these photos

Overall, the DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay is a clean, safe and well-appointed hotel suitable for anyone that needs a hotel before or after their cruise.  It may not be the least expensive hotel in downtown Miami, but it is likely to be a mid-range priced hotel and not one you have to be concerned about compromising on the quality.

If you are just staying one night, I think this hotel is just fine for a place to rest and relax until you depart on your cruise. 

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Holiday Inn Port Of Miami-Downtown Hotel Review

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07Nov2018

The Holiday Inn Port Of Miami-Downtown is located just a mile and a half from PortMiami, making it an extremely convenient place to stay before or after a Royal Caribbean cruise.  This review features photos of the room & hotel, thoughts on the amenities, and our experience in staying here during our recent visit to the Miami area.

The primary rationale for picking this hotel is simply its location.  Being right on Biscayne Boulevard means you can practically see the cruise ships from the hotel's higher floors.  In fact, step outside the hotel in the afternoon and you are likely to hear a ship's horn as it conducts muster drill.  The proximity to PortMiami makes this Holiday Inn an appealing choice.

The hotel offers 200 rooms, including eight "Bayview" suites, and is located in the heart of Downtown Miami.  You can easily walk outside the hotel and check out various shops, hop on the Metro Mover (the city's monorail), or walk across the street to the Bayside Market.

In my opinion, being downtown is a double edged sword.  You are incredibly close to the cruise port, and there is lots around you to explore.  However, downtown Miami like so many major cities has its share of issues.  In the grand scheme of neighborhoods in and around Miami, downtown is not necessarily the most tourist-laden spots you will find.

Being a Holiday Inn hotel, walking into the lobby reminded me of so many other Holiday Inn hotels.  It features a lot of characteristic greens and other Holiday Inn decor. 

Anytime I walked past the Front Desk or had a need to stop by, there seemed to be little to no lines.

This location offers an outdoor pool, business center, complimentary health & fitness center, WiFi (free for IHG members, which is free to sign up for) and daily housekeeping.

I booked a King Suite Nonsmoking room for my stay.  It was located on the third floor at the end of the hallway. The rate for the first night was $179.55 and the second night was $231.83.  If you had booked a regular room, you can easily find rates closer to $110-$150 per night.

Upon walking into the room, it is indeed quite massive.

There is a very large living room, small kitchenette, sprawling bedroom, bathroom and closet.

The living room has plenty of space, and would be great for kids to sleep on the pull out couch.  I like the fact the living room and bedroom are separated by a set of doors.

The kitchenette is quite small, but functional.  There is a fridge, freezer, sink and microwave.  Perfect for storing and reheating food that you will likely get if you are staying a few nights.

The bedroom has a king size bed, along with a large desk area that was perfect for doing work.  

The bathroom seemed to have been more recently updated than the rest of the room.  Its lights were brighter, and the floor and tub appeared to have been replaced.

The room offered a lot of living space and was clean.  It is worth noting that there was an odd smell to the room, which I never complained about because within a few minutes I stopped noticing it.  But anytime I left the room and came back, I would note the smell.  If I had to describe the smell, I would probably peg it as a putrid, but I seemed to adjust quite quickly.  I also have no idea if any other rooms had this experience, but I figured I would note it.

I would also note that the room felt a bit old.  It was well maintained and certainly clean, but you can tell this is not a new construction hotel.  Some of the room walls had that look and feel of being repainted a few times. This is by far not a problem, but I know some people prefer newer hotels.

Overall, the Holiday Inn Port Of Miami-Downtown hotel fit the bill of what many look for in any pre- or post-cruise hotel, which is somewhere clean, safe and moderately priced. It is a very utilitarian spot to stay that will get you about as close as you can get to PortMiami.  

If you are just staying one night, I think this hotel is just fine for a place to rest and relax until you depart on your cruise. 

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at Holiday Inn Port Of Miami-Downtown? Are you a fan of it? What did you think of the suites? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort Hotel Review

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16Oct2018

The Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort is just about the closest hotel you can stay at to where the cruise ships dock in Port Canaveral.  This review features photos of the rooms & resort, thoughts on the amenities, and our experience in staying here during our recent visit to the Port Canaveral area.

The appeal of this resort is for families that want to stay as close to Port Canaveral as possible, while enjoying resort accommodations.  Most hotels near Port Canaveral are further south on route A1A in the Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island areas.  Those hotels are not only geared towards people going on cruises, but mostly geared towards guests who are visiting the Space Coast of Florida.  

The Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort is a sprawling 10-acre resort adjacent to Jetty Park Campground and is perfectly situated to provide perfect views of cruise ships, NASA rocket launches and of course time at the beach.

The resort features spacious hotel-suite/condo-style 1 and 2 bedroom accommodations from 414 to 1,224 square feet. The rooms here are more than just a typical double set of beds and bathroom.  Ideally, guests staying here will make this resort a multi-day pre- or post-cruise stop.  To that point, families (especially larger families) will enjoy the sheer amount of space provided in each room as well as the resort amenities provided.  Staying at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort is best enjoyed if you have at least a full day to take advantage of everything it offers.

Since this is a resort, very likely the price of this hotel will not be among the cheapest options in the area, but then again, it offers a lot more to do than just a hotel pool.  There is direct beach access at Jetty Park, four-story water slide, lazy river, splash zones, and kiddie pool.  In addition, there is an arcade, movie theater, mini golf course, plus basketball, tennis and shuffleboard courts.  

Starting in the lobby, the hotel is comprised of a few different buildings across the 10-acres.  The lobby is part of the main building, which additional buildings a short walk and/or shuttle drive much closer to the beach. 

The pool area is one of Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort's biggest selling points, and this thing is huge.  There is a giant main pool, sprawling kiddie pool area, lazy river and water slide.

There is ample seating all around the pool, and we were able to find seats with no problem. 

Adjacent to the pool area is a nice little bar. This place was fairly popular most of the time during our visit, and seemed to have a decent drink menu. The bar not only served drinks, but also offered lunch and dinner.  In addition, each day there was a live band performing throughout the day.

The lazy river and water slides were big hits with my kids.  There is no additional charge to use either, so just grab a tube for the river or head up the stairs to the slide.  

It is worth noting guests must be 42 inches tall to go on the slide.

I could spend this entire review talking about the pool area, because it is the best thing about this resort.  

There is still plenty more activities in the resort to keep you busy.  My kids relished their time in the giant indoor play area, which is akin to a play area you might find at a fast-food restaurant, but on a giant scale.

Slides, tunnels, ropes and obstacles galore are enough to keep most kids busy for hours.

There is also a movie theater that has no additional cost and shows three to four movies a day. 

Holiday Inn advertises its rooms as hotel-suite/condo-style, which means you get a lot of space and more.  Rooms feature a kitchen and in-unit washer/dryer.  Plus, Wi-Fi and parking are free to guests.

We chose a 1 bedroom unit for our stay.  We ended up being assigned a handicap accessible room, but I do not think it was a problem at all.  The rate for our first night was $290.03 and the second night was $189.05. With taxes and fees, the average rate we paid per night came out to $268.29. I could have gotten it a bit cheaper if I had committed to a non-refundable rate.

Our room featured two double beds in the bedroom, a large bathroom, giant living room, kitchen and of course a balcony.

For the four of us, there was more than enough room.  The resort also offers two bedroom units, which would have been nice to have, but our kids slept fine on the pull-out sofa bed in the living room.

The room was clean and reasonably well-maintained.  You could make an argument that they could benefit from a refurbishment update to make it feel a bit more contemporary, but by no means did the room feel dirty or old.  It certainly felt familiar considering we have stayed in enough resorts around Florida.

Likewise, the unit’s regular bathroom was basic and on the smaller side. Absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Keep in mind we were in an accessible room, so the shower may look different in other rooms.

The full-size, fully-equipped kitchen is nice, and will certainly be appreciated by those on a budget who use the room to prepare their own meals.

For cruise fans, some rooms face the Port Canaveral channel where the cruise ships enter and leave from, which provides absolutely stunning and unmatched views anywhere else in Port Canaveral.

Since the hotel is perhaps a mile from Terminal 1, views of the cruise ships abundant.  We requested a room that faced the channel, while most rooms face the pool area, ocean or a parking lot.  We called a week ahead of time to make the view request and had no problem having the resort take care of it for us.

Being able to watch the cruise ships depart was a real highlight of our stay.

Speaking of the cruise ships, Holiday Inn offers a third-party service that can take you to the cruise terminal for $25 up to 4 people, and $5 for each additional guest.  My advice is use Lyft or Uber, since a ride to the terminal from our hotel came in at $6.

Of course, there is beach access with the hotel. Guests can take a private boardwalk-style path from the resort to the beach at Jetty Park.  Chairs, umbrellas, bikes, surfboards and boogie boards are available to rent on the beach for an additional cost.

The biggest drawback to Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort is also its greatest benefit.  Since the resort is so close to the cruise port, there is really nothing you can walk to in terms of dining or entertainment.  A car or taxi is pretty much required if you want to venture off property.  In my opinion, that's not a terrible price to pay, but something you should be aware of before booking. Other hotels in Cocoa Beach are much closer together and there seems to be more opportunity to walk around in Cocoa Beach.  Since we had our own car, this was not a problem for us and Lyft/Uber/taxi rides are quite inexpensive and plentiful.

Overall, Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort is a great choice for families that want to tack on a pre- or post-cruise stay in resort accommodations. The pool area and other resort amenities are perfect for families.  The rooms are spacious and provide some great nice to haves.  The larger the family, the more compelling this resort can be to choose.

If you are coming just for the night before your cruise, staying here might be overkill (depending on price), but if you can get at least a full day to take advantage of the resort, then it can make a lot of sense.

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort ? Are you a fan of it? What did you think of the suites? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

InterContinental Miami Hotel Review

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11Jun2018

The InterContinental Miami Hotel is located in Downtown Miami, just across the bay from PortMiami and where Royal Caribbean sails its cruise ships.  This review covers our stay at the hotel, featuring room photos, thoughts on the InterContinental's amenities and our general thoughts for anyone considering staying here on their next pre or post-cruise visit.

The InterContinental is directly downtown and overlooks Biscayne Bay.  It is a 35-story tower on the eastern edge of downtown Miami, near Bayfront Park.  According to the hotel's website, it was built in 1982 by famed architect Pietro Belluschi and has 641 guest rooms. The hotel's exterior, porte cochere and lobby were redesigned by architect Thomas Roszak, of Lohan Anderson + Roszak in 2012.

We selected the InterContinental primarily for its proximity to PortMiami.  You can not only see PortMiami quite well, but Royal Caribbean's corporate headquarters faces the hotel from across Biscayne Bay.

We also picked the InterContinental because it offered suites in addition to standard hotel rooms, which was important to us because it meant our two children could sleep in a seperate room from us.  Moreover, the suite included concierge lounge access for happy hour drinks each evening (5pm-7pm), as well as a complimentary breakfast set up in the morning from 7am to 11am.  We considered other hotels too, but either the price was higher, location further away, or simply sold out.

We drove to the hotel from Central Florida, so getting to Miami was easy enough via the Florida Turnpike.  Once in Miami, you take the appropriate exit and drive into the city to the plaza that the InterContinental is located.  Like any major American city, once you are in the city, there are many intersections and streets to navigate. More than likely if you are flying into Miami or another nearby airport, you will be taking a taxi or ride sharing service to the hotel, which means navigating to the hotel is someone else's problem.

Overnight valet parking is available at the hotel, as well as street parking nearby.  We used the valet parking option for simplicty and the service was prompt and efficient. It cost about $38 for 24 hours, and that is about what valet parking at any hotel in a city costs in my experience.  

We booked a Club Intercontinental Suite 1 King room. With taxes and fees, it came out to $324.17 for a one night stay.  Not the cheapest hotel we have ever stayed at, but it did include concierge lounge and most importantly, provided us with two sleeping areas.  All suites include high-speed Wi-Fi, Health & Spa Access, and Club Lounge Access.

Speaking of the room, the room was massive. It features a living area with pullout Queen sofa bed, as well as a bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms.

Depending on your room location, you will either have a view of Biscayne Bay or downtown Miami.  My kids loved watching the bustle of the city from our 31st floor vantage point.

Each room had a flatscreen television, which meant the kids could watch whatever weird shows they were into and I could watch something that would result in my feeling less inclined to claw out my own eyes.

The room was immaculate and we had no concerns about anything there.  Being a building built well over 30 years ago, you can tell the building is older, especially if you have stayed at the current generation of suite hotels around the country.  However, the hotel is well-maintained and showing no signs of its age. I felt like the age of the hotel meant that we got more square footage for the room compared to hotel suites I often find in hotels built much more recently.  

The InterContinental has a large pool area with ample seating all round.  In fact, the sheer amount of seating is quite impressive.

The only complaint you could make about the pool is that being in South Florida, passing thunderstorms and rain showers are quite common and there is little to no cover when one rolls past. 

In the morning, breakfast is served in the concierge lounge from 7am to 11am.  In the grand scheme of complimentary hotel breakfasts, this was pretty darn good.  The selection of hot food, cereals, breads and fruit was wide enough to satisfy our family.  In fact, I was impressed by how much was offered.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the InterContinental Miami since it provided the sleeping arrangements we wanted along with some nice extras in the form of concierge lounge. The location of the hotel and its proximity to PortMiami make it a fabulous hotel for before or after your cruise, especially if you enjoy watching the cruise ships leave.

I felt like the InterContinental is a safe bet for somewhere reliably upscale and well-maintained to stay in downtown Miami.  I might have been able to get another suite hotel for slightly less per night, or I could have compromised on the location of the hotel or certain amenities included.  Part of the appeal of the InterContinental it being a solid choice for somewhere to stay.

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at the InterContinental Miami? What did you think of the experience? Is this a hotel at which you would consider staying? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!