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Better pre-cruise stay option: Airbnb vs hotel? (Honest Pros & Cons)

19 Nov 2022

Should your family consider staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel for one night before your next cruise?

One of my top tips for anyone going on a cruise is to fly in at least one day before their cruise to protect themselves against a travel delay impacting their ability to make their cruise ship.

Once you decide to travel to your embarkation port a day early, you'll need somewhere to stay. Like most people, I immediately started looking at hotels to book.

When travelling with just my wife, hotel rooms work extremely well for their value and space provided.  But when we travel with kids, finding the right hotel room can be a challenge if you want enough space for everyone.

Odyssey of the Seas arriving in Port Canaveral

For my Odyssey of the Seas cruise out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this week, I was not finding a ton of great options at a good price for my family of four.

Certainly there were plenty of hotels that offered a traditional hotel room experience with 2 beds and a single bathroom, but with my kids getting older, sharing a hotel room (and bathroom) is becoming more problematic than in the past.

I also did not find a great variety of suite options in hotels, and the ones I did find were not cheap. South Florida hotels range greatly in prices, but I was seeing a suite hotel room coming in easily over $300 per night, especially when including resort fees and taxes.

Airbnb alternative


I love booking vacation rentals through Airbnb or VRBO for longer stay vacations because of the amenities and space you can get.  But I had never considered it just for one night.

At first, I was not even certain there would be any one-night options as I assumed the people listing their houses would all want longer stays from their guests.

So when I started browsing Airbnb, I was surprised how many good choices there were at reasonable prices in the greater Fort Lauderdale area.

Airbnb map

In looking through the listings, I found lots of choices.  What attracted me to the Airbnb option was we could get a place to stay that offered plenty of space for us and the kids, as well as extra amenities. We could get a pool to enjoy with just our family, laundry machines to be able to not start the cruise off with dirty clothes, and the perfect sleeping arrangements.

Of course, there are some downsides to an Airbnb, such as the fees added onto the cost, and there's no long-term parking option.

Miami hotel

I also freely admit I enjoy a nicer hotel stay, so the extra amenities of an Airbnb really appeal to me. I'm sure there are lots of other people that would be fine with a hotel room for just one night, especially if you fly in late.

Airbnb pros:

  • Wide variety of different types of stays
  • Feels more like home
  • More space and bedrooms than a hotel room
  • Extra amenities such as a pool, living room, game room, and more
  • Convenient laundry option

Airbnb cons:

  • Extra fees
  • No long-term parking options
  • No shuttle to/from airport or cruise port

Given that I didn't want to sleep in the same room as my kids, would love an extra bathroom to not compete with the kids, and love the idea of having a private pool to enjoy, I found Airbnb a compelling option.

Our Airbnb choice

After considering all options, we decided to book a 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit in Fort Lauderdale that had a private heated pool and right on a waterway.

It also had outdoor seating, gas grill, and a foosball table.

It's located north of Port Everglades, and without traffic is 24 minutes (15 miles) away. 

The Airbnb was listed for $351 per night, but with fees and taxes, it jumped up to a total of $533.89. I knew the fees Airbnb assesses would not be cheap, but it was a bit eye opening how much it ended up being, which is probably why a longer stay makes more sense with Airbnbs so that you can maximize the value of your stay.

The house is exactly what we needed for one night, with lots of living space and two bedrooms and two full baths. 

I loved having the living room with plenty of seating so we could lounge far more than we could in a hotel room.

The pool was great, but a cold front had pushed through the state the night before so it was a bit chilly for a swim. Nonetheless, it was so pleasant outside that we spent some time on the water enjoying the view.

Is an Airbnb worth it?

Fort Lauderdale hotel aerial

Does it make sense to book an Airbnb for just one night the next time we take the family on a cruise?

There are lots of choices with hotels or a home rental, so it's difficult to pick one or other exclusively.

I love the extra space a home provides, along with bonus amenities that can enhance the stay beyond anything a hotel can offer (private pool, living room, backyard, etc).

Hotel parking lot

However, the extra fees Airbnb has makes finding a deal very difficult. It's hard to imagine a scenario where an Airbnb would be cheaper unless we drastically reduced our requirements for a place. To me, part of the appeal of an Airbnb is to look for a fun place to stay, not just a bed and bathroom.

In places like South Florida where there are so many hotel choices, the variety of rooms and prices will likely keep it the primary place we look for a room. When you add kids or multigen to the equation, then Airbnbs start to look more appealing.

I'm happy with our Airbnb choice for a pre-cruise stay. It may not have been the cheapest deal, but the extra living space and pluses you can only get with a home rental made it a nice change of pace for our family.

Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel Review

03 Oct 2022

Finding the perfect hotel before a cruise can be challenging, but Fort Lauderdale’s new Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport is a strong contender for the best place to stay before a cruise departing from Port Everglades.

Prior to my recent Allure of the Seas cruise, I spent the night at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel. When I stay at a pre-cruise hotel, I’m looking for the following requirements before booking:

  • Close to the airport and port, but within walking distance to nearby hotels, shopping, and attractions
  • New or updated amenities
  • Price between $200-300 per night for a standard room

The Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel had all of these requirements and then some. Because the hotel opened in fall 2021, it was almost brand new and on the surface looks like a great choice for taking a cruise from Fort Lauderdale.

This review covers our stay at the hotel including our room, dining, and thoughts on Marriott’s amenities and services at their Fort Lauderdale Airport location.

*Disclaimer: Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel invited Royal Caribbean Blog to spend the night and write a review on our experience.

First impressions

I was impressed with how clean and bright the lobby was, and there were plenty of comfy seating areas. The lobby had a trendy ambiance, with the bar and restaurant in the middle of the area. This definitely wasn’t a throw-it-together type of hotel lobby.

I was in a standard room, which had a king bed, desk, television, large wardrobe, comfy lounge seating. The room did not have a balcony, but floor-to-ceiling windows brought more than enough light into the room.

The room had high ceilings, making it feel large, and there was no shortage of places to plug in your devices.

The Standard 1 King Bed room is priced around $200 on weekdays and $250 on weekends.

Proximity to airport and cruise port

I flew into Fort Lauderdale International Airport and caught a Lyft to the hotel, which was around $10 and took 10 minutes. The hotel also offers complimentary airport shuttles.

There is no self-parking at the hotel. Instead, valet parking is available for $25.

Traveling from the hotel to Port Everglades is a breeze, too, and the drive only takes around 10 minutes. Rideshare service to the port will cost around $13-15.

The hotel also offers a shuttle to the cruise port. Shuttle service is available three times throughout the day (9:55 AM, 12:30 PM, and 3:30 PM). Shuttles cost $15 per person.

The Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel is a 5-minute walk from Dania Pointe, an outdoor shopping and dining area in Dania Beach.

Being so close to Dania Pointe is convenient, especially for those flying into Fort Lauderdale and wanting to explore without the hassle of ordering an Uber.

I enjoyed walking around Dania Pointe and was even able to pick up some last-minute items I needed for the cruise at TJ Maxx. For those looking to dine outside the hotel, there were plenty of restaurants to choose from including a Brazilian steakhouse, ramen shop, and wine bar.


The Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport has one in-house restaurant, Radiant 166, which is located in the hotel’s lobby.

The menu was extensive with a balance of standard American fare and international cuisine, from Egyptian street food to Italian flatbreads and pasta. I appreciated the wide range of cuisines available as it wasn’t just a “choose a burger or sandwich” type of restaurant.

We started the meal with a hummus plate and avocado toast, both of which were excellent and made from fully fresh ingredients.

For my main course I chose the Chicken Alfredo (although I subbed for salmon). Others at the table enjoyed a pepperoni flatbread and a Mediterranean pita dish.

For dessert we opted for the strawberry and Nutella crêpe. Served with whipped cream and ice cream, it was certainly delicious.

I was impressed with the restaurant overall, and just like any hotel restaurant, it is extremely convenient to dine directly in the hotel. For those tired after a long travel day and not wanting to venture outside the hotel for dinner, it makes a solid option.

There is breakfast available every morning for an extra cost, and snacks and beverages are also available for purchase.

Other amenities

Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador Elite members of Marriott Bonvoy have access to the hotel’s M Club lounge.

The lounge offers complimentary buffet breakfast, light snacks throughout the day, and hors d'oeuvres in the evening. A coffee machine is also available for specialty drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.

Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport has an outdoor pool. The pool was quite large with plenty of chairs and comfortable day beds to enjoy. The pool's temperature was fairly chilly, although I thought it felt nice in the Florida humidity!

If you arrive at the hotel early the day before your cruise, this area is the best place to kick off your relaxing vacation as soon as possible.

A gym was also available with cardio and weight machines.

Final thoughts

I’ve stayed at three hotels near Fort Lauderdale’s airport, and this has been my favorite so far for the following reasons:

  • It’s basically a brand new hotel, so you get the benefits of a sparkly clean hotel with new amenities
  • Convenient location right by Dania Pointe shopping center
  • Close to the airport and cruise terminal

If I had to mention a drawback, it would be that the hotel does not have any suites. They offer rooms with two queen beds, but those hoping for separated bedrooms or living areas will have to look elsewhere.

The price of a standard room at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport was comparable to other hotels I had stayed at in the same area, yet it offered more upgraded amenities and rooms.

I thought it offered the perfect place to get my cruise vacation the day before I boarded Allure of the Seas, and I would definitely book this hotel again on a future cruise departing Fort Lauderdale.

Bonus: hotel day pass

After my Allure of the Seas cruise, my flight from Fort Lauderdale International Airport did not leave until 3:30 PM. Instead of spending 6-7 hours waiting around at the airport, I purchased a $25 day pass to the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Hotel.

The day pass gave me access to the pool and fitness facilities, and it was a much more enjoyable experience than sitting at an airport terminal.

If you have a late flight booked following your cruise, a hotel day pass may be something to consider.

Royal Caribbean announces new way to book a hotel before your cruise

16 Mar 2022

Royal Caribbean has a new way to book a hotel before or after your cruise vacation.

Fort Lauderdale hotel aerial

The new Royal Caribbean Hotels program launched today, which is a partnership with Priceline.

It's a common practice for anyone flying to their cruise ship to come in at least a day in advance, as well as stay an extra day after the cruise ends. This gives guests extra time to explore the city they are departing from, as well as guard against travel delays.

The new hotels program aims to give cruisers an easy way to lock in a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Intercontinental Miami

Royal Caribbean says this new program offers exclusive rates with thousands of hotels in every Royal Caribbean departure and arrival port, including those in the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific as well as North, South and Central America.

Hotel search results can easily be filtered based on the number of travelers in your group, the sailing’s departure or arrival city, and dates — plus preferences such as hotel rating, amenities and more.

Another advantage of booking through Royal Caribbean Hotels is Royal Caribbean will cover guest’s hotel cancellation fees if Royal cancels or modifies the associated cruise, whether or not within final payment.

Miami beach hotel

Royal Caribbean Hotels is available immediately for anyone residing in the United States, Canada, and Mexico booking a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Some helpful tips about Royal Caribbean Hotels:

  • The ability to earn hotel loyalty points will depend on the property you select.
  • Transfers between the hotel and pier are not included in this pricing.

The hotels website is where you can start making reservations at

Where to stay before your cruise: AirBnBs

22 Feb 2022

One of our more popular questions we hear on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards is “Where should I stay when I travel to this port?” We can recommend hotels in almost every port, but there’s a new(ish) player in town that we should bring to the table as an option.

When AirBnBs first started popping up, they were marketed as kitchy hostel alternatives or fun travel destinations. Since then, the program has evolved to include hosts almost everywhere–from studio apartments to castles! You can find some pretty neat places to stay around the world with AirBnB.

While we still stay in hotels plenty, we do usually opt for AirBnBs when we are cruising. Because ports are in big cities, and where there are big cities, there are also conferences, sports events, music festivals, and the like, hotel prices fluctuate depending on their expected volumes.

Even when we planned a year in advance, we were sometimes pressed to find a reasonably priced hotel close to the airport or the port.

We first tried an AirBnB in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, and found it so convenient that we keep going back, not just to AirBnB, but even to that same rental! Our Fort Lauderdale host has a pod of 3 rentals on one property, and they are all super cool studios. The pictures in this post are from our most recent stay in their Bird Studio.

How to book with AirBnB

Step 1:  Download the App

The app is available on both Android and Apple. You can also book from a computer, but you’ll want the app while you are traveling. 

Step 2:  Search for where you’re going, and when. (ie, Fort Lauderdale, January 1, 2022) How many people are coming?

Step 3:  Read through the provided list of hosts and locations to stay. Read reviews, look at photos of the properties. Check out the map. You can sort by the price, amenities, etc. 

Step 4:  Book! One thing I love about AirBnB is that the pricing is straight forward and up front. There are a few fees (cleaning and service), but you know what they are going to be before you book.

To show you what the booking process looks like, I chose a property at random from the list, but there are locations at all price points, usually starting at $50+ per night.

Not a bad deal considering on a surge weekend, hotel prices can start at $200 per night!

Step 5:  Arrival. When it’s time to check in, there’s obviously no front desk.

You’ll get a welcome email and/or text from the host with instructions and a code to the security lock on the door. This code is unique to you and only activates at your check in time, and deactivates when you check out. That way no one else knows your code, and can get into the rental while you are staying there. 

AirBnB Tips

With so many different options in rentals, the sky really is the limit on where you can stay when booking with AirBnB. When we are cruising, we are looking for mostly simple accommodations to get us through the night, but it’s important to look at the amenities to find what is right for you.

We do always look for Superhosts, which are “experienced, highly rated hosts who are committed to providing great stays for guests.” This way we know the rental will be clean and safe, and they’ve been well rated. They’ve had plenty of renters in and out, and know what they are doing. 

Know what you need and want out of a stay. Are you just there to sleep for a night? Will you be eating meals at the rental? Are you staying several days and may want entertainment like a pool or something close to the beach? Are you ok with just a bed  and a bathroom, or do you need a kitchen, living room, etc.

Remember there are tons of options in every price range, so really take advantage of the search. 

You get a rating too! Take care of the property, clean up after yourself. There is a cleaning fee, but you’ll most likely need to take the trash to a central location, put the towels in a laundry bin, etc.

Think about this as being a guest in someone’s home. Sure, they are going to come in and do the major cleanup, but we aren’t going to leave it trashed, either. And you have a great line of communication with the host, so if something does happen, you can let them know.

For example, the battery was dying on the front door lock, so we let them know it needed to be charged before the next guest arrived.

Fort Lauderdale | Royal Caribbean Blog

Plan ahead. Because you won’t have complimentary breakfast, and AirBnBs are often in neighborhoods, you’ll need to figure out dining options in advance. You also need to think about transportation, if you’re not renting a car or driving to the port.

We often look for AirBnBs within walking distance to a grocery store, so we can pick up snacks and water. We also usually have a DoorDash dinner that evening. Uber or Lyft is our ride from the airport and to the port.

Hotels will always be the travel standard for overnight stays. However, AirBnB has become a fun and creative alternative that has very competitive pricing, while also helping the local community economy. Many hosts have built annexes to their own homes or converted garages to capitalize on the tourism market, and so staying in an AirBnB often pays back into the neighborhoods where you’re staying.

We’ve found that AirBnB does take a little more effort than staying in a hotel does, but the price difference and location experience is worth it to us. Oh, and Mr. Mills would be upset if I didn’t mention his favorite part of staying in AirBnBs:  He can usually find one close to OrangeTheoryFitness, which, if you know, you know.

Have you stayed in AirBnBs before? Do you use them while cruising? Let us know in the comments.

Note: is not sponsored by AirBnB, but we wanted to share our experience with the service as an alternative to hotels.

Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale Hotel Review

02 Jul 2021

Whether you are cruising from Port Everglades or PortMiami, there is no shortage of hotels in South Florida to consider, so I decided to try out the Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale so that I could be near one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale.

In my opinion, a hotel super closer to the port your ship sails from does not matter much since you will have to take some form of transportation to get there.  Moreover, I would rather be close to something fun to do near my hotel that I can walk to the night before the cruise.  

The Hyatt Centric brand is a selection of hotels located near popular destinations. The idea is these full-service hotels are close enough to the action, and Los Olas Boulevard is a Mecca of shopping, dining, and nightlife.

You will find boutiques, galleries, specialty stores, and a lot of dining. It is the perfect spot for the night before your cruise when you want to take in an evening that is easily walkable.

The Hyatt hotel is about 5 blocks or so from where the Los Olas experience begins, so it is about a 5 minute walk from the entrance to the hotel.

The hotel is right in the middle of downtown Fort Lauderdale, surrounded by office buildings, restaurants and more.  

Amenities include a polished restaurant/cocktail lounge and a 24-hour fitness center, plus a rooftop pool with a bar. Breakfast and parking are available.

The hotel is brand new, having opened in 2020 and it still looks like the ribbon cutting ceremony was last week.

For this stay, I booked a King Bed Skyline room.  In addition to the proximity to everything to do in Los Olas, rooms offer views of Fort Lauderdale to enjoy.

The room is what Hyatt calls "minimalist", and features Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and mini fridges, as well a coffeemaker.

It makes good use of the space offered, and the shower is quite large.

For two people, there is more than enough room.  Staying in this hotel is kind of like booking an inside stateroom: you are mostly using it to sleep and shower, because otherwise you will be out and about.

Being a new hotel, everything was clean and I loved there are small touches you find in newer hotels, such as lots of plugs near both sides of the bed, as well as a USB plug.

Getting in and out of the hotel was a snap, and I really enjoyed being able to explore Los Olas Boulevard for a bit without needing to take a taxi.

My rate was $230 for the night (before taxes and fees), so it is not the cheapest hotel in Fort Lauderdale, but hardly on the expensive side either.

  • Driving time to Port Everglades: 15 minutes with traffic (4 miles)
  • Driving time to PortMiami: 45 minutes with traffic (29 miles)

If you want a clean and well-appointed hotel that is near plenty of shopping and dining that you can easily walk to, the Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale is a great choice.

Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort Hotel Review

05 Aug 2019

In our ongoing search for great hotels to stay in before or after your Royal Caribbean cruise, we spent a couple nights at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort after noticing it offered amenities that directly appealed to (large) families.

There is no shortage of hotels in the Port Canaveral area, but the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort (previously Wakulla Suites) features luxurious two-bedroom suites along with a water park, situated within a short walk to the beach. Families looking for a pre- or post-cruise stay are sure to take notice, and it certainly caught my attention.

Renovated in 2018, this resort offers 120 two-bedroom villas in the heart of Cocoa Beach.  In addition to offering access to the beach, it stands out for its Polynesian theme and aqua park.

The true appeal of this resort is the aquatic experience, between its pool area, splash pad and lazy river features.

The pool is rather large and deep, maxing out at 7 and a half feet at its deepest point. There is also a splash pool for young children and a hot tub.

The Wakulla Falls Water Park (named after the resort's former name) features a large splash pad, and reminded us quite a bit of Splashaway Bay on Royal Caribbean ships. It has a large drench bucket, geysers, sprays, (very tame and small) water slides and pretty much any other way to hose yourself down.

At the rear of the pool area is a lazy river complete with floats and a few ways to get wet along the way. 

Both the lazy river and splash pad is included with your hotel admission.  The resort says each room qualifies up to six guests admission into the water park. Wristbands are distributed and requested to be worn, although during our stay no one checked if we had them on.

The pool area features a tiki bar, which serves drinks and food.

We booked a two-night stay at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort, and were greeted to one of the most well appointed hotel rooms I have stayed at that were not a villa or apartment. The 2018 renovation clearly resulted in upgraded furnishings that present a very contemporary feel.

The hotel is in a "U" shape, with all rooms facing the pool and aqua park areas. Even the most remote room is a very quick walk back to the lobby, so getting around is super simple.

The two bedroom unit has a large living room, kitchen and dining nook, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The room measures 812 sq feet of space. There are not laundry machines in the room, but there are self-service laundry machines in the resort.

The master bedroom has a king size bed, along with master suite bathroom. 

The shower features three(!) different shower heads: traditional, rain and hand-held.  You can only use one at a time, but there should be no issue satisfying the most ardent shower head aficionado.

The other bedroom has twin beds, along with a connecting bathroom.

We enjoyed the large amount of space to sprawl out, and the fact each bedroom and the living room had a large television set meant there was not much competing for personal space. 

The resort does offer direct beach access, which is a very short walk to the beach from the hotel.  Umbrellas and chairs are available to rent upon request.

The hotel does not provide complimentary or for-pay shuttle service to the port, but there are a variety of third-party options, including ride sharing services.

Of course, we need to talk about price and a resort with these kind of ammenities and location will not be a bottom-barrel value by any means. We stayed two nights, Saturday and Sunday nights, with the rate being $519 and $309 each night respectively. Again, not cheap, but then again we did get a two-bedroom unit and one of the best pool/aqua park features near Port Canaveral, along with direct beach access. 

The best part about the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort is the room, both in living space and looks, along with the pool and water park. 

The price is what gives me the greatest pause about recommending staying here, and you may find better prices during other times of the year. We picked a random weekend during summer, which is high season for Cocoa Beach. 

While the water park was nice, I believe the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort offers a superior pool and aqua park, and we paid less on our last visit to stay there. Granted, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort Hotel is located much more centrally in Cocoa Beach, and it is very easy to walk to nearby attractions, restaruarants and more.

Just like the Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort, there is a low-pressure sales pitch to attend a timeshare presentation.  Regardless of whatever they offer you for the tour, do yourself a favor and skip this at all costs.

Overall, the room and pool area were up to our liking and it was a fun weekend in Cocoa Beach. The room update looks great, and the pool area was a focal point for my family during the weekend. While far from inexpensive, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort is a great choice if you are looking for a lot of living space in a hotel in the middle of Cocoa Beach that does not compromise on resort amenities.

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort? Are you a fan of it? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Miami Airport East Hotel Review

24 May 2019

If you ask anyone that is looking for a hotel before or after their cruise, they usually want a clean, safe and reasonably priced hotel. Getting all three of those requirements is no simple task, but I may have just found that with the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Miami Airport East.

Prior to a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, I needed a hotel for two nights prior to my sailing.  I usually stay near downtown Miami, but I spotted a brand new hotel that seemed to offer a great value.  Plus, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Miami Airport East is located right near Miami International Airport.  This means the drive from the airport to the hotel is a mere couple of minutes, and the drive to PorMiami is about 10-15 minutes.

The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Miami Airport East is one of Holiday Inn's new "Formula Blue" properties.  Formula Blue is meant to appeal to Holiday Inn Express’s target guest—the "smart traveler."  The hotel is designed so that public space is wide open, so guests can immediately scan the area when they walk into the hotel and understand where everything is without having to ask for help. Another design element that supports the smart traveler is a headboard that minimize noise transfer between rooms, ensuring this busy demographic is able to get a restful night sleep.  

Walking into the lobby of the hotel, you can see exactly what Holiday Inn was planning, with an open lobby area that you can easily spot the elevators, kitchen area, seating and more.

The hotel offers an outdoor pool, fitness center, continental breakfast each morning, and complimentary coffee throughout the day in the lobby.  The hotel does offer a shuttle service to PortMiami at regularly scheduled times for a price per person.  In my opinion, you are better off using a ride-share service like Lyft for value and convenience.

For my stay, I reserved a standard King-size bed for $80.75 for the first night, and $84.55 the second night.  That is an incredible price for a name-brand hotel.

Walking into my room, I found a very large amount of living space.  There was even a coffee nook, complete with Keurig machine available for my use.

The bathroom is large as well, which means there is plenty of space for two people to get ready in the morning.

One thing I loved about this room is how many outlets there are around the room. In fact, there are USB outlets, in addition to electric outlets, on each side of the bed and at the desk. This is incredibly convenient.

Overall, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Miami Airport East is exactly as advertised: a convenient hotel that is well-priced, clean and safe to stay in. The worst thing I can say about this hotel is that you cannot walk anywhere nearby for dining or entertainment.  You will be dependent on taxi or a rental car to get to the fun things to do in Miami.  Of course, a lot of people that want a pre-cruise hotel are only really looking for somewhere to spend the night, and you can always order delivery to the hotel.

What is truly compelling about this hotel was the price combined with the well-kept rooms and building. If you can snag a rate of less than $100 per night (or closer to my $80/night rate) then it becomes an absolute steal compared to paying one or two hundred dollars more per night to stay in downtown Miami.

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Miami Airport East? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay Hotel Review

13 Dec 2018

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

07 Nov 2018

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

16 Oct 2018

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!

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