Monday, March 29, 2010

The Gaylord Palms in Orlando

On the surface, this is a pretty awesome hotel. Everything under one roof, the way only states with tons of land can do it. The atrium and gardens in the center (complete with a partial castle) are pretty cool. Koi, turtles and alligators are all on view (not in the same pond). There are snakes down in the Everglades section and rays in the Key West wing. There is a ship floating in Key West. Waterfalls are always running and the air feels a bit tropical even with sun and humidity.

Every staff person I spoke with at the hotel: in restaurants, shops, at the front desk - everyone was friendly. In five days I did not run into a rude staff person. The rooms were clean, in good condition, thick windows to block out sound and heat, bedding was awesome. The bathrooms were clean and large with plenty of counter space. With your $15 resort fee, you get free wi-fi access, free admission to the fitness center and two free bottles of water a day. Pretty awesome stuff.

Now the bad: the decor in the St. Augustine tower. What were they thinking? This is a picture of the comforter / sham pattern in my room:

Terrifying, isn't it?

Food: Over-priced, but I expect that in a resort that can keep you trapped indoors at all times and has a captive audience. However, the H20 Sports Bar out by the pool was terrible. We ate there twice (remember: captive) just to get outside a bit and it was horrid. Don't even think about trying the cocktails unless you really dig things with odd colors and tons of sugar. The guacamole was pretty bland and the Sloppy Joe Sliders truly seemed like sloppy joe's out of a can.

Sunset Sam's was better - I like the ability to choose a fish and a sauce and it is kept simple. This was probably the second best meal I had here - but be warned butter is used liberally in cooking everything. The wine selection was decent but again I avoided the cocktails.

The sushi joint, Sora, was pretty darn good. Not the most stunning sushi I have ever had, but good. They had some fun side dishes like nachos (not what you are thinking) that were intriguing. The cocktails here were interesting and the best in the resort - especially given the apparent state law in Florida that all cocktails must be SWEET.  The problem here was timing: we ordered a couple of things to get us started after being told the sushi would take 45 minutes to come out to the table. About 45 minutes later, the sushi came out and THEN the appetizers came out. Not cool.

Java Coast - this is the quick and simple coffee shop located in the atrium. The coffee varied - some days it was so watered down it just wasn't even consumable. Some days it was average only but it was never good. The food was pre-packaged and "OK". It was fast and relatively cheap so it would get you through the day as you dashed from one conference session to the next. Wraps, sandwiches, salads. That's about it. After eating wraps for lunch everyday, you can actually start to lose you mind - just FYI.

As I mentioned, I was at the Palms for a conference and these guys do know how to manage large groups of people. From what I saw, things went off without a hitch for a conference that must have had between 3000 and 4000 attendees. Impressive!

Happy Travels - and watch out for the nightmare monkeys!

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