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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CMDTA on Vacation – Pre-Cruise Hotel

One thing I always try to do is fly out late and stay in a hotel at my destination the day before my vacation officially begins. I find that by doing this I don’t have to get up at some insane time in the morning to catch a plane and I also have a much more relaxed and enjoyable first day.

My wife and I flew down to Ft. Lauderdale, collected our bags and called our hotel, Candlewood Suites. The girl who answered the phone, told us where to go, and said the shuttle would be there shortly.

Everything seemed great. After all this was why we booked this hotel. They offered a free shuttle from the airport and to the port the next morning. Sadly things are not always as they seem.

After waiting over 20 minutes we called the hotel again. The driver said he already went by the stop we were at. I guess the girl at the hotel knew he wasn’t telling the truth because she chewed his head off (we could hear this because she was paging him while we were on the phone). Ah, there is nothing like conflict after flying.
The driver showed up in less than three minutes. I guess the butt-whooping the girl at the hotel gave him worked. The van was decent but we quickly realized that it wasn’t owned by Candlewood Suite’s; it was owned by a group of hotels. This comes into play later.

We got to our hotel in a few minutes and got checked in. Our room was great. It was large, had a stove, a full sized fridge, and a microwave. The only drawback was the internet connection. The Ethernet cable was busted. It didn’t clip in so it could easily fall out of your network port. Once you got online it asked for a user name and password. There was no info in your room. You had to call the front desk. I didn’t bother. I just used my phone instead.
The hotel offered a free shuttle to a restaurant down the road so we decided to check it out. The “restaurant” was actually a restaurant in another hotel owned by the same people. Getting there was no problem unlike getting to our hotel from the airport. The food was ok. It was a typical hotel restaurant. However, they gave us a coupon for a free drink or appetizer. We thought it applied to one person. They applied to both of us. We got two free drinks. The final bill for two drinks and two meals was around $35 which wasn’t bad at all.
We went back to the entrance and told the man behind the desk that we needed the shuttle to get back to our hotel. He said he’d call them and told us to wait in a sitting area. 20 minutes later I went back to the desk to find out what was wrong. The first guy was gone and the second had no clue what I was talking about. At this point it was 11:30 at night and I was getting tired. Not a fun time to find out they forgot about you. The guy scrambled and dug someone up to drive us back to our room.
The next morning we get checked out and were told to go over to the next hotel to wait for the shuttle to the port because they shared one. A few people were already waiting but there was no line or any organization of any kind. The first shuttle was supposed to show up at 10:30. By then a mass of people from both hotels has grouped together. 10:30 came and went. At 10:50 the shuttle showed up. To no ones surprise it wasn’t big enough to fit everyone. Since there was no line or any kind of organization everyone stormed the van. It was a total mess. Thankfully a second van pulled up and everyone who was left packed onto it.
I want to let everyone know at this point that Candlewood Suites was an ok hotel that doesn’t have a restaurant. The third party shuttle service is awful. Actually “awful” is not a strong enough word. They are totally unreliable and dysfunctional. They only way they could have been worse were if they had crashed the van. They were not pleasant either and on two occasions they decided to make personal phone calls while driving us around.
My advice would be to book a hotel you know is close to the port and use taxis. The combined $30 that would have cost us would have been more than worth dealing with the awful shuttle service.

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