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Monday, December 3, 2012

Miami, Florida airport -- MIA / Hilton

November 2012, Sunday, 1- night, King guestroom #933

Status perks
I received complimentary Internet access, two bottles of water, and two continental breakfast coupons, which could also be used for the breakfast value--$14 each--off a la carte items. I initially received only one coupon, and when I asked the front desk agent later if the coupon was good for two, he gave me another one. I did not receive a room on one of the top floors; however, we arrived before check-in time around 1 PM. The agent immediately assigned us an available room without asking if we wanted to wait for a higher floor guestroom. The next day, I requested late checkout, and the agent happily allowed us to stay until 2:30 PM. If I had realized that this hotel has so many suites--over 25 of them--I would have requested a suite upgrade. Hilton does not typically give that type of upgrade to Gold members; however, I have occasionally received a suite upgrade.

Guestroom #933
I was somewhat worried about noise when I entered the guestroom, because this guestroom has two connecting doors. We must have had quiet neighbors, or the connecting doors are thicker than usual, because we did not hear any noise from our neighbors.

The spacious guestroom had a nice work area. A large window filled the length of the outside wall overlooking the lagoon, and a long table with two lamps was located against the wall under the window. There was one desk chair and one sitting chair in the guestroom. There was a telephone on the desk/table, and another one on one of the night stands next to the bed. A nice flat screen TV was on the armoire across from the bed. I was impressed with the comfort of the bed and the bedsheets. We had just come from the Z Ocean Hotel Crowne Plaza where the bedding was one of the best features, and the bed and pillows at this Hilton were even more comfy.

A coffee machine with supplies, bottled water, and a chilled minibar were located in a nice bar cabinet outside the bathroom. There was not a regular fridge other than the minibar. A good-sized safe was located in the closet by the door.

Other then the bathroom door almost hitting the toilet because of the smallish room size, the bathroom had some nice features. It had a tile walk in shower with glass doors and a pulsating shower head. The vanity and mirror were stylish looking and new.  Unfortunately, I did not get many pictures of our guestroom.

We watched a beautiful sunrise from our hotel room in the morning. We were not disturbed by guest or airplane noise, and we slept very well.

Pool and outside area
This hotel has several nice features for an airport hotel. There is a half mile walking/jogging track around the hotel with views of the lagoon. There is a garden walkway next to the pool and along the water with bench seating at the end.

Garden walkway
There are tennis courts onsite, which we did not use. I observed the area from a distance, and we saw guests on their way to the court with racquets in their hands.

The pool and whirlpool tub were both a good size. The temperature in the pool and in the hot tub was warm. The temperature seemed perfect to us.

End of the garden walkway
There was plenty of outside seating--lounge chairs, cushioned seats, and tables with chairs. One thing I did not see were shade umbrellas, although the pool area is partially shaded in the morning and in the evening. The pool towels were a disappointment. The towels were so small and thin that you needed two or three of them if you wanted to cover your chair or dry off after swimming.

The pool bar/restaurant was open both days of our stay. There was ample seating at the bar, and at tables around the bar--tall bar top style tables with chairs, and lower ones with chairs. The low tables had shade umbrellas.

Pool dusk 
It seemed like staff was cut to a minimum during our visit, and there were several things in the pool area that needed cleaning. All of the outside tables, including the dining ones around the bar, needed to be washed. There was quite a bit of debris in the bushes around the pool and along the walkways. I observed debris and bugs in the pool. There were ashtrays on every outside table, even though I never saw anyone smoking during our stay. And, every ashtray that I saw needed to be emptied and cleaned. I observed someone empty the trash bins by the pool once, and I observed someone cleaning the bugs out of the pool in the morning. Other than that, I did not see anyone cleaning the area.  

Food and Beverage
Next to Blue Lagoon Saloon
and the pool
We had burgers at Blue Lagoon Saloon, the poolside restaurant, the day we arrived. We received great service, even though only one employee served all the guests at the bar and tables. And, he had to go to the kitchen to get all the food orders. This was definitely one area where another employee was needed. Even if there had been an inside staff member, who could have filled in as a food runner when needed, it would have helped. There were times that we observed guests waiting for beverages at the bar, and we observed guests who gave up and left the area while the bartender was gone to get food. 

We thought the food prices on the poolside menu were high. It was $16 for one burger with fries, before tax and tip. The food flavor was good, and the portion size was generous. In hindsight, we should have ordered one burger to share, and then had something small to eat later.

We used our breakfast coupons to order off the menu at Coral Cafe the next morning. I ordered their version of eggs Benedict, which is served on savory bread pudding, and my husband ordered an omelette. The food flavor and serving sizes were excellent. This was the best breakfast our entire 5-day trip. I was somewhat apprehensive about ordering the eggs Benedict because I was afraid the bread pudding would be sweet. Our server assured me that it was savory and not sweet, and she was correct. It was cooked perfectly, and served hot. Three asparagus spears and a fresh tomato wedge accompanied the dish. My husband's omelette was served with asparagus spears, toast, and a tomato garnish. He agreed that the food was delicious. Everything was prepared with fresh, high quality ingredients, and the items were flavorful. 

Our service in the restaurant was not as good as we had received at the pool the day before. We had been seated for several minutes (probably over five minutes--I did not time this) before our server stopped to ask if we were ready to order. No one had stopped to offer coffee, juice, or water before this even though a few employees had walked by and glanced toward us. After we received our food, our server did not checkback with us until after we had almost finished eating. When we received our check, a $1 tip had been added in, even though it said "gratuity not included" at the bottom of the slip. I did not understand why gratuity of only $1 would have been added. This restaurant also added the tax in before the $28 in coupons had been deducted. Some restaurants deduct the coupon(s) first, and some add the tax first. I do not know which way is correct. After we added in the remaining tip, our check was just under $11. Definitely an amazing breakfast for under $11 ~ My compliments to the chef!   

We returned our rental car after checking in, and used the airport shuttle to return to the hotel (a Sunday). We then used the shuttle the next afternoon to return to the airport on Monday. On Sunday we were told that the shuttle runs every half hour, and on Monday we were told that it runs every 15 minutes. The shuttle was behind on the half hour runs when we returned the car Sunday. We waited about 20 minutes, and should have been picked up in less than 10 minutes because we arrived at the shuttle pickup spot at 1:30 PM. I had also called to confirm that the driver was on the way when we arrived there at 1:30. There was not much traffic on Sunday, so traffic would not have caused a problem that day.

On Monday, we decided to head to the airport earlier than planned, so we went out front for the 1:45 PM shuttle. We arrived around 1:40, and there was a flight crew already waiting. Another guest arrived after us. The shuttle did not arrive until after 2 PM. We had plenty of time; however, I could tell that the other guest was becoming agitated. We arrived at the airport more than 35 minutes after we went out to wait for the shuttle. We did not learn if there was a reason for the delay, or if this was typical for a Monday.

To say that the shuttle process was chaotic is an understatement. The hotel shuttles pick up and drop off in the same location at MIA. It is level 2/departure level. When I tried to tell the employee on the telephone my location after we returned the rental car, she told me to just wait at the center island and flag down the driver. Everyone else was waiting at the curbside, and the shuttle drivers were driving through between the curbside and the island, so after we waited in the center a few minutes, we walked back to the airport curb. I suppose we could have flagged down the driver from either spot, although when someone was getting off a shuttle, the bus went right up to the curb, which is three lanes in from the island. Another problem with this system is that sometimes passengers could not see their bus if it was traveling in the outside lane because of the traffic in between. Passengers next to us were waiting for the DoubleTree, and they would have missed their bus, if I had not spoken up when I saw it. It seemed to me that it would have made more sense, if the driver knew he had guests waiting, and at which terminal number. The "flag down" system did not work very well, IMO.

Misc. and overall
I was told that hotel parking is complimentary for less than 1/2 hour, and we did not have a charge when we left the hotel to return our rental car within this time frame. There is a public bus stop just down the road from the hotel, and there is a Publix less than a mile away across the street. Homewood Suites by Hilton (where we stayed for one night a couple years ago) is located on the same road as the Hilton.

I would choose this hotel, if I needed a hotel in the area for business because of the excellent sleep quality. The bed was supremely comfortable, and the guestroom was soundproof. I thought the $15 overnight parking charge was steep, so I would need to be able to find a room rate that made that charge worthwhile. The pool area and setting was nice for a one-night leisure stay; however, I thought the upkeep of the outside area was neglected.