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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Orange Beach, Alabama / Holiday Inn Express

March 2013, Weekend, 1-night, King guestroom 516

Status perks and check-in
We arrived before check-in time, and stopped at the front desk, because we wanted to walk on the beach, and we needed to go through the hotel to get to the beach. We had not planned to check-in early. I do not typically arrive at hotels before check-in; however, on this trip, I seemed to be ahead of schedule every day except for my first stay! 

The front desk agent said that our guestroom was not ready, and that he could give us a room on the ground floor, if we wanted to check-in right away. I asked if we had been able to get a gulf front upgrade, and he said yes. I said that I would wait for the higher floor room. We confirmed how to access the beach, and then returned a few items to our vehicle trunk.

As we walked by the front desk on our way to the beach a few minutes later, the agent said he had a room available now, so we stopped and checked in. I did not ask again if the room he was assigning us was gulf front since less than five minutes had passed. I did not end up receiving any Platinum member perks; not even a bottle of water, although I saw bottles behind the counter. When I made this reservation, I had requested a top floor room and a gulf front upgrade, if one was available.

Guestroom #516
view from balcony
This guestroom is not a gulf front room, and it is not on the top floor. This hotel has six floors. Guestroom 516 is near the back/beach side of the building with a very limited beach view from the balcony. It is directly across from the back elevators, and the view from the balcony overlooks the building and parking lot next door.

We had originally planned to stay at this hotel for two nights. Before we checked in, we noticed that there was not much of anything within walking distance of the hotel. We thought then that maybe we would change our stay to only one night, dependent also upon the quality of our first night's stay. Given our indecision, I did not call the front desk to inquire about the gulf front guestroom I had been promised. If I had known for sure that we would be staying for two nights, I would have called to ask what had happened to the gulf front room we had been told we would receive.

Other than the fact that I expected a gulf front room, the guestroom was a nice room. It was comfortable, and the paint color scheme was pleasant with ocean and earth tones. The bed mattress was pretty good quality for a Holiday Inn Express, although the pillows were the same low quality pillows that are typical at Holiday Inn Express. The furnishings were in good condition, and the guestroom was clean.

The entrance door is not very soundproof, and we heard guests in the hall most of the evening.

The balcony was a decent size with two chairs, and it would have been enjoyable with a better view. The chairs and balcony were clean as well.

Room contents included: couch, small table with two soft chairs, flatscreen TV on an armoire, king size bed, night stands, alarm clock, lamps, coffee maker, microwave, and small fridge. The room was well lit, and the Internet connection speed was good.

The closet between the bathroom and the bedroom area contained bedding, an iron and board, and a folding luggage rack. The closet door was mirrored.

The bathroom was a decent size. There was a mirror the length of the long vanity, and a low quality hairdryer was mounted on the wall. The bathtub/shower combination had a curved rod with shower curtain. The bath towels and cloths were good quality. Again, I was impressed with the hotel cleanliness.

Food & Beverage
The breakfast at this hotel was very low quality. There were fake scrambled eggs, cold cereals and instant oatmeal, white breads, the Holiday Inn Express pancake maker and cinnamon rolls, juices, and very weak coffee. I think the Holiday Inn Express coffee supplied in the guestrooms is low quality, and the coffee in the breakfast room was even worse.

The breakfast area was very busy, and staff did a good job keeping items stocked.

Pool and outside area
This hotel has a great outside area and pool, which is one of the reasons we chose this location over the Hampton Inn down the street. The area was clean and relaxing. The air temperature was cool during our stay, so there were not many people in the pool.

pool and gulf front rooms

The whirlpool tub was pretty warm, and my husband said that the swimming pool was warm as well. There were two hammocks hanging in the small grass area on the west side of the pool, near the outside bar. The bar was open until 7 p.m., with a couple of Happy Hour beverage specials. It sounded like the bar would stay open later, if it had been busy with patrons.
walkway to beach

There is a walkway out to the beach, and the beach area was beautiful. The white sand is soft, and we observed chairs on the beach.

Misc. and Overall
This hotel offers a free beach bag and coolie cup to guests via Facebook. If you "like" their page, and then make a post during your stay, you can go to the front desk and get the items. We learned about a similar offer when we stayed at the Hilton Gulf Front Pensacola Beach in 2011. The properties are both owned and managed by the same company, INNISFREE HOTELS.

I suppose this would be a good place to stay for guests who do not care about evening activities. Other than Bubba's Seafood House located across the street from the hotel, there was not much else within walking distance. We walked to Bubba's for an appetizer and beverage at the bar. The shrimp we had was excellent, and the service was good. The atmosphere was similar to Applebee's or Ruby Tuesday.

view of the Hampton Inn during our beach walk
The Hampton Inn located about a mile east of the Holiday Inn Express, is across the street from a shopping center with a few dining options. Even though the pool area at the Hampton Inn did not look as nice, I think that hotel would have been a much better choice. The pool photos on the link I provided here, look nicer than the pool photos I saw on the Hilton website when booking our stay. There are no view obstructions around the Hampton Inn, so a side view balcony there would have been nicer than what we had at the Holiday Inn Express. The rates at the Hampton Inn were only a few dollars more, and I think it would have been worth it. If we visit this area again, we would definitely choose that hotel instead.

There are not any full service hotels in this area, although there are several condo resorts with rooms for rent. Most of them have nice pool areas, although I could not find any with a restaurant or lounge onsite.