“Kitch, Over-the-Top. Just "Okay" experience from this luxury brand.”
My husband, on a last-minute whim, decided to whisk me off for a holiday weekend and chose the Gaylord. As locals, we have visited the resort to view their annual ICE exhibit, but had never spent the evening or toured the hotel/atrium. Upon arrival, as we pulled up to the front entrance, I was surprised. We wanted to valet and carry our overnight luggage in as we checked in. We were told that they were "too busy to valet" at that time and offered self-park. Yes, it did seem as if there were a dozen or so vehicles waiting to be valeted, however; our wait to speak to the attendant was less than two or three minutes, so I cannot imagine they were "that" busy. Okay, so we asked if we could stop at the entrance to check in and then return immediately to self park. We were told "no, too many cars." Huh? So we made our way to the self park area (which in itself would be reason enough not to stay here. If I were to say that the parking spots were tiny, I would be exaggerating. As a matter-of-fact, they passage ways were so narrow that there was a traffic block which held us up for 25 minutes, just to park our car. Not enough room to park. Not enough room to back up to leave. Not enough room for cars passing in opposite directions to clear each other. It was actually a stand-still of no activity as guests had nowhere to move to in order to give way.) Once we finally parked and carried our luggage across the property to check in, we noted a line for check in that was probably 150 persons deep. Here's another surprise. They handled the check in lines VERY efficiently and we received personalized service by the front desk personnel, along with a room upgrade. Making our way to the room (with no offer to assist with luggage) we wandered through what seemed to be a Vegas-style atrium with faux rocks, supposed St. Augustine replicas (made of plaster), and a pond with a half-dozen of the smallest alligators on Earth. I was amused and a bit in awe of the kitchiness of this property. It was if they were attempting to replicate Disney in some sense. Not really hitting the mark, however. We found our room, which was wonderfully located very near the elevator on the 7th floor in what they called the Emerald section. The room was nicely decorated. We loved the carpeting. The bed was comfortable, and the amenities were adequate. I will say that the room was a big small, however nice. We had a room that overlooked the pool areas. Nice view, I must say. We were disappointed that the resort offers no "outside" rooms with balconies. I would guess not even suites, as we inquired and were willing to pay. We had a few requests for our room and pushed the "smiley button" for service. We were met with a recording which stated that their mission was to make their staff happy, which would translate into "consider it done" service. We waited 10 minutes on line to request pillows. The attendant was courteous. We waited for 15-or-so minutes, but were excited to wander around the property to check out the amenities, so we left a note on our door to please leave the pillows on our bed (a tip with another note was on the bed). As we set out to explore, we were taken aback by the vastness of the facility. HUGE portions, all assigned a theme such as Key West, or St. Augustine. Many restaurants, merchants, and souvenir shops were located all over. There property was nicely decorated for the holidays in a manner which was both fantastical and yet traditional. We appreciated this. It seems as if non-guests could pay to enter the property to utilize the free holiday shows (good talent and nice variety), shops, and restaurants, so the public areas were quite busy and crowded during this weekend prior to Christmas. The offered photo-taking opportunities for guest and visitors with Dreamworks characters such as Puss in Boots, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda. Nice for families, if not for the congestion in walkways they caused. We attended three of the Christmas themed shows in the atrium...all of which were of good quality with talented performers. We also visited several of the property's food and libation offerings and found them to be good in quality and excellent in service. I will say, that as this time of year, if you are on a couples stay, this may be a bit too family-oriented of a location, as SO many children were everywhere. Although the weather was sunny this weekend, the temperatures never met the mid 60'sF. The pools, however, did have heating, and there were those that braved the chill for a Floridian splash. The activities for children, the towel service, and the libations were all very nice at the pool. I will say that the adult pool (although it was supposed to be heated, but evidently was not) was beautiful. We usually stay at hotels like The Four Seasons/Ritz and the adult pool at the Gaylord matched their beauty. Here's what we appreciated most. With the exception of nonexistent bell service, and the valet experience, there was not one employee that did not smile and welcome us with a perceived sincerity. It did seem as if the training they provide on "consider it done" had been effective for 95% of the staff. To sum up our experience, and considering it was a busy holiday weekend, this was a nice resort with adequate amenities and above average service. It is a shame, however, that the valet, parking, and bell service left a bad taste in our mouths. I'm not sure we will return as service is our desire, however if you have a family gathering and want something kitchy to keep the little ones busy, the Gaylord should meet your prescription.
If you don't mind lots a noise from the grand atrium, get an inside balcony room, otherwise, req...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.