This was our first trip to Panama City Beach and the first time that a Trip Advisor hotel rating has let us down. I should not have discounted the “terrible” ratings (because there were so few) when choosing this hotel. In this case, they were accurate. My husband and I have traveled a good amount over the years and many times to beachfront hotels and condos. We know what we should be able to expect from a family-owned hotel like this, and were misled by the large number of high ratings it garnered on Trip Advisor. At the time I researched PCB hotels this past May, Osprey was rated #3 while its sister hotel, the Driftwood, was rated #2. Now I see the Osprey has risen to #2 (and was even #1 shortly after our trip) with the Driftwood at #3. This would imply that these are among the best hotels that PCB has to offer. I find that hard to believe! If true, it doesn’t say much for PCB's hotel offerings. In my adult life, this is the worst hotel I’ve stayed in except for a military BOQ in France that we moved out of after one night. I will describe first the causes for my utter disappointment, even disgust. When I booked the reservation, I reserved 5 nights. There was a possibility I was going to have to back off the last night of the stay if my husband had to leave a day early to attend a meeting in SC, but we decided to book the 5 nights and would cancel the last night if it came to that. My husband’s meeting was confirmed just after the 14-day notice requirement had passed. We were only cancelling the last night (not the entire reservation), and the night being cancelled was more than 14 days out, so we didn’t think it would be a problem (even if they charged us the $20 room cancellation fee they normally charge if you cancel an entire reservation prior to the 14-day deadline). My husband called and was informed that if we cancelled the last night, we’d lose our entire (over $300) deposit because there was a 5-night minimum stay required (this didn’t even make sense; we could have just left a day early and paid the $150 for the one night we didn’t stay). This policy was not on their web site, was not told to me when I booked on the phone, nor was it specified on the confirmation paperwork I received from the hotel after booking. My husband pointed this out to the front desk clerk after we arrived (though, fortunately he’d been able to move his meeting to a day later). We’d doublechecked, and the only thing the web site vaguely mentions is a minimum stay requirement. She responded that the minimum stay changes depending on the time of year, and that by state law they can require up to a 14-day minimum stay. So I guess they make up the rules as they go along to suit themselves. Their attitude in this discussion was defensiveness rather than even a conciliatory I’m sorry. Any reputable hotel has a defined policy as regards minimum stays. If minimum stay requirements change based on time of year, that should be clearly specified on a calendar much like seasonal hotel rates are specified. Knowing that we might have to cancel one night at the end, I should have asked about any minimum stay requirement. It didn’t even occur to me to do so because I’ve never encountered a hotel, even at the beach in high season, that had more than a 3-night minimum and we’d be staying at least 4 nights. And the minimum stay requirement wasn’t stressed at all on the website, so it wasn’t something I was thinking about. I will add that I have never in all my travels in the US and abroad seen such a restrictive, loaded-with-rules cancellation policy. Even with my above-average reading comprehension, I had to read it a couple times to understand it. That should have been my first clue.
When we first opened door to the room, I thought I detected the scent of cleaners and thought that was a good sign. After stepping in, however, the odor of urine was prevalent. We had some visitors a couple days later who commented immediately on the urine smell in the room. At that point, we’d gotten used to it. This is an old hotel that does not appear to have ever been updated, and the smells are probably trapped in the carpet/tile/toilet, etc. We unloaded some things from the cooler into the fridge. Some water dripped on the tile floor. A few minutes later I noticed how muddy the floor was. I asked where the dirt came from. My husband, who had taken off his shoes and socks after we were in room, discovered that his feet were black from the carpet, and it was turning the water on floor black. The carpet was disgustingly filthy. I doubt it has ever been cleaned. On another occasion, my husband took a shower when we came in from the beach, was completely dry, walked around in room a few minutes before lying back in bed to watch TV. My son walked in and said, “Dad, what’s wrong with your feet?!” They were so black it was unbelievable. I shudder to think about all the people staying in this hotel with toddlers/babies. I hope they don’t let them down on that floor. I looked under the bed when we were leaving (no platform to prevent stuff from getting kicked under), and was repulsed. Apparently vacuuming does not extend to under the beds.
The king-size bed was completely worn out. You could look at it even in its made-up state with the bedspread on and see the large swales on either side of the bed. Sleeping in it was like sleeping in a hole. The pillows were awful. In the past, I’ve taken my own pillow on trips, but have really found that it’s one less thing I need to pack because the pillows in hotels have always been fine. My husband joked that it was like they grabbed hard chunks of the mattress filling and stuffed them into the pillows. They were filled with hard, unyielding chunks of foam and had no give. I was miserable and had trouble sleeping the last two nights there. I need a pillow, but those things didn’t qualify. My husband complained about the bed after the first night, and the front desk staff said they’d have housekeeping fix it. He laughed and said the bed was worn out, you couldn’t “fix” it, and that it needed to be replaced with a new one. It appeared they did something with attempting to prop up the sagging centers, but it was pretty ineffective. Looking under the bed at the end of our stay showed again how worn out the bed was; the boxspring’s guts looked like they were ready to fall out on the floor. Like everything else (except for the TV), I believe the beds are original.
On our first day going down to the beach, my husband was holding the wooden handrail as we went down the steps leading to beach. Suddenly he shouted in pain. One of the vertical pickets going up to the handrail had been cut short and did not rise up to meet the rail like it should. His thumb gouged into its sharp edge as he was moving his hand down the railing. That was a painful problem for him the rest of the stay that probably should have had medical attention, but instead he doctored himself. Upon checking out, he mentioned what happened to the gal at the front desk. Her response was, “Ouch.” Not, I’m sorry that happened. Would you please show us where this is so we can address the issue? Nope. Just, “Ouch.” In case you might think that this was just an irresponsible employee, the man who appears to be the manager (or owner?) of the hotel was just a few feet away shooting the breeze with someone who was obviously a returning patron of the hotel, heard the conversation, and didn’t step up and say anything. Just ignored it. We noticed when looking at the balconies above us on the sun deck that the rebar is exposed and rusting. It’s just a matter of time before chunks of concrete start breaking away and falling below. When someone gets knocked out, I can hear the hotel staff now, “Ouch.” I’d say this complacent attitude pretty much sums up the attitude you can expect from the management/owners of this hotel and is evident in every aspect of its operation. They’ve rated as high as #1 on Trip Advisor, they have a lot of people who return there year after year with their children and even their children’s children, and grown children returning with their families, and I suspect the hotel’s ratings are propped up with a lot of sentimentality. No need to do any updating, maintenance beyond the very minimum necessary, or even basic repairs. The owners are still raking in the money with what appears to be a minimum of investment. This complacency shows a lack of any respect for their customers. In this review, I haven’t even pointed out the myriad of otherwise little things that on their own would not have bothered me so much, but there were a lot of little things that added up, too. In a nutshell: barely adequate space in parking lot near hotel to load/unload; no provided Do Not Disturb signs for door, so maids disturb same time every morning—that was annoying for us and, I suppose, awkward for them; towels are worn out like everything else at this place (come on, go out and buy some decent pillows and new towels!); barely adequate facilities provided to shower off after coming off beach; worn out fan in bathroom/very noisy; A/C system where fan contantly runs while cooling function cycles on and off so constant noise, but it did keep room cool;
Being a fair-minded person, I do want to point out the few positive things about this hotel which are all that keep me from rating it “terrible”: wonderful beachfront location with beautiful, unobstructed view from the room; lovely deck at beachfront (wooden rather than concrete, which I find a plus) with palm trees located around it providing shady spots among the sunny areas to relax with great view of the Gulf; because both Osprey and Driftwood are not very large hotels, the beach in front of them is not super-crowded like you will find in front of the high-rises; rooms are very quiet (no sounds from any neighboring rooms) except for noise from street-side through door; tiki bar is a convenient, atmospheric touch--but service, while friendly, was way too slow (and I’m a patient person); parking isn’t too bad—nearly impossible to get place right at hotel, but lots of parking in their lot across street, and the spaces there are not nearly so tightly spaced. Just be careful crossing the street, esp. w/kids, because while most drivers are courteous and let you cross, others are idiots and drive too fast. For us, the negatives with this hotel far outweighed the positives. I suppose there’s a reason they have such restrictive cancellation policies. We’d have run screaming after one night if we could have. As it was, we were trapped like rats and just made the best of the positives.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located directly on the Gulf of Mexico, Osprey On The Gulf offers the family vacation of a lifetime and the memories to match. If you are looking for a vacation that offers the combination of tranquility and adventure in an atmosphere of natural beauty, let the the Osprey on the Gulf serve as your perfect family vacation spot. Each room offers full kitchen and extra large private balcony over looking the Gulf of Mexico. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Osprey On The Gulf Hotel Panama City Beach