My boyfriend and I decided to book a last minute beach trip over Labor Day weekend, 2013. We literally decided to go on the Thursday before the holiday. Of course, there were no hotels available on Pensacola Beach, but having been to Pensacola once before, I recalled that it was a pretty quick ride from downtown to the beach. The Crown Plaza was one of just a few hotels that actually had a room, so we booked.
This hotel is lovely and was perfect for our needs. Upon check-in, we were warmly welcomed, and even though it was about an hour and a half before "official" check-in time, they managed to find a beautiful corner room for us. This room had two walls worth of windows and it was on the front of the building, so the sound of the train was somewhat muffled. That being said, full disclosure - I grew up near train tracks and currently live within hearing distance of trains. Thus, I didn't find the sound of the train to be jarring or overly disruptive to my sleep. Also, I think that of the two nights we were there, we only heard the train once.
Back to check-in, it was quick, easy, and helpful. We received a map of the area as well as detailed instructions on how to get to the beach. The reception rep also gave us a local newsletter listing different "goings on" at the beach for the weekend. She even made recommendations as to where to go for a more quiet beach experience vs. the crowds and more lively experience along the main beach. It was a combination of "check-in" and orientation session.
As mentioned, the rooms are lovely, as is the hotel in general. If you like history, old photos, and remnants of a bygone era, the lobby and 1st floor corridors of this hotel are very interesting. Don't expect shiny, modern touches in the lobby, as the whole idea was to retain the charm and style of the old train station, which they have done. The rooms on the other hand, are very modern with comfortable, plush beds, nice pillows, and good lighting. The bathroom was spacious and actually had a separate vanity area outside of the main bathroom.
The drive to the beach was maybe 15 minutes tops, and that was on a holiday weekend. It's an easy drive without a lot of twists and turns. Although we were aware that the hotel was within walking distance to many of the downtown venues and activities, we never got a chance to explore any of those. This was a beach trip and we stayed on the boardwalk until late each night.
The beach is nice in terms of size and room to "spread out." Regrettably, we caught it on a weekend when there was a fair amount of small pieces of seaweed-type debris in the water, so the gulf water was dark and greenish - not the clear, pretty blue color that it sometimes displays. Nonetheless, the water was warm, the floor of the gulf was soft (vs. rocky), and thankfully, we didn't see any jellyfish, which are often prevalent in this area. There are lifeguards on the beach, and I think you can rent chairs and umbrellas, but it looked like most people had brought their own, which I recommend. There are restaurants, ice cream parlors, gift shops, bars, and public restrooms along the beach and on the boardwalk. Over the Labor Day weekend, the city sponsored a Jamaican Festival on the boardwalk with free live reggae music in the evenings and vendors selling Jamaican food and jewelry. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that there were fireworks over the beach on that Saturday night. It seems that the city really invests in showing tourists a good time.
We can't make a lot of recommendations regarding restaurants other than first off, to confirm that the hotel restaurant is just so-so and I would not recommend it. It seemed to be understaffed on the first morning we were there (a Saturday) and the gentleman at the door (I think it was Robert) was not what I'd call friendly and engaging. It seemed that he was seating guests, serving as the waiter, AND clearing tables. He neglected to give us the option of the breakfast buffet, and we didn't realize a buffet was available until we had already placed our orders. When I saw the buffet, I said, "Can you tell us about the buffet?" And he gave a flippant response something to the effect of, "A buffet is a place with a food line where people can select what they want." Maybe he thought he was funny. So I said, "No, is the buffet available for US?" And then he was like, "Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't tell you about the buffet?" At any rate, we waited a VERY long time for our food and it was mediocre at best. We then waited a long time to get our check. The next morning, we thought we'd try the buffet. NOPE. It's not available on Sundays. What's the logic of THAT? We left and went to good old Waffle House up the street. Secondly, for dinners, we ate both nights at Hemingways Island Grill, located on the boardwalk. This place is fabulous - it's Cuban/Caribbean food and great drinks. They have a lovely back porch that's out over the water. Once we ate there the first night, we wanted to go back. So that concludes my recommendation about "where to dine."
In conclusion, the Crown Plaza Grand Pensacola was an excellent choice. We even booked it by default, as there were very few rooms available for our last minute trip. We were pleasantly surprised by the hotel and all aspects of the Pensacola/pensacola Beach area. I recommend the Crown Plaza very highly. If you go, have fun.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to the Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel, Pensacola s premier upscale hotel! Our hotel is located on the site of the Historic L&N Railroad Passenger Depot , which was built in 1912. The depot has been restored and now houses our lobby, CAVU lounge, 1912 Restaurant, Pandora's Skin & Beauty studio, The Tea Party gift shop, meeting rooms and the Grand Ballroom; creating charming ambiance. Our fifteen story, glass, guest room tower attached to the train depot offers breath taking views of Pensacola Bay and Historic Downtown Pensacola . We are pleased to offer the Crowne Plaza Sleep Advantage package in every room featuring comfortable new beds, guaranteed wake-up calls and sleep amenities. The Crowne Plaza Pensacola Grand Hotel is just off of I-110, Gregory St. in the prestigious downtown district, just 10 minutes away from Pensacola Regional Airport (PNS) and conveniently located next door to the Pensacola Civic Center . Ranking 7th in Overall Customer Satisfaction in all of Crowne Plazas-worldwide; we know that you will be thrilled with the service you will receive. Businesses near hotel: Solutia, International Paper, Gulf Power, Andrew s Institute Attractions near hotel: Pensacola Beach, Naval Aviation Museum, Seville Quarter/Seville Square ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Crowne Plaza Pensacola
- Pensacola Crowne Plaza