St. Peterburg's grand old hotel, the Renaissance Vinoy has much to offer: a terrific setting on the water, opposite the marina (but not on the beach); a location close to downtown and all its shopping and restaurants; proximity to a slew of great museums and cultural attractions; a lovely pool, fine restaurants, a terrific veranda and outdoor patio for drinks and socializing, a nice cafe with Illy coffee and healthy snacks. Add in a golf course, tennis courts, and a spa, and you've got the whole enchilada.
Staff is helpful and warm. The rooms are spacious, and the ones overlooking the bay are especially nice.
Unfortunately, the grande dame has been the victim of a misguided re-do, epitomized by the unfortunate marketing tag, "hip octogenarian." That's never a good thing. Reminds me of what they once called Goldie Hawn, when she appeared on Letterman in some inappropriately tweeny outfit: "Mutton dressed as lamb." A bad face-lift, a la Joan Rivers. You get my drift.
The place has great bones: Mediterranean Revival architecture, a warm pink exterior, a ballroom and lobby with dramatic vaulted ceilings and quarry glazed tile floor. The ballroom even has a dramatic 1250 pound Dale Chihuly chandelier. (If you're really into Chihuly, the Morean Arts Center, three blocks away, has a whole collection of his work.)
All the elements were there to do a really classy make-over riffing on the original design. Instead, decorators seemed to want to channel South Beach hipsters and do some vaguely mid-century modern thing with starburst lighting fixtures that fight with the original Murano glass chandeliers, cheesy library shelves filled with knicknacks and that old, '80s cliche -- books all covered in the same color covers (a sure sign that content is secondary to decorating). The garish abstract art on the walls looks like it came from a street fair spin-art display. Worst of all is the carpet -- a blobby thing in turquoise, green and brown. So sad.
Functionally, the place works. The lobby's a nice place for checking your email for free, esp. since doing so in your room will cost you $15. And the little nook areas are great for small groups.
So, bottom line: I would stay there again. Much more to recommend it than to diss it. And, admittedly, others have found the remodeling charming. It just hurt me to see a really fabulous building opt for the easy, hipster fix instead of being true to its beautiful soul.