I have very fond memories of Bal Harbour from the years that my family spent summer vacation there in the late 80's. Now that I'm 30 and living back in New Jersey, I thought it would be nice to take my wife there for an off-season weekend getaway. From the moment we walked through the door, I felt as though I was 10 years old again - looking for a dollar in my pocket to exchange for quarters to use in the arcade or wanting to race up to the room so we could hit the pool or run to the ocean. Bal Harbour was once a beautiful, well kept and maintained, exciting, friendly getaway. Unfortunately, times have changed.
The clerk (young guy in his 20's) at the front desk was friendly and had a decent sense of humor. He checked us in quickly and tried to help us find a place to eat. He handed us the room key and wished us a pleasant stay. Yes, the hotel still uses metal keys for the room locks. This was the first clue that nothing had changed in 20 years.
We reserved one of the best rooms they offer with fabulous dual views of the ocean and pool, a separate private bedroom and kitchenette. Everything seemed fine as we walked through the door but things started falling a part quickly. Let me quickly list the issues with the room:
- The sofa smelled like sweat, was stained and worn in several spots. We actually didn't want to sit in it it was so bad.
- The sliding screen door leading to the balcony was bent and did not close.
- The television worked intermitently. Cable service was sporadic at best.
- The paint on the balcony was peeling and the concrete had mildew on it.
- The restroom - well, the toilet was small, difficult to flush, the toilet paper was thin and cheap, rust around the mirror, light fxitures and sink, and the shower head was at least 30 years old.
- The wallpaper was stained and peeling in several spots.
- The beds - awful. My back killed me after the first night. The matresses are firm and thin and remind me of a cheap pull-out sofa. BAD!
We ate breakfast in the restaurant our first morning there. The staff was kind but aloof and had zero interest in waiting on guests. The congregated near the kitchen and chatted among themsleves. They weren't trying to be rude - they just didn't grasp the concept of how to excel in customer service. When we got their attention, they were pleasant...but it was hard to do that when we rarely saw them. My wife and I ordered coffee. A simple request. We asked for cream and sweetener. Simple also. The cream containers were warm, wet and dirty with food on them. Sweetener - forget about it. Our server said and I quote, "A bunch of old people were in last week and stole all our artificial sweetener and because it's off-season, we're not going to order any more." I replied by saying that the hotel was going to reamin open for nearly a month more. Her response - she shrugged her shoulders and stared at us. I joked with her and said you couldn't go to WaWa to get some more - the sweetener doesn't go bad and you could use it next season. More stares. the food - eggs, toast, home-fried - mediocre at best. I will say that we didn't get sick so I guess it was OK.
After breakfast, we went to the hotel's gift shop. Because it was the end of the season, everything was on clearance so we decided to prurchase a few things totalling $40+. When I handed the clerk my credit card - she glared at me and snapped that she wasn't going to accept the card because it cost her too much in fees and her prices were reduced by such a percentage that she would lose money on the deal. I said that we would come back with cash and I think she realized that we were shocked by her initial reaction to the card that she reluctantly agreed to accept the card - all the while complaining.
The beach was awesome. The pool great. Everything was fantastic in that respect.
Bottom line - we felt as if the owners (which are new since my family stayed there in the 80's) are out to collect as much money as possible for the least amount of effort. Food was expensive, room was expensive (off-season rates), the room quality was poor at best and the trip was a disappointment. My wife, while trying to be nice, did say afterwards that she would not be up to returning. This place could be a gold mine if it were renovated and brought back to it orginal glory. Sad really.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bal Harbour is the most complete family resort complex in the Wildwoods. Spanning a full block right on the beach, it is a luxurious hotel with its own private entrance to the beautiful beaches of Wildwood Crest. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Bal Harbour Oceanfront
- Bal Harbour Oceanfront Wildwood Crest
- Bal Harbour Hotel Wildwood Crest