After mentioning that I had been having some serious Roller Coaster withdrawals for quite some time, The Male decided to steal me away to Orlando for a few days of intense Amusement Park action. We had decided that Universal had the best coasters in town, so the search began for a great rate near their parks. The Crowne Plaza Universal came out the clear winner at an unbelievable 60-some bucks. Hell, it’s hard to get a Motel 6 for that rate in Orlando. Pays to do your on-line homework, that’s for sure.
We had a bit of an adventure finding the place, having gotten really confusing directions from mapquest. Sometimes they’re really great, other times they’ll have you driving an hour to find a place 15 minutes away. It really is easy to find from the airport… just call the Crowne Plaza and ask for Brian. He gives great directions!
When we did find the hotel, we pulled up and were promptly greeted by the very friendly valet staff. They grabbed our luggage and whisked the car off to wherever it would rest for the next few days (I think it’s like $8 per day.) There was a time or two when I needed something out of it that I’d forgotten, like my cane, and Brian or one of the others would happily go fetch it. Seriously, they never rolled their eyes or gave any indication that I was being a pain in the butt at all… even when I asked for my car only to change my mind after it was brought up to me. I adore the Crowne Plaza staff.
Check in was rapid and just as pleasant as parking was. The Male turned on the charm and even though we were already getting an exceptional rate, we were upgraded to the Club Floor. Although there is a key slot in the elevator to access the floor, it has been disabled so just hit that button for the 15th and there ya go… you do still need your room key to get into the actual club up there though.
But back to the lobby first… the Crowne Plaza lobby is really pretty and spacious. To the right is the front desk where you will always find happy, smiling staff; to the left is the visitors desk where you can get discount tickets to the area parks (for a short time-share spiel… pass!), coupons, directions, whatever. The gentleman manning this desk is quite helpful.
To the back and right is the bar area which also serves lunch and appetizers. We did eat lunch here the first day. It was typical bar food. I mean to say it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t spectacular either. I went with these satay chicken finger things expecting a pineapple & peanut sauce… what I got was pretty standard chicken laying over a bed of pineapple with pretty swirlies of peanut sauce off to the side. It looked very nice, presentation-wise, but was kinda bland. The Male went with a Mahi-mahi sandwich I believe it was (I get all them fish confused) and it was really much better than my chicken. I seem to recall they were between 6-8 bucks apiece.
Beyond the bar is the dinner restaurant, which we never did check out. There is a pizza place back to the left by the elevators, which also serves breakfast, and a reasonably priced gift shop.Standing out back and facing the Crowne Plaza, all these places I’ve mentioned are in a kind of ‘U’. The pool (c-c-c-cold) is in the center of everything and does have a hot tub attached. The landscaping is very nice and well kept in spite of the recent spate of hurricanes that seemed to be all finding their way across Orlando at the time. Tables are all around this area and smoking is allowed here. Ending the left branch of this is a small health club with a few bikes, treadmills, and a Nautilus machine. Towels are provided for the spa and the pool.
The pool area looks up to all the room windows. Pay attention, this will come clear later…
Our Club Room was on the top floor (15th). The elevators are glass and view the inside of the hotel. Most floors have their doors opening onto this area, which is a really cool area to meet guests and sit and visit. The decor at this hotel is just really kicky-fun. Kind of abstract with bright colors, but not over done at all.
The Club is right off the elevators and is pretty nice. It’s pseudo-divided into various niches inside the main room so you can have a bit of privacy with your group, yet still interact with other areas should you so desire. The two gals working this room were just as pleasant as the rest of the Crowne Plaza Hotel staff… eager to please and obviously happy with their jobs. This club offers the usual; Beer, wine, coffee, bottled water, limited sodas, and snacks which vary according to the time of day. The Male had a bagel here one morning, and we sampled their hot wings before we went to dinner one night. They were pretty good, actually. There is also usually a tray of fruits like strawberries, pineapples, etc there, which I enjoyed a great deal. We stole some brownies to take back to the room for later.
Ok… the part you have all been waiting for: The room itself. Very nice. We had two full beds just filled with pillows and the cushiest duvet ever. The beds were extremely comfortable (although just a notch under the Eden Roc in Miami). There was no fridge or microwave in here, but we had a nice sized desk with high speed Internet (although not wireless, for that you have to go down to the lobby and sit.) We never opened the cabinet thingy (what the hell is that word I want…) but there was every indication it held a TV inside.
The bathroom was big and set up for handicapped persons. There was no tub in this room (1526), but the shower was large and had hand rails all along the wall and a shower bench that could be folded up out of the way if you didn’t feel like playing with it… We were left with a shampoo/conditioner combo, mending kit, shower cap, and soaps. As to that shampoo… it did not dry my hair out real bad like most places, but it smelled decidedly like a man’s cologne. How odd is that? One problem we did have is that there is no lip to the shower so even with the curtain drawn, the entire bathroom flooded each time we showered. That’s a bit irritating.
The best part of the room is the wall though. You see, the entire outside wall is window. This window overlooks the pool area. It’s floor-to-ceiling. What a great view! We left the curtains open the entire time…. remember the pool being able to see all the windows? yeeeeeah…. (There are probably several full-view pics of The Male all over the Internet by now.) Can’t take that boy anywhere, I’m tellin’ ya…
As to location, they are a $6 cab ride away from Universal, but Crowne Plaza does have a shuttle that doesn’t take all that long and is free. We were picked up at 8AM and arrived at the park by 8:30 after 5 stops along the way at other hotels. Not bad at all. It went fast. There is also a great restaurant right next door if you cut through the parking lot, and a strip mall with various things you might want during your stay connected to the lot.
Do I recommend this place? Absolutely. I’m giving it a full 5 stars. You can tell when a place has good management by how happy the staff is and how well they interact with each other… this manager deserves a raise.
7800 Universal Boulevard Orlando, FL 32819