Monday, January 3, 2011

Hotel Review- Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa- Hollywood, Florida

Several times a year we travel throughout the world to attend conferences and classes. Sometimes the resorts or hotels these are held at can be less than desirable but sometimes we find a gem or a resort - and this is one of those gems.

We arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and had our favorite shuttle service, Sun and Moon Express, pick us up for the half hour ride to the Westin Diplomat. Located on a pretty strip of a beach, we were lucky enough to arrive before Christmas when the resort was decorated in it's full holiday beauty.

We were immediately assisted by a valet who took our luggage and guided us to the beautiful lobby. The lobby was huge, with the standard fountains, plenty of seating, bars, restaurants, a sundry store and more. The hotel is split into two towers, North and South. Check in was very quick and the front desk clerks were extremely courteous. Our room was on the 21st floor of the South Tower. We got our key, grabbed our luggage and took one of the many elevators to our room.

The room was very well apportioned. Our room faced the Intracoastal and State Road A1A. Upon entering, the bathroom was to the immediate left. There were separate shower and toilet enclosed glass rooms, the sink and a huge tub on the right. The wall above the tub had shutters that opened directly into the room. There were two heavy robes in the bathroom for use. Toiletries included nice spa type soaps and shampoo.

Past the bathroom was the actual room. We had a room with two queen sized beds which were to the left in the room. To the right was a sleek credenza with a granite top, flat screen t.v. refrigerator with mini bar and a separate empty refrigerator, along with some drawers in between the two. There was also a coffee maker.

Also in the room was a desk and chair and an easy chair. The balcony was past that with wonderful views of the sunset at night. The closet had plenty of hangers, a safe on top of the shelf (difficult to get to) and ironing board and iron.

Beds were very comfortable and the room was very clean. Mini-bar items were very expensive - we never used any of the mini-bar items. Internet access in the room was $14.95 per day, but there is free wireless access in the lobby - which was crowded most of the time with people and their laptops.

After putting away our clothing, we decided to take a walk and see what else was in the hotel. In the lobby, we had a drink at the bar, which also had a small sushi restaurant with some excellent sushi. There is also a Cafe which is open until about 10 PM that had pre-made sandwiches, salads, muffins, soda, water, bottle juices and absolutely fantastic gelato.

There were several other restaurants on property that we didn't have a chance to eat at because we were in classes and meetings both days of our stay. We did buy a few things from the sundries shop to snack on in the room.

Since it was dark when we arrived, we didn't get to see the pools and beach until the next day. The outside property was excellent, with two stories of pools. The upper pool was an infinity pool with plenty of lounger chairs. The pools on the lower deck featured a waterfall, several hot tubs and meandered from each tower. In the center was a chair that enabled a wheelchair patron to be lowered and raised in and out of the water. There was a bar on the lower level.

Around the pools were private cabanas and casitas that could be rented out or that you could get a massage in. They also had an inflatable kids jumping cage. The beach itself was lovely - clean, with some covered seating.

There is also a Kids Club with activities for the kids for an extra fee.

Most of our time was spent in the meeting rooms. The rooms were a bit chilly at all times. The convention center is in the southernmost wing of the hotel, which was totally separate from the rest of the hotel. Since there were times we needed to board buses to go out of the hotel with our group, this was convenient as it didn't interfere with the regular comings and goings from the hotel.

We noticed a strange phenomenon that occurred at dusk every evening. A huge flock of birds begins chirping and starts gathering around the convention center. Suddenly, with one fell swoop, they all fly into the air and then onto the roof of the parking garage across the street. It happened every evening of our stay and was quite entertaining to watch. You almost watch for Tippy Hedrin to appear on the garage roof with them!

Across the street from the hotel was a huge parking garage. When looking at it, it appears that there was shopping also in it but in fact there was not. There were two restaurants and a bar and one or two stores that were closed at night. We didn't quite understand the point of the garage, since it appeared nearly empty. There is a walkway over the road right from the hotel to walk over to it. We did have drinks one night outside overlooking the intracoastal. Self parking is $20 per day.

The only issue we found with the hotel is that there is really nothing else around it. If you don't have a car, you need to be prepared to relax, as there is no shopping or activities other than what is at the resort. There is a spa on site, but we did not have the time to avail ourselves to any treatments.

There is a free shuttle that goes between the beach and the golf club. In addition, the City of Hollywood has a pay trolley that has three different routes. The South Beach Line picks up at the WESTIN and has a few stops. You can transfer to two other lines. We did go into downtown Hollywood one night and enjoyed a delightful evening exploring and having dinner and drinks at some of the restaurants in the area.

Next time we cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale, we plan on staying here and spending a few days to enjoy the beach and the resort. It was a very nice change of pace. It's also a great convention hotel.

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