Detailed review by Newfloridian
North Shields, United Kingdom
Greetings from Florida! If like me your first view of the Sunshine State was the inside of Orlando International Airport, you cannot have failed to be impressed by the design and decor of its buildings. As you step off the monorail into the main concourse you are greeted not only with the Disney, Universal and SeaWorld stores but also by high atrium ceilings, fountains, pleasant paved seating areas, the full grown palm trees. What you may not have appreciated is that you are also surrounded on three sides by the outside face of a very modern and very sophisticated hotel.
I have been a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport scheme for a number of years and indeed it was an overnight stay at this very hotel which first sparked my interest in the chain. Founded in the middle 1960s on the West Coast of America the companys mission statement has been to create hotels that are more opulent, more spacious and more attentive to the needs of the business and discerning vacation traveller. The hotels tend to be sited in city centres or at major airports. They tend to be built around impressive multi-storey atria and many have distinctive water features.
Another feature of the Hyatt hotel chain is the Regency Club facility one or two floors set aside for Gold Passport holders with a restricted lounge facility, providing complementary continental breakfast and evening refreshments.
I have stayed at this hotel on seven occasions now since 2002 including three visits as a conference attendee in 2005.
The hotel is an integral part of the main concourse building of the Airport (adjacent to the landside monorail halt to Concourse B). Terraces of balconies from the bedroom windows look out over the public areas of the airport on one side, and over the runways to the other. It has in total 446 rooms over six floors of which 253 are designated King bedrooms. Three quarters of the hotel is designated non smoking accommodation.
The usual approach to the hotel (and indeed this is its front entrance) is through the airport. The Registration Desk and Concierge are situated on the fourth floor of the concourse and is approached by one of four glass faced lifts. Access to the bedroom floors is controlled by room key. A further entrance for arrival by car is from the basement level where Valet Parking is available ($13 a night) and the Bell Captain will take care of luggage. It is also possible to self parking in the main airport car park for a subsidised rate of $10 a night.
The hotel has extensive conference and exhibition facilities (31 meeting rooms, 2 ballrooms and a 160-seat theatre). These meeting rooms are named after international airports (Kai-Tak etc). During our stay we noted a large contingent of delegates discussing spinal surgery and another group of clergy and bible students. As could be expected there is an in-house airline ticket counter and a Car Rental (Dollar Rent-a-Car) desk. Also on this level is Lobby South a huge open plan seating area with a high vaulted ceiling and a balcony which overlooks the concourse. It provides quiet seating for an occasional drink or snack with large comfortable sofas. The general impression is one of chrome and glass. There are also many Chinese ceramics, more palms and potted plants. To one side is a raised and slightly segregated area overseen by a large projection television which is usually tuned in to ESPN (Sports).
It takes some getting used to the orientation of the building. The bedrooms start on the sixth floor. The simplest way is to imagine it as an elongated figure-of-eight. In the two long eyes of the 8 are corridors and indoor arboretums. Parrots and other exotic birds sit in wicker cages. Fountains and pools glint and glisten amongst the trees and shrubs. The other floors reach up to a vaulted ceiling in an escarpment providing lookout balconies for guests.
Also on this level is the indoor gymnasium and fitness centre (with a full range of treadmills, static cycles, step and rowing machines) use is complementary during your stay. There is an outside rooftop pool and sun deck.
We were expected on our arrival and our internet reservation was confirmed. Check in was quick and without fuss. There was no queue. We were provided with credit card style keys and a passport for charging around the hotel to our account. An imprint is taken of a credit card at the time of registration.
Prior to check out, an interim account is placed under your door. Check out is also very straight forward and can be done electronically through the interactive television system.
For the longest of our stays we were placed on the sixth floor (Room 6101). This was designated a non smoking king bed room. Inside the door is a corridor from which opens a reception area. To the left is a full length work top, wash hand basin and vanity mirror. Sited here is the coffee maker. Straight ahead is the storage cupboard with a suitcase stand and plenty of hanging space. Also provided is trouser press, iron and ironing board.
To the right is the large en suite bathroom. This comprised a further wash basin and worktop, with large mirror, separate shaving mirror and hair drier. There was a standard sized bath with an over-bath hair washing attachment and a separate shower cubicle. The floor and the walls behind the bath and in the shower were marble. At the end of this room was a low level toilet which even had an extension telephone screwed to the wall at waist (or seated) height!! There were plenty of towels and toiletries (Portico brand). The Hyatt also subscribes to the restriction of unnecessary washing of linen and asks guests voluntarily to reuse towels (Think globally: Act locally)
The bedroom itself was large by usual hotel standards (28 feet by 14 feet). The general décor was pale green with straw coloured carpeting. Three limited edition painting depicting Floribbean scenes were hung on walls of the room and the corridor. The room opened up through double glazed, soundproofed slider doors onto a small balcony which had outside seating and which provided us with view of the runways. As promised soundproofing was complete and the window drapes were dense enough to kill any light penetration.
The air conditioning was Florida Institution efficient and we immediately turned it to low. The king sized bed was comfortable and for once did not look oversized for the size of the room. The mattress was firm. The bedding consisted of sheets, blankets and an over drape. There was a nightly complementary turn down service.
Other furniture consisted if a standard 20 colour television housed in its armoir with the usual cable channels. Unusually one of these channels was tuned to the arrivals monitor of the airport concourse. There was a deep pile easy chair with a footstool. In the other corner was a desk with another two chairs. Guests were welcomed with a jar of boiled sweets and a series of Orlando books with maps and tourist vouchers. The hotel provided a complementary newspaper (Orlando Sentinel) each morning and there was an extensive room service menu.
The hotel was installing a T-Mobile hot spot wifi internet service during my last stay. Prior to that it was a matter of a dial-up connection.
McCoys Bar and Grill
On the evening of our arrival (a long day of some twenty hours travelling) we felt the need for a relatively light supper and a refreshing beer. McCoys bar and grill is situated on the fourth floor, the entrance at the far end of Lobby South. The Greeters station is a mock up of luggage and trunks. The restaurant itself is a long, two level affair. On the lower level are tables set out for diners; on the upper level is a long bar (seating is on tall stools) and the kitchen. At various points television monitors are affixed to the ceiling and columns. The lighting is generally low intensity. The windows at the far end look out over the airport tower and runways. The place generally was tidy and clean!!
We were seated courteously and efficiently and offered our menus. The bar boasts a range of home and imported bottled and draft beers (including Sam Adams Boston Lager on tap and their own McCoys Amber Ale brewed under licence by a brewery in Louisiana. The menu is a delight among bar food menus and features a wood-fired pizza oven. We chose a mixed platter as a starter (Chicken tenders, Deep Fried Buffalo shrimp and Chicken Pot Stickers all with a variety of spicy dips). This was followed by a catch of the day (grilled grouper) and a Cobb salad. With beers and tip this came to $62.
You may be aware that airports use a three letter identification code (London Heathrow is LHR; Newcastle is NCL). In case you are wondering where Orlando gets its MCO from, this bar and grill provides a clue. The airport was build on and developed from the old McCoy Air Force base in the 1950s. Its letters have stuck.
The Hemisphere Restaurant
Located on the ninth floor with huge picture windows overlooking the runways and taxiways, the Hemisphere presents the posh end of travelling and dining. Prior reservation is suggested for the tables that overlook these panoramic views, and certainly at night with the static coloured lights along the runways, the varying lights of the arriving and departing aircraft, the flow of the monorails out to the terminals, the busy activity of trucks, baggage handlers and fuel wagons there is always something to attract the attention while waiting for service. The main floor is spread with tables laid for parties of four or six. Families can also be seated around semicircular tables in perimeter alcoves.
Breakfast is served in the Hemisphere. One end is laid out buffet-style with the usual suspects of hot (bacon, mushroom, breakfast potato and sausage) and cold (ham, salmon) dishes. There was fresh fruit including huge chunks of beautiful pineapple. Eggs cooked any of twelve different ways are available from the waiter. There are also a number of special items by special order the most notable for our children on previous visits has been Belgian Waffles with syrup and strawberries. The continental breakfast was $7.95; the hearty breakfast (including all hot dishes) $12.95.
We booked an evening meal here too. I have to say that this dinner turned out to be a great disappointment and I do not want to swell on the experience for long. There was no bar service, only a limited and expensive selection from the printed wine list. As it happened our first choice turned out not to be in stock. The service itself was quite tardy I certainly would not recommend having a meal on spec while waiting for your plane. Service was quite tardy and the menu itself was restricted a choice of five appetisers and six entrees. When the food did arrive, the soup was lukewarm and the vegetables cold.
I attended three weekend training course conferences (Easter, May and July) during 2005. There is a self-contained lecture theatre which seated up to 200 with its own anteroom which was laid out with tables of refreshments and soft drinks. On the third weekend I had the opportunity of cashing a Hyatt.com upgrade voucher and was awarded a one bedroom suite. This was a large L-shaped room occupying one corner of the hotel. As well as the usual King sized bed and en suite bathroom there was also a sitting room with easy chairs and a dining table with six other chairs around it. As well as my diamond bonus there was also a large bowl of fruit and a platter of biscuits and cheese.
Of course, the dominating surrounding of this hotel is the airport. American airports are fascinating complexes in their own right with many shops, bars and facilities of interest. Orlando International Airport is no exception. It is now encircled by Interstate (motorway) and major dual carriageway roads. Obviously it is unlikely that you will be spending long at this hotel but there are some points of interest within a short drive.
The newly refurbished Florida Mall is 10 minutes by car and the brand new Millenium Mall (opened 2001) 20 minutes away. The latter has a number of very high class stores which are worth a browse including Niemann Marcus, Macys, Bloomingdales. The world (in)famous International Drive and Sea World are15 minutes away. It takes all of 20 minutes to drive to Walt DisneyWorld.
MAKING THE BOOKING
We booked our stay on the internet at the Hyatt website (www.Hyatt.com). A Gold Passport membership gives access to a number of special deals at selected hotels at various times and we happened across such an offer for the dates we wanted. The King sized room was priced at $160 per night and required prepayment at the time of booking. A confirmation of booking was sent by email and followed up by post. This was cancellable up to 48hours before arrival.
This Hyatt does not have a Regency Club. There is a Business Plan which has similar facilities. For an extra $25 a day you could be located on the exclusive tenth floor where the room includes fax machine and internet access. A complimentary continental breakfast is also included.
I have enjoyed my stays at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Orlando International Airport. The surroundings really are quite impressive if you take a moment to look around you in your rush from plane to hire car desk. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, drink and atmosphere at McCoys Bar and Grill. Our room has always been spacious, comfortable and clean.
On the one visit that I have described in detail above I was disappointed with the service and staff reactions at the Hemisphere Restaurant at dinner time and could not recommend this aspect highly. However I did eat there twice in 2005 and on both occasions the food and service were quite acceptable.
The niggles that could be levelled about our room (the water pressure in the shower was poor, there was no mini-bar and the television remote needed new batteries) were minor annoyances. If you are circumspect about the restaurant and forgive the latter this hotel is an excellent choice to break your journey particularly if you have just completed an arduous transatlantic flight and start your acquaintance with the Sunshine State.
Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport