My previous post detailed the travel portion of our Fort Lauderdale trip. Here are the details about the Fort Lauderdale Trip hotel, food, and activities.
The W Fort Lauderdale reminds me of a Vegas hotel minus the casino. All of the action happens on the extravagant fourth and fifth floors. The fifth floor has the gym, pool, an awesome outdoor bar, lots of seating, and a great view of the boulevard, beach, and ocean below. The 4th floor contains the check in desk, a restaurant, bar area, and lots of seating. The stairwell between the 4th and 5th floors ascends up through the middle of the pool and has glass walls. There were also a couple of restaurants and a spa, but I do spend enough cash to venture inside of those.
The nearby elevator only goes from ground level to the fifth floor. The ground level doesn’t exit near the beach, but at the valet area, which is a block inland. If there was a quick way from the pool area to the beach, I never found it. You had to walk all the way to the valet area, and walk on the side walk back towards the beach. I got the vibe that the W Fort Lauderdale is designed like Vegas hotels to purposefully trap you inside.
In order to get to the room from the front desk, you must walk down a long hallway to get to an elevator that goes to the hotel rooms. Our room was on the 21st floor, and there were only 3 floors above us. The hotel goes straight up for about 18 floors and then angles back, so that the top floors get smaller and have less rooms.
Our room had a bathroom that was not family friendly, but provided lots of laughs. The bathroom had a curtain instead of a door. There was a solid frosted glass sliding door for the toilet. The kicker was the wall between the shower and the beds was solid glass. There was a shower curtain hung crookedly with sketchy suction cups from that glass wall. This full length glass shower wall had two queen beds in prime viewing position beside it.
I decided to wait until our room was semi-neat to take a picture, but then made an amateur blogger mistake, and never took a picture.
The picture above is not our room, but it is similar. I had to find an online picture later, and this may have been before a remodel. You can make out the shower head in the top left, and there is no shower curtain mounted on the window of this room. It might make sense with 2 guests and a king size bed, but we had two queens. I don’t think I know anybody who would be comfortable with this arrangement and 4 guests.
The room was beautiful and clean, with luxurious beds and linens. The minibar was full of
over obscenely priced drinks and snacks.
The balcony was skinny, but very long. It had one chair and one table. The next balcony forward had 3 chairs, a table, and a couch. I never even considered the difficulty factor of
stealing retrieving that couch from our neighbor.
Fort Lauderdale’s main drag North Fort Lauderdale Boulevard separates the beach from the hotels. Outdoor seating for restaurants lines the street level with tall hotels above. There aren’t any buildings on the beach side of the street. A wide sidewalk and a cool curved white wall separates the street and the beach, and there are no sand dunes at all.
We saw 2 Rolls, 5 Lambos, lots of Teslas, and lots of Ferraris. I stopped noticing Corvettes unless they were awesome, old, classic models. Drive a new loaded Honda Accord down N. Fort Lauderdale Blvd and you look like a bum.
Starwood Hotel Benefits
We chose the Fort Lauderdale W because I have collected plenty of Starwood and Marriott points. The Starwood/Marriott merger made it possible to transfer points between the hotel programs. It also caused the hotel chains to share status. In 2016, I earned platinum Marriott status, and that automatically gave me platinum status with Starwood Hotels as well. The status runs through Feb 2018 and I have been favoring Marriott and Starwood hotels to take advantage.
I spent 36,000 Starwood points for the hotel. It would have cost a little over a grand, if I had paid cash for the 3 nights.
Platinum status gives early and late checkout. We took advantage of both perks, checking in at 1:00 PM Mon, and did not check out until 2:00 PM Thu.
Platinum status also gives an upgraded room, and I was hoping for a suite. There was no suite upgrade, but we were given a high floor room, near the front of the hotel, with a great ocean view. I can’t remember the exact wording, but the hotel clerk used a word like upgraded to a “preferred plus” room.
Free breakfast is another benefit of status. We were given a $25 credit for our breakfast each day. I was a little disappointed when they explained how they handled this benefit, but it turned out to be useful for us. Each morning at the bar, they had free awesome coffee. They had bagels, muffins, croissants, etc, and there was also a selection of bottled drinks in ice. By the time everyone chose something to eat, the grownups had free coffee, and the kids chose bottled Starbucks drinks, the bill was close to $25. This may have been better than getting 2 restaurant breakfasts for the adults and having to find something else for the kids.
As teachers, we can’t afford to spend a lot of cash when we travel. There would have been food expenses in Roanoke, and we try to vacation in a way, where our travel food expenses are not too much higher. Before the trip, we made a plan to indulge, with one restaurant dinner, on Wed night. At home, we packed crackers, nuts, chips, raisins, candy bars, and Easter candy into our luggage. The airport Residence Inn breakfast had great single serve peanut butter and Nutella containers. Somehow a bunch of peanut and hazelnut goodness found its way into my luggage.
When I check into a hotel, I have an immediate mission to find the nearby convenience store, and obtain normal priced drinks and snacks. 3$ cokes in the vending machine and 5$ cokes in the minibar are just not an option. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a convenient convenience store anywhere near this hotel. There is rip-off CVS half a mile south. There are 7-11’s 0.8 miles north and another 0.8 miles south. The nearest grocery store is Publix which requires a walk north to the 7-11, turn west, and across the drawbridge.
Between food brought from Roanoke, smuggled items from the Raleigh Residence Inn, snacks from 7-11, and items from the 25$ breakfast credit, we covered breakfast and lunch.
Our first night for dinner, we had pizza on the wall beside the beach. We bought a large pizza and a chicken Caesar wrap for $27 at a local pizza shop. The pizza shop did not look like much, and I don’t remember its name, but the pizza was pretty good. The wind was a little challenging, but a picnic on the wall, on a crowded beach boulevard is more fun than any restaurant.
For our big restaurant dinner, we walked south, turned inland across the draw bridge, and made our way to Las Olas Boulevard. Las Olas has lots of shops, local restaurants, and chain restaurants. After the 2 mile walk, we were hot and hungry. It may sound lame to pick Cheesecake Factory as our extravagant dinner out, but I was with the kids. JS Jack had never been to Cheesecake Factory, and JS Jill loved it on her only previous visit. We dined on 2 entrees, one appetizer, and drinks, and then took 2 slices of cheese cake to go. Including tip, we spent about $100. On the walk home, we stopped at Cole Hammock Park, and ate the cheese cake, overlooking the Tarpon River, and some incredible mansions. Walking through the neighborhoods of Fort Lauderdale has some great views. There is lots of shade and some really expensive looking houses.
Our final night dinner came from the deli at the Publix grocery store. We ordered a fried chicken dinner, chicken tender dinner, and grabbed a container of chicken in orange sauce. The dinners came with mac and cheese, fries, corn, and rolls. Along with a large bottle of water and a fountain drink, I dropped $22. It made a great picnic at nearby George English Park overlooking the waterway. The chicken with orange sauce had an extra 6 ounces of sauce in the bottom of the tray and all our chicken ended up getting dunked in that sauce.
Our last night, Mrs. JumpStart and I enjoyed a bottle of champagne on the balcony with our one chair and the desk chair I had to drag outside. If you hadn’t guessed the champagne came from Publix. I joked with the guy bagging groceries that the half bottle of champagne, we were buying for $6.50 was $45 bucks in our hotel mini bar. Later when I checking the accuracy of my joke, it was actually $50 bucks for the similar bottle in the mini bar.
Beach and Pool
Included with the mandatory resort fee is a pair of chairs and an umbrella at the beach. There are attendants that check your room number, and set you up with towels. Fort Lauderdale’s beach is beautiful and the ocean can be very calm. During our trip, the ocean was rough, and the life guards were not letting people venture very far into the ocean. There was also a lot of grass, sea weed, and debris floating. Due to only having 2 chairs and the ocean conditions, we spent more of our time at the pool.
The pool deck was pretty incredible, and filled with couches, beds, chairs, umbrellas, and shaded areas. With only a few sections marked reserved, it was easy to find a great spot. Pool attendants supplied towels, and there was ice water available. My only complaint is due to the windy conditions, we were quickly shut down when we opened our umbrella. The attendant explained that an umbrella had blown over the railing last week.
Our family does not mind walking, and with the exception of the airport trips, we did not get into a car, bus, trolley, or train. I walked over 10 miles Tue, and another 10 miles on Wed. There is a free trolley that runs along the strip, but we never took advantage of it.
Fort lauderdale is not my top beach choice, because it is a little too familiar.
I would rather stay in nearby South Beach, which feels like visiting a foreign country. In South Beach, I feel ignorant for my
weak non-existent Spanish language skills. Affordable exotic foods like empanadas, pastries, and cuban coffee are easy to find. The people/car watching is the best in the world.
I also love Myrtle Beach due to easy access and affordability. In Myrtle, I have a place to stay, know where to buy 2$ beers, know where all the bargain happy hour appetizers are sold, and have access to surf boards.
However Fort Lauderdale’s hotels are much more affordable than the South Beach hotels. There is a better assortment of chain hotels that can be secured with hotel points than in Myrtle Beach. In April, South Florida has the high temperatures that I crave. The Fort Lauderdale airport is much less hectic than the Miami airport. Fort Lauderdale is easily accessible from Roanoke, and with the right techniques can be affordable.
I can not say enough nice things abut the W Fort Lauderdale. Our finest hotel stays have been in NYC, Vegas, South Beach, and Saint Thomas. I would rank the W up there with all of these fine hotels. Our great treatment by the hotel staff, and their incredible lobby and pool area made for a relaxing Spring Break.