2. Spotting “Maldives” Sunrises and Man-Of-War in Melbourne
3. Space Kennedy Center and Planes Galore
4. Clearwater Beach: Crowds, Pirates, F-Bombs, Oh My!
Melbourne was our first stop after picking up my parents from the airport in Orlando. The reasons? Club Carlson BOGO benefit (now dead) and Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront in Melbourne Right now some of you may be wondering where Melbourne is. Well, it’s not in Australia, I’ll tell you that! How about I let the photograph tell the story. After driving 1 hour from Orlando airport, you will be seeing this each morning, depending on the weather:
Here is mom enjoying beautiful views, probably my favorite memory of the trip. She was happy as a clam in this place. Interestingly, when you check Trip Advisor reviews, three were written by Russians. I’ll include a screenshot of one of them, which pretty much sums up my feelings:
To translate, since Google version sounded a bit like gibberish:
Hotel for hermits
Minuses: This place is far from everyone and everything (which is kind of what I wanted). Not much to do here, it’s a quaint town. The building itself is ordinary and unremarkable. Pluses: Close to the beach, all rooms face the ocean, decent 2-room suite with a balcony.
Spot on, my Russian-speaking comrade. We were there during the peak of Spring Break, and this is how the beach looked like majority of the time.
The building itself was erected in the eighties and was meant to be a condominium. However, Radisson ended up buying it and converting it to a hotel.
Watch out for that cord if you have small kids. Just saying… But it was clean, which is the most important thing to me. In case you are wondering, these are all the gifts my mom brought in her suitcase. There was even a loaf of bread. She takes gifting very seriously and dropped her entire month salary on all the goodies. I know, because the price tags were still attached.
Hotel has a nice heated pool and a jacuzzi, which were not crowded most of the time. My kids had a blast here! In fact, it was so much fun, I forgot to reapply sunscreen on the very first day, and we all ended up getting a nasty sunburn. My shoulders hurt for the rest of the trip. Don’t ever underestimate the power of Florida sun, even in March.
My mom couldn’t care less about the pool. She came here to swim in the ocean. It didn’t matter that it was cold and that the waves were rough. If you have small kids, I’m not sure they will be able to get in the water, to be honest. However, mine enjoyed just playing in the sand and building sandcastles.
Unfortunately, we happened to be in Melbourne when a ton of Portuguese man-of-war creatures (similar to jelly fish) washed up on shore. And boy, can they sting! My mom’s leg got all red and swollen, and I was very concerned. However, it got better by the evening, and she was back in the water right away. You couldn’t pay my dad to go in the ocean, he admired the views from the balcony after the incident.
It’s funny because I can see how I’m a mix of both personalities. My mom is fearless and is up for anything. My dad, on the other hand, is a total chicken. And I happen to be like both of my parents.
Is it worth signing up for Club Carlson credit card in order to stay in this hotel?
It really depends. I think potential value is definitely there, especially if you are just looking for a short beachfront getaway after visiting Disney. The drive here is relatively easy, and the views can’t be beat. There are some fast-food places nearby, including McDonalds. I recently wrote about Radisson in my post on best beachfront bargains on points, so you can see more details on ways to stretch your bonus.
We’ve talked to several people who were paying $185 per night all-in (I didn’t ask, they told us), and they were all saying what a good deal it is for the money. I would have to agree. Apparently, they now charge $6 per night for parking, an obnoxious nickel and diming, but not a deal breaker.
If you are looking for a 2-night stay in peak season, it will be very hard to beat this price. Sure, you could get a condo. But, by the time you add cleaning fees, it will probably be a wash. Remember, you are getting an actual suite with a separate bedroom door. Do keep in mind that sleeper sofa will probably only suit small children. You could feel the springs and it just didn’t look like something a teenager could sleep on. Consider paying extra $20-$30 per night to upgrade to a suite with bunkbeds, if available.
If you sign up for a Club Carlson Visa Signature, you’ll get enough points for two nights at this property by the time you meet minimum spending requirements. Assuming you would actually pay $185 per night, after deducting the annual fee of $75, the bonus would be worth $300. And that doesn’t take into account leftover points, which would be almost enough for a potential “free” night at Cat. 2 property. Here is direct non-affiliate link for this card.
You receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days. Annual fee of $75 is not waived. Be aware, from the terms of the application:
“ If eligible, you will receive the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card. If not eligible for the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card, you will automatically be considered for the Club Carlson Platinum Rewards Visa Card which earns 50,000 Bonus Gold Points® after first purchase, plus an additional one-time spend bonus of 10,000 Gold Points after spending at least $1,500 in net purchases on the card within the first 90 days of account opening. Annual fee of $50 is not waived.”
An alternative: You could get one of Hilton sign-up bonuses instead and redeem points on Doubletree Suites Melbourne Beach Oceanfront hotel The cost is 40,000 points per night; 30,000 in the off-season. All rooms are suites (fit up to 6) and face the ocean. The property is located next door to Radisson.
In spite of its somewhat shabby appearance, I think this hotel (and area in general) is a winner. I absolutely loved being so close to Atlantic ocean. You could hear the waves, smell the salt and see the birds flying over the water. One time I even spotted a pod of dolphins. It was a million dollar view in exchange for peanuts, err, Club Carlson points.
Sitting on the balcony each morning and having coffee while watching the sunrise had an extremely calming effect on me. I suffer from anxiety issues, and here I was at peace. You feel so small and insignificant compared to this vast body of water.
Yet ironically, it gives you clarity and helps you focus on important things in life. I felt incredibly blessed, just savoring the moment, with not a care in the world. Well, for few days, that is. And I didn’t even have to fly to Maldives to see this palette of colors:
In fact, now when I feel stressed /frustrated, I try to visualize this property and just sitting there staring at the ocean. It’s a happy place, a place I got to enjoy with my family. The best kind…
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.