Long post, but lots of entertaining drama. You like, you like!
Few weeks ago I’ve mentioned that my in-laws were planning on taking our kids to visit relatives in North Florida. As it turns out, my MIL’s sister got sick and they weren’t sure whether they would make this trip or not. So, we went ahead and cancelled all the hotel reservations. Yay for fully refundable rates!
So, the plan got tweaked a bit and they ended up combining family visit with a trip to Charleston. I know, a bit ambitious, but that’s my sister-in-law for you. I’ll have more on this trip at a later date, but today I wanted to share with you what my husband and I did over the weekend.
My husband’s cousin was having her baby shower that Saturday and I didn’t want to miss it. So, I’ve decided that one-night getaway would suffice. We would go on Friday and come back Saturday just in time for the party. Originally, I planned to participate in current IHG Accelerate promo, but decided to skip it and just use my existing stash of points instead.
But where should we go? I really wanted to stay in Hyatt Regency Sarasota. It’s a Category 3 and costs 12,000 Hyatt points per night.The property looks nice on photos and we could get free breakfast and potential upgrade due to my husband’s Diamond status.
I also had some Marriott and SPG points that I could combine for one night stay in Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club (it costs 35,000 points per night). It looks like a beautifully restored historic property. If I dumped all of my SPG points to Marriott account, I would have just enough for one night.
I also looked at some IHG hotels, but all the ones I was interested in were not available via points. IHG program has gotten horrible when it comes to last-minute award availability and it’s very hard to plan anything in the spur of the moment. So, I kept going back and forth between those two choices and in the end picked … neither.
In part, it had to do with me being cheap. Burning so many points on just one night seemed crazy. Plus, I also wanted something closer to our house. So, we ended up going to Residence Inn Sebring. It costs only 10,000 Marriott points per night (paid rate is $150), so it’s a terrific bargain, considering the fact that full breakfast is included. A bonus: our suite had a beautiful view of a lake.
Unfortunately, a perfect redemption does not a perfect weekend make.
Olive Garden Delivery “Boy”
So, I was waiting for my husband to come home from work on Friday so we could go on our relaxing local getaway. Unfortunately, we got in a huge fight. I won’t share the details, and they are not important. But needless to say, my husband was a total Jerkus Maximus (he even later admitted that he was). Though in his defense, he was exhausted from stressful week at work. The argument kept going from bad to worse, so I just told him I would go to the hotel by myself.
I’ve never done it before, so he thought I was bluffing. Nope! I got in my mini-van and hit the road. I was really upset about the whole thing, so it seemed like a good idea to remove myself from the “battlefield.” I checked in, got in my room, and then the loneliness set in. I was watching “Back to the future” movie and crying, because I wanted my husband next to me. Why isn’t he calling?
So, I called him saying I just wanted to leave my coordinates in case he needed to get ahold of me in case of emergency. He was very surprised because he thought I was in the grocery store the whole time. Wrong! I’m teaching you a lesson, darn it. Wait, if that’s the case, why am I the one calling him?
An hour later I get a phone call from the front desk saying there was a delivery waiting for me. I got so excited thinking I would find flowers with a note of apology and maybe my husband standing there. Wrong! There was a bag with Olive Garden food and no husband in sight. I asked the front desk lady who brought it, and she said it was Olive Garden delivery guy. Hmm, I didn’t know they deliver!
I went to the parking lot and there was no sign of my husband. Confused and disappointed, I went back to the room. I called my husband and asked if it was him who brought the food. Yup. Apparently, he went back to his car hoping I would come out and find him. But then he realized he needed to use the bathroom, so he drove to a nearby gas station.
He apologized and said he was just waiting for my “forgiveness” phone call. Otherwise, he was going to spend the night in the parking lot of the hotel. Pfft, what happened to good ole’ groveling? I told him to come up and he said to please meet him in the back. He didn’t want to walk by the lobby. I said: “Why not? That Olive Garden food was really good. No woman would be able to resist bringing the delivery guy back to her hotel room. ” 🙂
We did patch things up, but the whole getaway was the opposite of how I imagined it. Oh well, at least the stay only cost me 10,000 points. Oh, and apparently, the front desk people thought we were having an affair due to bringing two cars and all the sneaking around.
Courtyard Nazi and “Arrival” movie
On the way back I told my husband I wish we could have a do-over of this whole weekend. To my shock, he told me I could book a night somewhere and he would be happy to go. No separate cars this time. I thought about it and decided to go for it. Hyatt in Sarasota, here we come! Except, it was sold out that night. Great.
Back to Marriott. I was now down to 25,000 points, which would allow me to splurge on a Category 5 property. I decided to book one night at Courtyard Sarasota /Bradenton Riverfront It looked like a neat place located right by the river, plus, it was relatively close to our house.
Since my husband has Silver elite status (leftover from a credit card), we were upgraded to a junior suite. Honestly, as soon as we got into our room, I was regretting burning my precious 25,000 points. It looked like a Quality Inn, not a Marriott. The property was old and tired, and there was a nasty, stained carpet in the living room portion of the suite.
The bathroom door was chipped at the bottom, and the overall feel was that of a motel where you just spend a night and move on. Definitely not a “romantic getaway” material. I don’t think this property represents Marriott brand and I’m surprised by overall positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
But oh well, I was determined to make the best of it. The property courtyard had a Mediterranean feel to it, which was very cool.
The location was also very good, and apparently, they had a Blues festival going on in a nearby park. I’m guessing that is why this is a Category 5 property rather than 2 or 3. We strolled the riverbank and stopped to get some ice cream in a vintage-style cafe. We also ran into some old friends. In the evening my husband and I spent some time in hotel’s jacuzzi and just enjoyed each other’s company (finally!) Things were looking up.
We decided that the next morning we would have breakfast in hotel’s courtyard. And so we got some food in the cafe and headed down there. Not so fast! When we opened the doors to the courtyard, we were greeted by a stern looking lady who was signing people in. She told us they were having a private event and that we were not allowed to eat there. It made zero sense because we were just going to sit at the table right by the door, quite far from the event itself. We would not be intruding in any way. I wish I had photos of the set-up, just to prove my point.
Regardless, I didn’t want to make a scene, so we just ate inside. Afterwards, we decided to go on a stroll by the river and the quickest way to get there was to walk through the courtyard. Nope! The courtyard Nazi lady was once again there to thwart all of our attempts to crash the party. “You can’t walk here!” was her command.
I told her politely that we were just going to the riverfront, to which she kept objecting. I’ve had enough. So, I turned around and walked to the front desk where I spoke to the manager. I asked her if indeed, we, the paying customers of the property (points’ reservations do count), are not allowed to use the courtyard as long as we stick to outside tables and pathways, without disturbing the event. She said we were absolutely allowed to do that. After all, it’s the best way to access many facilities, including pool and hot tub.
I requested that she would come down with me and let the lady know all this, so she would stop harassing us. The manager agreed. When we approached the courtyard Nazi, the woman got hostile and started screaming at me repeating: “I’m just doing my job!” I tried to respond calmly and she kept yelling: “I don’t want to talk to you!” The manager was caught off-guard, and didn’t know what to do. Honestly, I do understand because in essence, she was witnessing a dispute between two customers. This company was paying them good money to rent the courtyard, and then there was me, using award reservation.
At that point I was extremely upset, but didn’t resort to yelling (thank goodness). I told the manager that I was going to put a complaint about this incident and she said I was within my rights to do so. She was nice and apologetic about this whole thing, but didn’t offer me any compensation at that point. The walk (and day) was ruined, so we just went back to the room and I called Marriott customer service.
Then we packed our stuff to get the heck out of this hotel. I went to the front desk to return the keys and the manager was there. She said she just got a notification of the complaint and was wondering if she could make it right. I told her it wasn’t her fault, but in the future, they need to discuss this situation with event organizers and set limits on what they can and can not do. The courtyard Nazi felt she was allowed to boss guests around and essentially kick them off the property.
The manager agreed and proceeded to offer me 5,000 points, plus reimbursement for our breakfast ($25). I thanked her and gave her a counteroffer: “How about you forget breakfast reimbursement and just deposit 10,000 points instead?” She happily agreed. I was satisfied with the resolution and felt she made it right in the end. Why did I refuse cash? Because 5,000 points will do very little for me. But 10,000 points will pay for one night at Residence Inn in Sebring. I felt that getting 5,000 points in exchange for foregoing $25 reimbursement was a better option.
We decided to try to forget this whole hotel fiasco and go see the movie “Arrival.” Mind. Blown. An intricate plot, where you need to pay attention in order to keep track of all the twists and turns. Unfortunately, it was quite a challenge to do so. One fellow viewer was talking to SIRI, another guy was looking for his glasses. The most bizarre one yet was a man who was sleeping through the movie and would occasionally let out a loud snoring sound (during heart-wrenching scenes, no less).
My husband turned to me and whispered: “It’s just not our weekend, is it?” I told him that it was, but only because we were together.
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.