Submitted on 21-09-2016
I almost hate to tell about this one, lest it become so popular that I can't get a room here! I'll definitely be back!
My sister, who lives in Tampa, loves historic buildings, as do I. She and I also intended to spend a lot of time downtown during my short visit to see her. Ambiance and great customer service are important to me during my leisure stays. And so, given those factors, I chose this lovely historic (yet modern!) old Federal Court Building, which is perfectly located amongst a whole ...
I almost hate to tell about this one, lest it become so popular that I can't get a room here! I'll definitely be back!
My sister, who lives in Tampa, loves historic buildings, as do I. She and I also intended to spend a lot of time downtown during my short visit to see her. Ambiance and great customer service are important to me during my leisure stays. And so, given those factors, I chose this lovely historic (yet modern!) old Federal Court Building, which is perfectly located amongst a whole host of downtown Tampa activities.
I could not have chosen a more perfect hotel!
Sometimes I choose very casual, mid-level hotels for my leisure stays, and other times, I like things a little more upscale. For this visit, I was hoping for upscale, and I found it here at Le Meridien Tampa.
Now when I say "upscale," I really mean that like just the right amount of "luxury." Too much "luxury," and I feel out of place. I'm pretty casual, and I feel best in comfortable, relaxed surroundings. But the "upscale" and "luxurious" factors I look for are outstanding customer service; pleasant, helpful employees; attention to detail; surroundings in great repair; and an aesthetically pleasing ambiance that completely relaxes me and makes me go "aaahhhh."
I like simple, casual luxury. And this place has it in spades!
From the time I walked in the (side) door (which serves as the front door), the front desk attendant greeted me with such pleasant, welcoming helpfulness. She told me all about my room, which I think may have been an upgrade. Her demeanor made me feel so welcome and so at home.
I had specifically requested a quiet location, a high floor, a corner room, and a king bed. The problem was, none of the rooms that were available that day could meet all 4 of my requests. The attendant explained this to me and assured me from the get-go that if the (upgraded) room did not meet my desires, she would be very happy to move me to a different room until I found one that suited me. (Noise was my main concern, and this room was located on the third floor and fronted the busiest street. Which gave me great pause.)
I went up to my room and discovered that it was hot and smelled like ... maybe pets? I wrote the smell off as a result of the heat. Sometimes, hotels leave the AC off until just prior to the guest's arrival. So, for all I knew, the AC was working just fine, but had only recently been turned on. After all, I did arrive early and my early check-in request was granted! :)
After about 10 minutes in the heat, I went back downstairs to ask if the AC may have very recently been turned on, or if that room may have an AC problem. She said that was certainly possible that it was just turned on, but just to be sure, she insisted that she send an engineer up to my room. The engineer was there in a matter of minutes, and he was fantastic! A cut above, for sure. He was friendly, helpful, conscientious, polite, and a great communicator. I was impressed.
The AC seemed to be cooling the room fairly quickly at that point, so we both agreed that it was probably fine. He still insisted on giving it a thorough check, though. Sweet!
After he left, I sat in the room for about 45 minutes taking care of some business on my laptop. The room was huge and decorated very nicely in modern grays and whites. Two of the walls were filled with windows and lovely views (though I kept the room-blackening shades most of the way down to help with the heat). Beautiful! The bathroom was large, modern, and attractive. The modern, armless, leather chair I was seated in was oh, so comfortable!
But, the AC began to act up again. The room got hot and muggy ... and it continued to smell a little like ... wet dogs? damp wood? not sure ... and then after 15 minutes or so, it started to cool down again. Then hot again. Furthermore, as I sat there working, I became aware of a bass beat and the very faint, but very present sound of ... maybe techno? ... music. It began to irritate me. The pulsing bothered my ears. It didn't sound as though it was coming from outside. Rather, it sounded like it was coming from the hotel. Where? I don't know. Maybe the bar below me or the lobby? Was it piped in music I was hearing? It was not loud in any way ... but it was definitely present and pulsing, and that's the kind of thing I try to avoid by asking for "your quietest location."
And so, with some embarrassment, after already getting help with the AC (that, for a time, appeared unnecessary), I traipsed back down to the front desk and asked for a different room!
The two ladies at the front desk (I think one of them was a manager) could not have been more accommodating and friendly about my request! They put me right at ease and absolved me of any embarrassment. SO NICE.
(Btw, I'm pretty sure they told me that pets are not allowed -- which would seem appropriate in this type of hotel -- so it probably wasn't pet-odor that I was smelling in the first room -- but I can't tell you what it was. It was a stale, old, subtle smell, but I never smelled it in any other location of the entire hotel. I suspect that either somebody did sneak their pet into that room before me, or that maybe the faulty AC in that room contributed to the subtle, unpleasant odor.)
They moved me to a "downgrade" from what I had originally requested, which, based on the things I most value in a room, was a total UPGRADE in my book! I LOVED my new room! On top of that, they adjusted the cost difference in my favor based on the fact that my first, prepaid room was a higher category than my new, totally dreamy room! THIS is exactly the kind of customer service I hope for when I book a Luxury hotel. THIS is what I want when I seek out "upscale."
My new room was gorgeous! It was a bit smaller than my first room, but it was still plenty spacious. It had three huge windows -- again, the high-quality blackout shades were mostly rolled down to keep out the heat. But that was all at my discretion. The views behind them were lovely! I had an old, beautiful church outside one of my windows. Ahhh.
Like the other room, this room was decorated in relaxing, modern, grays and whites. Soothing. The bathroom was huge and modern, composed of earthy stone tiles and granite, with a walk-in shower (which I love). The upscale amenities were in handy, squeezable tubes instead of the less convenient tiny bottles. They smelled earthy and wonderful in a very unisex way. Perfect!
There was a perfect-sized built-in, modern gray "closet" with shelves and hangars.
There was a very quiet refrigerator under the counter, which I admittedly had a hard time figuring out. (Digital settings? No rotary switch to set the temperature?)
The large, flat-screen TV was swivel-mounted on the wall above the long counter/desk. It was easily viewable from the bed; and from the luxurious, armless-but-very-comfy, black leather chair; and from the tall, leather, armed bar-chair that sat at the counter/desk. It seems that these designers thought of everything!
The bed and bedding were totally heavenly. Firm but soft. Warm but cool. I slept like a total log! In a way that I rarely, rarely sleep. I was in heaven here.
The central AC was very quiet and instantly adjustable. Perfect!
This fifth floor room was quiet, quiet, quiet.
The pool, while a simple, rather small rectangle, was somehow divine! Pristine white towels sit conveniently in racks as you approach the 1st floor door to the pool. I had the place to myself. The area was largely shaded in the morning (by tall city buildings and palm trees) but the furniture was very comfy and the downtown surroundings were surprisingly serene! The pool water was perfectly warm for me -- not too warm, and not cold.
The 2nd floor restaurant and bar area were GORGEOUS! Such ambiance! Plenty of cozy, yet modern seating in the "lobby area" adjacent to the stairwell, elevator, and bar area. (There's also a lobby downstairs -- the main lobby -- which has a whole host of interesting comfortable, modern furniture of its own.)
My only bad experience at this hotel was in this restaurant. I went downstairs to order to-go, but the two very-happily-socializing male employees never noticed me. There was ONE table of 4-5 men finishing up their midday meal in the restaurant. I was the only other person in the place. After 5-6 minutes of waiting around, I finally walked over to them and interrupted them.
The one guy gave me a lunch menu at my request, but then he disappeared. I had to again approach the second guy to order, but he informed me that lunch ended at 2pm. (I arrived there at 2:10 -- by the time I got the menu and looked at it, it was 2:20.) I was about to leave hungry, but then it occurred to me to ask for an all-day menu. Yes, they had one. (Did he not think to offer that to me after he told me that the lunch menu was done for the day?)
i ordered a spinach salad with strawberries, walnuts, prosciutto, and "a topping of warm brie." Sounds great!
10-15 minutes later, he showed up with my salad in a to-go container with no bag and no utensils. (No bread or crackers either, which most hotel restaurants provide without asking -- I didn't ask, and I don't require them. But they ARE usually provided at hotel restaurants.)
I pointed out that I was a hotel guest and would need utensils. He asked me, "What sort of roll-up would you like?" Hahaha!!! I had no clue what he was talking about! He explained that I could have a cloth napkin with metal silverware or a paper napkin with plastic utensils. I thought the disposable ware would be more convenient, so I asked for "paper and plastic, please." About 5-10 minutes later, he brought me cloth with metal silverware! Haha.
In his defense regarding how long it took him to get the silverware for me, he was surprising me with a tiny plastic container of extra brie cheese. You see, on top of my salad, there were two tiny slices of brie -- about 3/4" long x 1/2" wide x 1/16" deep. Tiny, tiny slices. Two of them. That were cool, if not cold. That was my "topping of warm brie." I had asked him whether that was the normal "topping of warm brie" that came on the salad (love that brie!), and he said, simply, "Yes." But while he was back there getting my "roll-up" (lol), he was also kindly getting me some more brie. Nice!
However, all in all, he seemed very distracted, unprofessional, and not well-trained. A nice guy. But ... hotels of this caliber usually do much better. I was, after all, the only customer in the place at this point.
I took the salad up to my room, with the cloth napkin and silverware, and ate it at my very nice counter/desk in the comfy armed, leather, bar chair.
The salad, which was $13 before tax, left a whole lot to be desired! There was nothing special about it. The dressing was meh. The prosciutto was warm and stringy and just not very good. The walnuts and strawberries were very far and few between. And most surprising of all, the strawberries appeared to be thawed from frozen! I guess it's good that there weren't many of them, haha! This was the type of salad I've purchased at TGI Friday's to-go counters in airports. Boring and not special in any way. (Well, the spinach was fresh and the replenished brie was tasty.)
To my surprise, when I returned to the hotel late that night, after a totally delightful afternoon and evening in downtown Tampa with my sister, I noticed two phone messages. One was from the front desk. She wanted to be sure I was happy with my new room because my happiness was important to her! Aw!!! And the other, MUCH to my surprise, was from the restaurant. She (the restaurant manager) said she had heard that I was initially not happy with my salad and she wanted to follow up and ensure that I was satisfied. (I wasn't, honestly. But it was late at night before I knew she had called, and I didn't really care at that point. I still don't. But I thought it would be helpful to include, here on TA, an honest evaluation of all the services I used during my stay.) Btw, the only complaint I verbalized about my salad, and only to the guy, was regarding the minimal "topping of warm brie." So I was surprised that this manager knew about my dissatisfaction. The guy must have passed it along, to his credit!
I failed to mention the "coffee shop-like" counter and refrigerated shelves that exist alongside the restaurant and bar area. They sell a few pre-packaged salads, wrapped sandwiches (I think), coffees, sodas, and a large variety of eclairs there. Oh, my goodness, the strawberry eclair I had there in the morning was scrumptious!
More about the hotel:
There are all sorts of interesting architectural and historic features, particularly in the hallways. They have left a lot of the old courthouse doors in place. The ice machines can be found on each floor behind cute, old-fashioned doors (brass knobs and mottled glass panes on the top with gold-lettered writing -- "U.S. District Judge Chambers" amongst other REAL things! -- and wood paneling on the bottom). Charming! There's an historic courtroom that now serves as a ballroom, with fancy ceiling, handsome crest, and wooden paneling. The hallway floors and walls appear to be the original gray and white marble.
There were two large stacks of newspapers in the lobby in the morning. The Tampa Bay Times and ... I can't remember if it was the Wall Street Journal or the USA Today, haha. I went with the Times.
The fitness center was ... either on the fourth floor or the fifth floor overlooking the city buildings. It was long and narrow with plenty of cardio machines and some weights. It was in great repair and was inviting enough. Good AC, too.
The impressive and imposing courthouse steps lead up to the second floor bar, which somehow seemed so very appropriate. (That's why I mentioned earlier that the side door is used as the "front" door to the lobby, below. The actual front doors to the old courthouse, at the top of the imposing steps, lead to the upper level bar above.) The bar area is simply stunning. Lots of polished wood. Handsome. Glowing. Inviting as all get out.
As a last aside, the General Manager of the entire hotel contacted me via email about another minor matter that didn't bother me in the slightest. I hadn't even complained about this matter. And yet, I was surprised to see that the GM contacted me to follow up! He was as friendly and welcoming as could be! No wonder this property seemed to be so well managed and HAPPY.
THIS is exactly the sort of thing I look for when I take the time to seek out an upscale, luxury hotel. This GM and his staff were perfect in every way. The entire stay (minus the less than polished restaurant experience) was ideal. Perfect. The exact kind of thing that keeps me coming back.
This is just a super charming, very special, very boutique-y place. I adored the juxtaposition of modern and historic. I basked in the amazing customer service. I will definitely be back! You must try it out! Just don't take my favorite room!