Pre-Cruise Hotel Experience Brings New Review Strategy

As pre-cruise hotel options go, it does not get a whole lot better than the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Airport Hotel.  Right across the highway from Fort Lauderdale International Airport, the gateway to Florida’s Port Everglades, this is a place we stayed at before sailing with our kids for years.   Returning not long ago while in town on business, I was reminded of the hotel’s strategic location but noticed a distinctly different feel to the place.

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That the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Cruise & Airport Hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport should come as no surprise; most airport hotels do.  A $10 ride to Port Everglades makes the location even more convenient.  In walking distance of restaurants and some shopping, last minute items can be picked up too or purchased in the lobby gift shop.  Morning coffee either in-room or in the lobby starts early as do on-property dining options that stay open late too.  But probably one of the most unique elements of the place are the friendly, helpful and informative people who work there.

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Remember, this is an airport hotel that has been there for decades.  Travelers come in and out of here frequently and engaging the hotel employees is really not the reason they do.  They could simply handle the logistics of moving a hotel full of people back and forth from the airport/cruise port well and call it a win for everyone.  Actually, that was the reason we chose this property 20 years ago to bring our then growing family.  Following our own advice, we always flew from our home in Kansas to the Florida embarkation port a day in advance.  Logically, to provide a cushion of time in case of flight delays and to wake refreshed for the first day of the cruise, often a very long one.  Personally, we hoped to stay at some place nice with palm trees, warm weather and Florida-ish things to do.  At the time, this was not a friendly place.  That’s changed and whatever this hotel is doing with its employees is working.  Actually, it is those employees for whom I write this, which brings up another topic to address: online reviews.

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Reviews – The Good And The Bad

Long a fan of CruiseCritic message boards with the ability to read between the lines to mine for great information about cruise vacations, I left a glowing online review for the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Cruise & Airport Hotel a week ago.  Looking to jog my memory on specifics of the stay, I visited the hotel’s own online reviews section of their website and found a variety of experiences ranging from good to bad as one might expect.   Like visiting TripAdvisor or some other rating site, these spaces offer some really good information about common elements of travel ranging from hotels to rental car agencies, restaurants, attractions and more.  The trick to using them effectively is a three pronged effort of travel research:

  1. Read between the lines- That one reviewer had a lousy steak and another liked theirs is worthless information.  That many reviews noted they had a good meal, more useful.
  2. Focus on the recurring review points, both positive and negative.  Convenience at this particular property has served it well.  Complaints that the $15 breakfast buffet is overpriced are interesting. It was that same price 20 years ago and typical of an airport hotel in tourist area, during spring break at a desirable location.
  3. Dig deeper- This is the hard part that takes more than scanning reviews for keywords we rate highly. Taking a little walk from the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Cruise & Airport Hotel the first day brought me to a Tri-Rail train station. From one of those, we can travel efficiently and economically between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, opening up an entirely different aspect to potential travel before and/or after sailing.

In the case of the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Cruise & Airport Hotel, common positive elements included convenience while the age of the property was noted as a negative.