Many of you approach me throughout the year and ask, “Eric, why don’t you post more travelogues?” I have no good reason, except I don’t travel! Other than an occasional weekend getaway, I’m pretty much a homebody. However, in a shift of the Earth’s axis, we ended up in Orlando this past week for a brief, 6-day getaway. Here are some rants and raves about this experience…
Rave-Marriott Harbor Lake Villa
I am a big, BIG supporter of “tripadvisor.com.” If you have never spent any time on the site, I strongly encourage you to do so. This is like me, but on HgH. This is essentially a review site, though they’ve added a booking feature. The reviews are primarily from people like me (by “me”, I mean hyper-critical, never satisfied, but good-natured folk), and I have found their reviews, whether it’s hotels or restaurants, pretty dead-on accurate, which have spared me from really negative experiences. “Tripadvisor.com” is the poster child for “caveat emptor.”
So, when I saw the Marriott Harbor Lake Villas (MHL) as the top-rated family hotel on Tripadvisor in the Orlando area, I knew I probably wouldn’t be disappointed-we were not.
At our stage in life, one hotel room with 2 double beds doesn’t work. Even the one bedroom suite at Embassy Suites doesn’t work; we need a bed for all of us. The MHL was perfect for us-2 bedrooms (one with a king, one with 2 queens), two full baths, full kitchen, dining room and laundry facilities in the villa. It was well-maintained, clean, quiet and located well within proximity to all the area attractions (and there are a few, you know). Every staff person we encountered was pleasant and happy to help. While this was part of the Marriott Vacation Club (read: time share), never once were we accosted or propositioned to sit through some burdensome time-share presentation. They left us alone to enjoy the resort, all its accoutrements, and the local scene. I cannot say enough positive things, and will definitely make this my preferred place to stay in Orlando.
Rant-Hertz Rental Car.
Hertz is number 1 in the rental car business, but they sure treated us like “number 2.” Let me set the stage for you…
Our trip went something like this: leave the metro-Boston area and drive to Hoboken, NJ. In Hoboken, we visited “Carlos’ Bakery”, site of the TLC reality show “Cake Boss.” From Hoboken, we drive to Newark, where we leave our car at the Hilton and take the shuttle to the Newark airport. From there, we fly to Orlando. All in all, exactly 12 hours from the time we left home until we landed in Orlando. Nothing says “relaxing” more than 12 hours on the road. Elayne and I were like Bob and Bing in “The Road to Orlando”.
So when we arrived in Orlando, we were happy to be there…that is, until we got to the Hertz counter. Or should I say “line at the Hertz counter”. I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling when the woman in front of me said “they’ve run out of cars”, and we were the 25th people in line!
The longer I waited, the more obvious it became that Hertz was humping everyone. I found out that they only had “compact” cars or smaller. They ran out of any car larger than compact, and any special order cars (like convertibles or SUVS/Minivans). More importantly, they ran out of “full size”, which is what I had reserved. As Jerry Seinfeld so aptly put it “they know how to take a reservation, they don’t know how to hold a reservation.”
The extra misery added to this experience was after you got to the clerk at the counter, checked in and ran your credit card, you were told to go to the line to your left, which was now everyone else whose credit cards had been run, who were now just waiting around for cars. One by one, the other lemmings were called up to “Gustavo”, who politely told each victim that they could only get a “Mazda 3” (a compact hatchback). There were people waiting for the 15 passenger full-sized vans, families of 6 waiting for minivans, and people like me, who pack like a family of 12, who needed a full sized car for the luggage capacity. I began to devise a lottery for my family to decide who would ride on the roof of the car…
While I am waiting in this second line, bleeding internally, the junior palates are killing Mrs. Palate, because by now, AT MIDNIGHT, they are hungry again. Of course, nothing in the airport is open, and they can’t leave, because if they do, and I need Elayne’s license, I’m hosed. So they suffer too, but not in silence.
I should also say that Elayne went down the line to all the other car agencies looking to see what might be available. I have to think that the number 1 agency would be more likely to have cars that the smaller outfits, and I certainly didn’t expect for them to be giving us the “we’re number one” finger, if you know what I mean. Of course, it should come as no surprise that believe it or not, these other agencies actually were holding cars for people that made reservations, and were not renting to walk-ups. What a concept! Perhaps Hertz should employ that sometime.
Finally, I am second in line. By this time, it’s about 12:15am!!!! The people in front of me are hot for an SUV, which they reserved. They were hell-bent for leather to get an SUV. Gustavo calmly looked up their reservation, and told them that he didn’t have an SUV, but that he was just seeing an full size car come into inventory. The wife throws a four and twelve letter fit that would make a crab fisherman blush. She finally says that “Dollar” has an SUV that wasn’t reserved, and she turns and walks away. Gustavo looks at me and says “I guess they want to cancel their reservation.” I politely chuckle and say “as it just so happens, I reserved a full sized car, so I’ll take what you have now.” He books me through, and tells me as a courtesy and apology for waiting, I did not have to pay for the tank of gas, and I could return it empty if I wanted. While I will never recover those 2 and a half hours waiting in the line at Hertz, at 12:30am, we were back on the road and on the way to the hotel. There hasn’t been a road movie this good since “Ishtar.”
When you’re renting a car, don’t forget, this is the face of Hertz…
After the break, more rants and raves about Orlando…