I won’t lie, when I heard that my group was assigned to the Holiday Inn Miami West – Hialeah Gardens, I wasn’t thrilled. I was hungry and wanted the cookies at the Doubletree Hotel where other passengers were assigned. My inner hotel inspector (snob) was skeptical ranking Doubletree above a budget Holiday Inn by a cookie. The busses from the Fathom Cruise terminal was full of disappointment as our cruise was delayed and we were on the highway driving away from the Adonia, a ship that we had looked forward to sailing on to the Dominican Republic. I rarely stay at Holiday Inn hotels (IHG points) as I prefer the Starwood brands, so I wasn’t sure what surprises awaited me. There were many surprises!
The Holiday Inn Miami West – Hialeah Gardens is close to Sun Life Stadium and about nine miles from the airport (far enough that they don’t have a shuttle). Located right off of the Palmetto highway (Route 826), the hotel seems well positioned for those attending games at the stadium, visiting by car on business (free parking on site) or wishing for a budget alternative to the downtown hotel options. We easily ordered an Uber when going to the airport. There is a school across the street, the mall down the road and auto repair shops across the road – basically this is an area of local Miami residents.
Holiday Inn Miami West Lobby
The old building façade didn’t do much to allay my concerns however, my initial fear of the hotel quickly dissipated when I saw the sign that the 263 room hotel had completed its sleeping room renovations (yeah!). Undergoing an $8 million renovation, the rooms and event spaces were complete – only the lobby, gym (currently closed), restaurant, and elevators are left to update. Wi-Fi is complimentary. When five busses of sad cruise passengers arrive to overwhelm your hotel, the front desk staff, led by Andres, a manager, were not only friendly but super-efficient to check us in quickly as we were quite hungry. No credit card was needed as the Fathom Cruise line was paying the bills, so just a quick photo ID check to sort us out and we were off to the 5th floor.
Room 520 – Double/Double
The elevators are still being updated as I noticed the prior incarnation paperwork (a former Howard Johnson hotel) inside. The buttons should (but don’t) light up when pressed. When we exited on the 5th floor, it still had that new paint smell (literally, we smelled paint in the hallway). We were greeted with updated décor as the lobby sign had shown. Suddenly, I felt better that his was a nice Holiday Inn before I even opened the door.
The room was all shiny and new at only three months old. The double beds were decorated nicely (I really liked the faux leather box spring cover) and the furniture was well thought out and functional – there are outlets on the lights as well as on the side of the bed. The view is of the highway and buildings but that doesn’t stop a nice sunset. This is a connecting room if you need that for your family or group.
The television was a bit fuzzy and needed a tune up as the settings (or cable) seemed a bit off in picture size and color but it wasn’t the end of the world. Just noticeable. The alarm in the adjoining (empty) room began buzzing at 6:30 a.m. so I reported that to the front desk to shut off. A Keurig coffee maker is provided in room.
The bed was comfortable with the pillow menu of soft and firm noted on the covers for you to choose which ones are best for you. Shutting the room darkening drapes, I quickly fell asleep after the day’s drama. As someone from the city, I’m used to street traffic/beeping noises – in this case, noise seemed minimal to me.
The bathroom had updated fixtures and accessories except for the tile in the bathtub which seemed older. The toiletries were Bath & Body Works which is a nice touch because it is a known company that produces good products. Despite a full hotel, the water pressure was strong and the water nice and hot.
The restaurant is waiting for it’s makeover so I didn’t think it fair to take photos since it will change soon. Given the unusual circumstances of five busses of cruise passengers checking in at 7:30 pm on a Sunday night, the restaurant staff were fantastic. A buffet was set up and an open bar (definitely needed to drown our sorrows). For those with food allergies like me, they were quite accommodating. Regular menu offerings are standard fare – burgers, pizza, chicken wings, sandwiches, salads, etc.
For breakfast, the restaurant staff was back and working with nary three hours sleep as Rosanna told me but that didn’t affect her as she ran around smiling and interacting with everyone to help.
For lunch, the restaurant is usually closed but in our case, it remained open. Another buffet was set up but if you wanted a menu item they were also offering that option. In my case, I had a grilled chicken and bacon sandwich made to order (Rosanna also order me one and she made it to go – she must have known I would need it later when the cruise was canceled and I was on a flight home). The bar was full of stories, expectations, disappointment, hope and prayers that we would sail. With a plethora of mixed cocktails and frozen drinks, the passengers chatted up new friends, colleagues and staff. It was a prelude to what we expected onboard at the ship bar.
The meeting space is recently updated and quite spacious to accommodate a variety of events up to 1,000 guests in the ballroom and adjoining rooms. The meeting planner in me was curious to look inside the rooms and at the shared spaces as well as the parking availability (there’s a multi-level garage on site that is free). The staff I interacted with and observed were fantastic so I’ve no doubt they’d be superstars with meeting and events as well.
There is a small pool area with lounge chairs and jacuzzi that the passengers were taking advantage of despite the cool winds – there was still sun! Hey with enough free beer and sorrows drowned, you try to salvage what you can on the missed cruise!
Despite the circumstances of the past twenty four hours, my stay at the Holiday Inn Miami West at Hialeah Gardens was quite nice and a good surprise. The new rooms are quite comfortable and stylish and the hotel staff is a bonus. Seeing how they responded to our swarming the property with genuine friendliness and attentiveness was refreshing. If only our ship had sailed, I would have loved to bring them along for a vacation – they definitely earned it with their hard work and smiles.
While Fathom Cruise, a division of Carnival Cruises, paid for my room and meals due to the cruise disruptions and eventual cancellation, all opinions are mine.