How Photoshop Nearly Ruined My Vacation

This blog post is dedicated to the lovely people at the Marriott Sand Key who saved my vacation.

It seemed like such a good idea, getting away to a beachfront resort for a several of Cleveland’s typically dreariest days (turned out it was 70 degrees and partly sunny in Cleveland while we were gone, but that’s a separate issue).  With five work-free days and no real agenda but warmth, relaxation, and pampering, I did what many travelers do in the digital age: I consulted Travelocity.  On the screen, the Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort looks great.  There were only a handful of reviews, but the majority were quite positive.

The Grand Plaza Beachfront "Resort"

The Grand Plaza Beachfront “Resort”

This is the room we reserved and paid for online, the “deluxe beachfront suite”.

The Deluxe Beachfront Suite at Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort

The Deluxe Beachfront Suite at Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort

If this picture of the room we reserved online well in advance looks a bit like a mirror image to you, it was. We flew into the Tampa airport, took a $90 cab ride to St. Pete Beach, arriving at the hotel around 9pm.  The lobby, decorated with 70s style furniture didn’t impress us.  But when we got to our room, three weary travelers looking for a quiet, luxurious time, we were surprised to find only one queen bed.  The other, inches away, was a “murphy bed”. The furniture was uncomfortable, the bathroom so hideous I didn’t want to touch any surfaces with any body parts, and the WiFi so spotty that we kept getting kicked off as we searched desperately for a clean hotel that met our standards for the night.

Pictures of the pool, if not photoshopped, were at least taken by a photographer laying on the ground, trying her best to make the pool look twice its actual size.

Warning: Images online may  appear larger than life

Warning: Images online may appear larger than life

My only regret was that it was so dark that I couldn’t get a good picture of how tiny this pool actually was.  We left the Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort almost as soon as we arrived, disgusted by the dingy accomodations and headed for the Marriott Sand Key, the only hotel within an hour’s travel time that had a room for us.  When our smelly and overly talkative cab driver (another $60) pulled into the Marriott drive and we saw the lobby, we breathed a sigh of relief.  The concierge quickly gave us free drinks and a tour of the facility, with a huge pool and waterfall, heated to 86 degrees, and private cabanas for rent:

Marriott Sand Key Pool

Marriott Sand Key Pool

Also, they have patio bar with live music (that stops at a decent time so you can sleep with your windows open), plenty of seating facing the bay, and fabulous rum punch.

Kokomo's Patio Bar at Marriott Sand Key

Kokomo’s Patio Bar at Marriott Sand Key

All this, and a clean, comfortable room – for $100 less per night than the Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort.  I’m a Marriott convert and will stay at their hotels whenever possible.  Driving around Clearwater beach in the days to come, I realized that the term “resort” should be a warning sign for Florida travelers.  Lesson learned!

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