We flew into Fort Lauderdale via Jet Blue. It was a bumpy flight at the end, but the crew was nice and the crew was friendly. The snacks were yummy- especially the blue chips and the bags of Pop Corners. Interestingly they allowed people to get off the plane via the rear in addition to the front.
We booked a private car that we reserved online for transfer from FLL Fort Lauderdale Airport to the Hilton Miami Downtown Hotel. It cost $80.50 and included 18% gratuity. When we boarded the car and handed the driver the "boarding pass", however, he was dismayed at how we booked the reservation via "the office" and complained that he was going to be getting $16 less because of it. He told us that if we had just went up to the booth outside the terminal and asked for the car that way, it would have cost only $70, and he would get his full share of money. I asked him what about tips and he said that the drivers would be happy with the $70 and a couple dollar more tips would be fine. So a tip for those of you needing an airport transfer from FLL to Miami- don't book online but Instead after picking up your luggage from baggage claim, head outside to the booth and ask for the transfer there instead. It would be cheaper to you and the driver will keep more of the money from the fare also.
Once we arrived at the Downtown Miami Hilton
(view our photos of the hotel
), the friendly staff immediately helped us with the luggage and gave us a tag to give to a receptionist. We had to go up one level from the "Motor Lobby" to the real lobby to check in. We checked in- it was prepaid via Hotwire but we still had to provide a credit card for any additional charges incurred. The process was fast and easy, and we headed up to our room via the elevator to the 15th floor.
The room was clean and had a full glass wall with a beautiful view that overlooked Biscayne Blvd with a partial view of the beach to the right. There was a 28" or so LCD flat screen TV by Philips, though sometimes a few of the channels would say that they are not available, apprently because of reception problems via DirecTV. The lamp on the desk provided extra AC plugs for laptops and chargers which was nice. I was also able to easily connect to the hotel WIFI internet which was free (SSID was "Hilton HHonors").
It did take about half an hour before our luggage were delivered, however. We asked for a crib for our 18 month old toddler, and that took about an hour to appear. The crib itself was made of metal and over old-fashioned. It wasn't exactly clean either. Later on we requested two additional towels and that too took over 30 minutes before a hotel personnel showed up with them.
For dinner we crossed the skywalk to the Grand Double Tree hotel. It was a little tricky to get to the skywalk itself- you have to go to the Ballroom Floor, then go outside and walk into the parking structure. Then go to level 7 of the parking structure in order to reach it. It took longer than we expected, but finally we reached our destination for dinner- Tony Chan's Water Club. You can read my review of Tony Chan's Water Club
for more info.
After dinner we decided to walk around the lobby. There was a bar showing a match from the Sony Ericsson Open from the tennis channel. We were disappointed that the Tennis Channel was not in the lineup of channels available in the room, however. Right outside the bar was the outdoor eating area for the hotel's restaurant. And a few steps up from there was the pool for the hotel. Even though a sign indicated that the pool would not close until 10 PM (it was about 9 when we were there), the gate was locked. The view was really nice, however, even from outside the gate. A hotel personel did notice us standing outside the gate and offered to unlock the gate for us, but we declined.
The checkout "process" the next morning involved simply leaving the room key cards as we did not ring up any extra charges. Checkout time was to be by 12 PM, and we left the hotel at around 11:20 PM. There was a hiccup, however, when we were trying to take a taxi to the terminal. It was a Wednesday and no shuttle was available, so we had to take taxi. We didn't wait long outside the "Motor Lobby" for the taxi, but the driver (a black lady) got into a shouting match with a hotel personnel (a guy). He came and and told her to not block the traffic. But she became livid and almost refused us as customers even though I had already dragged the luggage into the trunk of the taxi car. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable. The ride thankfully was short and cheap- only $12 including tip.
Overall I would recommend the Hilton Downtown Miami Hotel to cruise vacationers looking for a pre-cruise stay for a cruise leaving the Port of Miami. Our room was well accommodated, comfortable, clean and had a nice view. Hotel personnel were friendly despite longer than expected waits for requests.