In late April, we're heading to a timeshare in Orlando and plan to spend extra days exploring the Gulf coast, specifically to visit Tarpon Springs. I've heard mixed reviews about the Clearwater Marriott on Sand Key, does anyone have any recommendations on where to stay, sightseeing and dining?
I just completed a trip to the Clearwater and Tampa areas, including a 7 night stay at the Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites. This is really the only hotel in the Marriott chain in the Tampa Bay area that is located near the beach (across the street), and the water views are magnificent. My overall experiences at the hotel were positive, and I will likely return. As a platinum member, you should request a room on the 10th floor, which has recently been renovated and has the best views. Below is a summary of my experiences at the hotel:
Positives: Great service overall, comfortable suites with separate seating area, small refrig., microwave, balcony with nice views, adequate pool, free self parking, close to several restaurants, breakfast vouchers for healthy start breakfast Mon-Fri ($5 upcharge for full buffet), very helpful concierge, personal greeting and tour by staff upon arrival, overall good service in the restaurant (with one exception), hotel area not as crowded (Spring break) as main Cleawater Beach area
Negatives: no concierge level, I had to settle for 2 double beds rather than king unless I was willing to stay on 5th flr.,fitness room had very nice cardio, but very limited weight training equipment, pool is a little small, but adequate
I had two dinners at the restaurant in the hotel. I had excellent service for my first visit, but was very disappointed with the arrogant, condescending attitude of the waiter during my second visit (used a two for one platinum dinner certificate, and waiter was clearly not happy about it). Recommended : crabcakes, filets, key lime pie.
Other restaurants in the area that are worth a visit include Guppies (have concierge make a reservation), and Bonefish Grill (even though a chain). There is an excellent coffee shop for breakfast and lunch (great Cuban sandwich) on the boardwalk next to the hotel.
You will really enjoy Tarpon Springs. My wife is Greek, so we appreciated the quality of the food and baked goods that are difficult to find in most cities. I recommend Costa's for lunch and the Greek bakery on the main street for wonderful pastries. I am not aware of any hotels in the area.
If Tampa is an option, I also highly recommend the Renaissance hotel near the Tampa airport and International plaza. The is a beutiful new hotel in a very convenient location. I had my two best meals (grouper) at the Belagia restaurant in the hotel.
We usually stay in our timeshares on vacation, but there are not any Marriott timeshares in the Tampa/St. Pete's area. The Clearwater Marriott Suites offered the next best option. I hope to be able to trade into the Marco Island MVC in the near future.
I've booked reservations at the Clearwater Marriott Suites and delighted to learn that the 10th floor was recently refurbished. Our timeshare was recently refurbished, so a suite with new finishes and furniture is preferred over one that is not. Do you recommend I call prior to arrival to request the 10th floor if available? You mentioned having to settle for doubles, did they not have king beds on the floor or were there none available?
Thanks too for the dining tips. We love fresh seafood, any thoughts? One of our favorite Greek desserts is the pastry covered custard, Galaktoboureko - all we have to do is think about it and we gain weight :-)
We share the same favorite Greek pastry, but you are able to spell it and I cannot even pronounce it. The bakery in Tarpon Springs (785 Dodecanese Blvd.) has it, and it is the best I have had in the US.
The 10th floor of the Marriott Suites does have rooms with king beds, but none were available when I checked in on a Saturday afternoon when the hotel was overbooked. I suggest calling ahead. I am not sure what other floors have recently been remodeled, but the 8th and 9th floors should have similar views. We saw dolphins from our balcony a few times.
Regarding seafood, I recommend Guppy's, a local favorite. We made reservations a day prior to our visit through the concierge and were able to be immediately seated on a very crowded evening. Food and service were excellent, and fresh Florida grouper should be available when you visit in April.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. I noticed you are a MVC owner. Have you ever visited the Ocean Pointe property on Singer Island? It is one of the few locations right on a beach, and we really like the area. Have a great trip!