By Maria Scudella-Beltran | firstname.lastname@example.org
As South Floridians, we often hear the phrase, “We live where others vacation”. With COVID-19 concerns, my travel has been much more limited. So, recently I had a staycation in our very own sunny South Florida. There are so many options to choose from: sandy beaches, theme park adventures, and iconic destinations like the newly renovated Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino: The First of Its Kind!
As you may already know, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino underwent a major renovation recently. Famously known for the first of its kind, this guitar-shaped hotel inaugurated just one year ago on Oct 24th, 2019. One year later, I can experience this property and see how this new-ish hotel is operating and keeping their guests safe during a pandemic.
Hard Rock’s Safe + Sound Program
The first thing I’d like to share is the message Seminole Properties has on their website about their Safe + Sound program. From Seminole Casino, “The health and safety of our team members and guests has always been of utmost importance to our senior leadership team and Tribal Council. We want to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to provide a safe environment for our team members and you, our loyal customers. As information is changing rapidly and we are learning more daily about COVID-19 and how to stop the spread, we will continue to regularly update the Safe+Sound protocols based on facts and data provided by our partners, industry councils, as well as global and governmental agencies.”
It’s true, the hotel has a set of guidelines which have donned the name Safe + Sound, and they promise to follow these steps:
- All guests and staff must wear masks
- There are Screening & Temperature Checks upon entering
- Physical Distancing, which is enforced by distance markers on the ground as well as signs through the casino
- Cleaning & Sanitation which is plenty of hand sanitizer and even gloves at some locations
- Air Filtration System, according to their site “Many Seminole Gaming properties have been equipped with state-of-the-art AtmosAir™ advanced bipolar ionization air purification and disinfecting systems that are designed to destroy viruses in the air and on hard surfaces. Also, all HVA filters are HEPA compliant with the highest MERV rating.”
These guidelines are evident from the minute you park your car. I witnessed all of these guidelines enforced throughout the property. We opted for the free self-parking in the garage, and immediately I noticed designated trash bins for gloves and masks that were separate from regular trash. As we made our way to the front entrance, we saw the security setup that resembled that of an airport security checkpoint. Hand sanitizer was on both sides of the door, and guests walked through an infrared screening process where security guards monitored tv screens to see if anyone had a high temperature. We continued to the check-in counter, and there were several distance markers as well as plexiglass, and each of the representatives took time to wipe down their counter area between each guest.
Three Hotels, One Property
The hotel has three different guest room areas, which are the Guitar Hotel, The Oasis Tower, and the classic Hard Rock Hotel. We stayed in the Oasis Tower, which was nice because it’s part of the newly renovated section of the property. While most may think the Guitar Hotel is the better stay, we did notice large crowds when guests tried heading back to their rooms in that section of the property. There were also security measures taken to access these parts of the property. For instance, in order to get on the elevator for the Oasis Tower rooms, we had to show our key card to an attendant right before boarding the elevator.
Deluxe King Room and Hotel Amenities
We stayed in a Deluxe King room, and although the view was nothing to brag about, the room itself was gorgeous and very spacious! At 640 square feet, this room is a great choice for couples or solo travelers. The room offers “luxurious furnishings, sophisticated design elements, and a location that allows you access to the new 13.5 acres of recreational water activities”. The bathroom was huge and had dual sinks with walk-in showers and rain head showers.
Throughout the hotel, you will find many measures of them trying to adhere to their safety guidelines. We went to one of the bars for a drink, and they had removed all the bar stools and only allowed folks to sit at a table and order service. If there was nowhere to sit then there was no service.
Council Oak is recently renovated and is located in the new section of the hotel, nestled between the Oasis tower and the Guitar Hotel and adjacent to the pool area. Their food was exceptional and pair that with impeccable and the relaxing yet sophisticated ambiance makes for a wonderful dining experience!
How’s the Gambling?
This was my least favorite part of the property. Because smoking is permitted in many sections of the casino floor and many people were smoking, obviously masks were non-existent. As a non-smoker, cigarette smell was too much too bear, even through our masks, so we opted to try the non-smoking room.
The Safe+Sound team ensured that the slot machines were promptly cleaned after each guest. There were plenty of attendants walking through the floor to clean up after each guest. The “high-limit” section had limited access to avoid larger crowds. Throughout the casino floor, not many people were adhering to the mask policy, and ironically we saw a security guard walk by that said “COVID-19 enforcement”, but we didn’t notice too much enforcement on the casino floor.
Coffee Bar, Pool, and more!
Other amenities include a coffee bar on property and of course the pools! On our second day at the property, we were able to use the pools but this also had some heavy restrictions. For instance, since it was our “checkout day” we were advised that if the pool gets to capacity be asked to leave at around noon. This was managed by the use of color-coded wristbands. We had a purple one and that meant we were “checking out” that day.
Also to use the pool, you had to secure a pool chair. That is, you cannot leave your belongings on the side of the pool or anything like that. Another thing is if you move from one pool to the other you must wear a mask when walking around in common areas. The views were gorgeous and the pools itself were spectacular. There was one section of the pool that had sand so it had a beachy feel to it.
The PPE supplies were also in abundance, for instance, as we left the pool area, an attendant was handing out masks to those that may need it, in case the one you had got wet, etc.
The coffee bar was also over the top safe! They even had a little sanitization station that was fully-equipped with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
All in all the staycation was amazing, it felt like a quick escape, and the fact that we were able to be back home in less than twenty minutes makes for an epic travel time for any vacation. So what other iconic areas do you want to visit? Let us know in the Living In Oakland Park Facebook Group.
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About the Author
Maria Scudella-Beltran was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey, right outside of New York City. She moved to South Florida in 2004 and graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors’ degree in Marketing and Communications.
In 2010, she purchased her first home in the North Andrews Gardens area in Oakland Park. After several years of working in the retail industry, Maria took on a part-time internship at a marketing agency and continued her education through Walden University where she earned her Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications.
Currently, she works in Marketing and during her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling.
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