“ Address: 8442 Palm Parkway Lake / Buena Vista / FL 32836 „
Having never been to Orlando before recently, I had no idea what to look for in a hotel, or where would be the best place to stay. As neither me nor my husband drive, we needed somewhere with good transport links and somewhere that wasn't too far away from the theme parks. Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista appeared to be quite central in regards to the theme parks and other attractions which is why we picked this hotel over others.
== Location ==
As suggested by the name, Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista is located in the Lake Buena Vista area of Orlando, on Palm Parkway. For those of you who don't know Orlando, Palm Parkway is a 10 minute drive away from Disney and has a range of shops and restaurants all on one street. For me, the location was pretty perfect. Not having a car meant either having to eat at the restaurant a lot or while we were out and about. There are so many restaurants within walking distance of this hotel and even more nearby if you do have a car. The Clarion Inn is also only a very short walk away from bus stops which use the number 50, which serves both Disney and Downtown Orlando. The convenient bus services meant that we could come and go as we pleased, not having to be confined to the hotel's shuttle service (which I will explain later).
== The Hotel ==
On arriving at the hotel, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Unlike one tall building like I am used to with hotels, this has the lobby/ restaurant building as well as other buildings which are to both the left and right of the main building. These other buildings are where you will find all of the rooms. Each building has 4 floors of rooms.
As you enter the hotel the first thing to see is a customer service desk, which is just on the left hand side. Here, you can ask staff for information about the Disney parks as well as being able to buy tickets. While I think that this was a good idea, it would have been nice if the service had extended to the other theme parks, such as Universal. However, the Clarion Inn is a Disney Good Neighbour hotel so I guess that's why it was Disney only.
To the right of the entrance is a large reception area and check in desks. This part of the hotel is wonderfully decorated and it looks very modern with its sofa seats and dark wood desk. The check in area looks friendly and staff there were more than helpful as we checked in. For those with a lot of luggage, a trolley can be asked for and a member of staff will also help you up to your room. At this point, I couldn't have faulted the customer service from this hotel.
There is one small computer area for guests to use but only if you are printing boarding passes etc. It would have been nice to be able to use this computer to research bus times etc but luckily, the hotel has free Wi-Fi and I had my Kindle with me to do all that kind of stuff.
== Dining Options ==
In the main building you have a bar, deli/ grocery store, restaurant and games room.
The Lite Bite deli sells a range of hot/ cold drinks, snacks, sandwiches etc. We stopped here numerous times over the course of our stay to get drinks mostly but they also serve great tasting hot dogs which are just over $1 each. This place is good but only for a quick snack even though they do serve microwavable meals as well. The deli also doubles as a gift shop. The prices of gifts were reasonable although there are multiple discount gift stores down the road that are a much better option. However, the prices here are still better than at Disney or Universal but the range isn't nearly as extensive. The Lite Bite deli is open from 6am until 1am.
The Comfort Zone Bar & Grille is open from 5.30pm until 11pm each day. Here, you can have a smaller main meal such as chicken strips, a burger and fries etc. or visit just to have a couple of drinks. Speaking of, the bar has a daily happy hour with a selection of drinks on a BOGOF offer. We ate here twice, once in the bar and once we ordered take out to eat in our room. Unfortunately, we had mixed feelings about the food served in the bar. The time we dined in, we had burgers and hot dogs, which were amazing and cost about $7 for each meal. The hot dog meal comes with 2 hot dogs and fries which for the price, couldn't have been better. However, when we ordered chicken strips to take out the meal was extremely greasy and the strips barely had any decent chicken in them at all. So, mixed feelings about the bar meals.
The other dining option is the hotel's main restaurant. Here, you can have an all you can eat buffet breakfast from 6.30am to 10.30am for around $9 each. The hotel gives you a BOGOF voucher for your first breakfast which is great. On offer is a range of food from Mickey Mouse waffles (which were amazing), eggs, donuts, pancakes, sausage etc. There are also cereal and fruit options so there is something for everyone. Breakfast gets really busy so I would advise going as early as possible. While the breakfast was pretty good, unless you eat a good few plates full, the $9 is a bit overpriced. I found myself only having one plate full most days we ate here and I could have gotten better value down the road at Denny's or IHOP.
The main restaurant also serves dinner from 5pm until 9pm which is also a buffet service although we didn't do this.
== The Rooms ==
In order to get to your room, you need to head through the lobby, past the restaurant and through a set of double doors which takes you outside. Depending on your room number, you either need to head to the left or the right. Each side of the hotel has a pool which is shared between either rooms starting in 1 and 2 and another for 3 and 4. We were given room 3043 which was to the left. As we passed the pool, it looked extremely inviting with its sun loungers around the outside and the sun beating down on the water. Next to the pool was also a kid's play and splash area.
Rooms above ground level are reachable by lift, which was idea for those with lots of luggage like we had. There are also stairs if you're feeling a little less lazy than we were. All rooms either have a shared balcony (as this is how you access your room) or face straight out onto a car park. Luckily, we were on the third floor so no car park directly in front of us and I really liked having a balcony. Although you can't sit out there, it is nice to stand out on in the evening.
Our double hotel room really consisted of three rooms. In the main room were two double beds, a wardrobe, desk, TV, drawers and an armchair. The room was quite dark even with the curtains open or all of the lights on, which was a shame. Then, there was a small kitchen area which had a sink, microwave, fridge and coffee maker. The bathroom only consisted of a toilet and bath/ shower... no sink. This meant that the sink in the kitchen area also had to be our bathroom sink. I didn't really want to be getting a wash out of the same sink that we were washing up cups etc. in. I'm not sure why the bathroom had no sink but there was enough space for one.
Something I was extremely thankful for was an air-conditioning unit which was fitted into the large window at the front of the room. We visited Orlando at the end of September but it was still unbearably hot during the night so the air-conditioning was really a life saver for us. The double beds are quite small doubles so when there are two people sleeping in them, it can get extremely hot and sticky throughout the night. If it hadn't have been for the air-conditioning, I think my husband and I would have been sleeping separately for the most of our holiday.
The rooms at the Clarion Inn aren't the best but they're comfortable enough. We had everything we needed, with housekeeping replacing towels and shampoo etc. each day. I should also mention that this is a smoke-free hotel although there are ash trays on each floor near the elevators and most people who smoke will do it outside their rooms on the balcony.
== Extras ==
The hotel offers a free shuttle service to a lot of places compared with other hotels I looked at. The free shuttles service Disney parks, Universal, Sea World and Epcot. However, mostly there is only one shuttle per day to each location and only one back with the exception of Magic Kingdom where there are a few. The times of the shuttles can mean that you either have to stay somewhere longer than you wanted to or come home earlier than you wanted to. This is why we loved the hotel being near the 50 bus as it meant we could use the shuttle to get to places but then get the bus back.
== Overall ==
This hotel costs roughly £56 a night and for that price, considering the location, I can't really complain. I would probably stay here again but mainly due to how easy it was to get around Orlando from this location.