I rely on Trip Advisor for all my family’s vacations so I wanted to provide this trip report. The trip included me, husband, son 10 and daughter 8. The vacation was just a relaxing trip for our children’s spring break with no family to see this year.
We had a great experience on Southwest flying from Philly to Fort Lauderdale. Upon arrival in Lauderdale we rented a car from Enterprise. The Fort Lauderdale airport design makes it so easy to access the car rental area-get your bags at baggage claim, take elevator up one level to the car desks, check in and then go around a corner into the parking garage where your car is ready for you and an attendant is there waiting with your keys. No bus to catch to the outlying areas of the airport! We rented a convertible and it was great fun for all. We drove straight to our hotel, the Beachcomber in Pompano Beach. We stayed at the hotel last year but spent the entire time next door at our in-laws condo, so I didn’t experience the hotel; but this year was different and we took full advantage of the hotel amenities. I found the staff wonderful, although if you have a problem there is still no one at the hotel capable of handling problems of any degree and depending upon your situation it could make your trip frustrating and unenjoyable. Luckily, our two problems occurred before the trip and after we arrived home. Before the trip I discovered after making my reservations that I hadn’t remembered to use my AAA for a room discount. When I called the front desk they curtly informed me that my first night had already been charged to my credit card and therefore I could not receive the discount for night one. After dealing with this hotel last year and reading the managers’ responses to reviews on this site I didn’t even bother attempting to resolve this issue with the hotel since there is very little time spent on customer service; instead, I dealt with the refund through my credit card. After our trip, I discovered that we’d left my daughter’s favorite swim shirt on the deck of our room. Although I’ve left a couple messages with housekeeping supervisor I have yet to hear back. Since no vacation is without it’s problems one should keep this in mind when deciding whether to stay at this hotel; otherwise the inexpensive rooms, location directly on the beach, friendly staff and amenities makes this an ideal hotel for families. Upon arrival at our hotel in the late afternoon we took the kids swimming in the pool. For dinner we stopped at the front desk (the hotel doesn’t have a concierge) to see if we needed reservations for The Riverside Grill (formally known as, Joe’s Riverside). No reservations were needed and the clerk gave us a coupon for $20 off our bill! Joe’s was a favorite place of ours back in the day, but last year we were sadly disappointed in the place and food. However, I’d read on TA that there was a new owner so we wanted to give it another chance and were happily surprised. The new owner has redecorated the inside dining area giving it a much needed fresh, bright, clean look. Thankfully the outside deck overlooking the intercoastal had not changed and we took our seats outside to enjoy a nice meal and beautiful view. My kids liked their meals (pasta and filet). My husband and I both ordered the bouillabaisse which was cooked nicely, large portions but the broth was bland. Kids loved their brownie bash sundae. Service was attentive and meal was served at a nice pace for apps, entrées and desserts. My son asked if we could return for another meal later in the week~ which we did. I’m glad the Riverside is back! Afterwards we drove around a bit enjoying the pleasant night and our convertible.
In the morning, we headed across the street from the hotel to eat breakfast at Stingers. Although the hotel has a restaurant, we all love Stingers. It’s a great dive with inexpensive hearty breakfasts. Although they serve food all day, we’ve only been there for breakfast. We always sit outside-inside is a bit dark a grungy looking. We went to Stingers every morning of our vacation to eat breakfast. The waitresses and owner are friendly, food comes out fast and you can’t beat the prices for nice portions of good food. I ordered a different meal every day but my daughter ordered chocolate pancakes, son Egg McStinger and husband Dave’s Benedict daily. Afterwards, we spent the day enjoying the beach and pool at the hotel. I can’t say enough about the pool/beach/tiki bar staff. All are so nice to the guests and have a great camaraderie with each other which was seen especially when they were busy. New this year is the beach towel card. To ensure more control of the beach towels each guest is designated a towel card. When you get your towels you hand in your cards and when you return the towels you get cards back. It was not hassle and I think they started it because the Wyndam guests next door have few amenities and were taking towels from our hotel using them and then the towel would disappear. For dinner we were excited to return to the Mai Kai this year at the kids request. Although this is an expensive meal, almost $300 for valet parking, show, apps, entrée, desserts and cocktails, I would recommend it because it is an experience and a full evening out with younger kids. The menu is too extensive and food is just average; but the Polynesian themed restaurant, tropical drinks, show and gardens make this place a must do. My husband and I enjoyed coming here even before we had children. This place also has a small gift store where we purchased tiki statutes for our daughter and son.
After our breakfast at Stingers, we went to Butterfly World -which is another must see even if you don’t have children. This was expensive even with a coupon from brochure at our hotel. Tickets and butterfly guidebook cost us $80. We entered the first tent with piped in classical music and thousands of butterflies and it took our breath away. You could sit on a bench for an hour and just relax and enjoy. There is another tent with tropical birds, a building with a nice bug exhibit, another tent with a lorikeet exhibit and an outdoor eating area and café which is really a snack bar. Beware the lorikeets! I have fed them before other places and thought the children might enjoy the experience; both declined but wanted to watch me. I purchased the nectar for $1 and the lorikeets flocked to my arms -all was fine until one of the lorikeets took a nice bite out of my arm and I started bleeding! It was not a deep bite but it did bleed a lot and I didn’t have a band aid with me so I had to keep a Kleenex pressed down to get the bleeding to stop. The kids were horrified. Also, while we were in the lorikeet room I saw a child who didn’t have food stick his finger out and he got a nice bite on his finger. The kids were hungry so we stopped at the snack bar so they could have lunch. The café has ice cream, drinks, microwave pizza, white castle burgers and hot dogs- great for kids but my husband and I chose to wait and eat lunch at a restaurant. Before leaving we stopped in the gift store which had some nice things, especially the dead butterfly wall mount boxes. My daughter purchased enamel butterfly earrings and I purchased an enamel butterfly pin. If you go don’t miss the gift store. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Houston’s for a late lunch. The front hostess at Houston’s was a bit snarky but the rest of the staff was very nice. At 2:30 there was a “half an hour wait” for a table on the patio for lunch but you could sit in the bar area but only for appetizers and drinks and the kids ate their hot fudge sundae dessert. I did like Houston’s, but I don’t like such pretentious restaurants that portend a wait when there are empty tables (which was the case that day). Usually I would leave, but we stayed since the children had already eaten their lunch, it was getting late and we were hungry. Our fish lunch was very good. We went back to hotel where the kids had a swim. My husband picked up a baked chicken and sides from Publix for dinner for kids which they ate outside on deck.
After breakfast at Stingers, our friends from home, who happened to be at a nearby hotel in Fort Lauderdale, came over for a beach/pool day. Our hotel is very strict about nonguests parking in the lot but were fine with our friends parking there to visit with us. We had lunch poolside. The kids loved their burgers and chicken and we all enjoyed the salads. Our friends were staying at a much more expensive hotel in Lauderdale and found the Beachcomber a gem. For dinner we met them at Casablanca in Fort Lauderdale for dinner. We could not get a table on the deck but it was a bit windy so our table just inside overlooking the ocean was just fine. The food and service at this restaurant were both excellent and we will return here.
After Stingers we headed to Fort Lauderdale and boarded the Jungle Queen for a cruise on intercoastal. I know, I know, this cruise has gotten bad reviews on TA, but our hotel staff said many families come back from the cruise raving and my husband thought we should give it a try. Our hotel had yet another coupon and we made the 9:30 tour. This is a very large boat with two tiers of covered seating. There is no snack bar on board only drinks. Although it doesn’t matter what side of the boat you sit on because you will see one side on the way out and the other side on the way back; I would suggest sitting on the right (that is- when you are inside the boat facing forward -the seats on your right) because you will hear the guides commentary on the way out mostly about the right-side sites. One thing about the cruise that I did not like was the tour guides constant hard sell of a photo book that included about 10 old photos of the sights on the cruise. The guide mentioned in every way possible that the crew does not accept tips and the way to tip them was to buy the photo book. I would have rather tipped the crew than hear that spiel the entire cruise! Otherwise, the tour was informative and relaxing and just when you wanted to get up and stretched your legs we arrived at the Jungle Queen’s small island where you can purchase snacks and drinks to eat their or take back on the boat. First, we looked at the couple caged birds and animals, then we bought a couple soft pretzels and sat at the picnic tables awaiting the start of the real entertainment- the alligator wrestler! It is true that there is no announcement at the beginning of this show so if you’re not nearby you may miss it entirely. There were two alligators in the pit. The wrestler, Daniel, gave us a bit of information about the alligators and then did some stunts with one of the two alligators. He works on tips and I’m afraid to say people were very stingy -even though he put on a good show and was very brave. After the show, the wrestler took a three-year-old alligator out of her cage and allowed photos with her at $5 each (he would take them for you using your camera), she had a band over her mouth. Of course we got our photos with her –the children would only hold her tail after the lorikeet incident. Then Daniel asked our children if they wanted to take a photo with her without her band. My son declined but my daughter very bravely accepted. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best idea but she proudly showed the photo to her classmates and now keeps it in her room. It was the highlight of her trip! After the photo op we got back on the boat and finished the intercoastal tour. Unlike many of the trip advisors writers, I would recommend this cruise, especially for children. The valet at the Bahia Mar, where we parked our car, was very nice and gave the kids beach balls when we left. On our way back to the hotel we stopped for lunch at the Pelican Grand which is on the ocean side. We were able to have a nice lunch on the porch with wonderful views of the ocean. Our lunch was delicious and relaxing. We decided to have dessert in the Pelican Grand’s “ice cream parlor”. Although billed as an ice cream shop, it sadly is no more than a gift/sundry shop with an empty ice cream case. The shop does have five flavors of ice cream but no cherries and no hot fudge. I think they need to change the name. After filling our bellies, we went back to our hotel for a swim. For dinner we returned to the Riverside Grille, with another coupon, and sat at the same table on the deck. The kids got their same meals and enjoyed it -especially the endamane appetizer (lots of salt). My husband and I both had fish dishes, which were nicely seasoned. I also got the key lime pie, which was ok, but nothing like the key lime they served at Joe’s years ago. One more drive around in our convertible before we headed back to the hotel.
We packed up and left our hotel for an early flight. I was again impressed by the service of Enterprise rental car. We had opted to pay for a full tank of gas in advance since we didn’t want to worry about finding a station to fill it on the way to the airport. When we arrived to drop off the car we told the Enterprise attendant that we’d only used half a tank and should have probably opted to fill it ourselves rather than pay for a full tank. We also had a bit of trouble with the trunk of the car not closing and without us even asking, the attendant discounted our rate due to the half tank of gas and trunk problems. Dropping off the car was just as easy as picking it up. All we did was round a corner and we were in the airport for check in. I wish all airports were designed like this!
There were some problems with Southwest on the way home. It was very slow boarding. Sad to say that there were many people (14) using airport wheel chairs and two with their own wheel chairs. It was clear that all but 3 were using them to get on the plane first. Not only did these people board first but so did their “families”. Some frequent flyers of Southwest told us that this happens often and although these people are supposed to wait to disembark the plane after the other passengers they miraculously can walk unassisted right off the plane and to baggage claim, and that is exactly what happened. And what was worse, one of the gentleman who had boarded with “family” was left by himself to await his wheel chair while those who boarded with him left. I really think Southwest needs to start assigning passengers seats and this is just one example of why.
All in all another nice trip to Pompano!