TR: Florida Vacation 2011
Day 2: October 23, 2011
Day 2 - Sunday, October 23.
So after various amounts of sleep, we awake in the morning, get dressed, and head to the free hotel breakfast. Ok, the free hotel breakfast consists of a continental breakfast of bagels, and what we termed the "Little Debbie Buffet" Just about every kind of Little Debbie snack cake or muffin. Coffee, and juices were available, but much to my amazement, orange was not one of the juices on offer. Oh, and no tables either, you grab what you like and take it back to the room.
Today, we decide to go to Hard Rock Tampa. Hard Rock, in this case, is a Seminole indian casino. It also meant having to drive all the way back to Tampa. (Sure the beach front room is nice, if not exactly practical). The casino is basically across the highway from the state fairgrounds. Of course, the state fair is not in session. It's a modern high rise hotel located directly off Exit 6 of I-4.
We had no problems getting to the casino, had a bit more trouble navigating the confusing parking garage and headed into the casino. You enter from level three of the garage, where you can look down at the Seminole's other money maker: the Smoke Shop, selling tobacco products without the pesky sin taxes, as is their right as a sovereign Indian nation. Once inside a small lobby greats you with Hard Rock dislays before you ride an escalator down to the gaming floor. A native indian craft/gift store is tucked behind the escalator.
It's a casino, albeit one with a modern look inside. We headed right to the players club to get cards, and to redeem these coupons for $20 for new players. Gettig signed up is pretty simple, and after signing some papers, they hand us what appear to be $20 slot payout tickets. The catch is that you have to have your card in the machine for the voucher to work, and once inserted you must play through the entire $20 on that machine. No cash outs until you play the $20 through. Hopefully you nab some winnings from those $20 in free credits, but not likely.
Out on the gaming floor, penny machines are hard to find, with two cent machines far more common, along with nickles on up. Most quarter games take up to 5 quarters per spin, and you can't really sniff a seat at a table game for under $25 a hand. Wanda found a nickel Advance to Boardwalk Monopoly machine where all the bonus rounds are like carnival games, and a wooden rollercoaster animation plays during the free spins. I so much wanted to like that machine and I did win about $100 on it, so that isn't bad.
For the most part though, we didn't care much for the casino. I did find it odd that I was able to order a Yuengling Lager in the casino. I thought "No Firewater!" was the rule at Indian reservations. No free alcohol, for those keeping score.
So we all played for a few hours, and then we decided to do their Sunday Brunch up in the buffet. Timing was on our side as we arrived to the buffet right ahead of the crowd. The way they run their buffet is interesting, they hand you a credit card size plastic card on you way in, and you pay your server at the end of the meal. At this buffet they have several different "buffets" inside one larger buffet. You have your Oriental dim sum station, your raw bar, your steak bar, salad, bar, italian bar, and the traditional bar. For brunch there would be breakfast items mixed in. The reason for the plastic card? Not all items are included in the $15 buffet fee ($20 if not a slot club member) and are priced ala carte. They also handle beer the same way. We decided to restrict ourselves to the items that were included in the base fee, and had more than enough. First stop, the omlette made to order station, then some breakfast (bacon/cheese grits!), from there I experimented in the dim sum area, as well as the pasta bar. Desserts were wonderful, and as I mentioned we all ate very well.
After eating we went back to the casino, but didn't stay too long before heading out. We headed back to the hotel, where I checked out the price of the mini golf place across the street, and we rested up before taking another walk. For the readers benefit, I'm not going to detail the walks, pool, hot tub, or beach usage, for the most part, just consider that as read when I say we spent time at the hotel
We watched Amazing Race on the TV, then ran up to McDonald's for some Mango smoothies, then decided to go to bed early as we were planning on going to Universal Studios in the morning. The park opens at 9am, and GPS tells me I want to be on the road by 7AM.