All Eyes Now On the Orlando Eye

And to be clear, they are ready for it! Last week’s media opening of the IDrive 360, aka The Orlando Eye, was followed by the public invited-guests-only opening on 4/29; and by the time you read this post the doors, err, I should say ‘pods’, will be officially open to the world. And that’s a very good thing. Want to know why? As Scott Maxwell said in his ‘Taking Names’ column in the Sunday, May 3 Orlando Sentinel, “this is what I-Drive needs – an innovative, high-tech addition that’s garnering national attention.”

That’s due to more than just the stand-out size of this project which can be seen from numerous locations in and around Orlando. It’s also due to the prestigious comparisons being made between this attraction and similar successful ones already in place in London and other world class global destinations.

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I Drive 360 Orlando – Top FIVE Know Before You Go

Yes, it’s true.  Some of us are able to get in before the crowds and take a ‘spin’ around. But no, when I use the word spin I’m not referring to having been on the ride already because technically, well, it’s not quite ready and seriously, who wants to risk their lives just for the sake of scooping a story?  Not the HH Maven, although during my days at USF we were privy to many opportunities to ‘ride the rides’ before the flood gates were open to the masses.  But I digress with that little share because this post is not about a [now] 25 year old attraction.  This is a preview post about the latest and greatest attraction that Orlando has to offer, The Orlando Eye.

I know you’re already thinking I’m a lucky gal, right?  Well, yes, I’ll go ahead and agree with you because I’m not going to lie.  It’s a really cool thing to be able to take a hard hat walk-through while the place is still empty and in advance of an estimated 2 million visitors (year one estimate) coming from every nook and cranny of the universe to see what all the fuss is about.  But beyond the ‘cool’ factor I should also point out that I do make my living as a planner so, among other things, that means I like to know details in advance because how else can a planner avoid near disaster if she isn’t properly informed?  Lucky for you I’m happy to share what I was able to learn about the I-Drive 360 which is the official name of what most people will refer to as The Orlando Eye.

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You Be the Judge – It’s Not JUST a Pie!

TRUE CONFESSION: I’m writing this at the end of a weekend wherein I taste-tested over, um, gulp, 27 different pies.

There, I said it, and yes, I’m a pie butt, albeit this past weekend I was officially one for a very good cause. You see, I was honored/happy/over the moon when I recently found out that I had ‘made the cut’ (oye-now starts the pie puns. . .) to be an official judge at the recently completed National Pie Championships sponsored by the American Pie Council, whose purpose is “committed to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love affair with pies.”

Yea, there really is, and you betcha, I really was!

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Do You Like Free?

I know I do, and this week I’m sharing an awesome website about all kinds of things that happen in and around Orlando each week, and many of them are free as in F.R.E.E. I know it’s hard to believe given that we live in the land of [yawn] $100 per day tickets to you-know-where [sigh], but maybe that’s what makes this information even more sweet. We all know there are hidden gems in and around OTown, and I’m always happy to share news about any of them that I can. So check out this website called, appropriately, Orlando at Play, and tell me you don’t just love the areas that scream “FREE Events”?

I’m waiting. Are you channeling the love?

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Looking for Something to “Wine” About?

Well, here’s some interesting wine news from the hospitality desk: In a recent survey about global wine and travel trends conducted by market research firm StudyLogic, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts discovered that after a long day, one out of every two people would reach for a glass of wine (48%) rather than their smartphone/tablet (15%) or – get ready for this one – even their spouse (15%). Yes, you read that correctly. Having a chat with your spouse was given the same percentage ranking of importance (or lack thereof) as reaching for your electronic device, aka crack cocaine of personal choice. [see previous Hive posting RE more on this phenom at Welcome to the Experience Economy ]

Further, and perhaps even more surprising, were that survey results also showed 23% of the respondents would be willing to give up sex for a week in return for a premium highly rated glass of wine. (Hey, I’m just reporting the facts here. Please don’t diss the messenger.)

So what does that mean to you and I? In broader terms, a lot of us like wine, oh yeah, and we like it real good.

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Wrong Date? What Do You Mean It’s the Wrong Date?

They moved the date. I swear they did! We – two perfectly sane, college educated adults – most certainly could not have both read the invitation wrong. The Halloween costume party we were invited to would be held, most certainly, on Halloween night, oh yes it would. In particular because this was a year in which the actual holiday fell on a Saturday night. The bigger question that came into play was the one involving my costume-hating-Halloween-grinch of a husband. Would he actually agree to dress up as something – anything in a costume – for the sake of attending what promised to be a really fun party at the home of some really great friends?

[pause while holding breath for answer. . .]

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Looking for Interesting Work in the Field of Hospitality?

If so, there’s plenty to choose from, especially here in Orlando.  And in particular if you’re one of the many, many people who actually put this sentence on your resume or job application:  “I’m such a PEOPLE person, I know I’ll be perfect for this job!  People just LOVE me!”  Well go ahead, gag all you want, but some people, and you know who you are, really do put this on their job application.  But good news for all you people-lovers, because guess what?  Seriously, what kind of jobs are out there that don’t require some form of interaction with actual live human beings at some point?  (Okay, I do recognize that there are a lot of virtual workers in the world now; but still, even those jobs must require just a tad of  playing-nice-with-people-when-necessary, right?)

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50 Shades – Is Orlando Ready?

Okay, stop rolling your eyes! Before you judge me, this IS NOT another random commentary for or against “Fifty” that, like it or not, has only just begun to push it’s way into our sub conscience. Like a tidal wave that’s been churning out in the ocean searching for a landing spot on which to explode, once the movie is released in another week, http://www.50shadesofgrey.com, even the two people left on this planet who have never read the books by E. L. James , http://www.fiftyshadesofgrey.com will now be forced into discussions and conversations about red rooms, blindfolds, and, um, “oh my”, what people do with those whips in the bedroom.

Lucky for you that’s not what this post is about. (Pause for disappointing sighs from some readers who now feel mislead by this blog title. I guess this is where we say goodbye? . . .)

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Woof-woof! Is That a Dog I Hear In the Room Next Door?

Well, if you’re staying at any number of local hotels, it very well could be. You see, Orlando has definitely embraced the newest members of the traveling world, that being the pampered pet community. Yes, hotels have gone to the dogs. And cats. And while I hesitate to think of what other types of animals people travel with these days. . .for now, let’s just concentrate on the ‘normal’ ones and leave the exotic and creepy pets where they should stay which is in the wild, or at the very least a zoo. I mean, at home with their owners. Yeah, that’s what I meant.

So, let’s suppose you have a beloved dog or cat and can’t leave home without this pet. And let’s also assume you travel in style so, of course, Fido/Princess/Lassie/Boo would expect nothing less for his or her vacation either, right? Where to go? No seriously, where should you go, specifically here in Orlando? Believe it or not, we have plenty of choices. Some that may even surprise you.

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Pig on a Plane?

Here in Orlando, it would appear that we have a corner on the weird and wacky market known as tacky tourists.

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Do We Have Enough ICE in Orlando for Everyone Yet?

I think not, because everywhere you turn this time of year you discover a new ‘ice thingie’ here in town.

In the mid 70’s when I first arrived on the Orlando scene, it was just the occasional tiny ice rink that would pop onto the scene around the holidays, kind of like those Teflon ones you find on some of the cruise lines. Then RDV opened their Sports Complex in Maitland including the Ice Den and voilà, next thing you know we have an actual hockey team here in Otown. Soon, the great, big sprawling Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel opened and immediately began featuring an incredible annual ICE! exhibit which just gets more creative and bigger (and more expensive, as a fellow Hype Orlando blogger recently posted) every year, followed by the city of Winter Park adding their popular ice rink for public skating. Next up not one, but two ice bars in the tourist corridor on International Drive. Ice Bar Orlando, located right on the Drive, and Minus 5 Ice Bar, which you will find at Pointe Orlando. So, what next? An ice show with professional skaters for all to enjoy based at a local hotel? RC_Holidays on Ice logo

Why yes, thank you!

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7 easy-peasy random acts of kindness to brighten the holiday season

. . .and, here in the Hive, we believe that’s always a very good thing.  Of course, ‘RaK’s’ are welcome any day of the year, but for some reason as we approach the twin goodness of Thanksgiving and the mother-of-all holidays that closely follows, it seems even more pertinent to acknowledge the need to pay it forward – if only in the tiniest of ways – as much as possible.  So, in the spirit of being grateful for a multitude of things, how about trying a week’s worth of random acts of kindness?  To get you started, here are seven easy ones that are basic and inexpensive but could leave lasting impressions:

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The Four Seasons – Luxury, Ambience and a Food Truck?

That’s right, a food truck.  Who knew?  For most people (myself included) familiar with the Four Seasons message of over-the-top luxury, the tag-along of a food truck would never be in the same sentence.  Yet here I am writing about both.  One from the standpoint of ‘been there, experienced that’ and the other, well, guess […]

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Would These Events Scare You?

Having some fun this week in the spirit of Halloween, so I’m sharing some shortened versions of “scary event stories” that have happened to professionals, myself included, who work in this industry. To be clear, these stories are all true. But, in the spirit of ‘protecting the innocent’, I’m not divulging any names/places. Not now. Not never!

What I can tell you is that as a veteran planner in this industry, there’s no need to make this stuff up because crazy things really do happen all the time, everywhere meetings and events are held. And yes, even here in Orlando. Just ask any one of the over 200,000 hospitality employees that live and work here.

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Can Airline Safety be Sexy?

Whether or not you’re a frequent flyer or just occasionally visit ‘the friendly skies’ (I know use of that quote dates me but seriously, that’s what we used to call them and hey, news flash – before 9/11 many flights actually were consumer friendly and enjoyable), you’ve probably seen some of the recent safety videos offered up by most of the major carriers.  Although I’m not sure who went first, I think it might have been Virgin Airlines with this sexy, funky, crazy version released last year and now seen by over 9 million people.

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Welcome to the Experience Economy

Keeping up with industry buzzwords, I learned recently that we have left the SERVICE economy behind us and are now in the EXPERIENCE economy.  (Technically, this happened a few years back.  For data and details, check out the book The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore that was last updated in, um. 2011. Full Disclosure:  Not the first time I’ve been late to the party. Just sayin’ .) Anyway, here in the wonderful world of hospitality we still believe that service is king, oh yes we do! But, the current challenge is to find more and better ways of providing excellent service experiences at the same time that we’re embracing unemotional systems, policies and procedures.

To put it in a hospitality-hotel nutshell, if you’re smoking your iPhone and are addicted to technology (yes, you out there, currently tapping your thumbs on your you-know-what), do you really want or care about that smile delivered with your room key at hotel check in, or would you prefer to bypass human interaction at the front desk and unlock your room with an app that you’ve downloaded on your very own hand-held piece of legal crack (aka iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Nokia Lumia, or whatever you’ve got)?

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One of Orlando’s (many) Hospitality Heroes

Some have theme parks named after themselves.  Others, hotels. Some refrain from using their personal moniker when naming their creations, at least until the time is right.  Robert Earl is one of them.

Known in Orlando (mostly) for being the British brains behind Planet Hollywood, many are surprised when they hear his empire includes Buca di Beppo, Earl of Sandwich shops, and so much more.  Today we’ll cover part of the ‘and more’ because now Robert can add TV show to his resume.  And apparently, the time is right since he’s chosen to call it Robert Earl’s Be My Guest.  Premiering this very month on the Cooking Chanel, Be My Guest follows Robert’s continual quest to take us on culinary excursions, but this time we’re leaving Orlando (although not in every episode) and doing some traveling.

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And, Speaking of Lobby Bars. . .Heeerrreee’s Harry’s!

As mentioned in a previous post, I do love me a good hotel lobby bar, and get particularly excited when the inbox contains an invite to a new opening.  For so many reasons, the August 19th opening of Harry’s Poolside Bar and Grill at the Rosen Centre Hotel certainly did not disappoint!  Before I give you my ‘High Five for Harry’s’ review, I’ll let you in on a secret. . .

When I first heard the name, I did a little happy dance in my mind while remembering a most fabulous experience I once had at THE Harry’s Bar, you know the really famous one in Venice, as in Venice, Italy, right?

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Which Way to the Lobby Bar?

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I do love me a good hotel lobby bar, and yes, living here in Orlando we’ve got a plethora of great ones to choose from, so lucky us!  But I wonder how many locals take advantage of this chic and oftentimes cultured opportunity?  What’s that, you’re asking?  Where’s the ‘opportunity’ in a local having to shed the flip-flops (please?) and drive all the way out to park themselves in the middle of the insanely populated tourist and convention flow (eeuw!)  just to pony up to a bar?  Let me count the ways…

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Do You Work In the Hospitality Industry?

I do, and in fact every job I’ve had during my adult professional career has been grounded in it. Further, each job I’ve held has allowed me to conquer the learning curve, and then provided a springboard to the next opportunity; and that seems to be the pattern of everyone I know who is gainfully employed in the wonderful, sometimes wacky world of hospitality. The job possibilities are [almost] endless, especially here in Orlando, and since I’m a perfect example of going all over the map in this industry, I’ll share with you some of the more interesting positions I’ve held…

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