Tidewater Traveler: January 2006

New Life for an Old Name

     In the near-total darkness I am wondering if I am still upright. But wondering takes time and my body is plummeting so quickly through spirals and curves, twisting and turning, without the benefit of anticipating the changes of direction. If I had time to ponder my circumstances, I would question why an overweight, 57-year-old ascended six-stories of steps to cautiously enter a dark, plastic, enclosed chute for a forty-second, circuitous plunge into a pool of water.
      Hurtling blindly through the tube-like “something” that has been flushed, I am recalling snippets of my first water slide experience, nearly five decades ago. I am recalling the pain of elbows, forearms and knees bounding across every uneven joint seam from beginning to end. I am recalling the force of water into my nostrils signaling the end of the ride, not to mention an ultimate sensation akin to a surprise enema.
      Perhaps experience is a good teacher; perhaps these flashes of memory from five decades ago are serving me well, for I have demanded of myself that arms be folded across my chest, legs be crossed; and I am prepared to exhale when I sense reaching the bottom. I tell myself, relax; don’t fight it; go with the flow.
Amazingly, I reach the bottom, torpedo into the splash-down area to be slowed by the water’s drag and with minimal effort gain my footing. I did it!
      I am reminded of an anonymous quotation I saw recently printed in a local bank calendar: “Good judgment comes from experience; and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.”
      Such was my first run (Yes, I did it several more times!) through the long winding waterslide at the Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn? I bet you thought that was a highway hotel chain. This Holiday Inn, actually the Holiday Inn Select brand, is an example of how the “extreme makeover” craze is impacting the hospitality and travel industry. Today, tonight and tomorrow, as a birthday gift for grandson Evan, we are checked in at the Holiday Inn Select – North at the Pyramids, Indianapolis, and we are playing at The Caribbean Cove Indoor Water Park, part of the hotel complex.
      The water park could be a destination in and of itself, but when coupled with the convenience of having a hotel room just a few steps down the corridor, it becomes not just a hotel, but also a destination. The climate-controlled, 50,000-square-foot Holidome® features body slides, tube slides, a plunge pool, a sports activity pool, a lazy river, two huge whirlpool spas and an interactivity wet-play area, safe for little ones to exercise poor judgment.
      When I was a little one in the early Fifties taking road trips with Mom and Dad, I recall that Holiday Inns were considered to be more expensive and upscale places to spend a night. Consequently, since we were budget travelers, we rarely checked in at a Holiday Inn; instead we usually stayed at small, simple, independent motels. But even then, the name of Holiday Inn was becoming known as a standard-setter in the hospitality industry.
      On August 1, 1952, after he had repeatedly encountered uncomfortable, inconsistent and overpriced accommodations, entrepreneur Kemmons Wilson opened his first Holiday Inn hotel on the outskirts of his hometown, at a roadside location near Memphis, Tennessee. His first hotel featured 120 guest rooms, each with a private bathroom, air conditioning and a telephone. Additional features included a swimming pool, free ice cubes, free parking and dog kennels. Children stayed free in their parents’ room. Today, such amenities are the norm, but in the early Fifties they were ground-breaking for the hotel industry.
      Acquisitions, mergers, and growth have morphed the simple but revolutionary hotel chain into the world-renowned collection of hotel brands known as the InterContinental Hotels Group, operating or franchising more than 2,800 hotels with 450,000 guest rooms in over 90 countries worldwide. Brands of the group include: InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza®, Hotel Indigo®, Holiday Inn® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Select®, Holiday Inn SunSpree® Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Holiday Inn Garden Court™, Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites®, and Candlewood Suites®, the last two brands specializing in the extended-stay market.
      Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, located in Orlando, Florida, is another excellent example of the concept that a hotel can be a destination, not just a place to stay. The “Nick,” while certainly not competitive with entertainment giants like Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando, offers a wonderful self-contained vacation experience. Two- and three-bedroom themed KidSuites®, daily Nicktoon Character Breakfast, Kids Eat Free program, waterpark pools and nightly, scheduled Nick shows are among the unique amenities of these one-of-a-kind kid-focused resorts. The Orlando site also features a 3,000-square-foot game room stocked with current, popular and challenging games. The Nick is a great venue for multi-generational, family gatherings.
      Back to the Holidome® – maybe next time Evan will be tall enough to join Pop Pop on the big waterslide, or maybe by then he will have developed good judgment, and we will both stick to the lazy river raft ride.
      May all of your journeys be happy and safe!

George Sellers and his wife Priscilla are Certified Travel Counselors and Accredited Cruise Counselors who own Travel Selections by Priscilla and George, Inc. and the popular travel web site www.sellerstravel.com.