Aloft Hotel Opens in Ft. Lauderdale

Sunrise in our room at the Aloft Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale
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By Gerry Barker

Photos by Gerry Barker


From its very beginning, Aloft Hotels were born to be “different by design.”


Serving now as the brand’s slogan, the rapidly growing chain — acquired by Marriott in 2016 in a merger with Starwood — opened its newest location six weeks ago in Ft. Lauderdale. Earlier this week, Ft. Lauderdale’s mayor and county officials attended an official ribbon cutting and reception, and Splash was there.


The hallmarks of Aloft are evident when you enter their second floor lobby: Vibrant colors accenting industrial chic meets Mid-century modern, a theme carried through to its 14 floors and 138 rooms. The epitome of “high tech – high touch,” the hotel’s general manager, James Lalanne, who has spent over 20 years in hospitality and hotel management, told me the focus is to “bring people together.”


“The rooms are smaller by design,” he said. “We want the guest to come out and enjoy some of the common spaces — the bar, the pool table, the rooftop.”


One of the first things a guest will notice are the names used for different areas. For example, Lalanne said their meeting space is called a “Tactic Group,” the rooftop pool is referred to as ‘Splash,” while the 13th floor fitness center is simply “Re-charge” and the breakfast area “Re-fuel.” “That’s by design,” he said, “to get you thinking.”


Those different touches extend to the rooms as well (which are called “lofts,” by the way). We had a Breezy loft on the 13th floor, so-called because it offered a panoramic view of the city through floor-to-ceiling windows. It had a 9-foot ceiling, platform bed and 42-inch flat screen TV with access to all the popular streaming services.


One thing it didn’t have was a closet. “There’s not much closet space,” said Lalanne, “and that’s done on purpose. Travelers, especially Millennials, usually are closeting out of a backpack so you’ll see there’s only four hangers in the room.”


My wife was thrilled to find it did offer one amenity you usually don’t find — a steamer for wrinkled clothes.


The modern shower and toilet had their own space which could be closed off with pocket doors. The wallpaper there looked like a typical Florida beach scene, but on closer inspection it had small images of UFOs, dinosaurs and other unexpected features.


By the bed is another amenity Lalanne is keen on — a Marshall amp. “It’s a Bluetooth speaker,” he said. “Connect your iPhone, Android or Google device and the sound quality is amazing.”


Since technology is central to just about everything we do, it’s no surprise to learn how Aloft has incorporated intelligent design into all aspects of their operation. For example, “There’s an energy management system that, as soon as a guest touches the door with their key, the AC comes on to begin the cooling process,” said Lalanne.


The hotel’s lighting is also auto-managed to the time of day. “It’s timed to sunrise and sunset,” he said, and will change depending on what’s happening. And that pleasing aroma when you first arrive? That’s also by design. “As soon as you walk into a space, you know if it makes you feel good or it perks you up.”


One of the hotel’s greatest assets is location. It’s a free, 10-minute shuttle ride to Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, and 1.5 miles from one of Florida’s busiest cruise port, Port Everglades. “It’s ideal for our travelers to get in and out, and for distressed passengers if their flights are delayed.” Guests headed to a cruise ship can book a ride for $15. Lalanne said the hotel is still waiting for entry credentials to the port, which is also a heavily-secured cargo area.


Be aware parking is valet only, and costs $35 plus tax for overnight stays, and $15 for day stays.


Visitors can use the latter if coming for the hotel’s daily 5 pm- 7 pm happy hour, where cocktails and wine are discounted 20 percent. “It’s something we do to encourage locals,” said Lalanne. Among their signature drinks at the WXYZ Bar is the “Boombox” (very tasty, by the way). Patrons can also order from a menu of “Light Bites” that include fish tacos, mac and cheese and an assortment of wings in various flavors. Lalanne said they are looking to expand the food service hours.


The breakfast Re-fuel station offers a range of a la carte options, as well as free muffins, croissants and fruit. For guests who want a sit-down restaurant, there are a number of options close by, and Ft. Lauderdale is well known for their restaurant scene.


There’s also the Splash Bar by the 14th floor, rooftop pool, which is heated. Around the pool you find lounge chairs, a cabana, a fire pit and a shuffleboard court, along with views of the city and the port.


As so often the case, Lalanne didn’t start out pursuing a career in the hotel industry. The Auburn graduate with a degree in chemistry had his sights set on science when a parttime hotel job started him on a whole new path, earning him dozens of awards and accolades along the way.


His greatest asset? Managing people. “Over the years, I’ve built a reputation of being a team builder,” he reflected. “I’ve enjoyed a long career and of all the places I’ve stopped the one thing I’ve learned is that the number one thing for any successful business is communication.”


Whether chemistry or hotels, it seems he’s found the right formula for success.

(Our thanks to Aloft Hotels for hosting us)

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