Do you love or hate theme hotels? I’m on the fence, so wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Orlando’s Nickelodeon Hotel. As colorful as a graffiti artist’s palette, and with a guest list of larger than life cartoon characters, spending a night there is a bit like stepping into the TV channel itself.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for a romantic holiday or probably even a family holiday. So I was curious to see whether I could survive a five night stay with SpongeBob, Dora and the prospect of a mass sliming. All part of a Florida theme park week organised by Visit Orlando.
It’s slime time at the Nick Hotel
It all starts with one small boy.
“We want slime,” he shouts.
I smile. I smile because it’s not me who’s getting slimed. I smile because I’m fully dressed. I smile because I’m just there to take a picture and watch everyone else getting dumped on from a very great height.
“We want slime!” The other kids join in, upping the noise level in the pool significantly.
“We want slime.” The adults join in. Eh?
“I can’t hear you,” says the man with the microphone and a bunch of helpers in green suits. What? It’s deafening.
Do we really want slime?
“We want SLIME!” Even the passers-by are at it. The noise is so great that I think the people at Guest Services on the other side of the resort must be chanting too.
Ten nine eight seven six five four three two one…SLIME.
The God of Goo sneezes and we all get covered with bogeys. They come from a bucket at the top of the pool suspended above the slide. But the slime doesn’t come down the slide. It tips straight down. It’s everywhere. And it’s revolting.
I too am splattered. But not as much as everyone else. For a second or two we all stand knee deep in water wearing green heads. I’ve never seen a bunch of bogeys looking so happy.
And then it’s like it never happened. The snot-like stuff dissolves in a splish and a splash as everyone swims away. Until the same time tomorrow when the ‘mass sliming’ happens again.
A hotel or a cult?
I seem to have wandered into a cult of people in swimming costumes and flip flops worshipping a large suited spotty sponge. “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” they sing as music blasts out of the speakers. ” …SpongeBob Squarepants!”
The Nick Hotel was converted from a regular hotel by the Nickelodeon cable channel eight years ago and it’s a temple to children’s TV. Wherever you look there are cartoon characters and signs splatted in green and orange. Like the channel itself, it’s childish and bold and not exactly tasteful. But it’s blissfully stress free. No one minds if you spill your drink, throw a tantrum or refuse to go to bed. Because however badly you behave; SpongeBob, the Rugrats and the Ninjas will be behaving worse.
Family friendly but watch your budget…
If you’ve a pocket sized budget you won’t get the full experience. Although the excellent pool is free and the suites have a TV in every bright and colourful room, you need to throw some money at it to really go to town with your favourite imaginary friends. For a fee you can have a character breakfast that involves SpongeBob waffles with yellow jelly, a vast cooked breakfast buffet and singing and dancing with Dora and all her friends. One breakfast with Dora is enough for me…it’s quite full on.
“Good morning everyone. How are we today? I need you to know that Squidward is in a really good mood!” says our waiter. Do I need to know this? I’m guessing Squidward isn’t normally a morning person if his good humour is worth flagging up.
The characters don’t just appear for breakfast. You can have a pizza-rama buffet dinner with the Ninja Turtles. You can have your photo taken with SpongeBob and Dora. You can have your own ‘private sliming’. You can have a temporary tattoo of whoever you like best at the kids spa. You can hire a poolside chalet with plasma TV if you can’t bear to sunbathe without them.
A bit too lime green?
I’m in Orlando on a week long blogging trip organised by Visit Orlando and to start with I find the hotel a bit of a shock. It’s too green? Too holiday camp? Too commercial? Too much? I resist the idea of spending my holiday being advertised at. We don’t possess a TV but my kids and I haven’t managed to escape SpongeBob and his friends by osmosis and his nasal song often creeps uninvited into my head. And I don’t generally want a party with my breakfast, whether or not Squidward is smiling. I want Radio Four, a strong coffee and a copy of The Guardian.
But to my surprise this hotel slowly seduces me. You’d have to be the Grinch not to enjoy a swimming pool filled with happy families. And you just have to look at the kids faces to see the effect it’s having. Cameron smiles constantly and he’s not even the target market. Mind you a few years ago he’d have been beside himself with excitement. This hotel is made for four and five year olds.
I’ve done a lot of theme hotels in my time as a travel blogger and a Mum. And the ones that work are the ones that max out on the experience. It’s all in the detail. The Legoland hotels work because if you cut them with a knife you’ll find Lego bricks running right through them. The Nickelodeon Hotel is a character hotel. It takes ‘theme’ to the extreme. It dumps you right into the experience like gallons of goo from an orange bucket. Half of the time I feel like I’m on the TV. The Double Dare show in the evening is pretty much the TV Double Dare show live.
I’m tempted to audition to be on it. Instead I have my picture taken with the turtles and start doing ‘ninja moves.’ I eat my jelly for breakfast. With maple syrup. And a SpongeBob waffle.
If you hate children’s TV then this hotel wouldn’t appeal to you. If you don’t have kids then it would be 400 gallons of nightmare. But if you like SpongeBob, whatever your age, you will be in heaven. Or if you like a hotel with a world class family pool, that knows exactly what it is and isn’t afraid to scream it right at ya, and if you are happy to let go and immerse yourself in the gooey green fun, then you’ll love this. And you’ll inevitably end up shedding your squarepants and getting slimed. Like I did.
Disclosure Note: Thanks to Visit Orlando and the Nick Hotel for looking after us during our visit to Orlando.