An Opryland surprise

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I'm not a big fan of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The property is monstrous (2,881 rooms) and was built in five or six stages, giving it a disjointed feel. It's often difficult to grasp where you are in the hotel in relation to where you need to be. I often find myself going in circles or inadvertently taking the longest possible route to my destination.

Nonetheless, the hotel does a gangbuster job of handling large conventions, such as Choice Hotels annual get-together, which I attended last month. And, since the last time I was there, the property has added a few simple innovations worth mentioning:

̢ۢ At check-in, the desk clerk generates a customized map of the property that pinpoints the location of your guestroom and provides turn-by-turn directions to get there. And if you're with a convention group, the map also indicates the location of the convention registration desk.

̢ۢ The hotel charges a resort fee on top of its room rate, a practice I generally despise. Why not just add $10 more to the room rate and avoid the animosity? And since most guests are attending a meeting, room charges are often reimbursed by an employer or written-off as a business expense.

At Opryland, however, the guest gets quite a bit for his or her fee and, best of all, the benefits are clearly spelled-out on the room key sleeve. The menu includes standard items like free high-speed Internet access, local and toll-free calls, a daily newspaper, admission to the fitness center and transportation around the sprawling Opryland complex. What makes the fee worthwhile to me are the two bottles of water placed in guestrooms each day. While I'm not keen on resort fees, I get more incensed at hotels that charge $5 or $6 for a bottle of water in the room.

̢ۢ At check-out, guests can use one of the kiosks at the concierge desk to check-in and print-out their airline boarding passes. This is quickly becoming a must-have amenity, and it works very well at the Gaylord.

I'm still not ecstatic when I need to go to the Nashville Opryland property, but the extra guest-friendly touches the hotel has added in recent years make the experience a little more tolerable.

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