Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Don't expect much: Guests don't always get the room they booked, no one helps with luggage, and the staff is careless, if not curt.
Upon arrival, no one assisted with my luggage (although they did watch me struggle up the steps).
When I explained that I'd like to check in, the first words the receptionist uttered were, "Your name?" and then lectured me on the hotel policies: no smoking, $5 for a room key, checkout must be at 11 a.m. sharp.
I received a room with two twin beds, which was not what I had reserved. I called down to complain, and after being routed through the President Hotel's desk, I spoke with the Penguin's front desk manager:
Me: Hi, there's a problem with my room; I did not request twin beds.
Penguin: That is what you requested.
Me: No, it's not.
Penguin: Ugh, fine, let me see ... ugh, OK. I will send someone up to inspect the room. Do not touch anything.
About 15 minutes later, the "inspector" and the front desk manager arrived and sent me to a room across the hall that had two twins pushed together and made to look like a king bed. They watched as I moved all of my own bags.
That night, I asked where I could buy some beer (keeping my request simple). The front desk directed me to a grocery store about a half mile away. After wandering for 20 minutes, I got better directions from a gas station attendant.
The next morning I called to request towels. The receptionist said, "Ugh ... I'll send someone up." But after waiting an hour (and fearing the strict, 11 a.m. checkout time), I just reused my wet towel from the evening before.
Since our visit, however, the Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible schooled the hotel on how to improve, so hopefully service will be better going forward.
The Ocean Drive location offers two major pluses: It's across the street from the beach and within walking distance to the clubs.
The location is great, which is why the Penguin knows it doesn't have to offer anything else. Across from the beach, on the quiet side of Ocean Drive (flanked on either end by empty hotels), the Penguin is also within easy walking distance to Lincoln Road, Espanola Way, and the megaclubs on Washington Avenue.
The Penguin's mattresses are worse than cheap futons. The flat-screen TVs are nice -- if they work.
Wallpapered in unnatural photos of nature (my room's colored pebbles were akin to a Window's desktop background), the hotel boasts Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, marble countertops (with an extra sink), and 32-inch flat-screen TVs (but no Internet!).
More noticeable, however, was the painfully cheap bed. The "king" bed was two twins shoved together. It had a stiff wedge down the center. The discount mattress was one step down from the curbside futon I used in college. Even after attempting to sleep on a far corner, I woke up feeling like someone was turning a ratchet to my spine.
Aside from that, the big TV was nice, but the connection was poor -- channels kept blacking out. Also, for some inexplicable reason, the screen kept turning black and white.
What features? There's nothing here.
No Internet, no restaurant, not even a lobby.
The Front Porch Café, a small, cozy diner out front, went out of its way to explain that it had no connection with the hotel.
At first glance, the Penguin appears clean, but housekeeping could definitely step it up a notch.
Surfaces were wiped to appear clean, but there were a few striking problems -- namely, the curly black hairs in the bed, the unflushed toilet, and the mildew in the shower.
Across from the beach, the Penguin is among the cheapest hotels on prime Ocean Drive -- for a reason. An abrasive staff, chronic booking problems, unsettling hallways, and rooms with two twin beds shoved together and sold as "kings" make it an all-right place to pass out, but nothing more. The hotel was featured on the Travel Channel show Hotel Impossible in 2012, and received a stylish makeover of the lobby as well as tips for how to improve the hotel more holistically, so things might start looking up.