Let’s get into it.
HolMat made the decision to switch venues this year, moving from the Caribe Royale to the Marriott World Center just up the road. (If you’ve heard of that hotel before, it might be because it’s the same venue that OmniEXPO held their first year.) The place is huge, and there was quite a bit of walking to be done, especially if you were on the complete opposite end of the convention like we were, but it was a good way to get your fitbit steps in for the day! Before you say “it was too big” or “there was so much wasted space,” hear me out. Yes, the convention floor had its gaps, but having the extra space now will give the convention a chance to grow and improve the HolMat experience in the future. Remember that conventions are a business, and businesses have to work their way up.
The only complaint we had about the room was the weighted tray in the corner of the room that we had to yell at people not to touch so we didn’t get charged any extra. We called down to have it removed, as we were told that was an option, and no one ever came to get it. At least it wasn’t on the desk space like it used to be. Still, it was an inconvenience.
Now, let’s talk about the actual resort.
The main pool, with the sweet pool bar nearby, always had something going on. Waterslides, a hot tub, pool party with a D.J., and a laser light show every night…Hell yeah! Don’t want to party outside? No problem! There’s a bar overlooking the pool right in the lobby. Don’t want to be near the pool, but want to party outside? They’ve got you covered with a lounge beneath the lobby bar with hot stone fire pits to enjoy Disney’s Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Or maybe you’re not much for partying. That’s cool! You still gotta eat, though, and the Marriott World Center has plenty of on-site options to choose from.
If you’re looking for something quick that you can grab on-the-go, Central Pantry is the place for you to be. Open 6am-2pm daily, Central Pantry includes all kinds of drinks, snacks, fresh salads and sandwiches, and even offers breakfast options cooked in their little kitchen. We found ourselves here quite a bit for something relatively cheap and easy.
If you’re looking for actual service, however, this is where the World Center excels. There are six restaurants on-site, all with varying degrees of price and dress code. If your budget is pretty tight, sticking to Solaris, High Velocity, or Falls Pool Bar are your best (and cheapest) options. Siro Italian Steakhouse and Mikado Japanese Steakhouse are on the next tier, and then, if you can afford it, Hawk’s Landing.
But enough about the place. Let’s talk about the actual convention!
I normally complain about the dealer’s room being lumped in with Artist Alley, but HolMat made it work for them, and it reminded me of how MetroCon had their set up this year. There was a nice flow to it. It was also nice to see familiar vendors and artists. It shows consistency in quality (both on the vendors/artists and the convention itself). It was a little out of the way to get to is my only complaint, but it isn’t really a complaint. In relation to other events and rooms, it was perfectly located at the end of it all, as it required attendees to at least walk passed panels and main events to see if there was anything of interest. Good way to draw in a crowd, guys.
Speaking of events and panels, I took a special interest in Natewantstobattle’s (we’re just gonna call him Nate, okay?) panels. Sadly, I had to miss his Saturday panel with BrettUltimus, Dookieshed, and MorganWant, but I’m glad that I got to meet at least the guys afterward, who were kind enough to take a photo with me. (Special shout out to Brett for making me feel super comfortable and taking the time to talk to me a little bit.) Attendees of Nate’s Sunday afternoon panel were treated to a preview of his newest album, Sandcastle Kingdoms. I can’t sing the album enough praise, but if you were/are an alternative/indie rock fan, you’ll fall in love with it.
Back on track, however, I was happy to see that the game room wasn’t in a tent this year. It was cool to see there were a couple of hidden vendors there as well, but what really stood out to me was the amount of effort put in to making players comfortable. I would have liked to see more rhythm games (DDR, Project Diva, Guitar Hero, etc.) but outside of personal preference, I would say it’s an improvement from the previous year.
As a quick note, I don’t think I ever saw a line for registration that wasn’t reasonable. Granted, our team got there Thursday night, so we got our badges pretty earlier on, but any time we passed through that area, the line was never more than a few people long. Also, we have to give a gigantic round of applause for the staff of this convention. If you didn’t really see them, it was because they were hard at work making things run as smoothly as possible. Even when they were injured (looking at you, Zachare) they were still putting their best efforts into making HolMat as great as it possibly could be.
Looking forward to another year!
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Make sure to check out our photos from Holiday Matsuri!