We spent Pesach in Scottsdale at the Raddison Ft Mcdowell resort. Here is my review, I'd appreciate anyone elses opinion on this program and any others.
A caveat- My wife loves to try new places, and we wanted warm weather, and of course, price is always an issue. My needs were more complex, I wanted a good reliable Hechsher, and some good lectures, and I love nice Baalei Tefilla.
When we kept on seeing the Ads for the PKT in Scottsdale, (warm) under the OK, (Supposedly reliable Hechsher) and with a famous Chazzan, for a cheap price together with some encouraging posts in this forum, we made the reservations and sent the check. (no CC's).
truth be told, I had been on other programs and intuitively knew that i better lower my standards, and thats what I did, I just wanted the family and kids to enjoy, and hoped for the best.
as a result of this non expectancy policy, we in fact had a very pleasant time, and although there were many glitches and bumps, (see below) the family enjoyed ourselves.
Now for the critique.
FOOD- while plentiful at times, it was just plain OK, I dont believe there was any fresh (other than the 2 BBQ's, ) food cooked in Arizona. It tasted like everything was prepared off-site and trucked to A. and warmed up. certainly the breakfasts and pastries and almost all the side dishes were processed pre-prepared bought foods, in fact some (pancakes!) were very tasty but after a few days everything was just old, and by the end it was not too appealing, especially by the last day and Shabbos when they just hauled out all the leftovers, it was not good.
I have been to many programs and the chefs tried their best here, no chefs just warmers and carvers.
shabbos was just a plain chutzpah, doughy rolls, reheated meat and chicken and kishke, not fully cooked cholent, pesach noodle (non gebrokt) kugels etc etc.
The food was ok, but barely so, and at the end there simply wasn't enough.
Wine was plentiful but again, uninspiring.
No kiddush cups, first night of seder severe shortage of the seder neccesities, howeve on second night they did a nice thing that i never saw, they put a huge area in middle with tubs of eggs, potatoes, marror, mataza wine etc so that there was plenty, wish they wouldve done it first nght
The lines were horrible, many people just gave up, there were 2 carving stations for so many people, the lunches were very uninspiring and many complained that even on yom tov there was not a meat meal.
KASHRUS- very disappointing. way below the standards I and many others expected. The organizer (Chein) had his way with the kitchen, seemed like very few mashgichim on staff, certainly not enough for the 700 plus people that were there, I heard that the non-jewish staff had their dining room with complete bread nearby. Also, quite surprising that on the first night, the night before Pesach they served a complete chometz meal. it seemed so ridiculous to endanger the entire hotel chometz cleanliness for a couple of hamburger rolls.
AMBIANCE- the guy that runs the program, Mr Chein, looked like he was on a perpetual warpath, stalking thru the Dining room with a constant scowl, only greeting selected guests, i though tI was imagining it, or just too sensitive, until I overheard a whole group of people commenting on it. Someone must have told him Cuz on the last day, he made a point of going to every table to say hi. Too late.
There was a HUGE issue with the pool, that ruined the mood of many many people, of the type that I wouldnt think cared, it seems that he told everyone what they wanted to her, its separate swimming, its mixed swimming, its family swimming, you can swim on shabbos and Yom Tov anything, so on the first day of Pesach when people swarmed to the pool and others were (justifiably, at this was billed as a non-gebrokts, entire hotel kosher etc. all the buzz words) very upset, words flew, curses flew it was ugly,
The Rabbi, a nice elderly south African, totally ineffectual, it was a pity to see whole rows of people pack out of the shul as he got up to speak, tried to give a fiery speech but it was too late, and this marred the chag for many.
the crowd was a MO five towns crowd, a few black hats, some chabadniks, just very laid back.
Hotel- the accomodations were very nice, large rooms,helpful and friendly staff, absolutely no complaints there. although it is in middle of nowhere.
Speeches, lectures, chazonim , camp - everything mentioned was sub par except for the Baalei tfila which were superb.