Nautical Novelty at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina

The 1,053-room Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina is a majestic 2-tower resort overlooking Harbor Island and San Diego Marina, only half a mile from the airport. The park-like waterfront venue recently renovated 348 rooms in its Bay Tower with nautical-themed decor and amenities.

You feel like you’ve entered a high-end boater’s lounge upon entry. The navy-scheme walls, clean lines and rose woods accent the yacht-inspired rooms and public spaces.

“The nautical theme is pretty unique for the Sheraton brand,” says Russ Mitchell, director of sales, who fills us in on the recent upgrade. The renovations also included the Bay Tower Lounge Patio and fitness center. The blue waters and sparkling skyline completely surround the towers, offering unparalleled views of the vessel-filled marina. Renovations to the Bay Tower’s dining room are scheduled late 2013.

The pretty gardens outside make for an interactive introduction. The 1,200-sf lawn overlooks the entire San Diego bay and is totally customizable for groups.

“Our outdoor space is convenient, scenic and functional,” says Mitchell. “There’s a lot of flexibility out there and we use it in any way that the planner would like.”

So we thought we’d try it out.

Executive Chef Steve Black leads my group in the hotel’s outdoor burger battle called “Grill Camp.” We split into two teams and brainstormed our “patty projects” while sipping pints from Stone Brewery, a nearby brewhouse that partners with the hotel for group tastings and events. My team decided on a guacamole burger filled with bacon and cheese. We decided on our strengths to assign roles within the team and then things really got moving. Meanwhile, Chef Black blared rock music and grabbed some tortillas to snack on with the guac.

“Steve is our secret weapon in the kitchen,” says Mitchell. “He brings the whole group together with the outdoor dining competitions.” As time neared toward the end of our cook-off, we felt like contestants on the Food Network.

The Sheraton uses its 135,000 sf of meeting space to its advantage. Each event venue is spread out enough to run concurrent meetings all-day, and the nearby Sheraton Mission Valley San Diego Hotel partners for citywides on a master account.


After we chowed on our Grill Camp creations, we boarded the 40-passenger Aolani yacht at the marina. The 58-foot catamaran is furnished with sofas, lounge chairs and dining space. There are large TVs on the perimeter for logos and presentations.

“We want to provide a genuine San Diego experience,” says owner Bruno Schwarz. “We offer a lot of fun experiences for teambuilding, using a variety of vessels for large groups.”

That night when I stepped onto the deck it was particularly windy. The crew provided coats and blankets as we sipped wine while gazing over the clear Pacific waters. The ship’s name stands for “heavenly cloud” in Hawaiian and it reflects that with a fun luau theme with beads, pineapple decor and fresh orchids.

A big list of party options include live jazz bands, karaoke, dancing and catered fine dining.

“And if we run out of food, I’ll just dive down with a spear and grab some fresh fish or lobster,” Bruno laughs. There is a true sense of serenity out here and the whole group disembarks a little more relaxed. Although San Diego is a metropolitan city, it has a relaxing, small town vibe that sets well with our group.