Indulgent stay at updated Seminole Hard Rock

A Deluxe King room in the East Tower of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.
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Enter the newly expanded lobby of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa and overhead you'll see lyrics from Elvis Presley's "Good Luck Charm." And below that, you'll find one hell of a talisman: a 1928 Kimball grand piano covered in 24-karat gold leaf that once sat in the King's music room at Graceland.

At an auction four years ago, Hard Rock International placed the winning bid for the piano, and in July the instrument finally found a home at the Tampa hotel, which is wrapping up a $700 million expansion that has added 562 hotel rooms and suites, three pools and a 30,000-square-foot event center.

A piano that belonged to Elvis Presley adorns the hotel’s lobby.
A piano that belonged to Elvis Presley adorns the hotel’s lobby.

The hotel recently hosted me for a weekend stay in one of its new rooms. The Seminole Hard Rock is a AAA Four Diamond property, and my Deluxe King digs in the 14-story East Tower proved worthy of the accolade, featuring a 42-inch flat-screen TV, sofa, a living space with banquet and two dining chairs, a minifridge and a Keurig coffeemaker. The complimentary WiFi was reliable and fast, and there were plenty of bedside outlets to keep phones and tablets charged.

I spent my first night having dinner at the Rez Grill. For my entree, I enjoyed a hearty short rib braised in red wine, but I also would have been more than content with a second helping of my appetizer: house-made biscuits with Benton's ham (a Tennessee purveyor whose famed product can be found in Momofuku's ramen bowls). Accompanied with cherry-pepper jam and red-eye aioli (a clever take on red-eye gravy, a coffee-infused Southern mainstay), the appetizer embodied what the hotel bills as "upscale but accessible" American fare. 

The next night was Council Oak for a perfectly prepared rib-eye cap. Then there was lunch at the on-site Hard Rock Cafe, where I ordered a steak burger covered in 24-karat gold leaf because, hey, Instagram posts are part of this gig.

I was starting to feel like a high roller, though I ended up ceding only a modest sum to the house -- certainly not enough to merit entry to the invitation-only Plum lounge, reserved for high-limit gamblers and other VIPs.

Recent additions to the casino (1,000 slots and 41 table games to augment the existing 4,000-plus slots, 138 table games and 46-table poker room) underscore the continued importance of gaming to the hotel. But the property's overall expansion is also enabling it to offer pool parties, big-name concerts and other resort-style features of interest to nongamblers -- the sort of amenities we've come to expect from the Hard Rock brand.

East Tower rooms at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa start at $179 per night. 

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