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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Albuquerque, New Mexico / ABQ airport hotel -- Staybridge Suites

Status Perks
I did not receive a room upgrade or any extras for being a Platinum member. I asked about a king bedroom at check-in and was told that room type was sold out. The agent did not offer another option, and I did not think to ask for anything more. I later learned that better rooms were still available--queen conference suites, two-bedrooms, and queen one-bedrooms. It would have been nice if we had been upgraded to one of those rooms, because we had noisy people running down our hall and in the guestroom next door. My experience has been that there is less noise in rooms with separate bedrooms.

Guestroom
The queen studio room included a new couch, flat screen TV, desk and chair, full size fridge, stove top, and dishwasher. The carpet and bedding also looked new. The ice maker left a lot to be desired. Four hours after we had checked in and turned it on (I don't understand why hotels don't turn these on for guests--especially when we checked in after check-in time), we had only six cubes! The employee working in the F & B area was extremely helpful about filling a container of ice for me to take back to the room. If you plan to take an early shower, I would allow at least 10 minutes for the water to warm up. I had to take a lukewarm shower, which feels quite cold when the air temperature is cool and you have long hair to wash. I left the shower on when I finished, and my husband said it finally got hot enough to turn the temperature down a little when he was half finished. This was well over 10 minutes after I had started the shower.

Food & Beverage
The evening reception included salad, fresh fruits, cheeses and crackers, and pop. Usually when I stay at Staybridge Suites, there is also a hot menu item; however, not there was not a hot item at this hotel the evening of our stay. The ice machine on the beverage dispenser did not work, and there was no wine or beer, which Staybridge Suites usually serves. Beer and wine are served according to local ordinances, so it's possible this is not allowed in this area. We left before breakfast, and this location did not offer to-go breakfast bags. When I asked about this, the front desk agent asked what we wanted and let us choose granola bars from the suite shop.

Pool
We did not use the pool facilities because the pool and hot tub were both cold and dirty. The pool was a basic rectangular pool.

Business Center
I was very happy with the Samsung laser printer in the business center. The printer and Internet connection were extremely fast.

Staff/service/misc.

Staff members demonstrated a helpful attitude; however, they were not forthcoming with information. I would suggest being prepared to be specific with your request(s). This location has an airport shuttle and is located less than one mile from the car rental lot. We returned our car after checking in, and walked back to the hotel. We did not hear any air traffic noise during our stay. The Homewood Suites is the closest in this group of hotels to the car rental lot.

Overall
I was disappointed as a Platinum member, and I was disappointed about other aspects of this stay--the evening reception, the ice machine issues, and the pool area cleanliness. Considering this hotel was just over a year old during our stay, I would be concerned about what it will be like in the future. The other new hotels in this same area are--HI Hotel & Suites, Hyatt Place, and Homewood Suites.

Las Cruces, New Mexico -- Staybridge Suites


March 2010, Weekday, 1-night, Queen studio

Status perks
I did not receive an upgraded room; however, we arrived extremely early and my husband had expected to sit in the pool area while I went off to work. When we were assigned a room right away, I did not ask about an upgrade. I returned to the room later that day, and a goody bag had been delivered, which contained potato chips, popcorn, and water.

Guestroom
The room was freezing when we entered. I will never understand why businesses have their air on when it's only 60 degrees outside. I turned the wall control to "off" as soon as we entered the room and it never quit blowing cold air. My husband finally got it to shut off by turning a control off on the unit itself (even though the unit said it was controlled by the wall thermostat). I was glad he was with me, because I'm sure I would had to call engineering, if I had been traveling by myself.

We had a queen bed studio room, which included a couch, desk and chair, full size fridge, stove top, and dishwasher. We found a bottle of soda pop in the cupboard with a note that said: Thank you for finding me! Enjoy this complimentary beverage. We had no trouble exchanging the beverage at the front desk for a flavor we preferred. The guestroom was comfortable.

Food & Beverage
We stayed on Monday evening and Staybridge Suites does not offer an evening reception on Monday nights. Breakfast the next morning was satisfactory. The scrambled eggs were hot, and the bacon was flavorful, but greasy. Other items available were: biscuits and gravy, a waffle maker, hot cereal, breads, and cottage cheese.

Pool
The outdoor pool area was very nice. It faced east, and there were sunny areas the entire day. The area was tastefully landscaped with plants, it was clean, and the hot tub was hot.

Fitness center
The fitness center was satisfactory, although it quickly became stuffy in the room with no fan or means to cool it down. There were four or five cardio machines with Cardio Theater, a couple weight machines, and weights.

Misc.
This building is one of the largest Staybridge Suites I have ever stayed in. It was new, and nicely decorated. There were many shopping and dining options within a few miles. The only restaurants within walking distance were IHOP and Peter Piper Pizza (or something similar--I do not recall the exact name).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

El Paso, Texas / Embassy Suites

March 2010, Weekday, 1-night, King suite

Status perks
As a Gold member, I received two bottles of water, and complimentary Internet access.

Guestroom
I was glad to see that the furniture and carpet in our guestroom were new since this is an old building, and the rest of the hotel was dingy and dirty. The condition of the public areas and elevator had me somewhat worried before I arrived at the guestroom

The suite living room area included a new couch, chair, table/desk with desk chair and two table chairs, small fridge, microwave and sink area. There was a door between the living area and the spacious bedroom.



Food & Beverage
The following are included with the room rate for all guests. An evening Manager's Reception from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., which included popcorn, pretzels, and beverages. Beverage choices ranged from soda pop to beer and wine, as well as mixed drinks. Breakfast included made to order omelets, although the other items were sparse. There were two fruits, juices, cereal, milk, and yogurt. Potatoes, bacon, and pancakes were available at the omelet station.

Fitness Center
I was slightly annoyed that I waited until almost 6 a.m. to go to the fitness center, since that was the opening time listed in the hotel directory in the guestroom, when it is actually open 24-hours. I liked that it was open 24-hours, and I would have gone earlier, if I had known. It appeared that other guests had also read the open times in the guestroom, because three more people arrived right after me at 6 a.m. The room contained five cardio machines and hand weights. The Cardio Theater did not work on the machine I used, and the room was not stocked. There were no headphones, no towels, no sani-wipes for the machines, and no water cups.

Pool
The spacious indoor pool area included a hot tub and lounge chairs. A few loungers were also set up outside on a small patio. The lounge chairs were old plastic chairs, which were very dirty. The floor in the pool area was also grimy.

Overall
I was happy with the sleep quality. The bed and pillows were supremely comfortable. I was not happy with the condition and cleanliness of the public hotel areas. The elevator was extremely grimy, and many of the floor and exit arrow lights did not work. The door on one of the elevators sounded like it was going to jam and not open each time it stopped at my floor.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Socorro, New Mexico -- Holiday Inn Express

Status perks and check-in
I was recognized as a Platinum member at check-in, and my key pack and room were both ready even though we arrived before check-in time. I had reserved this room with points and was upgraded to a king executive room.

Guestroom #335
We stayed in room 335, which is on the top floor. The spacious bedroom area contained a desk and chair, chair with footstool, and suitcase bench. I like the suitcase benches because they are much easier to use than the fold out luggage racks. There was a sitting area with a round dining table with two chairs, and a couch with end tables and a coffee table. There was a good sized fridge and microwave, and spacious bathroom. The furniture was all comfortable, although the bed was slightly hard. The only noise we could hear from our room was the occasional drive-thru traffic at Burger King next door. There was an occasional sewage and smoke odor in the bathroom. The hotel is 100% non-smoking, so I would guess someone was smoking in their bathroom. I'm not sure what the sewage odor was from; it only happened briefly a couple times during the night.

Breakfast
Breakfast was the standard HIX fare: cheesy omelets, biscuits and sausage gravy, sausage, yogurt, juices, milk, cereal, cinnamon rolls, and breads. At check-in, we were told breakfast opened at 7:00 AM; however, employees did not turn on the lights and bring the hot food out until 7:30.

Fitness center
The fitness center was adequate with three cardio machines and one weight machine. There was a portable fan in the room, which I wish I had turned on when I first arrived because it quickly got warm in the room. The fan did a good job after I stopped to turn it on.

Pool
The pool area is the standard HIX pool area with a basic pool and hot tub. There were comfortable mesh lounge chairs around the pool, and there was an outside sitting area. There were lounge chairs in the sun outside, as well as tables with sitting chairs in a shaded area. The outside area faces south, and there is a roof over the tables.

Staff/service
Staff members were friendly, although not forthcoming with information. When I specifically asked if they offered any dining coupons or discounts at area restaurants, I found out we could get a free appetizer at Socorro Springs, which is a restaurant and brewery next door to the hotel. We were happy with the food and beverages at the restaurant.

Overall
If you need a place to stay in this area, the HIX is the nicest hotel in town, although I thought the rate of over $100 was high before I decided to use points for this stay. Some of the other hotel choices were Motel 6, Super 8, Days Inn, and EconoLodge, none of which looked nice from the outside.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Albuquerque, New Mexico -- Holiday Inn Express Old Town


Status perks and check-in
We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Albuquerque Historic Old Town about an hour before check-in time. The front desk agent acknowledged me as Platinum member, and she read the requests I had made in the reservation before asking me if a room on floor three was okay--yay! We had been pre-assigned a guestroom on the top/4th floor (my preference); however, that guestroom was not ready. I said that the third floor would be fine, and I asked if the room was a suite upgrade. The agent said yes. We later realized that the guestroom was actually an executive mountain view king guestroom, rather than a suite. This was still an upgrade, and the executive guestroom was slightly larger than the basic king room I had reserved.

Executive, mountain view, king guestroom #304
The guestroom was located at the end of the hall. The bedroom included a sitting chair, small table, two end tables, desk and chair. The living area contained a couch, chair, footstool, two lamps, and two end tables. There was a good sized fridge, microwave, and sink between the living area and spacious bathroom. The room was clean, comfortable, and everything looked new. There was a full length mirror in the living area, and a nice hair dryer in the bathroom. The comfort of the desk chair and couch were acceptable, although not as comfy as the bed. The local channels on the flat screen TV did not have a good signal. The cable channels had excellent reception.

Breakfast
The complimentary breakfast was the standard Holiday Inn Express fare: cheesy omelets, biscuits and sausage gravy, sausage, yogurt, juices, milk, cereal, cinnamon rolls, and breads. It was well stocked and the food was fresh.

Pool
One thing I usually do not like at Holiday Inn Express is the pool area, and this hotel was no exception. We used the hot tub, although not for very long. The acoustics were terrible--the area echoed loudly when just one child or noisy person was present. Guests were not out of hand, it is just the way the room is designed, which does not make for a very relaxing atmosphere.

Fitness center
The fitness center was adequate, although I could not find the TV remote. There were several cardio and weight machines. The entire exterior wall of the fitness center was all glass with an excellent view. The center was open 24 hours.

Staff/service/misc
Every employee I spoke with was smiling, cheerful, and helpful. I was disappointed about the fact that this hotel advertised a shuttle on their IHG website when they do not have one. The hotel is also not located in Old Town. I knew the hotel was not actually in Old Town before we arrived; however, since I had thought they had a shuttle bus, I thought we would be able to visit without having to drive there. To be fair, none of the hotels listed on the Old Town map are in Old Town or even within walking distance.

Overall
I was happy with the guestroom and bed comfort. We did not hear any noise from other guests or from the outside. We had a view of the mountains and an excellent rate. I had originally booked the AAA rate, which was less than $100; however, on the day of our arrival, I read about a visitor's rate in the New Mexico Vacation Guide and was able to get that rate for $30 less!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bettendorf, Iowa/Quad Cities -- Holiday Inn

Status perks
At check-in, I got to roll five dice for a chance to win extra points. No luck there—I rolled two pair, and needed to roll at least three of a kind to receive anything. There was a PC gathering one night with free beer, wine, pop, and snacks. The second night of my stay was St Patrick's Day, and I received a coupon for buy one drink, get one free, and a free corned beef dinner at the hotel restaurant Bennigan's. I had booked an executive room, and that is the room type I received.

Room
The room was a basic room with microwave and fridge. It had been repainted—apparently with many things in the room at the time, as there were paint splashes on the door, the wall HVAC unit, the clock radio, etc. It looked extremely tacky. The carpet did not look like it had been vacuumed with the nozzle since the painting because there were paint chips in all the corners and along the walls (and, it didn’t look or smell like the paint job was that fresh). The Internet connection was decent; however, the desk chair was old and could not be raised to a height comfortable for working at the desk. The bed was extremely hard. There was a thin pad liner on the mattress, which made it tolerable at best.

Fitness Center
There were two treadmills, which worked fine, as did the TV. Although there were no weights, I have no complaints about the fitness center.

Business Center
You need a special key from the front desk to access this room. I suppose that is to keep kids out or something. My document would not print, and I received no help from the front desk. The printer registered a "paper jam," which I cleared, and it still would not print. When I told the front desk, I was told to press a lever on the machine. That did not work, and then my document would not delete from the print queue either. I finally restarted the printer and computer. My document was no longer in the queue after this, so I assume it had been deleted. I wasted about 15 minutes of my time in the business center.

Staff/service
Most of the hotel employees I spoke with were extremely friendly and helpful (with the exception of the early morning employee when my document would not print); however, the service in Bennigan's needed improvement. I observed a PC guest leave the bar without his free beverage and meal because he was unhappy with the service.

Overall
When I travel for business, I like a good night’s sleep, a comfortable working desk, and a business center. Since this hotel did not meet any of these needs, I would not stay at this property again. On the other hand, if my husband had been with me, he would have liked this hotel—for the free beer and the pool area, which was a wide-open area in the center of the hotel.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Aruba -- Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino


February 2010, two-nights, king tower guestroom


Status perks and check-in

I filled out the Virtual Concierge form before our arrival because we would be arriving before check-in time. Apparently, this request had not been processed correctly because our room was not ready before check-in time, even though this hotel was not full. The front desk employees kept telling us to return in an hour or so, so we returned to the front desk three times before being assigned a guestroom. Staff members were cordial, and in the end we received two rum punch beverage coupons, and two breakfast coupons. I am not sure if we received these perks because of my frequent traveler status, or if it was because the guestroom was not ready until later.

Guestroom


We had a guestroom on one of the higher floors overlooking the side patio and cruise port. I was glad we did not receive a room overlooking the inside lobby of the hotel. 

The bed and chairs were comfortable, although the room was not very big. There was a sliding glass door, which opened to a very small balcony just large enough to stand on. There was a fridge in the room as well as bathrobes and slippers. I did not use the Internet during our 2-night stay.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aruba -- Holiday Inn All Inclusive

We stayed at this hotel for a week with points as a Platinum member February 2010.

Status perks

We received an upgraded ocean front room in the Aruba tower, and different color wristbands that designated our status. There was a cheese and fruit welcome basket in our room.


Guestroom

The room and balcony were both spacious. The room had been recently remodeled and contained a table & chairs, couch, large fridge, safe, and coffee the first night. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

West Palm Beach, FL / PBI airport hotel -- DoubleTree


Status perks
I received one beverage coupon at check-in. This was a great value because we used it for a Grey Goose martini! My profile is set to receive a room upgrade, rather than bonus points so I asked about this at check-in. I was told that there were no two-room suites available, even though they were available online before check-in and after I got to my room. I did not argue with them, although I wish I had. I should have asked them to give me the bonus points, if they weren't going to give me the room upgrade.

Room
We reserved a Jr suite because we got a great advance purchase rate with the January sale. The room had a sitting area with a couch, desk, fridge, and small sink. The bedroom area was quite small, and there was no counter space in the bathroom.

Pool
The pool area is a basic airport hotel pool with limited seating and a small hot tub.

Fitness Center
The fitness center is located off the pool area and the only way to get to it is from the outside. This wasn't pleasant our first day, since it was raining out. The air did not work the first day, and the temperature in the fitness room was 70+! Thank goodness they had that fixed the second day. The Cardio Theater system did not work on one of the treadmills.

Business Center
The business center is a small counter with printer beside the front desk.

Staff/service
I had requested a microwave, and extra coffee with cream using Hilton's "order requests upon arrival" online feature. Someone brought coffee to our room shortly after check-in (no cream). I called the front desk shortly after to this to make sure they had our request for a microwave, and I was told yes. Later that evening, I called the service line, and I was told our microwave was on the way. I did not continue to ask about the microwave after the first day, and we never received it. The hotel shuttle provides service to City Place and the airport. When we arrived, we waited 40 minutes (& 3 phone calls) for the airport shuttle. When we called from City Place, we waited 15 minutes.

Overall
The pool area was smaller than we expected, we were not happy with the service, and the bar/lounge area was extremely small. The property is older, and the chair in our room had a large tear. Fortunately, we had not pre-paid our last night, and moved to the Hilton where the service and atmosphere was much nicer.

West Palm Beach, Florida / PBI airport hotel -- Hilton


Status perks
Even though we had reserved our room with points, we received an upgraded VIP floor room and breakfast coupons. At check-in, the employee at the front desk asked me to choose two snacks for delivery that evening. I chose mixed nuts and orange juice. When our snack basket was delivered, it also included an orange, an apple, a granola bar, and a bottled water.

Guestroom
We were very happy with the large room on one of the top two floors. The bed was the typical cozy and comfortable Hilton bed.

Pool
The large pool area and hot tub were clean and well maintained. There were plenty of comfortable lounge chairs around the pool and the hot tub, as well as on a deck area overlooking the water. The pool area had a nice tropical atmosphere, and it was kept incredibly clean.

The pool bar was open on Sunday; however, it did not open before we left at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Restaurant
The breakfast buffet also included made to order omelets, french toast, and pancakes. The self-serve buffet included an assortment of fruits, breads, meats, cheeses, eggs, and more. Everything was fresh and at the appropriate temperature.

Fitness Center
Everything was in good working order, including Cardio Theater on the treadmills.

Business Center
There was a business center on the 9th floor with two printers, a fax machine, and more.

Staff/service
The front desk and housekeeping employees were helpful and met all our needs. This hotel offers a free shuttle to City Place, which we took advantage of. City Place was only about 5 minutes away, and consists of many restaurants, shops, bars, and entertainment.

Overall
Even though this hotel is located at the airport and we were staying here for leisure, we thought it was a great choice, and we would stay here again. The hotel shuttle made the trip to City Place convenient. The staff and service was excellent!