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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Providence/Warwick, RI (PVD airport hotel) -- Hilton Garden Inn

Status perks
I did not receive any special perks, although the front desk agent noted my status at check-in and there were two small bottles of water in my room. I observed housekeeping carts with cases of mini water bottles, and I did not receive a personalized letter with the water, so I think each room was receiving two bottles. When I have received standard sized water bottles as a Gold member, it has always been delivered with a personalized letter.

Room
I received a top floor, king-bed room, at the end of the hall--exactly the room type I have in my profile and comment requests! The spacious room contained a chair and footstool, desk and chair, flat screen TV, fridge and microwave (all HGIs have a fridge and microwave), and three end tables. Wireless and cable Internet service was provided in the room for no charge, although the speed was pretty slow. The bed and pillows were comfortable, and I did not hear any hall or room noise. I observed a newspaper in front of every room in my hall when I left the next morning, so the quiet comfort did not have anything to do with the absence of guests.

Food & Beverage
Complimentary snacks were available in the lobby in the afternoon. There were cookies, cheeses, meats, crackers, grapes, and strawberries. Apples were available in bowls by the elevator on each floor. Complimentary apples and bananas were at the front desk the next morning. This hotel has a full service restaurant and bar in the same building called Iron Works Tavern. The prices, food selection, and service were excellent. I had the lettuce wedge salad. I was disappointed I was not aware of this restaurant before my arrival, and I had eaten a large lunch with the expectation that the food I would find after arriving at my airport hotel was going to be only the standard HGI fare. The restaurant information is listed on their website; however, since I had never stayed at a HGI with a restaurant other than the grill by the front desk, I did not look for this. Their website is http://www.theironworkstavern.com/

Business center
There were two computers, a printer, and a copy machine in the business center, along with HGIs "printer on" feature.

Fitness center
There were several cardio machines and a weight machine. Everything was in good working order.

Overall

I was impressed with my room, the service, and the on site amenities. I would definitely stay here again. When I called for the hotel shuttle, the employee arrived in less than 10 minutes. The hotel is less than a mile from the airport, and I thought about walking it; however, some of the way was not walker friendly. There was parking lot construction going on between the airport and the hotel, and the shuttle driver told me that there will also be a walkway built between the hotel and the airport.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mystic, Connecticut -- Hilton

Status perks
I did not receive any perks, although the agent stated that my Hilton Honors number was on file when I checked in. I usually have Gold status, and recently lost that, so my status was Silver during this stay. I felt like a second class citizen at this property. I did not even receive the room type in my profile, and this is the first time I ever recall that happening at a Hilton.

Room
My profile is set for a high floor, king-bed, non-smoking room away from the elevator (usually quieter). I received a king-bed handicap room on the first floor. When I checked in, the agent stated that my room was a handicap room, and I said I did not need that room type. She said if I did not want the handicap room, I would have to take a room with two double beds. Since the beds in the two-bed rooms were "doubles" and not "queens" (typical for Hilton), I opted to keep the king-bed room. I soon regretted that decision. My room had a connecting door (something I don't like because of sound and safety). I was awaken at 2am when my neighbor decided to watch TV rather loudly. I was happy that the Internet connection was free. This is the first time I recall receiving free Internet at a Hilton. Usually this is waived for Gold members and higher; however, when I signed in, I did not need to provide my room number. I only had to agree to the T & C. The speed was fast when I arrived in the afternoon; however, by 6pm I was frequently getting disconnected and waiting for pages to load. The room was a basic hotel room size with Hilton amenities. The pod coffee maker was not any better quality than what I'd had at the Hampton the night before.


Food & Beverage

The restaurant was not open the night I stayed (a Tuesday), and the lounge did not open until 5pm (I had been hoping to eat before that since I did not have lunch). The service in the lounge was satisfactory. The crab salad I ordered was good quality, although kind of pricey ($16.95). I observed snack jars behind the bar; however, I did not receive any snacks, and I did not see other guests with snacks either. I suppose if I had wanted snacks, I needed to request them.


Business center

I did not use the business center because the information in my room stated that there was a charge for services.


Fitness center

I was happy to have a choice of several cardio machines and weights. I could not locate the TV remote or headsets for cardio theater, although everything else was satisfactory. The fitness center was open 24 hours.


Overall

My experience at this property has made me decide not to stay at a Hilton again unless I have Gold status. I could not find any reason to choose the Hilton over a Hampton Inn. The bedding was more comfortable; however, since my room was in a noisy area, it was not better sleep quality. There was a Hampton Inn nearby, where I wished I had stayed instead. When I got off the expressway, I noticed a Bistro and Wine Bar restaurant in front of the Hampton Inn, in the same parking lot, which I could have walked to from the Hampton--and, eaten before 5pm. Usually, my Hilton experiences are so satisfying, that I had chosen the Hilton. I did receive an excellent rate--$25 less than the online AAA rate--by calling the hotel directly. I have done this at Hilton properties before when I wanted to stay, and the price was too high. This low rate did not have an impact on my quality of stay the last time I did this; however, I don't know if that had any impact on my stay at this property.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Middletown, Rhode Island -- Hampton Inn

Status perks
I did not receive any recognition or extras at check-in, although there was a personalized letter in my room with the weather forecast.

Room
The room was a basic size hotel room, which also contained a microwave and fridge. There was a large luggage bench in the bedroom, which I prefer over a fold out luggage rack. When I checked in, I asked if my room was on the top floor at the end of the hall in a quiet area because I had only slept four hours the night before. The agent checked my key packet and said, "305, yes." When I got on the elevator I saw that floor 3 is not the top floor, and when I got off on my floor, I soon learned that my room was not at the end of the hall either. Fortunately, I had quiet neighbors--on my floor and above me. Internet service in the room was available with a cable only, so I was only able to connect while sitting at the desk. Wireless is available in the lobby. I could pick up the signal in my room; however, it wasn't strong enough to connect. The view from my window was nice. The yard was tastefully landscaped with trees which butted up to nice residential homes. The halls and stairwells were clean and fresh smelling; however, my room had a strong, stale perfumed smell. I was impressed that the stairwells had been freshly washed the day of my arrival, as I often stay in hotels that seem to completely ignore the stairs. They were still wet and smelled of Lysol.


Food & Beverage

There were cookies on the counter at check-in. Applebee's is located next door, and a there is a pizza restaurant across the street. During check-in, I requested a local restaurant recommendation that delivers. The agent recommended Mama Leones. I ordered the scallops and lobster dinner on pasta and would not recommend this restaurant. The seafood was good quality and fresh; however, that was the only positive thing. The dish was almost entirely 2-3 lbs of low quality white pasta (seriously!) with plenty of garlic. I like garlic, although I prefer other seasonings in addition to just garlic. Morning breakfast included cold scrambled eggs and cold sausage. Cold boxed cereal was available as well as yogurt and fruits.

Business center

The business center was well stocked with many office items--stapler and staples, paper clips, post it notes, white out, pens, etc. The only thing missing was tape. There were two working computers and a printer, although the feed was not work properly on the printer. I am not new to office machines, and the printer continually stopped with the message that I needed to add paper and press the "enter" button. Even though I adjusted the paper and made sure everything was lined up properly, I received this message every couple sheets. In the meantime, the computer seemingly shut down because it was idle, which is a very unsecure feature. I could not access my document or my email, which I'd had open, and had to start at the beginning. I thought I would have to sign in to my account again, since I had not been able to retrieve what I had been working on without restarting the Internet process. I was surprised that after I restarted the Internet, everything opened with my account already signed in! I hoped this did not also mean that files were not being deleted when logging off (as hotel computers usually say).

Fitness center

The fitness center contained three cardio machines, a flat screen TV, a water cooler, and towels. I missed that this property does not have any weights, and three machines were not enough during my stay. I did not have any trouble finding the treadmill open in the afternoon; however, it was difficult the next morning. After checking the room three times, the stair stepper was available, so I used that instead.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Grand Rapids, MI / GRR airport hotel -- Hampton Inn

April 2010,  1-night, King study guestroom

Status perks and check-in
My status at the time of this stay was Silver. I have stayed at this hotel several times as a Gold member, and I have never been given an automatic upgrade. This time, I decided to ask. When the front desk agent asked me to confirm my room rate, I asked if my room had a fridge. I was told that if I wanted a fridge, I could change my room type for $10 more because I had reserved only a basic room. I asked if that was because my status was now Silver instead of Gold. She sounded like the hotel does not usually give upgrades at all; however, she then said she could give me that room type, so I received an upgraded king study room.


Guestroom

The spacious room contained a fridge, microwave, couch, coffee table, desk with two chairs, two end tables, and flatscreen TV. The Internet connection was lousy--both the wireless and the cable connection. I felt like I was working with dial up service. The bed was comfortable, and the room was quiet. The coffee from the one-cup coffee maker in the guestroom was awful. I ran the water through twice, and it still tasted like colored water. 



Food & Beverage
The hotel offered cookies at the front desk in the evening. I was impressed when I went to the lobby shortly before 6:00 a.m. for my ride to the airport in the morning, and breakfast was set up early. The front desk agent told me that it was all set up, and to help myself while he made sure my cab was on the way. I was able to enjoy an egg topped muffin with a glass of milk. There were also cold cereals, breads, and a waffle maker available.

Pool and Fitness center
My husband used the whirlpool tub, and he said it was clean and heated to a comfortable temperature. There is also an inside pool and small outside patio/sitting area. 


The fitness center contained three cardio machines, a flat screen TV, and a water cooler. There were no weights or sani-wipes. There was a place for towels, although it was empty. The temperature was acceptable.


Business center
The computer in the business center was out for repair during my stay, and the front desk agent let me print a document from the hotel computer.


Overall
This is one of the newer airport hotels at the GRR airport, and they offer 24-hour shuttle service every half hour. The shuttle actually does not run overnight, so if you have an early flight like I did, the hotel provides cab service. The property met my needs for this stay, and I chose the Hampton Inn because of an offer from Hilton to regain my Gold status.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Asheville, North Carolina -- Holiday Inn & Suites downtown


I don't have any recent stays to post this week, so this review is from a stay in August 2009, which I recall well and have photos to share.

Status Perks

I stayed at this hotel with only 15,000 points. I was not able to make the reservation online, so the manager took care of my reservation after I contacted him. He reserved us a King suite, which is a step up from a "regular" or "leisure" room type.


Room

We received a top floor corner room. The oversized bedroom included a desk and chair, flat screen TV, microwave, and fridge. There was a couch, coffee table, end tables, 2nd flat screen TV, and fireplace in the living area. We had a balcony with a view of the mountains. The bed and room were comfortable and clean. This hotel also offers two-bedroom suites and Jacuzzi suites.


Food & Beverage

We did not eat in the hotel, although we dined at the Mexican restaurant across the street in front of the shopping center, which was fabulous. I do not recall the restaurant name; however, you can't miss it if you stay here. It is directly across from the stop light/drive in to the HI. I had read reviews about the restaurant online, so we walked over around 5:00 pm on a Friday. I was glad we had decided to dine early, because we had a short wait for a table (10 - 15 minutes), and many people were waiting when we left.


Pool

The pool is an indoor/outdoor pool, which is not very large. The inside pool is small and the outside area is even smaller. The outside pool is just above the parking lot, and there is one outside table with a couple chairs. The inside whirlpool is a good size. It looks as though the hotel made good use of the limited space available; however, if the pool area is one of your top priorities, you may want to check other hotels.


Overall

I was happy with the hotel cleanliness and comfort, as well as the service, which are top priorities for me when choosing a hotel. I would definitely stay here again. My husband is more interested in leisure activities, such as the room size/layout and the pool area. He was happy with the room, although he did not care for the pool.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Los Angeles, California / LAX airport hotel -- Crowne Plaza

Status Perks
I sent an email to the hotel before my arrival because I had an odd situation. I was arriving in the afternoon and leaving for an overnight flight before midnight. I received a reply and an upgrade to the Club floor before I arrived. I also received a free beverage coupon good at the dining room, lounge, or Starbucks coffee shop when I checked in.

Room
This is an older building, and the room was nothing spectacular. It was average size with a desk and chair, chair and footstool. The bedding, bed sheets, and pillows, had all been updated and were supremely comfortable. I was comfortable for four hours before my flight, and the noise from airplanes and the hall was minimal. There was a non-working/empty mini-bar in my room. I'm not sure if they were removing or adding this. Internet service was $10.95 for 24-hours, and a lesser cost for a half day or two-hour period was available. I was not staying for very long and discovered I could connect for no charge to another service at the pool area and in the Club lounge, so I just used that service. The one thing I did not like about the room is that it had a connecting door to the room next door. I usually ask for a different room in this situation; however, since I had arrived early and was not staying all night, I did not say anything.

Food & Beverage
In the hotel lounge, I was able to use my "house wine" or "domestic beer" coupon for something of greater value and pay the difference. I appreciate when hotels let me do this. The service in the lounge was great. The Club lounge offered house wine and domestic beer for no charge. There was one hot food item and chips and veggies.

Business Center
There is a sign on the business center door about payment for 1/2 day and full day use. I did not understand if the sign meant that payment was expected before entering the room, or if it was for special services. My key let me in, and another guest was browsing the Internet at one of the computers. I was able to print a document--until the printer ran out of paper that is, and there was no paper in the room. You would think if payment is required to use any of the services, your key would not let you in..? I have stayed in hotels where I needed a special key from the front desk to access the business center, or where payment has been required to print documents. I did not understand how the business center was supposed to function, and there were not any business services in the Club lounge.

Overall
This hotel met my needs since I needed a place to spend some time before my evening flight, and I was able to get a great Entertainment card rate of only $64. It is close to the Avis lot, so I was able to return my car and walk back to the hotel. There are sidewalks the entire way, and the walk is less than a mile, although the Renaissance and Embassy Suites are both a little closer than the Crowne Plaza. If I needed a place to stay for more than one night near the airport, I do not think I would choose this location again.

Gardena, California (southern Los Angeles) -- Restaurant El Rocoto

I happened upon this restaurant by accident on my way to the airport. The food was so excellent, I wanted to share it. It is located south of the airport on 91, just east of I-405.

It's a small looking place in a shopping strip. It looked a little iffy, and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. The sign on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant said "seafood," so I decided to check it out. I arrived before noon, and the area did not look busy. The restuarant was indeed small when I entered; however, the food smell in the air was good, so I decided to stay.

I ordered the Picante Maris (#31), which is a seafood dish in a creamy tomato sauce. It was excellent! It contained squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, calamari, scallops, and a crawfish on top! The crawfish surprised me because I did not recall reading that on the menu. The quality of the food was excellent, as well as the flavor.

This restaurant quickly became crowded and guests were waiting for tables before the end of my visit. Apparently I was not the only one who enjoyed the flavors. I received lousy service--my server did not ask if I needed anything else when she served my entree, she never checked back with me, and she did not process my check. The host eventually brought me my check and processed the payment when she noticed I was finished. I hope that my service experience was not the norm.

I would visit this restaurant again because of the excellent food quality and flavor. Here is the link to their website: El Rocoto

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Anaheim/Fullerton, California -- Holiday Inn & Suites

Status Perks
I was upgraded to a one-bedroom suite, I received a breakfast coupon for both mornings, and I received a scratch off card with various prizes--bonus points, free beverage, free snacks in the gift shop, free appetizer, etc. I won a free beverage.

Room

I received a wonderful corner room on the top floor! There was a couch, chair, coffee table, desk and chair, end table and flat screen TV in the living room. I loved the walk in shower with glass doors in the huge bathroom with wood floor. There was no tub in the bathroom, which is not something I use at hotels, so this did not bother me. The Jacuzzi tub in the bedroom was large enough for more than two people, and the exterior bedroom wall was windows the length of the wall. I loved that there was room in front of the closet to set up the ironing board, and that there was a plug inside the closet for the iron--this was great thinking! There was a single cup coffee brewer, microwave, fridge, and second flat screen TV in the bedroom. The bed was comfortable, and I did not hear any hall or room noise during my stay.

Food & Beverage

The food in the restaurant and lounge was good quality and flavorful. I liked that the hotel posted the lounge and dining room daily specials on the table at the elevator each morning, so I would know what was on special that evening before I decided what to have for lunch each day. There were not enough staff members working during breakfast hours my first morning. One employee was attending to all guests and could not keep up. I took one of the last clean tables when I arrived, and I observed guests after me looking for clean tables. A man seated near me left before his food arrived. I observed him as he looked around before this, retrieved a to-go cup for his coffee, and then departed. Shortly after this, the employee came out from the kitchen with his meal. I did not receive a menu or my water after the initial greet, and then when my meal arrived, it was not correct. The employee graciously offered to have it corrected, and I told her it was fine. Fortunately, it was close to what I had ordered and very good! I went to the restaurant a half hour earlier the second morning, and it was not as busy. I received exactly what I ordered, and the service was excellent.

Business Center
I had no trouble viewing and printing documents in the business center. I was happy with the machines provided, although I wish there had been a stapler in the business center.

Fitness Center

I was disappointed that the fitness center was only open from 6 am - 9 pm. On the first morning, my key did not work before 6am; however, it worked the second morning when I arrived a few minutes before 6:00. In fact, it looked like someone had already been in the fitness center because the TVs and a fan on one of the cardio machines were on. It is located in the outside pool area on the second floor, and the only way to get to it is by walking outside. Fortunately, it was not raining during my stay; however, it had rained heavily the day of my arrival. It was dark in the morning when I used the fitness center, and the first light was burned out, making the walk in the dark somewhat scary for me.

Staff/service/misc.

I was extremely happy with the attitude and helpfulness of all the employees at this hotel! I was especially impressed with the Housekeeping service. They even left my towels that I had left on the towel rack for me to re-use, and this almost never happens. Even though I often follow hotel instructions for participating in Green Programs, staff members usually still replace everything.

Overall

When I originally made my reservation at this hotel, I made it for three nights. Then I read several guest complaints about the paper thin walls. Since Hilton had made me an offer to regain my Gold status by staying with them nine nights before the end of June, I decided to stay at this hotel for only two nights, then move to a Hilton property closer to the airport. After I checked into this hotel, I was so happy with my room, I changed my reservation back to the three nights, and canceled the Hampton Inn.

Monday, April 5, 2010

San Diego, California -- Marriott

April 2010, Sunday night, 1-night, King concierge guestroom

Status perks and check-in

At check-in, I was recognized as a Gold member and thanked for being a loyal customer. I had reserved a basic room, and I was upgraded to a room on the 24th Concierge floor with a balcony overlooking the bay. I received free valet parking, and Concierge lounge access.


Guestroom

The room was a decent size with a small fridge, safe, couch, chair, coffee table, and desk with chair. The bed and pillows were supremely comfortable—the sheets were so smooth, they must have been 1,000-thread count! The coffee in the one-cup coffee maker was excellent. Internet service cost $14.95 a day, so I just checked email in the Concierge lounge since I was only here one night. I was told that starting on the 27th (I assume he meant April 27), Internet would be free for Gold and Platinum members.

Food & Beverage

I observed a couple of roomy lounge areas, a restaurant, and a coffee shop, although I did not visit any of them. The Concierge lounge was closed when I arrived late in the evening. Breakfast in the morning included scrambled eggs, meats, fruits, oatmeal, bakery items (I was glad to see whole grain bagels), yogurt, juices, milk, coffee, and other beverages. It’s a nice large room overlooking the bay. There were four or five computers with Internet connection, TVs, and a fax machine. There were 20+ tables, and the occupancy level sign said 115.



Pool

I did not visit the pool, although it looked inviting from inside. There are two lagoon style pools in a tropical setting with plenty of lounge chair seating.

Fitness Center

The hotel directory said that the fitness center was in the south tower on the 3rd floor and did not open until 5:30 am. I was glad I called to make sure I knew where it was located before I left my room, because it has been moved to the bottom floor of the north tower, which is the tower I was staying in. It was open 24-hours, and the entire outside wall is windows overlooking the patio/pool area. There were dozens of cardio machines with Cardio Theater, weight machines, weights, and working TVs on the wall. Everything was well maintained and clean.


Overall

This was my first experience at a Marriott as a Gold member. I usually only have Silver status because I would need to stay almost exclusively at Marriotts to obtain Gold status. I can’t usually do that, because their rates are often too high on weekdays, and I also travel to many small cities, which do not have a Marriott property. I stayed at this property because I found an excellent AAA rate for a Sunday evening. I had Gold status during my stay because of a temporary promotional status upgrade. After this experience, I can see why Gold and Platinum members are so loyal. I was treated like I was someone special, and I was very happy with the room and Concierge upgrade. I would definitely recommend and stay at this property again. This is the fifth hotel I have stayed in, in the San Diego area, and I liked it the best. I was happy with my other stays too—the service and comfort at the Marriott was just a little better.