Search This Blog

Friday, August 27, 2010

Denver, Colorado / DIA airport hotel -- Holiday Inn & Suites - the invisible room!

August 2010, Weekday, 2-nights, King suite 601

Status perks and check-in
I received an upgrade to a suite, and the process before I received this room was quite an experience.

I had reserved a king executive room, and when I arrived at 2:30 p.m., the agent told me I had been upgraded to a king suite; however, my room was not ready yet. I did not have a problem with that since I knew I was 1/2 hour early of check-in time. I was happy to wait in the lobby for the suite. I sat down in the lobby to work on my laptop. After I had been waiting 2 hours, there were 6 or more guests in the lobby also waiting for rooms, and several other guests had received rooms. I decided to check back with the front desk agent. He said that he had a suite available, and he gave me a key for room 530. 

When I arrived at guestroom 530, I saw that it contained 2 double beds. I went back to the front desk because I wanted the king suite, and I said I would wait, if it was still not available. A different agent this time said that she had a king executive room available, which was the same size as a suite except it did not have a sofa sleeper. It was on the [top] 6th floor, so I took it. When I entered guestroom 608, I saw that it was much smaller than the doubled bed suite! Since I was going to be staying at this property for 2 nights, I went back to the front desk and said that I preferred to wait for the king suite. 
Sign on the 5th & 6th floor

When I agreeably tell someone I want to wait for the better room, I do not understand why he or she does not believe me. This is not the first time someone has tried to just assign me any room, instead of letting me wait--or, even better, having someone get my room ready. After waiting almost 4 hours--it was after 6 p.m., I was finally assigned a king suite, only it was on the 3rd floor. Floors 5 and 6 are quiet floors designated for PCR members, which is something I appreciate and want. I told the agent I was not happy. I was nice about it, although I did make it clear that the only reason I had waited 4 hours without complaining is because I thought I was waiting for a king suite on the 5th or 6th floor. She did some typing at her computer, and then said she had to go check on something. When she returned, she gave me a key for room 601. She did not say anything about the room type or how to find it. I knew that 601 was probably at the end of the hall on the top floor, so I did not ask. I just thanked her and took the key.
Room 601 living room

Guestroom 601
When I got to the end of the hall on the 6th floor, I did not see my room number or a sign. There was a locked door ahead, which looked like a staff utility closet, or something. I tried my key, which opened the door, and there were rooms 601 and 602 behind the locked door. When I entered my room, I realized I'd received one of the best rooms!
Bedroom w/ whirlpool tub

The guestroom had a full kitchen, bar, living room, bedroom with whirlpool tub, desk and chair, and large bathroom with walk in shower. There was a note on the tub, which said it leaked; however that did not matter to me. I was happy to have the comfort, room to work, and silence. 

As much as I loved the room, I would have been happy with a king suite on one of the PCR floors, if it had been assigned to me within an hour of my arrival. This hotel was very busy, and seemingly unable to handle a full house. Many guests were checking in while I waited, and I do not think anyone was paying attention to what I was waiting for (or another guest who finally got so mad, he demanded the corporate telephone number). 

Work desk and TV in bedroom
I had checked with the front desk after waiting 2 hours, and again to let them know when I went to the lounge to eat, so employees had my name and should have remembered what I was waiting for. When I returned to the front desk again after 6 p.m., I still did not have a room assignment until after the agent found me a room on the computer--even though other guests had been checking in the entire time. Before I went to the lounge, I had stopped at the front desk, and the agent I spoke with said that she would assign my room and come let me know the number. It appeared that rooms were just being assigned as guests were checking in, which is apparently how the room I was initially waiting for was given away.

Room 601 was extremely comfortable. The bed was great, it was perfectly quiet, the bar stools and living room furniture were comfortable. 
Room 601 bar/kitchen area

The wireless Internet connection speed was great in the lobby and in my room. I thought this was impressive since the hotel was full. There was a safe in the closet; however, it was locked open, so I was unable to use it. I was surprised that there was not a bathrobe in the guestroom. I was glad I did not need to apply any makeup because the lighting in the bathroom was poor. There was an excellent mountain view from my room, which I missed the first night because I was working, and almost missed the second night as well.

Food & Beverage
I thought the food and beverages at this property were acceptable and nothing more. The service was very good, and the prices were average; however, the quality and taste was lacking, in my opinion. The eggs I ordered in the morning were overcooked, and the toast was cold and not even browned. I don't know if my eggs were prepared this way because of the recent egg recall, or if this was their normal preparation. I was glad I went to the restaurant shortly after it opened at 6 a.m., because when I left, there were four or five tables of guests, there were guests waiting for seats, and I observed only 1 server. When I got off the elevator on my floor, I observed two employees departing with a room service table, and one of them was the person who had seated me. I guess that's why guests were waiting for a table. In the evening, I ordered the Ahi tuna salad one night, and the Ahi tuna appetizer the other night. I do not usually order similar menu items two days in a row; however, there were not many options on the menu. I thought the appetizer was bland. The salad had Thai dressing, which contributed much to the flavor. I was not impressed with the freshness or quality of the fresh ingredients in my eggs (I had the California omelet) or on the salad.

Hotel comfort
I have added a new category for this property because the comfort warrants it's own category. Even though I sat in the lobby working on my laptop for 3 hours (I went to the bar to eat for part of the time I was waiting), it was very comfortable. There were outlets for my laptop, and the chair and couch were both comfortable. The chairs at the bar in the lounge were comfortable, and there were many comfortable looking chairs along the hallway outside the meeting rooms. All the furniture in my room was great, as well as the bed and bedding.

Business center
There were a couple computers and a printer in the business center, as well as miscellaneous office supplies. I was able to print a couple documents without any trouble.

Fitness center
The fitness center was open 24 hours. There were two working TVs, although the set up of the 4 cardio machines did not directly face either TV. I wondered why they had not set the machines at an angle for more comfortable TV viewing. The room was large, and it looked like there was plenty of room to arrange the machines the other way. There were no weights or other equipment besides the 4 cardio machines and 1 exercise mat. 

I think this is a nice property with a lot of good points. The only criticism from me would be the organization and ability to handle a full house. Even though I was upgraded to a nice room, and employees were quite attentive after that, I was still disappointed that the situation had even happened. My experience at most hotels when I arrive before my room is ready, has been that the agent makes note of my name and comes to the lobby, or bar, or calls me when my room is ready. Often I have been given drink coupons or lunch while waiting (not expected, but appreciated), and my room has NEVER been given away while I was waiting. This hotel did not offer me the upgrade until after I let them know how unhappy I was.

The second day I was here, I saw that PCR guests checking in were receiving 2 bottles of water. I did not receive any bottled water, and I did not see anyone receive water on the busy day when I had checked in. I would stay here again--the furniture was comfortable, staff conveyed a positive attitude, the airport shuttle was great, and the Internet connection speed was great. I think that if you are staying here when the hotel is not full, you will probably love it! If, however, the hotel is full, it'll probably be like drawing straws as far as what kind of room you'll receive.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Englewood, Colorado / Homewood Suites by Hilton Denver Tech Center

August 2010, Weekday, 2-nights, King 1-bedroom suite

Status perks and check-in
I usually request a high floor corner guestroom because there is usually less noise in this location.  I was happy that when I checked in, the agent had read my requests. She told me that the only room available on the top floor was in the center of the hall, or I could have a corner room on the second floor. I opted for the corner room, since she said it was probably a little bigger. I also received two bottles of water and two packages of Milano cookies.

This guestroom had a connecting room door, which I try to stay away from, too. Fortunately, there was a door on the bedroom, and the bedroom was at the corner end of the suite. I could hear my neighbor's TV and other activity through the connecting door when I was working in the evening, although I could not hear it from the bedroom. 

The couch in the living room was comfortable, as was the bed and bedding. The chairs at the kitchen table were extremely uncomfortable and hard, making it difficult to work on the computer. There was a cable for wired Internet access at the table, so I would have been happier with a desk chair, so I could take advantage of the connection speed. I used it for a few hours the first night, but that's about all I could take. The wireless connection speed was acceptable; just not as strong. There was a flatscreen TV in the living room, and a second one in the bedroom.

Fitness center
The fitness center was open 24 hours, and the temperature was comfortable. There were three cardio machines with cardio theater, and fitness balls and mats; however, there were no weights or a weight machine. Other than the absence of weights, I was happy with the center.

Business center
The business center contained two computers, a printer and miscellaneous office supplies. Everything was in good working order. 

Food & Beverage
The food and beverage selection, quality, and service in the evening was excellent. HS always serves fresh salad on Monday - Thursday evenings along a variety of other items. I have seen this range from only cheese and crackers to 4-course meals which include items like fresh shrimp and steak. Beer & wine is also served where local ordinances allow. 

I was impressed with what this property served. The menu the first night included fresh salad with fixins, Cod, rice, vegetables, fresh bread sticks, and dessert. Several non-alcoholic beverages, as well as beer and four different wines were available--two reds and two whites. The menu for the second evening included potato soup, chicken tenders (good sized), fresh vegetables, fresh salad with a slightly different variety of fresh toppings, and two desserts--eclairs, and lemon cake. 

Breakfast the first morning included Mexican eggs, hash brown patties, corned beef hash, oatmeal, waffles, and several cold items. Similar cold items were served the second morning as well as turkey sausage, hash browns, and egg and muffin sandwiches. I liked the turkey sausages however, I thought the egg sandwiches were awful.

I was happy with my room comfort for sleeping, the hotel amenities, and the staff. When I returned to the hotel after my first night, the front desk agent greeted me by name when I entered! There is not anything within walking distance of this property; however, it was in a great location for my stay. It is located on a side street with easy access to the Interstate.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grand Rapids, MI--GRR airport hotel / Crowne Plaza

Status perks and check-in

I received an upgrade to a Club floor room, which is consistent with my previous stays at this property. Since I was staying on Sunday night, the Club Lounge was not open. The front desk agent said he was going to give me beverage coupons for the hotel lounge, which would open at 4 p.m., and a breakfast coupon. I did not understand why he was going to give me a breakfast coupon because I thought the Club Lounge would be open Monday morning. I later learned that the lounge was under construction.The restaurant did not open in the morning until 6 a.m., so I told the agent I did not need the breakfast coupon, since I needed to leave for the airport on the 5:30 shuttle. He gave me four beverage coupons instead.


This guestroom had just been remodeled, and the room contained new furnishings. I'm not sure if the bed was new; I could tell that the other furniture was. The room included a flat screen TV, comfortable desk chair, and sitting chair with footstool. The chair was comfortable; however, it only met the needs of one person. It was not very comfortable sitting with two people in the chair or using the desk chair to watch TV. The room lamps were new, as well as the drapes and flooring. 

The guestroom had a connecting door, and I try to stay away from rooms with connecting doors, because the doors are not usually soundproof. Since this location was not very full during our stay, I decided to keep the room with the hopes that we would not have guests in the next room. Fortunately, we did not hear any noise from the room next door during our stay. Our room had a small balcony overlooking the outside courtyard. I was surprised the Internet connection speed was quite slow, since the hotel was not very full.


The pool is an indoor/outdoor pool with a small area to swim between the inside and outside. The outside sitting area was nicely landscaped with several trees offering much appreciated shade. There were also plenty of sunny areas to lounge in the sun.

Food & Beverage

I was impressed with the lounge renovations. The open room style included high ceilings and comfortable seating. We used our beverage coupons for drinks of our choice, even though we noticed after ordering that the coupons said, "house brands only." Our server still took the entire beverage price off the check. We ordered an Italian sandwich with fries, which was very good. The flavor was excellent, and the ingredients were good quality.

Misc. and overall

One reason I like this property is because the airport shuttle runs every half hour, 24-hours a day. I also have always received a Club Floor room upgrade every time I stay here. Even so, I thought the room price was kind of high compared to other choices in the airport area. Recently, I have found the rates to be $10 - $20 more than I had previously paid at this property. I suppose with the renovations, it makes sense to charge a little more, although we did not think the bed comfort was any better than before. The stairway carpet was new, although it looked like it hadn't been vacuumed since it was put in. There was a considerable amount of lint and debris on the floors. One thing that was not changed during renovations were the guestroom doors. All of the doors were old with many dings and damage. The doors are heavy doors, so they were adequate for blocking out the hallway noise.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fargo, North Dakota -- Hilton Garden Inn

August 2010, Weekday, 3-nights, King guestroom

Status perks and check-in
I received the two bottles of water that I always receive from Hilton Garden Inn. I only recall one time when I received an upgraded room at a Hilton Garden Inn as a Gold member, and that was in Panama City, Florida. I was glad the agent mentioned that I must have chosen to receive free breakfast as my choice instead of bonus points, because that is not my preference. He said he would change this to bonus points for this stay; however, it would probably not be reflected in my profile. When I checked my profile after I got to my room, it was set to receive bonus points, so I am not sure if he was able to correct this, or if he had been mistaken.

The guestroom contained a king size bed, nightstands, a fridge, microwave, flatscreen TV, soft chair, and an ergonomic desk chair at the desk. The bed, pillows, and sheets were all good quality and comfortable. 

I was slightly annoyed by a couple of things in the guestroom: The temperature was set at 62°F when I arrived, and the room was an icebox! It took until the next morning for the temperature to get up to 72°. The bathroom door would not stay open; it kept closing unless I propped it with a shoe or something. The door to the hall did not shut tight unless it was pulled or pushed with extra force; I had to do this each time I went in or out of the room to make sure it was shut. Something I did like: liquid creamers were available in the fridge. I do not know if this is a new HGI thing, or if housekeeping did this on their own. I always get liquid cream from the restaurant when it is not in the room, and when I checked the fridge the first night, there were four inside. I thought maybe the last guest had left them because that is what I do, if I happen to pick up more than I use. I used two of them, and they were replaced the next day. The day after this, the two I used were not replaced though. 

The room was spacious and comfortable for working, although the wireless Internet connection was quite slow.

Food & Beverage
I ordered food three different evenings, and each time it was served very quickly. The smoked salmon appetizer was satisfactory, the mushroom soup was very good, and I was not happy with the NY Strip. The steak was overdone, and the bartender did not check back with me right away, so I ended up eating the center only instead of sending it back. Both bartenders the first two evenings were excellent; however, I was not happy with the service the last evening when I ordered the steak. The bartender did not bring my silverware until after he had served the food. When he checked back with me, he asked if the steak was okay, so I told him it was overdone. He looked at my plate, saw that it was, and then said he had ordered it medium. He did not apologize, but instead made excuses about the fact that he did not know the cook. I think at the very minimum, he should have apologized and told me he would inform the cook. I wish I had noticed his name, so I could warn others not to order from him. One of the bartenders that provided excellent service was Cody.

I thought breakfast was overpriced. It was raining my last morning, and I was hungry before I was ready to depart, so I ate at the restaurant. The only thing available was a mediocre buffet for $9.95.

Business center
The business center was the basic HGI type with no charge printing services and two computers. The only addition I would have liked is a stapler. There were staples in the room, so I expected to see a stapler.

Fitness center
The fitness center was open 24 hours. There were seven cardio machines with cardio theater. I wish the agent at check-in had told me I needed to get the headphones at the front desk. When I checked in, I asked about the fitness center location, and he did not mention this. The room was quite hot after 10 -15 minutes. The temperature had been humid and over 90 degrees during my stay, and it seemed that some business facilities could not keep up with the cooling.  There was also a weight machine, weights, a mat, and exercise balls.

When I went to the dining room to eat the second evening, I learned there was free beer and wine, as well as free appetizers until 7 p.m. I enjoyed all of this, although it would have been nice, if I had known about this beforehand. It's nice to know about this kind of thing when planning where and when to dine while out working. The bartenders were excellent about promoting this and offering refills. I was told this is held on the first Tuesday of every month.

I would stay at this hotel again for the bed comfort; however, I did not care for the onsite dining. It is  located near a mall, so there are several restaurants nearby.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alexandria, Minnesota -- Holiday Inn

Status perks and check-in
At check-in, I received a bag with a granola bar, mints, and bottled water. I also received a coupon for a couple of dollars off an entree or salad, and a $4 off beverage coupon for the bar. I liked that the beverage coupon had a value so I could use it to upgrade to a better beverage and pay the difference. Often, this type of coupon only covers bar wine or draft beer, which is not my preference. The front desk agent thanked me for being a loyal customer and used my name!

This is an older property with only two floors and no elevator. I like to use the stairs; however, not to carry my luggage up when I arrive. I was glad there were interior hallways and entrance doors. I received a king-bed room on the second floor in the middle of the hall. I had requested a high floor corner room online when I made reservation, and I noticed these comments were printed on the sheet I initialed at check-in. Although my room was not a corner room, it did appear to be in a quieter wing of the hotel. This property has an inside pool/play area with rooms around the perimeter overlooking the pool area. Since my stay was for work, I was glad that I did not have a pool room. 

Even though this is an older building, they did a pretty good job updating it. There was a flat screen TV in the guestroom, and the carpet, furniture, curtains, bathroom floor, and shower curtain looked new. The bathroom was so small, I was not able to get a picture showing the tile floor and new curved shower rod and curtain. The vanity extended the length of the wall, so there was plenty of counter space. There was barely room to enter the bathroom and shut the door. The door just about hits the toilet seat when opening and closing. 

The bedroom also contained a fridge, microwave, and suitcase bench. The wireless Internet speed was fantastic (in the evening and the next morning), although the desk chair was not very comfortable. The exterior windows did not open. The bed was  great - it was one of the most comfortable Holiday Inn beds I have slept in! 

Food & Beverage
I arrived after 8 p.m. on a Sunday, and the front desk agent told me that food would be served until 9 p.m. Since it was so late, I decided to just order a House Salad to take back to my room. I was impressed with the quality of the salad and dressing. The ingredients were fresh, and the menu said the dressings are homemade. The Blue Cheese dressing was excellent! Breakfast the next morning was also good. Jenna provided excellent service. I liked that she introduced herself and left my check when she served the food. The eggs were fresh and non-greasy.

Fitness center
I was happy with the fitness center for the most part. It is located in the pool area and was open from 6 a.m. - 11 p.m. There was a sign on the door stating that guests must be 16 or over, and I needed a special fitness center key to access the room. There were 4 cardio machines, a weight machine, and weights in the room. I did not have any trouble finding an available treadmill, and the flat screen TV worked great. The TV channel line up was printed on a paper that was taped to each machine, which I thought was a nice touch since I like to watch the local news when traveling. The temperature was a little too warm after 15 minutes, and there were no cups at the water cooler.

Business center
There is a small room with one computer and printer near the front desk. I printed a document in the morning, and all the equipment worked well.

When I first arrived at this property, I was afraid I would be disappointed when I saw that this is an older building with only two floors. As it turned out, I was quite happy with the sleep quality, the food quality, and the staff was great. The tiled floor areas of the hotel (front desk, bar, stairways, ice machine areas) looked great, although I was surprised they had not replaced the lobby and hallway carpet. The carpeting was old and dingy looking. I was worried about the carpet in my room when I first arrived, so I was glad when I got to my room and saw that the carpet was new. I would stay at this hotel again, when traveling in this area.