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Friday, November 19, 2010

Delta air travel -- TPA to DTW to GRR

November 2010

Status perks
As a Gold Medallion flier, I had been upgraded to first class on the flight from TPA to DTW a few days prior to check-in.

I observed one agent working with one group of guests at the First Class check-in counter when I entered the line to check my bag. They were checking 3 or 4 bags, so my wait time was a few minutes. I had plenty of time, so I was not concerned. Four passengers arrived after me before it was my turn, and the man who had arrived first after me must have been in a hurry, because he left before I got to the counter. The process to check my bag went smoothly, and the agent was able to accommodate my request for a different connecting flight from DTW to GRR.

There is a Priority boarding line at TPA, so the process went very quickly. They have full body scanners, which I did not see anyone complaining about when I went through security.

I was surprised we were served breakfast in First Class since the flight to DTW was only a little over 2 hours. On the 2 - 3 hour flights I took out west recently, we did not receive a meal. The flights out west were during lunch and dinner times, whereas the flight from TPA was during breakfast time. I don't know what Delta's criteria is--whether it is meal type, flight length, or a combination of the two. Or, if they have recently changed what is served. On this flight we received: cereal and milk, croissant, fresh fruit, and yogurt.

DTW Sky Club
I visited the Detroit Sky Club in B/C terminal this trip. Since the Delta/NWA merger, I had not had any success receiving assistance with tickets and such at the Sky Club, so I was impressed this trip. Before the merger, I had been able to receive seat assignments and/or upgraded seats in the [WorldClub] Sky Club. I had a confirmed seat from the TPA agent for my connection, although she had not been able to give me a seat assignment. When I entered the club, I asked the agent if I had a seat assignment yet, and she said no. She printed a receipt for herself and said she would keep an eye on it for me. Shortly before boarding time, I decided I better head to the gate since I needed a seat assignment. I paused at the Sky Club entrance, where the employee who had checked me in, was admitting another guest. She saw me, and handed me my boarding pass so I did not need to go to the gate until it was time to board.

I have encountered many frustrations during the airline merger, and was glad to see things running smoothly. Both my flights arrived on time (many of my recent flights before this one have not arrived on time), the employees I encountered were polite and helpful, and my bag was one of the first off when we arrived in GRR. I wish all my travel days went this smoothly!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tampa, Florida / TPA airport hotel -- Crowne Plaza

Status perks and check-in
I received an upgrade to a Cabana Suite, a beverage coupon, and two bottles of water. The bottled water was delivered to my room at 5:00 p.m. I appreciated the water, although I wished it had been given to me when I arrived.

I arrived about ½ hour early of check-in time; however, I was 45 minuter later than when the hotel should have been expecting me, because the agent requested my name when I called for the shuttle from the airport. When the agent said my room was not ready, I asked if I was waiting for an executive room. She said that she had a Cabana suite set aside for me, so I sat down in the lobby with my laptop to wait. When it was after check-in time and my room was still not available, I asked if an executive room was available. A suite sounded great; however, I said that I would take an executive guestroom, if there was one available. My IHG profile has executive room listed in my preferences, and I wish the agent had confirmed my preferences or discussed the guestroom options. Instead, she had me wait for the Cabana suite, and I did not end up being happy with the guestroom because of the noise.

Shuttle service
I waited 35 - 40 minutes for the shuttle when I arrived at the airport. I called back once after my initial call during this time. When the driver arrived, he said that he had been dropping off guests at another location. There must have been a breakdown in communication, because the telephone operator (who I assume had been the front desk agent) had told me both times when I called, that it would be 10 minutes.

Cabana suite living room/kitchen area

The suite was like a mini apartment--with paper thin walls. It was huge! There as a corner sofa, chair, and desk and chair in the living room, as well as a mini fridge, microwave, and sink area.

The bathroom was nice with a tile floor and a huge walk in shower. The bedroom was in the back.

The noise from the pool area was extremely loud--even in the bedroom with the door shut. During my stay, I heard water running, doors shutting, people walking down the walkway, and more. I was not able to work or sleep because of all the activity in the courtyard and nearby rooms. The cabana rooms have exterior entrance doors from the pool area.

There were no outlets in the bedroom (except difficult to reach ones behind the bed). I wanted to plug my phone in to charge it and set the alarm overnight, which was not an easy task. The lack of outlets in the bedroom also made it difficult to work on my computer.  Since it was somewhat quieter in the bedroom, I ended up moving the bed mattress in order to reach the outlet to plug my computer in, and then work while sitting in bed.

The Internet connection speed was very fast--probably because there were not many people working at this hotel. There were not any outlets for use in the living room either except two on the desk lamp, which were somewhat damaged. I was able to get them to work by jiggling the cords; however, the outlets were loose and the plug kept falling out of the lamp.

Food & Beverage
After I asked, the bartender let me use my beverage coupon for a discount off a higher priced drink.  Another guest after me brought her coupon to the bar to ask if she could get a Corona with it. The bartender told her domestic beer only. The guest did not ask if she could pay the difference for an upgrade (like I had), and the bartender did not offer this option. The drink prices were so inflated, that the coupon amounted to about a $2 savings. I also ordered pot stickers, which had good flavor. They were crisper than what I am used to, but still very good. The bar service was terrible. The bartender did not smile, and she behaved like I was an inconvenience. My beverage was gone for several minutes and I had finished dining before I was able to get another. The bartender was at the end of the bar attending to no one, when I slid my empty glass to the edge of the bar, and I still waited a few more minutes before she acknowledged me. I do not know why I still tip when the service is this poor. It was still somewhat her loss because I would have tipped more, if I had received good service.

Business center
There was one computer and printer in the business center on the 2nd floor. A guest was using the computer both times I entered to print a document. Fortunately, she let me use the computer a few moments to print what I needed the second time that I stopped. The Internet connection speed and laser print speed were both fast.

I would probably not stay at this hotel again when traveling for business. The pool area was nice looking--cabanas, comfy lounge and cushioned chairs, and a water fountain. Other than the impressive Internet connection speed, there were too many negative factors--the long wait for the airport shuttle, the hour wait for the room, the rude bartender, and the noise from the courtyard. Even if I was here for leisure, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night in one of the pool side rooms. This is the first Crowne Plaza I have stayed in that did not have an executive floor with an executive lounge. The top floor is classified as the executive floor, so the rooms on that floor may be larger than the basic rooms. However, there is no executive lounge. There was an empty room, which I was told could be unlocked by management, if guests requested a place to meet with colleagues. Other than the meeting room, I did not think this was a good business hotel. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brandon, Florida / Homewood Suites by Hilton Tampa-Brandon

November 2010, Weekday, King studio

Status perks
I did not receive anything extra for being a Gold member, although I was glad to receive a guestroom that fit my profile preferences. The employee had read my comments and set aside a room for me on the top floor at the end of the hall.
Suite kitchen area

I was initially assigned guestroom 710--which was a room on the top floor at the end of the hall--however, the 7th floor is a mixture of smoking and non-smoking rooms. I walked through a thick cloud of smoke on the way to my room, and my room smelled strongly of smoke when I entered. I returned to the front desk and took a room on the 6th floor--which is entirely non-smoking--instead. 
Suite desk & bed

The guestroom was a basic Homewood Suites room with a living, kitchen, and bedroom area. The bathroom had a walk in shower. The desk chair was uncomfortable and did not raise to a good working height.

Suite living area
Even though the room did not smell of smoke, it did not smell fresh. The kitchen floor had debris on it, and the comforter on the bed was snagged and raggedy looking. 

Food & Beverage
Dinner was the basic evening fare: salad, stuffed peppers, and dinner rolls. Lemonade, beer, and red and white wine were available. I don't know what kind of wine was served because it was in unmarked decanters. It tasted awful! Coors beer cans were set in ice in the beverage area. Breakfast included scrambled and hard boiled eggs, bagels & bread, sausage, hash browns, fruit, waffles, oatmeal, and cereal.

I did not use the pool, although the area looked very nice--nice lounge chairs, grill, large pool, and hot tub.

Business center
The business center was equipped with two working computers and printers.

Fitness center
There were four or five cardio machines and weights in the room with one working TV, which was not located straight ahead for easy viewing.

I was disappointed with the unfresh smell in my room and the raggedy look of the bedding. The only food item that I thought was fresh and good quality was the dinner salad. I did not think this Homewood Suites was as nice as others I have stayed in and I would probably not stay here again. This is a newer property, so I expected it to be above average rather than below average.

Tampa, Florida / TPA airport hotel -- Hilton

November 2010, Weekday-weekend, 3-nights, King executive guestroom

Status perks
I was able to check-in online to an upgraded executive floor room the day before my arrival, so I did. Two complimentary bottles of water were included in the room each day.

Our room was on the top floor. The only rooms with a balcony at this hotel are the rooms on the 11th and 12th floor. The room was spacious and comfortable, although the toilet seat in the bathroom was cracked. It was cracked to the point that I got pinched every time I sat down. I was surprised this had not been replaced sooner. I informed the front desk of the problem at check out.

Our stay was from Friday afternoon - Monday morning. Our flight arrived before check-in time, and our room was ready for us when we arrived. The executive lounge was open for breakfast; however, it was not open in the evening. We were able to get a mini fridge delivered to our room for no extra charge. Internet is free for Gold and Diamond members and the speed was satisfactory.

Food & Beverage
We had calamari, the grilled chicken pepper jack sandwich, and a couple of mixed drinks and wine in the lounge during our stay. Jose Cuervo margaritas were on special for $4 all day Saturday. This was not advertised, and I found out about the special when I overheard another guest ask about this. The food and beverages were satisfactory, and other than the margarita special, they were standard (slightly inflated) hotel airport prices.

Even though this hotel is located in a business area near the airport, we thought the pool area was quite nice. The chairs were comfortable, it was tastefully landscaped, and there was plenty of room. The hot tub was set at the appropriate temperature for the cool evenings. The Internet connection speed in the pool area was lousy. I was not able to get much work done in this area.

Fitness center
The fitness center was open 24 hours. There were several cardio machines with cardio theater, weights, a weight bench, and floor mat. Everything was in great working order.

We were happy with this stay and would stay here again. I was able to get a great AAA rate online for $62 a night! The price made the stay even more satisfactory. This hotel is very close to the airport, and we did not hear any airplane noise during our stay. The hotel is located across from the International Plaza, which is a large upscale shopping mall with several restaurants. The hotel shuttle provides transportation; however, we had no problem walking back and forth. We waited 20 minutes for the airport shuttle when we arrived, which is how long the front desk employee had said it would be when we called.