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Friday, April 29, 2011

Delta and American Express team up to give away 100,000 miles!

Delta and AmEx are giving away 100,000 miles to four lucky winners on Facebook! You can enter, if you have a Delta AmEx card and Facebook account. The four entries with the most "likes" will each win 100,000 miles. If you don't have a Delta card, you can vote for my photo! I entered one of the photos from my Marco Island review on this blog (shown above).

The link to my entry is below, if you don't have a card and want to vote. If you want to enter the contest, just choose "Enter Your Photo" at the top of the page instead. You can vote once a day ~ Good luck to all! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Battle Creek, Michigan / Holiday Inn

Status perks
On a Saturday evening, we had an activity in Battle Creek, which is a few hours from our home. I had made a reservation at the Holiday Inn; however, the rate was a bit more than we wanted to pay, so my husband talked about driving home afterward. I saw that rooms were available at the Fairfield Inn for $30 less, and I figured I would be able get an upgrade there since whirlpool guestrooms were also available. We preferred to stay at the Holiday Inn, so I decided to call them to ask if they give any perks to Platinum members.

The agent who answered the telephone, requested my name and looked up my reservation. She said that I had already been upgraded to a suite, and that we would receive breakfast coupons as well. I knew that we would be arriving in the area before check-in time, so I asked about checking in late--after our activity that evening. She cheerfully told me that my room was already ready, and that we could check-in now. This was around 9:00 a.m.--impressive, I thought! As it turned out, we had some free time around check-in time, after we had been in Battle Creek a couple hours, and decided to check-in then. At that time, I learned not only did we did we have a suite--we had the Wedding Suite! I also received a 1,000 bonus points coupon, if we had dinner in the restaurant. Unfortunately, we had dinner plans, so we were not able to take advantage of that offer.
view from kitchen at entrance

Guestroom
We received a room on the top floor, and the room was fabulous! The living and dining area was larger than most hotel rooms. The kitchen area included: a full sink, medium sized fridge, microwave, and table with chairs and place settings for four. The coffee was good quality, although the creamer was powder.
view from bathroom; living room on right

There was a desk and chair between the kitchen and living area, as well as a sofa, chair, and footstool in the living room. A large flat screen TV hung on the wall above the fireplace. The fireplace was in the wall between the bedroom and living room, so that it was visible and warmed both areas. A second flat screen TV hung on the wall in the bedroom above the fireplace. There was a suitcase bench at  the foot of the bed, and a large safe in the closet. The bed was very comfortable, and we did not hear any noise during our stay. We slept very well.

from bedroom; shower & toilet on right
There were two entrances into the large bathroom--one from the bedroom, and one from the kitchen. The large whirlpool tub was clean and did not take long to fill. We liked the large walk in shower, and the double vanity. The toilet was off the main bathroom area, with a door of its own. The only thing I did not like about the guestroom is that the windows did not open, and the thermostat did not turn off. It was a good quality heating system; however, I prefer fresh air to breathing artificial air overnight.

Food & Beverage
We did not visit the restaurant or lounge in the evening because of our dinner plans. My husband went down to get a couple of champagne glasses from the bar to use in our room in the evening, and was impressed with the service/attention he received.

We used our breakfast coupons in the morning for the buffet. I usually ask if I can use the buffet coupons for their value off an a la carte meal; however, my husband was happy to eat from the buffet, so I did not ask about this. The buffet included: cold cereal, waffles, yogurt, cut fruit, two types of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, bread, milk and juices. I did not really care for any of the food; I thought the sausage was quite greasy, and I did not like the flavor of the eggs with the "extras." My husband was happy with the eggs and the bacon. The service was excellent.

Overall & misc.
There is an inside pool and an outside patio at this hotel, although we did not use either because we had plenty of room in our suite.

This hotel reminded me of a Holiday Inn & Suites, although it is listed as a Holiday Inn. I prefer Holiday Inn & Suites because they usually have nicer rooms, more suites, and a more intimate atmosphere in the lounge and dining area. This hotel had all of these things. In fact, the floor diagram on back of the guestroom door, showed that the room across the hall from ours was the same size, and it showed two more rooms at the end of the hall, which looked almost as large. I did not look at the diagrams for the other floors.

This hotel is located next to Meijer, in a shopping center with several new restaurants. It is just off the interstate, so it is easy to get to. We thought the service was just as great as the room. There was a water boiling advisory in Battle Creek during our stay, and when we returned to our room in the evening, there was a message on our telephone about this, along with a printed explanation, and a 6-pack of fresh bottled water. The front desk agent thanked me for being a Platinum member at check-in, and when I checked out. I will definitely stay at this hotel again!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bloomington, Illinois / BMI airport -- Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites

Status perks
I had reserved a room with 2-queen beds instead of a king room because the rate was less. I hoped for an upgrade, and figured if I did not receive it, a queen bed would also be fine. I would not have done this, if the two bedded rooms had been full size beds instead of queen beds. Imagine my surprise and delight when I viewed my reservation online before arriving and saw that my room had already been upgraded to a king bed executive suite!

At check-in I received two coupons: one for a beverage, and one for dessert, when ordering an entree. My flight was not until 4 p.m on the day I was checking out, and the hotel also granted me late checkout at 2 p.m.

Guestroom

couch & chair on right, TV in left corner
The room was a large room, similar to the oversized rooms I have stayed in at Holiday Inn Express hotels. The only difference I could see is that the bedroom had a door. I have always thought that Holiday Inn & Suites are in between a full service Holiday Inn and a Holiday Inn Express. This is because the lounges are usually smaller, and the public areas more intimate. The suites I have stayed in at Holiday Inn and Suites are usually corner rooms, and they are not laid out as a long narrow room like most of the Holiday Inn Express suites. 

This suite was a long narrow guestroom, like Holiday Inn Express. The living area at the entrance contained a flat screen TV, a couch and soft chair, as well as a desk and chair. A small kitchen area next to the desk and across from the bathroom, included a microwave, half sized fridge, sink, and coffee set up. I was impressed to see Wolfgang Puck coffee pods, although the creamer was powder. 
The bedroom at the back of the suite included a second flat screen TV, as well as another desk and chair. The bed was comfortable, and I did not hear any noise overnight.

The only noise that was bothersome while in the room were the guests overhead. I always request a top floor room on my reservation and usually confirm this at check-in to avoid this problem. Since I had already received an upgraded room, I did not inquire whether a different suite was available on the top floor.

The thermostat in this room was not well placed. It was in the corner where it was very warm. I had the thermostat turned up to 79, and when I tried to work at the desk in the bedroom--where I could not hear the noisy guests above me as much--it was cold. I ended up turning the heat off and working in the living area instead. The wireless Internet was slow no matter where I sat. There were several ethernet outlets in the room, and I wished I had packed my ethernet cord, so I could have tried that connection. There were also several power outlets in the room, which was nice.

Food & Beverage
There is a full service restaurant and bar on site at this hotel. It is called Baxters American Grille, and it was very good. The entrance is actually from the outside, and not from the hotel, although you can get to it through the hotel if there is not a banquet or meeting going on. I was able to walk to the lounge/restaurant for dinner without going outside; however, I had to walk outside after I had finished to return to the hotel. I had Mahi Mahi with asparagus for dinner, and the flavor and quality was excellent. The service was also excellent, and the bartender let me use my beverage coupon for a better quality beverage and pay the difference. I thought breakfast the next morning was excellent as well. My eggs were cooked perfectly, and the fruit side was fresh with good flavor.

Fitness center
The fitness center was empty both times I visited. There were four cardio machines and weight machines in the room, which was very warm. The machines did not have cardio theater, although the room was equipped with a working TV and remote. Towels, sani-wipes, cold water, and a scale were also present and working.

Misc.
This hotel is located directly across from the airport and is easy to access. I did not hear any airplane noise during my stay. BWW and an Italian restaurant are located in the same complex within walking distance.

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois -- Homewood Suites

April 2011, Weekday, 2-nights, King studio

Gold perks and check-in
I did not receive any extra perks as a Gold member. I arrived late--around 10 p.m.--and I was surprised that my key packet had not been prepared when I arrived.


Guestroom
Other than the fact that I received a guestroom with a connecting door, which I do not like because they are less soundproof, I thought this was one of the nicer rooms I have had at a Homewood Suites. I liked the large tile shower and vanity area, although I did not understand why the toilet had been placed right next to the wall when there was plenty of room between the wall and the shower. Even though there was a card on the table welcoming me by name, the heat had not been turned on, so it was cold in the room when I arrived.

The bed was comfortable, although I did hear the neighbors through the connecting door. There was a nice sized safe in the closet, which looked large enough to hold a laptop. The wireless Internet connection was poor, and I was disconnected several times.

Suite kitchen; full size fridge behind table






When I returned to my guestroom in the afternoon the next day, housekeeping had cleaned my room, and the heat had again been turned off. 


Food & Beverage
I was disappointed that my flight had arrived 5 hours late and I missed the evening reception on the day of check-in, because smoked pulled pork was listed on the fridge menu. I visited the second evening and enjoyed fresh tossed salad, fresh fruit, cottage cheese, and a glass of wine. Steak tips, rice, corn, bread sticks, and mini lemon dessert cakes were also served, as well as draft beer.

I enjoyed fresh scrambled eggs both mornings. Other breakfast foods included: bacon, hash browns, cottage cheese, fresh fruit--cut and whole, yogurt, hot and cold cereal, and pastries.

I was impressed with the food freshness and the service. I returned to the lodge room (where food & beverages are served) after the 7 p.m. close time because there was a tornado warning the second evening. An employee walking through the area, stopped to ask if I'd like a beverage. He offered to send someone over, and one of the employees who had been attending to the evening social came to the table and then poured me a glass of wine. 

Fitness center
I was happy with the fitness center temperature and equipment. Everything was in working order, and the temperature was comfortable. Cardio theater was available on all the machines, and there were also hand weights, a weight bench, exercise ball and mat. The hotel was quite full, and I was afraid I'd have a difficult time finding an available treadmill; however, there was one available each time I visited. Hand sanitizer, a scale, towels, headphones, wall mounted TV, and cold water were also available in the room.
 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Grand Rapids, Michigan / GRR airport hotel -- Hilton

I gave a review of this Hilton in March 2011. You can find that review in the Blog Archive by date, or by clicking on the link here. Rather than providing another complete review, I am only writing about aspects of my April stay, which were different than the March stay. The March stay was on a Saturday, and the April stay was on a Sunday.

Guestroom #456
I again received a room on the top floor. This time, the room was at the end of the hall, instead of in the middle. The room looked exactly the same as the one I had on my last stay, although there was a stain on the carpet, and the room did not smell fresh. The room did not have a strong odor; it was more like it had not been recently refreshed, so it smelled stale. The tub drain was somewhat clogged/slow draining. My husband did not like the small bathroom because there was not enough room to use the facilities without closing the door. There was no hotel directory in the room, so I had to call the front desk to find out the dining and fitness center hours.

When I had arrived after 4 p.m., the agent said that the room assigned to me--room 233--was not ready, so she was giving me room 456 instead. I have my profile preferences set for a high floor room away from the elevator, so I was surprised that room 233 would have been assigned to me--not on a high floor, and right next to the elevator. I thought maybe it was an upgraded room, so I asked if both rooms were the same, and the agent said yes. Room 456 was at the end of the hall, and this stay was a lot quieter than our last experience on a Saturday evening.

Food & Beverage
Since I was not happy with the food served in the lounge during our last stay, I wanted to be sure and mention that the breakfast service and food was fantastic. Employees were friendly and attentive, and I enjoyed the food. The breakfast certificate I received was good for the breakfast buffet or $9.95 off the a la carte menu. I ordered the Englishman--corned beef hash, poached eggs, and rye toast. Potatoes are also included with this entree; however, I ordered it without the potatoes. The food was cooked perfectly, the food items were fresh and good quality, and the taste was excellent.

Pool
The pool area was clean and looked comfortable. We tried the whirlpool tub, and the temperature was kind of cool. A posted sign on the door said that adult swim is from 10 p.m. - midnight.

Fitness center
The fitness center opened at 6 a.m.. There were several working cardio machines with cardio theater, and a working TV with remote. There were many hand weights, two work benches, and a large exercise ball. Sani-wipes and headphones were available; however, there were no cups for drinking water. The room temperature was comfortable.

Shuttle
The hotel shuttle to the airport was prompt, and the service was friendly.

Grand Rapids, Michigan / JW Marriott

April 2011, Weekend, King concierge floor guestroom

I gave a review of this property in February 2011. This link will take you to that review. In this review, I am providing information about our stay that was different from the February stay. The February stay was on a Saturday, and the April stay was on a Friday.

Guestroom
I had received a corner room on previous stays at this property. The rooms were not on the top concierge floor, although my last room was on one of the concierge floors.

Shower on left
This time, I received a room on the top concierge floor; however, it was not a corner room. The room on the top floor was almost the same as the corner guestrooms, except that the corner rooms are slightly larger.

The shower in the corner room, as well as the seating area in the bedroom, were both more spacious in the corner guestrooms. The tub was the same size in both rooms. You should be able to see the room size difference, by looking at the photos in both reviews. For my next stay, I plan to request a corner room using the virtual concierge on the Marriott site before my arrival.

Concierge lounge
Sunset from Concierge room
The same beverages were included this evening, and this time we also purchased a cocktail. The beverages for purchase consisted of high quality choices at an excellent price. A Grey Goose martini cost $5.

Morning breakfast included the same options as our February stay, and evening snacks included shrimp and hot mini sandwich wedges, along with cheese and crackers.



JW from trail across the river
Misc.
Art Prize in front of The BOB
We walked the river trail behind the Marriott and across the river, which goes for several miles. Here are a couple of photos of the hotel and downtown.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Traverse City, Michigan -- Courtyard by Marriott

Status perks
I received an upgrade to a whirlpool room when making the reservation. We had originally planned to stay at the Fairfield Inn because the hotel is newer and the rate was $10 less. On the morning of our departure, I found out the Fairfield was full, so there would be no chance for a guestroom upgrade. Since this trip was around spring break time, I figured the hotel pool area would be filled with kids.

I decided to call the Courtyard to ask what kind of room and rate they could offer us. The employee I spoke with offered the same rate I had found online. I asked if she would be able to provide a Gold member upgrade to a suite or whirlpool room, and she said she could upgrade us to a whirlpool room. When we checked in, I asked if we could be upgraded to one of the suites, and I was told no. Since the Gold membership benefits say: When you check in, we’ll upgrade you to our best-available guest room at no additional charge, I figured it was worth a try. Another area of the Marriott site implies that this does not include suites; however, this is not clear.
 
Guestroom
I would have been even more impressed if we had been upgraded to a suite; however, I still thought the room was great! There was a large walk in shower in the bathroom, and the whirlpool tub was in the bedroom area. The tub was large and clean! Any time I plan to use the whirlpool tub in a hotel room, I always clean it first. This is one of the few times that I found I had not needed to clean it.

The bed was comfortable, as well as the soft chair. It would have been nicer, if the seating had included another chair or small couch instead, with seating for two people. The desk chair was comfortable, and the two level desk provided a large work area.

There was a small fridge in the room, and the large window fully opened. I was glad we had received a room on the back of the hotel overlooking the pond instead a room on front overlooking the road and parking lot.  Some of the rooms have a balcony, although our room did not have one. The room and guestroom door were soundproof. We thought the room was comfortable, and we slept well. We did not hear hardly any noise from the hall.
view from guestroom window



Lobby & public areas
We could see the outside patio from our room; however, we did not venture out there because it was damp and cold the night of our stay. It looked like there is a covered fireplace on the patio. The lobby area was chic looking and looked comfortable. The photos on the website are accurate.

Misc.
The restaurant and lounge were open until 11 p.m., although we did not visit. We opted to walk to the Mexican restaurant/bar next door instead. The in room coffee and coffee near the front desk in the morning was good quality. Starbucks coffee was also available for purchase.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chicago, Illinois / MDW airport, Hotel Center Campus -- Hilton Garden Inn

Status perks
I received the usual two bottles of water at check-in. I had arrived a little early, and the agent said that a king bed room on the top floor was not ready yet. He said that I could have a room with two queen beds, or a room on a lower floor. I asked if he could store my luggage, and said that I would be happy to walk to one of the restaurants next door for lunch since I had not eaten. He then said that he could upgrade me to a king room on the top floor and he prepared a new key. He said the room would be pretty much the same as what I had reserved except I would have a flat screen TV and upgraded amenities. I thanked him, and went to my room to store my luggage before going to eat.

Room
The room was a basic HGI room--fridge, microwave, coffee set up, comfortable bed, desk with ergonomic chair, and soft chair in the corner. I wondered what my room would have looked like, if I had not received the upgrade! I looked at the room diagram on the door, and saw that my room was one of the smaller sized rooms. I'm sure the room I received was exactly what I had reserved and not an upgrade. If I received a lower quality room because of my early arrival, that is upsetting because I would have gladly returned after eating for a better room. The bedding, seating, and work area were all comfortable, so I don't have any complaints.

Food & Beverage
The hummus dip in the lounge that evening was better than expected. It was served with provolone cheese (not my favorite, but better than none) and pita bread. I thought the wine prices were kind of high. There were not any happy hour specials.

Fitness center
There were several cardio machines; however, only one working treadmill, which was occupied, so I opted for the stair stepper instead. The room also contained hand weights, a couple weight machines, and cold water.

Shuttle & misc.
I thought the shuttle service left something to be desired compared to what I was told and expected. When I called from the airport after arriving, I was told the shuttle picks up every 10 minutes, and I waited over 15 minutes. When I departed, I was told to be downstairs a few minutes early because the shuttle is very prompt (on the hour)! We left at almost 5:05 AM and then had to stop at two more hotels before arriving at the airport.