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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Auburn Hills, Michigan / Hilton Suites

October 2011, Friday, Suite #509

I wrote a review about the Hilton Suites in May 2010, and I was not sure if I would be adding another review about this stay. The hotel has been updated since 2010, so I am posting a couple of new photos and the updates. You can read the review from last year by going to the blog archives for May 2010, or using the Hilton Suites link above.

Status perks
#509 view from entrance
I received an executive guestroom and breakfast coupons, since this was the perk listed on my profile. The guestroom was located a couple of doors down from where we had stayed the year before.

The new furnishings and carpet were comfortable and fresh looking. I also liked the new shades, and the new location of the work desk by the window, rather than by the guestroom door. I do not know if all the rooms had been rearranged, or if the different location for the work desk was due to the fact that we were in a different guestroom this time.

The bed was comfortable, and the bedding was plush. The bathroom amenities had been updated to Peter Thomas Roth brand, and there were two plush bathrobes on a shelf in the bathroom.

I was disappointed that we did not receive turndown service, since we had received it the year before. I did not request it during that stay, so I did not request it this time either.

Food & Beverage
Breakfast was excellent this stay. The hotel serves Starbucks coffee, and the breakfast coupons we received were for a full buffet breakfast. In addition to the standard hot and cold food items on the buffet, we were able to special order eggs or omelets from our server. The buffet included items such as: scrambled eggs, bacon, smoked salmon, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, capers, cottage cheese, fresh fruit--strawberries, blueberries, melon, and pineapple--breads, yogurt, and more. The seating was comfortable, and there was plenty of comfortable public seating in the Atrium area as well. The tall tables in the Atrium were equipped with power outlets, which I observed guests using for their laptops.

Cookies were available at the front desk in the evening, and free continental food items were set up near the front desk in the morning--coffee, bottled water, granola bars, and whole fruit.

Executive lounge
This hotel did not have an executive lounge that I know of when we stayed here in 2010, and the front desk agent at check-in did not mention the new lounge. We went to the Atrium lounge in the evening, and noticed that the pool table area that had been behind the bar was no longer there. When we asked the bartender about this, we learned it had been converted to the executive lounge. He showed us the room, and I discovered that my key card had been coded for access. The room was not staffed for the weekend; however, the seating area was comfortable, and the fridge contained bottled water, sodas, and juices.

Even though I was disappointed about turndown service and not being informed of the executive lounge, we were still happy with our stay. The hotel is tastefully decorated, and it is comfortable. The service and food in the dining room was greatly improved from our stay the previous year.

Midland, Michigan / Holiday Inn

October 2011, Friday, Whirlpool guestroom #423
Status perks

I called this hotel to make my reservation, and was upgraded to a whirlpool room at the time of booking.

Guestroom 423

view from entrance
The guestroom had several nice features. There was a sink, fridge, microwave, and Rainforest Alliance coffee in the large entry area. We liked the walk in shower in the bathroom, and the nightlight under the vanity! The nightlight feature was very cool. We had not noticed that there was a nightlight before going to bed. After we turned out the lights that evening, we saw that there was a glow on the bathroom floor from under the vanity. This was perfect for a nighttime visit to the bathroom.

guestroom shower
The bed was comfortable, the room was spacious, and the guestroom and whirlpool tub were all clean. We had originally been assigned a guestroom on the second floor, and I asked if a higher floor room was available at check-in. I was glad we had been given a top floor room. The second floor is where the pool area game room is located, and since there were several families in the hotel during our stay, I think there was more hallway traffic on that floor.

 Pool area

We walked through the pool area; however, we did not go in the water because the water did not feel very warm. Another thing I did not like about the pool area, is that there was a glass wall between the pool and the lounge/restaurant, so patrons in the bar could see the pool. I suppose this would be nice for adults in the bar with other family members in the pool; however, as an adult using the pool, I did not like this feature. The shades between the pool and bar were open until later in the evening. There was plenty of seating around the pool, and an open stairway connected the pool area to the game room on the second floor.

Food & Beverage

We had dinner and breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The food prices were good, and the food was excellent!


Espresso and cappuccino were available in the lobby by the front desk. This hotel looked new, and it is located next to the mall, with several other new hotels. The Residence Inn was still under construction at the time of our stay. We had originally planned to stay at the Hampton Inn, which is across the street from the mall, because the rate was much less. We liked this hotel, although I thought the nightly rate was a bit high for the area.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dedham, Massachusettes / Holiday Inn

October 2011, Weekday, 2-nights, Penthouse Suite #842

Status perks
I was upgraded to a Penthouse Suite on the top floor.

I reserved an executive room when making my reservation, because this hotel looked like an older property, and executive rooms are usually nicer than regular rooms. I was excited when I learned that I had been upgraded to a penthouse suite, until I got to my room. The room was not awful; however, I expected better quality for a "Penthouse Suite."

Positives: comfortable sitting area, large corner outside patio with furniture, quiet--there were less than 10 rooms on this top floor of the tower building, two bathrobes,  good quality bathroom amenities (although I did not have any lotion), Keurig coffee maker (although I had an overabundance of decaf and tea, and only one regular coffee), popcorn and fridge beverages included (although there was no popcorn in my room, and my fridge was not restocked on stayover). There was a note in the guestroom stating that the popcorn and beverages were included, so I left a note for housekeeping--with tip money--saying that I had not received any popcorn. I also wrote that I would like some regular coffee. I received a bag of popcorn and regular coffee; however, the water I drank from the fridge had not been replaced. When I checked in, the fridge had been stocked with 2 diet Cokes, 2 regular Cokes, 2 spring waters, and there was a large bottled water on the counter.
Negatives: the bed was hard and uncomfortable, the carpet was stained, the Internet connection speed was lousy, the HVAC unit was an older unit on the outside wall, the shower water pressure was so low, I did not think I would ever get the shampoo rinsed out of my hair, there was quite a bit of grime around the edges of the sliding glass door, and the patio did not look very clean, so I never opened my patio door. Even though there was a sitting area in the guestroom, the room was not very big. The bathroom was tiny. The door opened toward the toilet, and almost hit it. I had to step back after entering the bathroom, and then shut the door to use the toilet. The guestroom door from the hallway did not close properly. There was a gap around the door, and I could not close the deadbolt, since it did not close correctly. I would not have stayed in this room, if the chain lock had not felt secure.

This hotel had made an attempt to provide a nice room with the nice amenities and furniture; however, the negative factors did not make up for it, in my opinion. I did not like that I had to request items from housekeeping that should have been provided. The bed was so uncomfortable, that I got back up, and spent over an hour the first night on the telephone and online searching for an acceptable nearby hotel that I could move to for my second night. I did not understand why a hotel would spend so much on other furnishings--chairs, desk, lamps, etc., and not replace the bed and/or mattress. I appreciate when the sitting area is comfortable; however, the bed is more important to me.

Food & Beverage
I did not eat in the hotel restaurant, The Nook. I dined at the Bamboo restaurant, which is located in the same building, although it is not actually part of the hotel. The food at Bamboo was very good. The restaurant was easily accessible, although there was not an interior entrance from the hotel.

Business center
The business center was a small room across from the front desk next to the Avis car rental counter. It contained two computers and one printer. I did not observe any business supplies. I was not able to print a PDF document or my boarding pass the first evening; however, I was able to print both items from the second computer the next morning. 

Fitness center
The hotel directory in my guestroom said that the fitness center did not open until 7 AM. Since the fitness center and pool were located on the first floor where there were no guestrooms, it would have been nicer, if it had been open 24-hours. I did not try the fitness center the first morning, since I did not think I had time. When I went there before 7 AM the next day, it was already open--the posted open time on the door said 6 AM. It contained two treadmills, two additional cardio machines, a weight machine, three flat screen TVs, towels, cold water, and a scale.

Misc. & overall
The hotel provided shuttle service to nearby locations. Fresh water and apples were available at the front desk most of the day, and cookies were offered in the afternoon.

A new Homewood Suites is opening in this area, where I would have stayed, except that it was not open yet at the time of my stay. There was a Hilton nearby; however, it was overbooked. They had two cancellations at the last minute--one handicap room, and one Jr. suite. Reserving a hotel room at the last minute, is not usually the best time to get a good rate, and this was no exception. I did not move to the Hilton because the rate was $40 more that what I was paying at the Holiday Inn for the handicap room, and that hotel also looked like an older building. If the bed at the Holiday Inn would have been comfortable, I would have gladly overlooked the other disappointments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho / Hampton Inn & Suites

September 2011, Weekday, 2-nights, King guestroom

Status perks
I did not receive anything extra for being a Gold member, and I did not expect anything since Hampton does not usually offer any upgrades or other perks.

I had reserved a king balcony room because that was the only room type available when I made my reservation. When I got to my room, and saw that there was a connecting room door, I called the front desk to ask if there was another king-bed room available. I was going to be staying at the hotel for two nights, and I have often heard bothersome noise from the room next door when there is a connecting door. The front desk agent said that there were not any available room types like my current room that did not have a connecting door. I told her that I did not need a balcony room; I had only reserved that because that was all that was available. I stated that I would prefer quietness over a balcony. She said there was a room without a balcony available at the end of the hall. I asked if the room size and amenities were the same in other ways, because the room I was in had a refrigerator and microwave. She said that the rooms were the same, and that she would meet me there, so I did not need to go back to the front desk. 

Before I left the guestroom, I looked at the diagram on the back of the door, and saw that the room I was in was larger than the one I was moving to. When I mentioned this to the agent before entering my new room, she said that is because the diagram included the balcony, and that the rooms were the same size. She said that she had reduced my rate $10 per night for moving to a non-balcony room. The guest who would be given my room was going to receive an upgrade. When I entered my new room, I saw that it was the same size as my first room. I was impressed that the employee knew this, and that she had met me on my floor, so I did not need to return to the front desk!

The guestroom was spacious and quiet. I really liked the coffee setup outside the bathroom where there was also a microwave and small fridge. The only thing I  did not like about the guestroom is that there was not a soft chair or couch. A straight back chair with a soft seat, was in  the corner by the desk.

Business center
The business center was a large room with several computers, a printer, and any office supplies one might need--tape, white-out, note pads, stapler, paper clips, post-its, and more. It was open 24 hours, and I did not have any trouble printing several documents.

Fitness center
The large fitness center was located down the hall from the business center, and was also open 24 hours. The room contained several cardio machines, weight machines, hand weights, a large flat screen TV, water, towels, sani-wipes, and a scale. The temperature was comfortable, and all the equipment was well maintained.

Food & Beverage
The breakfast seating area was a large comfortable room across from the front desk. Food items were the basic fare--scrambled eggs, waffle maker, fruits, yogurt, breads and danishes, juices, coffee, and milk.

Misc. & Overall
I thought the hotel set up was fantastic. The bottom floor was devoted to guest amenities, which were open 24 hours. The pool, fitness center, and business center were all open 24 hours. Since I live on the east coast, I am often up early when working on the west coast, so I really appreciated the 24 hour accessibility. The hotel building looked new, as did the shopping and dining establishments across the street. I ate at two of the restaurants across the street, and highly recommend the Ugly Fish Asian Bistro--it was the best food I had in this area while visiting for the week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ponderay, Idaho / Holiday Inn Express

Status perks
PC Gummy Bears
I received a basket at check-in, which contained two packages of PC gummy bears, two packages of microwave popcorn, and two bottles of water. When I asked what room type I had, the agent said I had a king bed guestroom on the top floor and that he could give me an upgrade to a suite, if I wanted to stay on the second floor instead. I figured the suite would be a better room, so I said yes.

actual suite
The "suite" on the second floor was located next to the elevator and looked like a basic guestroom to me. It contained a bed, soft chair, desk and chair, mini-fridge, microwave, and sink. There was no partial wall or divider between the bed and wet bar area like I had seen in guestroom photos online. The sink was pretty much at the foot of the bed. I wondered why the guestroom was considered an upgrade, as I sat down at the desk to work. I had not been in the room long when I heard a lot of noise outside my room and overhead. It sounded like the elevator was thunking as it went up and down, and the overhead noise must have been from housekeeping vacuuming. I decided to look at the room diagram and photos more closely--on the guestroom door and online. I realized that the room I had originally been assigned was a corner room on the top floor at the end of the hall, and that the room size was exactly the same as my upgraded room! The guestroom I was currently in would probably be noisier from the elevator and hallway noise, so I returned to the front desk to see if my original room assignment was still available. A different employee was working at the desk, and I explained to her that I had been told I was receiving an upgrade to a suite; however, the room looked the same as the room I had originally booked, so I wanted to see if I could switch back, since it looked like the original room was located in a quieter area. She told me that the room I had been upgraded to is classified as a suite because it has a sink in the bedroom area. She then said that there was another suite available down the hall that she could switch me to because that guest had not checked in yet. She said it was a larger room in a quieter area, so I took it.

The next room was indeed a larger room, and it looked like a suite. There was a partial wall divider between the bed and living area, as well as a TV in each room, and a couch and coffee table in the sitting area. I did not hear any bothersome noise during the rest of my stay, and the room was comfortable. Hopefully, the guest who ended up in my first "upgraded" room had not paid for a suite.

Public areas
I don't usually provide much detail about hotel public areas; however, the public areas at this hotel were impressive! The lobby by the front desk contained comfortable and new furniture. There were two comfortable chairs on the second floor, which was open and overlooking the lobby. Tables and chairs were set up on a patio outside the breakfast area, and the view out back was pleasant. The first upgraded guestroom I had received overlooked this patio, so that room did have a nice view.

There is a restaurant/sports bar located in the parking lot with the HIX. I thought the food, beverages, and service were all great. They offer a discount to hotel guests (10%, I believe).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spokane, Washington / DoubleTree Convention Center

September 2011, Sunday, Executive guestroom #1210

Status perks
I received a fabulous upgrade to a large corner room on the executive floor. Since the executive lounge was closed during my stay (Sunday night), I also received a breakfast coupon. These are the preferences requested on my profile in lieu of bonus points. Parking was also comped because of my Gold status, which was a pleasant surprise.

The guestroom was larger than two of some hotel rooms I have stayed in. Large windows spanned both walls with a gorgeous sunset view that evening. The room contained two comfortable soft chairs and footstool, as well as a desk and chair. There was so much room in the closest and dresser, that I could have easily unpacked for several weeks, if I had been staying that long. The bed was SUPER comfortable, and the room had been recently remodeled with new carpet and furnishings.

Two small bottles of water were included in the guestroom, and the coffee provided was excellent quality. There were two plush, new looking robes in the closet.

The only disappointment with the guestroom was the small bathroom, and housekeeping was not the best. The bathroom door almost hit the toilet when opening it, and the slightly cracked sink had not been replaced during the remodel, along with an older looking vanity counter. There were several hairs in the bathroom sink and shower. Unfortunately, there were some noisy guests in the hall that evening, and even though I had a room at the end of the hall, I could hear the activity, so I was not able to enjoy the comfortable bed as much as I would have liked. 

Fitness center
The fitness center on the third floor contained everything you would expect at a hotel fitness center--cardio machines with theater, hand weights, weight machines, mats, balls, a flat screen TV on the wall, sani-wipes, towels, and cold water. It was open 24-hours, which I appreciate, since I am often traveling in a different time zone than where I live.

 Food & Beverage
At breakfast, I used my continental coupon value toward an a la carte menu item--smoked salmon eggs benedict. This is probably not the exact menu name, although it is a good descriptive name of the menu item. It was a great choice! My eggs were cooked perfectly, and the flavor was excellent. Since I did not want the potato side, my server said I could have fresh fruit or sliced tomatoes. I chose the tomatoes, which were an excellent side with this menu item.

The food quality and flavor were excellent, although the service was not top notch. After I had completely finished my meal (and, I am not a fast eater), I waited over three minutes for my check while my server stood across the room and chatted with another employee about personal business. I could overhear the conversation as I looked over and waited for her to bring my check. The next day, I was again frustrated by the service, when I looked at my receipt and saw that I had not noticed that a tip of $1.95 had been added to my check--and, I added $2 to this! I realize I should have looked closer when I received the bill, although I do appreciate it, when my server also tells me that a tip has been added. Or, if it had been written on my coupon, I would have seen that as well.

I liked my room comfort and the location of this hotel. It is located downtown on the river, within walking distance of several restaurants. It is not far from the airport, and the hotel offers airport shuttle service. I would definitely choose this hotel again when visiting the area.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mattoon, Illinois / Holiday Inn Express

September 2011, Weekend, 2-nights, Suite #300
Souvenir key cards

Status perks
We received a fabulous upgrade to a corner suite--there are only two rooms like this at the hotel.

Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of suite 300. In September 2013, we stayed in this hotel again, and received suite 200. Both suites were set up the same inside, and I had several pictures to share from our stay in suite 200. You can find that review and the photos here: Suite 200 photos and review.

This corner suite is on the top floor. There was a kitchenette at the entrance with a table and four chairs, sink, standard HIX coffee maker, mini fridge, and microwave. The living area contained a sofa, soft chair, coffee table, end tables, and flat screen TV. The large bedroom contained a suitcase bench, desk and chair, flat screen TV, nightstands, and armoire. There was a large vanity in the bathroom, and one outside the bathroom with a sink as well. Counting the sink in the kitchen area, there were three sinks in the guestroom. The room was comfortable, and we did not hear any noise during our stay. 

We left a tip for Housekeeping, as I usually do unless there is a reason not to, and this is the first time a Housekeeper has ever written me a note back. She wrote, "Thank you. Enjoy your stay!" I thought all of the employees we spoke with at this property were accommodating, and everyone made us feel welcome.

Food & Beverage
Breakfast is included at all HIX, and this property had the standard fare--scrambled eggs, cinnamon rolls, cold and hot cereals, fruit, yogurt, and juices. I did not care much for the food at this property. I thought the scrambled eggs tasted watery, and they did not taste like eggs. The oranges did not look fresh. The food was okay; however, I did not think it was as good as I have sometimes had at HIX.

We stayed here for the Mid America Funfest, and were quite happy with the hotel for this stay. It is located about 1/2 hour north of the show; however, the cost was about $80 less per night than the properties in Effingham.  We thought the souvenir key cards that the hotel provided were a nice touch. They also had the Funfest newspaper available in the lobby.

Wal-Mart, and a couple restaurants are within walking distance of the hotel. Buffalo Wild Wings in one of the restaurants located next to the HIX.