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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Howell, Michigan / Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

January 2012, Weekday, One-night, King suite - #311

Status perks
I received an upgrade to a suite and a goody bag at check-in, which contained a tiny water bottle and two snacks. I called this hotel the day of my arrival to check rates and see what kind of rooms were available because I had originally planned to stay at the Homewood Suites in Brighton. I finished my work in that area earlier in the day than I had expected, so this reservation was last minute.

Guestroom
The spacious guestroom contained a wet bar area with fridge, microwave, and sink across from the closet. I was impressed to see that the in room coffee was individual packets of Rainforest Alliance Columbian Supremo. I often see this kind of coffee in the guestroom at full service Marriott properties; however, I hardly ever see it at a Holiday Inn Express. The refrigerator was extremely loud when it ran, and I was surprised that it did not disturb my sleep much that night. The sitting area, between the wet bar and bedroom area, contained a comfortable couch, soft chair, suitcase bench, two end tables and a coffee table, along with lamps and a ceiling light. The lighting in the entire guestroom was good, and there were plenty of outlets for guest use. 

A work desk and flat screen TV were located in the bedroom area with the king size bed. Other than the refrigerator, it was very quiet in the guest room. The only exterior noise I heard was the traffic on the expressway, and that kind of noise does not bother me much because it's more of a continual rhythmic noise. I get more disturbed by noise from other guests than traffic noise. I thought the bedding and pillows were decent quality and comfortable, although the mattress was much too hard for me. The Internet connection speed seemed okay, except that I was not able to connect with my husband by webcam from this hotel. I don't know if that was because of the Internet speed, or if the hotel had some kind of block in place. We did not receive any error messages; our calls just did not connect.

Food & Beverage
I was glad the whole fruit choices (apples and bananas) were fresh because I did not see anything else at breakfast that I thought looked appetizing. The scrambled eggs did not look fresh. Other food options included: cold cereals in a dispenser, cinnamon rolls, bacon, biscuits and gravy, bagels, and yogurt. There was whole milk and 2% milk; however, there was no fat-free milk.

Fitness center
There were five cardio machines in the fitness center, although one treadmill was propped up, as if it was not working. The first time I visited, I thought maybe it had not been put down after vacuuming because I observed an employee mopping the lobby floors. That did not seem to be the case the next morning though because it was still propped up. There were also hand weights, a bench, and a fresh water cooler in the room, although there were no sani-wipes. 

It was quite warm in the room, so I turned the HVAC unit off, which had been set on 70. It was more comfortable after that. 

Misc.
This hotel is located next to the Tanger outlet shopping center, which would be close enough to walk to on a nice day. The only restaurant choices right next to the hotel were Arby's, McDonalds, and Coney Island. The front desk agent said there is a good restaurant called Tomato Brothers less than a mile away on Grand River Avenue; however, I did not feel like driving again after I arrived.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicago, Illinois/ Hyatt Regency McCormick Place

January 2012, Weekend, King executive guestroom # 2733
Diamond perk

Status perks
As a Diamond member, I received an executive room upgrade, breakfast for two, and choice of a hotel perk or extra points. I chose the perk, so the agent gave me a slip of paper to choose two items, and the time I wanted them delivered. I chose a bottle of wine and the cheese plate. I thought this was an impressive perk, and both items were excellent quality.

Guestroom
I received the same guestroom I had stayed in three years ago when I stayed at this property. I was impressed when I received the upgrade at that time since I only had basic status with Hyatt then. I remember wondering how I had gotten so lucky. This guestroom is a spacious corner room with a beautiful view. The upgrade was not as impressive with Diamond status. It was spacious and comfortable, although the furniture was the same as a few years ago, so it was slightly tattered and worn in spots. 

Even though the sitting area furniture was somewhat worn, it was comfortable. The bed and bedding comfort was superb. This guestroom has a connecting door next to the bed, and I could hear the guests next door when we went to bed that evening. Fortunately, the noise was muffled and not real loud. There was a large walk in closet off the bedroom area, which was as big as the small bathroom.

There was a small fridge under the counter where the coffee was set up near the entrance door, and across from the bathroom. Even though there was plenty of room, there was no sink or microwave. I was shocked to see that I needed to pay $3 for a bottle of water in the guestroom. When I stay at a Hilton or Marriott with Gold status, I always receive two complimentary bottles of water. There was only one packet of regular coffee provided, and the creamer was powder. We were able to get extra coffee from the front desk, and the coffee shop in the lobby (Daily Grind) gladly let me take liquid creamer back to our room the night before.

Left: bathroom; right: closet
The bathroom was a basic hotel bathroom. There were two sinks in the vanity, although the actual room area was quite small. I needed to shut the bathroom door to step into the shower/tub combination. The hair dryer was good quality, and I was surprised to see a small tube of toothpaste on the vanity with the complimentary amenities.

Food & Beverage
Our breakfast coupons were good at Shor for any a la carte item on the menu or for the buffet. French-press coffee and juice was included, and so was the tip. My husband got the buffet, and I ordered the Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Egg-white Omelet, which was delicious! Another choice I had considered was the Open Faced Wild King Salmon Sandwich. I saw this food item presented to another guest, and it looked mouthwatering as well. I almost missed both of these items because they were listed in the menu column that said "Comfort" at the top. I did not consider either of these items comfort food, and I almost did not look at the choices below Oatmeal, which was the first item listed. The service and food quality at breakfast was excellent.

We had a cocktail and a couple appetizers at M/X in the evening. The online sample menu is not the menu we were given that evening. We had pork and fish mini tacos, which were pretty good. The evening food quality and the service was somewhat subpar, especially compared to our experience in the morning.

Pool and fitness center
The pool is located behind the fitness center, and we needed to walk though the fitness room to get to it. The fitness center is a large room with many cardio machines. We did not use any of the equipment.

The seating in the pool area looked comfortable. We stopped to see what it was like; however, we did not return to use the facilities. This hotel does not have a whirlpool tub--which we probably would have used, and the pool water did not feel very warm. The saunas were located in the restroom/shower rooms, so they are not coed.

Misc. and overall
We chose this hotel because we were visiting for the boat show, which was in the same building at McCormick Place. There is not much of anything around this hotel, and if you are visiting for an event at McCormick Place, this is a convenient choice. In addition to the hotel restaurants, there is a McDonalds and a pizza restaurant in McCormick Place as well.

The train station is accessible from McCormick Place, so you do not need to go outside to get to it, until you walk down the steps to board. When we arrived on the Amtrak, we walked to the Van Buren Street station (entrance on Michigan Street), which was less than a mile, and took the train to the Hyatt. Since it is so easy to get to McCormick Place by train from any of the downtown hotels, we will probably try a different hotel the next time we visit McCormick Place.

I was very happy with the wine, breakfast, and the bed comfort; however, we missed not being able to walk to restaurants or other activities in the evening. I did not have any serious complaints about the cleanliness of our hotel room, although we did think the cleanliness of this hotel was below Hyatt standards. There were a few little things that needed attention, such as vacuuming along the walls and in the corners--in our guestroom and in the hallways. And, there were other public areas where there were small bits of debris on the floor and walkways.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Amtrak -- Roundtrip from GRR to CHI

January 2012, Friday morning departure from GRR
The GRR Amtrak station is not staffed. Boarding documents can be printed from a kiosk, which is located in the entryway and accessible 24 hours. The inside waiting area opens at 6:30 AM, and bathrooms and limited seating are available inside. In the winter, this building is usually filled with passengers standing and sitting. I had to maneuver around many people to get to the restroom.

There are not many parking spots at the station either. There is an overflow lot kiddy corner across the street. We have, fortunately, been lucky enough to get a parking spot at the station every time we have taken the train. There always seems to be a lot of people coming and going in the morning, so if you don't find a spot right away, you might consider waiting a few minutes to see if anyone leaves. We have never found an empty spot upon arrival; however, someone has always departed right after we drove in. Since there is not much room inside the station, we opted to wait in our vehicle until the train arrived. You do not need to go through the waiting area to board the train.

The boarding process was quick and easy. Passengers were directed to different cars based on how many were in their party. We ended up in the front portion of the center car. The ride was smoother than I recalled from our last trip. The seats also appeared new. The cushions were different, there were different adjustment levers for reclining and a footrest, and the tray tables were larger with an indentation for a cup. Even though there was plenty of room, I was extremely uncomfortable before we arrived in Chicago. The seats were very hard on the bottom, and I found myself looking for reasons to stand up and move around. We rode in a different car with the older style seats for the return trip, so be sure and read how that compares below.

Our arrival time was scheduled for 10:33 AM Chicago time. We arrived about 15 minutes late, which has been typical every time we made this trip. Other than the uncomfortable cushion, the ride was uneventful and enjoyable.

January 2012, Saturday evening departure from CHI
The departure gate waiting area was not too bad--seating wise. I have been at this station for this trip when it was so crowded, that there was barely room for all the passengers to sit or stand. Amtrak does pre-boarding from Chicago for senior citizens (over 62), military, and Amtrak priority passengers. This is not real obvious. The sign by the entryway is small, and I could barely hear the announcement for boarding, even though I was seated very close to the announcer.

The boarding process went smoothly, and we were directed to different cars based on our destination. This time, we ended up in the back portion of the first car. So, we were directly through the connecting doorway, in front of where we had been seated for the trip to Chicago. The seats in this area were the older seats. They did not look old or grungy; I could only tell because the material was a darker color, and the features were not as updated. The seat reclining control was a round knob instead of a lever, and the tray table was smaller with no indentation for a beverage cup. The good thing about the older seats, is that they are more comfortable! I had no problem sitting for fours hours on the return trip, and I stood up to move around less than half as many times as I had on the trip to Chicago. We experienced a lot more motion seated in this area than we had on the way out. It felt like we were traveling faster, so the added movement may have been due to the speed, and the location where we were seated. Unless you have a problem with motion sickness, I don't expect the motion would be a problem.

I did not make note of our exact arrival time, although I'm sure it was on time. Every time we have been on the Amtrak when there was a delay, there has always been an announcement over the intercom. We departed Chicago a few minutes late--less than five minutes; however, the trip was uneventful after that, and the time stopped at each station for passengers to disembark was very quick.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Minneapolis MSP airport - Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Mall of America


New Years Eve 2011, Executive king guestroom #1128

Status perks
I reserved an executive floor room when I made my reservation because I knew this hotel would be full for a New Years Eve benefit; I did not receive any extra perks as a Gold member. I should have changed my profile so I could have received the bonus points instead of a room upgrade; however, I did not think to do this before we arrived.

Guestroom
Guestroom 1128 is on the floor below the concierge floor, close to the elevator, and it has a connecting guestroom door. I was surprised with the room location because my HHonors profile says: non-smoking, high floor, away from elevator. I had also requested a room in a quiet area. Fortunately, we did not hear much noise from the guestroom next door, or from the hall.

The guestroom was a typical Hilton room with a king bed, soft chair, desk and chair, and coffee setup. Since there were two bottles of water with the coffee setup, it appeared as though this room is an executive floor room. I had inquired about this when I learned I was being given a room below the lounge floor, and because the agent said he was "giving" me executive lounge access. I told him that I had reserved an executive floor room when I made my reservation, and he said this room is an executive floor room. We did not need to use our key in the elevator to access this floor or the floor above. 

I was glad the bed was comfortable and clean, because I did not think the guestroom was very clean. There were toothpaste spatters on the back of the vanity and mirror, and there was debris on the floor under the vanity. The bathroom was quite small, and the entire guestroom was smaller than I had expected.

Executive lounge
We did not arrive until after 8 PM, so I do not know what kind of snacks had been offered that evening. The attendant appeared to have been finishing clean up from a couple hot burner items when we entered. He did not greet or acknowledge us. The only food available when we arrived was cold snack mix. Soda and bottled water were also in the small fridge.

We went to the lounge in the morning shortly after 7 AM when it was supposed to open because we needed to take the shuttle to the airport at 8 AM. The doors were open; however, the attendant did not finish with the food setup until after 7:15. We waited the 15 minutes, and then were seriously disappointed with the food. The scrambled eggs were undercooked and not hot. There were only a couple cut fruit choices and the bananas were overripe. There were a couple muffin and bread choices; however, there were no bagels. I expected to see bagels since there was cream cheese on the counter by the toaster.

Food & Beverage
The executive room information that we received at check-in said that each guest is entitled to one or two alcoholic beverages in the executive lounge, so I stopped at the front desk to see if he could offer us any type of discount to use in the lobby lounge instead. I think the executive room offer was good for two drinks each; however, since we had arrived too late to take advantage of the offer, I do not recall for sure. It may have been for two drinks total. The front desk agent gave me a coupon good for two house brand drinks in the lobby lounge.

The bar seating in the lounge was full, so we sat down at a table. When we were greeted, we asked if we could use the coupon value for a discount off premium drinks, and we were told no. This was not a problem for us. Some hotels let guests do this, and some do not. I always figure it doesn't hurt to ask. We ended up staying a few hours, and my husband used the coupon for a draft beer and a margarita. I had champagne by the glass. The beverages were all good, although the service was terrible. I can not remember the last time we had such poor service. Our initial wait time to be greeted was not anything I would complain about since our server was also assisting guests dining in the lounge; however, I was not happy with the service after that. Every time that my glass was empty, I waited over 5 minutes before our server stopped at our table to see if I wanted a refill. I even had to flag him down one time. He was not too busy; many times he was standing at the bar watching TV. One time, when both our glasses were empty and we had been waiting almost 5 minutes, he waited on guests who had sat down at the table next to us without looking toward us. Every time he walked by our table, he never stopped or even glanced at us to see if we needed anything. He did not bring us any bar snacks--until after we requested some because we had observed him serve them to other guests seated at tables in the lounge. At  the beginning of the evening, we did not consider anything to be a problem; however, by the time we left that night, we felt insignificant and ignored.

Shuttle service
The airport shuttle service was satisfactory. We were picked up at the airport in a reasonable amount of time, and we departed on time in the morning. I was slightly worried about the morning ride because of what the front desk agent had told me at check-in. I asked him if we needed to sign up for the morning trip, and he said no. He then added, "It's first come, first serve." He said the shuttle would leave with the number of guests that would fit. It sounded like, if there were more passengers than the shuttle would hold, then the last arriving passengers would have to wait for the next run--1/2 hour later. I have never had someone tell me something like that at a hotel before. Usually, if the employee adds further information, it is to say that if the shuttle is too full, they will call a cab.

Overall
Our stay here was a quick overnight stay between flights on New Years Eve. Since we don't like to drive on New Years Eve, and I found this flight option for a good price when I was booking our air to Cancun, we decided to try something new. We thought it might be fun to spend New Years Eve in Minneapolis. I had also considered the airport Marriott and the Crowne Plaza for our stay. The Marriott was the least expensive option, and the Crowne Plaza was the most expensive. My PCR/IHG status was Platinum at the time of this stay; however, I could not count on an upgrade to a concierge room at the Crowne Plaza, and the cost for a concierge room was $50 more than at the Hilton. Since my Hilton status was Gold, I figured I had a better chance for a nice stay there than at the Marriott, where my status was only Silver.

I feel like I did not research the hotels well enough before this stay, and if I had the chance to make this decision again, I would choose the Crowne Plaza. I was extremely disappointed with our stay at this Hilton, and I would not stay here again. I thought all of the staff members were either indifferent or rude. The guestroom was acceptable at best, and if I had paid much more than $100 for it, I would have been even more disappointed.

This hotel is 100% non-smoking; however, there was nothing to keep guests from smoking right next to the entrances. There were guests smoking at the entrance when we arrived, when we departed, and throughout the stay. We could smell smoke in the lounge from guests smoking outside the doors, and I could smell it in the bathroom of our guestroom. Since we did not visit businesses other than the Hilton, I don't know if this is typical for Minneapolis or just this hotel.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cancun, Mexico / Holiday Inn Arenas - All Inclusive

Christmas time 2011, Weekday, 5-nights, King suite #2419

Status perks

We received an upgrade to a suite, and a small welcome cake was delivered to our room after check-in. It was delicious!
Guestroom
The guestroom was located on the top/4th floor in the wing above the lobby. The first number of our guestroom must represent which building we were in, and the second one must be the floor level.

view from entrance
The room was great, except that our view was overlooking the street rather than the ocean. An ocean view would have been nicer; however, since we had paid for our room with points, and the suite was an upgraded room, we were happy to have received the suite upgrade.

There was a full size fridge in the kitchen area, as well as a stove, microwave, sink, coffee maker, two bottles of water, table with two chairs, and a couch.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cancun, Mexico / JW Marriott

Christmas weekend 2011, 2-nights, Club 91 guestroom #1229

Arrival experience
A bellman requested our name when we arrived, and then we were escorted to the Club floor for check-in. Our guestroom was ready, and the check-in process did not take long.

Guestroom
Room #1229 is located directly under Club 91. Fortunately, the club was not open when we were trying to sleep because we could hear chairs moving around overhead. I had expected a guestroom on the club floor since all our reservation confirmations and correspondence clearly said: "Club level, premium ocean view," and, "Club 91 rooms are non-smoking and all located on the club floor." I inquired about our room assignment, and I was told that the rooms on floor 12 are also club floor rooms and that the rooms on both floors are the same. Guestroom 1229 looks exactly like the king room photo on the Marriott website. I thought I had read that the club floor rooms are larger, although I could not find this information after our stay. The information on the Marriott website lists all the guestrooms (except the suites) with the same sq ft descriptions. I thought it was odd that we had been assigned this room--close to the elevator and directly below the lounge--when my reservation details were noted with: high floor, quiet area, non-smoking. It seemed to me that we had received a standard king ocean view room, rather than a club floor "premium" ocean view room.
view from balcony

The guestroom size was sufficient since we also had a balcony with nice seating. It looked like all of the balconies were similar with the same furnishings. The view was good, although I expect it would have been better from the ocean front rooms. This room is located in the wing that is set back from the ocean. The view overlooked the small pool on the side next to the CasaMagna. Our guestroom also had a connecting door, and it smelled slightly of smoke. I called Club 91 (as this was our service contact), and I was told housekeeping would come to "spray." Someone did come and spray an undesirable scent that merely masked the odor. Later, it seemed as though the smoke smell was coming through the ventilation system, because I smelled it off and on during our stay. 

The bed and all furnishings were supremely comfortable, and we did not hear any hallway or neighbor noise. The room contained a couch, soft chair, desk and chair, flat screen TV on a large armoire, minibar, robes and slippers, and a safe. There was no coffee in the guestroom, and coffee was not available in Club 91 before hours. We did not have a safe charge on our folio. This may have been because it was included with our points redemption. Or, maybe it was included in the taxes that we paid on the $100 upgrade. Part of the Marriott website says that there is a charge for the safe, and some areas do not state this. I did not use the Internet because my status was Silver during this stay, and the charge was "around $14," I was told. We received turndown service the first night; however, we did not receive it the second night. I should have called to request this because we wanted to shower again the next day before checking out. In addition to the room refresh the first night, turndown service left two milk chocolates.

The large marble bathroom was impressive. There were two sinks in the large vanity, and a back counter and side shelf with enough room for our shower bags. The walk-in shower was across the room from a separate bathtub. The toilet was located behind a private door. A spacious closet, which contained the safe and a set of storage drawers, was located across from the bathroom. 



Club 91
After reading about what is provided in Club 91, we decided $100 a day was worth upgrading to the club floor, and it was the best upgrade money we ever spent! I can not say enough good things about the food, beverages, and service provided in Club 91. We would have spent well over the upgrade cost, if we had purchased the included items separately. Here is a brief summary and photos of some of the food and beverages provided.

Breakfast: 3 hot plates--eggs, meats, potatoes, and such; many breads and pastries; salmon with all the fixins'; cereals, yogurts, cheeses, and cold meats; high quality coffee and cappuccinos, juices, milk, and mimosas! 

Lunch: 3 main plates--small sandwiches, wraps, and such; salads, snacks, desserts, beverages.



Dinner: 3 hot plates, small portion sizes--steak filets, stir fry, fish, and more; many cold salad and seafood plates, desserts and cheeses.

Bar: Pretty much anything you wanted--champagne (yay, for me!), and brands such as Kahlua, Baileys, Tanqueray, and Absolut.  

Misc.: Bottled water and sodas were always stocked in the fridge. There were food items like fresh wrapped cookies available all day long. I was told that it was okay to take bottled water and coffee from the room. Even though our packet said not to take items from the room, I observed people taking food and sodas from the room as well. 

Club 91 bar
The service was great. Most times, we did not need to go to the bar for our beverages; staff members filled wine glasses and served drinks whenever they observed a guest waiting. We exchanged US dollars for pesos at Club 91 for the exchange rate of 13.95. This was a better rate than we got at our next hotel.

Pool & beach
Even though the pools are heated, I thought the temperature was a bit cool. The water temperature was hot in both jacuzzi tubs--perfect, we thought. There were cushioned lounge chairs around the pools and mesh lounge chairs on the beach. The pool towels were plush, and everything was clean and well maintained. 

The first morning, we did not have any trouble finding lounge chairs in the pool area under a hut overlooking the ocean (after breakfast around 9 AM, or so). The second morning was a different story. My husband went down before breakfast around 7 AM because we had hoped to get seats under a hut overlooking the ocean near the infinity pool. When he returned, he said we were lucky to have gotten the seats we had the day before because there were towels on most of the loungers in good locations. Later that morning, I heard people asking others what time they had come down to get seats. The poolside beverage service was great, and so were the Bloody Marys! 

Misc. & overall
We loved this resort and Club 91. I was slightly disappointed with our room and the fact that we did not receive turndown service both nights, but the rest of the stay was fantastic. The cost for us was 60,000 points +$100 (for Club 91) per night. I also had Marriott cash, so the cost was even less. If I had made better plans far enough in advance, I would have booked our stay for three nights at the JW. We had to pay $32 for the lousy shuttle service, which is free for guests staying three or more nights in a Club 91 guestroom. Our shuttle experience is covered in my Cancun airport review

view of the CasaMagna from our balcony
Originally, we had planned to stay at the CasaMagna next door because the rate was only 50,000 points per night (still a lot of points, although less than what it cost at the JW). By the time I decided we would be happier at the JW, I did not have enough points for three nights, and the cost for a Club 91 room was well over $300. I thought $100 per night was a great deal for the upgrade; however, I did not think our room and the club was worth $300 - $400 per night. There is a walkway between the two resorts, and I had read that guests can use both facilities. I also read that the pools are not heated at the CasaMagna, although we did not check the water temperature when we walked over there. From the outside, the guestroom balconies look larger at CasaMagna, and the pool area looks nicer at the JW. 

Cancun Airport--Christmas Week 2011

Arrival in Cancun

I read a lot of information about transportation options before our trip, and everything I read, talked about shuttle services, and the need to set up transportation beforehand. I even read information that said that taxis are not allowed in the airport for arrivals. Since we saw many taxis when we arrived--and, the shuttle service was a MESS--I tried to find that information online again. I could not find what I had read before our trip, although I did find this: It is against the law for anyone to approach you to offer you a fare from pirate [I assume this should be private] transportation. Cancun Airport and the Mexican Transportation Authority, and the local Police works together to eliminate any illegal activity. YOU MUST have your transportation from airport to your hotel ONLY with an official provider and BEFORE your arrival to Cancun. 

I looked at many of the transportation options beforehand, and it is not easy to tell if a company is an "official provider." Based on our experience, I wished we had not pre-booked transportation, and that we had approached a cab driver to negotiate a price upon arrival. The post above does not say that it is illegal for a visitor to approach a cab driver; only that it is illegal for the driver to approach a visitor. The impression that I have from what I have read and from our experience, is that the statements on the airport website have more to do with who gets the transportation money than it has to do with visitor safety. If anyone reading this blog has had experience taking a cab after arriving in Cancun, that was not pre-arranged, please share your experience with the rest of us! Following was our experience:

Grand Rapids, Michigan--GRR airport / Crowne Plaza

December 2011, Weekday 2-nights, King Suite #440


Status perks

I requested and received an upgrade to a suite! I have stayed at this hotel many times, and this is the first time that has ever happened. I also had access to the Club lounge--well, my husband did. I was flying into Grand Rapids, and did not arrive until 10 p.m., so the lounge was closed when I arrived.

view from kitchen table
I was not intending to write another review about this property; however, since the suite photos are worth sharing, I decided to do so. To find additional information about this property from my other reviews, just enter the hotel name in the search bar at the top of this page.

Guestroom

The sleeping area was a separate bedroom with two doorways. It contained a king size bed, dresser, large flat screen TV, soft chair, and night stands. I was surprised that there were no curtains on the glass bedroom doors. The second entrance was between the bedroom and the bathroom area.

The bathroom where the toilet, shower, and sink were located was kind of small. A second sink and a closet were located in the area outside the bathing room. 
outer bathroom area

The spacious living area contained a comfortable couch, two soft chairs, a desk and chair, large flat screen TV, coffee table, end tables, armoire, dining table with four chairs, microwave, small fridge, and sink.

The couch was a sleeper sofa that our son used one evening. When I called to request bedding, housekeeping did an excellent job making up the entire bed. Since the mattress did not have a mattress pad on it, she left the room to get an extra blanket, which she put down under the sheets. 

view from glass bedroom doors
The door visible in the photo behind the kitchen table is a connecting guestroom door. The hotel was not very full during our stay, and it did not sound like there were any guests in the room next door. There was a hallway along the wall next to the kitchen table that led to the entrance door from the hall. There was a coat closet in the hall by the door. The guestroom had two outside balconies, which were not connected, and two heating units in the living room area. 

Club lounge

Even though I have stayed at this hotel several times, I had not been to the Club lounge for over a year. It was being remodeled for quite a while, and sometimes my stays were on the weekends or I had to leave before it opened in the morning. I usually received coupons to use in the lobby bar and/or at breakfast when the Club lounge was closed. My husband said that the front desk agent had told him it would be open for breakfast in the morning; however, it was not open. I might have been able to get breakfast coupons, if I had asked; however, I did not ask.

My husband visited the lounge in the evening before I arrived. He said that each guest was entitled to one complimentary alcoholic beverage. He had a beer and did not notice the other choices. He could not even tell me what kind of food items were out. I tried our keys the first morning to see if we could enter the lounge for bottled water, and the room was closed the rest of our stay.

Shuttle service

The airport shuttle service was prompt when we departed for the airport; however, I waited 40 minutes for the shuttle when I arrived around 10:00 p.m. the first evening. I was only mildly upset about the wait until after I called a second time 20+ minutes later. The person who answered the telephone, told me the driver had been waiting for me for over 10 minutes, and I was not there. Since I know the Grand Rapids airport well, I knew that was not true. If you follow my blog posts, you probably know I dislike dishonesty. I told her I had been waiting in the correct spot the entire time. When the driver arrived, I told him what she had said. He was shocked, and said he did not know why she had told me that because he had been at the mall dropping off (or, picking up) other guests.


Lincoln, Nebraska / The Cornhusker, A Marriott hotel

December 2011, Weekday, Concierge King - guestroom #1001

Status perks
I filled out the Virtual Concierge form online before my stay because I was arriving before check-in time and wanted to request early check-in. I decided to also request an upgrade to the Concierge floor at the same time. I did not expect much, because I don't usually receive this as a Silver member. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a room on the Concierge floor and a breakfast coupon because the lounge was closed in the morning. I think the only reason I was given the breakfast coupon is because I was traveling with another Marriott member who had higher status than me, and he received a coupon when he checked in. My packet was already prepared for a Concierge floor room; however, the agent handed me the breakfast coupon at the end of check-in, and stated that she would give me one too.

Guestroom
The guestroom was located at the end of the hall on the top floor. My preference is for a top floor corner room away from the elevator because it is usually quieter. I wish I had not forgotten to also request a guestroom with a non-connecting door. This guestroom had a connecting door, and I was able to hear my neighbor's TV when I went to bed that night. Fortunately, it was not on for very long. The bed and soft chair in the room were both comfortable. 
view from room

I was surprised that the coffee set up in the guestroom did not include liquid creamer, since I usually see this at full service Marriotts. The Concierge lounge was right down the hall, so I figured I would just get a Starbucks coffee and creamer from the lounge in the morning. I knew the lounge was going to be closed for breakfast; however, I mistakenly assumed that it would be accessible for beverages. 

Everything else in the guestroom was pretty standard, except the bathrobe, which I thought was cheaply constructed. It was more like a summer robe--3/4 length sleeves, barely below the knee, and made from thin fabric. 

Concierge lounge
I was able to get coffee and water from the lounge in the afternoon when I arrived. The lounge was open that evening; however, I had a business meeting, so I did not visit then. The next morning was a weekday morning when the lounge was closed. It was a few days before Christmas, and a sign on the door said that the lounge would be closed. I have stayed in other Marriott hotels, including Renaissance and Autograph Collection properties, that allowed keyed access for beverages after closing. Because of those experiences, I expected to be able to get coffee and water in the morning. And, I had planned to print my boarding documents. The Concierge lounge at this hotel was not accessible for anything after it closed that evening.

Food & Beverage
Breakfast in the restaurant was excellent. Our free coupons said that tax and tip were included, which was a pleasant surprise. The coupons also said that they were only good for the All-American Breakfast. When I saw that the entree was one of the most expensive meals, I decided to ask our server if I could get something else instead. She said yes, so I ordered the spinach, sun-dried tomato, egg-white omelet. I do not recall the exact menu names of the breakfast items, and I could not find a menu online, so the titles I have listed here, might be slightly incorrect. The food and beverage quality was excellent. 

Fitness center
The fitness center was a nice large room with several cardio machines, cardio theater, a flat screen TV, and hand weights; however, there were a few problems with the room. The AC was not working either day that I visited, and it must have been 80+ degrees in the fitness center. There was a portable fan plugged in and running on the floor, which did not provide any relief. It felt like it was just moving the warm air around. One treadmill did not work at all, and the incline did not work on another one. The 5 lb hand weights--which is the size I prefer--were missing. There were ample clean towels available, and a working cold water machine with cups. 

Misc.
I had reserved a room for $125 with the AAA rate. Less than a week before my stay, I had not received the virtual concierge form that Marriott usually sends. I decided to double check my reservation online, and I noticed a room rate of $99! I changed my reservation, and then received the virtual concierge email a couple days later.

The airport shuttle service was prompt, and all of the employees at the hotel were friendly. A nice feature at this Marriott, is that there was no charge for wireless Internet. Most full service Marriott hotels have a charge of $9.95 - $14.95 per day, except for guests with Gold or higher status.