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Monday, February 27, 2012

Romulus, Michigan - DTW Airport / Embassy Suites

February 2012, Friday night, King Guestroom #310

Status perks
I received a small basket delivered to the room, which contained microwave popcorn, two full size candy bars, and two bottles of water.

This hotel only has three floors, so our guestroom was on the top floor. I was somewhat concerned about our stay at check-in because as a Gold member my key packet was not prepared when we arrived, even though there were many prepared packets at the counter, and it was almost 5 PM. Additionally, when the agent started to assign my room, he chose 148 on the bottom floor, and my profile states: high floor, away from elevator. When I saw him write this out, I asked if he was assigning me a bottom floor room, and he said yes. I commented about my preferences and the prepared key packets. He said that my packet should have been prepared with the others, and he did not know why it had not been. He said that the hotel was sold out; however, after a bit of maneuvering on the computer, he was able to assign me to a room on the top floor.

I was very happy with the guestroom. It  was comfortable and quiet. The kitchen counter area contained a coffee maker, microwave, and mini-fridge. There was no sink, which is unusual for an Embassy Suites. The fridge did not have a temperature control, and we had to be careful what we put inside because some of the items froze.
two flat screen TVs

There was a desk/table with three chairs (one office style, and two kitchen style) next to the counter. The room also contained a comfortable couch and soft chair. A soft coffee table/footstool was in the center of the room. All of the furnishings in the room looked new, and they were comfortable.

A door, which could be closed, led to the bedroom, and the bathroom was at the other end of the bedroom. The vanity and sink were located outside the bathroom in the bedroom area. The bathroom area where the shower and toilet were located was very small. The bed was supremely comfortable--the sheets were silky smooth, and the mattress was great! This was one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in at a hotel in a while.

Everything in the room was clean except the carpet looked like it needed to be vacuumed. I observed small bits of debris in more than one spot on the carpet. The room was very soundproof. I was surprised that with the hotel at full occupancy, we never heard any noise form the hallway or anywhere else.

Food & Beverage
A stay at any Embassy Suites includes an evening reception with free cocktails and snacks, and breakfast. At this hotel, the evening reception was from 5:30 - 7:30 PM. We were given a card at check-in for the cocktails and for breakfast. The card said it was good for three beverages. The bartender initialed the card the first time we presented it; however, she did not require the card after that, and she did not allow guests only three beverages. The wine quality was good (I tried the Merlot and Cabernet), and several mixed drinks were offered as well. There was a soda machine and a coffee machine set up near the snacks. The snacks included fresh vegetables and dip, nachos and bean dip, and a couple different kinds of snack mix.

In addition to the omelet station in the morning, there were scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast sticks, and cold items. Cappuccino was also available in the coffee machine.

The lobby/seating area for breakfast and the reception was comfortable. Even though we had been told the hotel was full, the area was not crowded in the evening or in the morning.

Airport shuttle
We stayed at this hotel because I had an appointment at the airport in the morning (GOES interview). The interview was in the north terminal, and the shuttle service worked out great. I easily found the US Customs and Border Protection office by baggage claim, and then returned to the shuttle pick up area with no problem.

We thought this hotel was a great value. The AAA rate of $132 included the evening reception, breakfast, and the shuttle service. There is no parking or Internet charge at this hotel. I was surprised that there was no charge to use the Internet because usually when I stay at Embassy Suites, I need to sign in to accept the charges, and then it is removed from my bill since I am a Gold HHonors member.

I had read online before our stay that this is not a typical Embassy Suites hotel. The only thing about our stay that was different from other Embassy Suites stays, was the design of the building (and, the free Internet). Usually, Embassy Suites are tall buildings with a center atrium where the reception and breakfast is held. And, the guestrooms are usually a little larger with a sink in the kitchenette area. Even though the building design was not typical, we were very happy with the guestroom and our stay.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kokomo, Indiana / Holiday Inn Express

February 2012, Weekday, King suite #211

Status perks
This hotel has three floors, and I was upgraded to a huge suite on the 2nd floor.

The spacious guestroom had a full size fridge, microwave, sink, and bar with two barstools in the kitchen area. There was no stove or dishwasher. The barstools looked like they would have been comfortable, except that they were too tall to use at the bar. The seats were barely an inch lower than the counter.

The fireplace in the the living room was nice; however, the furnishings were old. The couch and drapes did not smell fresh, and the seating was not comfortable. A desk and chair were located against the wall behind the couch, and there was a stain on the desk chair. The entire room had a dingy and smokey smell to it. I was impressed with the layout of the guestroom, and the bedding was clean, so when I left to pick up some food after settling in, I stopped at the front desk to ask if the hotel had some Febreze that could be sprayed in the room. (I had planned to buy some, if I had been told no). The front desk agent was very accommodating, and said she would take care of it while I was gone. When I returned, she told me that she had sprayed in the guestroom, and she said that she could smell smoke in the room also. I do not think someone had been smoking in the non-smoking room; I think the smell was from the ventilation. 

The separate bedroom had two doors; one from the hall and one from the bathroom. The chair in the bedroom was old and dingy like the living room furniture. The bedding was clean and the bed comfort was acceptable, although it was a bit too firm for my liking. Even though this suite is located above the lobby near the elevator, I did not hear any noise from the elevator or elsewhere during my stay. A nice suitcase bench and full length mirror were located in the hall outside the bathroom and bedroom. There were good sized windows that opened in the bedroom and living room; however, there were not any screens in the windows.

The bathroom was larger than the bedroom. The first room contained a vanity and mirror the length of two of the walls, and a large whirlpool tub was located across the room from the vanity. It appeared that housekeeping had attempted to freshen the guestroom before my arrival, and got distracted or something. There was a used and dirty rag that had been left on the tub. I was surprised that the employee who sprayed the room did not notice and remove the rag. The lighting in the bathroom was poor--fortunately, I do not usually use a makeup mirror.

tub across from mirror
The second room of the bathroom contained the shower and toilet. The shower was old and functional, which is more than I can say for the toilet. The flush power on the toilet was not very strong, and the toilet became plugged before I checked out. And, this was just with normal use.

Food & Beverage
I was surprised to learn at check-in that this hotel offers a complimentary Manager's Reception in the evening with snacks and beverages. I had not noticed this printed at the bottom of the hotel's main page when I made my reservation: After a busy day exploring Kokomo, Indiana, our hotel's guests should unwind at our Manager's Reception. As you sip complimentary beer, soda or a glass of wine, you can snack on savory hors d'oeuvres. 

I was happy with the wine and bottled water that was available from 5:30 - 7:30 PM. The snacks included nachos with cheese dip, cheese puffs, and a few raw vegetables with dip. 

Breakfast in the morning was acceptable. It was not great, although it was fresher than what had seen served at the HIX in Logansport the two days prior to this stay.

Fitness center
The fitness center is located off the lobby and next to the pool area. It contained three cardio machines, a weight bench, water cooler, towels, and sani-wipes. One of the treadmills was so loud, I was not able to watch TV while using it, and the label--which shows how to operate the machine, was broken off the second one. The machines were two different brands/types, so I was not able to see where the buttons are located without the label. On my arrival day, the broken off label was sitting on the machine, so I could refer to it, to see where corresponding buttons to operate the treadmill were located. When I returned to the room the next morning, someone had removed the broken label, and I could not remember which areas I needed to press to set the program I wanted.

I thought all of the staff at this hotel were helpful and accommodating, and I was impressed with the suite upgrade. The fireplace in the guestroom was nice, and I liked that it was quiet in the guestroom. I think that refreshing and updating the guestrooms would go a long way in making this location more desirable. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Logansport, Indiana / Holiday Inn Express

February 2012, Weekday, 2-nights, King suite #327

Status perks
I received an upgrade to a king suite at check-in.

The spacious guestroom was located on the top floor near the end of the hall. I always request a high floor room in a quiet area when making my reservation online, so I was happy that hotel staff must have read my request. There were larger guestrooms on the diagram on the back of the guestroom door, which I assume must be executive suites, although the room descriptions for this hotel make it difficult to choose a room. Guestroom 327 was larger than most of the rooms on the diagram, so the basic king room I had reserved must not include a sitting area as well as the fridge and microwave that were not listed in the guestroom description.

This guestroom had a kitchenette area with a mini-fridge, sink, and microwave. A desk and chair, along with a couch, and coffee and end tables, were located in this same area. The king bed and flat screen TV were located at the end of the guestroom by the window. The sitting and working area were both comfortable. The bed was fairly comfortable except for the pad that was under the sheets. The feel of the pad through the sheets reminded me of the pads that are often used on toddlers' beds when being potty trained. A nice suitcase bench was in the sleeping area next to the TV, which was on a large dresser. The guestroom was clean, and I did not hear any noise from the hallway or outside during my stay.

There was a large vanity and decent hairdryer in the spacious bathroom. The hallway outside of this guestroom reeked heavily of cigarette smoke almost every time I went in or out of the room. I was glad that I could not smell it in the guest room.

Food & Beverage
I did not eat breakfast at the hotel either morning because the food did not look appetizing either day. The first morning, I entered the room just a few minutes after it opened at 6:30 AM. The scrambled eggs and sausage gravy both had a crusty film on top and did not look fresh. Cinnamon rolls, three kinds of bulk style cereal in a dispenser, bagels, milk, juice, and coffee were also available. The second morning, bananas and yogurt were available as well. Scrambled eggs were served again the second morning, and I do not recall for sure what the second hot item was, although I think it was sausage.

Fitness center
The fitness center is located next to the pool, and it was quite warm the first day. I checked the thermostat before I left, and the heat control was set at 74. I did not change the temperature that day; however, when I entered the next day, and it was even warmer, I did. The heater was set on 89 degrees, and it was hot in there! I turned the air on, and turned the temperature down to 74.

There were three cardio machines, hand weights, a water cooler, towels, scale, and deluxe first aid kit in the room. There was no cardio theater; however, since I was the only one in the room every time, I watched the flat screen TV, which was well positioned for viewing.

Business center
A computer and printer located in the breakfast room served as the business center. I did not have a problem using the computer to print a document; however, the person using the computer before me had been browsing X-rated sites. I quickly closed the window, and then wished I had told someone at the front desk before closing it, so the computer settings could be adjusted. The person must have attempted to clear the evidence because it was not in the history, although he had not closed/exited the window that opened up properly. Some hotels have their computers set so that this kind of browsing is not allowed. Be warned that the computer at this hotel is not set to block activity.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

San Antonio, Texas / Hyatt Regency Riverwalk

February 2012, Sunday, 1-night, Executive king guestroom #1063

Diamond amenity
Status perks
We received an upgrade to an executive room, a choice of bonus points or an onsite amenity (we chose red wine and cheese), and breakfast. I had booked the local SAV rate, which included buffet breakfast for two, and the front desk agent said that as a Diamond member, we could order from the menu, if we preferred. She told me to just charge the meal to our room, and it would be taken care of.

Guestroom 1063 is one floor down from the top floor. It has an interior balcony overlooking the atrium. The room and balcony size were not what I would consider spacious for an executive room, although they met our needs. Inside the guestroom, there was a king bed, two night stands, a soft chair, desk and chair, armoire, and flat screen TV. There were two seats and a small patio style end table on the balcony.

It was cold in the guestroom, and the thermostat was not functional when we arrived. After a visit from engineering, I learned that the HVAC unit had been turned off by engineering from the inside panel in the closet at the request of the previous guest. Since there was not a way to turn the unit off at the control panel on the wall, I could understand that request. I often prefer to sleep with the HVAC unit off. The unfortunate thing about this, is that it took forever for the room to warm up! I eventually had the temperature set at 78 (I started at 70 and 72, which is what I wanted). I thought I was going to need to call engineering again because I thought something was wrong with the unit, but then I noticed that the temperature was gradually increasing (the thermostat was digital, so I could see partial degree increments). It took over eight hours for the room to reach 72 degrees.

There was a single sink and vanity in the bathroom, which did not provide much counter space. Fortunately, there was an added towel stand with open space on top. There was a basic tub/shower combination with a shower curtain. There was plenty of room in the bathroom.

I requested a bathrobe because there was not one in the guestroom. Housekeeping delivered one right away; however, it was a thin summer like robe, rather than a plush terry robe. This was a disappointment since it was cold in the room. Turndown service was available, if requested. 

The bed and bedding were both high quality and supremely comfortable. The clock on the nightstand was set to the incorrect time, and we could not figure out how to change it. Every now and then, I come across a hotel clock that does not seem to have clock settings--only alarm settings.

Food & Beverage
view from our balcony
The coffee in the guestroom was not very good quality, and there was no liquid creamer, so I planned to get a good cup of coffee at breakfast. French-press coffee is served at the Hyatt in Chicago, so I was hoping to get the same at this Hyatt. The coffee in the restaurant was the same or worse than what was available in the guestroom. I set my cup aside after a few sips, and told the server I did not want it when she asked if I wanted a refill. I was surprised to see a charge of $2.50 for the coffee on our bill after breakfast. If I had been paying that bill, I would have had her take it off. The multi-grain pancakes were very good, although the restaurant does not offer turkey bacon or chicken sausage. Hash browns were served with the Eggs Benedict, and my husband said this menu item was good. I thought breakfast was pretty expensive for what we received. Our bill was over $35, and the only additional items that I have not already mentioned were a second cup of coffee and a glass of vegetable juice.

The temperature in the restaurant was extremely cold. This was our last morning in San Antonio, and by this time, I had decided that people in this area must like it cold. Another guest was so cold, that he had his jacket hood pulled up over his head, and then he requested a different table with hopes that it would be warmer. I noticed that the thermostat was on the wall behind my husband, so out of curiosity, I asked him to see what it was set at. 62 degrees! And, this was in February when the temperature was only in the 40s - low 60s outside. Brrrr!

Pool area
There is a rooftop pool and bar at this hotel. One reason we decided to switch to this hotel was because of the pool information on the website: Our rooftop pool area is always welcoming with a pleasant, tranquil atmosphere.  Relax with a cocktail at our stylish pool bar or on the inviting, sun-splashed deck, and enjoy spectacular 360° views of the cityscape and historic Alamo. 

After a satisfying workout in the gym, finish up with a relaxing soak in our outdoor, heated pool.  Or just soothe your tired muscles in our calming whirlpool hot tub.

Poolside Dining Hyatt Regency San Antonio also offers poolside dining.  Click here to view our poolside dining menu.

After all the walking we had done the previous few days, and with the cool weather, we thought it would be nice to relax in a nice heated whirlpool with a cocktail our last evening. The website also said that pool renovations were expected to be completed by February 1st. Since it was after that date, and this information was still on the website, I called to ask if the pool area was open, and I was told yes. I did not think to ask if the other information on the website was correct. The pool area had been renovated, and the stairs to the roof smelled of new carpet; however, there is NO whirlpool at this hotel. I had noticed a housekeeper in the area when we walked to the roof, so I found her and asked about the hot tub. She said it was taken out during the renovation. Another disappointment for us.

This is a plush hotel in an excellent location on the Riverwalk. We experienced a couple minor disappointments; however, overall, this hotel was an excellent choice--especially for $119. It was clean and comfortable.

San Antonio, Texas / TownePlace Suites Downtown

February 2012, Weekend, 2-nights, King suite #614

Status perks
I redeemed two Category 4 certificates for this stay. We were able to check-in early when we arrived (1PM), and check out late our last day (also 1PM). I don't think the check-in and out times had to do with my status. I think anyone can request this. The hotel was not very busy during our stay, so they were able to accommodate our requests.

kitchen hall facing door
This property has six floors, so our room was on the top floor, which is my preference. The guestroom entrance opened into a kitchen hall (for lack of a better word) with a closet and full length mirror on one wall. A full size fridge, stove, microwave, cupboards and drawers with dishes, dishwasher, and small sink were along the opposite wall.

The sleeping area at the end of the hall contained a king size bed, couch, desk and chair, flat screen TV above the desk, a coffee table/footstool combination, and two night stands. There were open shelves between the kitchen and sitting/sleeping area. The bathroom was located next to the bed, and contained a large walk-in shower, which was one of the best features of the guestroom. There was only one washcloth in the guestroom at check-in, and we only received one the next day as well. We obtained another one from the front desk both times.

The entire guestroom was quite small, and every space had been utilized efficiently. The good points: the bed and bedding was good quality and comfortable; the large shower with glass doors was nicer than a tub and shower curtain, in my opinion; the hair dryer in the bathroom vanity drawer was good quality; the outside window was large and opened slightly for fresh air; the thermostat could be turned off, if desired; the room was in a quiet location. 

The bad points: the TV above the desk could not be viewed comfortably from the couch, and there was no table for eating. The TV mount can be pulled out slightly and turned on an angle; however, it can not be moved far enough to watch it from the couch. I had wondered about this when I looked at the hotel photos and reviews online before our stay, and I am surprised that no one mentioned this in their review. Even though there was not a kitchen table in the guestroom, there was seating available in the breakfast area on the bottom floor of the hotel.

Breakfast area
The sitting area in the breakfast room was spacious and the seating was comfortable. In addition to tables, there were two counters/bar tops with comfortable looking bar stools. I observed beer taps behind one of the bar counters, although there was no evening social hour during our stay. There were several meeting rooms on this floor, so I assume this area is also used for special events. There were two flat screen TVs in the room--both blaring loudly and tuned to two different channels. We adjusted the volume on one of the sets both mornings. The room temperature was very cold.

Breakfast foods were typical of what is served at Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, and SpringHill Suites. One morning, there were imitation scrambled eggs, and the other morning there were cheesy vegetable omelets. Other items also available both mornings: breads, muffins, and bagels, cold cereals, waffle maker, granola/breakfast bars, bananas, yogurt, milk and juice. I think there was sausage gravy one morning, and bacon the other; however, I do not recall those items for sure. The milk in the cooler was not very cold (the temperature on front said 45). I was glad that the yogurt choices included low-sugar Dannon Light and Fit. 

Pool area
The pool is also located on the bottom floor next to the breakfast area. We did not use it because there were small pieces of debris that needed to be cleaned out of it, and the water temperature was not very warm. There was no hot tub in the area. The lounge chairs looked comfortable.
TPS on left; view from Hyatt

The staff at this hotel was accommodating, and the property met our needs for a couple nights. I had read that the rooms are not very soundproof, so I sent an email to the hotel prior to our stay. I requested a high floor room in a quiet area away from the elevator without a connecting door. I also said that we would be arriving sometime after noon. The hotel manager called me that same day. He said he had noted my requests, and that our room should be ready when we arrived. I was told that none of the rooms at this hotel have connecting doors, and that most of the king rooms have a walk-in shower. I was glad to receive a guestroom that met my requests; however, when I looked at the hotel diagram, it looked like the front corner rooms are the largest--605, 505, etc. I did not see the inside of those rooms, so I do not know if they are king or queen bed suites, or bedroom suites. I received an email from the manager after checkout as well.  

We had originally planned to stay at this hotel for three nights because I had three Category 4 certificates that expire soon. After I learned we could get a room at the Hyatt across the street and on the river for $119, we decided to move to that hotel for our last night.

VIA Bus from SAT to Downtown San Antonio (roundtrip)

We took the bus downtown when we arrived, and we took it back to the airport the day we departed. The bus ride costs $1.10 per person, and I read that a cab ride costs $20 - $28.

Bus 5 southbound stops at the airport by baggage claim. The stop is near terminal B--walk across the first traffic lane to the center island, and then to the end. There is a VIA sign with #5 at the stop location. When I tried to create a trip using the VIA site, I thought the directions provided were extremely confusing. I suggest looking at the schedules for Bus 5 and Bus 30, to see where your destination is located in comparison to the stops listed. St. Mary's and Pecan St. is the last stop for Bus 5. We got off there, and walked less than 1/2 mile to our hotel. Depending on your destination, you may want to stay on the bus--it continues as Bus 30. You do not need to change buses or pay another fare, if you want to stay on for a few more blocks. There are MANY more stops that are not listed on the bus schedule. If you want to go to a destination that is between two stops listed on the schedule, the bus most likely stops nearby. Here is a link to the Bus schedules.

Exact change is needed for the bus fare. We had coins; however, we forgot to cash a five before we arrived. The store employees at the airport said they could not give us change unless we made a purchase. Luckily, we were able to get change from an employee at the shuttle podium inside the airport. We took the bus at 11:52 AM, and arrived at our stop at 12:36 PM, one minute later than the scheduled arrival time.

There is not a separate area to stow bags on the bus; you will need to have room for them at your seat. We had one small to medium size suitcase, which fit under our seat, and one carry-on bag. When we boarded the bus at the airport, we were the only ones on the bus.

We took Bus 5 (northbound route) back to the airport, boarding around 10:30 AM at Navarro St. and E. Commerce. When you look at the bus schedule, you will see that this stop is not listed. The bus also made stops at Houston St. and Travis Park, which are not listed on the schedule either. There are bus stop signs on the streets downtown with the bus numbers listed, so if you want to take the bus back to the airport, just look at the bus number signs as you walk around town. 

There were many people at the bus stop where we boarded; however, not many of them got on when we did, so the bus was not crowded. We arrived at the airport a couple minutes later than the scheduled arrival time--11:11 AM instead of 11:08. The bus stops in the same spot at baggage claim, so when deciding which bus time to take, be sure to allow for the fact that you will not be arriving in the departure area. SAT is not a very big airport, so it didn't take us long to get to the check-in area at terminal A.