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Saturday, May 26, 2012

AVP airport--Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania / Holiday Inn Express

May 2012, Weekday, 1-night, King suite #405

Status perks
I received an upgrade to a suite, a bottle of water, and a small package of snack crackers.

This guestroom is on the 4th floor near the vending area and elevators. Despite it's location, and the fact that it is not on the top floor (this hotel has 5 floors), it was quiet in the bedroom. I was glad I had been upgraded to a suite because I did hear several doors opening and closing when I was in the living room, so it's possible a regular guestroom is not as well sound proofed.

This room was spacious, comfortable, and clean. I was happy with the room comfort and my entire stay. The only problem I experienced was the sluggish drain in the sink and shower. Fortunately, it was not so slow that I had to shower in standing water.

When entering the guestroom, a large walk through bath was on my left, and the living room was straight ahead. The living room contained a desk and chair, couch, coffee and end tables, and flatscreen TV on a cabinet with drawers. 

Double doors led to the bedroom, which contained a king bed, night stands, soft chair, and second flatscreen TV on a cabinet with drawers. The bedroom cabinet also contained a microwave and small fridge. There was room on the cabinet in the bedroom for the coffee maker, which was set up in the bathroom. I was surprised that the two TV cabinets were not reversed, and that the coffee setup was not located with the fridge and microwave. I would prefer to have my kitchen items in the living room over the bedroom--unless, of course, there was a kitchen! 

There was a large closet in the bedroom near the doorway to the bathroom. The closet doors were mirrored. The bathroom contained a deep whirlpool tub/shower combination. The hairdryer on the wall was a low quality dryer. It did not have a diffuser attachment or a cool setting.

The Internet speed in the guestroom was satisfactory. There were two HVAC wall units--one in the bedroom, and one in the living room. I found a guestroom key card and check-in packet for a Platinum member in the desk drawer, so it appeared that a Platinum guest before me had also been upgraded to this room.

Food & Beverage
I had an early flight, and do not have any input about the hotel breakfast, because I left before then. Popcorn--from a popcorn machine in the lobby, and cookies, were available in the afternoon. There was also a water cooler in the lobby, similar to what you would find in a fitness center. The front desk agent told me about the snacks when I checked in. She said that these items are out everyday. 

There is a sports bar/restaurant located next door to the hotel called Midtown Sports Bar & Grill. The service and food was acceptable, if you don't have transportation or want to drive. If you don't mind driving to eat, I would not recommend the restaurant. I had a glass of wine for a good price--$3, and the tuna steak dinner. Even though the tuna was cooked rare, I did not think it was very good quality. It was tough and lacked flavor.

There is not a gift shop in the hotel, so there was not another food and beverage option. I did not check the ice/vending room to see if there was a snack and beverage machine inside.

Business center
I had no trouble printing my boarding pass from a computer in the lobby.

This hotel is located across from the airport, and it has shuttle service during airport operating hours. It is the only hotel in this area, and the only hotel I could find with complete airport shuttle service. Some of the hotels a few miles away also have shuttle service with limited operating hours. I was initially planning to stay at either the Marriott Courtyard or Hampton Inn, which are located a couple miles north of the airport near the Montage ski area. That area looked new, and there is a nice shopping center with a few restaurants nearby. Both of the hotels had an airport shuttle; however, neither of them were operating in the early morning at the time of my flight. At the HIX, I was able to return my car and walk back to the hotel. The distance is less than one mile, although there was not a sidewalk along the road the hotel is on. The road does not have much traffic (less than five cars passed me the entire way including the airport road), and there was plenty of room on the side of the road. It was a beautiful day, and I felt safe.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scranton, Pennsylvania / Residence Inn

May 2012, Weekday, 1-night, King studio #227

Status perks
I have not received an upgrade at any Marriott property since I was granted Gold status a few months ago. At this hotel, I was not even recognized as a Gold member--the agent thanked me for being a Silver member! I told her that my status was Gold, and she said that it only said Silver on her computer, and that I had five more nights to go. When I checked my Marriott account online after arriving in my guestroom, I saw that my status was listed as Gold. The front desk agent did tell me later that her system was showing my status as Gold when I talked with her about another issue, which I will explain at the end of this review.

Suite 227 is located at the end of the hall on the second floor. This hotel has three floors; however, I arrived early, and the room on the 3rd floor that had initially been set aside for me was not ready yet. I asked if both of the rooms were the same, and I was told yes. Since I liked the location of this room at the end of the hall, I took it instead of waiting for a top floor room.

The suite setup was a basic Residence Inn king studio room. The kitchen area contained a full size refrigerator, stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, dishes, coffee pot, small table, and two chairs. A packet of microwave popcorn had been provided. A desk and chair were located at the end of the couch by the entrance door. The flat screen TV between the living and bedroom areas could be viewed from both places. There were two nice sized windows with screens. The bathroom vanity was located between the sleeping area and the tub/shower and toilet. There was a large closet across from the vanity with mirrored doors.

I liked the guestroom layout; however, I was not happy with the condition of the room. The room did not smell fresh, so I decided to open the windows. When I opened the curtains, I saw that the inside windowsills were wet and dirty. I observed a few dead bugs along with the dirt inside. The tract area between the window and screen was extremely dirty. Since they were power washing the hotel, I figured the inside debris must have come in at that time. I called the front desk to suggest that they have housekeeping check the guestroom windowsills after the power washing was complete, and I explained the situation in my room. The agent apologized, and said she could send housekeeping up to clean it, or give me a new room. I did not expect the cleanliness of the other rooms to be much different, and since this room was in a good location, I accepted her offer for housekeeping to clean the windowsills. 

bathroom fan
A short time later, an employee arrived with one small dry rag, which was barely enough to wipe the inside of the windowsill next to my bed. She did not check the windowsill in the living room area, which was in the same condition. Since I was not going to be sleeping by that window, and the one small rag she had brought was no longer good for cleaning, I did not mention the other window.

In addition to the windowsill dirt and the unfresh smell, there were a few other issues with this guestroom. The tub floor was badly stained--apparently from dirt clinging to residue from a stuck on decal, the bathroom vent was loose and noisy, the closet door glass was cracked, the carpet did not look like it been vacuumed in the corners in a very long time, and the condition of the carpet and furniture was poor.

glass crack, carpet stain
The wireless Internet speed in the guestroom was acceptable. The telephone on the desk did not work well, and the volume did not change when I tried to raise it. I had a difficult time hearing through that handset, so when I used the telephone after the first time, I used the one next to the bed.

carpet stains, dusty corners
I could hear quite a bit of noise from the guest in the room overhead, so I would suggest a top floor guestroom at this hotel. I don't think the guest was noisy--the floor just creaked and moved a lot, every time the guest moved about. Fortunately, the person above me did not stay up late. The bedding was clean, and the bed comfort was acceptable.

Food & Beverage
Tossed salad and hot chicken wings were served at the evening reception the night of my stay. Beverages included draft beer; however, there was no wine. I have sometimes stayed at a Residence Inn where the wine was kept in the back, and guests needed to request a glass, so I asked the employee attending to the refreshments (she was actually sitting on the couch with a plate of food watching TV) if she had red wine. She said that they only serve beer and not wine. She commented that other guests have asked for wine before too. I said that is probably because usually when a hotel serves beer like this, wine is also available. I told her that I had never attended a hotel reception with only beer. I have stayed in hotels where neither is served because of local laws; just not where only one or the other is served. The employee said she was not aware that other Residence Inns served wine, so she was going to ask her manager about this. She said that sometimes when there is wine on the property from a meeting or something, she gets to serve the leftover wine until it is gone, but that is the only time.

An average breakfast buffet was included in the morning.

Fitness center
The fitness center was a fairly small room with three cardio machines. The machines were equipped with cardio theater; however, I had forgotten my headset in the guestroom, and there were none in the room.

Business center
There was a computer and printer set up in the corner of the lodge room, where food and beverages are served. I did not observe any other office supplies, although I was able to use a pair of scissors at the front desk to cut out a coupon I printed.

Misc. and overall
After housekeeping came and cleaned the windowsill, I received a phone call from the front desk. The employee apologized for the condition of the windows, and she said she would be depositing 15,000 MR points into my account for the trouble. She also said that she wanted to let me know that my status had been updated to Gold. I did not understand why she had thought it was Silver when I arrived, and I did not ask. My status had been changed to Gold a few months before this stay, and I have stayed at several other Marriott properties that recognized my Gold status. I only made my reservation at this hotel the day before, so it was not because my status had changed after making the reservation.

After check-out, I received an email from the general manager thanking me for my stay. It looked like a generic email; however, I decided to reply anyway. I briefly described the window problem, the points the employee had said I would receive, and thanked him for the follow-up. I received another email telling me that the points would post separately (I had also stated that I did not receive them when my stay posted), and I have since received the points.

I appreciated the points, and the follow-up; however, I did not think this hotel was worth the cost. My stay at the Holiday Inn Express down the road (HIX Scranton review) was a MUCH nicer stay for $20 less per night. I don't usually let the experience of one stay in a hotel chain change my mind about whether to choose that type of hotel for future stays; however, my thinking about Residence Inn has now changed. This is the third property I have stayed in where I was not satisfied with the guestroom or property cleanliness. The others were at the Charleston (CHS) airport (RI Charleston airport review), and a property outside Atlantic City (Somers Point, NJ). I do not have a review for the second property, since that stay was before I started this blog. I do recall that the check-in area and guestroom were both musty smelling, and that I had to keep swatting flies that seemed to appear out of nowhere into the guestroom that evening. I don't think my experience was unique, since there was a fly swatter in the guestroom! 

After sharing my unsatisfactory experiences at Residence Inn, I want to say that I have stayed at a few nicer ones, although they have been few and far between. One of the nicer stays that comes to mind, was at the property in Milwaukee. We used points for a free night and received a room on the top floor overlooking the river. I do not have a review for that stay because it was also before I started this blog. The only other thing I remember about the hotel, is that employees made us feel welcome, and that the evening social hour included beer and wine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dickson City - Scranton, Pennsylvania / Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

May 2012, Weekday, 2-nights, Extended king guestroom #316

Status perks
I reserved a basic king room, and received an upgrade to an extended king room. I also received a bottle of water, and a choice of one snack item.

Guestroom 316 is located near the elevator and not on the top floor, so I was initially worried about noise overhead and in the hall. The room is quite soundproof, and I did not hear any bothersome noise. I have stayed in hotels when I could see quite a bit of light around the guestroom door coming from the hall, when the door is not a tight fit, and light was barely visible around this guestroom door. The door fit snugly, and blocked the hallway noise well. I did not hear any noise overheard during my stay, although I do not know if there were guests above me.

This guestroom looked like a HIX suite to me, although that is not what it said on the paper I signed at check-in. It had a small fridge, microwave, sink, table with two chairs, couch, and coffee and end tables in the living area. The bedroom area contained a soft chair and footstool, flatscreen TV (which could be swiveled to view from both rooms), suitcase bench, nightstands, an armoire, and desk and chair. The furniture was all very comfortable. I especially liked the soft chair in the bedroom area. The closet in the living area had a nice mirrored door. There were plenty of outlets in all areas of the guestroom. There was an ethernet cord on the desk, and the wired and wireless Internet connection speeds were both good. The one bad thing about this room is that it overlooks the entrance roof, so there is no view.

The bathroom was a good size with built in shelves next to the vanity. It contained a tub/shower combination. The hairdryer was only a basic style, which served it's purpose and nothing more. Even though this hotel was a year old at the time of my stay, the guestroom still had that new smell--just like a new car. It was clean and comfortable. I am writing this review from my next hotel, and wish I was still back at the Holiday Inn Express.

Food & Beverage
I thought breakfast was disappointing both mornings of my stay. The first morning the hot items were scrambled eggs, sausage gravy, and biscuits. The bananas were brown, so I did not have one of those. Fortunately, the milk was fresh. The second morning the food items were similar except that there were also ham slices--which were good, and the bananas were fresh! Fresh cinnamon rolls were out both mornings, as well as a pancake maker, cold cereals and breads.

Tuesday evening was a pleasant surprise. When I checked in, I received a flyer in my packet that said there is a manager's reception at this hotel on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesday, the beverages included: bottled water, soda, draft beer, and wine. The red wine was kind of sweet, but not too bad. Food items were: three cheeses, pepperoni slices, crackers, and tossed chicken salad and chicken wrap pieces from Ruby Tuesday.

Ruby Tuesday and Uno Chicago Grill are next door to the Holiday Inn Express. They both give guests a discount, and Ruby Tuesday delivered my order for no added delivery charge (I would have walked to get it myself, except it was raining out). Other restaurants I observed next door or across the street were Panera Bread, Subway, Starbucks, Texas Roadhouse and Olive Garden.

Public areas
The breakfast room furniture was comfortable, and the look is chic. I did not see anyone using the outside patio since it was raining during most of my stay, although the seating looked comfortable.

Business center
The business center contained two working computers and printers. I was able to print what I needed, although there were no other business supplies in the room.

Fitness center
The fitness center was impressive for a Holiday Inn Express, I thought. The flatscreen TV and remote worked, as did all the cardio machines, which were also equipped with cardio theater. There were two treadmills, and a stair stepper. I think there may have also been a bike, although I do not recall for sure. The room also contained hand weights, a workout bench, water cooler, scale, towels, headsets, and sani-wipes. The temperature was comfortable.

I was impressed with this hotel, and if I need to visit this area again, this hotel will be my first choice. I am currently staying at the Residence Inn just down the road (I moved to get one nights credit and take advantage of a Gold offer from Marriott), and the Holiday Inn Express is a much nicer hotel than the Marriott property.

If you are a Facebook fan, this Holiday Inn Express has a Facebook page: HolidayInnExpressDicksonCity