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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grand Rapids, Michigan / JW Marriott

September 2012, Weekend, King concierge guestroom #2311

I gave a review of this property in February and April 2011, so this review is only a brief report of differences from those stays.

Status perks
This was my first stay at this hotel as a Platinum member. I had Gold status at the time of my other stays. The only difference in treatment was the Marriott offering of bonus points or an onsite amenity. I chose the amenity--merlot wine and cheese--which was a better value than I have received at other hotels. Usually, the wine is a half bottle, and the JW delivered a full 750 ml bottle of Canyon Road with the cheese plate.

Guestroom 2311
This guestroom is a non-corner city view room. It offers an excellent view of Rosa Parks Circle. I observed only one difference in the guestroom from my previous stays. The brand of bathroom amenities had changed--Aromatherapy Associates brands were provided this stay.

At check-in, I asked the agent if he had been able to give me a corner room, and he said that there were not any available on the concierge floors. He said he could give me a corner room on the 12th floor, and still code my key for concierge floor access, if I wanted. I initially said I wanted to do this, and then changed my mind after seeing the room on the 12th floor. The corner rooms I have been in on the concierge floors do not have connecting room doors; the corner rooms on the 12th floor do. And, even though 12 floors seems like a decent height, the view from the 12th floor is not nearly as great as the view from the concierge floor rooms. The corner room on the 12th floor had a river view; however, the fireworks would not have been fully visible from this room because other buildings would have obstructed the view.

Food & Beverage
The cheese plate delivered with the wine was excellent, and we also ordered a Club Sandwich from room service. The order taker happily accommodated my request for a different bread type when I placed the order. The sandwich was excellent quality and a great price--only $11.34 with the 20% delivery tip added--although it did not arrive within the stated time. I had been quoted a delivery time of "no later than 11 PM," which was about 34 minutes from the time I had placed the order, and it arrived at about 11:07 PM. The room service server apologized for the delay during delivery; however, I probably would not have placed the order, if I had known it was going to be over 40 minutes before it was delivered.

Concierge lounge
The concierge lounge offered similar foods and beverages as I have listed in my previous reviews, although the food items were not as impressive this time. There was not any sushi or seafood this evening, and the hot food item was not as good as the pot stickers we had during a previous stay. It was some kind of dough puff pieces that were not stuffed with anything substantial. The beverages and service were both excellent, as has always been our experience at this hotel. Beer and wine is complimentary, and high quality mixed drinks cost $5.

Our stay was during the Celebration on the Grand, and the view of the fireworks from the lounge was fabulous. Staff members turned out the lights in the lounge when the fireworks started for even better viewing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sacramento, California / Fairfield Inn & Suites Sacramento Airport Natomas

August 2012, One-night, Weekday, King suite #318

Status perks
As a Platinum member, the agent at check-in asked if I wanted bonus points or an item from the gift shop. I did not initially receive an upgraded room, or even my preferred guestroom type. I was assigned a guestroom with two double beds, which I did not realize until after I arrived at the room. I then returned to the front desk to ask if a king room was available. My profile preferences are for a king room on a high floor; however, I had booked the least expensive room type at the last minute. I had checked out of the nearby Homewood Suites with the hopes of catching an early flight home. That did not work out, and I had a room reserved at this hotel, just in case.
view from entrance hall

Guestroom #318
This king suite is located next to the elevator, and the head of the bed was against the same wall. I was worried that the elevator noise might be bothersome; however, I did not hear any noise from the elevator or from the hallway at any time during my stay.

dry bar
There was a short hallway into the guestroom where the dry bar items were located: microwave, mini-fridge, and single serve coffee maker with dry condiments. The spacious bathroom was also located off this hall, next to the entrance door. The heavy bathroom door would not stay open. Fortunately, there was a footpad on the door, so I could prop it open. This may have also helped block out any hallway noise, since the door opened across the front of the entrance door.

The living room area included a couch, soft chair, desk and chair, end and coffee tables, lamps, a flatscreen TV, and plenty of storage cupboards. There was an ethernet cord and telephone on the desk. A second telephone was on a nightstand in the bedroom.

The bedroom area contained a second flatsceen TV in a stand with more storage,  a suitcase bench, nightstands with lamps and an alarm clock, a closet, and king size bed. There were plenty of outlets in the living room; however, there were not any visible outlets in the bedroom. There was one available outlet behind the nightstand, although it was not easy to reach.

The guestroom was clean, and the bedding and amenities were satisfactory.

Food & Beverage
I checked out of this hotel before breakfast was setup in the morning. In the dining area, I observed fresh apples in a bowl,  and the locked beverage and sandwich cooler had been unlocked, although there were not any breakfast sandwiches out yet at 4 AM. Since I live in the eastern time zone, 4 AM is not really that early for me.

I had returned my rental car when I tried to catch a flight home the day before, so my evening dining choices were limited. I saw three choices within walking distance: a truck stop type restaurant across the expressway on/off road, Burger King, and Black Bear Diner. Employees at the hotel had told me that the Black Bear Diner was fantastic. It was acceptable, although I would not classify it as fantastic or even good. I guess it depends what you like. I think if I had ordered a burger, I would have liked the food better. I should have followed my instincts and ordered a burger after seeing the many burger choices on the menu. Other than the plethora of burger choices, this restaurant was just like Cracker Barrel (not a restaurant I would normally choose to dine in), right down to the corn muffins, and the "pay at the register on your way out" setup. I do think that this restaurant was probably the best choice of the three located near this hotel.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained a couple of cardio machines, and a working TV on the wall. It overlooked the outside pool. The room smelled kind of musty, and it was extremely hot. I observed an air freshener on the drinking fountain in the fitness center. Another drinking fountain was located in the hallway outside the fitness center.

Business center
Two computers and a printer were located on a counter in the lobby across from the front desk. I observed tape and paper clips in the area, although other business supplies were not provided. I used a stapler and scissors at the front desk.

I had to wait until 3 AM the morning of my departure to find out if I would be able to get on the first flight out of SMF for no charge (the flight I had booked was not until afternoon). Before I went to bed the night before, I told the front desk agent that I might want to get on the first airport shuttle at 4 AM, and that I would not know until morning. I asked if this would be a problem, and I was told no. It almost did turn out to be a problem, and there were other guests that did encounter a problem trying to get on this shuttle.

After I confirmed that I could get on the early flight that morning, I called the front desk, and asked to get on the 4 AM shuttle. I went to the lobby 10 to 15 minutes early so I could print my boarding pass (and, because when I called, the employee had said that the shuttle leaves right on time!). Since the business center is located in the lobby, I overheard other guests trying to get on the same shuttle. One guest came to the lobby, and another one called. I heard the employee tell both guests that the shuttle was full, and that the next one did not leave until 4:30. The guest in the lobby hung around just in case. After we were all on the bus (8 of us and our luggage), they squeezed the guest waiting in the lobby on board too. During this time, the employees kept saying that the shuttle holds nine, and that it was full.

It was a good thing that the airport was not too far away, because the bus barely held nine. We were packed in that bus, and all of the guests were of average size; we did not have any oversized passengers on board.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sacramento, California / Homewood Suites Sacramento Airport Natomas

August 2012, Weekday, 3-nights, King studio #329

Status perks
I received the bonus points I have chosen for my on-property benefit. 
kitchen view from couch

The guestroom was a standard Homewood Suites studio suite on the top floor. I had originally been assigned a studio suite on the second floor overlooking the courtyard. My profile preferences are for a high floor room away from the elevator. Since top floor rooms tend to be quieter, I inquired if a top floor room was available at check-in. The agent said he could reassign me to this room, but that it was on the expressway side of the building.
view from entrance

I happily accepted the top floor room. The courtyard view is nicer; however, when a hotel is full (as this one was), guests often congregate in the courtyard after the evening social, and traffic noise does not usually bother me.

view from couch--bathroom on right
The kitchen area of the guestroom contained a sink and dishwasher with supplies, full size fridge, microwave, stovetop, dishes in the cupboard, coffeepot with supplies, and a table with two chairs. Microwave popcorn was not provided, as it usually is. When I asked about this at the front desk later, I was told that the hotel was out of popcorn, and that I could choose an item from the gift shop.
view from bed

A full size sofa, desk and chair, and flatscreen TV on an armoire, were located between the kitchen area and the king size bed. Two nightstands, lamps, an alarm clock, and a telephone were located next to the bed. The two large windows had screens in them, and they could be opened.

The bathroom shower area contained the toilet, and a tub with shower. The bathroom vanity, and a large closet with glass doors, were both located outside this area.

outside bathroom area
The bed was comfortable, and it was quiet in the guestroom. The lighting was good, and there were plenty of outlets available. There was an ethernet cord and second telephone provided on the desk.

My guestroom was not cleaned after my first stayover night. It is possible this had something to do with the guestroom change I had made at check-in. I had to call the front desk after arriving in my guestroom because I could not access the Internet with this guestroom number, so it appeared as though they did not change their records correctly after the room reassignment. I inquired about housekeeping when I went to the front desk to get coffee for the second morning, and the agent said he would take care of it. My guestroom was cleaned the next day.

Food & Beverage
Complimentary freshments each evening included: fresh salad, soda, beer, and wine. I did not notice what kind of beer was available, although I did observe Coke brand cans with ice for the soda option.

The salad was fresh, and the topping ingredients were slightly varied each night. I thought the salad offering was good. Hot food items were also served each evening. Chicken was served the first night, meatball subs the next evening, and chili with fries the last night. The hot food containers looked scarce as the evening progressed. Items were well stocked when the evening social began; however, when I went to the lodge room a couple of times more than an hour after the evening social had started, I observed empty or nearly empty serving dishes. I did not stick around to see if or when these were refilled.

Breakfast in the morning consisted of: scrambled eggs, potatoes, breads, cereals, cut/canned fruit, fresh bananas, milk, juices, coffee, and tea.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained three cardio machines with cardio theater. One of the treadmills did not work the first day, and all of the machines had been turned off the second day that I tried to use them. The employee at the front desk that morning was able to get both treadmills working, although he could not get the stair stepper to work. He commented that this happens infrequently enough for him to forget how each machine operates. The posted sign on the fitness center said that it did not open until 6 AM; however, there was already one guest using the room when I arrived at 5:30 the first morning. Another guest also arrived before 6 AM that day. The fitness center is not close to any guestrooms.

Pool and outside area
This hotel has an outside pool, hot tub, basketball hoop, grills, and plenty of spacious sitting areas. I was only outside in the courtyard once to do some work on my laptop. The Internet connection was good in the courtyard, and the table seating was comfortable. Although I did not use any of the other amenities, everything looked clean and well maintained.

This hotel is a newer hotel in an area that was still being built up at the time of my stay. It offered easy access to the expressway and main roads without a lot of traffic. There is a Holiday Inn Express and a Hampton Inn next door, and a couple restaurants within walking distance. Most of the restaurants were chain type restaurants (Sizzler, iHop, KFC, Panda Express…), although there was also one unique restaurant [Malabar] where I dined one day. I had the Mahi Mahi from the lunch menu, which was excellent.

The hotel has an airport shuttle, although I did not use it.

Schaumburg, Illinois / Chicago Marriott Schaumburg

August 2012, Weekday, 1-night, King concierge guestroom #1425

Status perks
I had booked a basic hotel room with a category 1 - 4 certificate, and received an upgrade to a concierge guestroom.

The guestroom was a basic guestroom with the addition of a small portable fridge. I think the refrigerator was in the guestroom because I have "refrigerator preferred" checked on my Marriott profile. It did not look like there were refrigerators in all of the guestrooms on this floor when I walked by guestrooms with the doors propped open by housekeeping (the fridge was by the guestroom entrance door).

Guestroom furnishings included a king bed, flatscreen TV on a storage unit/armoire, desk and chair, safe in the desk drawer--large enough for a small laptop, soft chair and footstool, small end table, floor lamp, two nightstands, and lamps on all the tables.

A folding luggage rack, iron, ironing board, and bathrobe were in the open (doorless) closet by the entrance door. A small counter next to the closet area and across from the bathroom, contained a single serve coffee maker with coffee, condiments, tea, and two bottles of water. The room had good lighting and plenty of available outlets.

This guestroom is near the middle of the hallway. It was well soundproofed and comfortable.

Food & Beverage
We had one round of beverages and a sandwich in the bar. The service and food quality were both excellent.

Pool & outside areas
We chose this hotel for the outside pool, because we wanted to relax the last night of our vacation. Unfortunately for us, the weather did not cooperate. After a week in the 90s, the temperature dropped, and the sky was 100% cloudy during our stay. This hotel has an inside and outside pool, and the hot tub is located inside. The hot tub was a good temperature, although we would have enjoyed it more, if it had been outside. The seating in the outside pool area was decent. There were a few tables with chairs, and several comfortable looking loungers. We sat at one of the tables for a short time, but didn't stay long. The pool temperature must have been acceptable, because we observed a couple of kids using the outside pool even though it was not hot outside.

Concierge lounge
Even though the lounge room is not overly spacious, we did not have any trouble finding a place to sit in the morning or in the evening. The seating was comfortable. Unfortunately, I did not finish this review immediately after our stay, and I do not remember the specifics of the food items. I know that we did not have shrimp (as I had read by another guest before this stay), or any other fantastic items. I do recall that I overheard some guests complaining about only being able to get one or two bottles of water a day. I did not think their complaint was justified, since there were also two bottles of water in the guestroom, which were restocked everyday.

This hotel is located in a quiet business park area. There is plenty of parking onsite, and there is no charge for parking. I observed the shuttle from the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center waiting near the entrance when we checked out in the morning. The Renaissance was full the day that we stayed at the Marriott, and it appeared as though the driver was there to pick up guests to shuttle over to the Convention Center. I think this Marriott would be a great location to stay for business or leisure, and I would definitely choose this hotel again.