Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

South Beach Miami, Florida / Z Ocean Hotel--Crowne Plaza

Thanksgiving weekend 2012, 3-nights, King handicap suite #207

Sunrise @ beach club
Status perks
As a Platinum guest, I received free Internet service. I found this out when I called the front desk to ask about the $14 charge, since the agent had not said anything at check-in. I did not receive the monogramed pillowcases shown on Facebook for Platinum guests, and I did not receive a guestroom upgrade.

I inquired about a spa or rooftop suite upgrade at check-in, and I was told that there was not anything available. The agent said I could check the next day, so I did. I spoke with the manager the next morning, and was again told that there was nothing available. I did not call again the morning of our last night, even though the website showed that rooftop rooms were available. The manager had not told me to check again, and I figured if the hotel was going to give me an upgraded room, this would have already been taken care of. I dislike having to ask for a perk that is supposed to be automatically given when available.
floor two diagram

Guestroom
I had booked a South Beach king suite with points for this stay. I did not book a handicap room, and we did not need one. I assume that we ended up with the handicap suite because it had not been reserved, and our room was not ready. When we arrived before check-in time around 2 PM, the suite originally set aside for us, #305, was not ready yet. We returned to the front desk about 1/2 hour after check-in time and our room was still not available. The agent checked some things, and then assigned us suite 207 instead. I asked if this was the same room type, and she said yes. We did not know that it was a handicap or poolside guestroom until we arrived at the suite.


This suite is spacious and very soundproof. It is slightly different than the photos shown online. I don't know if that is because it is a handicap room, or if it is because of the room location on an inside corner, or a combination of both. The differences from the other suites were: the glassed patio windows are a smaller area, the outside patio area is smaller, and there were no chairs inside the suite except the bar chairs. 

The bar/kitchen area was fabulous. It contained the following: nice dishes/plates, unique glassware--including champagne and martini glasses, coffee and tea cups, silverware, wine and bottle opener, nespresso machine with coffee supplies, microwave, fridge, sink, cold and dry minibar, bar stools, and a large safe.

The bathroom was two large rooms. The outer area contained the toilet and a vanity with sink and mirror. There was a second vanity and sink in the next area with a large tiled shower. A makeup mirror and high quality hair dryer were provided. I was surprised that cotton swabs and tips were not provided with the standard shower and lotion amenities. The shower had three sets of jets, and a fold down handicap seat. The shower was fabulous, although I felt like I needed an engineering degree to figure out how to operate the water flow!


One thing I missed in this suite, was a full length mirror. There were wall mirrors in the bathroom and living area; however, all of the mirrors were only half length vanity or decorative mirrors.

The bed, pillows, and bed sheets were all high quality and very comfortable. We could not hear any noise from the pool area when the patio door was shut. The closet contained two hanging rods, one below the other, so there was not a place to hang dresses without them hitting the lower rod or floor. A folding luggage rack was provided in the closet and there was a suitcase bench at the foot of the bed against the wall.


We did not receive consistent turndown service. The first evening, housekeeping knocked on the guestroom door around 5 PM. When I answered, I was handed a welcome letter with two small pieces of candy that reminded me of leftover Halloween candy--an M & M's and an Almond Joy. The second evening we were not present. When we returned to our suite, we found a robe placed on the bed and a pair of slippers on the floor next to the bed. We did not receive a turndown amenity. We did not receive turrndown service at all the last night. It would have been nice if we had received the super turndown delicacies bragged about on the Z Ocean Facebook page at least one of the nights.
Suite 207 in corner

The patio area contained a lounge chair and a glass topped table with four chairs. Since there were only two of us, and the area was small without much room to walk through, we set one of the table chairs aside, and it had been moved out to the pool area the next day.

Fresh plants were tastefully placed between each suite for privacy. A nice feature around all of the patio suites is the privacy curtain. Each suite patio had curtains that could be closed all the way around, if guests desired.
Typical poolside patio.
Suite 305 (original suite) on floor above right








Pool & beach
The pool area was not very busy during our stay and it was peaceful. The water spouts into the pool provided a soothing waterfall type sound. If we had been staying in one of the balcony rooms a floor above the pool, we probably would have slept with our patio door partially open. We observed only adults at the pool until the day we departed. There were two children in the pool that day.

The pool chairs were comfortable, and staff members provided excellent pool service. Lounge chairs were covered with towel covers, rolled towels were set out, and towels were immediately replaced when guests departed. A pool attendant served frozen grapes one day, and bar staff were attentive. The only thing I thought needed more attention in the pool area was the floor. I observed staff members sweeping up debris; however, the floor needed to be washed with soap. The grime was not visible; however, the bottoms of our feet and shoes turned black from the floor. And, I only walked a few steps with bare feet--from a chair to the whirlpool tub.
Pool view from below

My husband said that the pool temperature was slightly cool, although it was not so cool that he did not swim in it. The glass windows in the bottom of the pool are not over the restaurant, as I had read. The view into the pool is overhead when walking from the front desk toward the bar and restaurant. The whirlpool tub temperature was warm, although we would have liked it a little hotter since it was quite cool in the evenings.
Guestroom directory
Beach Club

This hotel is not located on the beach, and no one told us about the Beach Club across the street. Fortunately, I had read about it in a guest review before our visit, and information is listed in the guestroom directory. Guests can have two chairs with pads, towels, and an umbrella for no cost. A bed is available as an upgrade; I did not inquire about the cost for a bed. A few items were available for purchase at the hut on the beach--soda, water, sunscreen, and vending machine type snacks.





Food & Beverage
shrimp taco
We visited the hotel restaurant--The Front Porch Cafe--during Happy Hour two days. We thought Happy Hour was an excellent value. The beverage and food prices and quality were excellent. For $5 each, we had: calamari, Mahi-Mahi tacos, shrimp tacos, and crispy jerk pork belly tacos. The calamari was a good portion size and flash fried, although not very flavorful. Each taco portion was two tacos; however, I did not take the pictures posted here until after we had started eating. All of the tacos were good, and the shrimp tacos were amazing! We had the shrimp tacos both days because we liked them so well.

pork taco
A 17% tip was automatically added to the check, which is typical for the Miami Beach area. After we said we wanted to charge the bill to our room, this tip was changed to 20%.

I ordered the California Omelette from room service for breakfast one morning. The room service cost was a couple dollars more than the restaurant menu cost--before the tip was added. We knew this, but thought it would be enjoyable to dine poolside on our patio. The order taker did not provide a delivery time. The food was delivered in a reasonable about of time--within 20 to 25 minutes.

I was disappointed with the omelette. The eggs were brown and overcooked. The menu description listed avocado as one of the ingredients, which I had expected to be fresh slices on the side. I should have asked because the avocado was inside the omelette, so it was mushy from being cooked. The omelette came with toast, and a side choice--fresh fruit, tomatoes, or potatoes. I chose tomatoes, which were three good-sized and flavorful slices. The side of sourdough toast was thin, cold, and rubbery. It seemed like the bread had been toasted several minutes before the food was delivered.

Misc. and overall
Fresh ice cold citrus water was available by the front desk every time we walked through the lobby. Valet, bell, and concierge staff members were attentive and smiling every time we walked by. We liked the location of this resort at the start of Ocean Drive.

This is a nice facility with many good points. I am sure I would have been impressed if I had received a Platinum upgrade, or if we had received the amenities posted on the hotel Facebook page. I also read reviews by Platinum guests who received an upgrade to a rooftop suite. I had high expectations, and because we did not receive any of the perks I had read about, this stay was disappointing. I posted two comments on the hotel Facebook page about my disappointment not receiving the turndown amenities or the VIP pillowcases. No one from the hotel replied to those posts, although someone seems to actively reply to guests before a stay (they replied to all my posts before our stay). I felt like they got me in the door, and then ignored me.

I did stay on points; however, when I stay at a competitor hotel brand on points--Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt--I still receive the same perks as when I am a paying guest. When I stayed at the Crowne Plaza at the Ft. Lauderdale airport (FLL) with points in March of this year, we were upgraded to the presidential suite! I am still bragging about that hotel, and I will choose it again for my next stay in that area. When the Z Ocean Hotel stay posted to my PCR account ($745.80 under hotel rate with 0 points earned since I redeemed points), it looked like this hotel received over $200 a night for my points stay. If I had paid over $200 a night for my room, I would have been seriously disappointed rather than just mildly disappointed.

When booking a poolside room at this resort, I would suggest staying away from this handicap room unless it is needed. The other poolside suites have a much larger patio area, and I could see chairs inside the guestroom when the curtains were open.

UPDATE: After I posted on TripAdvisor about my disappointment with this stay, Director of Sales & Marketing, Frank Fuentes expressed empathy and invited me to contact him, so I did. I received a prompt and professional reply to an email I sent, which has altered my opinion of this hotel. The communication I had with Mr. Fuentes “wowed” me the way I had expected before our stay. We intend to stay at this hotel again the next time we visit SoBe!

Monday, November 19, 2012

SpringHill Suites / Wheeling, West Virginia

November 2012, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #501

Status perks
I received a goody bag with a small bottle of water and two snacks--cheese crackers and peanuts.

Guestroom


This guestroom is located on the top floor at the end of the hall. I had called the morning of my arrival to request a room in a quiet location without a connecting room door. The agent who answerd the telephone assigned my room during the call.


The guestroom layout and furnishings were exactly the same as the SpringHill Suites at my home airport--GRR. For anyone not familiar with SpringHill Suites: they always have a separate sitting area with a couch, chair, and desk with chair, as well as a sink, small fridge, and microwave. A flatscreen TV on the armoire between the two areas could be rotated so it was visible from the bed or living room.



I was happy with the bed pillows, although I thought the bed was hard and less comfortable than some SpringHill Suites I have stayed in. The comforter was quite thin for November. I was glad to find a clean blanket in the closet because I needed it. 

The wireless Internet connection was terrible. I was disconnected several times and had to keep signing back in. There was an ethernet cord on the desk, and that connection was good. As long as I worked at the desk, the connection was great.  



Food & Beverage
Breakfast is included at SpringHill Suites. The following items were available: cereals, milk, juices, bananas, yogurt, breads and bagels--including whole-grain bagels, and scrambled eggs. I think oatmeal was also available, although I do not recall for sure.

Coffee, hot chocolate, and tea were available in the dining area 24-hours. Individually wrapped biscotti was available next to the coffee in the evening. 

Business center
Two computers and a printer were located on a table in the breakfast room. I did not have any trouble using the computers or printing a couple documents. Additional items on the table included paper clips, a stapler, and post-it notes.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained three working cardio machines with cardio theater, as well as hand weights, and a workout bench. A flatscreen TV was mounted on the wall. The room temperature was comfortable.

Misc. and overall
This was a comfortable stay, and I do not have any complaints about my stay other than the wireless Internet connection. There is a Hampton Inn located just down the road, which I thought looked nicer than this property. Since I did not stay there, I can not comment about any experiences at that property. The reason I chose this hotel instead is because a colleague was staying here, and I figured either property would be acceptable.

Hotel staff recommended a local restaurant called Ye Old Alpha, when we asked for dining recommendations. We ate there that evening, and I would not recommend the place. I like to try new places and foods, so I ordered the Crab Apple Salad. The flavor was good; however, the dish was not even close to being worth $13.50. The salad contained less than two tablespoons of shredded crab! It was 3/4 apples. My colleague had the Woodsdale Chicken, and he said the flavor was bland. Not only was the food not impressive, but I thought the service was lousy too. We had been seated for 10 minutes before our server stopped to greet us. And then, he started to walk away to "give us time to look at the menu." I told him I thought we'd already had plenty of time to look the menu over. I had not seen our server before this, and we did not arrive before 5 PM, so I am not sure what the holdup was at the start of the visit.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New Philadelphia, Ohio / Holiday Inn Express

November 2012, Weekday, 2-nights, King guestroom #424

Status perks
I got to choose one beverage and one snack from the gift shop. I did not receive an upgraded room because the manager told me that the suites are all located in the center by the elevator, and I had requested a quiet room. Looking at the floor diagram on the back of the guestroom door, there are actually huge end suites at this hotel--at least there were two on my floor. The room I had been assigned was right next to a longer suite room, so it did not appear that all the suites are located by the elevator as I was told. I appreciated that the manager considered my request for a quiet room; however, I think one of the suite guestrooms would have been better soundproofed since the bed is then farther away from the door.

I included a photo of the floor diagram for guests who want to see the room layout before arrival.


Guestroom
This hotel has four floors, so guestroom #424 is located on the top floor. 


The guestroom is a good size and it contained a microwave and small fridge in addition to standard room amenities. There were plenty of outlets, and the lighting was good. The TV was a newer flatscreen model, and the room contained a suitcase bench.

The decor in the guestroom was pleasant and the seating was comfortable. The bathroom was a nice size with plenty of counter space. I thought the bed was too hard, and the pillows were low quality, which I have found typical in a Holiday Inn Express.

I thought the Internet connection speed was unacceptable. I had trouble submitting my online work, and had to reenter some things. This hotel was full; however, I had this trouble at 4 AM too, when I would not expect as many guests to be using the service.




Food & Beverage
Breakfast both mornings included: breads, milk, juices, yogurt, cereals, fresh bananas, sausage gravy with biscuits, and the HIX pancake maker and cinnamon rolls. One morning, the egg item was cheesy omelets, and the next morning it was scrambled eggs. The room was comfortable and clean.

Business center
There were two working computers and a printer in the business center. The equipment worked fine, although a mouse pad would definitely have helped! I have never had so much trouble trying to control the mouse as I did on these computers.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained three working cardio machines and a flatscreen TV. It did not open until 6 AM, and the lock was programed, so the room was not accessible before then.

Misc. and overall
This is either a new building or a completely gutted and rebuilt Holiday Inn. I found information about an older Holiday Inn at this address before my stay. The entire facility looked new. There are several restaurants nearby. A Bistro and Mexican restaurant are located next door. I would not recommend the Mexican restaurant. It was clean and nice looking; however, the food was not very good or authentic. Restaurants across the streets included: Texas Roadhouse, Long John Silvers, Hog Heaven, Burger King, and Denny's.

There is a Hampton Inn next to Texas Roadhouse across the street. If I needed to stay in this area again, I would probably choose this Holiday Inn Express again as long as I did not have a huge amount of work to enter online. The Hampton Inn looked like a basic Hampton Inn, and the building was older than this Holiday Inn Express.