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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Miami Airport - MIA / Residence Inn

February 2013, Weekday/weekend, 2-nights, King 1-bedroom suite #3301

Status perks and check-in

I redeemed two category 4 free night certificates for a king studio guestroom. I called the hotel a couple of days before our arrival to request a bedroom suite upgrade because our son was joining us the second night of our stay. Our flight arrived at 1 p.m., so we got to the hotel before check-in time. The front desk agent said that she could upgrade us to a 1-bedroom suite on the 3rd floor, if we wanted to wait, because it was not ready yet. We agreed, and she said she would put in a rush, and then call us when it was ready. She called us when our room was ready less than 1/2 hour later.

I received the 200 Platinum bonus points. Platinum guests also receive bonus points on the room cost, which we did not have since I redeemed certificates for this stay. One thing that I often forget, is that MR points are only earned on the room cost at Residence Inn, so I did not earn additional points for the dining items charged to the room. All charges from any of the restaurants onsite can be charged to the guestroom, no matter which hotel you are staying in.

Guestroom 3301

Guestroom 3301 is at the end of the hall on the 3rd floor. It has a connecting room door in the living room area. The separate bedroom is located on an outside wall, and the bedroom location was quiet. The large window was soundproof, and it did not open. We did not hear any guest or exterior noise from our bedroom. The bedroom contained a king bed, dresser, nightstands, lamps, a flatscreen TV, and a closet with hangers. It was tastefully decorated and clean. The bedsheets and pillows were good quality. I thought the bed was a little too hard. There was no luggage rack in the guestroom.

from bedroom toward vanity
There was another large closet in the bathroom area located outside the bedroom; however, there were no hangers in that closet. The vanity area where the closet was located was very spacious. There was plenty of storage in the vanity drawers, and a large mirror behind the vanity. A decent quality hairdryer was hanging in the bedroom closet.

The shower and toilet room was kind of small--barely enough room to enter and close the door. The shower was a tub/shower combination.

There was also a door on the outer bathroom area, between the vanity area and the living room. 

The living room and kitchen contained the following furnishings: a sofa sleeper, a soft chair and footstool, coffee table, end table, flatscreen TV on a cabinet with drawers, desk and chair, small kitchen table with two chairs, full size stainless steel refrigerator with ice maker, dishwasher, sink, stovetop, microwave, and cupboards with dishes and utensils. A coffee pot with supplies was provided as well as microwave popcorn. The living room window was the same size as the one in the bedroom, and it opened a couple inches.

Marriott photo
I did not get any photos of the kitchen or living room area when we first arrived. The kitchen area in our guestroom looked exactly like the photo here, which is from the hotel website.

All of the guestrooms at this hotel are Pure Allergy Free rooms. The freestanding unit under the living room window was quiet and did not take up much space. The wireless Internet speed was decent, and there was also an ethernet connection with cord on the desk.

The entire guestroom was spacious, stylish, and clean. The guestroom was comfortable for the most part. We did not care for the couch. It looked nice, although it was not very comfortable.

Pool areas

whirlpool view from
guestroom #3301 at Residence Inn
All three hotels in this complex--Marriott, Courtyard, and Residence Inn--share one outside pool. The area looked exactly the same as I described it in my review of the full service Marriott in 2011. The uncomfortable wicker lounge chairs were again in use with no pads. I did not take any photos of that area this trip; however, I did provide a couple in my 2011 review. The pool area is not visible from the Residence Inn, as it is behind the taller Marriott building.

There is also a whirlpool tub at the Residence Inn, which was visible from our guestroom. It was a good size, and the temperature was warm.

Food & Beverage

We thought there was going to be an evening social when we arrived Thursday night; however, this has changed to only Monday through Wednesday. The last couple of years, I have noticed that many extended stay properties are decreasing the number of days that they offer an evening social. After this stay, I checked the Marriott Residence Inn features page, and the information does not specifically say that the days have changed, so it appears that this is left up to the individual properties. The official site only says: complimentary evening socials.

I did not think the morning breakfast, which is included, was very good. It included scrambled eggs, bacon, cold cereal, white breads, cut fruit (which was empty when I visited), whole fruit (bananas and apples), high-fat cottage cheese, coffee, tea, milk, and juice. The offerings were the same both mornings, and the items were not well stocked or fresh.

The lobby and dining seating area was very comfortable. There were also a couple of outside tables with seats.

We visited the bar in the Courtyard and in the Marriott. Both experiences were similar to our 2011 visit. We tried the Happy Hour 2-for-1 margaritas and $5 chicken tenders at Champions Sports Bar in the Courtyard. The margaritas were prepared with Jose Cuervo; however, the mix was very sweet, so it was not something we cared for. The chicken tenders were a good sized portion served in a basket with fries. We were surprised by the portion size because fries were not listed on the menu for this item. We had expected an appetizer type plate of tenders only. The quality was good, and the mustard dip had good flavor.

When we visited the bar at the Marriott, the menu we were given was not the same as the online menu for Cane Fire Grill. It had small and large plate items on it, so I do not know if the menu has changed, or if it was different the night of our visit. At the suggestion of our server, we ordered a cuban nacho appetizer. I do not recall the exact menu name of this item, and it is not listed on the online menu. It was prepared with shredded beef. The flavor was okay, although this is not a food item I would order again.

Shuttle and area transportation

We took public transportation to and from the Miami boat show on Friday. This is easy to do if you have the time, and like to walk. Our entire cost was $8.70 for two of us. If you plan to ride more than twice, the all-day pass is a better deal for $5 each. We took the Miami Beach Airport Flyer Route 150 to South Beach. It runs every half hour on weekdays from MIA. We could have taken the hotel shuttle to the airport; however, we would then have had to take the airport tram to the bus stop, so we decided to walk the 1.3 miles to the bus stop from our hotel. The bus stop is located on the drive into the car rental return at MIA off NW 21st Street, directly across the street from the Sheraton. There is a pedestrian sidewalk across the street from the Sheraton that goes to the rental car parking garage. There is not a walkway to the bus stop; however, if you follow the pedestrian walkway toward the garage, you will see the bus station on your right. It was easy to cross the roadway since the only traffic was an occasional bus or rental car. The ride to South Beach took about 1/2 hour. We were going to the Convention Center, so we got off at 17th Street and Washington.

We took the show shuttle from the Convention Center to the boat show areas at the Marina Marriott and Biscayne Bay. After the show, we walked to a Historic Overtown/Lyric Theater station on NW 6th St. and took the Orange Line back to MIA. The Metrorail stopped at the same station where we had boarded the bus. We could have walked the 1.3 miles back to our hotel from this stop. It was raining when we returned, so we took the airport tram to the terminal instead, and then got on the hotel shuttle bus.

The hotel shuttle picks up and drops off on level 2, the ticketing level. It ran every 15 minutes the times that we used it--Thursday and Friday afternoons, and our son used it Friday evening. The hotel shuttle picks up for the Marriott, Courtyard, and Residence Inn.

We took a cab from the hotel to the cruise port when we departed. There is a parking area between the Residence Inn and the Marriott where we always observed cabs waiting, so we did not expect to wait long when we were ready to go. The front desk agent called for a cab for us, and we went out front to wait. After I observed a few cabs drive from the waiting area to the Marriott and Courtyard, I went back inside to find out what was happening. The agent called again, and then told me that the driver was stuck in traffic. I assumed the cabs in the hotel lot had been already called, and we were waiting for new ones to arrive. When I went back outside, I saw that more cabs had arrived, and were sitting in the waiting area waiting to be called. I then walked over to talk to a driver and got a car for us. It appeared that the Residence Inn was not sharing the waiting fleet of cabs with the other two hotels.


All of the employees at the Residence Inn were fabulous. I felt like they were all happy to assist us. I thought the sleep quality was slightly better at the Marriott (only because the bed was more comfy), although the room and decor at the Residence Inn was nicer. This is the only MIA airport hotel I have stayed in that did not have a safe in the guestroom.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chicago - Tinley Park, Illinois / Holiday Inn Convention Center

February 2013, Weekday, King guestroom #534

Status perks and check-in
I arrived about 20 minutes before check-in time, and my room was not ready yet. I got a bottle of water from the gift shop, which the agent let me have for no charge. I then took a seat in the lobby to wait, as the agent had said he would let me know when my room was ready. About 15 minutes later, the front desk agent brought me my key packet, and said my room was ready. He did not acknowledge my status or any other perks, although I did find a card in my key packet that was good for 500 bonus points, a free beverage in the lounge or dining room, or milk and cookies from the gift shop.

Entering the guestroom was like deja vu for me. This guestroom is almost exactly the same as the rooms at the Holiday Inn at my home airport--Holiday Inn GRR airport. The hotel building was not set up the same, but the guestroom was.

A small coffee maker with supplies was on the counter by the entrance door, where a small fridge and microwave were also located.

The bathroom entrance was between the coffee area and the front closet. It contained a doorless walk-in shower, decent sized vanity, and the toilet area, which could be closed off. The bathroom entrance door swung to the left, so that it could be used to close the toilet area, or the entire bathroom. Standard Holiday Inn Bath & Body Works amenities were provided, and a low quality hairdryer was attached to the wall.

The closet contained a good sized safe, iron and board, hangers, and a folding luggage rack.

This spacious guestroom is located at the end of the hall with no guest traffic. I did not hear any noise from inside the hotel. I could hear the expressway traffic, which did not bother me, although I know that some guests are disturbed by this type of noise.

The room contained a suitcase bench, soft chair and stool, desk and chair, king size bed, night stands, good lighting, and flat screen TV on an armoire. 

I liked the guestroom comfort for working, although I thought the bed was quite hard. Everything was clean and well maintained.

Food & Beverage
I ordered a grilled shrimp cocktail and salad from the lounge to go. The service was excellent, and the food was very good, except that the shrimp was not grilled (although it was described as grilled on the menu). I received cold cocktail shrimp. I did not look at my order before I got back to the guestroom, and I like cocktail shrimp, so I enjoyed the shrimp that way. I was happy with the merlot house wine, which was Cupcake brand.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained a few cardio machines, and a working flatscreen TV. Even though it is located next to the pool, the temperature was comfortable. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Munster, Indiana / Hampton Inn & Suites

February 2013, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #228

Status perks
I did not receive any extra perks during this stay, and I did not receive a room on the top floor as I had requested because the agent said the hotel was sold out. The room I received was perfectly acceptable, and the front desk agent acknowledged my requests and apologized for not being able to provide them.

This guestroom is located in a quiet area on the second floor. It was clean and comfortable. It contained a king bed, night stands, a chaise lounge, desk and chair, suitcase bench, and microwave and refrigerator. The internet connection speed was good, especially considering the hotel was full.

The bathroom was a basic bathroom with a long vanity and a tub/shower combination.

There were plenty of outlets and the room was well-lit. The guestroom was a basic comfortable Hampton Inn room. 

Food & Beverage
This hotel offers complimentary food in the evening, which I have never seen at a Hampton Inn before. There was a calendar in the guestroom with the food menu for the month, and there was something listed for every weekday, so it would appear that this a regular event. The food the night of my stay was not anything I would have for dinner. Burgers and beans were served along with white cake. The burgers were thin patties on a white bun wrapped up like the sandwiches sold in gas stations, which then needed to be nuked. There were a few condiments and cheese. I did not see any mayonnaise.

Included breakfast the next morning was not as good as I sometimes see at Hampton Inn. The scrambled eggs looked nasty, and did not look like eggs, so I did not try them. Other items available included sausage, Dannon yogurt, cold cereals, white breads, whole fruit, and juices.

Cookies were available at the front desk in the afternoon.

Fitness center
The fitness center was a basic room with a couple cardio machines. There was not anyone using cardio machines in the afternoon, although there were a few guests the next morning. Fortunately, I got there when it first opened.

I had originally planned to stay at this hotel two nights; however, ice was predicted the second night of my stay, so I decided to leave after one night instead. Unfortunately, I do not have a tremendous amount of detail about this stay because I did not write my review soon enough after checkout. My stay was satisfactory, and I would choose this hotel again, if I had need to stay in this area again.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Alsip, Illinois / DoubleTree by Hilton

February 2013, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #522

Status perks
In addition to the 1,000 bonus points in my profile for Gold members, I received a bottle of water and a coupon for a beverage in the lounge or dining room.

Guestroom #522
This guestroom is an end room located next to the vending area and close to the elevator. The walls seemed to be well-insulated, since I did not hear any noise from next door or the vending area.

The guestroom entrance door, however, had a large gap all the way around it, so it did not block out hallway noise. As I walked down the hallways (to and from the fitness center, business center, dining, etc.), I noticed that only a couple of the guestroom doors had an insulated sweeper across the bottom edge. This is a sprawling property with several elevators, so hallway noise was not a problem during my stay. 

The guestroom contained a king bed, night stands, full length mirror, a flatscreen TV on an armoire, desk and chair, and a soft chaise lounge. There were plenty of lights and outlets. There was an ethernet cord on the desk; however, it did not work. Since I was only staying one night, I did not call anyone to check it; I just used the wireless connection. 

The bed was super comfy with high quality sheets. The room was clean and comfortable. The coffee in the guestroom was Wolfgang Puck. I was glad I had received a bottle of water at check-in because the cost for the bottle in the guestroom was $5!

The bathroom vanity was not very big, although it was adequate for one person. The shower was a tub/shower combination with a curved rod. The provided hair dryer was average quality--not high quality, and not extreme low-end quality either.

Food & Beverage
I had read online that DoubleTree was having a promotion of 500 bonus points for spending $25 at the restaurant. When I checked in, I asked the agent if this included to-go and lounge purchases, and if I needed a coupon for the offer. She did not know anything about the promotion, and I did not end up spending $25 anyway, so I was not able to take advantage of this promotion.

Ahi Tuna Salad
The lounge area was comfortable. I used my beverage coupon while I waited for the Ahi Tuna Salad I had ordered to-go. Unfortunately, the bartender would not let me use the coupon value towards the purchase of a higher quality beverage, so I had a glass of house merlot.

The salad portion of the menu item I ordered was prepared with fresh ingredients, and the citrus vinaigrette had good flavor. However, I expected more wasabi flavor, and the tuna filet was a HUGE disappointment. The menu description  for the flavoring said: avocado wasabi creme fraiche. The avocado and wasabi flavors were so subtle, I had to look closely to see if there was any on the salad. The tuna filet did not have good flavor, and it was not high quality.

Fitness center
The fitness center was open 24-hours. It contained five cardio machines with cardio theater, although one of the treadmills was broken. There were also hand weights, a working flatscreen TV, towels, water cooler, sani-wipes, and a scale in the room.

I was able to get a cardio machine in the afternoon the day I arrived; however, there were no open machines at 5:30 AM the next morning. The four working machines were already in use, and there was one guest waiting when I arrived. The size of the fitness center is not close to what is needed for the number of guestrooms at this hotel. Since it is open 24-hours, I wished I had planned to get up at least 1/2 hour earlier than I had.

Business Center
The business center, which is located between the lobby and restaurant, contained two computers and printers. Everything worked when I visited, and I did not have any trouble printing a couple of documents.

I was happy with the sleep quality, cleanliness, and room rate at this DoubleTree. I would choose this hotel again, if I needed lodging in the area. I observed a shuttle bus at the hotel, and the hotel website says they provide transportation to MDW. There is no charge for parking at this property.