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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paramus, New Jersey / Crowne Plaza

June 2013, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #257

Status perks and check-in
I did not receive a room upgrade, although I received an amazing goody bag. This was probably the best goody bag perk I have ever received--not considering the times that I have received a full bottle of wine with fruit, cheese, and crackers delivered to the room. The goody bag contained all of the items shown here: baked chips, single-serve bottle of Woodbridge merlot wine, small bottle of water, fruit snacks, trail mix, sugar-free cookies, and a small package of cheese crackers. I was impressed with the wine and the sugar-free cookies. It was great to receive something out of the ordinary like this. I also received a coupon for the breakfast buffet the next morning.

I usually ask for a top floor guestroom at the end of the hall because it is often quieter. This is an older hotel, and there is no elevator. The front desk agent asked me if I was aware of this, and if this was okay. I had researched the two hotels in this area that I considered before this trip, so I was aware that there is no elevator. Since I had a smaller carry-on bag, I told her that was not a problem. She told me that someone could help me with my luggage, if I wanted.

Guestroom 257
The guestroom had been recently updated, and it was comfortable. The work area was spacious with plenty of room to work. The bedding was good quality, and the bed was comfortable. 

The guestroom contained the following: large desk work area and chair, plenty of lamps/lighting throughout the guestroom, one bottle of water with the ice bucket, a single-serve coffee maker with supplies, a soft chair with footstool, king size bed, flatscreen TV on an armoire, suitcase bench/bench seat, and nightstands with lamps, and a lighted alarm clock. There were two telephones in the guestroom; one on a nightstand, and one on the desk. A closet with an iron and board was located across from the bathroom. 

I probably would have been very happy at this hotel with this guestroom, had it not been such an old building with some other faults. The walls were extremely thin, and I could hear my neighbors on both sides. One neighbor was having a heated discussion with his female friend about their child (apparently) for several hours--first on the telephone, and then in person. And, the guest on the other side was either a night owl, or s/he sleeps to the TV noise, because I could hear the TV most of the night.

Other downsides to this being an older building, were the small bathroom, and the guestroom had a musty smell to it. 

The bathroom vanity was very small with no counter space. A low quality hairdryer was mounted on the wall. The toilet seemed to be a newer style with low water flow flushing; however, it did not work very well.

The musty smell in the guestroom was somewhat bothersome. I keep odor reducing spray in my travel bag when I am traveling with more than a carry-on, and I wished I had had it with me this stay. Apparently, the dampness had not been removed during the remodel, and the new carpet and such did not cover up the smell.

The fact that this guestroom contained a bottle of water for no charge, gave me the impression that it is a concierge floor room. Usually, I do not see bottled water included in guestrooms unless it is a concierge or executive floor room. Other than the water though, this room did not appear to be an executive or club floor room. The guestroom diagram on the back of the guestroom door, showed this room to be one of the smallest rooms on this floor. The front desk agent did not tell me this is an executive guestroom, and the bill I received did not say that it is. If this is an executive room, it is a poor one. If the guestroom diagram is to scale, I would say this is a basic guestroom.

Food & Beverage
This hotel has a breakfast area and the evening restaurant in the hotel is the Bonefish Grill. A breakfast menu was available in the hotel restaurant, and I should have asked if I could use my buffet coupon toward an a la carte item, because the buffet was not very good. The foods I recall were basic non-fresh scrambled eggs, white breads, cut fruit, and cereals. Beverages were included, and I was happy that V-8 juice was available. I have found that many hotel restaurants do not carry V-8 juice, and servers often try to give me tomato juice without letting me know that V-8 juice is not available--as if I would not know when I taste it! The service at breakfast was very good.

Bonefish Grill is located in the hotel, and it is accessible without having to walk outside. I was able to eat in the restaurant and charge it to my hotel room. The bar area was quite busy during my visit, and the service was mediocre to poor. I received much better service at breakfast than I did in the evening. The bar service was not solely my experience; the patrons seated next to me had to get the bartender's attention to place their food order over 10 minutes after they had requested a menu. I also had to request a menu and my check. Even though the bar was active, it was not so busy that the bartenders could not keep up. They had plenty of time to chat with each other; they were just inattentive to guests' needs. I have been to several Bonefish Grill restaurants, and this was the worst service experience I have ever had. The service was not terrible; however, it was not up to par compared to past experiences. The food, as always, was excellent!

Business center
The business center is located in the lobby near the front desk. It contained basic equipment, and I was able to print items for no charge.

Fitness center
I was glad that there was not anyone in the fitness center both times that I used it, because it is not very big. The equipment was in working order, and the hotel does offer free passes to a nearby gym. The photos on the hotel website are an accurate depiction of what is available at this hotel.

I thought all of the staff members at this hotel were accommodating and professional. As much as I liked the Platinum member goody bag and the bed comfort, I do not think I would choose this hotel again. The reasons I would stay elsewhere are the thin walls and the damp smell. Had it not been for those two factors, I would choose this hotel again. Even though the bathroom in the guestroom is small, that is something I could overlook when traveling by myself.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wayne, New Jersey / Residence Inn Wayne

June 2013, Weekday, 1-night, 2-bedroom suite #318

Status perks and check-in
At check-in, Maggie said that I had been upgraded for the night. I was impressed by the upgrade at this Residence Inn in Wayne, NJ, because my experience at most Marriott properties, has been that I do not receive an automatic room upgrade unless I am staying in one of their full service hotels.

A room had not been released on the computer yet, so Maggie called housekeeping to ask if a 2-bedroom suite was available. I was then assigned room 318. I do not know if this is a different room than what was initially intended because Maggie did not say. She provided professional and friendly service. I also received the standard Platinum bonus points.

kitchen/living room view from door

This is a spacious guestroom with a kitchen and living area, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The guestroom is so large, that I do not know if I will be able to include all of the photos that I took in this review.

The kitchen area located by the entrance contained a full-size fridge, range, dishwasher, microwave, table with four chairs, cupboards and drawers stocked with dishes and utensils, coffee maker with supplies, microwave popcorn, and other miscellaneous items, such as salt and pepper, and paper towel.
living area, king bedroom

The living area straight ahead from the kitchen contained a sofa with throw pillows, a coffee table, an end table, lamps, and a flatscreen TV on an armoire. A nice gas fireplace was located in the corner.

The entire guestroom was tastefully decorated, although I was surprised to see a few stains on the sofa fabric.
king bedroom

king bed bath
The bedroom on the left contained a king size bed, a flatscreen TV on an armoire, and night stands with lamps, a lighted alarm clock, and telephone.

king bed bath

Both of the bathrooms in the guestroom were pretty similar. There is a door between the vanity and shower area in both bathrooms. The vanity in the king bathroom is across from a closet with mirrored doors.
queen bed bath

Both bathrooms contained a tub/shower combination with a shower curtain on a curved rod. A hairdryer was provided in both bathrooms, as well as bath amenities--lotion, soap, shampoo, and conditioner. I was again surprised to see a problem with stains. The hand towels in the bathroom next to the queen bedded room were stained. I set the towels on the counter after I saw this, because they looked kind of like someone had used them to wipe with, and then they had not been replaced. I have included photos of the stained items at the end of this review.

queen bed with desk
The queen bedroom also contained a flatscreen TV on an armoire, a night stand with lamp, lighted alarm clock, and telephone. Additionally, this room has a large closet in the bedroom area (instead of the slightly smaller one across from the king vanity), and a desk and chair. The desk chair had so many stains on it, that I sat on a towel to use the chair.

queen room looking from desk
Both of the beds looked comfortable, so now I had the dilemma of deciding where to sleep! Initially, I thought that if one was traveling with children, the adults would want the room with the larger closet and the desk; however, that room contained the queen bed rather than the king bed. Since I was traveling alone, I decided to use the queen room to work in, and sleep in the king bed. The bedding and bed was comfortable for the most part, although the mattress was a tad too hard for my taste.

queen bedroom
This would have been an excellent guestroom, if it had been located on the top floor. I had the unfortunate experience of a family staying overhead--with 3 children and a dog. I do not have anything against children or pets, and I have traveled with both myself. I do, however, have a problem with unruly guests.

The family above me, ran up and down the halls and the guestroom, and they jumped around in the guestroom. When it got so bad that the smoke detector cover fell off the wall in my guestroom, I called them. The situation did not improve much after my call, although the jumping vibration that caused the smoke alarm to come loose ceased. It is beyond me why a hotel would ever assign a top floor guestroom to someone with children and pets. It seems like bottom floor rooms should be reserved for pets.

Food & Beverage
Food items served the evening of my stay included: broccoli cheese soup, fresh spring mix salad, tacos with salsa and toppings, carrot cake, lemonade, and I do not recall the additional non-alcoholic beverages. This hotel did not serve wine or beer.

Breakfast the morning of my stay included: turkey canadian bacon, scrambled eggs, waffle maker, oatmeal, cold cereal, hard boiled eggs, whole bananas and apples, juices, coffee, tea, and milk.

Business center
Two computers and a printer were set up in the dining area. The printer was initially jammed when I tried to print something. After I solved the issue, many pages printed! I guess several people had tried to print without bringing the problem to someone's attention. I dropped off the documents that came out of the printer at the front desk.

Fitness center
The fitness center located near the front desk was adequate. It contained four cardio machines with cardio theater, a flatscreen TV with remote, hand weights, a drinking fountain, and towels.

Below are the photos of the stained items in the guestroom. The stains on the desk chair look kind of like debris. I tried to clean the chair off, and the marks did not change, so they were either stains or ground-in debris. The towel stains are difficult to see in the photos, although a slight discoloration/yellowing is visible. The stains that I observed stood out more than what is visible in the photos.

desk chair

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Windsor, New York - SWF airport / Homewood Suites by Hilton Newburgh-Stewart Airport

June 2013, Weekend & Weekday, 2 separate nights, King studio #431 & King bedroom #203

I stayed at this airport hotel when I arrived, and again the night before I left. 

Status perks and check-in
I did not arrive at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Newburgh-Stewart airport until after midnight for my first stay, on a Sunday evening. When I got to the guestroom that evening, two bottles of water and a package of Milano cookies were waiting for me. I have bonus points chosen as my extra perk amenity, so I was plesantly surprised to see this. It appeared that I had received this by mistake, because I did not receive this the second time that I checked in.

King studio #431
This guestroom is on the top floor at the end of the hall. It was spacious, clean, and comfortable. The kitchen area contained a full size fridge, stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, coffee maker with supplies, tea bags, a package of microwave popcorn, a table with two chairs, and cupboards filled with dishes and utensils.

The living room area contained a couch, soft coffee table/footstool, end table, and floor lamp.

A flatscreen TV on an armoire, and a desk and chair, were located between the living and bedroom area. There was an ethernet cable, telephone, and notepad with pen on the desk. 

A king size bed, nightstands, lamps, lighted alarm clock, second telephone, and notepad with pen, were in the sleeping area. The pens at this hotel were good quality.

There was a ceiling fan at the foot of the bed. The bed was super comfy with soft, high quality sheets. I was so impressed with the bedsheets, that I was going to check the thread count; however, I forgot to do this.

The bathroom vanity was located outside the shower area. A high quality hairdryer with a cool setting and diffuser was in a bag in one of the drawers. A mirrored closet was also located in this area.

I really liked the walk-in shower in the tiled bathroom area. The towels were good quality.

King bedroom #203
Room 203
This guestroom is located at the end of the hall on the second floor. I have labeled the photos in this section that are from this guestroom to avoid confusion.

Room 203
There is an elevator located around the corner from the entrance, outside the bedroom wall. I could not hear guests in that area, nor did I hear the elevator. I thought that was impressive, since this hotel was pretty full the second night of my stay. There is more than one elevator in this hotel, and the elevator by this guestroom is not the main elevator. This guestroom is in an excellent quiet area location, and the room is well soundproofed. The sleep quality was superb. The only thing I found mildly annoying, was that I could occasionally smell cigarette smoke--from the vent system, I assume. This was not consistent, and the smell was not real strong, so it was not too bothersome.
Room 203

Room 203
I ended up with a guestroom on this floor instead of the top floor, because I had arrived about an hour before check-in time, and there were not any king bedded rooms available on the top floor at that time. Also, I had somehow mistakenly made my reservation for a smoking room, rather than non-smoking. I think that a guestroom had not yet been set aside for me because my profile preference is for a non-smoking guestroom. Fortunately, the front desk agent had noticed this, and she asked me if I wanted a smoking guestroom when I checked in.

This bedroom suite contained most of the same furnishings at the king studio guestroom. There were a few minor difference, which I have listed below.

Room 203
  • This guestroom did not have a desk and chair, like the studio suite. An ethernet cord was on the kitchen table.
  • This guestroom has a separate bedroom with a door, which I suppose is why there was not room for the desk and chair. I think the area allocated to both guestrooms was the same.
  • There was a soft chair in the living room, and the studio suite only had a couch for seating in that area.
  • There was a second flatscreen TV on an armoire in the bedroom.
  • The shower in this guestroom was a tub/shower combination with a shower curtain on a curved rod, rather than a walk-in shower.
Room 203

Other than the items listed above, this guestroom had the same furnishings, including the same style bedcover, coffee table, and sofa. The room was comfortable and clean. 
Room 203

Before this stay, I tended to think that there would be less noise in a bedroom guestroom than a studio suite, since the bedroom area is separate. At this hotel, where I did not hear any noise from outside the guestroom, I would choose a studio suite next time. I preferred having the desk work area and the walk-in shower more than a separate bedroom. I have stayed in some hotels like this, that have a desk in the bedroom, when the bedroom is larger.

Food & Beverage
I was present for the evening reception on my weekday stay. I do not think there was an evening reception before I arrived on Sunday evening, although I did not check the calendar posted on the refrigerator to confirm this. In hindsight, I wished I had taken a picture of it, so that I would have known what was going to be served on the evening of my second stay.

I did not try many of the food items that evening since I had had a late lunch. The items I did try were good quality. Even the red wine was better than I often have at hotels like this. It was slightly sweeter than I prefer; however, it was still not too bad. White wine, beer, lemonade, and coffee were also available. I believe that soda pop was available too, although I am not 100% certain of this. Food items included fresh tossed salad, egg rolls, some kind of sesame asian chicken with rice, and brownies.

I was gone before breakfast after the second night that I stayed in this hotel, and I do not recall all of the food items the first morning. I do recall that I had oatmeal that morning.

Business center
Everything in the business center was in good working condition, and I did not have a trouble printing a couple of documents.

This hotel is less than one mile from the airport, and it only took the shuttle a couple of minutes to get there when I called after I arrived. The airport is not very big, so the shuttle just pulls up alongside the curb outside baggage claim with the other vehicles.

When I departed, the front desk agent told me I did not need to sign up for the shuttle when I asked the day before. She told me to just call down a few minutes before I needed to leave. I did that the next morning, and the front desk agent told me that the driver had gone to Wal-Mart, and would not be back for 10 or 15 minutes! I was initially somewhat worried, although everything worked out okay. The driver was back in 10 minutes, and I arrived at the airport in plenty of time.

There is a sidewalk along the road between the airport and the hotel, and there are no roads to cross, so I walked between the two buildings twice--the first morning to get my rental car, and the day before I left, after I had returned the car.

Overall and misc.
I can not say enough good things about this hotel. I would definitely stay here again. Everything in the hotel was good quality. Every employee I spoke with was professional and helpful. The service was even more impressive after I dined at nearby Cosimo's on Union, and did not receive good service. I have found that sometimes service experiences are relative to the area, rather than the type of business, and that was not the case this time.

The food at Cosimo's was good quality, and the flavor was excellent. I had the Seafood Fra Diavolo with whole wheat pasta, which I would definitely order again. The service was not something I complained to the manager about; however, by the end of my meal, it added up. I was not greeted for over five minutes after I was seated, it was longer than that before someone checked on me after I received my food, my water glass was not refilled until I caught someone's attention after it was empty, and I waited for my check at the end of the meal. The restaurant was mildly busy when I arrived near the end of the lunchtime rush, around 1:30 p.m. Staff members were not overwhelmed though. I observed over five different employees working in the area where I was seated, and most of the other patrons were finished and gone shortly after my arrival. More than one staff member had opportunity to acknowledge and/or check on me during my visit. This restaurant is located less than three miles from the hotel. There is a gas station next door, so it was convenient to eat here, and then fill the rental car before returning to the airport.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Savannah, Georgia--SAV airport / Hilton Garden Inn

May 2013, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #337

Status perks and check-in
I received the standard two bottles of water at check-in. 

Guestroom #337
This guestroom is located on the top floor near the end of the hall, although it is not the end/corner room. The guestroom diagram on the back of the door depicts the end rooms as larger suites. It is a basic Hilton Garden Inn guestroom with the usual furnishings: fridge, microwave, single serve coffee maker with supplies, king size bed, nightstands, lamps, end table, desk and chair, extended soft chair, flatscreen TV on an armoire, and a closet with an iron and ironing board. This guestroom also had a suitcase bench, which I do not see in Hilton Garden Inn guestrooms very often. A cute towel animal holding a small package of Famous Amos cookies was on the bed when I arrived.

There was a long vanity in the bathroom across from the closet by the door. The shower was a tub/shower combination with a shower curtain on a curved rod. The towels were good quality. The hairdryer was a basic wall-mounted unit.

The wireless Internet connection was good. There were plenty of outlets in the guestroom, and the room was well lit. The guestroom was clean and comfortable.

The bed was especially comfortable; however, the sleep quality was not good because the guestroom is not very soundproof. I could hear the guests next door, and I could hear the expressway traffic, which does not usually bother me. This guestroom is not even located on the side of the building facing the expressway; it has a decent view overlooking the pond area.

view from guestroom
After I had listened to the one-sided conversation of the woman next door for over two hours (there were other guests in the room, so I do not know if they spoke infrequently, or if she was on the telephone all this time; I did not hear them much), and it was after 10 p.m., I decided to call the guestroom. I politely let her know that the walls are thin, and that I could hear the conversation. She merely said okay, like she was aghast that I had called; however, she did stop after my call, and then I slept soundly.

The guestroom door must have been pretty soundproof, because I did not hear any noise from the hall; just from the guestroom next door and the traffic. This is a large hotel, which did not look very full during my stay. I was surprised that I had not been assigned a guestroom with no nearby guests, since I had requested a quiet area on my reservation, and the front desk agent referenced my comments during check-in.
Food & Beverage
I only had one dining item experience at the hotel - I ordered the potstickers to-go that evening, and they were excellent!

Business center
This hotel has a decent business center with two computers, a printer/copy machine, and a print-on-demand unit. It was stocked with several miscellaneous office supplies--paperclips, stapler, tape, post-it notes, whiteout, and envelopes.

Shuttle and misc.
One reason I chose this Hilton Garden Inn is because they have their own shuttle. I had also considered the Staybridge Suites across the side drive from this hotel; however, when I called that hotel, the agent told me that their shuttle serves four properties, and that it may take 20 minutes to get to the airport. Their shuttle also does not start until 5 a.m., whereas, the Hilton Garden Inn shuttle operates much longer hours. It took less than five minutes to get to the airport from the Hilton Garden Inn. I feel like the person I spoke with at the Staybridge Suites exaggerated the shuttle time, and I wish I had chosen that hotel instead. Since the walls at this hotel are so thin, I think the sleep quality at the Staybridge Suites, in a larger suite, would have been better. I went with the Hilton Garden Inn, since I had an early flight.

There are several newer hotels in this area in front of the airport where the Hilton Garden Inn is located. I observed a restaurant and bar just down the road from the hotel--Sam Sneed's Oak Grill & Tavern. It looked good, and I probably would have walked to it, if I had wanted a meal, or if I had not needed to get up so early.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Warner Robins, Georgia / Marriott Courtyard

May 2013, Weekday, 1-night, king guestroom #319
amenity and welcome letter

Status perks and check-in
In addition to the standard Platinum perks (points or an amenity from the gift shop), I received two bottles of water and chocolates with a welcome letter in the guestroom.

Guestroom 319
This guestroom is located across from the elevator on the 3rd floor. I did not hear any noise from the elevator or from guests in the hall, although I could hear the ice maker across the hall. This was not a noise that bothered me: I am only mentioning it for guests who might be bothered by this.

The guestroom was spacious and clean. The bathroom off the entrance hall contained a tub/shower combination with a shower curtain on a curved rod. The bath towels were good quality.

A small fridge was located in the hall outside of the bathroom. A single serve coffee maker with supplies was on the shelf above the fridge. The condiments included only powdered creamer, so I looked for liquid creamer in the lobby that evening. When I did, I learned that Marriott Courtyard no longer offers complimentary coffee for guests in the lobby. I was still able to get creamer; it was just not out for me to help myself.

There were two nightstands with lights and electrical outlets on either side of the king size bed. The bed was very comfortable, with good quality linens. Too late, I realized that I had not taken a good photo of the bed, so unfortunately, there is only a partial bed view in this review.

The sitting area contained a couch, end table, coffee table, lamp, flatscreen TV, desk and chair, storage drawers, and a hanging closet.

The couch and desk chair in the living/work area were both comfortable. I really like the large desk area in the remodeled Marriott Courtyard hotels. There is a lot of room to work. The lighting in the entire guestroom was excellent, and there were plenty of outlets. An iron, ironing board, and several hangers were in the freestanding hanging closet next to the desk.

The view from the guestroom was excellent! It overlooked the nicely landscaped courtyard seating area with a paved walk. I was disappointed that I did not have more time to relax outside.

view from guestroom
view from guestroom

Food and Beverage 
I decided to get something to eat and a glass of wine that evening since the agent had told me about Happy Hour when I checked in. Even with the Happy Hour discount, a glass of wine cost $7! I had an excellent glass of Merlot at Bonefish Grill this week during Happy Hour for only $3, so I thought $7 was outrageous.

I was very happy with the food. I thought the Chicken and Spinach Flatbread was a good value, and the flavor was excellent. I would definitely order this again.

The service was excellent when I arrived; however, after I had been there a while (I did not order my food right away), and other guests arrived, the service did not remain the same. I had to go up to the register to pay my tab at the end after I had waited almost 10 minutes after finishing my wine and food. The server/bartender was moderately busy when I was waiting after I had finished; however, he did have opportunity to check on me before I walked to the register.

Business center
I was very happy with the business center in this hotel. There were several computers, printers, and miscellaneous supplies, like a stapler, paperclips, and tape. I was able to print my boarding pass and another document without any trouble.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained several cardio machines with cardio theater. There was also a flatscreen TV, and unfortunately for me, another guest was watching that TV instead of the cardio theater on his machine. He had the volume so loud, that I could not hear the program on my cardio machine with my in-ear headphones in. The room also contained a water cooler, sani-wipes, and towels.

Overall and misc.
This hotel is located behind Logan's and Carrabba's, in the same parking lot. Carrabba's was closed and under construction during my stay. I do not know if it is reopening as Carrabba's or something else.

I was very happy at this hotel, and I would definitely choose it again. I have been impressed with the changes that Marriott has made in their Courtyard hotels. I have always preferred Hilton Garden Inn over a Marriott Courtyard because they had an edge with their deluxe business center, and the guestroom extras (fridge, microwave, liquid creamer). And, I always receive two bottles of water at Hilton Garden Inn, in addition to my bonus points. This Courtyard supplied bottled water, although that is not something I consistently receive at Courtyard.

My next stay after this one was at a Hilton Garden Inn, and I was more impressed with the Marriott Courtyard in Warner Robins. The next time I have a choice between a Courtyard and a Hilton Garden Inn, it won't be such an easy decision!