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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Goshen, Indiana / Holiday Inn Express

September 2013, Weekend-weekday, 2-nights, King guestroom #309

Status perks and check-in
When I arrived at this Holiday Inn Express around 8 p.m., I observed a printed sign on the counter that said, "Be right back. Assisting a guest." I was surprised by this sign since there were less than five cars in the parking lot. After I had been waiting a couple of minutes, another guest arrived to check-in. She asked how long I had been waiting, and then I decided to call the hotel telephone number. When I did, an employee answered the call, and then walked right out to the counter from the back. When we asked if we should have called sooner, she said that she had just gotten back.

After this, the check-in process went smoothly, and the front desk agent provided professional and warm service. My key packet was prepared, she welcomed me, and she recognized my status. She said that I had received a guestroom upgrade, and I also received two bottles of water, and my choice of one snack for being a Platinum member. She happily assisted me with getting a carton of milk from the breakfast room after I requested one.

Guestroom 309
I am not sure which classification this guestroom falls under. I had reserved a basic king guestroom, and this guestroom is the second smallest guestroom according to the diagram on the back of the guestroom door. The guestroom descriptions include: king leisure, king suite, king feature, executive suite, and family suite, priced in that order. Even though the online description for king feature does not mention the kitchen area, I assume that those guestrooms also have a kitchen area, because the rate is higher than a king suite rate. Going by the guestroom rates and sizes, I would guess that this guestroom is classified as a king suite. That would make it one step up from what I had reserved.

The guestroom is located away from the elevator near the end of the hallway. It is on the front side of the building facing the road.

The bathroom near the entrance contained a long vanity with Bath & Body Works amenities, a wall mounted hairdryer, and a tub/shower combination with a shower curtain on a curved rod. The towels were good quality, and the water was softened water.
An open closet and full length mirror were located in the entry area outside of the bathroom. The closet contained a few hangers, extra bedding, an iron, and an ironing board.

The kitchen area around the corner had a tile floor, and the following items were included: small fridge, sink, microwave, small coffeepot with supplies, and ice bucket. The cupboards contained disposable plates, silverware, napkins, and cups.

The living area contained a sofa, coffee table, end table, and desk with chair. A lamp, and an ethernet connection with a cord were on the desk.

The bedroom area contained a flatscreen TV with swivel stand on an armoire, a suitcase bench, large wall mirror, king size bed, and nightstands with lighted alarm clock and lamps. There was a screen in the large window, which opened a few inches. The mattress on the bed was comfortable, although the bedsheets and pillows were not good quality. The sheets were kind of scratchy, and the pillows were not comfortable.

It was somewhat noisy in this guestroom. There is a large gap around the door; however, there were not many guests in the hotel the first night of my stay, so that was not a problem. I did, however, hear a lot of traffic and trains all night long. Even though the guestroom window could be opened, I left it closed because of the noise. The second night, there was less train noise, and more guest noise.

Food & Beverage

Standard Holiday Inn Express breakfast items were served both mornings: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage gravy and biscuits, pancake maker, whites breads and bagels, hard boiled eggs, Yoplait yogurt, two kinds of milk, cold cereal in dispensers, instant oatmeal, fresh bananas, coffee, tea, and juices. I have not seen the fold-over omelets at any of the Holiday Inn Express hotels that I have stayed in recently, and I am beginning to wonder if they still serve them.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained the following: three cardio machines, hand weights, flatscreen TV with remote, water cooler, scale, towels, and sani-wipes. The first morning that I went to the fitness center, another guest was using one of the treadmills, with an extension cord across the floor. She said that the outlets on the wall in front of the machines were not working, and that an employee had brought in the cord. She said that she was almost done, so I waited. The second morning, the extension cord was gone, and none of the machines worked when I tried them. After I went to the front desk, we discovered that the wall outlets were just fine; however, the machines had not been turned on.

Overall and misc.
There is not much around this hotel in terms of dining or anything else. There is a small park across the street, and that is about it. A Hampton Inn and a Marriott Courtyard are located next to each other, a couple of miles down the road. Both of those hotels looked like older properties online, which is why I chose the Holiday Inn Express. Although I did not go inside either of those hotels, they looked nicer when I saw them from the outside, than the pictures had looked on the website. There is a Wal-Mart, and a couple of restaurants, near the Hampton Inn and the Courtyard.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dickinson, North Dakota / Hampton Inn & Suites

August 2013, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #324

Status perks and check-in
Before my stay, I had a difficult time deciding whether to stay at this Hampton Inn or the Holiday Inn Express across the street. I had stayed at this hotel a few months ago, and it was "okay." There were a few problems with the guestroom that stay, and the front desk agent seemed genuinely concerned when I brought the problems to her attention. Given that, and the fact that the Holiday Inn Express has a water slide pool area, I chose the Hampton Inn. I think there is more chance for guest noise at a hotel with a pool area like the Holiday Inn Express has.

I did not receive a room upgrade, which is fine, although I had hoped to get a guestroom on the top floor. The front desk agent assured me that she had chosen a room in a quiet area for me.

This guestroom is located about half way down the hall on the third floor. Unfortunately, the room diagram photo I took is very poor quality, so it is difficult to see exactly where it is located. The green dot is guestroom 324, and the black circles are where the elevator is located. I did not hear much noise from the hall, although I did hear the guest overhead.

The guestroom size and comfort was adequate. The spacious bathroom near the entrance included a tub/shower combination, and a decent size vanity. The shower walls were tile, and a shower curtain was hanging on a curved rod. A hairdryer was provided, along with the standard Hampton Inn bathroom amenities. 

A single-serve coffeemaker and supplies were located on shelves across from the vanity. The bathroom door was badly gouged. This did not impact my stay any, although it is surprising to see this kind of damage in a newer property.

A closet with a mirrored door was located in the entryway outside of the bathroom. It contained hangers, a blanket, extra pillow, iron, and ironing board.

The living and sleeping area contained the following: a flatscreen TV on an armoire, desk and chair, king size bed, nightstands with lighted alarm clock and telephone, sofa, soft coffee table, and lamps.

The lighting in the guestroom was good, and there were plenty of electrical outlets.

A few weeks have gone by since my stay and the time I am writing this review, and I do not recall the whether the guestroom had the following: folding luggage rack (I recall putting my suitcase on the soft topped coffee table in front of the couch), fridge, microwave, or desk telephone.

Food & Beverage
I had an early flight before the breakfast area was open, so I do not have any information from this stay. You can find information about what was served during my last stay in that review.

A new Japanese restaurant had opened across the street since my last stay - Sakura. I really like the Sakura restaurant in Minot, so I placed an order to-go that evening, and walked over to get it. The employees were friendly, and the service was excellent, especially compared to my service experiences at the Minot location. The food was also delicious. This is a photo of the Rainbow Roll.

It was a quick and easy drive to the airport, even though it was dark the morning I departed. There are not any hotels close to the Dickinson airport, and none of the hotels offer shuttle service. There are a couple of hotels on the south side of the I-94, although this would only shave a few seconds off the time it takes to get to the airport. I think that the restaurant choices are better on the north side of the interstate.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Minot, North Dakota / Hampton Inn & Suites

August 2013, Weekday, 2-night, King guestroom #323

Status perks and check-in
My check-in experience was better the last time I stayed at this Hampton Inn & Suites. This time, the front desk agent did not recognize my status, and I did not receive the guestroom preferences in my profile (top floor, away from elevator). When I learned the guestrom I had been assigned was not on the top floor, I asked if one was available, and the agent said no. I then asked if my room was a studio suite, and she said yes.

During check-in, the front desk agent said my guestroom number out loud when there were other guests present at the counter and in the lobby. The other employee working at the front desk did the same thing when she gave the guest next to me his room key--he was in guestroom 205! Sure enough, when we got on the elevator, he pushed floor 2, and I pushed floor 3.

This guestroom is not a suite. It is a basic room located less than half way down the hall from the elevator. It is located on the front side of the building facing the road, and I could hear the traffic from the guestroom.

The tile bathroom near the entrance was roomy with a nice walk-in shower.

A single-serve coffee maker with most of the needed supplies was located on the vanity. The cellophane wrapped condiments were open, and the stir sticks were missing.

Standard Hampton Inn bath amenities were also on the vanity and a hairdryer was provided. The towels were good quality.

A closet with a mirrored door was located outside the bathroom. It contained an iron and ironing board.

The bedroom area contained a soft chair, lamp, small fridge, microwave, flatscreen TV on an armoire, desk and chair, king size bed, suitcase bench, nightstands with lamps, and lighted alarm clock. I was surprised to see a telephone on the desk and next to the bed. I have stayed in many Hampton Inns recently that have only one telephone next to the bed.

The bed was comfortable, and the sheets were silky soft. I did not recall the sheets being such good quality the last time I stayed at this hotel. Even so, I did not sleep well. I could easily hear the guest overhead thumping around, and guests in the hall let their doors slam until 1 a.m. I was surprised to hear so much noise from the hall because the guestroom door was heavy, and there were no visible gaps around the door.

Food & Beverage/Fitness center
I had to leave before breakfast in the morning, and I did not have time to use the fitness center. Both of these items are covered in my first review of this hotel. You can find the details here.

Shuttle service and misc.
I chose this hotel because it is very close to the airport. In fact, I was able to walk back to the hotel after returning my rental car. It was less than a mile walk, and there was a sidewalk most of the way. A small portion of the exit road from the airport did not have a sidewalk; however, since there was no traffic, this was not a problem. Shuttle service was prompt the next morning.

Before my two stays at this hotel, the only other hotels I found near the airport were a couple of unknown hotel brands. Right before I departed, I discovered that a new Hyatt House had opened near the airport, and that they provide shuttle service. Although I have never stayed in a Hyatt House, my experience at other Hyatt hotels has always been great. If I need to return to this area, I would probably choose the Hyatt House next time. I did not like the manner in which the front desk agent provided check-in service, and I did not like the hallway noise in the evening.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bismarck, North Dakota / Staybridge Suites

August 2013, Weekday, 2 separate stays for 2 nights each: 
1-bedroom king suite #428 and queen studio #425

Status perks and check-in
The manager checked me in the first time I stayed at the Staybridge Suites in Bismarck, ND. She provided an upgrade to a one-bedroom suite at the time of check-in. 

The second time I stayed here, I thought I was receiving the same room; however, I did not. My arrival time was going to be in the evening, so I called a few hours before then to inquire about my room type. I had hoped I would be able to get the same guestroom, or at least a room on the top floor in the corner or near the end of the hall (I had also written these requests in my reservation). On the telephone, the agent said that he could not give me an upgrade because the hotel was full. He did say that he could move me to the top floor though (it sounded like a room on the 3rd floor had been assigned to me before I called). When I arrived, the front desk agent wrote #428--the number of the one-bedroom suite I had received last time I stayed at this hotel--on the paper that he had me sign. He also verbalized the suite number. I expressed my pleasure and surprise, since he had told me on the telephone, that he would not be able to give me an upgrade. He did not respond to my comments.

When I arrived at suite 428, my key did not work. After a couple of tries, I looked inside my key packet, and saw that 425 was written in it. I then tried guestroom 425, and my key worked. I called the front desk to ask which room I was supposed to receive. The agent said that he did not know why he had written, and said, "428" during the check-in process, and that 425 was my correct room. He said something that alluded to the fact that he now understood my comments a few minutes earlier. It appeared that he had not been listening when I checked in, because I clearly said that I was happy to see that I was receiving guestroom 428. I said that I had really liked that guestroom last time, and I also mentioned the fact that he had said that he could not give me an upgrade.

I received a bottle of water the second time that I checked in. I am not sure if this was a consolation, or what. The agent had offered me cookies, and after I politely declined, he asked if I wanted a bottle of water, which I readily accepted.

One-bedroom king suite #428
This is the guestroom I stayed in during my first stay, so I will provide the details of the one-bedroom suite first.

The kitchen area contained a full-size fridge, stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, sink, coffeemaker with supplies, cupboards with dishes, utensils, and silverware, and a packet of microwave popcorn. 

The bar area between the kitchen and living area included two bar stools. A desk and chair were against the wall across from the bar. The lighting, electrical outlets, and work/eating space in both areas was comfortable, adequate, and spacious. There was an ethernet outlet and a telephone on the work desk.

The living area contained a sofa with pillows, coffee table, lamps, and a flatscreen TV on a cabinet. The sofa was comfortable, and there were easy to access outlets in this room as well.

The bedroom had a door that could be closed. A full length mirror was on the wall behind the door. The bedroom contained a flatscreen TV on an armoire, soft lounge chair, king-size bed, nightstands with lamps, a lighted alarm clock, and telephone. The bed and chair were both comfortable. The bedding and pillows were good quality. I did not hear any outside noise from the bedroom area.

The bathroom was located off the bedroom. The vanity and a closet were outside the bathroom area. The closet contained hangers, a laundry basket, and an iron and board.
The hairdryer on the wall over the vanity was decent quality, although the mounting screws were loose, and I thought it might  fall off the wall. I liked the spacious walk-in shower in the bathing area. Good quality towels were provided.

Queen studio suite #425
I took the guestroom diagram photo when I was staying in guestroom 428; however, guestroom 425 is also visible showing its location near the elevator.

Even though this guestroom is located close to the elevator, I did not hear much noise from guests in the hallway. I was, however, disturbed by housekeeping when I first arrived. It was around 6 p.m., so I was surprised that they were still cleaning guestrooms. I did not see anyone outside my guestroom when I entered; however, I heard them shortly after I arrived. Housekeepers must have been working with the doors propped open, because for about half an hour, I listened to the loud banging of guestroom doors, as they slammed against the steel door locks, while the housekeepers went in and out of rooms. The noise was quite disruptive as I tried to work and talk on the telephone. Fortunately, this did not last long.

My second stay at this hotel was not nearly as impressive as the first one. This is not because I did not receive a room upgrade; there were several neglected areas in this guestroom.

The queen studio suite had similar furnishings in the kitchen area: a sink, full-size fridge, stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, coffeemaker, and microwave popcorn; however, this guestroom did not have a bar or table eating area.

only decaf coffee
kitchen floor; click on photo
to enlarge it to see debris
There was no regular coffee in the guestroom when I arrived, and there were only two forks in the silverware drawer. I noticed the missing coffee right away, so I went and got a packet from housekeeping in the hallway.

There was quite a bit of debris on the floor in the kitchen area that had not been cleaned. The next day, I noticed that the evening social menu was missing from the fridge. I had taken a photo of the menu when I stayed at this hotel the first time, so I was able to look that up to see what was being served that evening.

desk chair

A similar style desk and chair were located across from the kitchen area at the end of the couch. The work area was adequate, comfortable, and well-lit. The chair needed to be cleaned before I could use it.

The living room area contained the same style comfortable sofa, with a coffee table, and lamps. A flatscreen TV located between the living and sleeping areas could be turned for viewing from either area. I forgot to take a photo of the desk and living area, although I did take one of the sunset from the window in that room.

The bed in this guestroom was pretty much the same, except that it was a queen bed instead of a king bed. The bedding and pillows were the same quality and comfort. I was glad that the bedding was clean!

The bathroom area was the same except that this guestroom has a tub/shower combination instead of a walk-in shower. The vanity area  and closet contained the same items: same type hairdryer, laundry basket, iron, and ironing board.

I observed more debris on the bathroom floor, and some type of liquid stain on the floor by the closet.

closet/vanity room floor

If there had not been so many areas in the guestroom that had not been cleaned, I am sure I would have been just as comfortable in this guestroom as I had been in suite 428.

Food & Beverage
I did not remember the hours of the evening social, and I could not find this information in the guestroom during my second stay. It was not listed in the guestroom directory, and the menu photo I had taken did not include the hours. I called the front desk, and I was told that it is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both of my stays at this hotel were Monday through Wednesday, and the evening social is only offered Tuesday through Thursday, so I attended two evening socials.

I thought the food offerings in the morning and evening were decent. Along with scrambled eggs at breakfast, all of the fixins were provided for breakfast burritos: soft shells, cheese, tomato, etc. One other hot item was served in addition to scrambled eggs each morning--bacon, sausage, potatoes, or fried egg patties/rounds. A waffle maker, cold cereal, breads, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, fruit, and beverages were provided as well.

The salad toppings both evenings were deluxe! They were fresh and plentiful. I love fresh salad, so I was quite happy with the salad offerings. The topping choices were too numerous to name, so I have included two photos from one of the evenings. There were two chilled sections of salad ingredients both evenings.

There were more food items served that what is listed on the menu. There were also snacks/chips and breads. The wine brand served was Stone Cellars, which I thought was acceptable for one or two glasses. I did not pay attention to the beer or soda brands.

Fitness center
The fitness center contained three cardio machines with cardio theater. I did not have a problem finding an available machine most times, although one morning all three were in use when I arrived. The room also contained a flastcreen TV, hand weights, a weight machine, scale, water cooler, and towels.

Misc. and overall
This is a newer property with a lot of nice features. It is in a good location close to shopping and dining.  One thing that I thought was odd about the setup, is that the outside sitting area faces the road, and the front entrance of the hotel is around the backside of the building facing the shopping center. Maybe this is so the evening sunset can be partially viewed from the patio area.

I hope that my second experience with the housekeeping neglect in the guestroom is not a reflection of how this property will look a year from now.