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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Amtrak Roundtrip from Grand Rapids (GRR), Michigan to Chicago (CHI)

December 2014, Friday - Saturday

We have ridden the Amtrak along this route several times. Two previous reviews can be found at the following links: January 2014 and January 2012.

Friday morning departure from Grand Rapids, Michigan on Pere Marquette #371

Our departure from Grand Rapids was uneventful other than the trouble we had getting to the train station. Fortunately, we had left for the train station early. I did not research the GRR train station before our trip since we have been to it several times. The station address was not printed on our boarding passes, and there was no information on the website during the reservation process that said that the train station had moved to 440 Century Avenue SW. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chicago, Illinois / Palmer House a Hilton Hotel

December 2014, Weekend, 1-night, King suite 13-250


We have stayed at the Palmer House several times, and this has been our favorite Chicago hotel. The building is beautiful, and I always felt like a valued Hilton Honors member in the past. Here are links to two of my previous stay reviews from January 2014 and January 2013. We stayed at McCormick Place in January 2012, and I neglected to write reviews for our other Palmer House stays. All our experiences before this stay have always been similar.  

Status perks and check-in

This is the first time I have stayed in this hotel with points instead of paying for a room, and it is the first time I did not receive an upgrade to the executive floor, other than when it was being remodeled January 2014.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Austin, Texas--AUS / Hilton Austin Airport

October 2014, Weekday, 1-night, King guestroom #340

Status perks and check-in
I stayed at the Hilton Austin Airport with a small group, and did not pay for my room; therefore, I could not receive all of the usual Gold perks. My Hilton Honors number had been added to the reservation because I called beforehand to ask about receiving my guestroom preferences (king bed, non-smoking, etc.). Because of this, the agent recognized my status at check-in and I received two bottles of water. I also received late checkout when I called to request this the next day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Muskegon, Michigan / Muskegon State Park Channel Campground

October 2014, Weekend, 2-nights, Lot 109


There was not anyone working at the entrance shack when we arrived Friday afternoon. We had made an advance reservation, so we confirmed our lot and name information on the board for arriving campers and then proceeded to our site. Park rangers drove through the park after our arrival to check on campers and sites. Someone had setup on lot 110 across from us, and they stopped to collect payment. The campers were not on the lot at the time, so they left a payment envelope. The rangers did not provide any information for the campers though, because they asked us what the cost is per night when they returned. 

Lot 109, second loop

view from tar pad
Lot 109 has a tar pad, 20/30/50 amp service, and it is listed as able to accommodate an RV up to 45'. The information for this site says, "low limbs overhanging site." We did not encounter any low limbs on the site, although it did take a bit of finesse to back the RV in, as the limbs on the road in front of the site are low hanging, and this lot is located on a curve in the road. Our 5th wheel is 30', and it is taller than some RVs. I am not sure I would want to maneuver a 45' RV into this site.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fort Myers, Florida - RSW / Homewood Suites by Hilton Fort Myers Airport/FGCU

November 2014, Weekend/Weekday, 1-night, King 1 Bedroom Suite #506

Status perks and check-in

The check-in agent was friendly and accommodating. We received an upgrade to a king bedroom suite, a welcome bag with a few candies, and Pepperidge Farms cookies and bottled water in the guestroom. I also received the 250 bonus points I have chosen on my profile.

Our key did not work when we got to the guestroom, so I returned to the front desk. Both staff members apologized and exchanged my keys. They said they had a bad batch of keys, and the bad ones must not have all been tossed out when they were replaced. The agent who had checked me in offered to return to the guestroom with me to make sure we did not have any further problems. I politely declined this offer since they seemed to know what the trouble was caused from and had given me new keys. The replacement keys worked fine when I returned to the suite. 

Guestroom #506 

This guestroom is located on the top floor with a view of the nature area/pond behind the hotel. It has a connecting room door in the living room, and a separate bedroom. There was a large window in each room, although neither window could be opened. There were two thermostat controls; one in the living area, and one in the bedroom.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Naples, Florida / Naples Grande, formerly Waldorf Astoria

November 2014, Weekend, 2-nights, King Signature Gulf View (I think)


Our initial contact when we arrived was great. We were immediately greeted and welcomed at our car. The young bellman smiled, retrieved our bags, used my name, and escorted us to the front desk. I do not recall his name for sure--it was Tyrone, or something similar.

The front desk agent provided an excellent greeting. He completed the check-in validation with our credit card and ID even though our room was not ready yet, so that all we would need to do is pick up our keys when it was ready. We inquired about a room with a city view on a high floor. He said he would put in a request for the city side, and that the room category we had reserved was for floors 14 - 18, so we would be on a high floor. He referenced floor 16, as though there was a guestroom on this floor that he would assign us as soon as it was ready. We checked our luggage and went to sit by the pool until our room was ready.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Naples, Florida / Staybridge Suites Naples - Gulf Coast

November 2014, Weekday, 2-nights, Queen Studio #221

Status perks and check-in
As a Platinum member I was given the choice of 500 bonus points or a snack at check-in, and I received a coupon for 15% off at the "chickee" bar. I did not receive a room upgrade. This hotel has four floors, and we were assigned guestroom 211. I always request a room on the top floor, so I inquired whether a room was available on a higher floor, or if the room I had been assigned was an upgraded room. I was told yes, and that it is a renovated room, so I said that would be fine.

When we arrived at guestroom 211 our keys did not work. I returned to the front desk, and I was told that 211 was the incorrect room number, and we had been assigned guestroom 221. A different employee assisted me this time. She corrected the room number on the key packet and returned our keys. I asked if this guestroom is the same as 211, and the agent said yes. 

Guestroom 221
This is a queen studio guestroom near the center of the hall facing the parking lot. It was not an upgrade from the type of room I had booked, and my husband was disappointed that it did not at least face the pool/courtyard area. The guestroom had been recently renovated.

The kitchen area in the guestroom contained a small dishwasher, full size fridge, microwave, 2-burner electric stovetop, and a coffeepot with supplies. The ice maker in the freezer worked very fast. Often, when we stay in an extended stay property like this, it takes a long time for the ice maker to start working. Dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquid was also provided. Although the detergent holder in the dishwasher did not latch properly, the dishes looked clean after washing. Dishes, saucepans, utensils and silverware were in the cupboards, although there was only one spoon provided. A package of microwave popcorn was provided.

A desk and chair were positioned between the kitchen and living room area. There was plenty of workspace at the desk, it was well lit, and there were several outlets. The desk chair was uncomfortable after only a short period of time. Additional counter space with a lamp was mounted on the wall across from the desk. The Internet connection speed was good in the guestroom and by the pool. 

The sitting area contained a sofa bed, footstool, floor lamp, and a large flatscreen TV on an armoire. The TV swiveled and it was easily visible from all areas of the guestroom. The sofa was comfortable. There were two large windows with screens in the guestroom, which could be opened a couple of inches.

The queen size bed was comfortable, and the bedding was good quality. A nightstand and lamp were located on both sides of the bed. A full length mirror was hanging on the wall between the bed and bathroom area.

The bathroom contained a walk in shower and toilet. Our toilet became plugged the first day, and we could not use it overnight until someone came and plunged it the next day. Later during our stay, we observed an employee in the hallway with a plunger on his way to another guestroom, so it appeared we were not the only guests who experienced plumbing problems. We had to hold the toilet handle down to flush the toilet, and I thought the toilet by the fitness center was also going to stop up when I used it during our stay.
The vanity in our guestroom was located outside of the bathing area across from a closet with mirrored doors. The closet contained hangers, a folding luggage rack, bedding, and an iron and ironing board. 

This guestroom is well soundproofed. I did not hear any guests overhead, and we did not hear any noise from outside. The entrance door was not as well soundproofed as the walls, although the hallway noise from guests was minimal.

We did not receive any coffee when our room was cleaned during stayover, so I went to the front desk to request some. The agent gave us a packet; however, I learned that coffee is only provided at check-in. That was a new experience for me. The only time we have stayed in a hotel that did not replenish the coffee during stayover was in different countries.

Food & Beverage
This hotel offers complimentary breakfast everyday, and an evening social on Tuesday - Thursday. Coffee and tea is available in the dining area all day.

Juice and milk was available in the morning, although there was no fat-free milk. Some of the breakfast food items were egg and cheese fold-over omelets one morning, and scrambled eggs the next. Pork sausage was served the first morning, and ham was served the second day. There were assorted breads, muffins, and bagels. I did not try any of the bread products because there did not appear to be any whole-grain choices. Bananas, oranges, cut fruit, yogurt, and a waffle maker were also available. I do not recall the cereal and/or oatmeal choices for sure.

In the evening, grilled burgers and hot dogs were served one night, and meatball subs the next evening. Lettuce with tomatoes and dressing were available both evenings, as well as condiments for the burgers/sandwich items. Plain potato chips were served both evenings. Beverage choices included wine and beer from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Bartender Mike was fabulous!

This is the only Staybridge Suites I have stayed in that has a bar. The chickee bar is located outside by the pool area, and typical bar beverages were available with a different special each day. Margaritas were on special for $4 one of the days we were there, so we tried one, and it was very good. The bar opens at 3:00 p.m.  

Pool and whirlpool tub
The outside pool and whirlpool tub are located by the chickee bar. We did not use the whirlpool tub in the evening because there were many people in the bar area both nights of our stay, and the tub is located close to the bar. We swam in the pool and used the whirlpool tub during the day, and we thought the water temperature was good. Most of the courtyard area was sunny until about 3:00 p.m., and then it became mostly shady. There were several loungers and tables with umbrellas around the pool, and between the bar and pool. The area was clean and well maintained. 

There is no charge for parking at this hotel, and Internet service is free. There is no charge to use the laundry facilities, which were located on the second floor. There is a Publix grocery store within walking distance, and a few restaurants nearby.

It is a one-mile walk to Clam Pass Park on the beach. There is no charge to enter the park, and there is no charge for parking with a beach parking sticker. I do not know the details of obtaining a beach parking sticker, although I am sure this information is available on the website. It is another one-mile walk to the beach from the park parking lot. It is a nice walk, and tram service is also provided by the Naples Grande hotel for no charge. Beach facilities include public restrooms, a food and beverage shack operated by the hotel, and beach rentals, such as chairs, towels, umbrellas, and beach equipment. We stayed at Naples Grande after this stay, and I will post pictures of the beach in that review.

GRR - Grand Rapids, Michigan / Crowne Plaza

November 2014, Weekday, 1-night, King Club Level Guestroom #410

Status perks and check-in
At check-in, I was recognized as a Platinum member and offered 500 bonus points or a goody bag. I chose the points; however, they did not post to my account with my hotel points after the stay. I filled out a missing points request online, and I then received my points within 24 hours. I had reserved a regular king guestroom, and I received an upgrade to the club level. 

Guestroom 410
This guestroom is in the north wing on the south side of the hall. I wish I had taken more photos of the guestroom. As many times as I have stayed in this hotel, I was surprised to see that I have not provided more information and photos from prior stays. I have often been busy with something else around the time of my stay, and did not take the time needed to share my entire experience. Links to some of my prior stays and photos are at the end of this review. Keep in mind that photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The king guestrooms on the club floor are not all the same. Some have sofas, and some have only one chair. Some have a very small bathroom, and some have the bathroom vanity located outside the bathing area. I have stayed in guestrooms with a suit valet stand and shoeshine polisher, which are also larger rooms. They all have a balcony.

This guestroom had a closet at the entrance across from the bathroom. The closet contained hangers, extra bedding, and a folding luggage rack. I am sure it also contained an iron and ironing board, although I did not use or look for this. There was not a bathrobe in the guestroom; however, I called to request one, which was delivered within 15 minutes.
mold in the corners

The bathroom was very small with minimal counter space or room to turn around. A single-serve coffee maker with supplies was on the bathroom vanity. The towels were good quality; however, there was mold in the shower.

The guestroom area contained a king size bed, two nightstands with lamps, a clock, a flatscreen TV on an armoire, a desk and chair, and a chair and footstool.

The alarm clock did not work correctly. The time was set at 12:00 when we arrived. We were able to reset the time; however, we could not get the alarm set. There were no available outlets by the bed, so we had to plug our phones (alarm clock!) in at the desk. I have experienced this in all of the guestrooms in this hotel. This could be resolved, if the hotel would swap out the bed lamps for the kind with outlets in the base.

The balcony was dirty and there were leaves and debris on the floor. These were not recent leaves, as our leaves had all fallen from the trees a few weeks prior to our stay. In fact, it snowed the day we departed.

The Internet connection speed was good. We could hear the neighbors TV quite clearly in the hall. Fortunately, it was not very loud in our room.

Food & Beverage
We visited Aryana lounge during Happy Hour, which is Monday - Friday from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. The last time we stayed in this hotel it was also a Tuesday, so the Happy Hour food items were similar. The Happy Hour menu for Tuesday says: Slow Roasted with special in house seasoning Baby back rip tips, In house made potato chips, Beer cheese n crackers, Wrapped Pickles. Actual food items were: cold ribs, wrapped onions, and Gardetto type mix. No chips, no beer cheese or crackers, and no wrapped pickles.

The service was attentive when we arrived just before 5:00; however, it was poor after this. This was not because our server was too busy to attend to us; she was visiting with other patrons. Our bill was incorrect at the end, and after waiting five minutes for her to return, I went to the bar and had the bartender correct it. We had been charged for one more beverage than we received, and our bill did not reflect Happy Hour prices. Our bill was almost $10 less after I had it corrected. I think the exact amount was just over $7 difference.

Business center
I used the business center to print our boarding passes. I needed to enter the password from our key packet to access the Internet. There were only three sheets of paper in the printer, and I needed four to print all our boarding passes. Since there was no paper in the room, I reinserted one of the pages in the printer for the last page. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to insert it so that the last page did not print on top of one of the other boarding passes.

Club lounge
Guests receive one complimentary beer or wine in the club lounge. The beer choices were Budweiser, Miller, and Stella Artois. I do not know the wine brands, although I thought the red wine was acceptable. The food served in the lounge included ribs, wrapped pickles, vegetables and dip, and cheesecake. The same food items were served in the club lounge and the lobby bar during our last stay, too (June 2014; I did not get a review of that stay posted here). This time, it appeared they did not have enough wrapped pickles for both lounges, and the club lounge got them. I thought the wrapped pickles were better tasting than the wrapped onions.

The attendant in the lounge was the same woman we have seen during most of our visits. She does not welcome guests, and she does not smile. During our last stay, a very pleasant personable woman assisted us, who I had never met before. During that visit, we learned she is the breakfast attendant and was filling in that evening. We always have an early flight when we stay at this hotel, so I have never visited the club lounge for breakfast.

Shuttle service
One of the reasons we choose this hotel when we have an early morning flight is because of the dependable airport shuttle. This visit, we were not as satisfied with the shuttle service. We had signed up for the 4:30 a.m. shuttle because our morning flight was departing just before 6:00 a.m., and the shuttle runs every half hour. Hotel staff called our guestroom after 11:00 p.m. when we were sound asleep! They had called to ask if we could go to the airport at 5:00 a.m. instead. I said no, and I also mentioned we had been sleeping. The agent then proceeded to inquire about our flight time to make sure we could not wait until 5:00. I again said no, as I told her our flight time, and I said that we needed to be there before 5:00 to check our luggage. She then asked if we could go earlier because they had two full shuttle busses of 17 people at 4:30. I said we could do that if we had to, and then I asked why she had chosen us to call and ask us to make the change. She said that the other guests were all airline people. I understand the importance of airline crew for flight departures; however, I think I am an important [repeat] guest, too. I did not say this to her.

A male employee then started talking to her in the background. A few seconds later, he took the receiver, explained the entire situation to me again (unnecessarily, as I had already grasped it), and he then told us they would call us a cab at 4:30, if we did not all fit on the shuttle bus. This call lasted much longer than needed, and it was unnecessary in the end!

The next morning, I inquired about the shuttle situation when we got to the lobby. The front desk agent said she had been the one who called me the night before, and that they had it worked out. She said, "It's a good thing you are not big people." She offered no apology for the unnecessary wake-up call the evening before. When we boarded the shuttle bus, I observed nine seats in our van, and one seat remained unfilled. If there were nine seats in each van, that means there were 18 available seats, so it did not make any sense to me why they would have called us when only 17 seats were filled.

When we returned from our trip and called for the shuttle pickup from the airport, we received similar service. The employee who answered the telephone said, "Who are you with?" I said, "What do you mean? We stayed there before we left. Is that what you mean?" She then explained that the shuttle driver was on his way back to the hotel with a flight crew, and he would be back to get us and another flight crew after that.

When the shuttle driver arrived, we approached the van with our luggage while the flight crew (from our flight) remained inside the airport. The shuttle driver said to us, "We're going to be here awhile, because we have to wait for the flight crew." He walked away before we had a chance to reply or tell him the flight crew was already waiting. We opened the door and got inside the van since it was cold and snowing out. A few seconds later, the flight crew noticed the van and walked out from inside the airport. The shuttle driver returned from inside the car rental/parking garage area where he had walked several seconds after this. The entire process did not take long; however, we felt like we were treated very rudely.

Misc. and overall
I have stayed in this hotel several times, and this is the last time I plan to stay here. There are several airport hotel choices, and there is not much about this property that makes it any better than the rest. I did not like the mold in the shower, and areas of the hotel were starting to look neglected, even though it has not been long since the hotel was remodeled. Since I am a Platinum IHG member, and a repeat guest at this hotel, it would be nice if I was treated like a valued guest. We did receive an upgrade to the club level, although the guestroom we received is one of the smaller club floor rooms.

Here are links to my other reviews in this blog, which account for less than half of my stays at this property in the last few years. January 2014 and August 2013, December 2011, May 2011, August 2010.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lake Leelanau, Michigan / Lake Leelanau RV Park

October 2014, Weekend-weekday, 3-nights, Lot 3
sunset - lake view from lot #3
Advance reservations
Although I know that October is not a busy camping month in Michigan, I decided to contact Lake Leelanau RV Park before our stay because we had never stayed at the park before. I was impressed with the service we received. The female I spoke with was friendly and knowledgeable. She provided a lot of information while she assisted me choosing a lot. There had been a lot of rain in the area, so all of the lakefront lots were either too wet or were already reserved for the weekend. Since it was so late in the season, she offered us a premium site for the price of a regular site. We decided to stay three nights! She also did not require a deposit over the telephone (I had called only a couple of days before our stay).

Lot #3
We chose lot 3 because it is a pull-through lot next to the tree line. We initially were not interested in sites 1 - 5, because we thought they were back-in sites, and that we would be facing away from the lake. We learned these are great lots, when we were told they are pull-through sites. There is a drive along the tree line for trucks to exit lots 1 - 5 after parking the RV.

We did not choose lot 2 because there was a 37' RV on lot 1, and we thought the view would be more obstructed from that lot. Even if there had been an RV on lot 2, I think lot 3 is a better choice. Lot 3 has a fire ring, whereas lots 2 and 4 have a moveable fire container. I suppose this depends what you like, although it seemed like there was more room between lots 2 and 3, than behind us, or between sites 1 and 2.

All of the lots in this area had a level concrete pad, and all of the lots have 50 amp power, and cable TV hookup. Our cable line was not long enough to take advantage of this amenity.

We liked the lake and tree view from our lot, and we thought the site layout in the park was well thought out. The lots are staggered to provide maximum views of the lake. There was quite a bit of standing water in some areas, although lot 3 was dry for the most part.

We had brought quite a bit of wood with us, since it was cool at night. The campground sells wood, and we found out after we arrived that wood is free this time of year.
sunrise view from inside

There is one bathhouse located in the center of the park. Each room is a toilet and shower combination. We did not use the showers during our stay. Below is a picture of the stream behind the restrooms that runs out to the lake.

There is a large lodge/activity room connected to the office/check-in area where coffee is available in the morning. There is a recreation area behind this building, with things like horseshoes and a volleyball area, although we did not check it out. About half of the lots in the park are seasonal.

We stayed at the park to attend the Hunt for Red October wine event in the Leelanau peninsula. This was a great location for the event, and we plan to attend next year, too!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cadillac, Michigan / William Mitchell State Park

September 2014, Weekend, 2-nights, Lot 102

Sunset over Lake Mitchell
This was our first stay in this campground. We initially thought a waterfront channel lot would be nicer; however, there were not any channel lots available the weekend of our stay except for the ones by the main road (M-115). After we arrived at the park, we decided that the area where we stayed is nicer than the channel. 

Campground map
Before our arrival, I had reserved lot 43 online. My husband thought the camper position on the lot behind it, lot 102, would be better, so we talked with the park ranger about switching lots. Fortunately, lot 102 was still available, and he switched us for no charge.

Lot 102 and lot observations

Lot 102 is fabulous for a couple of reasons. It has an unobstructed view of Lake Cadillac, and there is no road around the end of the lot, so vehicles cannot drive by between the lot and the lake. The lot also extends out toward the trail and lake more than it looks like on the site map. 

View from lot 102

The campground site map on the Michigan DNR reservation site shows the campground lots in two different segments. I took a screen shot of both segments, pieced them together, and added a few labels to assist travelers when making a lot selection. Click on the image above to enlarge it. 

Labeled lot info

The channel lots are all rectangular back-in type lots in a row, so the channel view from the camper/RV is out the back window. And, the camper entrances and fire pits are all on the M-115 side, rather than the lake side. There is a view from the fire pit between each camper to the channel, although that is about it.

Lot 41 also looked like a great lot with an unobstructed view of the lake. For some reason, the people staying on lot 41 parked so their camper entrance faced away from the lake and their fire pit. They faced lot 39, and then used the fire pit on that lot instead of their own. The campground was not busy during our stay, and there was no one camping on the lot next to them, although this seemed like a waste of the great view.

Here are a few photos with labeled information and the view of Lake Cadillac. There is a trail next to lot 102, and there is a fishing pier/dock on the lake pretty much straight out from the lot.


The sun sets over Lake Mitchell, and it is a short walk along the channel and under M-115 to Lake Mitchell from the campground. There is a sunset photo at the start of this blog post.

Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center and Cadillac Heritage Nature Study Area

It is a short walk from the campground to the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center. We did not go inside the center, although we hiked the trails behind the center, and through the nature study area. 

I highly recommend the trail walk. It is a fairly easy and picturesque trek. We wore walking shoes, although we passed a family who walked part of the trail in flip-flops.


I was initially concerned that we might hear a lot of traffic noise from M-115. We prefer not to camp in a town atmosphere; however, this did not turn out to be a problem. We could not hear the traffic from our lot, and we had a wilderness view.

The bathhouse in the center of the campground had been recently updated and was in good condition. The roads inside the campground are paved, although most of the lots are dirt/grass combination. We observed a few lots near the newer bathhouse with paved drives.

The next time we visit this park, we plan to bring our bikes, so we can ride into town via North Blvd.

We enjoyed our stay in this park, and plan to visit again. Happy trails!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Logansport, Indiana / Holiday Inn Express & Suites

September 2014, Weekend-Weekday, 2- nights, King executive suite #218

Status perks and check-in
I called the Holiday Inn Express the morning of my arrival because I was not going to be arriving until late. I inquired about an upgrade at that time, and was told that I would probably receive one. During check-in I was given the choice of 500 bonus points or a snack item. I also received an upgraded guestroom.

This suite is located on the second floor next to the elevator. The front desk agent had told me that the suite on the top floor was not available. 

The bathroom was located just inside the entrance on the right. It was spacious and contained a long vanity and mirror, along with a tub/shower combination.

Hangers, a folding luggage rack, and extra bedding had been placed in a doorless closet in the entryway. A full length mirror was hung on the wall across from the closet.

The kitchen area contained a sink, microwave, small fridge, coffeepot with supplies, plastic ice bucket, and a small table with two chairs. A few disposable plates and some silverware were in the cupboards, as well.

The kitchen extended into the living room where there was a sofa, two end tables with lamps, a coffee table, a fireplace, and a flat screen TV.

The sofa was very comfortable, although there was no comfortable place to work on my laptop. The chairs at the table were uncomfortable, and there was not room on the table for anything except my laptop. The Internet connection speed was good.

The fireplace either did not work, or else I did not know how to operate it. I turned the wall knob on, which looked similar to the controls I have used for other hotel fireplaces, and the fireplace did not light. I did not call anyone to request assistance, so I did not learn the cause of the problem.

The area was open between the living and bedroom area, and the bedroom was spacious. The sleeping area contained a king size bed, two nightstands with lamps, and a large whirlpool tub. The bed was comfortable, although the bedsheets were low quality and scratchy. The elevator noise the first night of my stay was minimal, although I could hear noise from guests near the elevator the second night of my stay.

During stayover, my room was not thoroughly cleaned. Housekeeping did not clean the kitchen area, so the coffeepot had not been emptied, and supplies were not replenished. I had left a thank you note and tip on this counter, which had also been untouched. It appeared that the person who cleaned my room completely missed the kitchen area.  

Fitness center
The front desk agent had told me the fitness center is open 24 hours; however, that is not what the sign said on the door. I assume the sign on the door had not yet been changed at the time of my stay. The cardio machines did not have cardio theater, and they did not face the TV in the room. I had to look to the right, if I wanted to see the TV. I wondered why the machines had not been placed on an angle facing the TV in the corner, rather than facing straight toward the mirrored wall. The photo on the hotel website makes it look like the machines are angled, although they were not positioned that way during my stay. It was very warm in the room.

Food & Beverage
I thought the included breakfast was low quality. I do not remember all of the details, although I do remember that milk was in a gallon in the cooler, rather than individual containers, and the bananas were black.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fort Wayne, Indiana / Hilton Garden Inn

June 2014, Weekday, 2-nights, King guestroom 335

This has been a busy, busy time for me! I started this review a few weeks after my stay, and I am finishing it even later than that, so it is not as detailed as most of the reviews I provide. I do have some pictures to share, and I will provide detail about items I took notes about during my stay.

Status perks and check-in
I received an email from this hotel before I arrived welcoming me. This was not an automatic email sent via the central hotel system; it came directly from the Hilton Garden Inn Fort Wayne. I remember that I replied because my flight was arriving after 9:00 p.m., and I also recapped my room preferences at that time.

When I arrived, I received the standard two bottles of water for Gold members and my room type preferences. I did not receive a room upgrade, and I did not ask about one.

Guestroom 335
This guestroom is located at the end of the hall on the top floor.  It was similar to all of the Hilton Garden Inns I have stayed in. It was comfortable and clean with the same type of furnishings.

The bathroom was stocked with Neutrogena amenities, and the towels were good quality. There was a tub/shower combination with a shower curtain on a curved rod. A hairdryer was provided, although I do not recall the quality. I think it was the same kind of lower quality unit mounted on the wall that was in the Buffalo airport Hilton Garden Inn

A closet was located by the entrance door across from the bathroom, and the beverage center was next to the closet. The beverage center contained an ice bucket, K-cup machine, microwave, and fridge. The coffee supplies include liquid creamer.

The work and sitting area included a large desk, chair, soft chair with footstool, and an end table. The area was well lit. The Internet connection speed in the guestroom was horrifically slow.

I was disappointed that housekeeping did not clean my guestroom during stayover before 4:00 p.m. I had a meeting call at 4:00, so I got coffee and needed supplies from a housekeeper in the hall when I returned to the guestroom just before 4:00.

Fitness center
The sign by the fitness center said that it opened at 5:00 a.m.; however, the welcome note I received at check-in said that it is open 24 hours. I had a similar thing happen in a hotel I stayed in last week. I like the fitness center being open 24 hours, although I wish hotels would be better about updating the signs, too. More than 50% of the time, I do not receive a letter or verbal information of what the hours are.

This hotel is located in the same parking lot as the Homewood Suites. Although I like Hilton Garden Inn, I would have preferred to stay at the Homewood Suites. Unfortunately, the rate at the Homewood Suites was considerably more than at the Hilton Garden Inn. Both properties look well maintained.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Grand Rapids, Michigan / Courtyard Marriott Grand Rapids Downtown

July 2014, Weekday, One-night, King corner guestroom #542

Status perks and check-in
We stayed at this hotel with a free night promotional certificate I had earned. I called the hotel prior to our stay to ask if parking was included and to request a room upgrade, if available. We have stayed in this hotel a few times over the years, and one time we received a suite guestroom with a separate bedroom. That stay was impressive--I had not inquired about an upgrade, and my status was only Silver then. That guestroom had an amazing view over the river.

When we arrived for this stay, we had been assigned a standard guestroom on the top floor. After I inquired about an upgrade, we were assigned an end king guestroom on the 5th floor. I do not know if this guestroom is considered a Jr. Suite or something different. The photos on the hotel website for the king guestrooms look like photos of the room we stayed in. The king guestrooms we have stayed in before were much smaller than this one.

This guestroom is located at the end of the hall behind a set of double doors in the hall, which could be closed. Our guestroom, and one room across the hall, were located behind the closed doors. The hallways doors did not have a keyed access. The guestroom across the hall was on the river side of the hotel. This guestroom has a view of the side street, Campau Ave.

The guestroom was spacious and comfortable. A closet was located by the entrance, and the bathroom was straight ahead from the entrance door.

The bathroom contained a long vanity, and a shower/tub combination. Paul Mitchell bathing amenities and good quality towels were provided. A hairdryer was provided in a bag, although I do not recall for sure if it was hanging on the bathroom door or if it was in the closet. I think it was in the closet on the shelf.

A small coffeepot with supplies was also located in the bathroom. Since the living area had so much space, I thought it would have been nicer to have the coffee in that area.

The open living and sleeping area contained a couple of different seating and working spaces. Two comfortable soft chairs, a lamp, and an end table were located near the entrance.

A sofa with built-in end tables was positioned against the bathroom wall facing the bed. Two more chairs, and a coffee table were also located in this area.

A long work desk with a chair was positioned facing the wall near the window across from the foot of the bed. A flatscreen TV on an armoire, and a microwave and small fridge were located between the desk and sofa area.
The king size bed was comfortable, as were all of the furnishings in the guestroom. Other than the coffee set up in the bathroom, I thought the guestroom was functional, comfortable, and tastefully decorated. This guestroom is in a good location away from guest noise.

Parking at the hotel was $16 a day, although we could have parked for free if we were dishonest. The front desk agent had given me a parking token to exit the lot when we checked in. I had been told that my free night certificate did not cover parking when I called beforehand, although the agent did not mention this during check-in. She apparently she did not make note of the fact that she had provided a parking token on our reservation.

We had not received a bill under the door when we were ready to checkout, so I called the front desk to ask if I was all set. The agent again asked if we had parked in the lot (same clerk who had checked us in the day before), and I said yes. She asked if I had a parking token, and I said yes. She then asked if I wanted to leave the $16 on my credit card.

Although this hotel was not the JW Marriott (our favorite hotel in downtown Grand Rapids), this was still a great stay. The hotel is connected to the VanAndel Arena via the Skywalk, which was our reason for this stay. We attended a concert at the arena, as did several other guests we observed in the hotel that evening. Security personnel were keeping an eye on guests and traffic in the hotel elevator that evening.

This hotel has an inside pool and whirlpool tub on the Skywalk level, which is shared with condominium guests. We did not use the facilities during this stay.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Binghamton, New York / DoubleTree by Hilton

May 2014, Weekday (Tuesday), One-night, King guestroom #1027

Status perks and check-in
This DoubleTree does not have an executive floor or lounge. I received the standard two bottles of water and a DoubleTree cookie at check-in. The agent did not recap my room type preferences or tell me anything, so I asked what kind of room I was receiving. She said a king room on the top floor. That is my preference, and this was also an upgrade, although she did not tell me this. I had reserved the least expensive guestroom type, and the guestrooms on the top two floors at this hotel are considered "deluxe" guestrooms with a view, and the rate is slightly higher. A corner room, like I received when I stayed at the South Bend, Indiana DoubleTree would have been even nicer! The Hilton Honors floor at this hotel is not on the top floor, so I was not on the HHonors floor. The agent did not tell me this; I realized it when I got on the elevator and saw the HHonors sign.

Guestroom 1027
beverage center in background
This guestroom is located at the end of the hall, although it is not a corner guestroom with windows on two walls, like the guestroom at  the other end of the hall, because it is next to the stairwell. The guestroom was comfortable, and well soundproofed.

The bathroom near the entrance was well-appointed and chic looking. It looked freshly remodeled. Bath amenities were provided on the vanity, and the towels were plush. A hairdryer was also provided, although I do not recall the quality. The bathtub was a tub/shower combination with a massaging shower head, and a shower curtain on a curved rod.

The closet in the entry across from the bathroom contained a safe, iron, ironing board, hangers, and extra bedding.

The beverage center was against the wall in the bedroom area. A double/individual coffee brewer with supplies was available, as well as an ice bucket and glasses. I think there was a small fridge in the cupboard underneath the counter, although I cannot recall for sure, since I did not complete this review right away.

The guestroom also contained a suitcase bench, king size bed, nightstands, desk and chair, flatscreen TV on an armoire, soft chair and footstool, and a floor lamp.

Reading lamps were attached to the bed headboard, and a lighted alarm clock was on one of the nightstands. There were two telephones in the guestroom; one on the desk, and one on one of the nightstands.

All of the furnishings in the guestroom were comfortable.

Food & Beverage
I received a card at check-in for bonus points for dining at the hotel restaurant, so I ordered dinner to-go. When I went to the lounge to place my order, I learned that the hotel was having some type of guest reception. Complimentary bar type snacks were set up (cheese and crackers, and one hot item), and guests were allowed one complimentary beverage. Some guests even had a coupon for their beverage. I did not hear about this when I checked in, and I did not have a coupon. When the personable bartender greeted me, she immediately told me I could have one complimentary beverage, so I enjoyed a glass of wine while I waited for my food. I had forgotten my coupon for the bonus points, and she let me bring it back later for the points.

Fitness center
The fitness center in this hotel is a large, full service, public facility. Even though there were many patrons using the fitness center who were not guests of the hotel, I did not have any trouble finding an open treadmill either time that I visited.

Business center
The business center consisted of a couple of computers and a printer in the lobby near the front desk. I was able to print my boarding pass without any trouble.

guestroom diagram