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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Miami, Florida - MIA / Residence Inn Miami Airport

February 2016, Weekend, 2-nights, King/queen 2-bedroom suite #3620


This was our second time staying in the Residence Inn Miami airport, and our third time staying at the Miami airport Marriott hotel complex. Previous reviews can found at the following links: Residence Inn February 2013, and Marriott February 2011.

view of kitchen in suite from living room

Arrival experience and shuttle ride

We had taken the Tri-rail from the Ft. Lauderdale airport, and we had hoped the hotel shuttle bus would pick us up at Miami Central Station. I called the Residence Inn before we arrived to ask if we could be picked up at the station, and the agent said we needed to go to the airport to get the shuttle bus. To get to the airport from the station, we needed to take the MIA mover, and then wait there for the hotel shuttle. The Residence Inn is less than 1½ miles from the train station, which would have been walkable for us without our luggage. The shuttle bus runs regularly between the airport and the hotel complex. All of the Miami airport hotel shuttles pick up passengers and drop them off at the departure level. There is not a designated pick up area in the airport. Passengers walk out to the curb to watch for the hotel shuttle bus needed, and then flag it down. We have been through this process many times at MIA, and it is always chaotic. Fortunately, we have never missed our bus! Not that we know of, anyway. We have waited more than 15 minutes sometimes, so it is possible we missed a shuttle before and did not know it.

When the shuttle bus arrives at the hotel complex, the bus stops at the Marriott first. I suggest disembarking then, if you do not have much luggage. We initially stayed on the bus when it arrived; however, after the driver had disappeared with no comment for over five minutes, we grabbed our luggage and got off. We walked to the Residence Inn behind the Marriott, and had just finished our initial check-in encounter when the shuttle bus arrived with the remaining guests.

I had considered staying at Element Miami Airport because it is less than ½ mile from the train station, and they had said they would pick us up at the station. The Element is a new hotel; however, the Residence Inn has better dining and pool options, we were going to be staying two nights, and we had received a room upgrade before our arrival.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Miami and Ft. Lauderdale Public Transportation Options

February 2016

This blog post contains information about several transportation options in southern Florida. We started our day with a beautiful sunrise, and view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan as we departed Laguardia airport.
view from plane

view from plane







Fort Lauderdale airport (FLL) shuttle pickup for Dania Beach Tri-rail airport station

Since it can cost anywhere from $50 to over $100 for car service between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, we decided to take the Tri-rail from FLL to MIA for $3.75 each. The station is not accessible from the airport, so we needed to take a shuttle bus to the Dania Beach Station. The shuttle sign was straight ahead when we came down the escalator to baggage claim in terminal 2.

sign in terminal 2

Grand Rapids, Michigan - GRR / Crowne Plaza Grand Rapids - airport

February 2016, Weekday, 1-night, Club floor guestroom #436 - 2 beds


I have stayed in this Crowne Plaza almost a dozen times, and following are links to reviews of some previous stays: January 2014, December 2011, May 2011, and August 2010. This hotel is located by my home airport, and they have an airport shuttle every 20 minutes.

fruit infused water available in the lobby

Arrival and status perks

My status has always been Platinum when I stayed in this hotel, as I quite traveling for work before the new IHG level, Spire Elite, had been added. When I did not reserve a club floor guestroom, I always received an upgrade to the club floor, although the lounge was not always open. I received an upgrade to a suite in December 2011, when I specifically requested it. For this stay, I redeemed points for a club floor guestroom with two beds, because our son was traveling with us. I was not able to reserve a suite with points, so I requested a suite upgrade, as there is not much room for three people in the regular guestrooms.

Check-in time is 4:00 p.m., and we arrived about 3:45 p.m. The agent did not mention the upgrade request in my reservation, and I decided not to ask about it. Although I did not receive a room upgrade, I did receive the 600 Platinum member bonus points.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Muskegon, Michigan / The Shoreline Inn & Conference Center, an Ascend Collection hotel

January 2016, Weekend, 1 night, King club floor guestroom #908 and Whirlpool guestroom #812

Sunrise from bed in guestroom 812
Prior to this stay, we had visited a couple of other businesses located on the hotel grounds: Terrace Point Marina, and Lake House Waterfront Grille. This was our first stay in the Shoreline Inn. I was not familiar with Ascend Collection hotels before this, so I looked up Ascend Collection hotels before our stay, and found this description: Meet the Ascend Hotel Collection®, a network of historic, boutique and unique hotels that offer guests an authentic, local experience. Member hotels share a passion for delivering attentive service to guests seeking a more experiential, individualized travel experience that gives them a sense of local flavor.

Reservation/arrival experience

Since I am a light packer, I called the hotel before our stay to ask if bathrobes are provided in the guestrooms. The person I spoke with said that only the club guestrooms have bathrobes. He said we could request them if all the club rooms were not booked. He looked up our reservation, and then added this request to our reservation.

Check-in time is 4:00 p.m., and we arrived at the hotel between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. We received a complementary upgrade to a club floor room, and then we paid a bit extra to upgrade to a room with a whirlpool tub and fireplace. Staff members were willing to work with us regarding our room choice; however, since we were not familiar with this hotel or the room offerings, it was difficult to know which type of room to request or reserve before this stay. Hopefully, the information I am providing here will help future travelers in making a guestroom selection. For us, I think we would have been happiest with a club floor corner guestroom overlooking the lake (providing it has a chair, like the one shown in the photo on the hotel website). That was not what we ended up with, and it was not what we requested, as I did not have as much information about the guestrooms as I do now. Comparing the guestroom photos on the hotel website to the three guestrooms we saw, we must have viewed three of the worst guestrooms in this hotel. Most of the website photos show roomy guestrooms with comments like "spacious guestroom."