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Monday, March 21, 2016

Lansing, Michigan / Hyatt Place Lansing Eastwood Towne Center

March 2016, Weekend, 1-night, King guestroom 402

view from guestroom 402 - Walmart on the left

Arrival and status perks

I redeemed points for a room with one king bed. My profile preference is for a high-floor guestroom; however, I was not sure if my points stay would cover a high floor room, as the cost was $5 more. My status was Platinum at the time of this stay. The information on the Hyatt Place Eastwood Towne Center website does not show the guestroom square footage, and I could not figure out why the guestrooms on higher floors would cost more (it's not like there was a view of anything other than the shopping center). The only difference in the photos on the website were the bathrooms; the king bathroom photo showed a walk-in shower, and the high floor king bathroom photo was of a tub/shower combination. I usually think a walk-in tile shower with a glass door is nicer, so I did not understand why a walk-in shower guestroom would cost less. Also, the guestrooms with two queen beds were $10 less than king rooms. Again, this logic confused me, as two beds often means more guests for breakfast and more guests to clean up after.

Check-in time is 3:00 p.m, which is about the time we arrived. We waited a couple of minutes behind two other guests, as there was only one agent working at the front desk when we arrived. Another employee arrived at the front desk about the time it was our turn. The hotel was very busy, so when we checked in, I told the agent we would prefer a room on the top floor in a quiet area, like a corner. We did not receive a guestroom on one of the top floors, although she did assign us a great corner room. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Silver Line - Riding the Rapid in Grand Rapids, Michigan

March 2016, Weekday afternoon - evening

the sun setting downtown Grand Rapids
We wanted to visit a few of the breweries in downtown Grand Rapids without having to drive or look for a parking spot, so we rode The Rapid Silver Line downtown.

Buying tickets

We purchased our tickets from a kiosk at the bus stop on Division near 60th Street. Tickets can be purchased with cash or a credit card. The process was fairly easy with a few minor inconveniences. The sun was very bright the afternoon of our trip, and there was no shade cover over the screen, which made it difficult to read. The touch screen did not respond as expected; we had to touch most of the buttons more than once. A receipt was not printed, even though I chose the selection to receive a receipt. And, we had to purchase each ticket individually. I do not understand why more systems are not set up to allow travelers to purchase more than one ticket at a time. When we rode the Light Rail from the Seattle airport to downtown, we were able to purchase two tickets at once, and the process was super easy. It is possible to purchase more than one ticket at the kiosks in Chicago, also.

We each purchased an all-day pass for $3.50 because the cost for a one-way ticket was $1.75.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hollywood, Florida/Holiday Inn-Ft. Lauderdale airport

February 2016,  Sunday, 1-night, 2 Queen beds Jr. suite 427

view of the pool from our table outside the restaurant

Arrival and status perks

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Ft. Lauderdale Airport in the morning, as we had just returned from a cruise, and did not have anywhere else to go after getting off the ship. I did not expect our room to be ready at 8:30 a.m., although I did expect better service than we received.

The agent at the front desk provided mediocre service when we arrived. He did not acknowledge my status, he did not say anything about what type of room I was waiting for, and he did not tell me when to expect the room to be ready. He said he would let me know when our room was ready. He did not request my telephone number. I knew my cell phone number was listed in my IHG profile, so I assumed he would call when our room was ready. This was not a problem for us in the beginning. We checked our luggage, and then went to the pool area. A few hours later (around 11:00 a.m.), I returned to the front desk, after I observed other guests checking in. The same employee merely told me it would be sometime after noon when I asked how long he thought it would be. A few hours after this, my husband went to the front desk. He happened to get the other employee working at the front desk, who then called someone after he checked the computer. This second employee then called us just before 2:00 p.m. to say that our room was ready. He, also, did not recognize my status, or provide any hotel or guestroom information when he provided the keys.

When I checked out the next morning, I told the front desk agent that no one had asked me which on-property Platinum perk I wanted when we checked in. I casually mentioned that it had been kind of busy the day before. He apologized, and said that is no excuse. He said he would take care of this, and the 500 bonus points posted to my account within 24 hours. I would probably have a different perception of this hotel, if this employee had been working the day we checked in.

I redeemed a free night certificate for a guestroom with two queen beds on the executive level for this stay. We did not receive a guestroom on the executive level, and I am not sure what room type we actually received, or if it was an upgrade--since no one told me anything! Read on for further information about the guestroom.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Carnival Splendor Ports of Call - Eastern Caribbean

February 2016

Following is information about our ports of call while aboard the Carnival Splendor. This was a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami. We stopped at four ports: Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas, USVI; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos.

In addition to this blog post, you can find more photos and information in the Facebook ports of call album for the Carnival Splendor.

approaching Amber Cove - photo taken from the 
secret balcony (as my husband calls it) at the front of the ship

Amber Cove, Dominican Republic 

Amber Cove -
view from our balcony cabin 7434
Amber Cove is a new port that just opened October 2015. This was our first port of call scheduled for 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. My husband and I went on a safari type tour when we were in Puerto Plata a few years ago, which was fabulous. I have not been on the Carnival Outback excursion, although I imagine it is similar. I highly recommend this type of excursion, if this is your first visit to the area. The vehicle we rode in on our tour was similar to the one in the Carnival photos, and the description of the day sounds similar, as well. Most of the reviews posted on the Carnival website for this excursion have five stars.

view of Amber Cove from deck 12
We arrived before 8:00 a.m., and I do not know exactly what time guests started disembarking. We were walking on the jogging track on deck 12, and did not hear any announcements about disembarking. One of the first photos I took with guests walking up the pier was at 8:02 a.m. Some of the guests were already to the building at the start of the pier, so we must have been cleared before 8:00 a.m. It is a bit of a walk along the pier, and locals on bicycles pulled a rickshaw for passengers who did not want to walk.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Carnival Splendor Cruise ~ 7 day Eastern Caribbean Cruise from Miami, Florida

February 2016

1st sunset at sea
This was the second time we have sailed on the Carnival Splendor. The first time was November 2009 out of Long Beach, California before I started this blog. We had stateroom 6447 in 2009 and 7434 this cruise. I could not fit all of the photos I have of the Splendor and cabins in this blog post. Please visit the Splendor Facebook album for more photos and information.


We booked a dinner reservation at Pinnacle Steakhouse for the first evening of our cruise, and received a confirmation email before the cruise. When we did this on the Carnival Sunshine, we never received an email confirmation, and I was not able to check on the reservation until after we boarded. It would be nice if this information would show under Carnival booking information, like shore excursions.

Arrival and check-in ~ Port of Miami

The last time we departed from Miami on the Carnival Breeze, our departure experience had been superb, so we decided to arrive at the port around the same time, 11:30 a.m. Things started out well; we quickly passed through security and got our key cards. Even though we had tied our son's account to ours, his room key was not with ours. Our travel agent had specifically called Carnival about this a few days before our cruise, and she told us we would be all set to board together. It only took the representative a few moments to get him his card, and then we sat down in the VIP waiting room to wait.

There was one restroom in the waiting room, which I did not recall from our last cruise out of Miami. Beverages and danishes were available. It was over an hour later when VIP boarding started. The seats in the VIP room were full before this, and several guests were standing along the wall. When the Carnival reps came to lead us to the entrance, we had to walk from the VIP room across the general waiting area to enter through the boarding gate on the opposite side of the room. It was not easy for guests to follow the person in front of him or her because the area was crowded, and guests in the outside waiting area cut in between boarding guests. I kept as close to the guest in front of me as I could without stepping on his heels, and people still cut in front of me! Apparently, I do not look very gruff. We then had to follow the non-boarding guests who were pulling their luggage (there was no room to go around them) until they veered off, and then we had to relocate our line in the distance.
photo taken of guests in cruise port after we went up escalator to board
Boarding had been smoother on our last cruise out of Miami, because we started boarding before noon, and we had boarded through the entrance by the VIP lounge. All-in-all, I do not have any serious complaints, and we were on board shortly after 1:00 p.m. The only guests that boarded before VIP guests were guests attending a wedding on board.

cabin 7434 balcony
balcony cabin 7434

Balcony cabin 7434, category 8B