Thursday, June 21, 2018

Stay Report: DoubleTree Hotel Orlando Airport (Florida - January 2015)

Stay Report: DoubleTree Hotel Orlando Airport
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I had a long overnight in Orlando Airport so instead of spending the night in the airport I decided to get a nearby hotel. There are a lot of options to choose from ranging from hotels directly connected to the airport and those off the airport.  I choose the Doubletree because 1) the cookies (which are really good!) and 2) I found a deal online. Overall, it is a nice transit hotel with comfortable rooms and good service.



The Doubletree Orlando Airport is located off the airport in the ‘hotel zone’ where there are many hotels and restaurants situated.  The hotel does provide a shuttle from the airport to the hotel and it supposedly runs every 15-30 minutes, but our shuttle took a while and it took 2 calls for the shuttle.  The hotel is located about 5-10 minutes away from the airport.

From the outside, the hotel looks big and grandiose.  The hotel is shaped like a V with the check-in located at the point and then you have two sides of rooms overlooking an enclosed atrium that houses the lobby, the restaurant, and access to the pool and fitness center.  The odd thing about the hotel is the entrance because entrance is located in the back while the back is located in the front.  The back of the hotel, where the atrium, is faces the main street while to access the main entrance you have to turn off the main street.
 
When you enter the hotel, on the right hand side is the check-in counters.  When we arrived at night, there were two check-in counters but there were many guests and many airline crews that needed to be checked in so it took some time.  Across from the check-in is a small lobby along with the business center – two computers and a printer.  I had checked into my room online so all I had to was collect the keys. 

Beyond the check-in was the atrium area on which all the rooms looked down upon.  In the atrium were a restaurant, multiple sitting areas, and access to the fitness center and pool.  The pool was outside and looked small considering there was a lot of outside space.  The fitness center looked decent and had enough equipment for a decent workout.  The sitting area definitely needed to be updated because the furniture looked dated and was not comfortable at all (and also, there were a lack of outlets available).

After I checked in I took the elevator up to my room and my room was on the 9th floor – the 9th and 10th floor of the hotel had been termed ‘Hilton HHonors floor’.  I have been a HHonors member for a while but have never stayed in a designated floor and the only difference I can determine (from my research and experience) is that it’s a “typically a higher floor with other more established travelers and complimentary water.”  The complimentary water and the quieter room is always appreciated. 

I had requested a room with 2 double beds and when we went to the room it was a large, spacious room.  As you opened the door, on left was the bathroom and on the right was the closet.  The bathroom had the standard facilities of a sink, a toilet, and a tub and was very big and spacious.  As you walked further in, on the left were the two beds while on the right was a chest with the TV on it and a desk.  There was also a chair between the second bed and the window. The beds were very comfortable and very big and spacious so it was a comfortable night’s sleep.  The rooms had been updated with the latest Hilton offering. The plus points about being in an older-built hotel are the spacious room sizes.  The downsides are that sometimes they have not been updated or only the furnishings have been updated so it still looks like an older room, and in older rooms there are a lack of outlets.  This room had a serious lack of outlets that made it very difficult to charge anything near where you were sleeping.  In order to charge my phone near my bed, I had to unplug a lamp on the other side of the bed.
 
Another negative about the hotel is SLOW wifi speed.  We were offered a coupon for free wifi in the room, but the speed was so slow and it would take a long time just to load one page.  It was faster to either use the cellular data or just forget the wifi all together.  Overall, it was a nice comfortable stay for my transit period, especially given the deal that I got and the cookies that are provided.  Also, the location of the hotel is good as there are plenty of restaurants, pharmacies, and other things nearby within walking distance.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Stay Report: Hilton Garden Inn Tallahassee (Florida - January 2016)

Stay Report: Hilton Garden Inn Tallahassee
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I was passing through Florida and were looking for a place to stay for the night in Tallahassee.  The Hilton Garden Inn usually provides a nice and clean place so I decided to check it out.  Overall, the hotel looks and smells brand new and provides a nice and comfortable room to rest and relax.



The hotel is located in an office park and the entrance is a bit odd as there is no real driveway to the hotel.  The hotel can be accessed from two roads – through the first access you have to go past banks and the parking lot of the hotel and the back road sort of merge.  From the other road, the access is a bit more direct to the hotel but you access the side of the hotel and need to drive around to the front; it’s a bit odd.  

In terms of the hotel itself, it looks newly built.  As you enter the lobby, straight ahead are the check-in desks.  On the right hand side is a nice and large sitting area with plenty of couches and chairs.  On the other side is the kitchen and dining area where breakfast and dinner can be purchased.  This is also where free coffee, water, and cookies were provided (a nice touch!).   Right next to the check-in desk was the hallway that led to the elevators.  This hallway also led to the business center, the fitness center, as well as the outdoor pool.  Check-in was very efficient, and my participation in the rewards program was acknowledged (also a nice touch!).  I received the key and took the elevator to my room. 

The room was a standard Hilton Garden Inn room, and it was both comfortable and relaxing.  As you entered, on the left was the bathroom while on the right was the closet and storage area.  Next to the closet was a shelf with the coffee maker, a fridge on the bottom, as well as a microwave on top.  The bathroom was nice and had standard facilities of a tub, a sink, and a toilet.  Further into the room were the two double beds with a night stand in the middle.  The beds were very tall, spacious, and very comfortable.  The lamps next to the bed also had multiple outlets so that was very convenient.  Across from the beds was the TV with storage underneath, and next to that was the desk.  

Since we were only there for one night, I was not able to experience the hotel amenities such as the business center, the pool, or the fitness center.  I did experience the wifi, which was decent enough for emails and general internet browsing.  Overall, the hotel provided a nice, clean room and comfortable beds which provided a good night’s sleep.  Customer service at the hotel was also very good and this added the extra comfort to the experience.  The only negative of the hotel was the location, which was a bit odd and a bit hard to access.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stay Report: Lola House Hotel Boutique (Buenos Aires, Argentina - December 2010)

Stay Report: Lola House Hotel Boutique
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photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
I was planning to spend a lot of time in Buenos Aires – a total of 10 days split between two trips – so I was looking for a place that would be economical and could also accommodate this schedule.  The hotels seemed very expensive so I decided to look for a local bed and breakfast – and after the experience I am so glad I decided to stay local.


In choosing what bed and breakfast, I looked for online reviews but I also looked for which property would communicate with me and offer assistance in terms of booking needs.   I found all of this and much more at the Lola House Hotel Bou.  This 8-room bed and breakfast is located in the Boedo neighborhood and is run by 2 sisters.  In terms of location, the hotel is accessible via taxi and is located about 3-5 minute walk from the Boedo Metro.  
photo courtesy of TripAdvisor


Upon entering the hotel, you enter in the mini lobby area where you check-in.  The staff are extremely nice and accommodating.  As you walk to the courtyard where the rooms are, you pass a library (with books past guests have left) as well as the dining area where the free breakfast is served.  The breakfast consisted of eggs, cheese, coffee, and various pastries- you could also request different items and the sisters were very accommodating.   Across from the kitchen were stairs which led to the second floor that housed the computer and printer (to print out boarding passes).  The courtyard is an open courtyard with the walkway on one side and all the rooms on the other side.  There are 4 rooms on the first floor and then 4 rooms on the second.  The place is nicely laid out so you are able to access privacy but can still be open – depending on your mood.

I had reserved a room with 2 beds, so our room was situated as such: The door opened on the far
photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
left hand side.  As you opened the door, it led to the two beds which were situated on the right hand side. Each bed came with a night stand.  The beds were comfortable, not hotel quality, but comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep.  The hotel provided all linens and blankets, and these were washed and changed daily.  On the left hand side of the room, next to the door, was the entrance to the bathroom.   The bathroom was a decent size with a stand-up shower, a sink, a toilet, and a bidet.  It was a spacious bathroom, not grand but not tight neither.  The room also had a TV – with decent enough channels – as well as an armoire to house your personal belongings.   We stayed in this room for 7 days, and it was a nice and comfortable room – like staying at a friend’s house.  Since we were on the first floor, we had access to the free wifi which was powerful enough for email and google searches

After the initial 7 days, we left Buenos Aires for another city but were going to return so we left some of our luggage at the hotel – and they were very nice and accommodating in this aspect as well.  When we returned, we were given a room on the 2nd floor, which was nice to experience a new room and a new view.  The room was laid out in a similar fashion, with the only difference that the wifi signal was not as strong in the room.  To access the free wifi, we would sit outside our room, facing the courtyard – but this was also nice as it created a different community.  On the rooftop, there was also a nice courtyard to sit and relax.  In addition to the complimentary wifi and complimentary breakfast, the hotel also offers access to a computer (for check-in and printing out boarding passes) and laundry facility.

Overall, it was a really nice and pleasant stay at Lola House Hotel Boutique.  The hotel provided a nice and comfortable room with free wifi and free breakfast.  The service, however, is what makes the hotel really nice and welcoming.  Both the sisters who run the hotel and the staff were very nice, accommodating to various requests, and delivered excellent customer service.  It was an extremely pleasant, welcoming, and warm stay.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Stay Report: Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport (Miami - December 2015)

Stay Report: Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport
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I was looking for a hotel near Miami Airport, and since I was leaving my car there, I was looking for a hotel that had secure parking as well as a shuttle.  Apparently the majority of hotels near the Miami airport charge for parking, which is strange as other airport-hotels I have been to do not have this rule.  Because I was parking there, I had chosen the ‘park’n’fly’ option which provides parking for a certain number of days within the rates (usually 7-10 days).  I have chosen this option before at various hotels and usually the day I check-in is when the days start counting, and I am not charged for additional parking.  That was not the case at the Courtyard, where the days start counting upon check-out and you are charged for parking for the days you are at the hotel.  It was an odd set-up.  That was the only odd or negative thing about the hotel, as the hotel provided a grand facility with lots of amenities, comfortable rooms, and good service.

The hotel is located on the ‘Miami Marriott Airport Campus’ which includes a Marriott, Courtyard, and Residence Inn hotels (there is also a Fairfield Inn but it’s next to the campus and has its own entrance).  As they are all part of one campus, the hotels share the parking lot as well as the shuttle.  The Courtyard and Marriott are connected through an outdoor walkway, so they share a pool and fitness center (Residence Inn has its own pool).   The Courtyard is located towards the back of the property. 
 
As you enter the lobby, the check-in desks are to the left while the restaurant and huge lounge area are to the right.  The lounge area also houses the business center.  Right behind the check-in desk is a small pantry where basic food and other items are available for sale.  Next to the check-in desk is a hallway which leads to rooms on the 1st floor as well as the fitness center.   The elevators to the guest rooms are located next to this hallway, and next to the elevators is the door to the outside pool and lounge area.  Check-in was efficient and pleasant, despite the huge rush, and we were given our key to the room.

The room was an updated Courtyard room and it was very nice and provided lots of room.  As you entered, on the left hand side was the bathroom.  The bathroom was updated and had nice standard facilities of a sink, bathtub, and toilet.  In between the sink and the toilet was a half-wall, and I have seen this in other Courtyards and it’s an interesting design element.  Right next to the bathroom was a nook with a coffee station on top and fridge on the bottom.  Beyond the nook were the two double beds, which were large and comfortable and provided a good night’s sleep.  Across from the beds was a connected wall attachment that housed the closet, the TV stand, drawers on the bottom and the desk.  Beneath the desk was another desk that could be pulled out and moved, and there was enough room to pull out this desk and put it in the corner as an additional desk/storage space.  Overall, the room was spacious and provided a comfortable night’s sleep.

The hotel provided nice rooms and good customer service in a complex that provided various amenities.  There were multiple restaurants to choose from and the fitness facility was huge.  Overall, a pleasant stay at the Courtyard.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Stay Report: Hilton Zurich Airport (Zurich, May 2015)

Stay Report: Hilton Zurich Airport
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I was arriving late into Zurich and had an early morning flight the next day, so instead of travelling into the city I decided to stay near the airport. There are many hotel options connected to or near the airport; I choose to stay at the Hilton.  Overall, it is a good transit hotel that is comfortable and has lots of amenities.



The hotel itself is located approximately 15-20 minutes away from the airport.  The hotel does provide a free shuttle to and from the airport, and the shuttle runs every 30 minutes.  The hotel is located on a hill, so you drive up to the top of the hill to the lobby, which is the 4th floor of the hotel, and then you take the elevator down to the rooms, floors 1-3.  The layout of the hotel is a bit odd.  As you enter into the hotel, the check-in desks are in front of you with a small shop to your left and the restaurant/bar to your right.  Check-in was efficient and we quickly received our keys and went towards the elevator to access our room.  The odd layout of the hotel continues, as to get from the lobby to the elevator you have to pass by the kitchen and prep room for the meeting rooms, where there is a lot of traffic at night.  Additionally, the hallways are very long so it is a bit of a walk to the elevators and then from the elevator to the room.

The room itself are big and comfortable.  I was traveling with 2 other adults, so we had a requested a room with 2 twin beds plus a rollaway bed; the request was approved for a cost.  Even with the three beds, the room did not feel cramped.  As you entered into the room, on the right hand side was a closet with an ironing board and safe, and on the left hand side was the bathroom with a nice full sink and an open shower plus a toilet.  Further into the room, on the left hand side were the two twin beds which were comfortable and provided a good sleep.  There were night stands next to each bed with individual reading lights and power outlets.  In between the beds and the window was enough space and this is where the rollaway bed was placed.  The rollaway bed was also comfortable and provided a decent sleep (not as nice as the beds, but decent enough).  Across from the beds was a TV stand with drawers underneath and a desk next to it.  All around the room were power outlets which were greatly appreciated.

The hotel is a full service Hilton so there are many amenities available including free wifi (for hilton hhonors members), a really nice and large fitness center that also includes a sauna, a business center, and many meeting rooms. There is a restaurant and room service available.  As I was only there on transit, I did not have time to experience all the amenities except for the wifi, which was a decent speed.

Overall it was a pleasant stay at the Hilton Zurich Airport.  It’s a nice transit hotel with spacious rooms and lots of amenities.  The service at the hotel is also good, in fact a nice touch is that the hotel provided complimentary coffee and croissants in the morning for those passengers who had early morning flights.  If you are trying to see the city, this may not be the hotel for you; however, if you are transiting in Zurich, then this is a good place to stay.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Stay Report: Le Méridien N'Fis (Marrakech - December 2011)

Stay Report: Le Meridien N'Fis
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In my continuing travels around Morocco, I was planning to visit Marrakech and was looking for a hotel that was walking distance to the main Square, but not necessarily next to the Square.  Since I was traveling with a group, I was looking for something modern and nice, but also had the Moroccan feel so I choose the Le Meridien N’Fis Marrakech.  The hotel is very grand and nice on the o utside, and has beautiful gardens and landscape on the inside that provides a nice and tranquil atmosphere.  The same grandeur and niceness cannot be said about the rooms, which were not updated nor were very comfortable.

Both the exterior of the hotel as well as the entrance to the hotel are very grand and elegant; it provides a good first impression of the hotel.  The first room you encounter when you enter into the hotel is the lounge/relaxing area of the hotel.  Further ahead, to the left, is the check-in counter.  There was a hallway next to the entrance to the hotel, and this led to the hotel restaurant and meeting rooms.  On the other side of the check-in desk was the entrance to the courtyard.  I checked-in, received the keys for the 2 rooms I had booked, and proceeded to my rooms.  The rooms surrounded the courtyard and in the middle of the courtyard were gardens and a pool.  Next to the pool was the spa and fitness area. 

I had booked two rooms, each with two beds, and the rooms were laid out in a similar fashion.  As I said earlier, the rooms itself were not that great as they did not look updated nor were they very comfortable.    As you entered into the room, on the right hand side was the bathroom while on the left was the closet and storage area.  The bathrooms contained the standard facilities of a sink, tub, and toilet, and the bathroom was a decent size but looked older and needed to be updated.

Further ahead into the room, on right side were two double beds while on the left was a TV, a chest with drawers on it, and a desk.  The beds were not as comfortable as I expected, and the whole ambiance of the room did not feel updated, warm, nor welcoming.  The ambiance felt as if it was developed in the late 80’s/early 90’s and had not been updated since then.   The rooms were of decent size, not too big but not squeezed in either. 

The hotel is full-service so there are many facilities for the guest to enjoy.  There is a restaurant, a pool, spa, and complimentary wifi.  The restaurant was decent, a bit pricey, but provided a nice Moroccan experience with tajine food, a belly dancer and nice Moroccan music.  The spa was also a bit pricey and didn’t provide the greatest service.  It was decent, but not sure I would go out of my way for the spa.  The hotel also provided a bellmen and concierge services.  The bellmen were very good at hailing taxi and negotiating fare rates that were fair to both sides. 

In the end, the positives of the hotel included the nice exterior, the lovely landscape and gardens, the good customer service especially from the bellman, and the close proximity to the Square (was a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel to the Square).  The negatives include the high prices for the services plus the rooms which had not been updated.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Stay Report: Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa (Jordan - January 2012)

Stay Report: Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)


I was travelling through Jordan and was going to stop at the Dead Sea.  There are many hotels in the area, but I am a Marriott Rewards member and had accrued enough points to have a couple of free nights and the Dead Sea Marriott Resort had availability so booked it.  Overall, the Resort is amazing and very was worth every relaxing moment.

The resort is located on the same street as many other resorts, such as the Movenpick, so the location is well-known.  The lobby is very large and open, with check-in desks on the left-hand side and a lounge/sitting area in the middle.  There are large windows straight ahead that provide spectacular views of the Dead Sea.  I checked in, received my key, and proceeded to my room.  The customer service at the hotel was very nice so check-in was quick.


The rooms at the resort are very open, spacious, and comfortable with EXTREMELY comfortable
beds.  As you enter, on the right-side are the closets with storage space as well as a safe. On left was the bathroom with standard facilities including a sink, a toilet, and bathtub as well as toiletries.  The bathroom was spacious and provided the facilities needed.  As you progressed further into the room, on the right-side of the wall was an open area to put your luggage followed by a chests with drawers on the bottom and the TV on top.  Next to the chest was the desk, which looked out onto the window.  Across the left-side wall were the two double beds and a nightstand in between.  The beds were very comfortable and relaxing, and they provided a really good night’s sleep.  The beds were not only nice feature of the room, as the room also had a balcony that faced the courtyard.  Standing outside, you could look over the resort and the many pools.

The Resort itself was a good size and had a variety of facilities available for the guests.  There were multiple pools – some for adults, some for kids, and some for families.  The pools are accessed either directly outside the lobby (on the second floor) or via the first floor with direct access to the restaurant.  The variety of pools meant that you always had access to the pools, and this was nice.  In addition to the pools, the resort also includes a really nice spa and some spa services are included in the room rate -- sauna, steam room, indoor pool, jacuzzi, and other such amenities.  Additional spa services can be booked and paid for separately – I tried the massage and it was very good, so well worth it. 

In addition to the multiple pools, the resort also had multiple restaurants to choose from.  On the first floor of the hotel, with direct access from the pool, was the hotel’s main restaurant which provided the morning breakfast buffet and nightly dinner specials.  In addition to these restaurant, in the pool area there were 2 additional restaurants – a sports bar restaurant with burgers and wings, slow service but good food; and a lounge by the pool, also very slow service but decent food.  

While the Resort provided some nice facilities, the main facility most guests came here for was the Dead Sea.  There is direct access from the hotel to the Dead Sea with a private beach and private entrance for their guests.  The private beach had access to the mud, which a lot of guests were applying to their bodies, as well as an area to go into the Dead Sea (beware of the salt, especially for cuts and bruises).

Overall, I was very impressed and enjoyed the Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa.  There were many positives including the spacious rooms, the good customer service, and the number of facilities provided to the guests.  The only negative was the slow service in the restaurant (we went to the same restaurant in the Marriott Amman and found the same slow service so that is something that should be addressed) but other than that, a great and relaxing stay at the Marriott!