Monday, September 22, 2014

Hotel Reviews - Houston (part 2 - Galleria Area)

the good, the bad, & the 'what'! = Houston, TX!
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

As I said in my earlier posts, I frequent Houston, Texas a lot and with each trip I have tried to find a hotel that I enjoy and want to return to.  When I try to find a hotel, I try to find one near the Galleria Shopping area but I have also ventured out and tried other area hotels.  Since I have stayed in so many hotels, I divided the posts into 2 sections - part 1 were the hotels outside of the Galleria area, while part 2 (this post) are the hotels within the Galleria area.  Below are my reviews for the hotels in the Galleria Area, so hopefully you get to enjoy the good ones and avoid the bad ones.  

Hotel Indigo Houston at the Galleria (by IHG) - May 2016
for additional pictures and comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller


 I wanted to try Hotel Indigo near the Houston Galleria for a while.  I had heard a lot about the 'boutique hotel' within IHG's portfolio and had stayed at a Hotel Indigo in Canada about 5 years earlier and was intrigued by it.  From my understanding, Hotel Indigo was supposed to be a boutique hotel, one that was modern and funky, and mostly in urban settings - similar to Aloft but more business/boutique.  That is what I was expecting as I found something similar in Canada (see my review of that in the 'North America' section); however, at the Hotel Indigo by the Galleria I found something different.  The hotel was a cross between Aloft and Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn - it was an interesting combination.

The entrance to the hotel parking lot is on the backside of the Galleria, next to Nordstrom's Garage.  You enter into the long driveway which takes you to the back where the hotel is located.  From the outside, the hotel looks more like a Hilton Garden Inn or a Hampton Inn versus what I expect a boutique hotel to look like.  There is ample free parking available though.  When you walk into the hotel, there is circular, open-desk in the middle that is where check-in takes place and the elevators to the room are in front of the desks.  To the right of the entrance is the sitting/lounge area plus the business center and fitness center.  On the other side of the check-in desk is the restaurant and coffee bar.  Overall, the lobby looks funky and modern and has a nice color scheme with the light blue.  This look, plus the open check-in desk, made it feel like a boutique hotel but the attendants and the layout of the hotel made it feel more like Hilton Garden Inn.

Check-in was quick and we took the elevator to our room - the elevator continued the nice color scheme.  The hotel itself is not that big and only has 6 floors - our room was on the 2nd floor.  Our room was at the end of the hallway, and the hallway itself was very wide and also incorporated the nice color scheme as well.  We opened the door to our room, and although the room continued the color scheme, the layout and the design of the room made it feel more like Hampton Inn.

As you open the door, you enter into the hallway of your room.  On the left hand side is the entrance to the bathroom, while ahead on your right is a table with the coffee stand and ice bucket.  The bathroom itself was very wide - it had a nice wide sink with some storage underneath.  There was a toilet (which looked more like a Hilton Garden Inn toilet) and then a small table in front of the toilet that held additional towels and the bathroom amenities.  The shower was interesting, as even though the bathroom was large the shower was very long but narrow so it was difficult to manage.  Also, the design of the shower was very odd as the drain was far away from the shower so the water just stayed there, and the shower itself was alright.  Again the bathroom was an odd mixture of boutique and leisure.

The room design was more Hampton Inn than boutique, but the bed quality was very nice.  As you entered into the room, on the left hand side were the two double beds with a night stand in the middle.  The beds were very high and extremely comfortable, providing a nice and restful night sleep.  Across from the beds was a standing closet that had places to hang your clothes, an iron and an ironing board, as well as a safe.  On one side of the closet was the TV stand that was on top of a dresser with drawers underneath - there was also a fridge in the dresser as well.  On the other side of the closet was the desk to do some work.  There were a lot of amenities in the room including a safe, a fridge, and many outlets and USB ports to plug in your electronics.  The amenities were nice, but again the design and the layout of the room felt more like Hilton Garden Inn.  

There was wifi in the room and you needed to login to access the wifi - while the wifi was free, the login would not stick and sometimes the wifi would drop.  While the wifi was on the speed was decent, but the constant checking to ensure the wifi was on was a bit annoying.  

Additional amenities of the hotel including a business center as well as a fitness center.  The business center was not an enclosed area but rather was an open business center that housed mostly desktop computers.  If you are doing standing surfing and printing then its fine, but there were some business men who were conducting a skype-meeting in the business center and the volume echoed throughout the open hallway.  The fitness center was nice, while basic it provided the facilities needed for a good workout.

Overall, I was a bit confused by my stay at the Hotel Indigo.  After my stay I was not sure what the hotel was going for - are they trying to be a boutique leisure hotel, a modern, funky leisure hotel, or  just a leisure hotel?  Who is their competition - Aloft, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, or another brand.  While the stay was comfortable, the price for the hotel consistently remains high and after my stay I was not sure why the high price since I can get a similar stay and a competition for a much lower rate.  Still, an interesting experience at the Hotel Indigo.

Houston Marriott West Loop by the Galleria - May 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller



I am always travelling to the Houston Galleria area so am looking for a decent hotel there so decided to try out the Marriott.  Overall, its a decent hotel near the Galleria area.

The Marriott hotel shares its space with an office building so one section of the building is the hotel while the other section is the office building.  The only time you see the office building is either to entrance to the meeting rooms or entrance to the parking garage.  

Because the hotel is shared with an office building, it has an odd layout.  There are two entrances to the hotel, either from the main or side road and the garage is attached (paid parking) with in and out privileges.  If you enter the hotel through the main door than the lobby is on your left hand side.  If you enter it through the garage - there is either a direct hotel entrance or you take the office elevator to the lobby and walk to the hotel. 

The lobby, restaurant, and computers are all located on the first floor.  The pool and the fitness center are located on the second floor - the second floor also has hotel rooms so it must create a lot of noise for the patrons staying on this floor as there is no separation between the hotel rooms and the entrance to the pool.  

The rooms itself are standard Marriott rooms with comfortable beds and decent furniture.  From the building it looks like an older hotel but from the decor, the furnishings, and the bedding the rooms looks updated.  Its not a spacious room but you also do not feel cramped.

Overall, if you can find a good deal than its a decent hotel to stay in the Galleria area. 




Sheraton Suites Houston near The Galleria - January 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller


The quest to find a decent hotel in the Houston Galleria area continued and this time I decided to try out the Sheraton Suites near The Galleria.  I am always interested in finding suite hotels as they usually provide more space and have a kitchen/sitting area which provides a nice area to relax and hang out; especially if you have a big group.  Overall, the Sheraton Suites is a nice hotel with comfortable rooms and good customer service, but this is not my definition of suites and access to the hotel can be difficult.

The hotel is located within the Galleria area and is either a 2 minute drive or a 3 minute walk to the Galleria – so it is very convenient in that sense.  What is not convenient is the entrance – there is only one entrance to the hotel and that is in the middle of the highway service road so you have to make a very long u-turn and then wait into traffic to get to the entrance of the hotel while competing with the drivers that want to turn onto the main street to access the Galleria - not very relaxing.  Parking is available behind the hotel and it costs $19 for in/out privileges and there are plenty of spaces


The Sheraton Suites is a full-service hotel so they have a restaurant/bar, a very nice and spacious fitness center, as well as a business center (with computers and printers) all on site.  Shuttles are also available to transport guests around the neighborhood.  The hotel also has great customer service as check-in was smooth, efficient, and very inviting so it was a nice experience.  

I checked in and was given my key as well as a detailed explanation of the hotel and its services (Sheraton does not offer e-check-in, unlike Marriott or Hilton).  I had requested a suite with 2 double beds and this is what my room looked like.  As you entered into the room, on your right was the bathroom which had a long sink and counter space.  On the other side of the sink was a double closet and next to the sink was the door to the toilet/shower.  There was also a separate entrance from the bathroom to the bedroom. The bedroom had two double beds and they were spacious and comfortable.  There was enough room for the two double beds so it was a decent amount of space, not a lot but I have been in suites where there is less room.  There was door the separated the bedroom from the sitting room, and on either side of the doors was a chest with drawers on the bottom and a TV on top.  In the sitting room was a couch that could double as a sofa bed, as well as a chair and a table.  Right next to the couch was a desk that faced towards the couch and behind the desk was a nook that housed a fridge, a coffee maker, and a sink.  

I had said earlier that this was not my definition of a suite, because usually a suite has a more defined kitchen area with a larger fridge and microwave as well as dining table; this hotel had none of that.  It was a pleasant room and a comfortable stay, just wasn’t my definition of what a suite looked like.  Also, a competition to this hotel would be the Doubletree Suites Houston Galleria (you can check out that review here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g56003-d98954-r207340995-DoubleTree_Suites_by_Hilton_Houston_by_the_Galleria-Houston_Texas.html#REVIEWS) and that hotel is a proper suite with a bedroom area, a sitting area, a dining area, and a full kitchen. 

I was expecting a more full-size suite and that is not what the hotel offers but overall it was a nice stay at the Sheraton with comfortable beds, spacious room, and good customer service.  Free wifi is available and is was fast and decent speed so that was a plus point as well.


Hampton Inn Houston - near The Galleria January 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller


I have been trying various hotels in and around the Houston Galleria area trying to find one that has a decent quality of sleep as well as a decent price.  I had seen the Hampton Inn in my previous researches and this time decided to try it out.  Overall, it was a nice and updated Hampton Inn which provided a spacious room, with comfortable beds, and good customer service.  The negatives were odd location of fitness center, lack of lighting in the parking lot, as well as the price --- the price was a bit high for what I would normally expect from a Hampton (i.e. I paid the same amount here as I have previously paid at the Doubletree or Hilton) and a comparable hotel in the area, the Courtyard, was less expensive.

The Hampton Inn is located about 10 minutes away from the Galleria – so not walking distance but a quick drive away.  There are two entrances – either from the Highway side road or from the main road.  Both of the entrances are not clearly marked and right now you see the hotel before the entrance, but there are doing construction around the hotel so signage may need to be improved in the future.  There is parking available in the front of the hotel or you can go to a gated section next to the hotel – both costs money and both are need additional lighting as it was rather dark and dim at night. 
When you enter the hotel, on the right is the check-in desk while on the left is the dining room/lounge area where the breakfast is served and you can sit and eat and relax.  We had done the e-check in so just needed to pick up our key (again, since Hilton needs to introduce a computer or something else to allow those who e-check-in to just pick up their key!).  The staff were very friendly and nice and warm – this touch of customer service was appreciated. 

As you walk down the hallway towards the elevator, you pass an open business center with two computers and a printer as well as meeting rooms.  The layout of the first floor and elevators is odd – you have to walk almost ¾ down hallway from the lobby to get to the elevators and you pass many guest rooms to get there.  Midway down the hallway is an entrance to the parking lot, but that is not connected to the elevators and if you enter through here you have to continue to walk past guest rooms to get to the elevators.  The elevators are not at the end of the hallway and are located right across from other guest rooms.  At the end of the hallway are two entrances to the parking lot, on other end of the hallway.  Down here is where the fitness center is, but the location of the fitness is completely odd.  The Fitness Center is located in the middle of the hallway in between guest rooms – it looks like they took out one room and made it into a fitness center.  Not the best idea.

We had requested and chosen a room with two double beds so our room looked like this: As you opened the door, on your right was the bathroom.  Next to the bathroom was a huge door covered with a mirror (nice touch) and it was a swinging door that opened up to the closet.  Beyond that was the two double beds – both of which were comfortable but a bit on the small side.  Across from the beds were a microwave and fridge, a chest with 3 drawers on which the TV stood, and then a desk.  Overall, the room was decent, spacious enough and comfortable but not overly spacious.  The bathroom was updated and had modern furnishings.


Overall, it was a decent stay at a nice, comfortable, and updated Hampton Inn.  The free breakfast was decent and the wifi, which was free, but also decent.  As I said, the only negatives were the lack of lighting in the parking lot, the odd location of the fitness center, and the costs which seemed a bit high for a Hampton (it seems they were pricing for the area rather than for the product)  


Courtyard by Marriott Houston Galleria - December 2014
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller


The hunt for a decent hotel within the Galleria continued and this time we tried the Courtyard Houston Galleria and it seems like a good option in the Galleria area.  The hotel is located a block off of Westheimer and next to the Galleria – meaning it is within walking distance to the Galleria.  The Courtyard and Homewood Suites are in the same building taking up the entire width of the block with the building basically divided in half --- Homewood Suites on the Sage Street Side and Courtyard on South Rice side.
Overall, the hotel is nice and modern and has all the amenities of a full-service hotel but at a budget price.  The plus points were a clean and modern and updated hotel; large and spacious room; free in-room wifi (that was pretty fast); access to a business center with computers and printing; free coffee and water in the lobby; and decent customer service.  The downsides to the hotel were: 1) not a lot of curb appeal to the hotel – the front of the hotel faces the back of a strip-mall 2) not enough light in the room – there are minimal actual lights in the room, and this is especially true in the hallway leading from the front door to the main part of the room; 3) small gym and pool --- both were decent and provided a basic workout but the pool look more like an oversized hot tub while the gym had 2 treadmills and a stair master; 4) there were enough electrical outlets available to plug in as many appliances as you need, but there were no USB ports so if you did have only a cord but no plug then you would have a problem (the only reason I mention this is that recently stayed at SpringHill Suites – another Marriott property – which has both outlets and USB ports at the desk and on the lamps; a wonderful addition).  Another downside was the fact that you have to pay for parking - $16/day.  While most other hotels also charge for parking (some charge less, others more) and while you do get in/out privileges and there were plenty of spaces, it is still a lot of money to pay for parking.

The hotel description is as follows.  Coming from Westheimer – the main road on which the Galleria is located – turn on Sage Road and then you will see the Homewood Suites and Courtyard sign and this is where you turn in.  As I said, the hotel has zero curb appeal so it looks like an alley (which is open from both sides) and that is the entrance to the hotel.  Coming in from Sage Road, you will pass the Homewood Suites first and then in the second half of the building is the Courtyard.  You pass the parking garage entrance and then there is the Lobby, which is located on the ground floor but is covered by the garage and rooms above so it looks like a basement lobby.  As you enter the lobby, on the right hand side is check-in while on the left hand side is a really big restaurant and sitting area.  This is where breakfast is served in the morning (if you choose to purchase it), where the TV is showing sports games, and where you can relax in the lobby.  The business center is an ‘open’ business center with 3 computers and printers tucked away on the side of the restaurant.   While the internet is not the fastest, the services are nice and a welcome addition.  If you continue straight beyond the front desk, on the right - down the hall - will lead you to the garage elevators plus the entrance to the pool and the gym.  The on the left side – down the hall – are the meeting rooms.  The elevators are straight ahead.  Right before the elevators there is a table that provides water (flavored with fruit and scents) and on the last day there were cookies (chocolate-chip, oatmeal, and macadamia – very similar to the doubletree cookies)

As for the room, once you enter the door there is a hallway that leads to the bedroom --- this hallway is very dimly lit and its extremely hard to see.  In the hallway, on the left had side is the bathroom.  As you enter the bathroom, on the left hand side is the sink and then the toilet while the shower is on the other side.  Another downside to the room is that the only mirrors were located in the bathroom – one above the sink and another on the door; however, if someone is in the bathroom then you cannot access a mirror.  Further down the hallway, right next to the bathroom is a little nook that has a fridge on the bottom and a coffee maker on top.  The bedroom is wide and open – we had a room with 2 double beds and both beds were spacious and comfortable.  In between the two beds was a nightstand with a lamp – with plugs on the lamp and next to the switch – and drawers at the bottom.   In between the second bed and the window was a sitting chair.  Across from the beds were a closet – which was very tall but only part of the closet opened up – it did not seem like the greatest use of space).  The closet contained hangers as well as an iron and ironing board.  Right next to the closet was a desk that housed the TV, the telephone, a lamp with more plug outlets (and other plug outlets were located beneath the desk) and a pull out table.  There was enough room between the bed and the window that we pulled out the table and put that next to the window as a luggage holder (since where was no luggage holder).     The room was extremely spacious, modern, and clean but as I said there was not enough light, especially at night, so it made for a very dark room.

Some area of improvements would be better lighting, better gym (the gym was very small), and better customer service.  The customer service was decent – if I had a question they answered it – but it was great customer service, it was decent customer service.  Overall, it was a nice, clean, and updated hotel option within the Galleria area and a good price in a high-demand area.  

DoubleTree Suites by Hilton - Houston Galleria - September 2014
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page 
http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

Recently stayed at this property over the 2014 Memorial Day weekend and overall the rooms were nice but the service needs work, especially the Front Desk.  Details are below, but overall rooms were nice and spacious, clean, and the beds were comfortable. The check-in process was horrible, parking was a nightmare, the Front Desk was not courteous, and the gym was small. Also, you have to pay for wi-fi 

Details:
1) I initially found a cheaper rate for the hotel on expedia.com and then went to Hilton to see if they could match it; they said no and tried to sell me on the higher rate. I booked the Expedia, wrote to Hilton, they matched it through their 'best rate match' and I got a $50 credit in the end as well. 

2) It was extreme chaos when we checked in. This hotel is located near the Galleria so one would expect they should be able to handle crowds - no! The lines were long and the check-in process was very cumbersome. When we finally got to the front, there was no greeting, no apologies for the wait, nothing - and no smile on any of their faces (there were 3 people working in the lobby checking in guests, and none of them were smiling). The check-in was taking a really long time, and no explanation was given, so I asked 'is everything ok'. The attendant replied 'I am looking for a room' and went back to staring at the screen. No customer service at this hotel. When we finally finished, no cookies were given; I had to ask for the cookies even though they are supposed to be given upon check-in

3) All the rooms at this DoubleTree are Suites so the room was very spacious and clean, and the beds were very comfortable.   As you enter, on the left hand side is a galley kitchen, which is a bit outdated but provides a very large fridge.  There is a counter that is connected from the kitchen to the main sitting area, which also has a round table with 4 chairs.  Next to that a sofa-bed/couch with a coffee table in front of a chest with drawers on the bottom and a TV stand on top. Next to the TV stand in the door to the bedroom.
As you enter in the bedroom, you face one of the 2 beds.  If you turn to your right, you go through the open closet (with a safe and iron and ironing board) to go into the bathroom.  In between the two beds was a night stand and in front of the beds was another chest with drawers on the bottom and TV on top.  There was also a desk in the room.  Overall, the furniture was outdated and so was the carpeting, but the beds were spacious and comfortable.

4) Parking - there are two parking options, self park or valet - there is a charge for both. We choose the self-park because we have a big car, but given the location (near the Galleria in Houston) you would assume there would be ample parking; nope. There is only a 3-level car garage with the first-level reserved for valet, leaving only 2-levels for self-park and these two levels were ALWAYS full. Parking here was a pain, inconvenient, and definitely not worth the money. 

5) The gym here is small and needs to be remodeled. The gym is located on the 3rd floor, right next to other rooms; it looks as if they took out one room and replaced it with the gym. The gym had 4 treadmills, bikes, weights, and exercise balls so that was good; but the location and layout was extremely tight and uncomfortable.

6) you have to pay for wi-fi. In today's time, this is just unacceptable to have your guest pay for wi-fi. Its complimentary at Hampton Inn and other Hilton properties, so why not here!

Overall, the location of the hotel, the comfortable beds, and spaciousness of the suites were the only positive.  The inefficient staff, the lack of parking availability (especially when its paid parking and when there are large groups) and no wifi were the negatives.

Omni Hotel Galleria - November 2013
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

We had originally stayed at this hotel during a wedding and received such bad and disrespectful performance that we complained, and from that complaint we received a free night voucher which we used for this night. Overall, the gym was nice and so was the room size but the service was ok and the bed quality was horrible.

Location: I have read some reviews that see this hotel is in the middle of the Galleria - that is incorrect. Its about a 5-10 minute drive away from the Galleria. There is free parking but right now its at a shared parking garage (which is about a 2-3 walk from the hotel) with an office building as the Omni is currently building their garage --- the construction happens from 8a,-6pm Monday thru Friday and 8am-12pm on Saturday and no construction on Sundays. To help alleviate with the noise, the hotel provides ear plugs

hotel: Overall, the hotel appearance was nice and the room looked and smelled nice. We had what they termed was a 'delux' room - it looked like a standard hotel room but the size of the room was big and the bathroom was also big. The beds, however, were small and very uncomfortable. You could barely one person and it was a very uncomfortable bed (we stayed here one night and then transferred to the Doubletree and switching from the Omni bed to the Doubletree bed was definitely an upgrade!) 

Service: the front desk staff were not courteous at all. They were not rude, but not customer friendly at all. They did the basics of their job but never seemed to be smiling, polite, nor go out of their way to be more customer attentive

Fitness center: the fitness center is attached to the hotel (to get there, you have to go through the outside deck, which is odd) and is located next to the spa The fitness center is very nice with lots of new machines, nice amenities like lemon water, apples, disposable headphones, towels. Overall, the fitness center was very nice and modern.

Overall - nice room size and nice fitness center couldn't overcome the poor bed quality and the lackluster customer service.

Westin Galleria - November 2013 and March 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

I originally stayed at this property in November 2013.  I revisited the property in March 2015 and here is a combination of my experiences at the property. 

We travel to Houston a lot and like to stay near the Galleria, and this hotel delivers a great room with a great location.  The hotel is located on the ground floor of the Galleria so it is very convenient for access to the Galleria. In spite of being close to the Galleria, you cannot hear the noise the Galleria which is nice.

The hotel lobby is located on the main entrance to the Galleria, but there is also a bottom level entrance as well.  There are two parking options – either valet parking or self-parking.  The self-parking is free, which is quite unusual in the Galleria area, and space was always available - even on the Thanksgiving holiday (the garage is the regulars shopping garage shared by all shoppers and there is an entrance to the mall and through this entrance there are elevators to take up to the hotel).
The rooms were quite spacious and comfortable, and 4 people could easily fit in the room.  As you open the door, on the right is the bathroom and on the left is the closet and safe.  In the main area were 2 big double-beds which were very spacious and very comfortable.  In between the beds was a nightstand and in front of the beds was a chest with drawers on the bottom and a TV on top.  Next to that was a desk.  There was also a chair and lamp next to the bed that faced out to the windows – the windows faced onto Westheimer street and provided great views of the city down below. 

While we were staying there, I did take advantage of 2 Starwood programs – the ‘gear lending’ program and the ‘stay friendly’ program.  The ‘gear lending’ program is a partnership with New Balance and it allows guest to rent tennis shoes, gym shorts, gym shirt, and a mesh bag for $5.  These are fresh clothes that are laundered and they come to your room in a mesh bag and you can use them throughout your stay; upon checkout leave them in your room (or you will be charged the full price of each item).  You also get a pair of socks but those you get to keep. 

The ‘stay friendly’ option is an environmental/eco option in which you do not choose housekeepings ervice throughout your stay, and for this you get either a coupon to the restaurant or 500 starpoints.  This means that no one will come in your room even to tidy up or make the bed or vacuum --- nothing.

There are amenities at the hotel and the one I tried was the gym.  The gym was nice but the location was odd.  I took the elevator to the bottom floor and this is where the mall entrance and the parking garage entrance is – the elevators are on one side of this corridor and the gym on the other side with the doors to the mall and garage in the middle.  This means to go to the gym you have to cross the people going from the garage to the mall and vice versa --- an odd location.  Once you get to the gym though, it is very nice and updated.  I do have to say that all Starwood hotels have had very good and nice gyms. (Update: the gym is still the same, small but decent, but I learned this time that because this gym is small, guest of the Westin Oaks are able to use the bigger gym of the Westin Galleria which is located on the other side of the Galleria Mall)

There is no free wifi -- wifi is only available if you pay; other hotels provide free wifi but charge for parking so I guess you choose what you want to pay for. (Update, Starwood now provides free wifi to all SPG members so we had free wifi which was decent - not slow but not the fastest speed)

Overall, it was a nice and comfortable stay in a hotel that is very conveniently connected to the Galleria.  

Hilton Garden Inn - Galleria - last stay was in 2012
I am always on the lookout for good, quality hotels within the Houston Galleria area.  I have previously stayed at other Hilton Garden Inn’s so when they opened up a property near the Galleria, we were excited to try out the product.  The hotel offers the standard HGI experience.

The hotel is located right behind the Galleria – the Galleria is located on the main street Westheimer and from the main street you go down a side street and 2 blocks later is where the HGI is located.  There are a lot of other hotels in the area, including a new Homewood Suites, a new Courtyard, and an older hotel that used to be the Staybridge Suites.  The location and the surrounding hotels are the positive about the location – the negative about the location is that the hotel is located right next to a gentleman’s/strip club.  By next door I mean the two businesses share a wall they are that close.  While you cannot hear the noise from the club inside the hotel, it is still a little odd that you are pulling up to a hotel next to a strip club.

The hotel itself is the standard HGI – there is nothing fancy about it but the hotel provides a good HGI experience.  The hotel is located close to the street so the main entrance is very close to the street while the parking is behind the hotel – while the parking is plentiful, the does charge daily for parking.  As you enter the hotel, you pass the restaurant and the guest lounge to get to the check-in counters and beyond those is the elevators to the room. 

The rooms at HGI were standard HGI rooms.  They were a decent size so it did not feel too cramped but did provide enough room to more around.  We had chosen a room with 2 double beds so as you entered the room, on the left hand side was the bathroom and on the right hand side was the closet.  Straight ahead on the left, beyond the bathrooms, were the 2 double beds with a night stand in between.  In between the beds and the window (which faced out onto the parking lot) was a sitting chair).  Against the opposite wall was a desk and a chest with drawers on the bottom and a TV stand on top.  All the furniture and decorations were modern and up to do date HGI furnishings so the hotel did not look old.  The beds were comfortable and provided enough room for a comfortable sleep.

The hotel does provide free wifi (a plus!) and there is a gym and business center. 

Overall, the hotel provides a comfortable stay near the Galleria – nothing fancy but a good stay.  The only negative would be the location of the strip club next door, as that does not elicit a family-friendly atmosphere for the hotel.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hotel Reviews International - Europe

the good, bad, & 'what' across the world! = Europe
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)


As I have traveled the world, I have gotten to visit many cities.  Within these cities, I have stayed at many different hotels - some good, some great, and others not so much.  Hopefully my reviews will help you enjoy your travels in the good hotels and avoid the band ones.  Happy (and safe) travels!


Hilton Zurich Airport
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in May 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

We had arrived late into Zurich and had an early morning flight the next day, so instead of travelling into the city we decided to stay near the airport. There are many hotel options connected to or near the airport - we choose to stay at the Hilton and overall it is a very good transit hotel that is comfortable and has a lot of amenities.

There is a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel and this runs every 30 minutes. The hotel is located on a hill and at the top of the hotel is the lobby - 4th floor - with rooms and over facilities on the floor below - 1 to 3. The layout of the hotel is a bit odd as to get to the elevator from the lobby you have to pass by the kitchen and prep room for the meeting rooms (and there was a lot of traffic at night). Also, there are very long hallways so sometimes its a bit of a walk from the elevator to the room.

The room itself are big and comfortable - we had a room with 2 twin beds and added a rollaway bed (for a cost). In spite of having 3 beds, the room did not feel cramped. When 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. The room had two twin beds - which were comfortable and provided a good sleep - and 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 also provides some nice amenities include free wifi (for hilton hhonors members), a really nice and large fitness center that also includes a sauna, a business center, and many function rooms. There is a restaurant and room service available - and a nice customer service touch was free coffee and croissants in the morning

Overall it was a pleasant stay at the Hilton Zurich Airport and a great transit hotel (since its near the airport)


Ibis Geneve Centre Nations
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller


Accor Hotels has many brands of hotels that range in price and quality. In Geneva, they have a wide range from Novotel to Ibis Styles to Ibis Budget and many Ibis hotels. Each of these brands are different in terms of quality and price. The Novotel is more a full service hotel, while Ibis is a mid-range hotel and Ibis Budget is a budget hotel. I have never stayed at the Novotel but have previously stayed at Ibis Budget and this time stayed at Ibis. If you know what you are getting into, then the hotels provide a good nights sleep at a decent price in a comfortable room. 

For the base price, you get a room with a bathroom in it plus free wifi (strong wifi as well). Everything else - including breakfast and other extras - cost additional cost. Ibis budget provided a compact room with a decent bed, a tv, a bathroom and free wifi (which was strong). Breakfast was extra. With the Ibis, you get basically the same thing but a more spacious room. In both, there are no fitness facilities and no pools (which are available at Novotel)

We had stayed at the Ibis in Zurich so decided to try out the Ibis in Geneva. Both had great customer service and really fast - and free - wifi. In Zurich we had booked a family room which comes with one double bed and one twin bed and the room itself had a lot of room. We had booked the same type of room in Geneva, but the room was not available at check-in so we received two rooms for the price of one. The rooms we received were standard Ibis rooms with one double bed - and these rooms were a more compact. 

As you entered the door, on the left hand side was a desk and immediately next to the desk was the bed and then a window - in between the window and the bed is very little room, just barely room to get to the other side. In front of the bed was the TV stand with the closet area (open closet) next to the TV stand and the bathroom - at an adjacent angle - next to it. The room is compact and could handle two people with minimal items. 

The bed quality was nice and this time they had multiple plug outlets - Zurich Ibis only had one plug in the entire room and it was not near anything! - but again the towel quality left a lot to be desired. 

Customer Service at the Ibis was very good as you can leave luggage at the hotel and they have two computers - with printers - downstairs that provide check in and internet facilities. 

In the end, if you know what you are expecting and prepare for that, then it can be a really nice and comfortable stay at the Ibis. They have free (and really fast) wifi as well as really nice customer service. It was also close to transportation and had stores next to it so it was centrally located (without being too noisy). Overall it was a pleasant stay with Ibis Geneve Centre Nations

Ibis Zurich City West
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in May 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

Accor Hotels has many brands of hotels that range in price and quality.   In Zurich West, they have three brands all within one building - Novotel, Ibis, and Ibis Budget - and each of these brands are different in terms of quality and price.  The Novotel is more a full service hotel, while Ibis is a mid-range hotel and Ibis Budget is a budget hotel.  I have never stayed at the Novotel but have previously stayed at Ibis Budget and this time stayed at Ibis.  If you know what you are getting into, then the hotels provide a good nights sleep at a decent price in a comfortable room.  

For the base price, you get a room with a bathroom in it plus free wifi (strong wifi as well).  Everything else - including breakfast and other extras - cost additional cost.  Ibis budget provided a compact room with a decent bed, a tv, a bathroom and free wifi (which was strong).  Breakfast was extra. With the Ibis, you get basically the same thing but a more spacious room.  In both, there are no fitness facilities and no pools (which are available at Novotel)


As I said, in Zurich City West they have one big block which houses all three brands.  We choose to stay at the Ibis because we wanted a comfortable room to sleep that was close to transportation as we were going to the city to access all amenities (such as breakfast).  As we were three adults, we booked a family room which included one double bed plus a twin bed.  Overall the beds were comfortable and the room was spacious. 

At both Ibis and Ibis budget, the furniture is not of the greatest quality (think Ikea) but they do have a nice TV which you can plug into.  The bathroom is decent - a bit small but decent - and the only complaint I have is the towel quality.  At both the Ibis and Ibis budget the towel quality was nonexistent.  The towels were not comfortable at all and were a disappointment.  The amenities in the room are limited so they have a bottle next to the sink and in the shower that is a combo of soap/shampoo/bath gel.  We brought our own.

In the end, if you know what you are expecting and prepare for that, then it can be a really nice and comfortable stay at the Ibis.  They have free (and really fast) wifi as well as really nice customer service.  Additionally the hotel was very close to public transportation so it was very convenient to get from place to place.  
  
Overall it was a pleasant stay with Ibis Zurich City West


Hilton - Paris CDG Airport
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2011/2012
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

The Hilton Paris Airport is great hotel – depending on what you are looking for.  For a hotel convenient to the airport, a hotel with windows that have spectacular views of the runway, and for a good Hilton sleep then this is your hotel; if you are looking for a hotel close to the Parisian action, this is not your hotel.
photo courtesy of Hilton

I choose to stay at the Hilton Paris CDG because I was basically doing 2 transits – I was coming in from a flight, had about 1.5 days in Paris, then take a flight to another destination and come back to Paris, have about 14 hours layover, and take my final flight.  From the airport to the city center is about 30-45 minutes each way, so for me the best was staying near the airport and I found a comfortable stay at this Hilton.  Also, I used my HHonors points for a free stay as they were having their ‘points blowout sale’ so basically I got to stay here 2 nights for the price of one (check out the deals that Hilton sometimes has on international hotels – very good!)
There are two entrances to the hotel – one is on the main street while the other is connected to the Airport Train Station.  From the Airport Train Station, there is an exit with the ‘Hilton’ sign on there and it’s a 2-3 minute walk to the hotel --- be careful because it is outside so if it’s cold, so are you!
Access:  The hotel provides a complimentary airport shuttle (to Terminal 2 but the driver is really nice so he will drop you to whichever Terminal you want – but pick up is at Terminal 2).  Since the hotel was right next to the Airport train station, it provided easy access to the train to the city.


Note: the hotel is connected to the train by a path, but other than train access there are no restaurants or stores near the hotel.  There is a bus that stops at the train station which takes you to other hotels in the Roissy village – and in that village there are some restaurants and small (and I do mean small) convenience store/local store.  It’s about a 5-10 minute bus ride.

Service:  The hotel is very large.  The lobby is very big and next to the lobby is a big restaurant (with not-good food and slow service).  On the second level (accessible via stair or elevator) were meeting rooms plus the business/internet center.  The hotel can accommodate large groups, which was evident as many airlines had chosen this hotel for their staff (while I was there I saw a contingent from Qatar Airways --- about 25 in total!).  Check-in went smoothly, both times, and between my stays the hotel kept some luggage for me (which was a nice gesture).

The hotel does provide free wifi in the lobby area and in the room (depending on your HHonors status).  There is a business center available with printers but they charged for printing boarding passes (not cool).  I did notice though that the airline staff had their own lounge with computers and couches so they could relax and not compete with the guests.

Rooms: the rooms were very large Hilton rooms, and something that I was not expecting in Europe but welcomed – in Europe the rooms are usually smaller but this room was big, even for American standards.  As you enter the room the bathroom is on the right-hand side.  As you past the bathroom, you enter the main part of the room in which we had 2 double (very large and comfortable) beds with a night stand in between.  Next to the second bed was a couch with foot stool that looked out upon the windows.  When the curtains were opened, that is when the spectacular-ness of this hotel really shined --- the views were of the active runway so you could see planes taking off all day and all night (you could not hear the planes so it was a comfortable night sleep).

The room also had a closet, a chest with drawers on which the TV stood, as well as a desk.  All modern and up to date Hilton furnishings.

The bathroom was nice and very large.  There were double sinks, a toilet plus bidet, as well as a standing shower (which was very roomy).  I was expecting the small, somewhat-cramped bathrooms which I normally find in European hotels, but this bathroom was very big and spacious even for American standards

Amenities:  there is a fitness center (which I did not get to try), a restaurant (which I did get to try and regretted it as it was not good and extremely slow service), and transportation options (which I did get to try and which was very convenient).

Overall, it was a pleasant stay at the Hilton CDG and it served its purpose well.  If you have about a 1.5 days layover in Paris and want something close to the airport but also close to transportation, then this is the perfect hotel.


AC Hotel Malaga Palacio
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2011/2012
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

view from rooftop
We used this hotel as our base as we were travelling around Southern Spain and found it to be a great hotel.  The hotel is centrally located within Malaga so it is walking distance to everything within the city.  The hotel provides great customer service, free wifi in the lobby (a great perk/plus point), and allowed us to store luggage at the hotel. 

sea view
As we were 4 people, we booked two rooms (most European hotels can only fit 2-3 people within a room); one room had a King bed while the other had 2 beds.  
Both rooms were clean, modern, nicely decorated, and both beds were comfortable.  Both rooms had the same basic layout - as you enter, on the left side was the entrance to the bathroom.  As you passed that, you entered into the main part of the room with the beds and nightstands on one side.  On the other side of the wall was a desk, a chest with drawers that also had a tv stand on it.  The bathrooms were pretty big - bigger than most European hotels and big as compared to American hotels - and very clean and modern.  The hotel also provided amenities such as combs, toothbrushes, tissue packs, and shoe polish (a nice touch).  One room faced the seat and had a fantastic view from the balcony (also, a nice perk).  The other room was on the side and had a nice view of the surrounding city and architecture.  

Overall, the hotel provides a nice, clean, and modern room near the heart of Malaga.  It was a great stay at the AC Hotel Malaga Palacio and I would definitely recommend this hotel!



AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula (Autograph Collection) - Granada
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2011/2012
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

photo courtesy of AC Hotels
We were travelling around Southern Spain and wanted to stop in Granada.  We had enjoyed the AC Hotel in Malaga so decided to stay at the same hotel in Granada, and was not disappointed.  When they say ‘Autograph Collection’ they mean it – the hotel architecturally looked stunning.  From the outside of the building to the inner courtyards to the ways the rooms were laid out and decorated were all amazing; it looked as if we were entering a Palace.

The hotel is located on the main street within Granada so it is easily accessible and walkable to everything.  As you enter the front doors, in the middle is a raised platform on which guests can lounge and enjoy the free wifi (free wifi was available in the public areas) and to the right of the platform was the check-in counters, and to the left of the platform was a restaurant.

Check-in was efficient and smooth and we were shown to our rooms.  We were not on a high floor so we took the stairs through the raised platform, through the inner courtyard (which was really nice) to the hallway in which our rooms were located.

We were 4 individuals so most European only allow 2 adults per room so we needed to get 2 rooms – one with a king bed and the other with 2 doubles.  Both rooms were similarly laid out and both were amazingly decorated.  As you opened the door, you entered a little hallway on the left that led into the main room.  As you entered into the main room, in front of you would be beds against the wall (with a nightstand in between) and an armoire against the wall on the left.  In front of the beds was a sitting area with couches and chairs to relax and look out the tall windows which were on the other side of the wall (decorated in an old-Spanish style).  Across from the sitting area was the entrance to the bathroom (as you entered the hallway, on the other side of the hallway was the bathroom) which was spacious and had all the amenities. 

The room was very spacious and comfortable, but it was the design and decoration of the room that made it worthwhile.  The room was designed like an old Palace room so it had very distinctive Spanish designs, with red tiles and blue designs and shutters on the windows.  It was nicely decorated and a pleasure to stay in.

Overall, the hotel provided a spacious and comfortable room in walking distance to the heart of Granada; however, it is the architecture and design of the hotel and the rooms that make this hotel worth staying!


AC Hotel Cordoba
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2011/2012
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

We had been staying in AC Hotels all throughout the tour of Southern Spain, and we had enjoyed the hotels so we decided to continue the trend by selecting the AC Hotel Cordoba.

photo courtesy of AC Hotels
Unlike the AC Hotels in Granada and Malaga, the AC Hotel Cordoba is not located within the main part of Cordoba; rather it is located somewhat outside the main area.  It is only a 5-7 minute walk from the hotel to the main area and the hotel is surrounded by many amenities including shops and restaurants.  The hotel is located in between the train/bus station and the main city center --- so you are about a 5-10 minute walk or car ride away from either point.

Another distinction that this hotel has is its very modern architectural design, both the exterior and interior of the hotel.  From the outside, there is a wall of metal rings that surrounds the entire exterior of the building as a modern architectural facade.  As you enter the main entrance, on the right hand side is the restaurant (where breakfast and dinner are available) and straight ahead is the check-in area.  To the right of the check-in area is a guest lounge/relaxing area where free wi-fi is available.  Check-in again was smooth and efficient.

As in the other hotels, we got 2 rooms – one with 2 twin beds and the other with a king bed and both were decorated the same.  You entered the room on far right side next to the wall.  As you open the door, there is a little galley with a closet and mirror.  This is the odd part – the bathroom is located in between the galley and the main part of the room where the beds are so you have to cross the bathroom to get from the main door to the bedroom.  There is a door that closes to block off the bathroom from the galley as well as another door that closes the bathroom off from the bedroom.  This would be fine if you are staying by yourself but if you are staying with someone else, and they are in the bathroom and you need to leave or someone knocks on the door, if the bathroom doors are locked you are stuck.  It was an odd design.  The bathroom was modern, spacious, and nice and had many amenities provided (designed all in black and silver).

As you entered into the main bedroom, against the right hand side of the wall were the chest with drawers on the bottom and TV on top and a desk next to it.  On the other side were 2 very comfortable twin beds (or a king bed) and 2 nightstands for each bed (2 nightstands also available for the king bed).  Along with far wall were giant windows that would’ve looked out onto the city and the streets and would’ve provided a great view, however the views were blocked by the architectural ring fa├žade.

Overall, it was a pleasant stay in a sleek and modern hotel.  The beds were comfortable, the staff were friendly and efficient (we asked staff at all the hotels questions about local landmarks and each took the time to answer questions and provide extra detail – a great plus!!), free wifi in the lobby and public areas, and the hotels were conveniently located to major activities. 


Holiday Inn - Paris CDG Airport
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2011/2012
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

I had come off a 26+hour flight and I had one full day and a night in Paris before I needed to take my other flights so I wanted a hotel near CDG but one that also provided access to the train so I could go into the city for a bit.  I also did not want to pay a lot since I was only using the hotel for a brief period – the Holiday Inn CDG Airport provided all that in a comfortable setting.

photo courtesy of IHG
Access:  The hotel is located in the Roissy village, which is the town/village located right next to the airport and where most of the hotels are located.  Unlike the Hilton, the Holiday Inn is not connected to the train station; however, there is a free bus that goes from the train station and makes a loop to the surrounding hotels in the area (it runs about every 10-15 minutes).  From the train station to the hotel was about a 5-10 minutes bus ride as it is located towards the back of the village.  You can take the bus to and from the hotel to the train station, but it does take some time so factor this in.

Even though the hotel is located towards the back of the ‘hotel’ village, it is actually closer to the real village so you can walk (about a 5-7 minute walk) to the village town center where there are some restaurants, coffee shops, ATM and bank, as well as a convenience store/market.

Service:  the service at the Holiday Inn was very nice.  The hotel looked modern and the lobby smelled really nice.  The hotel provided information on flights, weather, had free wifi, and was in contact with the bus so you could wait inside the warm hotel until the bus alerted the hotel that it was on its way (a nice touch!)

Rooms:  The room was comfortable and nice, updated, but not the biggest room in the world.  I had booked a room with 1 queen bed so as I opened the door, on the left was the entrance to the bathroom (also small) and then you entered into the main area.  The main area had a queen size bed against one wall, and on the other wall was a desk as well as chest with drawers and the TV.  Next to the bed was a small chair and table that faced the windows – there wasn't much to look at but the curtains were thick so they could block out most of the sun (if you wanted to sleep during the day).

The bed was comfortable and was a standard Queen-size bed that I would find in America (again surprised since I was expected smaller beds in Europe).  Overall, the room looked and smelled clean and comfortable.
The bathroom was also clean but very small.  It reminded me of a typical or standard European bathroom that I was expecting.  The bathroom had a toilet, a bidet, a shower, and a sink but it was all right next to each other with very little room to move.  The shower was also very small and tight.  The interesting and nice thing about the hotel was that they had dispensers for shampoo, body wash, and lotion instead of individual, travel-size containers – a nice eco-touch.

Overall the hotel was a good value and provided a nice, clean, and updated room with a comfortable bed and decent shower. The only negative was the ‘small-ish’ bathroom and the transportation via bus but both of those were small negatives as overall it was a pleasant stay.