Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hotel Reviews International - North & South America

the good, bad, & 'what' across the world! = 
North & South America
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!


Hyatt Regency Montreal May 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my 
tripadvisor page:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

The Hyatt Regency Montreal is located in downtown Montreal and is centrally located to everything, is connected to the Reso, has free (and fast!) wifi, has really nice customer service, and has spacious rooms. There are only two negatives to this hotel - one is that the elevators are really slow (even though there are four, they are all slow) and two is that the spacious room was at a cost of a small bathroom. Other than these two minor things, it was a really nice stay at the Hyatt Regency.

The ground floor of the hotel has the entrance for the taxi cab, connection to the mall, as well as street-level entrance. From this, you take one set of elevators to reach the lobby of the hotel (there are two elevators that can reach the lobby, one from the hotel and one from the mall). The lobby is spacious and has plenty of space to lounge around. There is a restaurant and a bar located in the lobby (sometimes the restaurant and bar are closed off for private events).


Check-in was smooth and they were very accommodating to all changes and requests that were made. Once we received our key, there are 4 elevators that take you up to the guest rooms and these are the slowest elevators. We were able to talk to a lot of guests while waiting for the elevators and they all said the same thing (the only positive thing about waiting for the elevator).

Above the lobby are the guest rooms while below the lobby is the pool and fitness area. In this area, there is a medium size pool, along with a medium size fitness center and a massage area. The pool was mostly used for families and children while the fitness center was pretty full (on the weekend)

The rooms are spacious and have everything you need from an ironing board and iron to a fridge and a safe. The beds are very comfortable and provide enough room, and there are plenty of electrical and USB outlets so you can charge all your ports. Next the window is a couch so you can sit and look outside, while in the wall is a nook for the coffee. The room is very spacious and provides plenty of room, however the same cannot be said for the bathroom. The bathroom feels very compact and while not tonight, it is definitely not spacious at all - this is the only negative about the hotel.

The hotel does offer free and fast wifi. In fact the wifi in the room was faster than the computers in the business center (which were slow!) so I did everything I needed to do online in my room and used the business center only to print.

Overall it was a great stay at the Hyatt Regency. It provides a spacious room that is centrally located. Across the street is the Museum while down the walkway is the metro and you are connected to a mall, and then 1-2 minute walk away is the main thoroughfare with tons of shops and restaurants. I would definitely recommend this hotel.


Hilton Garden Inn Panama City, Panama - December 2014 - January 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page  http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

I was looking for a place in Panama City that was close to many attractions and was walking distance to at least public transportation.  I had initially booked another Hilton property within the same neighborhood, but then I found the Hilton Garden Inn and it was significantly less expensive so I thought I would try it out – they say you get what you pay for and in this case, it is true.  The Hilton Garden Inn is a good budget option within Panama; however, if I was to do it over again I would pay the extra money to be in more comfortable setting.  Overall, the hotel provided a comfortable bed and a decent night stay but the customer service was lacking and the room needed to be updated.

The airport is located about 30-45 minutes away from the city so I had coordinated with the hotel to arrange for pick-up.  Everything was confirmed a month prior to arrival but when I arrived into Panama City, there was no pick-up.  After several calls to the hotel, and waiting for about 1 hour, I finally arranged transport with the hotel.  When I got to the hotel, I mentioned the ordeal to the night manager who said she would relay the information to the day manager the next day to respond.  I followed-up with the day manager the next, who had not been told what was going on but also said she would investigate and get back to me.  I waited another 3 days but nothing so I then followed-up with an email to Hilton Corporate; it was only then that a response was received.  This was the lack of customer service that was experienced in the hotel.
The outside of the hotel and the lobby look very modern and updated.  The hotel itself is a tall but narrow building.  The hotel is located near the financial center within walking distance are a metro station, many restaurants, supermarkets, and other shops; all to say it is in a convenient location.  When you enter the hotel, on the left hand side is a sitting area (which contained couches, seats, as well as newspapers) while on the right hand side is the restaurant.

Behind the sitting area is the check-in desk.  Check-in was decent, they were not overly friendly but not overly unkind, and I collected my room key.  Behind the check-in counter was the business center which contained three computers as well as a printer.  Further down the hallway were the elevators to the guest rooms.  In between the business center and the elevators was a hallway that led you to the first floor restrooms as well as an on-site washer and dryer (byob soap and powder) this amenity was a nice addition.  Security was another amenity that was nicely appreciated as you needed your key to access everything – the business center, the elevators, the gym, as well as the rooftop.

While the lobby and the first floor seemed updated and modern, the rooms did not feel modern.  We had a room with two double beds so this is how the room was laid out.  As you entered, on the right was the closet, which contained a safe as well as ironing board.  On the left hand side was the bathroom – the bathroom fixtures had been updated so that was a nice touch.  The bad thing about the bathroom was the inconsistent hot water – sometimes it would be extremely hot and nice while others time the water was barely lukewarm.

On the other side of the bathroom was the bedroom which contained two double beds as well as a night stand in between.  The beds had been updated with the newest Hilton beds, in which you can adjust the firmness of your bed.  The beds were comfortable and spacious.  Between the bed and the window were a couch and a lamp.  Across from the bed was a chest with 3 drawers on the bottom as well as TV on top.  Next to that was a desk.  Besides the bed, the rest of the furnishings in the room did not seem to be updated and looked a bit worn out.  Overall the room looked dated but provided enough space and comfortable beds.

On the top floor of the hotel was the fitness center and rooftop Jacuzzi.  The fitness center was medium size and had enough decent equipment with treadmills, weights, and other machines.  It was a pleasant to have a decent size fitness center.  Next to the fitness center was a small rooftop lounge that housed a 2-3 person whirlpool/Jacuzzi as well as some chairs to sit and lounge.  The view from the rooftop was nice but I think the rooftop was trying to cover all aspects and one or the other would have been fine.  Another nice amenity was the wifi which was free and strong – definitely a plus!!

Overall, the hotel provided a decent night sleep with nice amenities at a low price.  The customer service could’ve been a lot better but I guess you get what you pay for in terms of customer service and overall feel of the hotel.


Hilton Garden Inn - Toronto Airport West/Mississauga - June 2014
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my tripadvisor page 
http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/0504Traveller

We were attending an event at the International Center in Toronto, located right next to the airport (YYZ) so need a hotel close by. Canada can be quite expensive for Americans, so I decided to use my points to book a hotel.  I looked around at the reviews (on TripAdvisor) and looked at what hotels were available with the points I had, and settled on the Hilton Garden Inn Toronto Airport West located i Mississauga.


photo courtesy of Hilton Garden Inn
We arrived late night at the hotel and we were greeted as we entered. Check-in was quick and efficient, and we were given a welcome bag of a bottle of water, chips, and chocolate bar (a very nice touch). An explanation of the amenities of the hotel was not provided, but in the room key packet there was a sheet detailing all the amenities of the hotel and services provided (very detailed list, but wish they would've pointed it out). What he did point out was the access to the wifi - which was a good speed, and more importantly, free for the entire time we were there! We could also log in with as many devices as we wanted. There were also many plugs available as well as plugs and ports on the lamps to provide additional outlets (a plus in today's digital world).

We got a room with 2 double beds and the room was a decent size - there were enough rooms for the 2 beds, a desk, chest with tv on it, an ottaman, a console with a fridge, coffee maker, and microwave, a closet with a safe and iron board and iron it it). Lots of things in the room, but it did not feel congested at all.   The beds and pillows were nice and comfortable, and you could adjust the firmness to your liking - we found it nice and relaxing.

The bathroom was also a nice size and updated bathroom, which was nice - the only thing that was a bit disappointing was that this hotel did not have PeterThomasRoth products. Most Hilton Hotels in the U.S. and worldwide and have switched to using his products in their hotel, but this HGI had Neutrogena products - still nice though.

The hotel has a pool (not a big pool but a decent size), a decent size gym, a laundry room, and a business center with 2 computers and a printer. The computers here also provided free internet (although the connection was a little slow and cumbersome) and you could either print from the business center or directly from your room. Both were very nice touches.

In the evenings, when most hotels put out cookies, this hotel put out oat squares which was a nice healthy touch -- in the morning, breakfast was not included (you could purchase it separately though) but free coffee and apples were provided.

There is ample free self parking at the hotel - and we came in at various hours of the day and always found parking near the door to the elevator. A nice security touch was that the back door, which was directly located next to the elevators, needed a key to enter -- and this key was needed all the time! At most hotels, the key is only needed at night, meaning anyone can enter the hotel. Having key access all the time was a nice security touch - this door, however, remains locked after 11pm so everyone after that must use the main entrance.

As far as the location of the hotel - it is located about 15 mins away from the airport (by driving and convenient back road) in a office area. There are many offices there that need access to the airport - and I mention this to say that is very little around here in terms of walking distance. Driving distance there are many things within a 5-10 minute drive. The location might require getting into your car for access to things, but also provides peace and quiet at night for a restful sleep. If you do need public transport options, there is a bus stand located across the street from the hotel and this bus - 35A - last stop is a stop on the Toronto subway system (about a 25 min ride on the bus). The hotel staff were somewhat knowledgeable about this, some more than others - and this is one thing I would recommend that hotel staff be knowledgeable about, transportation access.

In the end ,it was a pleasant stay at the Garden and I would recommend it - as long as you have a car.


Hotel Indigo Downtown City Centre – Ottawa, Canada
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2011

I had to go to Ottawa on business and was looking for a decent hotel in the area and noticed the Hotel Indigo.  This hotel is part of the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) and is their version a of a boutique hotel.  I was intrigued by the concept so decided to check it out.  Overall, the experience was really interesting and it felt like I was staying in an apartment rather than a hotel room.


Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
The hotel is situated in downtown Ottawa, which has negatives and positives associated with that.  The positive of the location is the close connection to various downtown activities, walking distance to food and other amenities, as well as access to various transportation methods.  The negatives of the location include lots of traffic (so it will take a while in a taxi) as well as certain areas of downtown can be unsafe at times (this is not just specific to Ottawa but many cities).

From the outside, the hotel looks like an office building (as I believe Hotel Indigo likes to blend in with the neighborhood it inhabits).  When you enter the hotel, you enter into the lobby/sitting area.  On one side of the lobby was the check-in desks while on the other side were the elevators.  The lobby is designed like a huge atrium with high ceilings so it feels very spacious.   Check-in was smooth and quick and I took the elevators up to my room.  This was one odd thing about the hotel – the room that I was given faced the atrium so if outside the window you saw the lobby and the other hotel rooms.  This is one aspect of the design of the hotel that seemed odd to me.

The room itself was a decent size – not too small but not too big – and was decorated very nicely.  As you entered the room, on the left hand side was the bathroom while on the right was the closet and storage area.  The bathroom was also a decent size – not too small but not too big – and had standard amenities.  Further into the room, on the left hand side was a king-size bed with two nightstands on either side of the bed.  The bed was comfortable, large and offered a good night sleep.  On the right hand side was the TV, a chest with drawers, and a desk which faced into the room.  Behind the desk was a window, and this is the window that faced into the lobby/atrium (I was higher up so you had to look down to see the check-in desk, but it was still a bit odd).   As I said earlier, the way the room was decorated was very nice and looked more like an apartment rather than a hotel.  The furniture and the décor made it feel more like an apartment rather than a hotel.

So I was on a business trip, I did not get to enjoy the other amenities of the hotel such as fitness center, indoor pool and spa.  I did experience the free internet which was a decent speed and a nice bonus.  Overall, the experience of staying at the Hotel Indigo was pleasant.  Staying in the hotel felt like staying in a boutique hotel room in a chain hotel.  The close proximity to downtown and the nice ambiance in the room were the positives.  The negatives were the odd layout of my room and the fact that some areas of downtown aren’t that nice.  I look forward to continue stays at the Hotel Indigo.

Crowne Plaza Santiago de Chile
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2010

photo courtesy of IHG
On my trip to South America, I was visiting both Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago de Chile.  Most of our time was spent in Buenos Aires and only a couple of days in Santiago, so when looking for a hotel I was interested in one that was central to key areas with easy access to interest points.  I picked the Crowne Plaza because it was a nice hotel that was convenient to various access points.

From the outside, the hotel does not look that nice as the entrance to the hotel is not grand.  The hotel itself though looks very nice and well decorated.  We had booked a room with two double beds, and the room was spacious with comfortable beds and a nice relaxed atmosphere.  The rooms had standard amenities such as a spacious bathroom, a TV, and a desk.  Free wifi was available and that was a nice touch.

Some of the hotel amenities that we tried were the rooftop pool, the fitness center, and the spa.  The pool was a decent size – not large but not too small either; however the medium pool seemed a bit small for the large hotel.  We also tried the fitness center which provided a good workout.  Since we were on vacation, we also decided to try out the spa and get a massage.  While the massage was very good, the massage room was a bit small and oddly placed.

Walking distance from the hotel was a nice area of restaurants and bars, as well as some of the main attractions.  Also nearby to the hotel were shops and an ATM machine. Overall, the hotel provided a nice and convenient place to rest, with comfortable beds and easy access to points of interest.

Hotel Lola House - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Note: this review is based on my stay which took place in 2010

When planning my trip to Buenos Aires, I was planning on spending a while in Buenos Aires – a total of 10 days split between 7 days and then returning for 3 days – so I wanted 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 Hotel Lola House.  This 8-room bed and breakfast is located in the Boedo neighborhood and is run by 2 sisters.  The hotel offers complimentary breakfast, free wifi, free check-in/access to a computer, and laundry facility.

In terms of location, the hotel is accessible via taxi and is located about 3-5 minute walk from the Boedo Metro.  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 hotel was 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 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 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 but was not tight either.

The room also had a TV – with decent enough channels – as well as an armoire to house your personal belongings.  Overall, it was a nice comfortable room and we stayed in this room for 7 days and it was nice and comfortable – 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.

Overall, it was a really nice and pleasant stay at Hotel Lola House.  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 welcome and stay at the Hotel Lola House.

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