Monday, January 18, 2016

A Stay Report: Places to Stay in the Caribbean

In December and January, I took a tour of select Caribbean Islands - Trinidad & Tobago and Curacao.  Here is my review of the places I have stayed throughout my tour, and hopefully my reviews will help you enjoy your travels in the good hotels and avoid the band ones. Happy (and safe) travels!  Also, comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

Chic Boutique Hotel, Tobago – December 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my 
tripadvisor page:

When looking for places to stay in Crown Point, Tobago you noticed that there are not that many options.  There are some resorts available while others are boutique hotels.  We were not going to spend a lot of in Tobago, so we wanted to stay at a resort in Crown Point.  Even though we had started looking 4 months in advance, many of the resorts were completely full so we started looking at boutique hotels and that is how I found out about the Chic Boutique Tobago.   Overall, the hotel was nice and clean.  The positives were the amenities the hotel provided include free breakfast, free wifi, pool, and fitness center and good referrals to taxis.  Some of the negatives included the lack of space in the room plus the lack of customer service provided by the hotel.

When booking the hotel, I had inquired regarding airport transport and was told that would be arranged.  Outside the airport there was a taxi with my name on it, but there was a miscommunication as I was never informed that this would inquire an additional charge. I do not mind paying for the convenience, if I am told in advance so that I am prepared with the correct cash.  Eventually it was sorted but it started to show some of the lack of customer service provided at the hotel.  The hotel is located down the side street off the main road and about a 10-15 minute walk from the city center and the beach.  While its probably safe to walk around at night, the hotel’s location does not provide a lot of safety as you pass empty lots on the way to the hotel.  The lobby of the hotel is very narrow – as you enter there is a desk straight ahead where you check-in and receive the key.  Across from the desk is a mini-bar area and behind the desk are two chairs and a couch as a lounge area.  The check-in attendant was not very pleasant and did not seem willing to provide any additional information or any support.

We received the key and were told that the room was on the second floor.  As you exited the lobby, you entered a foyer which had stairs on one side which led up to the rooms.  Straight ahead was the courtyard which housed the pool and on the other side of the courtyard was the restaurant, the fitness center, and the meeting rooms.  The restaurant was small and there is where the breakfast was served.  While breakfast was available until 10am, you had to get there somewhat early to ensure you received anything because once it was gone, it was not likely to be refilled.  The pool looked nice and welcoming, while the fitness center was basic but was sufficient. 

Going upstairs the narrow staircase, we then turned around and went down a narrow hallway to our room – there were a lot of tight spaces around the hotel.  As you entered into the room, on the left were the two double beds with a nightstand in the middle.  The beds were pushed up against the nightstand so that was the width of the space between the two beds (ie not much).  In front of the door was a chair and a table and above that was the TV.  Next to the beds was a wall-in closet which had nice storage, but was very close to the bed.  Next to the closet was the entrance to the kitchen and then to the bathroom.  The kitchen was a full-size kitchen with on the right-hand side was a full sink, microwave, and shelves.  On the left side was a full-size fridge and entrance to the bathroom.  The bathroom was decent as it had a full sink and a full bathtub along with a toilet. 

Overall, the hotel provided a nice clean room and a decent night’s sleep.  The beds were medium – neither uncomfortable nor greatly comfortable.  The customer service definitely needs improvement (as we asked the front desk for other stuff later on and their response was very basic and not helpful) and there are tight spaces everywhere.  The room did provide a nice size bathroom and kitchen so that was a nice touch.   

Hyatt Regency Trinidad - Port of Spain – December 2015
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my 
tripadvisor page:

When looking for a hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad we wanted something that was nice but also that was central to many shops and restaurants so that we would be able to have easy access to the sights and sounds of the city.  The Hyatt Regency Trinidad fit all that criteria, as it’s a very nice hotel that is centrally located and provides easy access to the city sights and sounds.  The only negatives are the design of the bathroom and, more importantly, the lack of customer service by some agents.  
The hotel’s location is very convenient as it is located in the middle of downtown right next to Freedom Square.  Behind the hotel is a nice waterfront and along with the waterfront is a nice path that provides nice walking as well as nice views of the water.  The entrance to the hotel is really nice and grand.  You enter the hotel into a grand foyer.  Straight ahead are floor to wall windows which look directly out into the sea and provide nice light into the hotel.  The lobby is somewhat divided into two sections, with a pathway in the middle of the sections.  You enter the first section when you enter the hotel, and in this section on the right is the check-in desk while on the left are chairs to sit and relax.  Check-in took a while as there were many people and our check-in attendant was neither efficient nor very nice (we had booked a Club Room, and this information had to be repeated to the attendant at least 6 times throughout the check-in process). 

As you cross the pathway you enter in the second section which houses the hotel bar and lounge, which has chairs both inside the hotel as well as outside next to the water.  The pathway in the middle provides access to the various amenities of the hotel.  On the left side of the hotel, the path leads to the Business Center and the Regency Club. 

The Club is located in an odd place, but it is really nice and expansive and provides a lot of amenities.  The Regency Club also opens up the water and they have some chairs where you can sit on the water, and this is a nice touch but this also means the Club has an open access from the outside.  Because of this they are very strict in terms of access to the Club, which is understandable, but this can be done in a customer-service friendly and respectful way.  Unfortunately this did not happen with us as we encountered a very un-friendly, non-customer service, and disrespectful way of enforcing the policy.

On the other side of the lobby, the pathway leads to the ATM machine, the elevators to the rooms, the 24-hour coffee shop and the main hotel restaurant where meals are available.  The elevators for the rooms are built with technology so you enter your key into the slot, enter your floor, and the device tells you what elevator will assist you.  It’s a bit of a learning curve but you never waited long for the elevator.   

The rooms either have a sea view or a city view; our room had a city view.  As you entered into the room, on the left was the open bathroom concept.  By open I mean there is only door that separates the toilet from the sink, and that too is a glass door which does not cover many sounds nor smells.  Every other aspect of the bathroom is open.   The oddest design is the shower, which has a shower curtain on one-end, but has glass walls which can see out and can be looked into from the bedroom – essentially offering no privacy or seclusion at all.  Across from the bathroom was the closet.  As you entered further into the room, on the right hand side was the TV with drawers underneath and next to that was the desk.  On the left-hand side were the two double beds.  The beds were big and comfortable and the room was spacious, however standing in room you could clearly see into the shower.

As a full-service hotel there were many amenities for the guests including free wifi, a pool, a fitness center, a business center, and airport transfer.  Since we were there for many days, we were able to use some of the amenities including the free wifi, the pool, and the airport transfer.  The wifi was decent speed and was strong enough to stream videos on youtube; the pool was a medium size and nice, although it seemed a bit small for the size of the hotel; and the paid airport transfer was very convenient and easy to book.

Overall, the Hyatt Regency is a nice full-service hotel in Trinidad.  The hotel is in a good location, has many amenities, and provides comfortable beds.  The negatives are the open bathroom concept and the lack of customer service.

Hilton Curacao – December 2015/January 2016
for pictures and additional comments on this hotel, visit my 
tripadvisor page: 

When we were planning our vacation to Curacao, we wanted to stay at a nice resort.  I had stayed at other Hilton resorts and those were nice so decided to check the Hilton Curacao.  Overall, the hotel looks older, is an average hotel that provides a nice private beach, a small pool given the size of the resort, and a great NYE party.  What the hotel does not provide is good customer service as that definitely needs improvement.

Prior to our arrival to the hotel I had tried to communicate with the hotel regarding airport transfers and confirmation of the NYE party.  Trying to contact the hotel proved to be difficult and that was the first instance of not great customer service.  When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted as HHonors member (very nice as some hotels do not recognize this) and given our key to the room.  We had booked a club floor so our room was located on the top floor - which was the 5th floor.  Both the outside and the hallways of the hotel looked older - like 1980's/1990s Miami fashion.  

The room itself also looked older but was decent.  When you entered into the door, on the right hand side was a closet with a safe and some drawers in it.  Next to the closet were additional shelves.  Across from the closet was the bathroom, which had a nice long sink, a toilet, and a full bathtub.  The shower and the water pressure in the hotel was not good at all (no matter what time of day you took a shower).  Next to the bathroom was a table on which the coffee maker stood.  Further into the room were the two double beds with a nightstand in the middle.  The headboard behind the beds were wicker and the both the tables and the lamps continued the 1980/1990 fashion.  The beds were comfortable and provided a decent night sleep.  Across from the beds was the TV with drawers underneath and a desk next to it.  Behind the desk was a door which led out to the balcony - our room faced the casino so the views were alright, not great, but the balcony provided a nice relaxing area.

We had access to the club lounge so decided to check that out.  The lounge also needed updating as the decor looked very old.  Also, the food in the lounge all looked frozen and none of it looked fresh.  Apart from two nice attendants, most of the service in the lounge were neither pleasant nor helpful.  Also, the food in the lounge was on a first come, first serve basis - if you did not get it when they put it out then you were out of look.  There was no refilling going on, despite the crowds.  The lounge had a balcony that looked onto the pool and the ocean and that was a nice to sit out and enjoy the view.

The hotel itself had a lot of amenities from various restaurants, to a private beach, a health club, a spa (which was closed for the holidays, which was very odd since this is when a lot of people will be coming to the hotel), and a pool.  While all decent amenities, each item seemed small given the size of the resort and number of people at the hotel.  The service at the health club and the restaurants also needed improvement as well.

One good aspect of the hotel was the New Year's Eve party.  The hotel hosted a New Year's Eve party and you could purchase tickets.  The tickets included a buffet dinner, entertainment, and close access to see the fireworks show.  The service during this event was very nice, the entertainment was very nice, the additional party favors were a nice touch, and the fireworks amazing.

Overall, it was an older hotel that provided an average stay with a good NYE event but poor customer service.  

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