Sunday, August 13, 2017

Stay Report: Holiday Inn - Attica Av., Airport West (Athens, Greece - July 2017)

Stay Report: Holiday Inn - Attica Av., Airport West
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

We had an overnight in Athens from one flight to another so we decided to find a hotel near Athens Airport.  There are a couple of options, but we had some IHG points so decided to use them for a free night at the Holiday Inn Athens West.  The hotel is located about 15-20 minutes away from the airport, and there is a free shuttle that operates between the hotel and the airport.  The shuttle was one of the negatives of the hotel as it is not very convenient.  The shuttle only operates on the hour from the airport to the hotel, and on the half an hour from the hotel to the airport (so if you miss it, there is A LONG waiting time for the next shuttle).  Also the shuttle is a small van that seats approximately 15-18 people, but since there is a long waiting time usually there are more individuals waiting for the bus so it was always packed.

We had arrived at night around 9:20p so we had to wait about 40 minutes for the 10p shuttle to arrive.  When it arrived, it was a very chaotic to get onto the bus and then it was a 15-20 minute drive to the hotel.  The hotel is very big and has a lot of services to offer including a business center, an indoor pool, a fitness center, as well as two restaurants.  There were two check-in attendants for a big group, so if you were in the back of the line it was going to take a while to check-in; luckily we were in the front of the line so check-in happened rather quickly.  We received our key and took the elevator up to our room.  The elevator was located in the middle of the hotel, with corridors on each side leading to the rooms.  
The hallway look updated and the rooms also had updated keys.  As you entered into the
room, on the left was the bathroom while on the right was the open closet and storage area.  Overall, the size of the room was decent and not too small but not too big either.  The bathroom was the same way, there was enough room to move about but it was not a spacious bathroom.  The bathroom had a sink, a full tub on the right, and a toilet and bidet on the left.  The only negative of the bathroom were the amenities, which were not standard IHG amenities but local ‘Greek’ amenities which were not as good. 

Back inside the room, the open closet and storage connect to a counter which also housed the coffee maker. Below the coffee maker was the minifridge/bar and above the coffee maker where more shelves which held the coffee supplies.  Further along this wall was the TV, and then next to the window was a desk with power outlets along the wall.  Behind the desk was a small table, which was not very convenient as there was little room between the desk and the table.  On the other side of the table was a chair, a nice addition but again it was tight room. 

The beds were located against the wall, next to the chair and opposite to the TV.   If you faced the bed, on the left-hand side of each bed was a night stand, again with power outlets.  This was a nice amenity to have convenient power outlets so you don’t have to go search for them.  The beds themselves were comfortable and provided a nice and restful sleep.  The beds were definitely European in their size, as they felt more like full-size beds instead of the regular size beds in American rooms.

As we were only there for one night, we did not get to experience other amenities of the hotel besides the free wifi.  The wifi was strong and decent enough to check emails and stream videos.  Overall, it was a pleasant overnight stay at the Holiday Inn.  The hotel was comfortable and provided a nice rest.  The only negatives were the chaotic shuttle and the bathroom amenities.  The positives were the decent room size and the comfortable beds. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Trip Report: Aegean Airlines (operated by Olympic Airlines) - Athens to Chios (July 2017)

Trip Report: Aegean Airlines - operated by Olympic Air Athens to Chios
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

We were flying domestically in Greece from Athens to Chios.  For our timings, the best option for us was Aegean Airlines as compared to the other domestic airlines.  Booking is also the airline with a more international presences, and is part of Star Alliance, so it has a bit more credibility and reliability versus the other airlines.  Booking on Aegean was easy and the airline provides three options for their flights – light, go, and flex.  The light option is the cheaper option as it only provides the seat; the next option includes checked baggage and the last option is the business option.  Since I was going to check bags in, I had originally looked the “go” fare which includes checked baggage.  By the time I went to book the flight, the go option had increased in price so I choose the “light” option.  The light option included the seat only and I had to purchase the bags.  The bags were 18euro each way, but the total of the light fare plus the extra baggage was lower than the go fare.  I booked the ticket and received confirmation of my booking.  On the website, I could not add my Star Alliance ff number nor could I preselect my seat, so I had to call the reservation line for both of these options.

The flight was scheduled to leave Athens at 11:25am and was operated by Olympic Airlines.  I had downloaded the Aegean app and 48hours prior to departure I received an email notification indicating I could check-in to my flight.  Through the app I was able to easily check-in and receive mobile boarding passes.  Check-in at the airport was also handled at the Aegean counters that were marked with Olympic signs. 

For both the outbound and return, the flight was operated by a Dash-8 as the flight time was 1hr.  Both Dash-8's had a 2-2 seat configuration, and the seats looked worn and torn.  On both sectors, boarding started on time and all passengers were seated prior to scheduled push back time.  Once boarding had been completed, the flight attendants came by to hand out candies and wipes.  This was a nice gesture given the short duration of the flight.  After manual safety demonstrations, we pushed back and climbed towards our cruising altitude.

Even though it was only 1hr flight time, drinks were served.  On the outbound, the attendants started to serve drinks but then turbulence forced them to discontinue the service.  On the return, there was only minimal turbulence so drink service continued.  Along with drinks, cookies and crackers are also served.  This is a lot of service given the short flight time.

Overall, it was a nice and quick domestic flight with Olympic Airlines.  The website and app of Aegean were easy to manage and the service on board was a lot given the short flight time.       

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stay Report: Holiday Inn Express, Dublin Airport (July 2017)

Stay Report: Holiday Inn Express, Dublin Airport
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I was going to be in Dublin for a short period between flights, so I was looking for a place near the airport.  IHG was having a sale and the Holiday Inn Express was a good price - and I have never tried the brand internationally - so decided to book this hotel.  Closer to my arrival date, I emailed the hotel and inquired about the hotel shuttle between the airport and the hotel.  I was told that the hotel does provide a shuttle and that it is shared with the Crowne Plaza that is right next door.  

Upon arriving into Dublin, I went to the bus stand to wait for the hotel shuttle.  The hotel shuttle is more like a public bus that goes to the area where the hotels are situated - if you are staying at the hotel then the shuttle is complimentary, but if you want to visit the park or restaurants nearby then you have to pay. Also, there is a long wait for the shuttle.  The shuttle dropped everyone off at the Crowne Plaza hotel, and those who were staying at the Holiday Inn Express walked along with sidewalk to the hotel.

The hotel is somewhat narrow so the lobby of the hotel was not big.  The lobby contains the check-in desks, the bar & restaurant, the 'business center' and the place for the free breakfast in the morning.  Check-in was quick and I received my key and went to my room.  When I opened the door, the room looked more like an Ibis hotel room rather than a Holiday Inn Express - it was a very compact room. 

As you opened the door, straight ahead was the open closes with some hangers and shelves to store your stuff.  Continuing along a narrow hallway, on the right was the bathroom and further ahead on the left was the desk.  The bathroom was extremely small, as when you opened the door to the bathroom you covered the toilet.  The bathroom had a sink, a toilet and a very small shower.  There were no standard amenities, rather two bottles attached to the wall - a hand wash next to the sink and a shampoo, conditioner, and body wash all in one in the shower. 

The desk was rather big but it also doubled as the TV stand.  There were a lot of electrical outlets along the wall - which was very nice - and there were of different power ports (so Irish, UK, and US ports were available).  This was a nice gesture and one that other international hotels near airports should adopt.  Across from the desk was a sofa which looked like it could double as a sofa bed (although I am not sure there would be enough room to fit it).   Further into the room was the double bed with a nightstand on either side.  The bed itself was comfortable enough but did not have a lot of padding - and again felt more like an Ibis bed.

Free breakfast is included in all Holiday Inn Express hotels so in the morning I tried the breakfast before I got on the shuttle back to the airport.  The breakfast was similar to the ones served in the U.S., with some minor differences.  The hot food included scrambled eggs and sausage and cold food included a variety of cereals along with milk and yogurt.  Fruit was also available along with coffee and juices.  Pastries were available – including a very good chocolate croissant – but overall the selection was a bit limited as compared to the U.S.  If this is something that the hotel is highlighting as a perk, it needs to be improved.

Overall, it was an interesting stay at the Holiday Inn Express hotel.  It felt more like I was staying at an Ibis hotel - I was paying more for the HIExpress or IHG name but getting the same quality as the Ibis hotel. The nice perks included the fast and free wifi along with the electrical ports, but those did not outweigh the high price for the low quality.  It’s a nice overnight hotel, if you can get it on sale.