Hilton

Review: Home2Suites by Hilton Nashville Bellevue

Home2Suites Nashville Bellevue

After spending four months in a hotel this year already, staying in another one was not necessarily at the top of my list. After all, I needed to get my house back together after the fire. But I have mostly accomplished that and after having to cancel my fall vacation to Hawaii I really wanted to go somewhere. I normally would have been to Nashville in May and June for Mothers Day and Fathers Day but was told by my parents not to visit then. But now, as things are starting to get better in our part of the country, we all felt it was fine for me to come up for a long weekend. I decided to stay long enough to visit my ski club friends at the monthly membership meeting on Tuesday night. (Side note: the Nashville Ski Club generally meets the first Tuesday of each month. Check out the website if you’re interested!)

When I’d last visited my family at Christmas I’d tried to stay at the Home2Suites in the Bellevue area of town, which is the southwestern part of the city. However, despite having made reservations, when I was double-checking as the time approached I saw the hotel wasn’t going to be open in time. Hilton never notified me and I just wonder how many people arrived to find they had nowhere to stay. The hotel did eventually open in February, just in time for the pandemic to arrive.

Since I was going to be working all day Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday morning, I was hoping the the Home2Suites would be better suited for this than the Hampton Inn. While the Hampton was fine, I had tried to work there once and found the desk chair was completely unsuited for extensive time at the desk and I had wi-fi issues then too, even though I’d not noticed them on previous visits.

Home2Suites is one of Hilton’s limited service brands. Breakfast is provided each day though there is no restaurant. The rooms have a kitchenette though it does not include a cooktop like the Homewood Suites does. But it has enough plates and silverware to last several days along with a microwave and full-sized refrigerator so it makes staying here several weeks a viable option, especially if there’s no Homewood Suites in the area. In this part of town there are only three hotels total (the Microtel Suites is the other one) so if you’re looking to use or accumulate points and you’re going to stay awhile, I can recommend the Home2Suites.

I chose to pay for this stay using a combination of points and cash, assuming I’d earn points for the portion of the stay I paid for.  Well, I did get points for the charge on my credit card but I did not earn points otherwise.  Next time I do something like this I’ll make two separate reservations to be sure I earn points!

Location

The hotel is located in One Bellevue Place, a large shopping area, so it’s not the most scenic location. But that means there are lots of shops and restaurants in walking distance as well as couple of grocery stores. The Ford Ice Center is located here as well though it would be a fairly long walk, especially if you were carrying ice skating or hockey gear.

There is a small covered area to park while checking in and unloading your bags. There are a few spots in front of and across from the hotel but there are many more spots behind the hotel. All parking in the area is free.

Lobby

The lobby is a bright and inviting area with seating on each side that would normally be used during breakfast. While I didn’t see signs prohibiting eating or congregating in the lobby, breakfast was advertised as grab-n-go so it was clear they preferred it if you’d eat in your room.

The front desk is directly ahead upon entering and each of the three check-in stations had large plexiglass partitions in front of them. In addition, a long, narrow table had been pushed in front of the desk to keep you an extra couple of feet back. Associates all wore masks and most of them at least knew how to wear them properly though if the lobby was empty it was not uncommon to see a couple of them talking behind the desks with their masks pulled down. In general they’d pull them back up to speak with guests. With so much space and a plexiglass barrier between us it was not really an issue but with all the extra signage that has been added to ensure social distancing you’d think they’d realize that the masks need to be on all the time. That being said I must confess that the first day I walked down to breakfast without my mask. Just totally forgot it and left it in the room. I left it sitting by my car keys and had I been leaving the building I would have remembered it but since all I needed was my room key I just totally goofed up. I was horrified when I reached the lobby and realized what I’d done. There were no recriminations and they offered me a free mask right away. I sure didn’t forget again!

I was welcomed warmly by Lloyd, who seemed to be one of the more senior members of the team. He thanked me for my Diamond status (earned the hard way this year) and got me checked in quickly. I was given a room on the fourth (top) floor near the end of the hall.

There was never an issue of having to ride the elevator with anyone else while I was there. Signs in the elevator lobby encourage folks to ride separately with only the folks in your own room.

Fourth Floor Elevator Lobby

The hotel retains a bit of the “new hotel smell” and the decor is all fresh-looking, as it should be with a 6-month-old hotel.

Fourth Floor Hallway

Guest Room

I had read about the seals that Hilton puts on guest room doors to let you know that no one has been in the room since it was serviced and was told that if the seal was not on my door or if it was broken I should notify the front desk. The seal was intact on my room and it was fairly easy to remove the sticker. While I suspect it would not be impossible to remove and reattach the sticker, mine did not seem to have been tampered with.

Guest Room Door with Seal

I entered my room to find it was quite chilly. Apparently someone in Hilton management had been reading my complaints that some hotels did not allow the a/c to be turned down low enough so they pre-set my room to 65F! While it was appreciated, it was not necessary. While I do like to sleep in a very cool room, I prefer it a more normal 72F-74F during the day. Fortunately the thermostat was easy to locate and operate.

The room is a slightly modified version of a standard hotel room layout: a small entry hall with the bathroom on one side and the bed area beyond. But in this case the kitchenette is directly opposite the bathroom. The closet is at the far end of the room across from the bed. The desk and sofa are situated between the kitchenette/bathroom area and the bed area.

Bedroom Area

The comfortable king-sized bed is located at the far end of the room and can be somewhat partitioned off by a large curtain (seen in green in the photo). While this obviously doesn’t help with noise from the TV it would at least keep that area dark if one person was up and the other was in bed.  This room had a nightstand on one side and a table on the other.  The night stand had both electrical outlets and USB ports right on the front side, which was great. The night stand itself could stand to be a little larger as if you try to put both your tablet and your phone on it you’re going to have to put one on top of the other and the tablet will extend past the edge of the night stand, making it easy to accidentally hit when turning over or getting in/out of bed.  The table on the far side did not have any built-in outlets.  There was an outlet on the wall which the lamp used so that did mean one outlet was available but you had to reach behind the table to access it.  Not a big deal for me as I wasn’t sharing the room but might be annoying if there are two folks trying to charge two devices each.

Directly across from the bed was counter space with an area below it that I found handy for placing my empty suitcase as well as a cabinet that held some of the linens for the sleeper sofa. The closet, which had a sort of heavy-duty curtain as a door, was against the far wall. The HVAC unit was directly under the window though the thermostat was located in the entry area. My room was on the same side as the main entrance and faced the shops on the other side of the drive.

Living Area

The sleeper sofa is on the same wall as the bed and it reminded me very much of the one from the Homewood Suites. My main complaint about these sofas is that they only have a double bed so they’re not very wide. That means it’s uncomfortable to try to lay on the sofa unless you’re quite short. The ottoman is large but it would still mean you’d have to sit up on the sofa to stretch your legs out on it. Maybe I’m just weird in that I prefer to stretch out all the way.

The large flat-screen TV could be swiveled so that it could be viewed from either the bed or the sofa. It sat atop a cabinet with shelves on one side and drawers on the other. I think if this cabinet was installed in other hotels the side with shelves might be used for the mini-fridge.

The drawers were not particularly large but for my short stay they were more than adequate.

I was glad to see the cleaning process extended to the TV remote. Often when I’m in hotels I never even turn on the TV but I did use it during this visit. However I do wish the channels were more like the ones at the Homewood Suites in Steamboat and included Animal Planet and ION Television. Pro sports were still fairly limited during my visit but I didn’t see an option for the regional FOX Sports channels that would allow guests to watch Predators hockey and Grizzlies basketball.

Beside the TV cabinet was where I spent most of my non-sleeping time in the room and I was impressed by the thought that went into this design.

As you can see the counter stretches from the TV cabinet towards the kitchen. However that counter is too high to be used as a desk. Instead this oval table on wheels is tucked beneath it. The table doesn’t slide fully under the counter but that’s OK. I had brought my wireless keyboard and mouse along with my laptop so I was able to put the laptop on the counter – making it essentially a monitor at eye level – and have the mouse and keyboard on the table. (I didn’t have the table pulled out as far as it is in the photo.) And I was very pleased to see a proper desk chair. It had good lower back support and its height could be adjusted. All of this made it easy for me to work from this area for a couple of days.

The one thing that puzzled me was this: the desk chair was the only chair in the room. The room could sleep four people if you put two in the sleeper sofa. Where were the other folks supposed to sit while eating at the table? I guess the ottoman could be used for that purpose and maybe two small children could sit there. As I was the room’s only occupant it wasn’t an issue for me, I just found it strange.

Kitchenette

I refer to this area as “kitchenette” instead of “kitchen” because there’s no cooktop. There is a note saying that a portable cooktop is available if needed. I guess it depends on how much actual stove-top cooking you normally do. I lasted 4 months in the Homewood Suites without ever using the cooktop that was provided.

There’s a full-sized refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom.

Fridge on the top (left) and Freezer on the bottom

In the center is the sink with the microwave above it. There are open storage areas for cups and glasses on one side and plates and bowls on the other.

I counted six place servings but when I checked the silverware drawer one of the basic utensils had only 5 items though I can’t recall if it was spoons, forks or knives. Still, for a single person that’s not really an issue. There were also a few baking/casserole-type dishes which might be good for reheating things in the microwave.

Bathroom

The bathroom is not overly large but doesn’t feel like tight quarters.  There’s only one sink though there’s plenty of counter space on either side.  The shelf beneath the sink holds the linens.  Above the toilet are hooks for hanging up the bath towels.  The bathroom has a pocket door which made the room feel larger, I think, since you didn’t have to slide down by the toilet to open or close it.

I liked how wide the drawers were.  At both my stays in Homewood Suites this year the drawers were too narrow to easily accommodate the hair dryer.  This drawer had no such issues.  As a bonus, the drawers were also wide enough to put my dopp kit in it without it being squished on the sides.  That may be the first time I’ve ever stayed anywhere with a drawer that wide.

The toiletries were all by Neutrogena.  At the sink was a bar of soap.

And as you can see there were wall-mounted toiletries provided in the shower.  These were also Neutrogena products, like what was provided at Homewood Suites.  After just two showers I was reminded why I’d ended up buying my own body wash when living there – this shower gel will dry your skin like crazy.  The shampoo was fine but no conditioner was provided.  When I return over the holidays I will be sure to bring some with me. 

The shower has the one small shelf in the corner by the toiletries and, wonder of wonders, not one but TWO well-placed shelves in the back corner!  I had been excited when some hotels began putting a small shelf in the lower back corner of shower stalls as it makes shaving your legs so much easier.  But the problem was there was nowhere to put the razor (except the shower floor) while putting shave gel on your leg and once your leg was covered, there was nowhere to set the can of shave gel while you were shaving.  This shower had a higher shelf just for that purpose and it was greatly appreciated!  (Really, I know guys have no idea how big a deal this is but it’s groundbreaking.)  Kudos to the design team for getting this right.

Other Amenities

Spin2Cycle

Spin2Cycle is the name given to the area that contains both the self-serve laundry and the gym.  It’s just off the lobby and opposite the elevators.  Stepping inside there are a couple of chairs, presumably for use by those waiting on their laundry.  Two sets of washers and dryers are available.  It felt just like home, er, the Homewood Suites where I lived for four months, when I saw that one of the units was out of service.

The gym is not large but has a recumbent bike, a couple of treadmills and an elliptical trainer for cardio.  There’s also a small universal machine and a bench with a large selection of hand weights. A selection of medicine balls, a fit ball and several mats were available as well.  I don’t believe I ever saw anyone using the gym but I intend to try it out on my next visit.  I’ve resisted going back to my own gym so far just because I don’t want to wear a mask while working out and am not comfortable being among that many folks without wearing a mask but if I was the only one in the place I’d feel perfectly fine doing that.

Patio

On the back side of the building is a patio with a number of tables and chairs and two large grills.  I assume they’re available for all guests.  It would be nice to eat breakfast out here on pretty mornings.  There were also seating areas just outside the front door but they were currently not in use due to COVID-19.

Pool

The hotel has a covered saltwater pool though it was closed due to the pandemic.  This photo was taken through the door.

Pandemic Protections

As mentioned above, all employees wore face masks and generally wore them properly when dealing with guests.  Breakfast was reduced to grab-n-go with only one hot item available each day. (I was really surprised there was no orange juice.) There is no full housekeeping every day though there are signs posted indicating what types of cleaning you can expect for your room.  Since I was only staying three nights and was working during the day, I opted to have them skip my room entirely.  There are signs posted everywhere about wearing masks and keeping six feet apart.  There is a laundry cart in each floor’s elevator lobby if you have dirty towels you’d like to turn in.  While the cart is a little unsightly it’s better than towels sitting on the floor outside a room.

Going Green

The hotel did provide separate trash and recycling bins in the room, which I always appreciate.  They’re very proud of the eco-friendly portions of the hotel and have this large poster in the elevator to brag on themselves a bit.  (Nothing wrong with that.)

In the end

I really enjoyed my stay at the Home2Suites.  It was nice to be able to be within walking distance of so many restaurants at lunch time.  It was a good place to “work from home” while not at home.  I plan to return at Thanksgiving but it was so much more expensive at Christmas that I’ll be at the Hampton instead – at least as of now.  I’ve learned to keep checking on prices as travel dates approach and you may get a better deal!

 

Categories: Hilton, Home2Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Homewood Suites Southwind Hacks Cross (Memphis)

I hadn’t planned to stay at this hotel just a few miles from my home. My clothes dryer had other ideas. Fortunately I was home the night it decided to catch fire and I was able to call the fire department before things got too far out of hand. Though the fire damage was mostly confined to the hallway where my laundry closet is, the smoke and soot went everywhere so I spent nearly four months living elsewhere. Except for a couple of weeks where I was on vacation skiing, I was living in the Homewood Suites.

Homewood Suites Exterior
(photo credit: hilton.com)

If you’re not familiar with Homewood Suites, it’s Hilton’s mid-range all-suites brand. All the rooms have small kitchenettes with a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full-sized refrigerator. Most of the rooms are one bedroom (king) suites meaning that the remainder of the space is one large room with a bed at one end and the sofa at the other and a TV that can be swiveled between the two areas. The room I had was a one bedroom (king) studio suite. The difference in this and the studio suite is that the bedroom has a door that can be closed and there are two TVs, one in each room. Both of these room types have a sleeper sofa that looks to be a double bed. There’s also one suite with two king beds and a few rooms for the mobility-challenged that have two queen beds.

I received a friendly welcome when I arrived and over my time there got friendly with a lot of the staff. The managers, especially Brandon, took great care of me during my stay. I was initially assigned a room on the ground floor which was nice, considering how much stuff I ended up moving into the room. While I had to check out the one week I was on vacation, I was able to reserve the room next door for my return where I stayed the rest of time.

Homewood Suites Lobby
(photo credit: hilton.com)

Homewood Suites are generally considered three-star properties and that’s probably fair. This HS is not far from our local soccer complex and as such can be very busy on weekends when there are tournaments in town. Of course once the COVID lockdowns began in mid-March the number of guests dropped dramatically and it was much quieter.

This property is showing its age a bit. The kitchen and entry area have a laminate floor while the rest of the room (except the bathroom) has carpet. The edge between the laminate and the carpet was quite worn, resulting in cracked flooring and frayed carpet. Around the window were spots of rust, the kind I’d never have noticed if this were a short-term stay because I’d never have looked behind the curtains but some days in the spring I’d open the windows to let in some fresh air and thus noticed these spots.

Even before COVID I was only having housekeeping come in once a week but once the lockdown began housekeeping was no longer allowed to enter rooms where people were checked in. So I changed my own sheets and borrowed their cleaning supplies to do what I could. Still, by the time I checked out the room clearly needed a deep clean. Looking back, in mid-April I should have asked to switch rooms again just to keep my room from getting so stale. Hopefully I don’t have to stay in a hotel this long ever again but if so, lesson learned.

One Bedroom Suite

As this is an older property, the room felt a tiny bit smaller than the Homewood Suites in Steamboat, Colorado where I spent one night in February. Upon entering the room the floor is a hardwood laminate and extends to one side into your galley kitchen. Take two steps and you’re in the carpeted area that includes the living area and the bedroom The sleeper sofa is directly in front and the TV and entertainment center are opposite. Go through the door beside the TV and enter the bedroom where you’ll find a king bed and the bathroom.

Kitchen

The galley kitchen is quite narrow but has a two-burner stove, a microwave, toaster, coffee maker and a full-size refrigerator/freezer.

Homewood Suites Kitchen

I think there are supposed to be four sets of silverware but I believe I had only two knives and three spoons or something like that. I also noticed that I had different kitchen knives between the two rooms I occupied. I asked housekeeping about it once and they didn’t seem to think those inconsistencies were anything to be concerned with, that it was probably just something that happened over years as people in different rooms may have gotten together and exchanged the cutlery among them. All of that to say that if you’re planning to be cooking a good bit you may want to bring your own cutlery or verify what’s available before you begin cooking.

I’m not a coffee drinker so didn’t use what was provided but I did note that one guy across the hall bought his own coffee maker so I guess what was provided wasn’t great. Or maybe he’s a coffee snob.

The kitchen design had the counter on the outer (hall) wall of unit with the fridge against the far wall but facing the counter. This caused an issue when trying to open the dishwasher. The kitchen is so narrow that the dishwasher door cannot be full laid flat which means you can’t really put anything in the back of the lower rack unless you have long arms or are a contortionist. This was never an issue for me as I don’t cook and could easily just use the top rack and the front of the lower rack. It was good to see in newer Homewood Suites (like the one in Steamboat) that the dishwasher was placed at the other end of the counter so there was no interference with its door.

Across from the kitchen counter, beside the fridge was a small table with two chairs. As there’s no desk in this unit the table could double for that – but only if it happens to suit you. I found it too tall to comfortably type all day so I ended up only using it for its original purpose.

Living Area

The living area consists of a sleeper sofa with a table and lamp on one side and a floor lamp on the other, an arm chair and a 6-drawer chest with the TV on top. There’s also a rectangle ottoman and an unique coffee table that sits over it like an arch. These pieces detach from each other so you can use the ottoman as a footstool or as additional seating.  I apparently failed to take photos of this area so here is a photo from the Hilton website.  This photo appears to be from a 2-bedroom unit as mine did not have this opening into the bedroom and the TV stand was flush against the left wall.

Homewood Suites Living Area
(photo credit: hilton.com)

Bedroom

The king bed dominates the bedroom. There are night stands with lamps on either side and one side has an alarm clock. The lamps have both electric and USB outlets for charging your devices, which is very nice.

Homewood Suites King Bed

Across from the bed, on the wall with the door that backs on to the living room is another 6-drawer chest with a TV on top. Although there were approximately 50 channels available, I was disappointed by the selection. The local Fox Sports affiliates were not available which meant I couldn’t watch Memphis Grizzlies basketball or Nashville Predators hockey – although live games were shut down in mid-March, re-runs of exciting past games were aired and I’d have liked to have been able to watch them. There was also no Animal Planet or ION television, to my disappointment. I ended up rarely turning on the TV.

Homewood Suites Bedroom

Bathroom

The bathroom area has a tiled floor. The sink area is open to the room and has decent counter space on either side of the sink. On each side underneath the sink is a small drawer and a narrow cabinet. The drawer is so narrow that the hair dryer only barely fit and had to be set inside “just right” so that the drawer would close. I loved the fluorescent light built into the mirror.  For someone as near-sighted as I am it was a great to be able to see clearly up close.

Homewood Suites Bathroom

Toiletries were by Neutrogena and I wasn’t crazy about their perfume-y smell.  I ended up buying my own full-sized toiletries since I’d need them eventually anyway.

Homewood Suites Neutrogena Toiletries. I’m not a great fan.

Against the back wall was the closet. It has double sliding doors but really, only one was needed. Even then, the doors did not slide completely past the closet’s opening. This made it very difficult to reach anything that was in the farthest corner. I realize for most folks this is not an issue but as someone living there, it became a real pain.

Homewood Suites Closet
This is as far as the sliding door opened

The toilet and tub/shower are in a room with its own door across from the sink. Water pressure was decent and I never ran out of hot water.

Homewood Suites Tub and Toilet

Amenities

Dining

Pre-COVID this property offered a hot breakfast every day. Cereal and fruit were also available. Monday thru Thursday evenings a light meal was also offered that included limited adult beverages. After mid-March the food area shut down completely and had not resumed when I left in late May. But if it has started back, be sure to make friends with Ms. Betty in the mornings and Ms. Linda in the evenings and they will take very good care of you.

Homewood Suites Dining Area
(photo credit: hilton.com)

At the time I checked in snacks and sundries were available in a small store next to the front desk. In April all items from the store were removed and the front desk no longer had cash.

Laundry

The laundry room is located on the second floor at the opposite end of the building from the front desk. There are two washers and two dryers. When I arrived the two washers worked but only one of the dryers worked. They all looked old and were removed the first week of March in anticipation of new ones arriving. However the new ones didn’t arrive right away and it was either late April or early May before the new units finally arrived. And even then, one of the dryers didn’t work. Since it was in the same spot as the previous dryer that didn’t work, I think there’s something wrong with the wiring or the outlet there.

Homewood Suites Laundry Room – these units were replaced with newer models this spring

Gym

There is also a tiny gym on the first floor, directly under the laundry room.  I never used it because shortly after my arrival it was shut down due to COVID.  This is unfortunate because it’s small enough that allowing people reserve it and allow for cleanings between uses is certainly do-able.

Homewood Suites Gym

Homewood Suites Gym

Outdoor amenities

The hotel does have a pool though of course it was too cool to use during most of my stay and then COVID. There’s also a basketball court and after the weather warmed up it was not unusual to see young men playing. I’m not sure they were guests but as this was during the most restrictive period of the COVID lockdown I was surprised management allowed them to stay and play. I had heard of other hotels removing their basketball rims to prevent this type of quarantine violation.

In the end

This is not a fancy hotel but it’s nice if you’re going to be somewhere for an extended amount of time. If kids’ soccer is not your thing you might want to check to be sure there’s no tournament in the area before booking. I would not hesitate to have family stay here on future visits.

Categories: Hilton, Homewood Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs, Colorado

For my second ski trip this year I visited Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My group was arriving on Saturday and since I was the assistant trip leader I wanted to be sure I arrived before or at least with the group. To be certain of this I flew out Friday night and spent one at the Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs.

Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs

I arrived on a group shuttle from the airport sometime after 10 PM so things were fairly quiet at that point. (Side note: due to the hotel’s location, it’s very possible you’ll be the last stop on a shared shuttle ride.) I was assisted promptly, my Diamond status was recognized, and I was directed to a room on the third floor. The hotel has two elevators, one on each side of the lobby and I was helpfully shown the one that would be closest to my room. The hotel is laid out in a gentle V shape with the lobby, bar and breakfast area in the center. A free parking area is in the back of the hotel. There’s a small market with snacks available next to the front desk.

Lobby area

The hotel is relatively new; this is only its second ski season. As such almost everything is still in very good shape and the decor looks modern. My room was only a short walk from the elevator.

Guest Floor Hallway

Continue reading

Categories: Hilton, Homewood Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Edited 04/22/20: added photos

When looking for accommodations in Queenstown, there aren’t a whole lot of choices with hotel points. There are hotels in the Novotel/Sofitel chain and a couple of Hiltons. And of the Hiltons, only the Queenstown Resort & Spa had rooms with three beds, so that was our obvious choice.

The hotel is just a short ride from the airport but is across the lake from Queenstown proper. There’s a water taxi that runs about once an hour for $5 NZD each way. Or you can always take a regular taxi or car service around the lake.

It’s hard to take a good photo of the front of the hotel as it faces the water

Our airport shuttle dropped us off at the covered entrance. Since it was still before noon, we weren’t surprised our room wasn’t ready. The bell captain took our bags and after a quick bite at the coffee shop we took the water taxi into Queenstown for the rest of the day. The front desk staff did a great job keeping me apprised when our room was available and our luggage was taken our room for us.

Main Entrance

Front Desk

Lobby Seating

The hotel is comprised of two buildings. The main one, where the front desk is located, contains regular hotel rooms and suites as well as conference rooms and the primary restaurant. The coffee shop is in that building but is accessed via an external entrance.

Our room, which was basically a 2 BR condo, was in the building next door, known as the Lakeside Residences. It’s worth pointing out that all the rooms in both buildings have views of Lake Wakatipu and mountains on the other side. I didn’t learn until halfway through our stay that there’s a tunnel connecting the two buildings. That was very convenient when going to breakfast each day.

Due to the hilly nature of the terrain where the hotel is located, the main entrance to the Lakeside Residences is actually on the 3rd floor. That was great for us as it was also the location of our room, which was the next-to-last residence on the left end of the hall. The terrain was actually quite steep in places and might be hard for mobility-challenged folks to get around. Continue reading

Categories: Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hampton Inn Bellevue/I-40 West

I went home to Nashville for both Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as a weekend in between when a family member was in the hospital. On each occasion I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Bellevue which is right off I-40. It’s a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence winner and it’s easy to see why.

Hampton Inn Bellevue/I-40 West, Nashville, Tennessee

Continue reading

Categories: Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Each year my friends and I try to take a two week vacation in the fall. We have a system that whoever had the birthday ending in 5 or 0 that year gets to pick the location. That’s served us well and covers 6 years out of any decade. This year the birthday girl decided on spending most of our time exploring New Zealand with a few days on the end on the beaches of Australia.

That decision was made late in 2018 so our first task was finding business class award space on the longhaul segments for two of us (one doesn’t mind flying coach). We were fine buying our positioning flights as long as we could lock in business class for those 14 hour flights!

I was looking for award space on American, Qantas and United as well as keeping an eye out for space on Air New Zealand. I knew that American was pretty stingy on longhaul award space in premium cabins but they look positively generous compared to what Air New Zealand typically opens up. As luck would have it I found three business class award seats from Brisbane (near the Australian beaches we wanted to visit) back to Los Angeles for the last Wednesday in October. That was perfect so we snagged those even though we didn’t have our outbound tickets yet. I used my miles for the birthday girl’s return ticket which cost 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $81.83 for each ticket. However, thanks to my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard I get a rebate of up to 10,000 miles each year so the net cost was 150K miles. I considered using 55,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per ticket instead but our friend who lives in Chicago was using her AA miles to get one of the tickets and I know that sometimes Alaska has access to one less award ticket than oneworld alliance airlines and I just wanted to make things easier by having the two of us on a single PNR. I bought a United domestic flight from LA to Denver to Memphis for my return flight and my Chicago friend bought a United ticket home as well. However, when United made the fall schedule adjustments, I would land in Denver too late to catch the afternoon flight back to Memphis so they re-routed me through Chicago. While I was stuck on a one-cabin plane for the Chicago-Memphis leg, at least I got to fly back with my friend as far as Chicago.

After buying the return flights we sweated for a couple of weeks until Qantas opened up two business class seats on their 747 from San Francisco to Sydney. The seats were available two weeks and one day before the return flight. That couldn’t have worked out any better for us. My friend from Chicago and I were even able to include positioning flights with the cost of our tickets: 80,000 American AAdvantage miles + $28.20 in fees

Long haul flights: the green line indicates my outbound flight while the blue is my return flight.

Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Hilton, Hotel, IHG, New Zealand, Oceania, OneWorld, Other Hotels, Qantas | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Hilton Vienna (am Stadtpark)

On a recent business trip to Vienna we looked at staying close to my company’s office, which was near the airport. There are a couple of hotels in the vicinity but the only real options for dining that didn’t involve a cab or train ride were restaurants in the airport itself. The CAT (City Airport Train) was a great option for transiting back and forth between the airport area and the city center. It’s a non-stop train that takes about 16 minutes and runs every half-hour. The Hilton Vienna is right across the street from the train station and that made its selection a no-brainer. When exiting the CAT part of the train station, turn left, exit the building and the Hilton is across the street and slightly to the right. The signage in the train station is not great as there’s just one small sign and when I first arrived I couldn’t see it due to a display set up in the middle of the station.

Lobby

There are two entrances to the hotel. I arrived via the door near the restaurant; the other entrance faces the park. The check-in desk is quite obvious and will either be straight ahead or immediately on your right upon entry.

The lobby looked fresh with lots of light-colored wood and a large seating area.

Hilton Vienna Lobby

Continue reading

Categories: Austria, Europe, Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Hilton Munich Airport

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

Let me say right off the top that this is not going to be the most comprehensive hotel review I’ve ever done. We arrived in the evening and had an early morning flight out so our priority was sleep.

We took the train to the airport from the main train station and from there followed the signs to the Hilton. It’s well-marked but be aware that it is a bit of a hike and you will be going outdoors at some point. If you have a lot of luggage you may want to use a baggage cart to make your journey go faster.

Hilton Munich Airport
(photo courtesy Hilton Munich website)

As we followed the airport signs we were eventually directed to this hallway. Lit up like this it’s kinda hard to miss, right? At this point you’re still outside.

From the Munich Airport Terminal follow this hall to the Hilton’s elevators

We walked through the doors at the end of this hall and the elevators to the Hilton’s main floor were on the right.

Continue reading

Categories: Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.

The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Iberia, Iceland, Icelandair, IHG, Marriott, Netherlands, OneWorld, Radisson, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

One of my co-workers and I took a taxi from the Cologne/Bonn airport to the Hilton Bonn. It’s a lovely yellow building located right on the Rhine River. The Viking River Cruise we took on the Rhine a few years ago would have sailed right by this hotel after we spent the day in Cologne, just a few miles away. It’s in an area very convenient to a pedestrian-only section of shops and even the train station is not a far walk away. I liked the hotel itself, with one GIANT caveat about my stay.

Hilton Bonn

Continue reading

Categories: Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.