Lodging Review

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

Each time I arrived I was greeted warmly, recognized as a Diamond member and allowed to choose two items from the selection of snacks and water. All the staff members I interacted with were very friendly and were good at their jobs.

Ground Floor

The front desk is immediately on the right when entering via the front door. Across from the desk is this seating area used mostly at breakfast but sometimes in the evenings I’d see families assembled here. The French doors in the back lead to the hotel’s only conference room.

Hampton Inn Dining Area

From the front desk it’s a short walk down this hall to the elevators, which are the first left turn here. There’s another outside door in this lobby. It leads both to the pool and to more parking.

Hampton Inn Ground Floor Hall

The gym and laundry room are the next two doors on the left past the elevators. The gym is tiny and seems to be as large as one guest room. The laundry was likewise as small. Both are open 6 AM to Midnight.

The pool was closed for the season but it does have a lift to assist the mobility-challenged in and out of the water.

Hampton Inn Pool

Guest Rooms

I selected a king room for myself and in one case was given a corner room at the end of the hall during one stay and in the other two cases was assigned a room in the middle of the hall. The corner room seemed to be ever-so-slightly larger than the ones in the middle of the hall. For what it’s worth the hotel was much busier at Thanksgiving than on a Sunday night in mid-December or over Christmas. As such there was a bit more “people” noise during that stay than during the others. My corner room faced west, toward the soccer fields, and there was definitely less outside traffic noise than on the east side. However, if you’re there during youth soccer games it could be a bit noisy and during the summer I would imagine the room would get quite warm if you don’t keep the curtains closed because it would get the afternoon sun.

I exited the elevator into a small lobby. All rooms are to the left and the ice and vending machines were to the right.

Hampton Inn Fourth Floor Elevator Lobby

This is not a large hotel and the hallway extends about the same distance in each direction. I love the decor and suspect it’s been fairly recently renovated.

Hampton Inn Guest Floor Hall

The room had a fairly standard layout: a short entry hall with the bathroom on the right followed by a closet, then opens up into the area with the bed, sofa, desk and TV. The entry area and bathroom are not carpeted while the bedroom area is.

Hampton Inn Entry Area

The king bed was very comfortable and came with four pillows. I used the foam pillow stored in the closet as I find those let me sleep cooler at night.

Hampton Inn King Bed

Each side of the bed had a nightstand. On one side the electrical outlets were embedded in the lamp base.

Hampton Inn Outlets in the Lamp Base

While on the other side there was an outlet on the front of the nightstand. Both nightstands had a pull-out shelf which was a good place to rest a phone or tablet overnight.

Hampton Inn Outlets in the Nightstand

Next to the bed was a small sofa with a little table that could be used for dining or as a desk.

Hampton Inn Sofa

Across from the sofa was a desk. The lamp had an outlet in the base. The chair was not comfortable for working for any length of time.

Hampton Inn Desk

Across from the bed was a large cabinet with the TV sitting on top of it.

Hampton Inn TV and Cabinet

Inside the cabinet was the empty mini-fridge and some slide-out drawers for storage. The center section is not behind doors and contained a microwave and the coffee and tea supplies.

Inside the Cabinet under the TV

To the left of the cabinet was an attached table and underneath were two rolling padded stools.

Hampton Inn Padded Stools

The closet was behind a full-length mirror and had a number of coat hangers, a luggage rack, the iron and ironing board, an additional blanket and the foam pillow.

Hampton Inn Closet

In the bathroom, the sink was on the right, against the hallway wall. Lots of counter space and underneath there’s a shelf running the full width of the unit.

Hampton Inn Guest Room Sink

Toiletries were by Neutrogena. They had a slightly perfume-y scent but not too much.

Hampton Inn Toiletries

The toilet was in the middle of the room with the towel rack behind it. I liked that some compartments were left open and the two hooks on either side up on the wall were handy as well.

Hampton Inn Guest Room Toilet

On the left was a shower/tub combo. The showerhead was by Water Pik and could be adjusted to provide a number of different spray patterns, which was nice. What wasn’t as nice was that the head itself couldn’t be adjusted much at all. In one of the bathrooms I kept hitting my elbow on the grab bar due to where I had to stand to be under the spray. It would be nice if that could be changed as well.

Hampton Inn Guest Room Shower

Breakfast

Breakfast is complimentary at Hampton Inns and is served from 6 to 10 AM. While it’s not a large spread, there was a decent choice. There are hot selections that vary a little each day. In the photo below tortillas are shown but on other days there were good ol’ Southern biscuits. Eggs, potatos and bacon were in the hot tray on this particular day. Oatmeal was a staple too as was French toast. There were a couple types of pressed juice, smoothies, yogurt and fresh fruit. There were three different types of cereal with your choice of skim or 2% milk. Several types of juices are available in the machine. Pastries and toast are on offer as well. And, like any good breakfast at a limited service property, there was a waffle machine.

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

Hampton Inn Breakfast

All the items above were in a small room near the kitchen.  The hot drink station was at the back of the dining area, near the conference room, I assume so it could do double-duty.

Hampton Inn Hot Drinks

Business Center

There was a small business center with a couple of computers right next to the breakfast area.

Hampton Inn Business Center

In the end

This hotel is super-convenient to my family and I’d have no trouble staying here again. The staff is very friendly and for me the location can’t be beat.

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Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch

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

We left Auckland just a day after landing, flying Air New Zealand to Christchurch.  Wow, domestic travel in NZ is so much like it used to be in the US.  Nobody checked my ID.  I checked my bag myself. I did go through security but it was much less intrusive.  It was so nice!  The flight is blocked at 1h 24m but it seemed to arrive much more quickly.  The plane was a single-cabin A320 and as cheap as tickets were, this seems to be a very common way to jump between cities in NZ.

The biggest challenge I face when booking travel with two friends is that we prefer to use points for travel and we each want our own bed. I tried everything I know of to find a points-friendly hotel where we could have three beds and it just wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to find in the US and much tougher abroad. Even suites – which would have enough room for a third bed – seem to provide only a king bed and not one that can be split apart. We could have booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) portal, the Amex Membership Rewards portal or the Citi ThankYou Points portal or even redeemed points against my Barclays ArrivalPlus but in the end we decided to use cash. That would allow the birthday girl to pay and earn UR points from her Sapphire Preferred card which would help to offset the points she used buying her plane ticket to New Zealand.  The room was less than $200/night USD all in so with each of us effectively paying for a night, the price wasn’t bad at all.

I used Trip Advisor as a starting point and narrowed the list down to about 8-10 places that fit our criteria. I then started weeding places out based on reviews before presenting a list of about 4-5 places to my friends. The birthday girl ended up choosing The Pavilions. I was a little skeptical of how this would work but things turned out quite well.

Pavilions Hotel
(photo courtesy pavilionshotel.co.nz)

The hotel is family-owned and has been around quite awhile. It was raining the day we arrived and our room was in a building behind the main one. Fortunately a staff member helped us with our bags and guided us through the correct wing of the main building to make our dash across the parking lot as short as possible.

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Categories: Award Travel, Hotel, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport

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

We had booked our trips from the US to New Zealand and back from Australia before we had worked out our exact plans for what to do in between those dates. As it turned out we’d have been better served to go straight to Christchurch but since we had our flights into Auckland, we didn’t want to immediately jump on a flight to Christchurch in case one of our bags went missing or there were other travel delays. So I looked for an airport-area hotel for us for one night.

I tried and failed to find us a hotel room near the airport that had three beds. But since I had a free night with my IHG credit card and would get a second one a few months before we left, I was able to book two rooms at no charge.

I don’t think of Auckland as particularly tropical yet the area near the airport had palm trees and the hotel grounds were quite lush. The yellow shuttle bus (more on that below) dropped us off right at the front door.

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Front Entrance

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Main Entry

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Review: Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Airport

At the end of my business trip my LOT Airlines flight arrived in Chicago too late to catch the last flight back to Memphis on a Friday evening so I booked a stay at the Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Airport. The hotel has a free shuttle that runs every half hour. As I have a friend in the area I did not take the shuttle to the hotel but did take it back to the airport in the morning.

One thing I like about Hyatt Places is the consistency and this hotel did not disappoint in that respect. The check-in desk is just inside the front door and I was greeted promptly and thanked for my loyalty as a Discoverist (gained by holding the Chase Hyatt Visa) and offered a free bottle of water. Check-in was quick and I was assigned a room on the second floor.

The lobby seemed a bit larger than I recall at other Hyatt Places, or perhaps it’s just because the hotel is shaped a little differently. I later realized there were several conference rooms which I don’t believe is something I normally see at Hyatt Places, so perhaps that’s why there was more seating.

Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Lobby Seating

Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Conference Room Lobby

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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

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Review: AC Bella Sky Marriott, Copenhagen, Denmark

I stayed here for a week while on a business trip. Our office was near the airport and this hotel was just a short cab ride away.

When approaching the hotel, the first thing you notice is the unusual design of the exterior. While there’s a lot of unusual modern-design buildings in Copenhagen not everyone likes them. One night when we were returning from the city center and told our cabby the name of the hotel, he paused and said “Oh, the ugly one”! Whether you like it or not, it is certainly distinctive.

AC Bella Sky Marriott

Airport Shuttle

This hotel shares an airport shuttle with the Intercontinental, which is just on the other side of the highway. It costs 15 DKK (about 2 EUR) and the charge is billed to your room. The shuttle stop is on the first traffic island outside Terminal 2. As my flight landed in T3 I was easily able to follow the Hotel Shuttle signs to T2 but once I reached T2, the signs disappeared. Having arrived on an early morning flight I was fortunate that there was not a lot of traffic and once the shuttle arrived it was easy to spot. As a side note, when reviewing your room charges, be sure you’ve been charged for the *airport* shuttle and not the *cruise* shuttle as there is a significant price difference. Continue reading

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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.

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Review: aloft 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

After wrapping up our tour of Iceland we took an early-morning Icelandair flight to Munich where we’d spend the last few days of our trip. With the time change we arrived in Munich in the early afternoon. We took the train to the city center.

You know the old real estate slogan “Location, Location, Location”? That’s absolutely true of the aloft Munich. It’s literally across the street from the Hauptbanhof, or Main Train Station. This makes it not only easy to get to anywhere the train goes, but it’s also a stop for the intra-city tram system and the hop-on/hop-off buses have their offices and stops nearby as well.

aloft Munich location in relation to the Hauptbanhof

 

aloft Munich
(photo courtesy marriott.com)

We reached the front desk and were greeted by a friendly clerk who seemed to be working almost the whole time we were there. He noted that my Gold status did not qualify for a free breakfast. We were given keys to our room on the first floor (and since we’re not in the US, that’s the floor above the ground/current floor). The elevators are right beside the front desk so they’re hard to miss. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik

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

For our tour of Iceland the tour company had us staying at the Plaza, one of six hotels in the area owned by CenterHotels. The CenterHotels website says they offer “six first class hotels in the city center of Reykjavik” but then follows it up by mentioning their 3- and 4-star hotels. Well, I’m sorry but a 3-star hotel is not “first class”. I realize that the whole tone of this paragraph makes me sound spoiled and entitled. Several folks on our tour did not seem to have a problem with the hotel. But I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed as this hotel was definitely a step down from any we’ve used in the last several years. Lodging in Iceland is expensive and I guess our tour was so reasonably priced because we were at a second-tier hotel.

That being said, if you’re not as choosy as I am, the hotel has a fantastic location and the price includes breakfast. The staff was great and very international and for the most part very young. They always seemed to be smiling and were quite helpful.

Photo courtesy Center Hotels website.

The hotel has two wings and I’m not sure if they’re connected above the ground floor or not. (Our room was on the ground floor so I didn’t spend much time exploring other floors.) I do know each wing had its own elevator. The halls and the rooms both had hardwood floors. I believe my roommate and I actually got a slightly larger room, believe it or not. Continue reading

Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik

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

We arrived in Reykjavik from the airport on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. After temperatures in the 70s (F) in Amsterdam, it was no surprise to find the weather a good bit colder in Iceland. Our driver dropped us off at the back door of the Radisson Blu 1919. As there was road construction on one corner we couldn’t tell the building was as pretty as some other photos of it that I’ve found online. In 1919 the first steamship company in Iceland was formed and its headquarters were in this building – thus the 1919 in the hotel’s name.

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Radisson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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