Posts Tagged With: Lodging Review

Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

There were about 35 of us from the Viking Emerald who were taking the extension to Tokyo and you’d think that Viking could have found all of us seats on the same plane but nope, we were on a number of different flights leaving Shanghai at various times of the day. Originally two of us from our small group of 12 were on one flight and the 3rd person was on a different flight but we were able to get that changed so at least the three of us were all together. However that meant missing out on a noon-ish JAL flight and taking an earlier Delta flight instead so there was definitely a trade-off. We did manage to purchase bulkhead seats so at least we had legroom.

We arrived at Tokyo Narita airport and began to search for the Viking representative. Besides the three of us there were probably 6-8 other Viking Emerald passengers all looking for the rep with no success. She was a little late but every last one of us passengers had been looking for someone in a red coat or jacket and this rep was not wearing red. We had been so trained by Viking with all their tour guides and crew members wearing red that we never even considered that the guide might be wearing some other color! But eventually we were loaded on to our motorcoach and we were dropped off at the large complex that houses not only the New Otani Hotel but also an office tower and a shopping tower.

Check in was efficient, as we expected by now, and we set off for the elevator bank. We were amused that during busy times of day there typically was a hotel staff member waiting to push the elevator call button for us – always with a polite bow.

Our rooms were fairly high up and, conveniently, were connected. However, we had to ask management to unlock the connecting doors. The rooms were perfectly servicable though compared to our rooms during the first part of the tour, these were a bit of a let down. Like many hotel rooms upon entering the bathroom was to one side and beyond that was the area with the beds.

This room was not large enough for two double beds so we once again had twins with a single nightstand in between.

New Otani Hotel Twin Beds

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Categories: Asia, Hotel, Japan, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We had chosen this Top of the World tour in the Beijing to Shanghai direction because you get to do the rickshaw tour of the hutong and you don’t if you take the tour in the Shanghai to Beijing direction. But we came to realize we were fortunate to have done the tour that way for a couple of other reasons. First, after being on tours or traveling every day for a week, by the time we got on the boat we really enjoyed having a few afternoons with nothing to do but nap and watch the scenery. The other reason was that had we stayed at the Fairmont Peace Hotel first, we might have been disappointed with the other hotels on our tour.

The Peace Hotel was orignally called Sassoon House and was built by Sir Victor Sassoon in the late 1920s. It’s a beautiful art deco building that was closed for three years for renovations and reopened in 2010 when Fairmont took over running it. Continue reading

Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, Fairmont, Hotel, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

After visiting the local home, we were all ready to get to the hotel that would be our home for the next three nights, the Shangri-La Lhasa. Nothing in the city of Lhasa is very far away from anything else so it didn’t take us long to reach the hotel’s drive. The hotel is on a fairly major street but has a high wall between the sidewalk and the hotel. The end of the hotel that’s closest to the street is actually part of the conference center so there’s no need to worry about any traffic noise – not that I think it would truly be an issue.

The hotel’s drive continues down beside the building all the way past the conference wing to the lobby. The lobby itself was quite large with numerous seating spaces available. To the left was the buffet restaurant, Altitude. A jag left from there and then straight ahead and you were in the conference wing.

Shangri-La Lhasa Lobby

Shangri-La Lhasa Lobby Seating

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Categories: Asia, China, Hotel, Lodging Review, River Cruise, Shangri-La, Tibet, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Our plane landed in Xi’an (see-in) after dark and after making sure the porters had our luggage we boarded a motorcoach to our home for the next two nights, the Hotel Shangi-La Xi’an. I had signed up for the Shangri-La Golden Circle club on the off-chance that we might be able to earn points for the stay but, as I suspected, our stay was not eligible for points-earning. Still, I provided my membership number and after we left I received a survey via email asking for feedback about our stay.

The lobby was quite large and very striking, with the faux marble finishes everywhere. One of the first things you notice upon entering is this exhibit celebrating the hotel’s 10th anniversary with a miniature set of warriors based on the life-sized terra cotta ones that we’d come to see.

10th Anniversary of the Shangri-La Xi’an

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Categories: Asia, China, Hotel, River Cruise, Shangri-La, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We took a car service from the airport to the hotel. We used the folks at Tour Beijing and paid extra for an English-speaking guide. We also paid for a vehicle that could seat six and that turned out to be a very good thing because each of the three of us had a very large bag and a carry-on and I also had a backpack. We ended up with a mini-van and the back was full. I had thought we were paying for an extra person to give us a tour as we made our way to the hotel but that was not the case. As a side note, our friends who arrived later that evening were told no English-speaking guides were available after 9 PM.

We arrived at the Regent Beijing in the early afternoon. While I had seen the photos on their website I was still impressed with how elegant the hotel seemed. Lots of marble-like finishes, very understated and classy. The lobby was quite large with a water feature in the center and the reception desks to the left. To the right was an elevator that led up to a Morton’s of Chicago steakhouse.

Regent Beijing Lobby

Regent Beijing Lobby Chandelier

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Categories: Asia, China, Hotel, Lodging Review, Regent, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lodging Review: The Crestwood, Snowmass Village (and the conclusion of the luggage saga)

I checked out of the Westin Snowmass mid-morning as the snow continued to fall and drove the few miles over to my home for the next week, The Crestwood. While there are a few more properties higher up the mountain on the same road, this road is not one of the ones in Snowmass Village that is heated so you’ll want to be sure your vehicle is properly equipped if you plan to drive here in the winter.

The Crestwood parking lot is heated, however, and while it was having trouble keeping the parking lot snow-free, it was doing the best it could. The Crestwood has several shuttle vans that will take you wherever you need to go within Snowmass Village. The Village Shuttle, the free bus system for Snowmass, actually has a stop on The Crestwood’s property and there’s even a small indoor waiting area, which is terrific.

The front desk is in a centrally-located building. Walking through the front desk area and out the back door you’ll find the heated pool and two hot tubs. Downstairs is the small gym and a massage room. More about those later.

I had to wait a little to check in. The snow was still coming down and a number of flights out of the Aspen Airport (ASE) had been cancelled, stranding people overnight so there were folks who’d stayed here last night trying to find a place for another night or two. I wasn’t bothered about a slight wait as I knew there was a good chance my condo wouldn’t be ready anyway and that turned out to be the case. Since I still had no luggage I was just able to leave my carry-on behind the desk and catch a ride in the shuttle over to the Mountain Mall (basically right where I’d been at the Westin!).

The Tylenol, breakfast and cool air had really helped to alleviate my headache and I stopped by one of the ski shops to put a pair of demo skis on hold for the next day as I was anticipating my luggage arriving later that day. By now I was getting hungry so I enjoyed a leisurely lunch. The restaurant I selected was fairly quiet as so many folks were out enjoying what was shaping up to be the largest single snowfall of the season so far.

I eventually got a call from The Crestwood stating my condo was ready so I took the Village Shuttle back to the property where I checked in and got my key. Continue reading

Categories: Condos, Lodging Review, Snowmass | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Westin Snowmass (and part 1 of the luggage saga)

You know that saying “Man Plans, God Laughs”? Yeah, that kinda described the first couple of days of my recent ski trip, the first night of which was at the Westin Snowmass.

I had a Saturday-Saturday ski trip planned with my ski club at Snowmass, one of the four Aspen-area resorts that can all be skied using a single lift ticket. It was time to replace my skis so I wanted to demo a few different pair while finding the ones that worked best for me. As I planned this trip I decided I didn’t want to miss a day skiing with my friends, so I’d go a day early and demo several pair before they arrived.

So it was on a Friday in February I left Memphis, enjoyed my leisurely 3-hour connection in Houston and landed on-time at the Vail/Eagle County Airport (EGE). [I had decided against flying in to the more convenient Aspen Airport (ASE) based on my experience last year.] And I had no bags. Neither one of them. The helpful baggage agent found that the bags had made it to Houston and were in the process of being rerouted (and I could see the same info on the app). Since mine was the only Houston-Vail flight of the day, we both assumed they were going to Denver, which had a couple more flights into Vail later that day. She said they’d deliver them to me that evening. So I hopped in my rental car and headed to Snowmass.

As a side note, I had planned to use the Colorado Mountain Express shuttle to/from the airport but my flight out of EGE was around 7:30 AM and CME didn’t have a shuttle leaving the Aspen area that early. An Uber or taxi would have been around $200 so when I found a rental car for $280 that price was as cheap or only a little more expensive than the CME shuttle + Uber combined and I’d have the Independence of having a car if I needed it so it seemed the better option.

It was sunny on my drive to Aspen and it was late afternoon by the time I arrived at the Westin Snowmass. The valet greeted me promptly and I decided to just let him handle the car since I’d only be there one night. Of course since I had no luggage, all he had to deal with was the car.

Westin Snowmass Main Entrance (on the day I checked out)

The front desk is just inside the door and to the right. The lobby is fairly large as there’s a lounging area with après-ski hot beverages available to guests and the bar is off to the right beyond the front desk.

Westin Snowmass Front Desk

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The associate who checked me in was efficient and friendly. She recognized my SPG Gold status and asked if I’d prefer 500 points or a coupon for an adult beverage. Naturally, I took the points. I said I only needed one key but she said she’d give me two as the room had a slot where the card needed to be entered for the power to work. I appreciated that since it meant I wouldn’t have to use a card of my own for that purpose. I was given the keys to room 598 and pointed to the elevator which were not far away.

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

Lodging Review: Hyatt Regency New Orleans

A weekend convention I was attending was held in New Orleans recently. I was pleased to learn it was to be held at the Hyatt Regency since I have low-level status with them as a result of my Chase Hyatt credit card. I was even more pleased to learn that this is a category 4 hotel, which meant I could use the free night certificate that I earn each year simply by paying the annual fee on the card.

We arrived about 8:30 PM after the long drive from Memphis. Valet parking is $40 per night so we opted for the self-park around the corner that was $25 per night. Fortunately the self-park garage has direct access to the hotel so this made it quite convenient.

Though there wasn’t much of a check-in line, I still went to the elite line where I was the only person and once a staff member was freed up, she called me right over for assistance. She did thank me for my loyalty and confirmed I’d asked for an accessible room. When I said that I didn’t really need that (it was just what had been assigned to me when redeeming the certificate) she proactively decided to look for an upgrade. I was assigned a room on the 11th floor and even given club access. That was great because as a Discoverist, I don’t normally get free breakfast but because she’d assigned me a suite, I now had it!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Front Desk

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Lobby

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Grand Staircase

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Seating Area – one of many found throughout the first couple of floors, which are the convention areas

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Boarding Pass Print Area
This is located to the side of the front desk

Getting to the elevators from the front desk is a little bit of a trek because this is a convention hotel so while the front desk was on the ground floor, it was actually necessary to take escalators up to the third floor to be able to reach a point where we could get on the elevators.

The elevators in themselves are a bit tricky but fortunately there was a staff member on hand to assist, as there was both evenings were there while lots of folks were checking in.  (Smart move, Hyatt.) We weren’t the only ones learning how to make them work! There are two banks of elevators: A/B/C/D and E/F/G/H. Both sets go to level 3 (the main level) and level 5 (pool) but A-D are for the lower sets of floors while E-H go to the higher sets. And only F and G go to the 32nd floor where the club and gym are found.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Elevator Keypad
Scan the room key underneath for access

To access a floor, you scan your room key underneath the keypad. It will automatically light up your floor but if you want to go to a different one (like the club) then you select that button instead. Once it knows which floor you want, it will assign you to one of the elevator cars. This usually worked pretty well. The only time things were really crowded was when we were all heading downstairs to the convention at once.

The hotel is shaped a bit like an X but the “legs” of the X curve a bit more than the ones of the letter do. I followed the signs toward my quarter of the X. The entire atrium is open and you can look right down on one of the restaurants. I kept walking almost to the end of the hallway before coming to my room, 1124.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Exit the elevators and turn left down this hall

Hyatt Regency New Orleans The atrium is open from bottom to top

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Follow the hallway as it curves to the right

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Room 1124 is on the right, just beside the stairwell

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Room 1124 in the upper left quadrant of the X

Hyatt Regency New Orleans
Atrium Restaurant as viewed from the elevator

The door opened into a hallway with the closet immediately to the left, followed by the bathroom.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Hallway

At the end of the hall was the living area that featured a sectional sofa (not a sleeper, however) with a desk and a wall-mounted TV. Mine was a connecting room so to the far left, beside the desk, was the connecting door.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Sofa and Desk

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Living Area TV and Sofa

To the right was a wall with an open doorway into the bedroom. I had a king bed with two built-in side tables. Against the wall between the living area and the bedroom was a tall chest upon which the TV sat. The chest contained the mini-fridge (with 2 liter-size bottles of water – complimentary thanks to my Discoverist status) and the safe.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite King Bed

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite TV and Stand

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Fridge, Safe and Shelves

On one bedside table I found this note.  I think this is a great idea, even though I did not use either product.  This hotel is right beside some venues that could be used for concerts and noise could be an issue at times.  The hotel has implemented a quiet period in its hallways after 9 PM but we all know that can be ignored if there are intoxicated folks around.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Earplugs

You’ll notice that I did not describe any sort of chest with drawers and that’s because there wasn’t one. There was no luggage stand either, though there were a couple of stools/footrests in the living area that could have served the purpose. I’ve heard that some properties are skipping chests with drawers because people tend to leave more things behind in drawers.

There were a couple of shelves below the safe in the bedroom and inside the closet were several shelves on one side and there was the overhead shelf that ran the length of the closet. There was also a laundry hamper in the closet, not something I believe I’ve ever seen before in a hotel. The whole arrangement just struck me as strange but since I was only there for two nights it didn’t bother me too much.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Closet

The bathroom had the vanity and sink on one side (I liked the stainless features), the toilet in the center and the walk-in shower on the other side. My first complaint about the bathroom was the lighting. It was extremely dim and yellow. Yes there was a lighted makeup mirror which helped up close,  but the wall lights gave the whole bathroom a sickly glow. My other complaint is the water pressure. I thought perhaps it was a fluke on Saturday morning when there wasn’t much pressure but I had the same issue on Sunday. I like a very strong shower pulse and this just didn’t get it done, especially since the water at this hotel is EXTREMELY soft, which meant it was quite difficult to get the soap off your hands and body whether taking a shower or just washing your hands. The shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and bar of soap already occupied the shelf in the shower. It’s nice that the shelf is big enough to accommodate all that at once. But that still left me nowhere to put my razor and shave gel except on the floor. An additional shelf would be a good step up as would some sort of low shelf to prop my leg while shaving.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Bathroom Vanity

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Bathroom Toilet

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Bathroom Shower

Toiletries were KenetMD brand which I have typically associated with Hyatt Place and Hyatt House.  I liked that there was a choice of a bath bar and bath gel.  The shampoo and conditioner weren’t great but got the job done.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Toiletries

I only sat on the sofa for a little bit but in looking at it later it seems to have been well-used during its life and refreshing the seat cushions wouldn’t hurt.

The bed was quite firm but was still very comfortable. I loved that there were two easily-accessible plugs on either side of the bed!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Bedside Outlets

The desk also had easy-to-reach plugs on its side. Kudos for that!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Desk Sign

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Suite Desk Side Outlets

The thermostat was easy to operate and thankfully could be set below 68F. I like to sleep in a cold room and that made it much easier. I was a little amused/frustrated that in the mornings when I’d turn the thermostat up, that I had to bump it up just a few degrees at a time. If I tried to jump straight from 66F to 72F, it would turn on the heat instead of just allowing the room to gradually warm.

I was thankful for the upgrade but I do think there are a few small things that could be done to improve the experience.

Pool

The pool is located on the 5th floor and you must use your keycard to gain access. From there it’s down a flight of stairs so I don’t know if it’s totally handicap accessible though there may be an entrance from a different direction. The pool deck is fairly large and from 8-10 on Saturday mornings there is some sort of free exercise class there. The deck is right amid a number of tall buildings so I don’t know how much sunlight it actually gets. But the famous New Orleans humidity was in full force, even at 8 AM.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Pool

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Pool Deck Seating

Gym

The gym is on the 32rd floor, across from the Regency Club. The room follows the curve of the building and offers views of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (home of the NFL’s Saints) and the Smoothie King Center (home of the NBA’s Pelicans). There were a number of treadmills, some elliptical machines, a few bikes, a reasonable selection of weight machines as well as hand weights and other assorted accessories. I got there just before closing time and it was empty on Friday night but each of the next two mornings there were several folks making use of it while I ate breakfast.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Gym Ellipticals

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Treadmills

Hyatt Regency New Orleans More Treadmills

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Weight Machines

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Fitness Equipment

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hand Weights

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Gym Beverage Station

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Gym Towel Sttation

Regency Club

The Regency Club is also on the 32nd floor and offers city views in the opposite direction from the gym. I was disappointed in the selection as there was not much in the way of hot food at all. Oatmeal and grits were the only hot foods. There were about 5 kinds of cereal and a good selection of fruit, both bite-sized and whole, and a small selection of pastries and breads. Several types of juices were available as were coffee and tea, but that was it.  Breakfast is offered 5:30-9:30 AM Monday-Friday and 7:00-10:00 AM on the weekends.

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Beverage Service

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Milk and Cereal

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Fresh Fruit

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Whole Fruit

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Yogurts and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Grits and Oatmeal

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Bread Station and Grits Toppings

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Oatmeal Toppings

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club More Oatmeal Toppings

They offer mid-day snacks 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM and hors d’oeuvres 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM daily but I did not visit during either of these times.  I should have gone been there during our convention’s one long break as it wasn’t long enough for a proper lunch and all the grab ‘n go places had huge lines.  Wish I’d remembered this was open!

Hyatt Regency New Orleans Regency Club Beer and Wine
(the liquor cabinet was above but the photo came out blurry)

Location

The Hyatt Regency New Orleans is on Loyola Avenue and is super-convenient to the Superdome and the Smoothie King Center. However there’s not a huge selection of restaurants in the area (or so I was told) and that surprised me. For the one night I had dinner, we ate at the in-house seafood restaurant, which was quite good and fairly reasonably priced (that is to say, a little more than I’d spend if I was just going out by myself for dinner here at home).

View of the Smoothie King Center and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome from the gym

If our convention selects NOLA as its site for next year, that will be fine with me and I would be happy to stay here again.

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Lodging Review: DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport

My colleagues and I left Hinckley in the late afternoon and made our way back to London so we’d be near the airport for our return flights the next day. As I have Gold status with Hilton HHonors (thanks to simply having the Hilton Surpass card by American Express) I considered the Hilton attached to Terminal 3 but it was a good bit more expensive and I was leaving from Terminal 2 anyway so I booked the DoubleTree which is located between T2 & T3 as most of my colleagues were flying Delta out of T3 so it worked for them too.

DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow
(photo courtesy DoubleTree website)

DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport Lobby

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Lodging Review: Sketchley Grange Hotel and Spa, Hinckley, UK

Sometimes a person’s view of a hotel is colored by their reason for being at a particular property. As I’ve thought about the time spent at the Sketchley Grange Hotel & Spa I’ve realized that some of the things that I have viewed as a negative are things I wouldn’t even have thought about if I were a leisure traveler.

The Sketchley is in a rather small town called Hinckley, in Leicestershire, about two hours north of London. There are two hotels in Hinckely and the other one (our company’s first choice) was booked so we were left with this one. (I later learned that there’s a DoubleTree in Coventry, only about 10 minutes further away, and in the future I’ll use that as the backup hotel.)

Main Entrance, older wings on the left

Modern Wing where our rooms were located

As the name suggests, it is both a hotel and spa and when we arrived on a warm summer weekend there was a tour group staying there as well as several groups of friends or families milling around. While the pool is indoors, there were lots of folks enjoying the warm weather sitting on the patio or even stretched out on blankets on the grass. There were also quite a few people enjoying the pool and hot tub inside.

Leisure Facilities

The hotel also has a pretty nice gym which closes at 8 PM on Sunday night but is open until 10 PM during the week. The bad part is that it does not open until 6:30 AM. This is one thing that wouldn’t bother me as a leisure traveler but as a business traveler I was disappointed because I’d have preferred to work out in the mornings since we went out for dinner after work and sometimes did not arrive back at the hotel until 8:30 or later and I just went straight to bed.

Sketchley Grange Gym

Sketchley Grange Gym

Sketchley Grange Gym

The spa, which is operated by an outside agency, only offers services until 6 PM, another item that’s probably not an issue for a leisure traveler but really disappointed me as I missed my massage at home and was looking forward to getting one while at the hotel.

Indoor Pool

Hot Tub

The hotel itself does have character. My room was in the wing on the complete opposite side of the hotel from the spa/gym/pool and it was an adventure getting there through the building. On a couple of occasions there would be 2-3 steps up and later 2-3 steps down or an unusual bend in the hallway as new wings had been added to the hotel. It was sort of fun walking through that way, though we later figured out it was faster to walk outside and around to the side of the building where the spa/pool/gym had its own entrance.

Sofa at a random wide spot in the hallway of one of the older wings

It seemed that locals could join the spa/gym directly as I encountered a few people walking directly into the area from the parking lot, just in time for one of the exercise classes.

Junior Executive Suite

I was assigned a room on the first floor -and was reminded that unlike in America, the first floor is the one above the Ground floor.  I left the front desk and walked through this seating area which is both near the elevator and the entrance to the bar.

Sofas outside the bar (yes, they were really *that* purple)

Getting off the elevator (or “lift”, since I was in England!) I turned right and walked just a short way down the hall to my room, which was on the left, facing the back of the property.

Modern Wing Hallway

Entrance to room 152

I had booked a Junior Executive Suite and was quite pleased with the size both of the room and the bathroom. As with many hotel rooms, upon entering there was a small hallway with the bathroom immediately to the left before passing the mini-bar and then into the main area of the room.

Junior Executive Suite Room Entry Hall

The room was plenty big for a king-sized bed, two side tables and a full-sized sofa without feeling crowded.

Junior Executive Suite Bed and Sofa

Against the opposite wall was a nice-sized desk – with outlets available above it (yay!) – and a narrow table. There was no pen or paper on the desk which normally I don’t care about but on this trip there was a point I needed to write a note but couldn’t.

Junior Executive Suite Desk

Beside the bed, against the back wall of the bathroom, was a built-in vanity (with chair) and a closet which had a few built-in shelves and the safe. Inside the closet were an iron & ironing board and the hair dryer. As usual in the UK, there was no outlet for the hair dryer in the bathroom so I had to use it at the vanity but at least the outlet was easily accessible.

Junior Executive Suite Vanity and Closet

The only drawer in the whole room was a long narrow one under the vanity. I would have preferred to use a chest of drawers for the clothes I didn’t hang up but I made-do with the shelves in the closet. The doors on the closet did not slide particularly easily either.

The bathroom had dark gray slate tile that I actually liked. The sink was high profile while the counter was lower. The large soaking tub was quite nice, one of my colleagues reported.

Junior Executive Suite Sink

Junior Executive Suite Bathtub

The shower stall was just large enough and I liked that the spray could be adjusted from brisk to gentle. I also liked that it could be hand-held or put into the adjustable holder to make it quite high or low. But the shower did leak and the bath mat was always half-soaked when I was finished. The clear caulking used against the wall seemed to either have been placed over mold or mold was growing within it, I’m not sure which. Either way, it was unappealing to look at. The lack of shelving in the shower was also an issue. There was no place to put the shampoo, shower gel and/or razor and shave gel. There was also no conditioner which is not a problem with some shampoos but would have really been welcome as I didn’t care for the shampoo that was provided and I no longer bother with bringing any with me.

Junior Executive Suite Shower

Junior Executive Suite Mulben & Fearne Toiletries

The mini-bar had tea and a pot to heat water but I’m not positive it even had instant coffee. And the cabinet built to hold the mini-fridge was empty.

Junior Executive Suite Tea Station

While all rooms had the slot (standard in many European countries) which required a room key to be placed in it for the air and lights to work, in reality only with some rooms did the slot actually have to be used. In my room both the air and lights worked without anything being in the card slot.

View from room 152

And, oh, the air conditioning. The first day we arrived it was quite warm, the warmest day of the year so far, I believe. My room cooled down enough and I was so tired from the trip over that I slept quite well. The second night, even though the day had been a little cooler, the room was extremely warm. I even noticed the thermostat was at a lower setting, as if even the cleaning staff thought my room was warm. On the third night, which was much cooler, I was able to open the windows and the temperature was quite nice. I know that I prefer a much cooler room than seems to be the norm for Europe but it sure would be nice to find a hotel that can accommodate those lower temps.

I didn’t hate the room and the bed was actually really comfortable. I was a bit surprised the sofa did not have a pull-out bed as it would seem to me this would be a great room for a family with a small child or two. I had a lovely view of the back patio and the green fields beyond.

The Garden Restaurant & Bar

We ate in the hotel after arriving from London. It was Father’s Day so we enjoyed a 2-course meal (could choose starter + main or main + dessert) for a set price and it was quite good.

Special Father’s Day Lunch: pork loin, potatoes, carrots, green beans, Yorkshire pudding

Seating in the Restaurant/Bar

Bar Seating

Bar area seating

Wine Rack

The breakfast buffet can be added to your reservation and that made it easy each morning where we just checked in and served ourselves. However, the buffet didn’t open until 7 AM. That’s another of the things that’s not an issue as a leisure traveler but was inconvenient as a business traveler who would have liked to have been at the office by 8 AM.

Service at both the restaurant and the breakfast area was always rushed. Each morning when I arrived just after opening staff were still in the process of getting the food out and generally rushing around. It seemed they needed another person or two to get everything done on time. Perhaps it’s my expectations that are different from local norms. One member of our group wanted a pot of hot water to make her own tea each morning and she’d often have to ask at least twice before getting it.

I thought the buffet was quite ample though one member of our group was disappointed. Several kinds of fruit and cold cuts were available as was a hot selection with sausages, eggs, potato cakes, etc., a cold section with a number of cereals, whole fruit, juices and water and a third station with four different types of sliced bread and a very quick toaster. I certainly found plenty to eat each day.

But here and there, not only in the restaurant, attention to detail would make a difference in the impression the hotel leaves on a guest. For example, the juices were in large, clear containers with a spigot. They weren’t emptied each night but just kept chilled, which is fine. But at least one morning it was clear that the juice had separated a good bit with the more watery part floating to the top and the concentrate at the bottom. It should have been stirred up before opening the buffet to customers.

Everyone was quite friendly, nice and well-intentioned. I hope I’m not being overly critical but a few small improvements could make a big difference in perception. There were no laudry facilities nor was laundry service offered, so one team member who stayed for 10+ days had to find a dry cleaner in town to get her laundry done. Again, wouldn’t have thought twice about it as a leisure traveler but it made a difference as a business traveler.

As I said earlier, my preference would be NOT to return here for business travel but to stay elsewhere, even if it’s a bit further away.

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