Archive for the 'Hotels' category

Hotel Review – Embassy Suites Washington D.C.

| June 26, 2011 9:37 am

During our stay in Washington D.C. we stayed at the Embassy Suites on 10th street.

Embassy Suites Washington D.C. – Convention Center 900 10th Street Northwest, Washington D.C., DC 20001 (202) 739-2099

We chose this hotel because it was one of the few “kid friendly” hotels in Washington D.C. which offered a separate bedroom and a living with a sofa bed.   The room also had a fridge and microwave.    In addition, this hotel had a fitness center, a pool and a jacuzzi.

The hotel is also located about five blocks from the White House and a few blocks from shopping, restaurants and in close proximity to many of the main Washington monuments.   In theory, everything was within a 20 minute walk but we often took taxis or drove because of the sun and heat.

The hotel rate was $294.76 per night and a room tax of $42.74 per night.  We also had to valet our car which was an additional $35/day charge.  Oh and there is a parking tax on top of that of $4.20.   The grand total for each night stay was $376.70 per night!  Our final bill here was $1700 which included a couple of $100 dinners.



Hotel Review – New York DoubleTree Hilton Times Square

| 9:28 am

Our time in New York was considerable fun and during our entire stay, we stayed at the DoubleTree Hilton Times Square and the hotel was great.   It is located right on time square close to shopping, restaurants, the gray line buses and broadway shows.

Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square 1568 Broadway (at 47th Street), New York, NY 10036 (212) 719-1600

The hotel does have a few quirks:

First, you take two elevators to get up to your room.  The main entry way has a guard and you need to show your hotel room key to get up the first elevator which takes you up to the lobby.    From the lobby, you take a second bank of elevators that take you up to your room.   We were on the 27th floor and Marge complained of headaches while we stayed there until another guest mentioned opening the windows to let fresh air in which seemed to do the trick.    There *may* be some type of mold in the recirculated air so my advice is to OPEN THE WINDOW when you get there periodically to clean the air out.

The biggest con of course is the cost of the hotel.   The room rate was $421.52 per night.   Add State Sales tax of $37.41 and a city sales tax of $24.76 per night in additional to an occupancy tax of $4.00 and Javits Center tax of $1.50 and you’re looking at a real night rate of $489.19 PER NIGHT!

Of course, it all depends on how you look at it because if you stay at a hotel further away from Times Square and you’re taking taxis back and forth then the rate quickly becomes comparable to other potential expenses.

I’d also add that this hotel included a separate living room and bedroom and had a sofa bed so having two rooms was a benefit as well.   The room also had a fridge to keep drinks cool.   Our final bill here was close to $2500 for a five night stay.

Arkansas – Self Creek Lodge & Marina Review

| September 6, 2010 7:29 pm

We departed today to head back home for the long drive.   As promised, here’s the review of the accommodations and the marina.  First, let me state that we had a great time and we think we’ve discovered one of America’s best kept secrets when it comes to lakes and cottages and we will likely return in the future.   The hotel rates vary throughout the season and because we’re still in summer season, we paid the highest rate.    We rented a three bedroom cottage at a rate of $410 per day from Self Creek Lodge & Marina.   The cottage comes fairly equipped with a full kitchen including stove top, oven, microwave, fridge, and sinks.   Additionally, it is fully stocked with utensils, cookware and minor cleaning staples.    There is NO FOOD provided and clients are expected to bring their own food.   Additionally, there is a small grill outside that would need charcoal or wood to cook with if so interested.

Each bedroom had two double beds, the master had a king size bed and the living room couch had a sofa bed.   All bedrooms had their own bathrooms which included sinks, commode and shower and all contain doors to “isolate” the areas from other areas of the cottage for additional privacy.  While I took some photos the ones on the site here are pretty standard.

Here’s a view of the deck, which includes a heated hot tub, patio furniture and grill.   Beyond the trees a view of the lake and access to the lake can be made through the back down the hill.

Our lodge had a fireplace however we never used it but did make occasional use of the nearby TV.

As stated earlier, we rented a 25′ boat for the day at a rate of $319 and the fuel expenses were reasonable at about $20 for nearly the entire day of boating.   The marina also has jet skis and a variety of other toys for rental at half day or full day rates.    The marina does not rent fishing poles but it does sell a variety of fishing bait and tackle but be forewarned that the items sold there are fairly expensive.    The marina and lodging is not near any of the typical shops you’d expect to find items cheaply (i.e. Target, Wal-mart, etc).     As best as we could tell, the nearest grocery store is about 20 miles away although the marina does have basic food items if you’re in a pinch.

There are tons of other things to do in the area and you need only look at the website or use google to find almost any variety of outdoor activity.   The only major drawback and perhaps the greatest asset is the location.   Because it’s a fairly long drive from almost anywhere, even if flying in to a nearby city, the area is fairly isolated and relatively pristine.    The only thing that would have made our stay a little better would have been to catch a couple of fish from the lake!

Review – Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

| March 27, 2008 7:29 pm

The Good – The hotel has a great location near many great sites. Waterfalls, black beaches, snorkeling coves, Observatory and other activities are nearby via car. This hotel also features onsite laundry if you need to wash clothes. The hotel staff were VERY friendly and accessible.

The Bad – The hotel is a bit dated with a desperately needed refresh of the decor. It is a hotel that we’ve stayed in a while that actually had the old key/lock system instead of magnetic card reader . The restaurant buffets were less than stellar although a few good items were on the menu. The swimming pool was a bit small but the island park across the street made up for it. There are various areas in the park to swim and play in even for small kids.

The Damage – The final bill was close to $450 for 3 nights and this was one of the better hotels in Hilo. The restaurant buffet will run you about $30 per person and the hotel did have limited spa services.

The Recommendation – This was one of the better hotels in Hilo and the location was fairly good as it was close to shopping, beaches, and other activities. Our plan called for staying a few brief nights in Hilo and this hotel worked fine for our situation but I wouldn’t stay longer than a couple of nights here until the hotel gets a good remodeling.

Hotel Website.

Review – Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

| 7:15 pm

The Good – The hotel has a great beach and excellent pools for young kids, heated spas for adults and even has a slide for both. The room we stayed in had a spectacular view of the ocean, lagoon and sunset. There were many great activities available at the resort including canoing, snorkeling adventures, Luau show (Wed & Sat), water biking, and more. We were concerned that the hotel would be over run by drunk spring breakers but it finally dawned on us that Hawaii is a state with a legal drinking age of 21 so there weren’t any spring breakers to be found. There were many families with young children (infant to 14) here at the resort but no drunken disorderliness. This hotel is located about 15 miles from town and is fairly isolated but there are nearby shops and a convenience store (expensive) to buy various food items. The nearby restaurants are moderately expensive but the food is good.

The Bad – Finding a waiter to fetch a drink at this hotel is impossible. The mandatory $20 resort fee is ridiculous, if it is mandatory then it should simply be rolled into the price of the hotel room per night. Why charge separately?

Unfortunately, our room was prone with problems: The room fridge was not working so it had to be replaced. The A/C needed to be repaired with a replacement filter but we were unaware of a magnetic “lock” on the sliding glass door window that needed to be close enough to activate the A/C. Evidently our door was ever so slightly open that the sensor never activated to turn the A/C on.

The Damage – The final bill was close to $2200 for 5 nights and this included a $300 Luau fee for Wednesday night. Dining & drinking at the hotel is expensive and we opted (like so many others) to shop at nearby Wal-mart in town and load up on beer, wine, snacks and fruit rather than spend money at the resort. Food (and other things) in Hawaii in general are expensive. Expect to pay $6 for a box of cereal and $4 for a gallon of gas (March 2008).

The Recommendation – We liked the hotel and would stay here again but I would highly recommend you rent a car to view the rest of Big Island during your stay. If you have kids, love the beach & pools and outdoor activities then this is the place for you!

Hotel Website.

Las Vegas – The Most Hyped City in the World!

| October 15, 2006 7:03 pm

This past weekend we made our first foray into Las Vegas as part of our anniversary celebration. We stayed at Venetian Hotel and I can only summarize our visit in the context of “The Good”, “The Bad”, and “The Ugly” but I will say that Las Vegas is definitely the most overhyped city in the world…

“The Good”

There is plenty of entertainment in Las Vegas. Any kind of activity from scenic mountain trips to concerts, plays, and other shows are available at various times throughout the day. You can pretty much find any kind of gambling gaming activity nearly anywhere. Lastly, we had a great time celebrating someone special’s birthday up there and eating fine dining and watching the fountain show at Bellagio.

“The Bad”

To start with, service was bad pretty much everywhere. From the beginning of our trip with “Cattle Car Airlines” to the Starbucks at Treasure Island to city infrastructure it was all BAD, BAD, BAD!

Where to begin? First, I can plainly see why the service can be so bad; there are simply car loads/airplane loads/truck loads of people arriving all the time. Why provide excellent service when you can easily make it up in volume!

But the first thing that annoyed us was the poor airport infrastructure. I’m told in 1990 there were 300k people living in Las Vegas and today there are 2 million. I don’t think the City Government has expanded the infrastructure in any way. What are they doing with those billions of tax dollars?

Second, the taxi lines are too long! It’s pretty ridiculous when you have to wait 40+ minutes for a cab at the airport and at pretty much any hotel (the ONLY place you can get a cab is at hotels)!

Third, the traffic is horrendous. There are too many cars trying to drive down the same strip of road. Worst yet the traffic lights aren’t syncronized so you may drive for one or two blocks only to be stopped at the next traffic light.

I mentioned to a cab driver why they don’t simply install a train from airport to the strip and he said, “yeah that’d be great for tourists but bad for us.” So there are vested interests in keeping the cash flow going and keeping the tourists unhappy.

Fourth, the casino action was pathetic at most hotels. We stayed at the Venetian and the place reminded me of the movie Night of the Living Dead as the patrons wandered aimlessly throughout the casio, shops, and hotel. The zombies sitting at the tables were quiet and subdued creating an atmosphere as exciting as a public library. The action wasn’t much better at Bellagio where the zombies were a little more animated. There was some hot action at a few key places and I’ll tell you where down below.

“The Ugly”

With too much traffic comes too much pollution and this left the air on street level hardly breathable. Between the thousand cars driving down the strip and the smoke eminating from every other cigarette dangling from the mouths of zombies the oxygen level must have dropped down to 8% of the air!

Speaking of pollution, there were thousands of lewd sex solicilations strewn across every sidewalk as well as being handed out by some pretty desperate people. It’d be nice if the trash were picked up every now and then.

Lastly, it was plain ugly having to wait for taxi cabs or being forced (ala Baatan death march) to walk up and down the strip amongst a bunch of zombies. The best course of action is to plan you hotel stay either for the casino action or for the proximity to the events and activities you want to do.

“The Summary”

Would I return there? Not really except if there were a very special occasion in which someone wanted me to attend.

As for some hot casino action I would recommend:

The Wynn Hotel, Excalibur Hotel and MGM Grand (in this order).

I walked most of the hotels and I found the Wynn with the best combination of hot casino action and luxury accommodation and atmosphere. What do I mean by “hot action?” I mean action where people are excited to win (or even lose); they create an energized atmosphere (much like a sports arena) where you cheer on your fellow patrons. I didn’t see any zombies at the Wynn nor even Excalibur and only a few at MGM so if you want exciting game action go to the Wynn.

A word of caution

The higher end hotels (Bellagio, Venetian, Wynn) offer the best and wider variety of liquor whereas places like Excalibur offer basic liquor choices so there is a trade off: the higher the luxury, the colder the casino action and conversly the cheaper the liquor (Excalibur, MGM) the hotter the action.

The only exception was the Wynn where casino action and liquor selection were top notch too bad we stayed at the Venetian!


| September 8, 2006 1:47 pm

This past Labor Day Weekend we made a short trip over to Galveston, TX.  Unfortunately, we didn’t take any photos but we did stay at the Moody Gardens and had a great time.  The hotel was decent and the pool was pretty cool.  We had a swim up bar along with a fairly large heated pool/jacuzzi.   We had a decent time at Schlitterbahn but unfortunately, everything was a bit pricey.  We had two margaritas and a coke at one of the swim up bar.  Tab ended up being $18!  We spent our last day there at the beach.  We’re busily working on planning on next vacation trip to somewhere exotic.  Stay tuned!

New Zealand Hotels Review

| June 18, 2006 8:01 pm

As promised, I’ve written a brief review of the hotels/apartments we stayed in during our New Zealand trip. I’ve included some photos when we took some. As far as prices, they fluctuate greatly during high season or low season so I’ve included a link to the hotels so you can check for the latest prices.

Auckland – Hyatt Regency

Hyatt Regency Auckland

Photos: Pictured above is a “Suite” which feature seperate living room and bedroom. Good view of the city from our room.

Location: Excellent! This hotel was right across the street from Albert Park and the University of Auckland. We frequently walked to downtown to dine or shop. The Sky City Tower is about a 10 minute walk. There Hotel is located on the top side of a hill so if you have difficulty walking this may not be the best place to stay.

Staff: The staff were friendly and helpful and some showed enthusiasm for their job (this was rare in New Zealand).

Anemities: This is where Hyatt failed us. Their website promised an indoor heated pool. While there is a pool, it felt ice cold to the kids and us. There is a fairly large jacuzzi but it was closed for maintenance during our initial stay and we only got to use it once on our second stay. Gym, Dry Sauna, Wet Sauna, Spa service were all decent. Internet service was available but expensive. I think it was $10 to $15 NZD for 30 minutes.
Dining: While the food was good and the service was exceptional, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for the food & service. Breakfast for four cost $80 NZD. Dinner cost $150 NZD for four.

Parking: The hotel doesn’t have any parking although they do have a partnership with a garage to provide parking. Self parking is $15 NZD/day and valet parking is $25 NZD/day.

Perks: We got fresh fruit delivered to our room everyday (no charge) and turn down service was available daily.

Rating: We’ll give this hotel B+ because the pool wasn’t heated as advertised and jacuzzi was broken.

Lake Taupo – Wairakei Resort
Wairakei Resort

Photos: Pictured above is the kitchenette of our “Executive Suite.”

Location: Good. This hotel was close to major attractions. The city center was about 5 km away (not really walking distance) but was close to many other sites: The Beehive, The Craters of the Moon, Huka Falls, and Lake Taupo.

Staff: The staff were friendly and helpful. The massuse service was good.
Anemities: We were pleased with this hotel. We had a private bedroom while the kids had the option of sleeping in a sofa bed in the living room or a day bed adjacent to the master bedroom. Our room could theoretically could sleep 6. We had a kitchenette. The spa service was good, gym, and heated pools were available. We had access to two large heated pools and two large jacuzzis. We spent most of our time in the jacuzzi while Marge got massage. I believe there is also a golf course nearby.
Dining: Oddly enough, we did not dine in the restaurants here. With our kitchenette, we cooked some fish that I had caught and we had purchased some breakfast items (eggs, bacon, ham, toast, etc) so we either ate in our room or went out to dinner. Dining facilities did appear lavish on the premises.

Parking: The hotel offers free parking to guests.
Perks: The 30 minute massage only cost $45 NZD. This is significantly cheaper than most other places charged for massages. We also had our own washer/dryer to do our laundry. Great plus!

Rating: We’ll give this hotel A-. The hotel provided great service and good anemities. The room did lack bathrobes which were essential because of the location of the pools and jacuzzi from our rooms during the cold winter evenings.

Wellington –
Bolton Hotel

Bolton Hotel Bedrooms

Bolton Hotel Bathrooms

Bolton Hotel Living room & Kitchen

Photos: Pictured above are the bedrooms, bathroom and full kitchen of the “Bolton Suite.” By far, this hotel was the most neo-modern we’ve stayed in. Everything in here was sleek with a lot of stainless steel decor.

Location: Excellent. Although we had a car, we hardly used it. This hotel is right at the center of many, many attractions. We walked the Botanical Gardens, Carter Observatory, the Queens Wharf, Tram, downtown Wellington, shopping, dining, and so much more.
Staff: The staff were professional and robotic. In every other hotel we had stayed in, the staff always offered to help with any type of tourism activities we’d like to see. When WE inquired, we were directed at a kiosk with some brochures and a computer with internet access. The staff here were fairly stoic.

Anemities: We were extremely pleased with this hotel. We had a private master bedroom while the kids had their own room with twin beds. We had a private bath with shower and tub while the kids had their own bathroom with shower. Unfortunately this hotel lacked many anemities. While there was a pool on the third floor, it was ice cold. There was a single jacuzzi on the 3rd floor as well as a dry sauna. The gym was fairly small and had little equipment. The number of anemities available for the volume & capacity of hotel is totally inadequate. High Speed internet service is availble in each room but only one terminal is provided (if you didn’t bring your own) to guests.

Parking: The hotel has valet parking. I believe the cost was included in the hotel room.
Perks: Having a full kitchen (oven too!) was a great plus. The hotel offers guest free umbrellas to use while staying there. Those came in handy during the rainy weather! Internet service at kiosk, when available, was always free.
Rating: We’ll give this hotel A-. The hotel provided great room at a decent price but the anemities were lacking greatly. Although professional, the staff were to stoic and robotic.

Christchurch – Holiday Inn on Avon

Photos: Sorry, none available.
Location: Good. The hotel was close to many attractions but unfortunately there is a strange winding road way of getting to this hotel and it was difficult to locate and navigate towards it when driving about.

Staff: The hotel appeared to be understaffed. There was usually one person at the front desk to handle many guests seeking information, check in or check out. The dining staff were pleasant and helpful although one of our orders for pancakes during breakfast got “lost” because of their “new” computer system.
Anemities: No spa services were available and through some poor planning, our room ended up being a simple room with one queen bed and two twin beds. We had booked a “suite” and thought that had included a kitchenette and apartment like room (which were available) but it did not. The hotel did have a “heated” pool but it was mostly luke-warm than actually warm and nowhere near hot.
Parking: The hotel has free guest parking.
Perks: There is laundry facility on the premises but it wasn’t free. Kids eat free at holiday inn so it save some money but beware that breakfast can cost $40 NZD.
Rating: We’ll give this hotel B-. The hotel was the least favorite of all the hotels we stayed in New Zealand. It was functional and basic. The hotel also needs some renovation as many of the facilities (gym, pool, rooms) are a bit dated.
Holiday Inn on Avon

Queenstown – Villa Del Lago

Villa Del Lago Bedrooms

Villa Del Lago Kitchen Living Room

Villa Del Lago Suite 13 View

Photos: Villa Del Lago in Queenstown New Zealand. The bedrooms, Kitchen, Living and Dining Room, and View from patios.
Location: Good. Queenstown is a fairly small town. Although this apartment is about 20 minutes walking distance to downtown with a great view walkway, we always drove to our destination. It is right next to the lake so easy access to the lake is readily available.
Staff: I must say that this location provided the absolute best service we’ve ever received from a lodging. Erica provided us with a tour of the apartment along with suggestions and offers to book or inquire about any type of attractions or visits we’d like to make. Erica frequently called on our behalf various tour operators to get information or make reservations.
Anemities: While there is no gym nor spa services we did have daily service to our apartment and you can request a massuse to come to your apartment. What the apartment lacked in anemities they were made up by the excellent service from the staff. We also felt we were at home away from home. We had complete kitchen, laundry, living & dining rooms and seperate bedrooms.
Parking: The apartment has free guest parking. Please note, the location is on a steep incline down on a single car road.
Perks: Great service from staff!
Rating: We’ll give this apartment A+. This was our favorite lodging. The view was absolutely spectacular (Suite 13). The bedrooms downstairs had their own patios with great views and the dining, kitchen, living rooms upstairs also provided a great view of the lake and mountians. Close to many attractions and airport. On the lake!

Hotel Check in

| May 28, 2006 9:25 am

We arrived way to early for most hotels to allow this early a check in but we decided to give it a shot.  Much to our surprise, the hotel staff (extremely friendly) let us check in early after hearing of our grueling 18 hour travel ordeal.  The staff is warm, welcoming and extremely helpful.   Our hotel room is nice, we have a great view of the city including the Sky City Tower and the Albert Park below.  I’ll post some photos later and a complete review of the hotel after our stay here has ended.  The kids are doing great and held up remarkably well for the long journey.