Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Elite Status: IHG Platinum

Holiday Inn Tbilisi is a modern 4-star Intercontinental Group property located near the Technical University metro station. It was a lifesaver.

First off, I screwed up. I booked it sometime back, somehow forgot that I was taking an overnight train, and booked it for the wrong night. When I showed up at the hotel, the front desk manager was a bit quizzical, but he actually didn’t give me a hard time. Instead, he assured me that it was not going to be an issue as they still have rooms, and he went above and beyond. I was actually early for check in. He ushered me to the restaurant for a free pot of tea, while they expedited a room. It was ready within 30 mins.

I spent one night here on points – 20,000 IHG points.

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Check In/Check Out

Although I showed up at 11.30 am with the reservation for the wrong day, Holiday Inn Tbilisi actually accommodated me. It took them 30 mins to get the room ready, and while waiting, they provided me with some tea in their restaurant.

Check out was easy as well.

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Room

I was given a deluxe room in the second highest floor. It is large, and offers views of Tbilisi. There’s a King bed, two large lounge chairs, and a long desk by the wall. About 15 mins after I settled into the room, a staff member also brought in a welcome amenity consisting of a platter of dried fruit and nuts, and a beverage.

There are power outlets by the bed, and wifi worked fine during my stay.

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Bathroom

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

The bathroom features a very long sink with double taps. There’s also a tub/shower combo on a raised wood platform, along with toilet and bidet. Initially, I was a bit skeptical about the shower, as there’s no barrier, but the platform drained the water away.

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

They stock Archive-brand shower amenities, with some interesting scents like Green Tea and Willow. I found it pleasant.

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Service

What can I say? I totally screwed up this one, and they were so amazingly gracious about my screw up, and went above and beyond in their generosity towards me. Their service scores an A+++ from me.

Amenities

They have a beautiful lap pool, and a 24 hr gym. The lap pool’s temperature is perfect, and the area around the pool is very inviting. They also provide poolside service.

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Overall

Although Holiday Inn Tbilisi is located some ways from downtown Yerevan, it was quite easy to reach downtown by metro (~15 min). It has an amazing lap pool, and their service is just excellent.

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Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Elite Status: IHG Platinum

Crown Plaza Nairobi is a 4-star hotel located on Upper Hill. With some luck, the Crowne Plaza Nairobi was on this session’s point break, and I snagged two nights at Crowne Plaza Nairobi for 15,000 IHG points per night. It is a solid option with plenty of facilities.

Check In/Check Out

Fast on both ends. I was asked the welcome amenity I wanted, given a key, and I was off. Check out took all of a minute, with the front desk agent nothing, “you’re all set”.

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Room

I was upgraded to an average-sized room on the club level, and given club access as well. The room has a large King bed, a small lounging set with a table and two chairs, and a long work desk by the wall, which also features a universal power outlet. There’s also a mini-fridge in the room, and a good-sized safe deposit box.

There were no outlets by the bedside, so it was a bit annoying. Wifi worked well during my stay, though.

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Bathroom

The bathroom is average-sized, with a tub, single sink vanity, and an enclosed shower. The shower worked as expected, so no complaints there.

They stock Ekyeanda amenities, which was fine by me.

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Food

I had breakfast and evening service at the club lounge. It was nice, with good variety.

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Service

Service was good. Sometimes, it’s the little things, like putting out a pots of coffee and tea in the morning (6 am) and cookies for people who have to leave the hotel before the restaurant is open.

Club Lounge

The club lounge isn’t large, but despite its size, they managed to provide a nice club experience. The buffet area is actually quite small, but somehow, they squeeze in a chef who makes crepes and eggs to order. The evening spread was also varied, and substantial enough to turn into a dinner.

They have a strange little system whereby you have to sign drink receipts for drinks ordered. I was presented with a $0 receipt for the coke light I ordered during evening service.

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Amenities

Crowne Plaza Nairobi features a heated outdoor lap pool, and a good-sized gym. It’s not 24 hrs, though. I think opening hours are around 7 am to 10 pm.

Despite the large size of the gym, the equipment probably could do with some maintenance. Both the treadmills I used were a bit “sticky”, so it was actually hard to use it because the speed varied throughout the workout.

Crowne Plaza Nairobi

Overall

Although there is not much around the Crowne Plaza Nairobi aside from businesses and other hotels, it’s a solid option and I really appreciated the upgrade to a club room.

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express Surrey BC Canada, 23 – 24 January 2016

 

IMG_1591

Holiday Inn Express Surrey is off the freeway, and a straight drive from Canada to another US-Canadian border checkpoint. It is a three-star hotel, located near Guildford town center. There is nothing much around, but we were attending a lacrosse game in Langley. I booked this hotel because IHG is having an Accelerate 2016 promotion, and I’ll get 10000 points for my first stay in January. At a rate of ~70 USD, I actually break even, so this made sense to me.

Check In/Check Out:

It was quick both ways. I booked a standard King room, and when we checked in, we were upgraded to a King feature room. I was also offered a platinum amenity, and took the points.

Location:

There is not much around, except the Guildford town center. It is convenient for commuting, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if you are trying to maximize your time in Vancouver.

Holiday Inn Express Surrey BC

Room:

Our given room was on the ground floor, facing the yard. It was quiet. If you get a ground floor room facing the lot, you might potentially be bothered by the headlights of cars pulling into the parking lot.

The King feature room is pretty large. It has a little kitchenette with a mini-fridge and sink, and there’s also a little seating area with a pull-out sofa bed, and coffee table, where we ate our dinner. There is not much room around the King bed area, but the bed is very comfortable.

The bathroom is nothing special, but functional. The sink is actually open to the bedroom, so there is only privacy for the bathtub and the toilet. The space in the enclosed area is rather tight.

Holiday Inn Express Surrey BC

Breakfast:

Holiday Inn Expresses offer complimentary breakfast. We got up a little late and arrived at the buffet at 9.30am, and it closes at 10am. One of the highlights of Holiday Inn Express is their cinnamon rolls, but by this point, they stopped having it.

This Holiday Inn Express breakfast is pretty much alike other Holiday Inn Express breakfast – deconstructed McDonald’s – sausage patties, bacon, pastries, yogurt, etc. It’s not something to write home about, but it’s filling.

Overall:

Service was brisk and friendly, and it was all that I expected of a Holiday Inn Express. I also broke even in terms of the number of points I got for the rate I paid, so can’t complain about a free hotel.

Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport, 23 December 2015

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport

When I started planning my whirlwind trip to the Iberian Peninsula, I decided to build a rest-day after my trans-Atlantic flight. This led me to the Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport. The sticker price for the room was 66 USD, but I used TopCashBack for 5 USD cash back. Also, I paid with my IHG credit card to get some points. This, stacked with a couple of deals, yielded me around 8000 (worth ~ 56 USD) points. This brought the actual cost of the room down to around 5 USD. They also offer free airport shuttle both ways, so that sweetened the deal even more.

Check-in/Check-out

It was quick. There wasn’t a line for both check-in and check-out, so there was no wait either way. I was upgraded from the run-of-house room to a suite, so that was even better (??? More on that later). As a platinum, I was offered a choice between a drink at the bar, or 600 points voucher. I took the points. Location It is near the airport. It is really an airport hotel. The area around it is a complete wasteland, and its neighbors? More airport hotels. If you are going to choose between airport hotels, you might want to think about the food on offer, because there’s really nothing around, so you will be stuck with what the hotel has to offer. Room service prices seemed reasonable (~10-15 EUR for most entrees), but I was so tired that I pretty much just passed out.

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport

Room

I was given the King Bedroom Suite, which is the best room they have. It is large, with an entryway, and a walk-in closet. The seating area is also quite substantial, although it is not a separate room.

The highlight, or in my opinion, the weirdest thing, is the shower. It is this transparent thing that is central to the whole room. I’ve seen something like that in other hotels, whereby the bath/shower area offers peek-a-boo views from the bedroom area, but most do offer privacy options. Not in this case. There’s no way you can actually activate some privacy screen. There’re even blue lights, if you want to highlight that *erm* sexy shower show even more. There’s also a bathtub with Jacuzzi functions. But given my fatigue, I just took a quick, very weird, shower, and passed out in bed. They also offer a double vanity, and the toilet and bidet are in a separate little area with a door, if you want even more privacy.

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport

In the room, they offer a Lavazza Mio machine, and Lavazza pods. It was pretty nice, if not super intuitive. The bed was comfortable, and I had a good night’s sleep. I also didn’t hear any neighbors, so that’s good. However, there are not power plugs near the bed. The manager did leave a (mass) note by the bedside table, and two little chocolates, though! The mini-bar/fridge contained two sodas and a bottle of water. Apparently, the mini-bar, coffee and snacks (two cookies) are complimentary on the first night. I did have some coffee and hot chocolate, as I woke up super early.

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport

Breakfast

It was not included in my rate. But a glance at the room service menu suggests that a simple continental breakfast is about 6 EUR.

Wifi

It was decent.

Overall

It is a good airport hotel. The shuttle to the hotel might take a little while sometimes, due to traffic. If you arrive outside of their regular hours, there is a board posted by the hotel shuttles with their number – call them. Be sure to book your shuttle back to the airport when you check in. It is an efficient outfit, if you are simply planning on an overnight stay. The bathroom sure was trippy, but I guess I can’t complain too much about a suite upgrade.

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Times Square (on 8th ave, between 38th and 39th st), 30 October 2015

View from my 32th floor room at Holiday Inn Times Square

I’d initially booked the Holiday Inn Express Times Square South for my second night in NYC, but a week ago, I checked again for 2 double bed availability. As it turns out, the IHG group opened up another new property in Times Square, and this newly-opened had 2 double-bed availability, and got some incredible value out of it. I booked a 2 double-bed view room, which was retailing at close to ~$600 this weekend (whoa!). This property is better than its sister property round the corner, because at the 32nd level, I had great views of the New York City skyline.

Check In/Check Out

I was allowed to check in early at around noon. There was a couple in front of me, but once it was my turn, it probably took all of two minutes. I was thanked for my Platinum loyalty (ha! If only they knew!). I am not sure if it is a platinum benefit, or as the receptionist claimed, “you are only staying one night”, but I was given a complimentary breakfast for two. Check out was also quick, once we managed to take the elevator (more on that later), and was a 30 second affair. Holiday Inn Times Square Bedroom

Room

The decor is significantly more modern than the older Holiday Inn Express from the previous night. The size of the room is fairly similar to the previous room, and the two double beds pretty much took up all the space. There are many USB outlets in the room for charging your regular USB devices, e.g. phones, tablets. I appreciated having some power by the bedside, as I had to charge my electronics on the table the last night.

The coffee machine is not a real coffee machine. It is more like a hot water boiler thing, and they put out two tea bags, and two sachets of coffee. The compact room also has everything you could need – hair dryer, safe, mini refrigerator, iron, ironing board. I didn’t use the closet, but wow, was it narrow! The bed was also very comfortable.

The bathroom just has a shower stall, a pseudo-rain shower, and apparently, they stock Bath and BodyWorks products, but from the signature collection, which I shall characterize as coconut-y. On a random note, the different hotel chains and their different tie-ups with different amenities really lets me experiment – I am not a fan of Bath and BodyWorks.

Now to the main selling point of this room – it was on 8th Ave, and offered amazing views of New York City’s skyline. We could see the Empire State Building from our room, and so, we did spend quite a bit of time simply staring out of our room window.

Holiday Inn Times Square Bathroom

Breakfast

As this Holiday Inn is still new, their in-house breakfast was not available yet (I assumed). We were given vouchers to head towards Beer Authority round the corner for our breakfast. Breakfast was simple. We could choose one item from a menu, and were given coffee/tea and juice. Items ranged from a breakfast bar of muesli, yoghurt, and fruits, to an English breakfast of omelette, fried tomato, tatter tots, bacon and ham. I got the lox bagel, which had a very generous helping of salmon. Holiday Inn Times Square

Overall

I felt I got good value out of this stay with my points, and the view really made this one-night stay amazing. But the hotel is still a work-in-progress. In the morning, during the rush hour for hotel guests traffic, one of the elevators broke down. It probably took us more than 5 mins to get from our room on the 32nd floor to the ground level. This was certainly a cause for angst amongst the hotel guests.

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Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express Times Square (39th st & 8th Ave)

IHG Express Times Square

New York hotels are outrageously expensive for what you are getting. Thankfully, I had some (make that a lot) IHG points lying around. Holiday Inn Express Times Square is pretty narrow and tall. It has 36 levels, with 6 rooms on each level. Generally, it is a very efficient operation, but don’t be expecting too much for all the benjamins that you have to shell out to stay here.

Check In

I actually got in at 8 am, and left my bag at the luggage storage. The official check-in time is 4 pm, but after some enquiries, the kind receptionist told me that I probably could check back at 1 pm for availability (which I did). I was also offered a complimentary breakfast when I dropped my bags. Check in was pretty quick – after getting my last name, they just asked me for a credit card as security, and we were good to go. It took all of 2 mins.

My Platinum status was acknowledged, and I was told that I would be given 500 points (??) as a benefit, and was also offered a late check-out to 2 pm (regular check-out is 11 am).

IHG Express Times Square

Room

It is small, and packed two double beds. The bathroom is just adequate, and has a tub. This hotel looks oldish, so the furniture is oldish as well. But they did pack quite a lot of stuff – coffee maker, iron, safe, luggage bench.

I did really like the bed – it was super comfortable, and the linens were really soft. The four pillows are divided into two types – firm and soft, as indicated by the pillow covers.

The bathroom did the job. They stock it with Bath and Body Works products, and I did like the citrus flavors of their shower products. The hot water shower was slightly weird – it tended to get hotter and hotter as I showered. But it was manageable.

Despite being given a room on the 34th floor, there are no views. Well, there is a great view of the building across the street.

Pillow Selection at Holiday Inn

Breakfast

Holiday Inn Express offers complimentary breakfast. My best description of it is deconstructed McDonald’s Big Breakfast and it tasted a lot like McDonald’s. They have pancake machines, bagels, fruits, cereals, pans of sausages, muffins, juices, and omelettes. But the breakfast area is very small, and tended to be crowded. Don’t plan on having a leisurely holiday breakfast here, but if you are just looking to grab some food, it does get the job done.

Overall

It is quite hard for me to judge. This was my first time staying at a NYC hotel. It is an efficient outfit, but if I were paying some 400 USD anywhere else in the world, I would have expected a lot more. I slept really well, the location is great, the staff are efficient, and the room did its job.