Lodgings

Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo, 09 July 2016

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

The Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo is in the Pinheiros area. There are many chain hotels like Sheratons/Hiltons and the Morumbi mall. I was trying to hit Hyatt Diamond status via stays, so I shelled out for it. It wasn’t too bad for it had a weekend paid rate of $140.

Location

I can’t contribute too much on this topic. I only went to the mall nearby, which is about 15 min walk away. And for dinner, I went to Fogo de Chao via Uber, which was also pretty nearby. I don’t think the subway is near either. I took an Uber to the airport as well, and that was pretty cheap, and a little over 40 mins without any traffic. Having said that, traffic does come to a standstill around the area. I did have a great view of the traffic gridlock from my room.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Check In/Check Out

I checked in at the main lobby, and was asked if I’d like to check in at the Club Lounge instead. I declined that option. Check in was good. I got upgraded to a club room, and when I asked about late check out (my flight is at 6pm), I was told I had already been given a 4pm check out.

Check out was painless as well.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Room

I was given a King Club room on the same level as the Club Lounge. The room and bathroom are both large and well-appointed, and filled with all the amenities you’ll associate with a five-star hotel.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

In the entryway, there are some cabinets. Hidden in this set of cabinets is a mini fridge, and there’s a tea pot on top of the cabinets. The room is large, with a nice desk, and a King bed in the middle of the room. There was also a chaise lounge by the window.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

My room offers a view of the Morumbi bridge, although not much else in terms of the view. You can see more of Sao Paulo’s skyscrapers on the rooms on the same side of the Club Lounge.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

The bathroom is large. It has a tub, a shower, a bidet and a toilet. There are plenty of amenities, and a large closet in the bathroom. They supplied it with Castanha do Brazil bath products, which I thought was ok.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Club Lounge

The Club Lounge is a very impressive space, with high ceilings. Throughout the day, there are some snacks, and drinks in the fridge. They have evening hors d’oeuvres, and also serve breakfast.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

The evening hors d’oeuvres is pretty decent, although it doesn’t really offer much in terms of hot dishes. If you’re trying to have a light meal before party time, or before a Brazilian dinner time, it’s not bad. The alcohol selection looked pretty decent as well. The snacks I had were tasty.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Breakfast was more continental, with a full array of pastries, yoghurts, and fruit. There’s also some alcohol if you fancy a morning cocktail.

Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo

Overall

At $140, the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo was a great deal. It’s really hard to put a finger as to what about a hotel makes you go … “ahhh”, and refuse to leave, but that’s essentially what happened. After checking into the room, leaving it was kinda tough. And that’s a good sign for a hotel.

It comes highly recommended.

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Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, 06-08 August 2016

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Introduction

Back in June 2015, I signed up for Citi’s Hilton Reserve, which gives 2 weekend nights in any Hilton property anywhere in the world after spending $3000 in 3 months. This set the wheels in motion. Where could I go that I’d never pay for? Maldives.

Maldives has always struck me as this expensive, couples/honeymoon place. Almost everyone I know went there for their honeymoon and shelled out a 5 figure sum. I like beaches, climate change and rising sea-levels are winning against places like the Maldives, so I sure as hell was not going to depend on finding someone before mother nature wins!

The Conrad Maldives retails from $500 to $900 for their regular rooms (and up), so this was a perfect candidate for me to blow my two free nights, and not shell out a lot of money. I also get to check another country off my list. Travel hacking for the win!

Trans-Maldivian Airlines

Getting to and from Male and Rangali

At this point, I moved back to Singapore, so getting to Male wasn’t difficult. I did make a bit of a mistake, because I actually booked a one way mileage ticket on Singapore Airlines. That cost me 15,725 Krisflyer miles, and more importantly, 139 USD. I could have done things differently, because the taxes on the award is almost the same price as a one-way on the budget airline, Tigerair, which also flies direct to Male. It has a less-than-ideal timing, but I could have just paid more, and saved some Krisflyer miles. But as luck would have it, things worked out in my favour, because the Singapore Airlines flight I took was full so I did a voluntary bump, and got 250 SGD in cash, getting there a couple of hours later. For my trip back, I simply booked a Tigerair one-way flight for 220 USD. It could have been a lot cheaper if I didn’t book it at the last minute.

The real big expense, is getting from Male to your resort. As long as you are on one of the standalone resort-islands, you have to take a seaplane, and there’s no way to avoid the 500 USD per person round trip charge, so that was a big one for me.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Pre-Departure Communications with Conrad

Despite my stay being an award stay, I’d say that their communications were excellent. A week or so before my stay, I got an e-mail from their pre-booking coordinator, asking for details of my flights, so they could arrange my seaplane transfer to Rangali.

Additionally, I was very interested in dining in Ithaa, their underwater restaurant, so they were also able to secure a reservation for me as well.

Even as a Hilton Diamond, I wasn’t expecting any upgrades on the property from their (already humongous) beach villa, which is the standard room, but I did ask if they would assign me a room on the sunset side of the island, which they did!

What was impressive, was when I threw a monkey wrench in their plans with my voluntary bump. Right after the bump, I shot them an e-mail, and their team actually arranged alternative plans, and managed to still get me to Rangali with very little downtime.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Arrival/Departure in Male – Conrad Lounge

Upon arrival, I was met at airport by a staff of Conrad, who then handled all the details of my seaplane transfer. Shortly after that, I was put on a coach, and driven to the Conrad Lounge. The Conrad has a special lounge for its guests waiting for the seaplane, and it was excellent.

There are several comfortable lie-flat couches in the lounge, for those looking to take a nap after a long flight, or just stretch out their legs. There’s also a complimentary 15-min massage for guests. There’s also a buffet station for those who want to grab some food before or after their flights. There are also showers for those who wish to freshen up as well.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Check In/Check Out

Very painless process. I was introduced to my concierge, who’s in charge of my stay, and he gave me a set of brochures for reference. There is also a small waiting room after check out, where you can get refreshments while waiting for the seaplane.

The reception area is also covered in sand, which enhanced the whole island feeling of the resort, and puts you in the mood for a vacation right away.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Room

I got a standard beach villa, which is a massive 150 sq m/1614 sq ft. My room was a renovated villa. Previously, there was a water fountain in the villa, which created a lot of dead space, but that has since been replaced by incorporating that space into the room, putting skylights and a daybed.

Broadly, the villa has three areas. There’s the outdoor shower, which comes with a soaking tub. Enclosed within the room, are double vanities. If you so desire, there’s also a clothes line near the door, so you can dry your swim wear after a fun day at the beach. The walk-in closet is also in this area.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

In the middle section of the room, there’s the day bed with a coffee table. There are curtains, so if you have a small child, or a third adult, you can always sleep the extra person here, and still get some level of privacy. These curtains are thin though. Close to the daybed is the toilet and one more sink.

The bed/sleeping area takes up majority of the space in the room. There is a king sized bed facing the TV, and a sofa by the foot of the bed, if you want to watch some TV. There’s also a desk by the corner, and opposite the desk, there was the fridge with the Nespresso and an electric kettle. Guests are supplied with water, and if you want ice, just call housekeeping for ice.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Each beach villa also has offers beach access. Just outside the room, there are a couple of chairs and loungers if you wish to spend time outdoors, but still shaded. This leads directly to the beach. And by your personal strip of beach, there are also loungers, along with beach towels.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

The set-up is simply amazing.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Hilton Diamond Amenities

As a Hilton Diamond, there’s complimentary breakfast in the two restaurants that offer breakfast on the island. It’s a buffet with an excellent selection. I particularly loved their smoothies. If you eat late enough in the day, you probably can turn it into a brunch and simply eat dinner, saving some money. This represents some serious cost savings, because everything in the resort is expensive.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

In addition to breakfast, there is also a complimentary tea break at Mandhoo Restaurant, featuring finger sandwiches, and coffee/tea. Think of it as a dainty high tea. Also, they offer a cocktail hour at the Vilu restaurant as well for diamonds, should you wish to obtain a complimentary alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. I went with a mocktail, which was tasty.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

My room was also stocked with diamond amenities. There was a sparkling wine, a bowl of fruit, and some chocolates.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Dining 

Dining is expensive. I’ve heard of stories of people who basically pack a lot of instant noodles, and cook it in their room to cut costs. That’s always an option. I did, however, dine at the resort when I was there.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

I really wanted to try their Ithaa Undersea restaurant, since it’s a unique feature. To cut costs, I went with their lunch service, which was a prix fixe at ~200 USD. It was pretty cool, and the food was pretty decent (I guess you are paying for the atmosphere), but as a lunch service, it was definitely not romantic or anything. There was a family with some unruly kids, and the parental units didn’t feel compelled to rein in their wildlings. The servers actually had to tactfully escort the kids back to their table, and there was only temporary respite for the other diners, as the wildlings were back to their disruptive behavior (one of them tried to jump on me).

Conrad Rangali Maldives

For my two dinners, I ate at the Rangali Bar, which is one of the more affordable options. Even then, a Wagyu burger with a soda set me back ~50 USD after tips. The Chicken Tikka that I had the next evening cost about the same price. In short, if you are going to pay for food, there’s really no escape from paying ~50 per entree.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Activities

Many people do cruises or diving, but I was on a very short trip, so I just wanted to swim/lounge around.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Snorkeling equipment rental is available for free at the dive shop. I checked out a set on my second day there, and went snorkeling around the house reef. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was a very calming experience.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

I spent most of my time swimming. I swam at the sea in front of my beach villa, and on my last day there, I actually swam between the islands. I also spent my time lounging. My personal favorite was the adult-only infinity pool on the island with the overwater villas.

Service

This is probably the defining factor for the Conrad Maldives – top-notch service. Everything was perfect. One day, I was at the infinity pool. I spotted a pair of flip flops under one of the lounge chairs. An attendant asked for my room number before bringing some towels. Some 30 mins after I returned to my room, my personal concierge asked if I left my flip flops at infinity pool.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Overall

I never quite got the hype of the Maldives, but I must say, this was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had. Just walking around the various sandy paths between the islands and swimming and lounging in the clear blue sea. It was an incredibly calming experience, which was topped off by impeccable service. I actually found myself researching other options for Maldives vacations right after returning from this trip!

Miles & Points

Well, I didn’t get this vacation for free, but I did do it for ~1000 USD, which is still pricey for a weekend.

Accommodations:

2 Nights Hotel Stay: Citi Hilton Reserve (free) – at least 1000 usd saved

Flights:

Singapore – Male: 120 USD + 15000 KF points on Singapore Airlines

Male – Singapore: 220 USD on Tigerair

Seaplane in Maldives: 500 USD

Food:

300 USD

Hilton Gold status, which comes with the credit card, would have given you free breakfast at the Conrad, so the credit card itself would have effectively reduced your food costs.

I saved about 1100 USD on this trip with miles and points. This trip probably can be done with about 700 USD (seaplanes and budget airlines), if you’re willing to eat instant noodles for your trip.

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Centric Montevideo, 11 July 2016

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

We spent one night in July 2016 at this property, and had an excellent stay. The deco of the property is fresh, and we were also treated well as diamond members.

Pre-Check In Communications
The Hyatt Centric was proactive in their communications. On the last minute, I decided I wanted a shuttle from the port to the hotel, given that the hotel is some ways from the port, and we arrived after dark. Arranging transport last minute was quick and painless, and our driver was there as promised. It was 27 USD (925 UYU) for the 20 min ride from the port to the hotel in Pocitos, and they supplied a Mercedes (the alternative is BMW).

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Check In/Check Out
Not as quick, but still painless. When I arrived, the Director of Operations came out and introduced himself and thanked us for being diamond members, while the FD did our check in.

Check out was quick, no problems with the bill.

We booked the Pre-Opening rate, which includes breakfast at the lobby restaurant, but the FD encouraged us to eat at the Club Lounge on the 13th floor instead. We had to inquire about the times of service at the lounge for breakfast (printing it on the card like a regular HR would have been helpful).

Although we opted for points, we found a welcome amenity in our room. It consisted of a bottle of Uruguayan red wine, six macaroons, and some fruit. There was also a personalized welcome note from the Director of Operations.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Room
We booked a regular King room, but were upgraded to a Club King with River View on the 10th floor. It’s 49 sq m, and contemporary in design, with three distinct areas.

Sleeping/work areaThis area is carpeted, and the King room is in the middle of the room. The decor is very Room & Board, with hanging lamps, and fabric headboards. The bedside tables are generously-sized, and they also have USB chargers by the wall for your electronic devices. The TV faces the bed.

The work desk is a little bit small, has a work lamp (not adjustable), and power plugs. There’s also a little booklet with things to do, and room service, on a very hipster clipboard.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Lounging
This area is hardwood, and there’s a floor-to-ceiling window featuring view of the river. Part of the view was obscured by a room to the right of the room, so you can peep into the living area of another hotel guest.

There’s a nice fabric sofa, table, and an extra fabric armchair. Our welcome amenity was on the table. There’s also a cabinet facing the sofa, which contains the fridge (really cold!), an electric kettle, and an Illy coffee machine.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Bathroom
This area is tiled, and in the form of a long rectangle. The bathroom has a rather open concept, but you can close it off with two barn-style doors, one accessed from the bedroom area, and one from the entryway. The toilet/bidet can be closed (but not locked), and there’s a walk-in shower with rain shower and wand.

The sink and dresser is pretty long. There’s a actually a chair if you want to sit at the dresser, with amenities like cottonwool.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Club Lounge
On the top floor of the hotel (13th), it’s decently-sized, and offers a great view of the River.

We only went during hors d’oeuvres and breakfast service, so I’m not sure if it’s open throughout the day. Both services are hosted. It’s slightly odd that the hosts ask for my room number only after I’ve taken my food.

The hors d’oeuvres has no hot option, but quite a bit of complimentary alcohol. There are several desserts, one salad option, breads, cheeses, olives, etc.

The breakfast selection is continental. I found the pastry to be on the hard side of things, and I prefer my pastries to be warm and flaky.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

Service
Friendly and efficient.

Wifi
Fast

Food and beverage
On the expensive side of things (over 900 UYU for a room service hamburger). We ended up walking a little to a sushi place 6 mins walk from the hotel for our dinner.

Overall
This is a lovely property. I love the design of the hotel, and they obviously did a good job getting it ready – I couldn’t tell that it just opened one month ago. I’d return to this property in a heartbeat if I’m in Montevideo again.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo

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Chile: Being Lame in Santiago, 26 July 2016

Grand Hyatt Santiago

I wish I had more to report. I had initially intended to visit Valparaiso today, but travel fatigue was hitting me hard, and I just wanted to veg out the whole day today. I just convinced myself that it’s ok, because I don’t see this South America trip as the last time I’ll visit Chile or Argentina, so it’s ok to leave things for another trip sometime in the future.

I just stayed in bed for the most part and enjoyed the spectacular view of Santiago with the Andes in the backdrop. When it got late enough in the day, I eventually decided I was really craving American Chinese food. With some luck, there’s actually a PF Chang’s at the mall near the hotel. Funnily enough, I’ve never actually tried PF Chang’s in all my years living in the US. Their orange chicken was ok.

Grand Hyatt Santiago

Yes, this IS the view from my hotel room window

I spent some time reading in Starbucks, and then went back to my room eventually to capitalize on their large HDTV, and started a MLB game on my laptop, and streamed it on their TV. Sometimes, that’s ok on vacation, too!

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Hotel Review: Sheraton Airport Tempe, 25 March 2016

Sheraton Airport Tempe

Sheraton Airport Tempe was a category 2 SPG property when we first booked it, and costs 3000 points, because it was a weekend when we stayed. They offer a complimentary airport shuttle from Phoenix International Airport, and the property is in the process of being upgraded.

Location:

It’s a short drive (~10 min) from Phoenix International Airport, and located near the restaurants/services near Arizona State University. Those are about 10 mins drive away, and if you are there for Spring Training, it’s really close the Los Angeles Angels training complex – Diablo Stadium.

Check In/Check Out:

Painless and quick. I showed my SPG business card, and was granted lounge access. We were given an updated room.

Room:

It’s an average-sized room with a balcony. Our room overlooked the parking lot, so not much to see there. The room is updated, meaning there’s new wallpaper. They do have a decent-sized fridge, where we stored our beverages.

The bathroom is updated, but on the small-to-average side of things. It has a tub with a shower head.

Sheraton Airport Tempe

Club Lounge:

The evening hors d’oeuvres was pretty decent. I have a thing for potstickers, so whenever that is offered, I do tend to be happy. They have a self-serve fridge with soft drinks and water, but no coffee machine. It’s pretty small, with room for about six tables. We didn’t eat breakfast because we couldn’t wake up in time for it.

Parking/Wifi:

Parking is complimentary. Wifi is also complimentary, but very spotty. I was doing my annual fantasy baseball draft, and it crapped out in the middle of the draft. I ended up with Ryan Braun. I let out a scream when the wifi died on me. True story.

Overall:

It’s a pretty nice property with a pool. The club lounge is also pretty decent. I don’t feel a compulsion to return, but I also don’t have any negative feelings about it.

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, 24 March 2016

Morning view from Junior Suite #1909 @ Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

I’m working on re-qualifying for Hyatt Diamond in 2017, so I’ve been mattress running Hyatt properties whenever possible. The HR Albuquerque is one of the cheaper properties (<100 USD), and also close to the airport for our early flight, making it a perfect candidate. Additionally, I also have a number of Diamond Suite Upgrades expiring soon, so I used one on this one night stay.

Location:

It’s in downtown. It seemed rather dead in the evening, because the downtown is a business district. But it’s a quick, 15-min drive to the airport, so there was that.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was relatively quick, but not without some drama. Our parking charges (~18 USD) were waived on account of my Diamond status, which I appreciated. We were given suites, which are two connecting rooms, but to our shock, we opened the door to an un-cleaned, previously-occupied room. We were given the wrong room.

While check out was quick, there was also some fuss with the bill. One of the diamond benefits is complimentary breakfast for up to 4 guests in the same room, but I ended up getting charged for it.

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite Living room

Room:

The suite (#1909) is decent, but not much to write home about. It’s basically two rooms joined together. The living room actually has a murphy bed, giving it the opportunity to transform into another room, if required. We basically had two rooms. It’s a high floor, so in the morning, we had great views of Albuquerque and the hot air balloons floating over the mountains.

The rooms are of an average size, and the bathrooms are slightly larger than average, and come with a bathtub with shower. One annoyance is that they don’t provide complimentary water, and the bottles they leave in the rooms are charged at $5 a bottle.

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite Bedroom

Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Junior Suite bathroom 1

Breakfast:

The HR Albuquerque does not have a club lounge, so we could have our breakfast at Forque restaurant. I ordered French toast, which was amazing, a juice, and a latte. The breakfast was excellent.

Forque @ Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Sticky Bun French Toast with Pecans and Blueberries at Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

Overall:

It’s an ok property. I’ll probably stay here if I’m in Albuquerque and need a cheap Hyatt mattress run. The breakfast is great, but I wouldn’t use a Diamond Suite Upgrade on this property.

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Hotel Review: Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque, 23 March 2016

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque is a category 2 SPG hotel. We opted for it because it costs 4000 Starwood points. Sheraton Uptown is about 30 min drive in average traffic from the Albuquerque airport and in a good location if you want to buy things or eat, because it’s located in strip malls and close enough to a freeway.

Check In/Check Out:

Quick and painless. I am just a SPG preferred member, which is what you can get if you sign-up for their loyalty program, and was given a room at the second highest level. I showed my SPG Business card, which gives me Sheraton Club Lounge access, and this was processed with no problems.

Room:

The room is very large, and had some views of the surrounding mountains. The King bed took up about 2/5 of the room, and there is also a nice lounge chair in the room.

The desk and TV console are together. While this created more space in the room, it also left less space for work. I do prefer standalone desks.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque

Bathroom:

It’s an average-sized bathroom. Part of it contains amenities like coffee brewer and complimentary bottles of water. The toilet seat is slightly broken, but ok. The bathtub and shower was also average. I did appreciate that they had a wall-mounted container with the bottles of shower gel and shampoo.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque shower amenities

Club Lounge:

Located on the top floor, the Club Lounge is a decent size. We didn’t get up in time for breakfast, but the evening hors d’oeuvres was substantial. They had two types of lasagna, one meat, one vegetarian. There were also other usual crudités. There’s also a great self-serve coffee machine in the Club Lounge.

Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Club Lounge Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Evening Hors D'oeuvres at Club Lounge

Parking/Wifi:

Wifi is free with SPG membership and of decent speed, as is parking.

Overall:

This is a lovely property, and excellent candidate for redemption or a cheap paid stay (depending on season). I won’t hesitate to return to this property if I’m in Albuquerque.

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Hotel Review: Hilton Garden Inn Sabana San Jose Costa Rica, 21 March 2016

Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

The Hilton Garden Inn Sabana San Jose is one of the newer hotels in San Jose, Costa Rica. It also happens to be one of the tallest buildings in San Jose. We stayed there for one night in March. The rate can range from the high-90s to low-200.

Check In/Check Out:

Check in was pretty rapid. I did online check-in, and pre-selected my room on the top floor (20th). When we got there, we were just given the keys to our room, even though we were a little early (noon).

Check out wasn’t slow, but it was a little bit odd – I filled in the paperwork for express check-out, but was still held up to do a standard check out. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind, but we were running late.

San Jose

Location:

In the Sabana business park, it’s near a number of coffee shops (Starbucks, Juan Valdez, Costa), and there’s a McDonald’s across the street. There are also a number of little bistros nearby. I’d say it was a good 45 min walk from the HGI to downtown San Jose. The walk is pleasant enough, so it’s not too bad. We took Uber back, and that was ~5 USD (or less – I can’t remember)

Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Room:

Contemporary. Think retro sofas, over-sized, hanging lamps, and grey-tiled bathrooms. Space wise, it was a little bit tight, but no complaints. There was also a mini-fridge, and a coffee machine by the entryway table. The bathroom was stocked with Neutrogena products.

Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Amenities:

They have a pool, which while awesome in theory, wasn’t exactly pragmatic. The winds made it a bit too cold to swim. Also, it’s probably a one-lane lap pool. The gym is on the small side of things, but the equipment is new. It also offers a great view of the national stadium.

Pool at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Breakfast:

As a Gold or Diamond member, you can choose the point amenity, or breakfast for two. We went with the breakfast, and it was excellent.

The buffet had quite a selection, and there were four hot items. The key to breakfast is – you had to read the menu on the table, where they have made-to-order breakfast items. I got an omelette, and the French toast. The French toast is amazing. Try it!

Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

French toast at Hilton Garden Inn La Sabana

Overall:

We had an enjoyable stay, and would return to this property. The staff were friendly, and the property offered great views. The lobby also had complimentary coffee and cookies.

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Hotel Review: DoubleTree by Hilton Cariari San Jose, 20 & 22 March 2016

DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

The DoubleTree by Hilton Cariari in San Jose Costa Rica is a four-star resort that’s located midway between the Juan Santamaria International Airport and downtown San Jose. The paid rates hover around mid-90 to low-100s. For some reason, the premium rooms were available for redemption at a discounted rate, so I redeemed ~21000 Hilton points for the first night, and ~23000 Hilton points for the second night.

Overall, it seems like a lovely resort property, with some nice green spots to chill out. However the pool was undergoing maintenance during our stay, so we didn’t get to enjoy the resort fully.

Check In/Check Out:

Quick and painless. I’m currently in the midst of a billing dispute with them with regards to them double-charging me for transportation, though.

Executive Balcony Double Room at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Room:

We got the executive double room. It is large, and has a coffee machine, which we didn’t use. There’s also a nice-sized balcony, but with the pool maintenance going on during our stay, it was too noisy for us to hang out on the balcony.

The bathroom is average size, but dated. The resort has seen better days.

Executive Balcony Double Room at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Service:

There are highs and lows. In the online check-in, we could designate some items we wanted in the room. We asked for a map and slippers, and we found these in the room after check in.

At breakfast, the staff was very attentive.

On the other hand, the first front desk agent didn’t tell us where the executive lounge is, so I couldn’t locate it the first day.

Welcome package at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Breakfast:

The Gold and Diamond benefit is complimentary continental breakfast that was served in the restaurant. The hotel stuck with the rules of a continental breakfast. The pastries were delicious, and I didn’t quite feel the need to pay a $10 upcharge for a full breakfast.

Breakfast at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Executive Lounge:

Located above the front desk, it’s only open for select hours. They have hors d’oeuvres in the evening from around 5 – 8 pm. It’s hosted. The lounge itself is rather small, and probably had about four tables. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Evening Hors D'Oeuvres at DoubleTree Hilton Cariari

Overall:

We enjoyed our stay. It’s a lovely property with a great location.

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Hotel Review: Sheraton San Diego Marina and Hotel, 19 March 2016

View from Club Lounge at Sheraton San Diego and Marina

The Sheraton San Diego Marina & Hotel is a four-star outfit in close proximity to the San Diego International Airport. We stayed here for 1 night in March. We had a 8-ish am flight out the next morning, so we opted for the Sheraton San Diego Marina & Hotel, because of the free airport shuttle. The paid rates of this hotel are in the mid-200 USD range, but we used a 10,000 Starpoints redemption instead.

The hotel has a very nice hard product, but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.

Check In/Check Out:

At check-in, the front desk lady was lovely enough, but pretty much every guest who walked in was given an upsell pitch. This actually set the tone for our stay. She did comp our resort fees (20 USD), and was good about granting us lounge access as part of my Amex SPG Business benefit.

We were running a little late for check out, so we just dumped our keys in the express check out box. There were no billing issues.

Sheraton San Diego Marina

Room:

The SPG award room books into Lanai rooms. These are in a further wing at the resort, facing the airport. We did get a marina-facing room, but our window wasn’t exactly sound-proof, so we could hear planes taking off and landing. The room itself is large, and in a beautiful nautical theme, with rich-blue paint. There was a little entry foyer with an armchair, and there was also a little private balcony with two lounge chairs.

The bathroom was also a very lovely white-tiled affair, and looked like it could have come out of Home & Decor.

Sheraton San Diego Marina

So, why the complaints? 

Well, outside our door, we found a dirty wine glass. We checked in at 3 pm, and got back to our room at 9 pm. It was still there.

When I lifted the toilet seat, the toilet was not flushed. Gross!

To add to the diming practice of the hotel, the refrigerator was rigged. You couldn’t move any of the items in the refrigerator. Or put your own items in the refrigerator. A sign on the refrigerator indicated that if you put your personal items in the mini-fridge, you’ll be charged a $20 “cleaning fee”.

Grounds:

They have two pools. They looked lovely. The pool by the lanai wing was significantly less crowded.

Sheraton San Diego & Marina Club Lounge

Lounge:

The lounge is on the top floor of the main wing. It offers amazing views of the marina, and at the lift landing, you can also get some beautiful views of downtown San Diego. They serve hors d’oeuvres from 5-8 pm. It was pretty much salad, some cheese, and no hot item. While they have a self-serve fridge with some sodas and water, there was no coffee machine. They did put out some coffee and tea during the evening hors d’oeuvres.

I do recommend sitting here to enjoy the view. I’m not sure sure about the food.

Sheraton San Diego & Marina Club Lounge

Room service: 

We ordered room service. It was prompt, the food was decent, the prices were ok. Mister might have gotten sick from the mayonnaise, but I can’t say for sure.

Overall: 

I want to like this property, but diming practices do tend to leave a bad taste. I probably wouldn’t stay here again if I’m San Diego. Downtown really isn’t that far from the airport.

Categories: Hotel, Lodgings, Starwood, USA | Tags: | Leave a comment

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