Monday, June 28, 2010

Look for these up-coming posts

Hotel Monte Carlo, Ocean City, MD

Flagship Resort, Atlantic City, NJ

Ramada Inn East Side, NYC

Sheraton Commander Hotel, Cambridge MA (2 night stay 03.26.10-03.28.10)

When shopping around for this 2 night stay, my options were fairly limited, as I need to stay in Cambridge. I wasn't driving, so being close to a T stop was also a requirement. Ideally I wanted to be within walking distance to the Harvard Club, since I was attending a wedding there. When choosing a hotel in an unfamiliar area I do extensive research and I'll normally select something that is part of a chain. A property in the Sheraton portfolio is usually an excellent choice. The Sheraton Commander proved true to its brand. Other than the outrageously over priced in room movies, at $15.99, I have only good things to say about this hotel.
The lobby is lovely, mostly marble and wood, with high ceilings. There is a small, comfortable seating area to the left, in front of a tall book case. Ironically or perhaps intentionally, it gives the impression of an Ivy League School Library. On the other side of the seating area is room with complementary computer access. The front desk agent was rapidly checking in guests. She was quick, efficient, and gave me a great map of the area without request. She asked if I had driven from NYC and I explained I had taken Amtrak and then the red line. She pointed out a few places on the map for dinner, within walking distance. This is the sort of thing they teach you in front desk 101, but I was impressed that she gathered information from my reservation and anticipated my needs.
Nothing spectacular about the room's decor but nothing terrible either. However, it was very clean, smelled fresh, and had a partial view of the park across the street. In my opinion the beds, pillows, and linens are what puts Sheraton in a category of its own. This is the primary reason I most often select Sheraton when traveling. The bed is VERY comfortable, the pillows are amazing, and the sheet have a really high thread count. They also have something called the pillow menu. You can select the density and the pillow's filling, foam or down. I had a really difficult time crawling out of bed the next morning. I actually climbed back in bed while the coffee was brewing.
All the traditional in room amenities are included, hair dryer, shampoo, soaps, iron & ironing board. High speed Internet is available for a small fee, but as I said there is complimentary computer access in the lobby. Although the bathroom was clean, it was somewhat dated, specifically the shower unit. However, the towels were soft, fluffy and smelled amazing.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to enjoy The 16 Garden Street Restaurant during my stay. However, it was fairly busy at all times, which is a good sign. One of the wedding guests raved about their dining experience there, the previous evening.
Overall, I give the Sheraton Commander an 8 out of 10. Not only would I stay again but I'd recommend it to others staying in the area.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Center Hotel: Downtown Manhattan (1 Night Stay 02.26.2010)

Although this property caters more to the business traveler, it is a good place for the leisure traveler as well. Since it is located so closely to the Ground Zero you will have to weave through some construction, but it is defiantly worth the minor inconvenience. Within walking distance you will find several attractions including, Wall Street, the iron Stock Exchange Bull, the Statue of Liberty Ferry, the Staten Island Ferry, South Street Seaport, Battery Park, and Century 21 Department store. With in a few blocks you will also find several train lines, making getting to other parts of the city fairly simple.
The World Center Hotel opened its doors in the winter of 2010 and I am sure most of you are well aware that you can't beat a brand new hotel. Think of it like a new car, the smell, the cleanliness, the "untouched" vibe you get when you climb inside. The lobby is nicely decorated and welcoming, nothing grand or spectacular. If that's what you are looking will have to look in another price range. Immediately to the left of the lobby are self check-in kiosks with touch screens. This is a highlight for me since I love to see modernness brought into the hospitality industry. Do not be intimidated by the self check-in machines. Can you use an ATM? Well then you can use this machine. It is simple and user friendly. But if you are the sort of person who says "speak with a representative" immediately when using any sort of automated system, have no fear. To the right of the lobby you will find a traditional front desk, staffed with 2 friendly front desk agents. They will even come from behind the desk to assist you with the self check-in, should you want to try your hand at it. You will also find a small lounge to the left of the lobby with complimentary computer access.
The guest room has a fresh clean smell as soon as you open the door. It is a really good size for a Manhattan hotel room. I really like the style of the room, no floral prints and no hideous carpet. It has a modern feel with an efficient, space saving armoire, flat screen TV, and an iPod docking station. I'm not a big fan of putting two smaller beds together to make one large bed, but they are attached at the frame so its not so terrible. The sheets are pretty good tread count, not "scratchy" or 'starchy", nor were the large fluffy pillows. The bathroom is were the "new" factor really comes into play. It's extremely clean. I felt as though I may have been the 1st person, ever, to shower in this room. All the traditional complimentary amenities are included, coffee maker, shampoo & conditioner, hair dryer, iron and ironing board. However, one very important amenity is also complimentary, high speed Internet access. This is another highlight for me, as some hotels charge anywhere from $10 to $20, for in room Internet access. Another New York City hotel rarity is windows that open. Granted they do not open wide, but they open enough to let in a little fresh air.
For me, the coolest thing in this hotel are the complimentary bottled water stations on each floor. Empty plastic bottles are stacked in racks above the filling station. I believe the size is 16 ounces. Just select a bottle, take off the cap, and slide it into place, and the machine fills it with chilled, filtered water. Amazing and complimentary!
In comparison to other hotels in it's price range, I'd give the World Center Hotel an 8.5 out of 10.