Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hotel Review - Intercontinental Hotel San Francisco

Intercontinental San Francisco

Hotel Review and Trip Report - SF Intercontinental (South of Market / Mascone Center)

Update: Regular rates are still over $250 per night. I have stayed here a couple of times since, thanks to priceline, the hotel is holding up well and the staff is very friendly. The Bar is a still a tad over-priced for a nightcap.

The new Intercontinental opened in Feb. 2008. Its a 32 story hotel located south of Market Street in Downtown -- its very close to the Moscone Center for conventions. Since the hotel was new, the rates were fairly low ($170/night)...but after my stay the rates online were more like $289/night.

From the outside, its got a blue-green windowed front facing Howard and Fifth streets. Its actually a very good location with an easy walk north to the Shopping Centre and Cable Cars. However, you should avoid Sixth Street since its still a dicey area. The nearest BART station is Powell which is a quick 2 block walk up 5th to Market Street.

Since its a new Building (from the ground up) -- everything is new. The booked a standard room and got "upgraded" to room 2423. The room was nice with a ok view of the city. The bed was VERY comfy and the full size Plasma was nice to have.

I had friends staying in a Corner Room which had floor-to-ceiling windows with incredible views for the city and the bay. Even the bathroom had big windows.

The work space was nice and the again everything was new and unblemished.

My room did not have a bathtub -- only a shower. This is fine for me since I didnt need a bathtub, but I soon realized I was in the smallest room type in the hotel. Plus I was right next to the elevator shaft --- I guess being on the 24th floor was the "upgrade"

The hotel is very nice, the location is great if you want to stay downtown. The hotel staff is still "in training" a bit -- but this is a new hotel so I give them a pass on that. I had an error in my bill that took a couple calls and an email to the General Manager to resolve -- but he did resolve it very quickly.

Overall its a great hotel -- if you can afford the the new regular rates

Trip Report - Horizon Air Redding-Portland

I realize this is not the most popular route...but my Mom lives -near- Redding, so I often have to fly Seattle-PDX-Redding to see her. The Redding Airport is one of those old tiny California Airports built in the 1940's. It once had 727 United Jet service that went RDD-SMF-SFO, but those are long gone.

Now the airport has a couple Horizon flights and 5 or 6 Skywest flights. All props -- no RJs or Jets.

The airport staff is extremely friendly, including the TSA staff. The Ticket Counter folks are the same ones loading the airplane or working the gate "door" (no jetways here).

My flight started off well, QX was running a bit behind...but nothing more than a coupe minutes. Once we got on-board things went down hill.

The flight crew powered up the props once, then again, then again -- something was not right. Soon the Captain came on the PA to announce "we are getting a warning light and we need Maintenace to come out and check it".

The passengers let out a collective "oh no" for a couple reasons:

- The only mechanic at the airport is probably NOT a QX employee, and its not like there are spare parts located at the Redding Airport
- This is the ONLY flight to Portland for the day -- and it was full
- The current temperature in Redding was climbing to the upper 90s, so the aircraft was going to get "warm" fast.
- Half of the plane was full of continuing passengers from Eureka/Arcata (ACV), so they couldnt exactly go home and come back the next day

The Horizon Agent/Ramper/Station Manager came on the plane to say that they wanted us to stay on-board (GOOD MOVE as it would mean more delays and calling the TSA folks back to the airport), and they will rebook us on later flights out of PDX since it would probably be at least an hour delay.

After an hour, the local mechanic reset some switches (no parts required) and we were off.

The flight to Portland is a nice one as you pass Mount Shasta (below), Crater Lake and other landmarks on the way to PDX.

Not a bad flight, but Horizon seems to be "cutting back" this year on some of the real differences that had made the airline standout from Skywest. Gone are the morning papers, free Starbucks coffee at the gate and the free snacks seem small and very cheap compared to ones in the past.

At least they still offer free Northwest Wine and Beer on board!

Hotel Review - Crowne Plaza Orlando Airport (MCO)

Of course there are many choices at the MCO Airport for decent hotels. Most of the major brands are right off the airport on frontage streets near SR 436 (S. Semoran Blvd). The Crowne Plaza has the normal look of a CP property...maybe it was a Sheraton or Radisson in a prior life.

The access to the hotel is easy with a easy access parking lot (no gates or key cards required). The staff was overly friendly at check-in and offer my co-worker free drink coupons at the bar for no appearent reason. We both were offered access to the Executive Lounge on Floor 10 for free breakfast.

I booked a standard no-smoking room and wound up with Room 935. It offered a nice view of the parking lot and views to the north (not much other than trees).

The room was fine, with the standard CP furnishings. The bed was a CP branded bed, but it seems a bit overly flimsy -- but still very comfortable and new-ish. The room was very quiet except for the fire alarm at 1:30am. There was heavy lightning in the area and the staff said sometimes it goes off when that happens.

After about 5 mins the alarm was turned off -- I never left the room.

I did order room service (Cobb Salad) and it arrived very quickly -- and was actually pretty good. Again the staff was very friendly and responsive.

The Orlando Airport Crowne Plaza seems like a top-notch CP property and a very good value for an Airport hotel. I would stay here again.

Orbitz Hotel Specific (300x250)

Monday, June 16, 2008

SYD - Medina Exec Hotel Sydney Central

Sydney Medina Executive Hotel (Central)
2 Lee Street
Haymarket NSW 2000

Tel: 61 2 8396 9800
Fax: 61 2 8396 9752

This hotel is located in Central Sydney -- right next to the Central Train station. The location is good for work reasons, and its a little far from Tourist areas, but its very walkable and sometimes nice to stay away from the crowds and noise of downtown Sydney.

View Larger Map

Each room has a mini kitchen and washer/dryer which for a long trip is a wonderful thing. These are basically small apartments with studios, one-bedrooms and two bedrooms. This trip I got lucky and got a full one bedroom with a nice balcony.

The living rooms has a nice small sofa, table and TV. Although the TV options are limited to about six channels of local TV.

The bed a small full size with cover thats seems a bit worn -- not a westin Heavenly Bed by any stretch. But really its just fine and the rooms are of a decent size. The bathrooms are nice and slightly larger than US hotel bathrooms.

The best part of this room (52) was the HUGE balconey off the main living area. It was massive and full of sun in the afternoon -- perfect for an afternoon glass of wine and a snack. The street below is fairly busy, but it is not overly noisey.

This hotel is often fairly pricey if its full -- but its a great SYD option if you dont want to be in the total tourist section. The VIBE hotel is another good choice -- but no washer/dryer in the room.