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Review of Savhotel in Bologna Aug 10

Savhotel_Bologna_entranceWe stayed at Savhotel in Bologna from July 26th to July 30th 2010 after we had stayed at Hotel Touring in the center of Bologna first. The reason for choosing Savhotel was that it was a bit in the outskirts which made it easier for us when we wanted to drive out of Bologna to explore some of Emilia-Romagna. At the same time the rate was low, it is a fairly new hotel and close enough to the city center so that we could enjoy restaurant in Bologna at night. After we picked up a rental car at the Marconi airport in Bologna we had a bit of problem finding Savhotel_Bologna_deskthe hotel as the street of the hotel was not in our GPS. But we figured it out by putting in one of the streets nearby (Via della Liberazione) and after that we just followed the signs. Savhotel seems to be a very new hotel located just north of the ring road of Bologna – the area around the hotel seems to be a mixture of flats, new office buildings etc. We got room 303 and the room was quite inviting when we first entered the room. The room was setup with a modern design but it was not that big. The floor was laid down with dark wood and the walls had light wall paper.

Savhotel_Bologna_bedThe centerpiece of the room was a king-size bed that was firm but far better than the mattress at the Hotel Touring that we had stayed at the previous nights (see separate review). On each side of the bed there were cubes that acted as both as a small table and lighting as they were illuminated from within. The reading light on each side could have been better as it was not very bright and rather flimsy. There was also a desk facing the window with a good light over it and a plug for the laptop – excellent setup.

Savhotel_Bologna_TVThere was a tiny flat screen TV in the room that has a good selection of channels and both CNN and BBC – but I would have liked to see a bit larger TV. The wardrobe area included hangers, shelves, a small fridge with some sodas/beers/snacks and a safe that was large enough for storing the laptop. The bathroom was tiled in light tiles and included a toilet, bide, sink andSavhotel_Bologna_bathroom bathtub which included the showering option. There were not that many amenities but as long as there is some shampoo I’m happy. The shower option in the bathtub worked out pretty good as a glass wall acted as a shield preventing splashing everywhere. The ventilation in the room was not that great so after we had taken a shower the humidity would pour down from the walls and mirror. The bathroom was separated from the room by a frosted glass door.

Savhotel_Bologna_breakfast_selectionThe breakfast area was right next to the reception and it included a decent breakfast. There was small selection of cereal, some buns, some options of mortadella ham, cheese and salami to put on the bread, ricotta, nutella and also some cakes, fruits and even egg and bacon. As usual, we had to ask to get a proper espresso but that was brought to our table with a smile. The parking facility at the hotel wasSavhotel_Bologna_wardrobe excellent – there was a parking area in the basement and we could take the lift straight to our floor. They also kept the bicycles in the parking area and we could borrow these free of charge – the only annoying thing was the form that I had to fill out every time I picked up the bikes. The bikes also came with large locks and according to one of the guys in the reception it was important to use the locks when parking in Bologna as bike thefts are not uncommon. The bikes were in great condition.

As mentioned, the hotel is located just north of the city center and it was easy to bike into town. There was a bike lane leading towards the city center and from there we just biked in the streets. Getting into Piazza Maggiore didn’t take more than about 10 minutes biking at a slow pace (it is 2,5 km/1,5 miles to Piazza Maggiore).

Savhotel_Bologna_breakfast_areaLet’s talk about some of the things that can be improved at the hotel. It was great with the free Wi-Fi but it was annoying that we had to call the reception to get a cryptic username and password and it also expired in the middle of our stay and I had to call the reception again to get a new username and password. The Wi-Fi signal was quite weak and I was not able to pick up a signal with my iPhone 3G in the room (but my wife got a signal with her 3GS). When we checked in, our clothes had been in and out of our suitcases and were in desperate need for some ironing. But the room did not include this and when we called the front desk we were told that we were not allowed to have an iron in the room and they did not have a room where we could do the ironing. So the only option was sending the clothing to the laundry service for ironing – this is something that I think the hotel has to rethink.

We were a bit surprised to find that the hotel is quite “noisy”. As it is a pretty new hotel I thought there would be better sound insulation between the rooms and hall. But we could hear the TV from the next room and it was easy to hear the cleaning personnel doing their job in the morning. Another thing that was a bit noisy was the aircon. When it was running it was not a problem but when starting and stopping it made a bit of noise.

Conclusion
If you have a car this hotel is a great option to use as a base for exploring the region as it makes it easier when it comes to driving (as driving in the city center seems to be a nightmare) and it is still close enough to the center to make it possible to enjoy restaurants there at night. The rate was 62€ for the room and that is not bad when it included taxes, breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi, free parking inside, bikes that we could use etc. But if you are just in Bologna to check out the city center I would recommend finding a hotel within the ring road and in a more charming neighborhood.

New mega hotel in Singapore Jul 17

There is a new hotel in town and the name is Marina Bay Sands. Hotels opens all the time you might say but some hotels are more of an eye catcher than others and Marina Bay Sands is one of them it looks like. First of all there are three towers with 55 floor each and on top they are all connected on top with the so called Skypark which includes one of the largest pools in the world and it is even an infinity style pool so this is not for people with fear of heights :-) With about 2500 rooms this is the biggest hotel in Singapore at the moment. Hmmm…maybe I have to go to Singapore again and see how it has changed since the last time I was there :-) Anyway, here is a review of the hotel by Kate Schneider in News.com.au

Review of Westin Grand in Berlin Apr 05

We arrived in Berlin in the afternoon and the Tegel airport is only located about 15-20 minutes from the city center and the taxi ride was 20€. There is also a bus option that can take you to some of the larger train stations in Berlin.
I booked the room at the Westin on the Starwood Preferred Guest site and the rooms started at 99€ which is not bad for a 5 star hotel in a large European city – only a few years ago I had to pay about 90€ for a 2 star hotel in Paris. As we were a bit late at booking the room went up to 111€ including taxes but without breakfast.
Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel
Check in at the hotel was fast and we got room 454. The lobby of the hotel is dominated by a huge and lavish staircase leading to the first floor where the breakfast is served and where they have conference rooms and you also have an open atrium up to the various floors. Our room was a standard size room but it seemed to be newly refurbished. The floor was covered in a brownish carpet while the walls were painted in a light color. Instead of a king size bed we had gotten two single beds standing next to each other but we knew about this in advance. Westin (and Sheraton) keeps advertising about their heavenly bed and some of them are great. The beds at the Westin in Berlin were not that great in our opinion. First of all they were quite soft, the pillows were very thin and there seemed to be something in the mattress cover that made us sweat a lot at night.
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There were lots of lights in the room which I think is great and the windows faced Friedrichstrasse and the Bugatti showroom. We did hear a bit of the traffic noise but it was not a huge problem at night. Apart from that we had one big chair in the room with a small table, a desk with a chair and a 32” flat screen TV. The TV had lots and lots of channels in German (and note that even English speaking movies are dubbed into German) so the only thing that was in English was channels like BBC News, CNN etc. But then again – you are not in Berlin to watch TV.

There was also a small fridge with items for sale – a Coke was 4.5 €, a Heineken 6 € and a small red wine was 10 € just to give you an idea of the prices. There were space for both our suitcases which was excellent as some hotel rooms seems to be designed for just one suitcase even if there is a king size bed meant for two people. The wardrobe contained quite a few hangers and there was a small safe – there was even a power outlet in the safe which means that you can charge your cell phone when it is locked up.

The bathroom was tiled with white and black tiles and contained a shower in the bathtub. There was a glass wall that prevented water from splashing everywhere when taking a shower and this combined with a shower curtain worked pretty good. It was fun to see that the standard amenities (like shampoo, shower gel etc) is the same that you get at the Westin in e.g. Bangkok.
Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel

The location of the hotel is great – located on the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden you are basically in the middle of town and you can easily walk over to museum island or Brandenburger Tor. Right outside the door you will find the U-bahn station Französische Straße and you can also walk to the larger Friedrichstraße station to catch both U-bahn and S-bahn. There are lots of high-end shops in the area (we are talking Bugatti, Ferrari, Hugo Boss, Wempe watch store) together with department stores (like Galeries Lafayette Berlin) and lots of restaurants. One tip if you don’t have breakfast included at the hotel is to grab a bit at Einstein Coffee near the hotel.

Let’s talk about some of the issues that were not that great with the hotel. First of all – no free internet! I’m not sure how others plan their trip these days but we are very much online planners and we make a Google map before we travel and we normally need to get online to check details. The internet was 7.5 € for 1 hour at the hotel – I would rather recommend that you go to Einstein coffee nearby to get free Wi-Fi and enjoy some coffee for the 7.5 € instead.
The breakfast at the hotel was 29 € per person for the buffet which is way too expensive. Yes, you can order a la carte at the hotel but still. I’m sure it is a wonderful breakfast but for a person that normally just eats a small sandwich or some muesli it is not necessary to go for breakfast at the hotel – but luckily there are many small coffee shops and bakeries nearby.

I have already mentioned that we were not that impressed with the beds. I also found it a bit strange that we only got one bathrobe and one pair of slippers when they knew that we would be two people staying in the room. It was not a big issue and I assume that we could have asked for another. We also had to request an iron and ironing board – the iron was good but the board needs to be replaced soon.

One afternoon when we came back to the hotel we found a used cleaning cloth left by housekeeping on the desk – I have stayed at quite a few hotels but I don’t think I have seen that before.

But all in all – the Westin Grand Berlin this is a very nice hotel with a great location and compared to other major European capitals you seem to get the hotel at an affordable rate.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend friends or family to stay there. You can read more about the hotel on http://aktuelles.westin.de/berlin/
Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel

Review of Radisson Blu in Tromsø, Norway Feb 02

I came to Tromsø at night and the hotel is only about 10 minutes from the airport by taxi and it was about 135 kroner (about 23 US dollars at the moment). There is also a bus service but it is not the frequent.

We had room 453 located on the 4th floor and it was a pretty big room and it cost 1170 kroner per night (200 US dollars) for two including taxes and breakfast. The entire room had a rust red carpet, 2 windows but not with much of a of a view as we looked over to another section of the hotel. The room had a two seat black leather sofa and a similar style chair and a low table. There was also a low table, a desk with a chair and a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. The TV was facing the leather chair and it was not possible to twist the TV towards the bed – I think this would have been a great feature. When lying in bed it was hard to see the TV image and it was also hard to use the remote control to change channels (maybe due to the angle?).

There was also a wardrobe with regular hangers which I think is nice, a small safe where you put in your own pin code and a small mini bar. I think a soft drink like Coke was about 42 kroner (about 7 US Dollar). In the hall leading into the room there was a small ironing board and one of those cheap, horrible irons. The room was equipped with some pretty funky and modern lamps but it was hard to control the lightning individually as there was one main switch that killed all the light.

The bathroom was tiled in white and green tiles on the walls and black tiles on the floor. There were some amenities – the usual shower and shampoo and a lotion and the bathtub had a shower option with a glass panel to avoid water from splashing everywhere. I still think the bathtubs should be removed from hotel rooms as I never use it but maybe I’m different from your average hotel guest. One major flaw in the bathroom was the fact that there was no heating in the floor! At least it didn’t feel like it when we were there and hence the bathroom was quite cold and when we took a shower the water would run down from the cold walls. To compensate the ventilation suction was so strong that it felt like there was a constant breeze when we were in the shower.

 

When entering the room there was a sign saying “Welcome to your business class room” and there was a list of items that should be included. The problem was that several of the items were not there. It would have been great to have slippers and a bathrobe as it was quite cold in Tromsø when we were there and the heating barely seemed to keep up with the cold outside the windows. There should also have been a Nespresso coffee machine but the only thing that was left in the cupboard were some Nespresso capsules. When I mentioned this to the reception I got a water boiler instead which was nice of course but not the same as a Nespresso machine. A morning paper should also be included in the business room and we got it on a Friday but not on the following day. Pay TV was also included in this but the TV signal was pretty bad a times and when watching movies on the pay TV a piece of another film would keep on popping up in the film we were watching.

 

Radisson Blu has a 100% guest satisfaction which I think is just a PR stunt. I’m not 100% satisfied with our stay and guess I should have complained about more of the issues that I have mentioned above. But I think when they have listed what a room should contain it should not be up to the guest to point out all the things that are missing. And before I stop complaining: the iron is really lousy. I do understand that you have to keep the ironing board small but there should have been a proper steam iron. I assume that a lot of the people that get this room are people that are there on business and that would like to iron a shirt before going to a meeting. Getting a shirt to look nice with that iron would take no less than a miracle.

But let us focus on some of the things that were good. The location of the hotel is very good. Located right on the harbor it is within minutes from most of the attractions in Tromsø. The breakfast was very good and included scrambled eggs, bacon, sautéed mushrooms and you could also order eggs in various ways. Apart from that there was a nice selection of fruit, cereal, bread and pastry etc. And I cannot remember seeing tran at a hotel breakfast before – that is oil of cod liver that we Norwegian normally take with breakfast in the wintertime :-) There is free wifi in the rooms and I think this is a great feature. But I did have some problems getting my iPhone online on the wifi.

All in all this is not a bad hotel at all and it clearly deserved a 4 rating in my opinion even if I was tempted to rate it three as some of the expectations were not met. I have complained to Radisson Blu before on issues and I have yet to get a proper answer in line with their 100% guest satisfaction. If you are looking for a hotel in Tromsø, Radisson Blu is not a bad option at all.

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Do you steal from hotels? Jan 13

When I travel I’m always surprised to see reminders in hotel rooms that e.g. the robes are not meant to be taken home with you. I guess it must be a problem as some hotel rooms have a price list for almost everything in the room ;-) Here is an article about top 10 items that people steal from hotel rooms. Here is another article called “When stealing from a hotel is OK” that talks about the same subject. So have you ever taken something from the hotel room? I have to admit that I do take bathroom amenities that I have started using…like shampoo, conditioner and mouth wash. But apart from that I can honestly say that I have never stolen anything from a hotel room….well, as far as I can remember ;-) So what about you? Are  you a thief?

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Plaza Athenee Bangkok Nov 23

Here is a short video showing our room at the hotel Plaza Athenee in Bangkok and also a short scene from the Club lounge.

Our hotel at Phuket in Thailand Nov 14

We are staying at Avista Resort and Spa, Kata beach. It opened on November 1st so it is brand new. Here is a video.

Where do you book your hotel? Nov 03

I just booked a hotel for our vacation in Phuket in Thailand and when I check the hotel website directly I think the price was something like 5100 Baht (about 152 USD) per night which is not too bad for a 4/5 star hotel. But then I checked on http://www.agoda.com and the same room was offered for 92 USD. I got in touch with the hotel again and told them that I would love to book directly with the hotel if they could offer prices like Agoda but they just quoted their official price list. So in the end I did book the hotel using Agoda and the hotel has confirmed that the reservation is OK. So how can Agoda offer the same room for 60 USD less than the hotel itself? I have no idea – I just know that if you are going to book a hotel you should check several places to get the best deal. In the past I have used places like http://www.asiatravel.com , http://www.hotelthailand.com and now Agoda. But you should also note that in some cases the best prices comes from checking with the hotel reservation office. So how do you try to get the best prices when booking hotel and which hotel sites do you use?

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Review of Sheraton Hong Kong Oct 12

I stayed at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in the end of September 2009. The room was booked online at the SPG site and it was 1400 Hong Kong Dollar (approx. about 170 USD). I chose the Sheraton as I’m Starwood preferred guest and as it was located in the same area that I stayed in the last time I was on HK…at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. I got to the hotel by taking the airport express train into the Kowloon station (costing 90 HKD) and from there I took a taxi to the hotel and it was only like 5-10 minutes and cost 35 HKD (4.5 USD). Click below to read the entire review of my stay at the hotel and see photos and videos :-)

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OK hotel if you have to spend a night near Heathrow Sep 09

I stayed at Sheraton Heathrow hotel (not the Sheraton Skyline) for one night in September 2009 and I booked the room on SPG online and got it for 69 GBP (including taxes but excluding breakfast). When I reached Heathrow airport I took the Hoppa H4 bus (costing 4 GBP) to get to the hotel and it didn’t take many minutes. Check in was fast and I was assigned to SPG room 3139. Read the entire review below by clicking on the more link below.
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