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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.
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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.
Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel Berlin,Germany,Westin,hotel

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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List of places to go and places to stay Jan 12

As it is a new year there are articles popping up suggesting where to go and places to see. I never quite understood these lists as it all depends on what you want to see and what budget your are on.  But anyway; New York Times have printed this article called “The 31 Places to Go in 2010” and it includes places like Sri Lanka, Patagonia Wine country, Seoul (apparently Tokyo is soooo 2009), Mysore in India, Copenhagen, Koh Kood in Thailand (the next Samui?), Damascus in Syria (the next Marrakesh), Cesme in Turkey, Antartica??? and Leipzig.

Condé Nast Traveller has also published a list of places you want to stay at in 2010. The list is called “The Gold list 2010” and it covers more than 100 recommended hotels. The “winner” this year is Cliveden in Berkshire followed by the Ritz in London, The Balmoral in Edinburgh, Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin, Ellerman House in Cape Town in South Africa (now we are getting somewhere ;-) ), The Ritz-Carlton in Dubai, The Oberoi Mauritius and The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Mumbai. I don’t think I  have stayed at any of these hotels…I get a feeling that most of them are on the expensive side ;-) Have you stayed at any of them?

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.

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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Great location and tiny room Aug 31

I stayed at Radisson Edwardian Berkshire Hotel in London the end of October 2008 in connection with a short trip to London. I booked the hotel in advance and paid 188 GBP. When I arrived, the check in was very fast and I was assigned to room 801 which was on the top floor.  When I first came into the room I found a small room but I was prepared for this based on the reviews that I have read in advance.  But the room itself was quite nice and seemed very organized and tidy at first glance.You can read the rest of the review by clicking the link below.
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Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva – expensive and a bit outdated Aug 21

I stayed at Grand Hotel Kempinski in the beginning of November 2008 in connection with a short trip to Geneva. I booked the hotel in advance and paid about 2500 NOK (about 365$). I took the taxi from the airport to the hotel and that cost about 35 CHF and check in was quite fast and I got room 4460. It was easy to see that this is a pretty luxurious business hotel and the lobby area is quite vast and there were lots of shops selling good quality watches and there is even a huge cigar shop filled with Cuban cigars. Click on the link below to read the entire review.
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Skene House Rosemount Aberdeen Aug 17

In September 2008 I went to Aberdeen on a short business trip. I was not sure where to stay so I asked a colleague of mine that had been to Aberdeen before and he said “Stay at Skene House on Rosemount….but be sure to ask to stay in the church”. I found “the church” recommendation to bit a bit odd but I followed the advice and booked the room. Click on the more link below to read the entire review.
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