Leo’s travel journal

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Archive for the ‘Hotels’ Category

And so begins, the journey…

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So begins the year with a mind-blowing 19-day European winter escapade; an epic journey of 26,968km with the following routing:

KUL-BKK: Thai Airways (B777-200)
BKK-CPH: Thai Airways (B747-400)
CPH-TXL: Scandinavian Airlines (B737-800)
TXL-FRA: Lufthansa (A321)
FRA-RIX: Lufthansa (B737-300)
RIX-CPH: AirBaltic (B737-300)
CPH-ARN: Scandinavian Airlines (B737-800)
ARN-HEL: Blue1 (Avro RJ85 Jumbolino 😀 – YAY!)
HEL-LHR: Blue1 (B717 – 1st time)
LHR-BKK: Thai Airways (B747-400)
BKK-KUL: Thai Airways (A330-300)

Hotels:
TXL: 3-room apartment at Brandenburg Gate
RIX: Monika Centrum (on the super cheap €58 a night)
CPH: Hotel Guldsmelden
ARN: The all time favourite Sheraton
HEL: Hotel Kamp
LHR: Undecided still… Knightsbridge, Bayswater or Sloane Square?

Cost of flights and accommodation – circa €3,500

Let’s see how this pans out.

Best news from Starwood so far…

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Free in-room internet access for Platinum members!

Read all about it here!

Now, to sort out that freaking Russian visa issue.

I’m still stuck at home by the way…

Written by Leo

25 February 2010 at 22:49

A letter… (part 2 – finale)

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So, after that letter was sent out, the Assistant General Manager of the hotel called and did his usual thing of apologizing, empathizing, etc…

His letter post-telephone call goes like this…

Dear Mr Lee,

Thank you for taking my call this morning and for allowing me the time to follow up on our recent email correspondence. As agreed I have summarized the details of our conversation in writing.

Firstly, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond by phone myself to offer both a thank you for the feedback and also a personal apology for the service you received.

It is very rare that we receive such a real and precise description from our guests and we have to admit that your complaint has made a big impression on us. We are strong believers that we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our guests in order to understand how we can improve our service levels. It is clear from your comments that you experienced several service failures during your stay.

We have shared your feed back and your disappointment both in the morning meeting with all departments as well discussing the comments in more detail with our operational department heads. I spent time highlighting the simple measures that could have been taken to ensure your stay was a pleasurable one. In addition I have also asked our training manager to incorporate your feedback letter into future service trainings to highlight how simple service exchanges can make or break a guests experience in the hotel.

As discussed we were surprised by the comments regarding check in and out as our Front Office department regularly scores high on friendliness although I can admit that on occasions there has been comments made regarding the friendliness of our concierge.

Thank you for the kind words regarding the service and personnel in the Club Lounge and also your experiences in Sheraton Amsterdam Airport and Sheraton Stockholm, after these interactions I hope Starwood can continue to count on your custom in the years to come.

Regarding the hotel, I know there is little I can say in this email that will prove to you that we have listened and acted upon your comments. The proof will be in the service you receive the next time you opt to stay with us and I hope that will be soon.

In the meantime if there is anything further I can help you with please do not hesitate to contact me.

Warm regards

And my reply to this one was…

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for your call and subsequent mail.

Your response has been most prompt and it addresses the underlying issue of service that I had the unfortunate chance to experience, to a certain extend.

As mentioned, not everyone who writes in are looking for compensation (in this case, points) unlike the multitude of cases that you encounter.

Subsequently, I was dismayed and rather insulted with such letter by your property’s first correspondence that evidently came across as a “copy and paste” job. This added salt to the wound, the fact that no one in the hotel took my remarks seriously; hence my detailed reply.

Some just state their points and do not return – I believe I am one of those.

As far as I am concerned, I have voiced my experience and dissatisfaction and have received a satisfactory response from the hotel representative (you, to be exact).

I therefore consider this matter to be done and over with. Time will tell whether I will choose to return to the your hotel.  For the moment at least, the company’s and my personal selection of hotels in Brussels will exclude your property.

Mr. X, thank you once again for your personal intervention in this matter.

I wish you a pleasant day ahead.

Regards.

Thanks for reading!

THE END

Written by Leo

23 October 2009 at 23:39

A letter…

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A little letter to the hotel that warranted a call from the Assistant General Manager this afternoon… 🙂

Dear Ms. X,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me with regards to my recent stay with your hotel last month.

Whilst there was nothing wrong with the physical condition of the hotel and my stay in general, it is my opinion that the hotel management ought to look into the attitude of your staff members, in particular your front desk and concierge team.

The insolence of your staff members coupled with the stand-off’ish attitudes that I have encountered is certainly unbecoming of any reputable hotel, let alone a Starwood and least expected in an international city like Brussels.

Is it possible that your concierge asked me to locate your bellman in the other end of the lobby in order to claim my luggage when he is at the counter doing nothing and the luggage storage is just behind him?

Is it possible that your front desk personnel allow guests to cut the queue at the reception counter and when asked, offered no explanation or apologies but reply with an indignant “I have better things to do than to explain myself to you” face?

Is it possible at 0800hrs on a weekday, your hotel – one of the leading business hotels in the centre of the European government and in the middle of down-town Brussels do not even have a copy of English newspapers for guests / SPG Platinum members / club room residents? A curt “No” to my request was the answer.

Is it possible that your housekeeping staff members do not reply a simple “bonjour/bonsoir” when greeted along the corridors?

These are just a few examples of attitude issues that I can think of at the moment. Coming “home” to a hotel with no friendliness and all that attitude certainly makes me think twice about staying at your hotel, let alone recommend it to my colleagues and friends.

I may understand that the lack of warmth may be a cultural issue and that I may have been “spoilt” by the excellent services accorded in the course of my stays with the various St. Regis, Westin and Sheratons. But if you have an opportunity to look at my stay patterns, I stay mainly in Starwood hotels in Europe and have not, at any point face service levels lacking basic manners like these.

I am not here to preach on what I, as a guest expect – expectations are highly subjective. All I am trying to put through is that we are, at the end of the day guests – not fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters or other family members to share your staff members’ troubles and/or show attitude to. Your staff members are there for only one reason – to do their jobs with reasonable manners and decency; that’s the bottom line.

I understand that at the end of the day like other businesses, profitability is what matters for the hotel. Perhaps the hotel is doing so well so as to neglect the fundamentals of service.

As such, I will vote with my wallet and have advised my company’s travel coordinator to avoid the your hotel for all future company travels.

Additionally, I will not accept your free “goodwill” Starpoints as a matter of principle.

Personally, I am clear on which hotel I will NOT stay at on my next trip to Brussels – and possibly my change of loyalty programme come 2010 to some other reputable chain of hotels.

Regards.

And the initial email that brought it on…

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you very much for staying with us last month.

We have received your completed electronic questionnaire with some additional feed back about your stay in the Sheraton Brussels Hotel.

From your earlier feed back we realize that you have experienced some poor service performances with some member of our staff at the front desk. We are very sensible about the disappointing you have expressed about the staff attitude. We do apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Your comments have been brought to the attention of those concerned.

We appreciate how upsetting this situation must have been for you and as a gesture of goodwill; we will credit your SPG account with 3000 extra free points.

Dear Mr. Lee, you are a very important client to us and we highly appreciate your business; once again, thank you very much for having shared your comments with us. We will do our outmost to give you a personalized overall experience and we really sincerely hope to welcome you back to the Sheraton Brussels Hotel.

Very kind regards,

Ms. X

Written by Leo

22 October 2009 at 16:22

Asiana Club Diamond

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Received a nice package from Asiana Airlines on my recent “status upgrade” on their frequent flier programme.

So, I’m officially a “Diamond” status member (with all the benefits of Star Alliance Gold) till February 2013! This means, priority luggage, priority boarding and most important of all, lounge access till 2013! I love this programme.

Besides the new card, there were two nice luggage tags, a nice calf leather passport holder and a 50% discount on miles redemption voucher. What this means is that instead of the usual 75,000 miles (roundtrip economy-business upgrade, Southeast Asia-Europe) required, an upgrade to the fabulous Asiana Business Class now only costs 37,500 miles! So guess which airline I’ll be flying with on my next long-haul trip? 🙂

Best thing is, I’ve not even flown a single flight with them 🙂

So Singapore Airlines, go screw yourself with your stupid Krisflyer programme.

Oh by the way, an upgrade to the Lagoon Villa at the Sheraton Grande Laguna, Phuket was obtained for my upcoming vacation! Not bad for a free stay huh?

The superb 88-square-metre Lagoon Villas offer a world of amenities for an unforgettable experience. The outdoor rain shower, sunken Jacuzzi tub, and exclusive access to the Grande Villa Pool and magical Peace & Tranquility area underscore the coveted privacy of these two-storey havens.

Guests of the Lagoon Villas enjoy complimentary à la carte breakfast at the acclaimed Puccini restaurant or the legendary breakfast buffet at the Birds of Paradise restaurant, a refreshing selection of lemongrass tea, iced tea, mineral water, fresh tropical fruit, and cooling towel service at the Grande Villa Pool, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at the Grande Villa garden every evening.

In addition to the sweeping living area with modern wet bar, comfortable sofa bed, plush armchair with ottoman, coffee table, and cooling marble floors, each villa enjoys a stellar Bose entertainment centre, a 25-inch flat screen television with satellite channels, and direct dial telephones. With one-touch service, all of our guests’ needs are met promptly with the push of a button.

In the upstairs loft-style bedroom, a signature Luxury Collection king bed, dressed in sumptuous cotton linens and light duvet, stands on a floor of polished parquet. A wall of picture windows frames tranquil water views. A pure cotton bathrobe and slippers, lavish AQUA toiletries in both the deluxe bathroom and powder room, and an additional indoor shower further enhance the villa’s comforts.

Enjoy a daily delivery of warm buttery croissants along with an international newspaper. Fresh fruit and pure spring water are replenished daily. Fresh flowers welcome guests upon arrival, while each night, the delightful “Essentially Yours” turn-down service infuses the bedroom with the soothing fragrance of natural essential oils.

Croatia – The Mediterranean as it once was

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Croatia extends from the furthest eastern edges of the Alps in the north-west to the Pannonian lowlands and the banks of the Danube in the east; its central region is covered by the Dinara mountain range, and its southern parts extend to the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Croatia borders Slovenia and Hungary to the north, Serbia to the northeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast. Its southern and western flanks border the Adriatic Sea.

This was my first visit to the country. Croatia is not yet a member of the European Union, as such maintains an exclusive border with its neighbour Slovenia which I travelled via train to. Let’s leave that for the next post.

I only had little time to wonder around the capital city, Zagreb to catch the sights. As it was late winter, the weather was truly unforgiving with bouts of sudden blizzards and intermittent sunshine in between.

Zagreb does not have an underground train system and as such, the tram remains the main mode of public transportation. I stayed at the Westin Zagreb, located in the heart of the city with easy connections via tramway to most of the city.

The hotel itself has seen better days but I must say that it has been very well maintained. I got upgraded to their “Westin Guest Office” upon check-in, which was essentially a junior suite. Here are a few pictures of the room.


A view of the living area with a peek at the bedroom, separated by sliding doors.


There was complimentary high-speed internet access throughout the hotel – the presence of a proper working desk and working chair really helped as I was on a 2.5 week working trip.


The bed, as with all other Westins that I have stayed in, featured the Heavenly Bed with a firm pocket spring mattress with a plush top. That’s my suitcase at the foot of the bed. I have since purchased a similar mattress for my own bed at home. 🙂


The bathroom had a huge standing shower featuring the Heavenly Shower, with amenities. The whole bathroom was clad in Italian marble, with heated floors and mirror.

More on Zagreb next…

Written by Leo

26 May 2009 at 10:22

W Istanbul

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Well hello there! My stay in Istanbul was marred mostly by was gloomy with long episodes of rainfall, with temperatures hovering between 7 – 10 degrees Celsius.

As it was my first time to Istanbul, I preferred to stay at somewhere familiar (as in hotels). So the W Istanbul was the choice, by recommendation of more experienced travellers (SPG junkies).

Shocked was putting it mildly. If you remember my previous post, I was staying in an elegant, understated and pretty much somber and subdued Grande Bretagne in Athens. The W Istanbul is the exact opposite – pompous, overstated, funky and borderline tacky in specific areas (the elevator especially), in my opinion.

The Welcome desk was dark – in fact the whole hotel was pretty dark. Not the sort of airy, brightly lit / natural light, open spaces that I’ve grown accustomed to in my Europe hotel stays. Nevertheless the trick was to keep an open mind and take it in. It took exactly 3 hours to get used to the level of lighting, the constant chillout music that was piped (instead of the standard opera / classical music you hear – the lady calls it toilet music).

The Welcome area was dark and was nice with touches of fabric keeping the cold draft outside – where it is supposed to be.

Touches of Ottoman design was sprinkled copiously across the entire hotel.

Welcome drink was offered all times of the day and since it was winter, it was a hot one.

Breakfast was served at SIP, a very light one with croissants and pastries with complimentary coffee and tea.

Being a Platinum member of SPG, I booked the lowest category room (Wonderful room) was upgraded to a Fantastic Suite (a 6 room categories upgrade, circa 600sqft) which was essentially a large room.

The bed was Wonderfully delicious to sleep in, and indeed I fell asleep after unpacking 🙂

The suite, like other areas of the hotel was dark, with use of dark colour wood and furnishings accentuating the sensual side of design. It featured a little alcove with a day bed which I really liked as I could chill there and work on the laptop.

The TV, a 42 inch LCD was built into the wall behind a darkened glass – I was wondering where the TV was. The guy on the Whatever/Whenever told me to point the remote towards the toilet and press the power button 😀

Contemporary touches were also evident in the design of the room and furnishings.

The bathroom area features a separate WC and bathroom – ideal for people travelling in pairs.

Featuring Bliss lemon and sage spa amenities from New York, bath time was indeed heavenly.

I must proclaim that the World’s best shower goes to the W hotels! Look at the size of that shower head!!

Besides shower, you also have the option of the Turkish style Hammam bath.

The hotel featured Spice Market by Jean Georges – I had a meal there and it was good (the concept of Asian fusion food is all too familiar to me, so I found nothing Wow about it…).

Spent most of my time at the W Lounge where they had free internet access. Supposedly Istanbul’s latest nightspot, the lounge transform in the night into what I would deem as something really crazy – the Who’s Who of society hangs out here, from ambassadors to rich people with swanky models in both arms. There was a line leading out of the hotel!

Next – Istanbul!

Written by Leo

2 March 2009 at 19:00