Hotel Reviews

Review: Feynan Ecolodge

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One of the things we wanted to do in Jordan was explore the natural landscapes. Jordan is a beautiful country, with several diverse protected areas. The largest is the Dana Biosphere Reserve, which has a variety of archaeological sites in addition to stunning landscapes.

Feynan Ecolodge is owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, but everything is run and managed through Ecohotels, with a very strong emphasis on sustainability. Nearly all the staff comes from the local Bedouin community in Dana, which makes for a unique experience, and a nice way to support people directly.

There are a few ways to get to the ecolodge. If you aren’t self-driving, a great choice would be to start in Dana Village to the East of the Reserve. You could even spend the night there (the Dana Guesthouse would be my recommendation), and then hike through Wadi Dana to Feynan. You can easily arrange for your luggage to be driven to Feynan by the locals, which makes this a convenient option.

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Review: Novotel Taipei Taoyuan Airport

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We had a fairly short overnight in Taipei before our connecting flight. We were arriving from Los Angeles at around 5PM, and departing the following day to Singapore at 9AM. As much as I love Taipei as a city, Taoyuan Airport is quite a ways from town.

As a result, I figured it made the most sense to stay at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan Airport, given that the hotel is just a short (free) shuttle ride from the airport.

We booked only a few days before our stay, so by the time we booked they only had executive rooms left for sale, which retailed for ~$200. That’s not cheap for an airport hotel, but still seemed better than any of the alternatives.

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Review: Mosaic City Hotel Madaba Jordan

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If you look at a map of Jordan, it becomes immediately apparent that the airport isn’t particularly close to the hotels of central Amman, and that most of the things you’ll want to see are South of the airport anyway.

Based on that and some recommendations from others, we decided to save Amman for the end of our trip, and instead booked our first night in the town of Madaba.

Even in the middle of the night with poor directions the drive to Madaba took less time than driving into Amman, so I think this was a good choice. Similarly, if you are planning on going to the Dead Sea, I would also consider heading there immediately versus dallying in Amman.

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Review: Pentahotel Hong Kong

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The MTR is an 8-10 minute walk from the Pentahotel in Kowloon, though taxis are better for shorter journeys since their starting price is so low.

The entrance is on the ground floor, while individual check-in is one floor up. The lowest floor is used to check in tourist groups. Every evening the entrance was packed with Chinese, Korean and Japanese tour groups waiting to be escorted to their rooms. There was also a pizza bar on the entrance level, which had some fascinating pizzas.

A quick escalator or elevator ride takes you up one level to the main lobby. This area is slightly more calm with spread out seating and a pool table.

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Review: W Hotel Punta De Mita Mexico

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Prior to this trip I had never visited Mexico as an adult. As a kid we took a couple of cruises there (though 12 hours at a Cozumel cruise port probably doesn’t give you a fair representation of a place), and I remember once vacationing there when I was really young, but that’s about it. I also connected at Mexico City Airport last year, but that doesn’t really count.

Given that I fly halfway around the world to relax at a resort, I figured I might as well try somewhere closer to “home.” The new W Punta de Mita opened just last year, and looked like a fun place for a getaway.

I booked only a few days in advance using the Citi Prestige Card fourth night free benefit. For my stay the hotel had a rate of ~$350 per night, which was brought down to an average of ~$260 per night after applying that benefit. The rate was actually much higher further in advance, but this hotel seems to consistently lower rates closer to the actual stay date.

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Review: Radisson Blu Oslo Airport

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Given our early departure the following morning, we decided to spend the last night of our trip at a hotel at the Oslo Airport.

Having stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport on the first night of our trip, we decided to try the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport this time. In my experience, both of these hotels are comparable in price with the Radisson Blu maybe just a few dollars more.

We rode the NSB train from Oslo Central Station to the airport and then walked over to the hotel. The Radisson Blu is the closest hotel to the airport, but you still need to exit the terminal to get there. It’s an easy walk that takes only a few minutes.

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Review: Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo

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We spent part of our stay in Oslo at the Hotel Folketeateret, but decided we might as well give another Clarion Collection property a try. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with the Hotel Folketeateret per se, as it’s truly a wonderful property with excellent service. It’s just that their rooms were a little small for our family of five.

So we decided to see what was behind door #2 and headed over to the Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion for the reminder of our stay. I’m sure glad we did, as the Hotel Bastion is a real gem. We quickly fell in love with the old-world style of the hotel. I mean, who doesn’t want to come back from a long day of sledding and sit by a crackling fire?

Like the other Clarion Collection hotels in Oslo, the Hotel Bastion costs 16,000 Choice points per night. Assuming that you purchase those using the cash-and-points booking strategy, that equates to $120 per night which is an absolute steal considering that covers your room, breakfast, afternoon snack, and dinner. For our family of five, the food each day was worth at least half of that.

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Review: Clarion Collection Hotel Folketeateret Oslo

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We had a bit of trouble deciding where to stay in Oslo. The two most useful loyalty programs in this part of the world are probably Choice Hotels and Club Carlson, both of which have a slew of properties in Oslo. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to pick one.

Food in Norway can be pretty expensive so we decided that Choice’s Clarion Collection properties in Olso would be a good deal for our family of five as they include breakfast, afternoon snacks, and dinner in the room rate. That’s real savings. We narrowed the candidates to three Clarion Collections: Hotel Folketeateret, Hotel Bastion, and Hotel Savoy. I would probably have chosen the cheapest one, but they all cost 16,000 points so choosing based on price wasn’t going to work. I don’t usually put that much stock in TripAdvisor ratings, but I had to decide somehow, so we went with Hotel Folketeateret. At least for now.

We booked the Hotel Folketeateret using Choice points, some of which I outright purchased using the cash-and-points strategy. Based on that approach, the hotel costs $120 which is an incredible value considering that you’re getting two meals a day included.

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Review: Park Inn By Radisson Oslo Airport

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Given our relatively late arrival into Oslo, we decided to stay at the airport the first night. I’m sure we could have headed into the city, but with three tired kiddos this seemed like a good option. And the Oslo airport has two very convenient hotels — you can walk to both the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport and the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport.

We chose the Park Inn for this night because it was a bit cheaper. In reality, you can’t go wrong with either one.

Getting to the Park Inn is really easy since you just exit the terminal on the arrivals level and turn left. There are plenty of signs confirming that you are going the right way and you never even have to cross a street. If it’s winter, you might want to walk to the end of the arrivals level before exiting.

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Review: St. Regis Dubai

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After spending a night at the W Dubai, I decided to check out the St. Regis Dubai next, which is just a short walk away. As I wrote about a bit over a year ago, the St. Regis Dubai is a Category 7 SPG property, which is Starwood’s highest category. That means a free night here costs 35,000 Starpoints, which is insanely overpriced. That’s not a reflection of the quality of the hotel, but rather it’s just totally off base for Dubai as a hotel market.

As I expected, paid rates at the St. Regis have dropped significantly since the hotel opened, though. Much like with my stay at the W, I booked the St. Regis through Starwood Luxury Privileges. The cost for booking through Luxury Privileges is the same as the flexible rate, and it comes with the following perks:

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Review: W Dubai Al Habtoor City

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I was arriving in Dubai at around 2AM, and was departing back to the U.S. about 37 hours later, at 3PM. So I needed hotels for two nights. In the past my “go to” hotel in Dubai has been the Park Hyatt, given how close it is to the airport.

However, Starwood is developing a new complex in Al Habtoor City, where we’re seeing three Starwood hotels connected to one another — there’s a W, St. Regis and Westin.

I was most excited about the St. Regis, so figured I’d save that for my second day, so I’d have more time to enjoy it. For the first night I decided to book the W Al Habtoor City. I had Ford book this for me through Starwood Luxury Privileges (which costs the same as the best available rate), and it came with the following perks:

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Review: Radisson Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei

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I was arriving from Kuala Lumpur at around 2:30PM, and departing to Dubai the next night at around 9PM, so I had one night there. After doing some research, it seemed I had two practical options — I could book the Radisson, which had a great location in the center of town and was reasonably priced, or I could book The Empire Hotel, which is the nicest resort in the country, though is a bit outside of town.

Since I was in Brunei to sightsee, I booked the Radisson, which was a very reasonable 75USD per night (Brunei has a local currency, which is equivalent in value to the Singapore Dollar). The hotel was just a 15 minute drive the airport, and has a pretty bland exterior.

The lobby was a bit more stylish, and was large and had lots of natural light.

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Review: St. Regis Kuala Lumpur

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I had a quick one night layover in Kuala Lumpur. My flight from Amman was arriving at around 4:30PM, while I was departing the next day at around 12PM. I’ve reviewed quite a few hotels in Kuala Lumpur over the years, including the Mandarin Oriental, Grand Hyatt, Le Meridien, and InterContinental.

In this case there wasn’t even a question about which hotel I wanted to stay at. The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur opened recently, and since I’m a huge fan of the St. Regis brand, I wanted to check it out. Best of all, the St. Regis is near the KLIA Express station, which is the best way to get between the airport and the city (it only takes 30 minutes).

The hotel contacted me before my stay to send me the shuttle schedule between the station and the hotel. This confused me a bit, since it looked like the St. Regis was just a short walk from the station, and I always prefer walking rather than taking a shuttle. However, it quickly became apparent what the problem was. While the St. Regis is close to the station, the roads are quite tough to cross. So with carry-ons you probably could walk there if you’re willing to jaywalk across five lane streets, but I can certainly see the merit to taking the shuttle.

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Review: Grand Hyatt Amman

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I arrived in Amman at around 1:30PM, and my flight out of Amman was the following night/morning at 1:30AM, meaning I had about 36 hours on the ground.

Amman has a few options for Hyatt and Starwood loyalists. There’s the Grand Hyatt, Le Meridien, and Sheraton. While not yet open, there’s also supposed to be a W Amman opening on October 1, 2017, and a St. Regis Amman opening on December 1, 2017.

All the Hyatt and Starwood options were roughly comparably priced, so I ended up booking the Grand Hyatt, given that Tiffany was staying there, as my visit to Amman was overlapping with the tail end of her trip to Jordan.

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