Thursday, July 17, 2008

Grafton Beach Resort - Tobago

I took a mini vacation in early July to Tobago's (now) All Inclusive Grafton Beach Resort. I choose Grafton primarily because of the All Inclusive deal since both my kids (2 years and 3 months) accompanied us on this trip and I didn't want the hassle of either cooking or going out for food. This turned out to be a good decision in the end as the All Inclusive package for roughly TT$960 per person per night worked out pretty well.

The hotel was clean and the staff friendly. They were especially nice to my 2 year old and I think she enjoyed their company during our 3 days there. Our room was well maintained and I have no complaints. Though I would have preferred if a microwave or coffee maker was in the room (to assist in heating up bottles of milk) - but I did request an electric kettle from the hotel and this turned out to work just fine. I did ask for a room on the ground level and close to the restaurant and pool area and this was also given.

I could not write this post without commenting on the many birds I saw during our stay. Grafton is apparently located very close to a Bird Sanctuary and these birds made full use of the fresh morning nectars of the many Flambouyant and Hibiscus trees around the compound. I did get a couple nice shots of the Humming Bird. The hotel does offer hikes to the Bird Sanctuary however because of the kids, we weren't able to participate.

The beach near Grafton was not the best in Tobago. It wasn't dirty or rough but I know that you can get better in Tobago. I would suggest heading over to Mt. Irvine or better yet Store Bay for a nice dip in the water.

The food in the All Inclusive package was good. Not excellent like say Jolly Beach in Antigua but good for Trinidad and Tobago's standard. I had a Pork Wellington with mash that makes my mouth water every time I think about it!

The drinks were semi-premium. Carib and Stag were off the tap and you had your choice of local Angostura blends (with the exception 1919). The red wine served was actually a chardonnay - not my preferred choice but good nonetheless.

There was a baby pool which was kept at a nice warm temperature for those tiny fingers and toes. The adult pool had a swim up bar which is always welcomed in an All Inclusive resort :)

All in all, I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to get away for a weekend and not have to worry about anything. I'll definitely consider staying again.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

La Quinta Inn, Miami (Airport West)

I had to rush over to Miami for 4 days in March and was looking for a rather inexpensive hotel to stay in that was reasonably close to the main shopping areas. I eventually decided upon La Quinta Inn (Airport West) due to it's location and average pricing. I was very satisfied with the hotel staff and room at this particular La Quinta and would probably consider staying here again.

Continental breakfast was incuded in the rate (~US$160 /night). There is a free shuttle service to this La Quinta from MIA. This hotel also has free High Speed Internet Access.

There were other hotels in the area but the pricing was not as competitive. Public transportation was difficult since you can't rely on the bus in Miami and it seems that the taxi's don't run that frequent either. You'll probably have to call in a cab 20mins in advance if you're on a strict schedule.

This hotel was about 10mins away from Dolphin Mall as well as Miami International. That would probably run you about US$11 each way by taxi. It might take you about 20-30mins to get to Dadeland mall depending on the traffic. If you've got a GPS or familar with driving in Miami, you'll have no problems getting to and from the malls. There as a mini shopping centre right outside the hotel with a couple dining options however, I did not venture to any of these. A taxi cab ride about 5minutes down the road would lead you to other establishments such as Red Lobster / BBQ Hut and more.

I am still in search for a less costly hotel option. Since I shared this room, it really only cost me 1/2 the price. If I had to go it alone though, I'll probably look for something cheaper.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Inn on the Bay, San Diego

Holiday Inn on the Bay in San Diego offers exactly what you would come to expect from a hotel in that class. My interaction with the hotel actually began three weeks prior to my arrival and has been very satisfactory. I was able to communicate with one of the hotel's managers in relation to a package I wanted delivered to the hotel prior to my arrival. Their staff was more than accommodating in assisting me with this request and I'd like to make particular mention of Ms. Junneah Alilan who was always quick to respond via email. Upon arrival, before even asking, I was notified that I had my packages to pick up.

The good service continued through the stay. My only disappointment was the cloudy skies and cold days but this soon cleared up (on my last day in San Diego). The hotel room was just a bit above standard with a bit more attention to detail than in some other establishments though, some additional work could be done regarding the finishing touches. If you are to stay at this hotel, make sure and request a room on floor 9 or higher and on the Bay side. That way you are sure to get a great view of the Bay and the Star of India Ship instead of the great Holiday Inn Parking Lot :0

This hotel is located minutes away from a few shopping malls (Fashion Valley, Mission Valley, Horton Plaza & Sea Port Village. There are a couple eating options near by; I would recomment Anthony Fish Grotto (try any one of their lobster and pasta dishes)

The airport is just about 5 minutes away and the Hotel has a shuttle to take you there. Note though that the airport closes at 11 pm and reopens at 5am due to the proximity to the city so be prepared to line up outside if you've got an early morning flight.

Finally, many of the major attractions (zoo, museum) is just a few minutes away. If you're coming here on a vacation, plan on staying for about a week to 10 days to be able to visit everywhere and take in all the attractions. I stayed at the Holiday Inn to attend a conference held in the same hotel. I've got no regrets.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Omni Hotel, Houston

I had the opportunity to stay and attend a web developers conference at this hotel in September 2007. Click here to visit this hotel's website. This hotel lives up to all the reviews you can read about it online. It's a pretty luxurious hotel (by my standards) and I guess was worth the US$189 + taxes per night. I am not sure if that was a locked in conference rate though. The hotel is located in the Galleria district of Houston famous for the Galleria Mall. This was within 2 miles from the hotel and there was a complementary towncar service to the mall from the hotel.

The hotel room was impressive though I thought a little more attention could be paid to detail. However, you can say that is just me being picky as there really wasn't anything to complain about the room. I got a King size bed with equally big pillows. The bed itself was very comfortable and strategically placed right in front of the tv (which was hidden in a closet). The bathroom was very nice, I found the shower to make a vibrating nose when it was used late in the night. Did not have this happen during the day and well it wasn't that bad to have to call the front desk about it.

My only complaints about this hotel was it's location. Despite the proximity to the Galleria, nothing else such as pubs, restaurants were within walking distance. Something I usually expect from a conference hotel. There was however a restaurant and pub in the hotel. The restaurant Noe is a 5 star restaurant (well out of my budget); the pub, Black Swan was good and there was a live jazz band on Thursday night.

Overall the hotel was good, service and staff were very polite and I will definitely consider staying again if my budget will allow it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tropikist Tobago

I've stayed at Tropikist so many times, I might as well buy shares in the damn place. I like everything about this Hotel. The location is excellent; just a stone throw away from the airport and Store Bay. There are also many restaurants close by.

The hotel itself is nice and clean. The pool; though not as big as the Tobago Hilton pool, still gives you the opportunity to have fun without bumping into an unsuspecting swimmer. (That however may not be the case on Great Race weekend) The restaurant - though not spectacular - give a wide assortment of local and american dishes. Breakfast at Tropikist was good but Tobago Hilton had a better spread when we were there.

I am not sure if there are any room with a full kitchen at Tropikist - something that I'll have to investigate. If we're looking for a nice weekend getaway, Tropikist will be on the top of the list.

Tobago Hilton

We stayed at the Tobago Hilton in 2006. I wasn't particularly impressed with this mini weekend get-away and probably won't stay at the Hilton again. Though the Hotel itself was nice, clean and service was good, I just wasn't impressed. The Hotel itself is a bit far from everthing - there isn't anything within walking distance so you'll need to rent a vehicle. The food at the Hotel wasn't much different than what you can get in Trinidad. Breakfast however was exceptional. The pool area was nice and big enough for everyone to have their 'own' space. One major disappointment about Tobago Hilton is the lack of beach front bathing real estate. The waters are too rough and it was pretty rocky. If you're looking for a vacation where you don't have to leave the Hotel then I guess the Tobago Hilton is OK. I won't make this a first choice for future visits to Tobago.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Grenada - Flamboyant

Grenada has once again won it's place in my book of travel. This time the entire family went on the trip and we had lots of fun. I should note that this vacation was post Hurricane Ivan. We stayed at The Flamboyant Hotel which is located on the popular Gran Anse beach. That has just got to be the best location in Grenada.

view from the roomThe hotel location was exceptional and the views from the room was great. You've got to be somewhat fit to stay at this hotel though since it's on a hill - a very steep on at that. You'll find yourself doing some walking to get to the pool area, restaurant as well as the beach. Hey, I looked at it as a good legs workout while on vacation :) The room was clean and spacious enough for a family of three. We got a crib for the baby as well as 'linens' however, next time we'll bring our own - not that it was dirty just that it didn't seem to be used recently and would have probably been better if we got some 'baby linens' instead of the standard white hotel linens.

I wasn't too impressed with the Hotel's restaurant. The food tasted OK, but the quantity served was far to small. I had only two meals there but was able to get food at the nearby restaurants. The hotel is located 5 minutes away from a mini mall with a small food court. Be sure to check the supermarket for a wide array of wines and drinks. You'll come out much better that way.

There is a grill and a chinese restaurant which both serves good food. You can also dine on the various 'street meat' caravans that set up shop on a Friday and Saturday night - I did not try any. Close to the mall is also a KFC restaurant. Located a stones throw away from the mall is a sushi restaurant and an itallian restaurant. So you can definitely see that there are many food places nearby. We got a full kitchen in the room we rented so there was always the option of buying stuff from the grocery to prepare - but hey we're on vacation - who's cooking?!?!?

I'd definitely look at staying at The Flamboyant again and would recommend it to anyone.

We had some company on this trip, Kerry & Marissa. We decided to rent a vehicle and scope out the island. We drove and drove and drove. Checked out a 'waterfall' and a few goats and pommerac trees on the way :) It was all good. Make sure though that you get well maintained vehicle. You'll be heavy on the brakes driving through this mountainous island. One stop at the gas station is all you'll need as well. If you have a chance, check out the St. Georges University - it's on the way to Bananas.