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epicureangirl

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Everything posted by epicureangirl

  1. Yes, I agree about the 'when to book early tips' from thereuare. But because the trip is in January (very low season) I think you stand a good chance of getting a good rate closer to the date. However, the only on-site hotel I see listed for Hotwire is the Portofino Bay which others have got on Hotwire for $150 and upwards. I personally think that's a little steep if you can get an Entertainment rate at the RPR for $110. One more thing. Go online to the Loews site http://www.loewshotels.com/ and sign up for their loews first club. You can do it over the phone and get your rewards number immediately. Even if you get a special rate through entertainment or hotwire, you may be able to swing an upgrade and will also get extras, such as wine/milk & cookies/bottled water when you arrive (according to the preferences you file). If you plan to spend a few days at the Universal parks, I would definitely pay more to stay on-site. I couldn't believe how much more relaxing my trip was at Universal with the front-of-the-line privledges. It made the Magic Kingdom seem like a let down (with the long lines) to tell you the truth.
  2. I'd use your Entertainment Card (or someone elses) to secure an on site reservation as a backup plan. Closer to the date you can see if one of the properties come up on Hotwire. Great planning info for Universal/Disneyworld is at http://www.disboards.com/ Use the chat forum to find out what deals are being had and post your questions. I can't imagine beating a Hotwire or Priceline deal, but I personally wouldn't use those to book THIS far ahead. It's good to book Entertainment rates early since they only have so many rooms at that rate. I think last year I paid $135 for a pool view room at the Hard Rock. If I had it to do again I'd choose the Royal Pacific. People have booked the Standard rooms there for $110 during the time you're going. Check the booking policy... I may have had to pay a night up front which was returnable if I cancelled within 48 hours. Don't recall. Have a terrific time... the Universal parks are fantastic!
  3. I agree. I think I'm worried the whole face-to-face tipping and asking (while potentially I have a line of people hovering behind me) would go over as a little too awkward so I play it safe and send the fax... maybe I'll get bolder as time goes on! :)
  4. Fortunately, I've never encountered that attitude or expectation in regards to tipping in Seattle. Usually a polite request will do the trick, but hey, if they need a little 'green' encouragement and it gets you what you want... go for it!
  5. I've never tipped a desk clerk. I generally send a fax asking the concierge to 'help make this a special trip' and that I would be 'very grateful' etc. etc. and am specific about what type of room or view I would ideally like. I've had excellent results thus far. I only tipped $20, once when I was upgraded to a large suite and sent chocolates and more (for my daughter's birthday). I think the concierge can really make things happen, and wouldn't hesitate to leave him/her a thank-you card with tip enclosed at the end of the trip. I just can't seem to 'slip a little something' to a desk clerk when making a request.
  6. Another one to add to the list! ICONS: Restaurant, Pool, Fitness, Business, Golf, Tennis Customer Favorite. I didn't see this on the hotel listing, but 'suspected' it was the Hyatt after checking on Travelocity. I am thrilled to get this for $49/night, for the four nights during Easter Weekend (9-13). Total for 4 nights came to $226.95. There are mixed reviews on this hotel as there is an old tower and a newly refurbished one. I'm hoping with my Hyatt Gold card I can beg my way into the new tower. Wish me luck. I'll report when I get back.
  7. Thank you, mucsea2003 for the tip on Cafe Besalu. If it is better than Le Panier, I am there! Too bad it is in Ballard though -- definitely not walking distance from the downtown hotels! I have to second the recommendation for Le Pichet (1933 1st Avenue). There is nothing better than sitting on their sidewalk patio for lunch on a sunny day, with wine, baguette and their fabulous house pate. I can't seem to stop ordering all the little plates once I get started. For something completely different, I always enjoy meals at Fandango and am sure to have at least one dinner there when I go for weekend trips http://www.fandangoseattle.com (lousy website, great food). If you really are planning to do a lot of the touristy stops, I highly recommend checking into the citypass www.citypass.net. You can save a lot of money (if those destinations interest you), but would need a car if you wanted to see the Museum of Flight or Woodland Park Zoo. If it's your pleasure to spend an afternoon in a world-class Museum the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) is beautiful and has wonderful collections. I'd do this IF and only IF the weather was not cooperating and I needed an indoor activity. Have fun!
  8. Oh, one more thing. The best rate I got was through the calling the Bellevue Club directly. Keep calling back, especially closer to the date to see if they're running any specials and have your rate adjusted accordingly. Usually the weekend rates are the cheapest, as they cater to business travelers during the week. August is definitely high season, but maybe the suburban hotels will have empty rooms that they want to discount. Wierder things have happened. The Bellevue Club isn't listed in my Entertainment Book, but you can always confirm on the Entertainment.com website.
  9. The Bellevue Club is a great choice for the night of your event. Beautiful rooms, Molton Brown goodies and a perfect location -- I wouldn't even consider spending a night anywhere else in the area. It's great to do for an evening, but the surrounding restaurants are suburban-mediocrity -- your limited time is better spent in the City. You'd invest too much money in taxi fare and time in traffic if you spent the rest of your nights in Bellevue, but wanted to explore downtown Seattle. The day after your event, I'd definitely move into Seattle, and yes, only bid on the Downtown Pike Place area. Four star properties on Priceline seem fine (I've stayed in all the 4* in the Priceline Hotel list), but would never consider the 4* level on Hotwire again for Seattle. If you have any chance at all of getting the Seattle Hilton, I would run! Hotwire properties I favour are the 5* Hyatt and 4.5* Hotel Monaco. However, these have been really expensive recently so I tried the 4.5* Sheraton the last time I was in town. I got a rate of $97 on Hotwire which was a terrific value. My detailed review is in the Hotel section if you want to check it out. For the price, it couldn't be beat. Coffee. It's hard to get a bad cup. My favourite spot for coffee, isn't a cafe at all -- it's a French bakery near Pike Place. A couple blocks down from the market (and across the street) is the very fabulous Le Panier. Here's the link to the CitySearch profile on it, with the address and more info. http://seattle.citysearch.com/profile/10767147/ This place has fabulous pastries, Torrefazione coffee and is a great place to people-watch, read the paper and have breakfast or an afternoon break before (or after) hitting the market and the waterfront area. This is my regular breakfast haunt -- it's also much cheaper than having breakfast at a full-service restaurant. Another Seattle institution for Breakfast (probably at some of the best prices in the area) is Lowell's. It's a simple, cafeteria style line up to order at the grill, then you seat yourself and they'll deliver your meal to your table. It's location can't be beat -- this three level restaurant has some of the most prime waterfront views around. Enjoy the sights while you linger over your hearty American breakfast. For more atmosphere (and $'s) head across the street (and tuck into 1600 Post Alley) to the very French Cafe Campagne. Post Alley is a picturesque back-lane that runs parallel to the market, the Cafe Campagne looks really special and is well regarded. It all depends what you're looking for I guess. I haven't done any of the bars or clubs, so I can't comment there. Restaurants though... I'd be happy to help if I can. Actually, Seattle Citysearch is a great site to do trip research on. Their restaurant reviews are fantastic and very current. I always check the site to see what restaurants are new and recommended before making my reservations for an upcoming trip. If you were thinking of having another romantic evening elsewhere in the area, I'd spend at least one night at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville (not far away). Their Sunday arrival rate is a steal and it is a fabulous, amazing place. I posted a review for that a month or so ago if you wish to consider it. Have a wonderful trip! Cheers.
  10. I did have points on Starwood (though I don't have any type of elite status with them) and had stayed previously with Kimpton group hotels. However, Kimpton doesn't assign you a number or card, so there is nothing to present. Based on your name, location and other info they keep track of their repeat guests. I had just signed up with the Hilton loyalty program and did not have any previous stays recorded. I didn't have any problems with the service but I though the property was well below their usual standard. I always ask for EVERYTHING I want in one sentence, such as "I would be very grateful if I could have a non-smoking King room facing the water if occupancy permits." Then it doesn't really sound like you're asking for all that much! I try to enlist their help and co-operation and THEN hope for the best. If I feel the concierge has done a wonderful job then usually I'll leave a thank-you card and a tip for him/her tucked inside. This may sound awful, but I don't tip when service meets expectations -- only when it exceeds expectations (except in the case of bellmen and valets, etc.) I don't ask for room upgrades or suites, but will ask for things I already know are in the better rooms or suites (such as a deep bathtub or high floor). The best perks I have received (when celebrating a special occasion) were a Suite, with chocolates and a fruit platter delivered after my arrival. I almost felt guilty, because I was already paying so little for my room. The worse I ever got, was the feeling that no one had made any effort to honour my requests and was assigned a fairly standard room (albeit a room in a fairly plush 4 1/2* hotel). I don't think I was purposely ignored, or it had to do with my rate, just that the service was generally inept! :) Either way, I don't think my request, or presenting a loyalty card when checking in with a Hotwire rate has been to my detriment -- I just don't expect to earn points on those stays. I'm not sure who tends to the e-mails for most hotels, but I always send a fax about 3 days ahead. Not too far ahead so it gets lost, but just close enough so it's about the time they start looking at their occupancy rates and room assignments. I also (naively) envision my hard-copy fax getting into the hands of someone in the office who personally delivers it to the eager concierge! Have a wonderful trip and let me know if any of your requests were honoured. Thank you for sharing all your wisdom with everyone on the boards -- many of your posts have been very helpful to me. Cheers.
  11. I presented my Starwood card at a recent Hotwire stay at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel & Towers. Although I did not get points on the room, I earned points on my phone calls and parking. I don't know if it had to do with the card, or politely asking for a higher-floor room, but they assigned me a great water-view room just under the concierge level which was very nice. Although Kimpton doesn't have a card to present, I had tried to have my loyalty-program 'information' attached to my reservation. I was told they were unable to add it, or alter any of the reservations made through Hotwire. In this case, I faxed a letter to the concierge with my reservation# and asked that my preferences be honoured. Of course it was delicately worded, but I believe with the expected service standards of 4* plus hotels, you should still be able to get the royal treatment (as a return guest or loyalty program member) when booking through Hotwire or Priceline. I also was given a better room at the Hilton Seattle -- I thought the place was disgusting, but never-the-less I believe they assigned me a premium room. The staff at the front desk were very professional and courteous. Bottom line, it doesn't matter how much I pay for my room, or who I book it through -- I never expect them to automatically give me a great room. I politely ask for my preference and give them an 'out' (something like "if occupancy permits"). No bad experiences yet. I'm a little worried about how it might be in Europe though, I've only booked Hotwire for US properties.
  12. I would give the benefit of the doubt to Kimpton, as I've had very good experiences with their guarantee. You will always find a popup on their website (whenever you have finished making a reservation inquiry) that they will match any price, but that it does have to be available on-line at the time you call. I had them price-match an Expedia rate (the agent looked up the same dates and property) without incident. And it was a $99 rate -- extraordinarily cheap for the Monaco Seattle. I imagine the problem occurs when they can't get the rate while you're talking to them. They may not be empowered to do anything... and have to defer the problem to their manager. The great thing about booking the same rate through Kimpton, is that your deposit is refundable with 24 hours(?) notice of cancellation. The other on-line site they match, probably has a no-refund policy. This is terrific when you need a 'backup plan' while searching for better Hotwire rates. Has anyone specifically booked a property that seemed outrageously priced on Hotwire to take advantage of Double-your-difference with any success? I was looking for a Seattle property and a rate of $404 for a 4.5* hotel came up -- I'm certain I could have found a lower rate on that property (which usually goes for $108 on Hotwire), but was scared to book incase they didn't honour it (on some technicality -- like the room type as mentioned above). Any words of wisdom?
  13. I sympathize! I had a similar experience, being horrified with the 4* Hilton in Seattle. I swore I would never bid at that level again and called Hotwire to complain about this hotel being in a 4* category. So far, San Fran and Seattle have been good to me when I stay at 4.5*, which can often be had for the same price point as a 4* (on Hotwire at least!). Cheers.
  14. I just rented this movie on the weekend. Loved it!. However, meeting a movie star, staying in a fabulous hotel, falling in love AND seeing Japan sounds better to me. Might be a little too much to ask. :)
  15. This hotel is not known to be on Hotwire or Priceline, but I did get very good "Sunday arrival" rate through their website. I loved this place so much, I had to share.... My search for the perfect accommodations (when travelling to the Seattle) has taken me to the Four Seasons, The W, Hotel Monaco and the Bellevue Club (and many more). I had begun to believe I could find no equal to the (much beloved) Hyatt Grande. I was wrong. If you don't mind staying outside the city, the Willows Lodge in Woodinville is heaven (if heaven looks like a West-Coast Lodge!). If you want a romantic, relaxing weekend the Willows Lodge fits the bill. It's neighbours are Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Columbia Winery and Redhook brewery. They have tours and tastings, which is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Although the grounds are not particularly stunning (as I had imagined), the Lodge IS beautiful. Modern, native art is everywhere. The open lobby had apple cider brewing -- the warm spicy smell filled the lobby and you were welcome to pour a mug at your leisure. Friendly staff at the desk smoothly handles check-in -- although this is a first-class Lodge there is no pretention. The whole feel is warm and relaxed. Gus Walker (the Lodge's own hound) is available for walks -- he's lovely but slow. The rooms have Italian Frette linens on the bed and in the bath. Every light has a dimmer switch and there are master lighting controls. There are so many switches, it takes a little to get used to, but it makes all the difference in controlling the 'mood' in the room. Large bottles of Molton Brown (London) toiletries are everywhere. Hand soap, bath and shower gel, hand cream and conditioner. No little bottles to take away, but it's nice not to have to 'ration' your products when they're as fine as these are. Robes for your use are waiting for you, as well as complimentary slippers to take home with you -- embroidered with the willows branch logo (a nice touch). The shower was digitally controlled and the bath was huge and built for two. Faucets for the basin-style sink were wall-mounted. Luxury finishings were everywhere. Each room has a gas fireplace, and well-hidden speakers provided wonderful sound when playing DVD's. The Lodge has a DVD library that you're free to check items out of at NO CHARGE. What a nice change from paying for in-room movies. I'm not sure if they usually have a stocked mini bar, but in our case they didn't. However we were told that the bottled water in the fridge was complimentary (It's always extremely expensive at hotel minibars, so I was impressed) as was the gourmet loose-leaf teas (loved the Lavender-Earl Grey) and coffee in the room. There was a kettle, french-press and teapot (with built-in sieve) for our use which we took advantage of. There was a long ledge across the length of the room, which gave a nice surface for preparing the tea and such, yet keeping it out of the way so you could still use the writing desk. There was a complimentary evening wine service I didn't attend, and a morning buffet which I did. Cereal, juices, yoghurt, bagels, cream cheese, jams, pastries, fruit, coffee & assorted teas were plentiful. Low-carb options were abundant -- deli meats, cheese, boiled eggs, and strawberries. There were many tables downstairs to have a private breakfast at, as well as comfy chairs by the fireplace to relax in. There is a complete spa and gym here. You can even order spa items (bath bombs and lotions) to be delivered to your room. Or perhaps for a romantic trip, you may want to have them draw your bubble bath while you're at dinner. They'll fill your bath with suds, rose petals and lay out a feast of strawberries, whipped cream, champagne and oysters. Just one of the fabulous services they offer. As a side note... the bath is open to the room, so this is perfect for romantic couples (but perhaps not private enough for friends and other family members when staying in the same room). Although some room rates can be expensive, I consider this property a value because of the complimentary many extras I received. When I add up the cost for breakfast for two in a Seattle hotel, paying for 2 movies, 2 pairs of slippers, eye masks, loofahs etc, parking and local phone calls (which were also complimentary). I can put these at around $130. It would have been more if I would have taken advantage of the wine reception! If I deduct that amount from the rate I payed, it is an AMAZING value. Room categories are nice, nicer and nicest. I was in a 'nicer' room, but I can't even begin to think of what they could add to make it the 'nicest' room. Maybe I'll find out next time.
  16. Can anyone help me determine how my hotel rate would be guaranteed? I did check the Utell site to get a great rate on the Malmaison Leeds -- the site quotes 89GBP (including VAT) for the dates I am interested in. Expedia quotes $164.42 US (and then shows in the details that it is also 89GBP). I assume that since my card will not actually be charged until my travel dates, that in both cases it will be 89GBP and then converted to the daily rate (right?). In that case, is there any advantage to using one site over the other for purchase? Many thanks!
  17. I agree with you pomcoach, the Universal 'front of the line' perks make it worth it. My family stayed on-site Universal & Disney properties in May. Next time we go back we won't even bother with the Disney properties -- The Universal ones are beautiful and the location is terrific. I also agree with thereuare -- don't risk booking through an opaque site and being disappointed by getting an off-property hotel. The front-of-the-line privileges are worth the extra $$. You may not be able to get the special rate on your stat holiday nights, but when I booked last year I did it through the Entertainment Book and got an excellent rate. The most useful information I found for saving money at Universal and Orlando in general were at: http://www.mousesavers.com/universalorlando.html This site will list all the ways to get a deal at the on-site hotels and much, much more. And more importantly, http://www.usoinfo.com/forums.html Is a chat discussion group for all things Universal Orlando -- there's a special forum just for the resorts where people list how they're getting the best deals. This site is a MUST for anyone planning a trip to the area. Between those two web sites alone, I was able to plan my whole trip and save hundreds of dollars. Have a great trip!
  18. Yes, they have concerts every Summer (usually beginning in May). It's great because being private property, it's one of the few places you have a picnic with wine. It would be terrific to have a gourmet picnic and enjoy a free concert. Then going down the road to plush accomodations at the Willows Lodge or enjoying a Spa treatment there... what could be better? The wine tour was very well done, and our guide was very nice and let us try wines we were interested in (over and above the 3 tastings included in the tour). I reviewed my stay at the Willows, but didn't post it here since it's not available on Hotwire or Priceline. If you're interested, I can e-mail it to you. Cheers.
  19. Wow, some of the hotels on that site look amazing. I'll have to change my husbands mind about Mexico. He was turned off going to Mexico when his cruise stopped in Cancun -- I keep saying there's much more to Mexico than Cancun! The photos look beautiful! Anyhow, I finally had a chance to stay at the Willows Lodge outside Seattle in Woodinville. I am in love with that place and want to go back in May when they have the concerts at the nearby winery. I just want the best deal possible. Is that too much to ask? Thanks for the link.
  20. If you read the hotel list the administrator has already made this note: 4* Dolphin Amenities: Restaurant, Pool, Fitness, Business, Golf, Tennis, Laundry (NOTE: thru Hotel Product, these amenities are the same as those for the Swan, so you could get either one) So, yes, it will be hard to tell but does it actually matter to you? Both are wonderful and close to Disney World. I've stayed at the Dolphin and it was fabulous -- I'm fairly picky but I don't think you could go wrong with either. The Universal Hotels are great as well, I stayed at the Hard Rock this June and checked out the Portofino and the Royal Pacific. If the price is right and they come up on Hotwire they're ones to consider as well. Have a great trip. Cheers.
  21. I just got back from a stay at the Seattle Sheraton (a Hotwire purchase) and am not an "Elite" member. I had my Starwood card number attached to the reservation at check-in, and was asked if I preferred a higher or lower floor and was offered a $30 upgrade to club level. They may do this for everyone, but the $30 upgrade would have been valuable if I wanted to eat the food provided in the Club lounge. I was quite surprised that they would offer it to Hotwire customers, as I was getting such a bargain price on the room. When I checked out and looked at my bill, I saw that they credited me Starwood points on my parking and phone calls, so it still pays to present your card -- even if they're reducing their benefits there still seems to be a few. Cheers.
  22. Does anyone know if there are any sites that offer special rates on "Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide"? Have any of them shown up on Priceline or Hotwire before? I can't help but think there must be SOME way I can get a better rate than their own website. I've fallen in love with one of their properties but want a break on the price... help! http://www.preferredhotels.com/ They describe themselves as "a collection of the world's finest independent luxury hotels". Does this mean that since they're 'independent' there will be no-deals on these fine properties?
  23. I forgot to mention that I did receive Starwood points on my parking and phone calls (just not the room), so do present your card even if you make the reservation through Hotwire or Priceline. Also, there were no robes in the rooms (so bring your own) -- I would have expected it from a hotel at this star level.
  24. Just got back from a weekend stay in Seattle -- 1st night was at the Sheraton, which I got for $96 + taxes and fees on Hotwire. It was rated 4 1/2*, but I didn't know what the hotel was because one of the icons was recently dropped. Anyhow... We self-parked (valet available as well) and took the elevator up to a large, nice lobby with Dale Chihouly art glass featured in display cases. Not particularily opulent, but very nice none-the-less. This is a large, convention-style hotel and throughout the day we saw many different flight crews checking in. Service at the front desk was smooth, however the Starwood Preferred check-in was closed as they were having 'computer problems' so there was a small wait. Check-in was fine, as a Starwood member they at least asked us if we'd prefer a higher or lower floor and if we wanted to stay on the Club level for an additional $30. The only difference between other floors and Club level, is supposed to be the hors d'ouvres and breakfast offered -- we took a pass on the upgrade as I'd rather spend my money on a restaurant of my choice. This hotel has recently undergone renovations, most people comment on the contemporary Chihouly prints decorating all the rooms and hallways. I think he should stick with the glass-work, but I suppose that's besides the point. :) Accents are light wood, pale neutral colours and the style is somewhere between contemporary and new-country (gingham and plaid accent pillows and traditional looking beds). The bathroom has a granite countertop, modern light fixture and a contemporary black & silver framed mirror. The bathtub-shower combo is cleanly tiled and has a curved bar for the shower curtain (so you get a little more room while showering) which was a thoughtful touch. Of course the bath is very shallow, and I can't imagine using it. Shampoo and other items are all "Sheraton" products and I particularily hated the smell of the conditioner -- I didn't bring home ANY of the unused products (and I love all the little shampoos and soaps usually) so I think they could do better in this regard. The bedding was nice, but the cover was a bit light-weight for this time of year, so it would have been nice to have plusher bedding. Overall the room is large, we had a good view, everything worked, it had lots of drawers (if you were staying for awhile it would have been a bonus), all areas of the hotel were clean and very decent. I have no complaints, but would prefer to stay in a hotel that had more style, it just didn't 'wow' me when I got into the room. Parking ended up being $22 (which isn't bad for Seattle... I think I paid $30 at the Hyatt). I was a bit surprised that the local calls were so expensive though. They were about $1.60 or so each which I thought was a bit much. One of the calls I made connected to a FAX machine, so I called the service line about it and they IMMEDIATELY removed the charge from my account. It was absolutely smooth and I checked out on the TV the same minute the adjustment had been made. Their service guarantee is really impressive. I feel if I would have had any problem, they would have corrected it to my satisfaction. The hotel has an amazing location, is near all the shops and only 5 blocks to Pike Place Market. I really think this hotel would make any visitor quite happy, I can't really say anything bad about it. I just didn't fall in love with it, so I probably will only stay again if the price is too good to pass up. I don't have any problems recommending this hotel overall. Great location, nicely decorated clean rooms and public areas and good service. Cheers.
  25. I wasn't sure what this one was, since the icons weren't listed before. They seem to have dropped the 'pool icon'. Icons: Restaurant, Fitness Center, Business Center Jan 31st, $96.00 Taxes/Fees: $21.95 Total Price: $117.95 Not disappointed although I was hoping for a surprise -- maybe the new Marriott will come on board?
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