Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Drury Inn, Microtel score high with consumers...
We rave about the Ritz and marvel at Microtel. At least that's what Consumer Reports found.
The long-standing publishing company/website surveyed more than 27,000 subscribers who spent a combined 124,000 nights at 48 hotel chains in all categories from Jan. 2008 to April, 2009 and came up with some pretty cool findings.
Top rated hotels in the fancy category were the Ritz-Carlton with an 88 score out of 100, followed by Grand Hyatt with 83 points. In the luxury category, Renaissance hotels garnered 86 points, while Embassy Suites had 84, Marriott 83, Westin 82 and Hilton 81.
In the moderate category, Drury Inn and Suites (I've never tried one but their property in Indianapolis, of all places, was rated third best hotel in the WORLD by Expedia.ca this week) took top marks with 87 points, followed by 84 for Wingate by Wyndham, 84 for Hampton Inn and Suites by Carlson, 83 for Fairfield Inn and 82 for Country Inns and Suites. I've always found Fairfeld's to be clean and just fine, but I liked Country Inns and Suites for the space and the free movies they had when I stayed there in the Halifax area a few years back.
Finally, in the budget category Microtel Inn and Suites got top marks with 78 points, followed by Super 8 at 70 and Motel 6 with 68 points.
Lowest rated of any chain in the survey was Americas Best Value Inn with 63 points. Travelodge and Econo Lodge didn't fare much better at 65 points.
Naturally, the budget spots didn't get as many thumbs up as the big boys. But you don't have to pay as much, of course, so the value for dollar figure tends to be pretty high.
"Respondents who stayed at a budget hotel said they were drawn by cheap rates," Consumer Reports said. "But except for Microtel, budget hotels continue to earn the lowest scores for value, upkeep and checking in and out. They also generate a dispropionate percentage of complaints about bedding, lighting, decor and heating and air conditioning. Travelode, Econo Lodge and the misnamed America's Vest Value Inn, a newcomer to our ratings, were consistently among the most trouble-prone."
The survey results in the magazine found that rooms at Microtel Inn and Suites ranged from $54 to $79 U.S. and got the 78 rating I mentioned. America's Best Value Inn rooms ranged from $50 to $79 and got the 63 rating. You might save $4, but Microtel looks like a far better deal to me. Motel 6 got a 68 rating but their rooms were listed at anywhere from $40 to $59, which is pretty cheap for a decent if unspectacular rating.
Subscribers lavished praised on the beds and bedding at Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and Westin.
Consumer Reports found that only 35 per cent of respondents tried to negotiate a better deal, but those who did were rewarded with a lower rate or a room upgrade 80 per cent of the time, which shows it pays to haggle a bit. I don't like doing it much myself, but if you simply smile and politely ask, "I'm sorry, do you have any specials or upgrades," what do you have to lose?KISS THAT ASH GOODBYE
Well, for now, anyway. As of early Thursday, the ash from the Iceland volcano that had been floating over Ireland and Scotland had moved west and airports in Ireland and the UK were fully functioning. That could change, of course, but it was certainly good news today.NO FLY MEANS NO FLY
The Homeland Security Department on Wednesday ordered all airlines to begin checking for updates to the government's "no-fly list" within two hours to avoid scenarios such as the one that occurred Monday when a suspected terrorist boarded an Emirates airliner in New York City, according to federal and airline officials with direct knowledge of the policy change.
Airlines are currently required to download an updated version of the no-fly list at least every 24 hours to make sure none of their passengers is barred from boarding commercial flights.
In cases of emergency additions to the list, the government sends an alert to airlines, which are supposed to immediately add the new name to the no-fly list. Airlines are responsible for comparing their passenger lists to the no-fly list.
What part of keeping this list up-to-date and checking it religiously did the folks at Emirates not understand?NASHVILLE FLOODS
As residents sift through the sludge caused by historic floodwaters, Nashville's tourism industry is doing some salvaging of its own, reports USA Today Travel.
"With flooded Gaylord Opryland Resort out of commission for several months and scores of conventions no longer able to meet there, tourism officials are scrambling to keep the business in town. Organizers of at least one convention scheduled at the resort said Wednesday that they plan to stay in Nashville at a new location."
The Humane Society of the United States said it won't change plans to hold its convention in Nashville, and good for them I say.
"We don't want to bail on the city of Nashville," said John Snyder, a humane society v.p.
THANKS TO BC TOURISM
A lovely dinner at Victor restaurant at Le Germain hotel on Mercer St. Wednesday night, thanks to folks in the tourism biz in British Columbia. Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler and B.C. officials all were there for some great food and talk about what's happening out west now that the Olympics party is over.
"It was great, and it was good to have the Paralympics as well," one official told me. "But it's kind of nice to be back to normal and have time to do things we want instead of constantly responding to the demands of the Olympics."
Indeed. Coming up, I'm told, is the Vancouver spot prawn festival. It's May 8, so you probably don't have time to hop on a plane from Toronto for it. But the little critters, which I'm told taste like lobster, are available in B.C. for several weeks this time of year so you might find them on a menu at a seafood spot like Go Fish or the lovely Coast on Alberni St. in downtown Vancouver.
A TALKING MICKEY? I'M NOT READY FOR THAT
The L.A. Times reports Disneyland is testing a groundbreaking Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet character that talks to visitors while posing for photos, according to Walt Disney Imagineering officials.
The talking Mickey Mouse has been greeting visitors during unannounced and intermittent “play tests” in his cartoon-style house in Toontown, officials confirmed.
After nearly 55 years of mute costumed characters at the Anaheim theme park, it’s equal parts jaw-dropping and off-putting to see Mickey’s eyes blink and mouth move as he greets visitors by name.
“Face characters,” such as Sleeping Beauty and Jack Sparrow, whose faces are visible to visitors, typically speak and interact with them during photo sessions, while costumed characters, such as Donald Duck and Winnie the Pooh, whose faces are masked by sculpted heads, usually pantomime their actions as handlers speak on their behalf.
NOTHING TO DO WITH TRAVEL BUT HERE GOES
The city of Toronto water people came onto my street two and a half weeks ago and dug up our lawns so they could replace aging, lead pipes with new PVC pipes. Good call, I'd think, and thanks folks. But here's the issue:
I wasn't here at the time - I was stranded in London after a trip to Ireland - but my neighbour said the city folks promised to have fresh sod laid down pretty quickly to cover the gaping holes. Two weeks went by and I still had what looked like a shallow grave on my lovely, green lawn: a large bare patch with rocks, huge dirt clods and tree roots sticking up. It was a mess. So I went to the store and bought soil and peat moss and grass seed and spent a couple hours fixing the city's mess and planting the seed.
I was still pissed, so I called my city councillor, Karen Stintz. Her assistant, the always reliable Andrew Bodrug, called city water folks for me.
On Wednesday he called me and said he'd spoken to the city. "They said they haven't dug up any properties on your street yet."
Really? I guess that huge hole and the new access pipe in my lawn is just my imagination. As well as all the other ones up and down my street.
Sheesh, guys, get your act together. Is it that hard to keep track of what properties you've dug up? And is there any excuse for not having a truck laden with sod drive down the street behind the water digging people and laying it down nice and fresh right after the work is done?
No, there's not. The city of Toronto never ceases to amaze me.
And here's the TTC talking about a new headquarters not far from my house, when they can't even fix the escalators at the Lawrence station. One of them is almost always being repaired. On Tuesday, I got home and one was under repair and the other was simply not working. Five flights of stairs isn't gonna kill me, but there are a lot of seniors who rely on that escalator.
Take care of the little things, guys, and then maybe you can talk about a new building for your under-worked bureaucrats.