REVIEW: MARRIOTT BEACH HOUSE GRAND CAYMAN

I knew I wanted a nice relaxing vacation spot where just my wife and I could sit on the beach, relax, and do nothing. The Marriott Beach House Grand Cayman hit the spot perfectly for doing so.

After a flat rate taxi cab ride of $18.25 and 15 minutes later, we arrived to The Beach House. It’s off the main road and there is not huge sign or anything for it. Pulling up, it didn’t look anything that special. There were employees there to open our doors and help with our bags and offered us some juice welcome drinks. We were only staying 2 nights so we didn’t really need help with our bags. Walking in through the front doors, it was nice, but still nothing amazing and I started to get worried if I picked the right spot over the Westin or even the Ritz.

Rates can vary greatly depending on the season. In September we paid $189 plus taxes and $50 resort fee per night. Point rates vary from 40k to 60k points per night.

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No line for check-in in and Jose at the front desk was very friendly. I saw on my phone they had lots of different types of Ocean Front rooms available. He said they could only give me a 2 double beds ocean front room. I asked if Platinum members receive free breakfast, and he said that since they are not in the US, Canada, or Europe, they do not give out free breakfast but that I could have 1k points or some wine and cheese. I told him I was frustrated and probably should have picked a different hotel.

First impression are always so hard to overcome, but the Marriott Beach House did that, and the next 2 days were prefect. First Jose called me 15 minutes later when we got up to our room and informed me he could give breakfast vouchers instead of the wine and cheese.

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Second, about 2 hours later while we were swimming in the pool, Jose hunted us down and told me he could be me put us in a large king size Oceanfront Jr suite. 90% of my hotel stays are for business and while I like upgrades during business stays, they don’t really matter since it’s only be working and sleeping in the room. One of the reason I am stay at brands like Marriott is to be able to get upgraded when I am with my family, so this is appreciated.

Our first room of the 2 double bed ocean front room was nice but a lil small. If our kids were with us they would have driven us nuts after a few days. Except for the view, it felt like a normal hotel room.

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Man, that view is great though. small balcony with 2 chairs and a table. They also have a small mini fridge in the room. There is a liquor store a block away that you can stock up on drinks. The great thing is you can bring a cooler and drinks down to the beach and it’s not a big deal.

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The bathroom was also pretty plain and similar to most other Marriott’s.

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Now our second room which was a Jr Suite, was about the same width, but double in length. It had a nice sitting area with a double pull out sofa. They should have had a larger sofa in this space though. Same balcony setup. Bathroom was also similar, but they had different toiletries which was kind of weird.

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The water and beach off the hotel is amazing. They have 12 lounge rings and 4 swim platforms. Even on a Saturday afternoon, you could always find a spot in the water. You can get your towels from the towel hut, and a beach attendant will help you find a spot on the beach, and get an umbrella if needed. It would get crowded, but you could always find 2 chairs next to each other. The towel hut also had water , aloa vera gel, and even Go Pro cameras for free daily use. When asking one of the beach attendants for help, his reply back was “unless its impossible, I can do it.” That attitude was of the entire staff, and exactly what you like to hear when on vacation. Staff would also walk around with ice water and even fruit sometimes.

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To me it seemed like we were at mile 6.9  of 7 mile beach. The water and sand was great, but it was pretty narrow and there was only a few condos after the Marriott. It was interesting that the condos around were very empty, while the Marriott had quite a few people. The Westin and The Ritz were about a mile down the beach. While their beach was wider, the people there didn’t look like they were having as much fun as our place. The beach had no sea weed and was crystal clear. It was a lil rocky, but they seemed like “soft rocks” and not the painful sharp rocks at some beaches. There is also a man made reef and a natural reef right of the beach. They provide snorkel masks and it’s very easy to see lots of fish there.

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They also had a watersport stand with free kayaks, paddleboards and similar items.  The dive shop had excursions you could book for a fee.

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Up by the pool, they also had a gelato stand.

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The food here was great. They had a beach bar with great views and they had servers who walked around the chairs asking if anyone needs anything. There are some Happy Hour specials from like 530-7. One day we went down there at like 630 and was going to have a drink around the bar. It started pouring. The Verandah Restaurant is nearby so they said we could sit in there and still get the HH specials.

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We ended up staying here for dinner as it was their weekly Brazilian meat night. We saw them cooking some of it over an open grill earlier in the day and it made us hungry. The meat was delicious, and pretty cool to sit there while it was thundering and lightening outside as well.

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The breakfast was amazing as well. Ours was free as platinum members. Not sure exactly how much it was, but I think it was like $30 Cayman dollars…. it was good though. Lots of variety and you will eat too much. While the food didn’t change drastically at the buffet day to day, they did alter the menu. Its like vanilla french toast, to apple french toast. They also had eggs benedict on the buffet which were delicious!

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Once a month they have some type of special activity there. While we were there, they had Oktoberfest. It felt like the entire island was at the hotel in the lobby and bar area. It was great and strange. We weren’t prepared to walk from the beach and see this. Still had a great time though.

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They had a rec area which we never saw anyone use. It had nice views from the area.

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They also had a kids club that always looked empty. While our kids would have had fun a few days here, there was not a ton of kids activities for more than about 3 days. I could have stayed there all week just doing nothing. I would probably not have taken my kids there, or else we would have to plan an excursion each day.

The wifi was also pretty fast here. I was able to get some work done each morning with the wife sleeping. There are lots of restaurants and a mall all within a 10 minute walk.

Overall, this Beach House was great. The service was awesome and I hope to get back here with my wife and maybe some friends some day. The room are ok, but the laid back atmosphere, amazing water and sand, and just positive attitude that is hear make me want to get back.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: ALOFT DOWNTOWN ATLANTA

I was surprising my wife with a trip to the Grand Cayman Island. We had to position ourselves in Atlanta for the night, so I decided to get away from the normal airport hotels. I also had about 13k (=~$130) Meryl Lynch points I still had in my account through a Meryl Lynch Visa card I signed up for 2 years ago. (Card had 50k bonus points, and no annual fee. I had already used the rest of the points.) I was able to use the credit card website to make the booking. When booking through a 3rd party, one doesn’t always receive their elite benefits from the hotel as noted per the reward programs Ts and Cs. I called the Aloft a few days beforehand and asked to add my Marriott Platinum number. They were unable to do so at that time.

After a $20 and 20 minute Uber ride, we pulled up to the Aloft. We didn’t get to explore around the hotel too much, but it was in a decent area downtown. Several people walking around at night.

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The check in area was immediately when you walked in. The front desk was extremely helpful and nice and able to add my platinum number which allowed us to have free breakfast the next morning.

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Our room was on the 5th of 8 floors. It was a basic setup that would be good for a night, but a lil smaller than most US hotel rooms. You immediately walk in into the bathroom which was a little strange though. The bathroom was small but sufficient with a sink and counter just outside the shower/toilet door. The shampoo and conditioner were mounted inside the shower area.

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Beyond the bathroom is a little hallway with a no door closet and safe and also 2 free bottles of water..

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The main area was basic but worked well for one night. Large comfortable king size bed. Weird retro clock that we couldn’t figure out, small desk area, and great views from the room.

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The hotel had a very nice courtyard area out front and next to the pool. You could order drinks from the bar here. There was a liquor store a block away that we walked to and had a bottle of wine outside while enjoying the nice September weather. (note our cheap yellow tail wine was still $18….)

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I have never had breakfast at an Aloft before and wasn’t sure what to expect. As a Platinum member, we got a voucher for 2 free breakfasts. It was a little confusing of what was included in the voucher, but it ended up that we could basically have whatever we wanted. We both got the Ranchero, a few pastries, and a container of milk. This was also available A La Carte.

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There was just open seating anywhere you could find a spot in the front desk area. Some people were sitting at the bar.

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Just some other pictures form around the hotel.

The workout room

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24/7 coffee and tea

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Pool Table and business center

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Overall we had a nice stay here. However Aloft isn’t really my cup of tea. Nothing wrong with it, but I would stay in another hotel the next time I am in Atlanta.

 

REVIEW: HILTON COLON GUAYAQUIL

We had a one night stay at the Hilton Colon Guayaquil.  It was just a quick transit stay after our flight from Cusco to Lima to Guayaquil, then the next day we had our flight from Guayaquil to Baltra, Galapagos. I used 30k Hilton points for 2 queen beds. Regular room rates were about $160 a night plus taxes.

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We landed got our luggage and planned on taking a short Uber ride to the hotel. Upon walking out we saw a man holding a sign with a Hilton sign on it. He said the bus was leaving in 5 minutes. Perfect timing for us! At 7PM there was probably 12-15 people on the bus. We hopped on it and it was a short 5 minute bus ride to the hotel.

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After we got our bags from the bus we walked into the hotel and a person handed out warm towels, which is always a night touch. I stood in line for a minute and then when it was our turn and of course I asked for a diamond upgrade. He looked in his system and confirmed I was a diamond member and said we should use the executive lounge checkin.  A bell person grabbed our bags and said he would meet us up there. Up we went and got to the exec lounge a minute later. I asked for a diamond upgrade and she said they didn’t have any rooms. I informed her online they have junior suites and she just shrugged. Eventually got our keys and the bell person lead us and our bags to our room a floor down.  While I sometimes like the separate checkin at a lounge, I don’t like when its setup like it was here having to stand in multiple lines and go to multiple floors. I just want to get to my darn room. (I also believe that my credit card information was stolen here. Waiting to here back from Hilton on that.)

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Our room resembled most Hilton’s around the world. There was a nice welcome gift and note waiting for us there which is always a nice touch. The 2 queen beds were really just double beds. I hate it when hotels call them queen beds, but they obviously aren’t.  The bathroom was bright and had all the amenities we needed. One nice thing is there was plenty of USB and regular plugs throughout the room.  Overall, the room was nothing special, but was perfect for our one night stay.

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The next morning I wasn’t feeling great, so the rest of the family went to the lounge for breakfast .My family said the lounge was underwhelming for breakfast.

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At checkin they only mentioned breakfast available at the lounge, even though as a diamond member we should have been able to use the restaurant. It looked much better there.

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The Spa, Pool, and Healthclub area looked very nice and upscale. I wish we would have had more time to use some of their facilities. The pool was large with plenty of lounge chairs. The gym was huge and fairly crowded. It could have been used by the public as well.

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The public areas were nicer than most other Hiltons. Walked around a little and they have quite a few nice nooks and crannies one could relax. The hotel is also connected directly to a mall.

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Below is a view from our room. There was not a lot to do around the hotel. Nice and close to the airport, but not a destination hotel

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The shuttle bus leaves on the hour every hour to get back to the airport. This worked out perfectly for us and we left at like 10am for our noon flight. One the way back, the bus was not as crowded, only 6 of us total.

 

REVIEW IN PICTURES: MARRIOTT GRAND HOTEL FLORA ROME ITALY

I ended up taking a shared van service from the airport for about 25 euro. There were several van services just inside for the taxi service so i decided to give it a try. a taxi has a flat rate of 48 euro. Exterior of the hotel. The location is great. 10 minutes walk to Trevi Fountain and about 25 minute walk to the Colosseum. Lots of shops and restaurants withing walking distance.

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Check-in was quick and easy. I did ask for an upgraded room and they told me I had a deluxe room with a view on the 4th floor.  Lobby was very large and had lots of nice furnishings. Kind of felt like going to grandma’s house though and being afraid to sit down.IMG_20180301_200154IMG_20180301_200146IMG_20180301_200121IMG_20180301_114429

The exercise room was in the basement. While the hallway up and down is nice, the equipment was not. It was small with no windows and just very basic equipment.IMG_20180301_114409IMG_20180301_143409IMG_20180301_143403

The bar was on the first floor and was adequate, but never crowded or lively. Good to have a pre or post dinner drink, but not to spend all night at. A beer was 8 Euro, while a beer from my mini bar was only 7 euro.IMG_20180301_200132IMG_20180301_200140

The hotel also had a concierge on the first floor.IMG_20180301_200352IMG_20180301_200404

Just a random statue.IMG_20180301_200231

Small but private business center.IMG_20180301_200214

Lovely hallway to my room with nice furnishings.

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Comfortable King Size Bed. Also had USB plugs on each side. Small desk by the window.IMG_20180228_164349

Nice chair and a random chair in the room.IMG_20180228_164355

Could fit your computer on the desk, but that’s about it.IMG_20180228_164416

The safe was tiny. My 14in notebook computer could not fit in.IMG_20180228_164444

Normal mini-bar items.IMG_20180228_164454IMG_20180228_164508

Midnight room service when the mini-bar just wont do. Yes they bring you a wine glass to pour your beer into.

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Bathroom was very luxurious and bright. Large counter, nice unique toiletries, and comfortable robes.IMG_20180228_164555IMG_20180228_164539IMG_20180228_164605IMG_20180228_164617IMG_20180228_164533

The view directly from the window was nothing special on the 4th floor. However you can actually open your window all the way up and stick your head out and the views improved. It was cloudy everyday I was there so the distance was limited.IMG_20180302_013629IMG_20180302_013618

View if you had an interior room.IMG_20180303_012822

Breakfast was served on the 7th floor. I have Marriott Gold Status from being a AMEX platinum card holder, which gives you Sheraton Elite Status, which matches to Marriott. So my breakfast was free. They have a buffet which I believe was 30 euro, but also had a la carte offerings for much cheaper. White tablecloths and fine china for breakfast make you feel special in the morning, especially when they have self serve Prosecco and OJ.  There was also dining available outside where the views are better, but it was cold and rainy during my visit. The downside was during my 3 mornings there, it was the same offerings each morning. Only on the 3rd day did someone offer me some made to order eggs which were included. I passed as I was in a hurry to get to the airport.

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My stay was perfectly fine here at the Marriott Flora in Rome. I would stay here again if the price was right. Its a good location, comfortable rooms, and high end touches. I was disappointed there was no exec lounge here though. I would not go out of my way to stay here though.