Friday, March 28, 2008

Marco Polo Ramada- DO NOT STAY HERE!!!

Marco Polo Ramada "Resort," North Miami Beach, FL

How this place can even covet the word "resort" I have NO idea.
Like so many other reviewers, I gave the place the benefit of the doubt even after reading other not so glamorous reviews. DO NOT. Believe these reviews and stay ANYWHERE ELSE. Pitch a tent on the beach if you have to!

Upon entering this place, it reeks of mildew...I tried to overlook it.
We were checked in fairly easily and although nobody mentioned it, I think I was upgraded to an accessible room....but in the end it didn't matter.
The bellman was helpful to bring our bags up, even though we believe he was high on something, he was nice enough and it didn't affect his work ethic.
When we got up to our floor the overwhelming odor changed to that of Febreeze as though they were trying to cover up the other stench (I'm sure they were)

The room itself was not bad. The bathroom however had cracked tiles, a broken lock and mildew in the caulking. I only took one shower while I was there and I contemplated wearing shoes.... a la college dorm life. The water pressure was pitiful and I could've taken a better shower in the downpour we got during our stay.

The beds were ok, but not anything outstanding and as soon as we woke up we scrambled to get ready to just be OUT of the hotel.
We saved time in our morning for the "complimentary breakfast," which tuned out to be absolutely shameful. And of course nobody told us you were welcome to order off of the actual breakfast menu, although frankly I'd be afraid of what that would bring.
There was mediocre fruit, stale bread, bagels, and danishes, and ONE working toaster for the entire place. Every single chair had disgusting stains and/or sand on them. One lady was even sitting on her newspaper. The coffee was ok, but to get a to-go cup it was $ much for "complimentary."
Bottom line: Eating breakfast should not make you feel as though you need a shower

We left breakfast and went out to the beach where we had to SIGN OUT measly thin towels (which we later discovered we got charged $8 for)
Eventually clouds rolled in and we went back upstairs to find a decent place to get some real food and just get out of the place. When we got upstairs our housekeeper was still in our room. After an attempted dialogue with her that was completely lost in translation we went back outside for a little while, to give her more time, thinking it would make a difference.
However- when we got back upstairs it was a wonder what she even did!
To our eye all it appeared was that she made the beds (poorly)
Coffee was left in the pot and in one of the mugs we used, while the others were rinsed out and left to dry on a PILLOW CASE(?) She did not empty any of our trash cans or replace anything in the room.
Luckily after some research and a big sigh, we discovered this place is in a decent location and it was like a $10 to the Aventura Mall which has great food options and shopping! We had escaped for the day.
Thank God!

We called that night for a new packet of coffee for the next morning....and it never came. The only request we made the entire time....

When we checked out the next day (as early as humanly possible so we could bathe properly and have a decent meal)
I noticed the "resort" fee (for the cheesecloth towels is all we can figure) and was handed a CHEWED ON pen to sign my bill with. At this point I didn't even care to complain I just wanted out.

You could stay at an Econolodge and get more for your money. Besides the beach and pool, which looked decently maintained, this place has NOTHING going for it. I really could go on, but you get the point.

I plan on writing a letter to the Ramada company, as this place is a disgrace to the name. I am staying in one in Wisconsin for my next business trip, and I was looking forward to it, but to be perfectly honest.... now I'm afraid.

Overall score: ** (2 out of 5 stars....)
Why? For the beach. I only wish it had been sunny so we could've enjoyed that! :(

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NY Helmsley, Nice but far from what I expected.

I stayed here for 4 nights for a benefit show I was in. In the past for these events we have been put up at some ritzy places so I was expecting the best.
The staff was very friendly, and the first man we encountered went out of his way to help us back our car in properly, unloaded our bags and parked our car for us without any question.
Once we settled in though, we realized the small room had less than your average Hilton. The view was nice, we could see the Empire State Building which was beautiful at night, and there was a flat screen TV.
However, there was no coffee pot at all. There were very few electric outlets, we had a hard time plugging in all our cell phones. The bathroom was ridiculously small, which was quite the challenge when the entire family needs to get ready for the day. Also, the cups were plastic and disposable which I found odd for such an establishment and not very eco-friendly
The pillows were not that comfortable, and if you tossed and turned in bed they basically came unmade.
There was also one day where we came back to our room at almost 4:00 in the afternoon and our room had not been cleaned and our clock was never changed for daylight's savings time.

This is an ok place for a place to crash which is all we needed but even the location I was not crazy about. After our event we needed food and there was nowhere nearby we could go that was open! We didn't eat at the hotel restaurant but we did get Starbucks on more than one occasion, but that's near everything in NYC.

Overall- Not a bad place, nice people, but my stay at the Sheraton Manhattan was more enjoyable!

Overall Score: *** What I loved: Friendly staff, great view!
Not so much: No coffee maker, uncomfortable beds, small bathroom, expensive parking

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ellen's Stardust Diner- We're amongst friends!

I've been to Ellen's about a dozen times and have never had a bad experience.

Yes- breakfast is slow. I would like to see anyone here belt showtunes first thing in the morning!

We went on vacation in NYC last August and ate almost every meal at Ellen's, because our hotel was right around the corner. By the end of the trip the wait staff knew us and we're all friends on myspace now.
Maybe you have to be a lover of musical theater (and the world of trying to "make it") to truly appreciate it, but many of these kids have been in shows or are between shows. They're all very talented.
My sister and I actually ended up being in a show with one of the waitresses and she remembered us! Just a hint- the more into it you are, the more into it they will be.

Also- I find the food to be delicious, as well as the drinks, and I love that they have wine, beer, etc, as well.
Last time we ate there was before RENT everyone remembered us, and our food came in a matter of minutes. We actually allowed ourselves way too much time before our show and kept ordering drinks so we wouldn't have to leave! (and they didn't want us to)
Ellen's was actually our first stop in the city after our hotel.

I will always go there when I'm in the city, even if it is just for a milkshake and to say hi!

Overall Score: *****! (5 stars!)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center- One of my favorites I've decided!

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Alexandria, VA

I have stayed here twice for work now, and having stayed in other hotels, I realize how much I enjoy it!

The rooms are very comfortable, the second time I had one with a mini bar setup with full coffee station and drink mixer and everything!
The beds are very comfortable, and I'm doing my research to actually buy the same pillows they use at the Hiltons. I also love the hair dryers.
The conference facilities are gorgeous as well.

I have only a few complaints and they were small.
The shower makes a very strange whistling/banging noise that gets really loud when you are in the shower!
Housekeeping knocked on our door every day at 8:30 in the morning! We had barely even woken up yet, that is too early!
After the first couple of days the cleaning person stopped restocking our breakfast room service card so we had to call down each morning.
We ate room service a lot because it was just too much of a hassle to go out every night after being in meetings all day (there is not much in walking distance...) and usually it was great, but once for breakfast the main part of one of our meals was not even on the plate. Another night we ordered dinner and we were not brought a table (there was not one in the room), there was only one set of silverware for two meals, and the food was already cold and it was obvious it had been sitting around, let alone by the time we got the rest of our things to eat with! That surprised us as we had been having a great experience with the food.

The hotel restaurant is nice, but the menu is limited and you get tired of it after a couple of days. Do your research for other places to eat if you're going to be for a while, the staff is also not very helpful. The first time I stayed there I tried to explain to one of the concierges how I found a restaurant on THEIR website so he could make us reservations and he did not understand me at all. I ended up going behind the desk and finding the website myself so we could call.

Overall this is a very nice, and beautiful place and great for business, but I wouldn't mind staying closer to the DC downtown areas if I were going for pleasure.

Overall score: **** (4 stars)
What I loved:Comfortable beds, beautiful facilities
Not so much: Location far from attractions, limited dining, difficult to communicate with staff, internet is pricey!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Michel Richard's Citronell, a taste of luxury!

Michel Richard's Citronelle, Washington DC

I ate here with some colleagues from work while we were in the DC area. I had never heard of it but they were very excited to try it.
Due to the price, it is definitely a once in a lifetime thing (It was about a $1000 for 7 of us) but I am glad we went.

We ordered off the "a la carte" menu which is $95 for a starter and entree. The food is definitely art and is something you won't experience anywhere else. For my starter, I ordered the "Egg Symphony" which is a series of four small appetizers (a cauliflower, lobster scramble with caviar, a slice of tomato and mozzarella, a cheese/mushroom crisp, and some sort of creamy dip in a hollowed out eggshell) all created to look like egg but they're not. Each one was absolutely divine.]
Everyone tried each other's main course and they were very good, but the starts and desserts were the highlight. I got the creme brulee and even that was made to look like a work of art.

The service was outstanding, and they kept bringing us small complimentary courses in between our meal. The waiter chatted with us and the somalier took his time to talk to us and helped us select a bottle of wine that we liked, with no pressure or criticism when we took a while deciding. The mixed drinks were elegant and flavorful as well.

For a basement of a hotel, the decor is lovely, and unique and doesn't feel like you're just dining in downtown DC, it's very classy, and depending on where you are sitting you can view the kitchen in action through a glass window, which is a very neat touch.

Citronelle is definitely a little rough on the wallet, but if you can swing it, or somebody else is treating, definitely do not miss out on eating here at least once!

Overall Score: ****
What I love: The FOOD!!!
Not so Much: The price :(