June 27 2015

100 Free Prints from Shutterfly

Not being a big “stuff” person, I buy very few non-consumable things while traveling. My trip souvenirs are mostly photos.

Stored electronically, they take no physical space. And when I want prints, there’s often a way to get them inexpensively. 🙂

Wouldn’t you know it, Shutterfly is offering 100 free prints through June 30th. Just use code 100FREEPRINTS at checkout.

You still have to pay shipping, but here’s a tip: shipping costs are tiered. If you order 100 prints, shipping is $7.99. Lower the order to 99 prints and the shipping drops to $5.99.

Shutterfly Cart

Have a great rest of the weekend!

June 20 2015

Crowne Plaza Fredericton – Lord Beaverbrook Hotel Review

In decades of hotel stays, I can remember only one other occasion when I intentionally did not tip housekeeping. (At times I have unintentionally omitted a tip.)

But let me start at the beginning.

I chose the Crowne Plaza for a stay spanning several nights as it was a PointBreaks property that happened to work with my travel plans. (PointBreaks, for those unfamiliar, is one of the best deals in hotel loyalty programs.)

The hotel exterior
The hotel exterior

 

The location

The location is perfect for this city girl – right in the city center and easily walkable to restaurants and visitor attractions.

The town’s main street (King Street) is a block away, Officers Square (with its beautiful public skating rink) is down the street, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery is next door, and the Fredericton Playhouse is across the street.

The hotel is also set on the banks of the Saint John River, affording lovely views – even in the middle of winter:

View from my room
View from my room

 

The room

When a property describes itself as “historic,” that’s usually marketing code for “old.” The hotel may be historic in the traditional sense of the word, but it is also indeed historic in the marketing sense. However, its upkeep was good – albeit not impeccable.

Furnishings included a lot of dark wood. I’m not usually a fan of old-world design, but it works here. I wouldn’t expect a hip property at this location (that feels semi-remote, even if Fredericton is the capital of the province New Brunswick).

Room
My suite

I was given what the hotel described as a suite, although it was all one room so not a suite by definition. However, I typically prefer having everything in one room so the setup worked for me.

It was definitely spacious. I had a Jacuzzi Suite which, intuitively, had an in-room Jacuzzi tub.

The fireplace added much coziness to the room, especially during my winter stay.

Fireplace and sitting area
Fireplace and sitting area

The bed was very comfortable (if you like beds with soft fluffy mattress toppers).

I did notice the absence of an in-room safe. The guest booklet said they’re available at the front desk, but I never used them given the inconvenience that would have entailed.

 

The service

This was the hotel’s epic fail.

I generally like the service at Crowne Plazas – much friendlier and less stuffy than at the same chain’s luxury brand, InterContinental. Many of the staff here were great, but there are clearly bad apples and they unfortunately left a sour taste.

Internet was complimentary, but not reliable. It was also incorrectly described as “high speed” – I tested it several times and always got below 5 Mbps. I work when I travel so I’m sensitive to Internet functionality.

On a particularly bad Internet day – when it was completely out for several hours – I called the front desk. And the agent who answered basically told me to fix it myself.

I kid you not.

First she said maybe I’m using the wrong code. (Um…I did manage to graduate junior high. Besides, I couldn’t even get a signal to access the code-input page.) Then she said “you’re the third call I’ve had about this so let me give you the number of our Internet provider and they can help you figure it out.”

Yes, she told me to deal with the hotel’s outside Internet provider.

And since I’m the third call, shouldn’t that indicate the problem isn’t me?

After I said it is not my place to deal with the hotel’s contractors, to get rid of me she finally just said snapped “well then let me call you back.” (She never did.)

The worst part, though, was the housekeeping. OMG, the housekeeping.

On arrival, I found literally over a dozen hairs (that I am certain belonged to a stranger) on the bed. I picked off the first few but pulled back the sheets and kept seeing more and finally concluded the linens hadn’t been changed after the last guest. The lack of creasing on the sheets suggested the same.

Revolted, I picked up the phone and requested housekeeping, specifically telling the operator I was checked into a room with unchanged linens. She offered no apology; just a rote “I’ll send housekeeping right away.” (The “right away” turned out to be an exaggeration.)

The housekeeper came, took one look, and immediately acknowledged the linens hadn’t been changed. She said she didn’t service the room that day but would have a “private conversation” with her supervisor about it. Unlike the operator, she seemed sincerely apologetic, was (or at least acted) concerned about the situation, and thanked me for letting them know. She then changed the linens.

The next day a different housekeeper came. This housekeeper sniffled heavily the entire time and could barely speak. So, the person who made the bed I slept in and folded the towels I used was sick and possibly contagious.

I actually don’t blame the housekeeper; lots of people feel they need to work even when they’re not feeling well. However, I believe management should not have let her work in a guest-facing role that day given her obvious health condition.

Unfortunately the housekeeping issues only worsened. On yet another day, there were brown stains on the (supposedly newly-changed) sheets.

Not-chocolate stains on the sheets
Stained linens

I want to think it was chocolate.

But chocolate comes out in the wash, no?

If you’re a housekeeper and your job is to ensure guests have clean rooms, how do you miss a noticeably brown, dried-blood-like stain on white sheets? Either you overlooked the stain (in which case you’re incompetent) or saw it and used the sheet anyway (in which case you’re…let me find a polite word…indifferent?).

I mean, this is an upscale hotel. If there’s a big brown stain, take the sheet out of service! Even a mediocre hotel would do that (I hope). By now I was utterly disgusted, but in the end it is only a hotel stay so I just called down to have someone come change the sheets. Again.

End of rant. 🙂

 

The amenities

The indoor pool area had a saltwater pool, hot tub, and steam room. Though the area was mostly deserted when I took pictures, it was full of guests most evenings.

Pool area
Pool area

There’s also a small fitness room in the corner…

Gym
Fitness center

…and a business center whose printer came in handy as I had to work during my trip.

However, I think the hotel’s best attribute is its location – next to the river yet right in downtown. In winter the weather constrains river activities, but I’m sure in warmer weather the jogging path behind the hotel makes for a great amenity.

And I imagine the scenery would be stunning during Fall foliage season.

 

Summary

Overall, I’m ambivalent about this hotel. I did stay at another hotel – the Delta Fredericton – on this trip and had a much better experience in terms of service.

But the Crowne Plaza is best-located of all hotels in Fredericton. Despite its issues, for the location alone I might still stay here if I were in Fredericton again.

Upon checkout when I was asked how my stay was, I said I did have something to bring to a manager’s attention. The agent called a manager right away and when I conveyed my experiences about housekeeping she was (or at least acted) concerned and thanked me for letting her know. Hopefully they have addressed it by now.

Cost: 4,500 IHG points per night (5,000 PointBreaks rate minus a 10% rebate for holding the co-branded credit card). Since I value an IHG point at 0.7 cents, I equate the cost to $32/night.

Link to hotel website.

 

June 18 2015

Nice Hilton HHonors Promotion (But Short Fuse) – 5,000 Bonus Points for Any Stay

Evening, everyone.

This will be a short post but I thought it might be useful for those still making travel plans for 4th of July.

Hilton is offering 5,000 bonus points per stay at any hotel through July 6th. You must register prior to checkout (register here).

Though a short-lived offer, it’s a nice bonus rate – free nights start at 5,000 points so just from this promotion you’d earn enough for a free night.

Of course, those 5,000 point properties aren’t exactly the finest, but to evaluate this another way, I value a Hilton point at .4 cents so this works out to $20 in bonus points – not bad for a few seconds of your time to register.

Furthermore, the promotion stacks with Hilton’s current summer promotion, Double Your HHonors, so don’t neglect to register for that one as well.

 

Bonus deal

I previously wrote about one of the benefits of traveling with an external battery. If you could use one, Amazon currently has this 3000mAh external power bank for $5.99.

Power Bank

Note Amazon prices can change any time so double-check your cart before paying.

Have a great rest of the week. It’s almost Friday!