Thursday, August 07, 2008

What a Hotel Should Be

Last night my husband and I were in Little Rock for the evening and stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. After my trip to Atlanta, I was a bit apprehensive of the quality of nearly any hotel. Not that my Atlanta experience was that bad, but it left just enough of one to dampen my enthusiasm about another night in a hotel.
Thank you, Crowne Plaza of Little Rock. Thanks for having someone greet me at the door when I walked in. Thanks for having such a beautifully clean room, following through completely on the renovations to the building, and providing an adequate number of both pillows and towels right from the start. This hotel deserved to wear a banner proclaiming the "Whatever, Whenever" slogan that the W Hotels touted yet fell flat on delivering. The staff was friendly and seemed to bend over backward to help with any needs. We chose a room on the Club Floor, which I think was a wise choice for us. I do think the other floors are probably an equally good value, but for minimal price difference and the added amenities, the added expense was money well spent. The club floor had a lounge that included evening cocktails and hors d'oeuvres as well as breakfast the next morning. The food served wasn't the typical sad quality heat & eat steam table foodstuff, it was actually pretty tasty. I'd even describe the cookies as really, really good! Unlike the last hotel, the bottled water in the room was free. I've paid upwards of $40 for hotel breakfast elsewhere that didn't compare to what I ate this morning. It wasn't a 5-star gourmet breakfast, but it was good.

I know Top Ten lists are so cliche and overdone, but I'm going to go there anyway. There are a few things I look for in a quality hotel, and this one covered them all quite well. Some of those, not in any particular order, include:
1. Curtains can be closed to create a truly dark sleeping environment. They took it one step further providing a "Curtain Clip." Close those shades up and at 9am and the room had barely the faintest sign that we'd gone from night to day.
2. Quiet. Period. I have little tolerance for the herd of elephants on the floors above me, and of course being on the top floor helps. I didn't hear hallway noise either, despite being in very close proximity to an elevator. Going above and beyond, they provided earplugs, a sleep mask and even a CD of soothing sounds or something like that.
3. Don't put a glass top on the desk. If it's a business hotel, as this one is marketed, make it business friendly by making using my optical mouse on the desk possible.
4. Give me adequate pillows and bath towels. Again, well done in this aspect.
5. High-Speed Internet access should not cost me $10 or more a day. Most moderate priced hotels have this right, it's most often wireless and it's free.
6. Some bottled water in the room (that you don't charge $10 for looking at) would be great too. In some cities the tap water isn't fit to drink. It's barely tolerable to take a shower. Little Rock generally isn't that way but a couple of small bottles in the room was a welcome find.
7. It's great to have a small light source in the bathroom to keep from tripping over the bath mat on my way to the toilet. This hotel had one of those flat plug-in night lights. Fantastic.
8. Providing a blow dryer with more wind power than a chihuahua's sneeze and that isn't permanently affixed to the most inconvenient wall in the bathroom is a nice touch.
9. A real thermostat, hallelujah! While I understand from the maintenance standpoint it's far more difficult to repair a centralized type of unit than those stand-alone devices, it's not as noisy and easier to get the temperature comfortable and keep it that way.
10. Use a fitted sheet on the bed. So many hotels try to make it easier on themselves by making do with a flat sheet on the bottom. They don't stay tucked in if I move more than 3 inches to the left after climbing in bed that night.

Of course those are just a few of my little picky things I think help make for a good hotel. Some are forgivable based on the price or special circumstances, some are not. Finding a hotel that meets them all is rare. Yesterday I did find one and am quite pleased to know I've got a good place to stay anytime I visit Little Rock.

Since I can't leave well enough alone and just heap on the praise, I'll give my two small complaints about the hotel. The desk wasn't placed all that well for two guests in the room as the chair blocks the path of travel. The bathroom was a bit small, but again that really comes with having two guests in the room instead of one. Basically, I'm really reaching to find issue with the hotel. Finally! A place really worthy of a positive blogging experience.

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