August 2009

The Plaza, New York City

The Plaza, New York City

Ever wonder if those “romance” or “adventure” hotel packages are really giving you more bang for your buck — or if you’ve been suckered into booking a clever marketing pro’s cutesy champagne and chocolate-covered price markup? Welcome back to Oyster’s Bundle Breakdowns, where we go through the painstaking process of (roughly) breaking down the costs of popular hotel bundle offerings to determine whether you’re getting a steal or getting robbed.

Today, we’re back in the Big Apple visiting the iconic Plaza hotel and its most famous little fictional resident, Eloise (yes, from the Kay Thompson books about a cheeky young lady living at the hotel). These days, the Plaza is offering up a cutesy deal in honor of the precocious six-year-old: the ‘Live Like Eloise’ package – which is essentially a night in a suite at the Plaza with a couple of treats thrown in — starting at $895.

The Deal: One night in a Deluxe Rose Suite (with complimentary upgrade to the next available suite category at time of booking); a copy of Eloise by Kay Thompson; “Super Duper Sundae” from In-Room Dining; Eloise postcards with complimentary postage

The Package Price for Sunday, October 11th: $1,065, plus tax

The Upgrade on Sunday, October 11th: Since the package is inclusive of a free upgrade at the time of booking, the reservations agent we spoke to told us that we’d be reserved in an Edwardian Suite that night — a one-bedroom, 1,000ish square-foot space that even has a guest bathroom (ooooh, swanky!) Read More »

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Runaway Bay Heart Hotel

Runaway Bay Heart Hotel

Our newest feature, Fact vs. Fluff, compares the hyperbole of hotel websites and the cold, hard truth of what guests really experience. Today’s hotel is the Runaway Bay Heart Hotel in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Since Oyster sends its reporters to hotels incognito, we know what the service is really like, no matter what a resort’s website might claim. This snippet from the Runaway Bay Heart Hotel doesn’t tell the whole story:

Runaway Bay Heart Hotel, located in Runaway Bay, St. Ann is a full service hotel operated by the HEART Trust/NTA, Jamaica’s National Training Agency … special emphasis is placed on the service quality provided by the human element in the quality chain, resulting in high level of customer satisfaction.

While we applaud the hotel for being up front about its trainee staff, that promised “high level of customer satisfaction” wasn’t our experience. Oyster reporter Kate M. filed this report:

The Heart is run by Jamaica’s National Training Agency, which trains individuals to enter the hospitality world. Basically, it’s like the kitchen in home economics class, except the kitchen is a hotel and the linens being ironed are yours. The young and eager staff try their best but are still learning, so you’ll have to be patient or look elsewhere.

We probably will!

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golf-casa-de-campo-v117196-10241

Casa de Campo

golf-punta-cana-resort-club-v22770-10241

Punta Cana Hotel

The Trip: Playing some of the Dominican Republic’s best golf—and maybe squeezing in some beach time. The Demands: Top-notch golf is the top priority, but this is the Caribbean, so a decent beach for a day off the links is also a must. The Options: Casa de Campo in La Romana and the Punta Cana Hotel in Punta Cana Read More »

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Peek-a-boo, we see you!

Peek-a-boo, we see you!

If the story about the naked people (and the sexin’ people) seen in the windows of a certain New York City hotel — one that happens to, oh, we don’t know, rise above the High Line — has popped up on your Twitter and RSS feeds two (or twenty-two) too many times, we have a present for you. Well, multiple presents, actually.

First, some truth. We sauntered on over to the High Line last night and stared at The Standard Hotel, where ballsy (hehe) hotel guests are supposedly swingin’ their bits in front of big, bright windows for all to view. We stood for a good, long while. We looked up. We saw open curtains. We also saw the following:

  • No naked people.
  • Zero sex.
  • Lots of rooms that were empty.
  • Packs of tourists taking photos with their cell phones and the latest trendy hued point-and-shoot cameras.

Sound newsworthy? Not so much, huh? And now that we know the whole thing was a big ol’ PR stunt, we’re kind of annoyed at all this hype. Annoyed on a Friday, even.

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The big guy.

The big guy.

The boutique.

The boutique.

So, let’s just say that Mary from Milwaukee is planning a trip to the Big Apple. And Mary from Milwaukee is generally accustomed to staying at Sheraton properties when she travels. She trusts the brand, she’s a member of the Starwood loyalty program, and she understands that hotels in Manhattan tend to be quite a bit pricier than hotels in other markets (or they used to be, anyway) – and so she’s prepared for this particular Sheraton to have slightly steeper rates than she’s used to paying.

So she surfs on over to the Sheraton site to find that a night at the Sheraton Manhattan Times Square is $233.10 for a non-smoking Queen room — $270.98 with taxes – for the night of Friday, September 18th.

But wait. Mary can get a Queen Superior room at the swanky new Smyth Hotel in Tribeca (by Thompson Hotels), which just opened this winter with Sferra linens and a location that would be more likely to impress Mary’s snobby NYC niece (Times Square, where the Sheraton is located, would not) on the same night for $215.00, which comes out to $250.21 with taxes.

Let’s compare the two, with the help of our signature Pros & Cons and Bottom-Line assessments.

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Delano Hotel

Delano Hotel

Mondrian South Beach

Mondrian South Beach

With so many reviews of so many different hotels, scanning our city guides can sometimes lead to information overload—so our new series, Stay Here, Not There takes the guess work out of finding the right hotel for your trip. Today we’re looking at where to stay to best enjoy late summer in style in Miami.

The Trip: Enjoying Miami’s South Beach—but during the historically slow month of September when deals abound.

The Demands: Beach access, a decidedly Miami scene and plenty of value-per-dollar.

The Options: Three Morgans Hotels are on sale through September 30: the Delano Hotel, the Mondrian South Beach and the Shore Club.

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waldorf starbucks dress code

The world's fanciest Starbucks?

 ‘Twas in a binder on the desk of a Waldorf-Astoria guest room where we happened upon Exhibit A, which suggests that, apparently, old lady Waldorf has the fanciest Starbucks in all the land. Yes, it would appear that this particular outpost of the corporate coffee palace has a dress code.

Though “smart casual” is certainly open to interpretation, we understood it to mean that adding flip-flops to the ensemble we wore the previous night and sauntering into the ‘bucks for our post-dawn venti Americano was not acceptable.

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We’ve seen enough $150 candles and $4 tins of Altoids to know better than to expect a bargain from a hotel minibar. But sometimes the price gouging gets absolutely scandalous—like at these four New York hotels that have mastered the art of the overcharge.

Even airports don't charge this much for water

Even airports don't charge this much for water

The Hotel: Mansfield Hotel
The Rip-off:
$10 bottle of water

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The Shore Club

The Shore Club

The Catalina Hotel

The Catalina Hotel

One of our more than 1,000 Twitter followers—you’re among them, right?—sent us a plea for help recently that we had to answer in more than 140 characters. Melanie N. (@chic_travel) is headed to Miami soon and asked us to find “the Miami hotel with [the] most available single (straight) men.” Our Miami destination expert and Oyster’s Senior Editor Will B. has not one but two hotel choices for extended mingling with the opposite sex in South Beach.

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The promised room (and view)

The promised room (and view)

The real room (and view)

Oh, hello, Miami.

 

 

 

 

 Ah, to be a guest at The Four Seasons Miami. The carpet is a lovely, subtle beige hue, the curtains are understated and elegant, and the city (and your troubles) are far, far away…

Or so they’d like you to think.

Remember that game you used to play as a kid (and, um, perhaps that game you played yesterday in the back of a celeb gossip rag) where you had to count up all the differences between Picture One and Picture Two? Well, comparing these two photos of The Four Seasons Miami – the image accompanying the description of a Deluxe City View room on their website and our own photo of the same type of room – is sort of fun like that game.

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