Category: Hotel info

Star Wars resort LARP survey on Swagbucks – would you pay $900 for 2 nights?

Star Wars, resort, and live action roleplaying (LARP) sounds like a winning combination to me. It may never happen, but we can be sure someone is considering it because there is a marketing research survey on Swagbucks right now.

The potential Disney resort would feature a Star Wars theme where guests stay stay in a starship. It’s interesting that video games often go with strong science fiction or fantasy brands. I’ve seen games based on intellectual property (IP)s inlcuding Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, DC, and more. LARPing is a much smaller business and the business model doesn’t include money for licensing a name brand. There was a magic school LARP recently that was either inspired by or a ripoff of Harry Potter, but they didn’t actually use / pay for the Harry Potter IP.

So a Star Wars LARP would be pretty unique – so far we’ve never seen a LARP based on such a famous IP. What do you say to $900 per person for…

  • 2 nights in a luxury resort that looks and feels like a starwars space craft
  • Rooms for up to 4 people with a galaxy view or a pool/atrium view
  • Meals provided, including buffet breakfast and dinners with entertainment (Jaba the Hut style entertainment?)
  • 1 day of Walt Disney World admission to Hollywood Studios
  • Live character chance encounters
  • Take part in a Star Wars story through personalized secret missions, flight training, starship exploration, and lightsaber training.

Please leave a comment to let us know what you think about a Star Wars LARP. Also, if you’ve taken the survey, please let me know if I’ve missed any important details.

Rookie mistake – canceled old reservation before making the new one

So tomorrow I leave for a conference in Indianapolis. A few days ago, my wife said it would be fun if she came with me and we brought the dogs. The stupid Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis, where the conference is (and where my reservations are) is not dog friendly. But there’s a La Quinta half a mile away and they are dog friendly.

So I cancel the Hyatt and go to book La Quinta. No availability, but you knew that from the post title. We decided it would be too much work to start searching for hotels very close to the conference hotel and that were dog friendly.

I call the Hyatt to uncancel – no can do even though fewer than 5 minutes have passed. How much to book a room? About 400 bucks. My conference rate was 150 so I’m going to feel this in my pocket book.

Luckily I was able to get another room at the conference rate, but it’s a room with a view so I have to pay 170/night. Not as good as 150/night but way better than 400/night.

Of course the worst part will be leaving my wife and furkids home but at least I learned my lesson. Make the new reservation before you cancel the old one. I knew that – just needed a reminder.

London Sets the Standard in Luxury Hotels

London is one of the most visited capitals in the world and for good reason. England as an Empire ruled almost half the world and so its capital London has a history that can equate to most of the world. Perhaps London’s history is as interesting as anywhere else. The city’s full history dating back to before even the Roman times, can be seen at the Museum of London. Then there is the Tower of London with its own 900 year history and which today, is the home to the British Monarchy’s Crown jewels. Add to that the legendary changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace which is still the primary home to the world’s longest ruling Monarch, the beautiful Trafalgar Square with its magnificent Nelson’s Column and you have plenty of reasons to visit. But where to stay for that visit is a question that many ask. Luckily, part of this city’s history includes setting the standard for luxury hotels. If it is luxury that you want whilst on your visit, you have wide range of choices to book five star hotels.

Perhaps of special note is The Ritz Hotel, whose name alone is often used to replace the word luxury and elegance. Located in Piccadilly it has one of the finest addresses in the city and it is ideally situated for visiting London’s Royal Parks or the famous Piccadilly Circus. Decorated in France’s Louis XV1 style throughout, this is a prime example of how London’s hotels have set the standard in luxury for the last 100 years. For at least 50 years a hotel that has always been attached to London when there is talk of luxury, is the Dorchester with its views over-looking Hyde Park. Located between the notable Hyde’s Park Corner and Marble Arch, this hotel is ideally situated for shopping at Harrods.

Of course though, these are not the only luxury hotels in London. Among the others is one noted in a personal travel blog, The Trafalgar Hilton. This luxury hotel with its pendulum lamps and walnut furniture offers luxury at its best. The Trafalgar Hilton also provides excellent views of the popular Trafalgar Square.

Yes, London is well worth a visit even without its history. A stay in one of these famous luxurious hotels is alone worth a journey. And for those that are not so keen on history, London also offers other attractions if you wish to pry yourself loose from your hotel’s luxurious elegance. Among these other attractions is the Coca Cola London Eye which offers visitors 32 capsules which can hold up to 25 people each. The Eye raises you above the city so you can see as many as 55 of London’s famous landmarks, including of course Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. Another London attraction, one which has recently been given a new look, is the legendary Wembley Stadium where, by taking a tour, you can learn of some of sports most famous moments.

Anyone still looking for a place to sleep in London this summer?

I thought I might write about London accommodations with the Olympics coming up. I hope that any of you lucky enough to be going to London this summer were smart enough to have accommodations taken care of way in advance but now is better than next month if you haven’t. And the rest of us will just have to live vicariously as you shop for a night’s sleep in London.

Hotels seem to start at $100 for pretty cheap options and $150 is more like a normal hotel in a normal area. I did manage to look at one alternative site before getting hopelessly distracted. That would be onefinestay.com rentals and their London page specifically. You could get a place like Aberdare Gardens – I picked it cause the name sounded nice – but it turns out you can’t get a place like that this summer because it’s already booked. The price after the Olympics is 671 GBP a night – not bad for what looks like a 7 bedroom mansion to me.

I was thinking I might keep trying elsewhere in London but I have a story to tell and some chores to finish soon.

The story I’m reminded of is my own quest for affordable accommodations in London for New Year’s not so long ago. I don’t think I ever got around to writing my story about the illegal Korean B&B we stayed at.

My wife, who is Korean, found the place online. I was very happy that she took care of everything and it seemed alright in terms of price – we paid in Korean won if I remember correctly but it might have come to about 60 GBP per night. And that included breakfast and dinner. It was nothing gourmet, typical Korean fare including rice and side dishes.

So we arrive in London and start looking for the place. We can’t find it anywhere. We’re walking on some residential street and there’s no hotel or any business sign of any kind. We give them a call and learn there is no sign – it’s just someone’s house. Obviously they don’t want to pay the UK’s high taxes. My wife said something about their website asking you to be vague on your immigration card or something. That explained that.

In the first place, the woman who did the cooking and cleaning was Chinese. My wife complained about her cooking and we ended up eating our meals in the other house the same people owned. Here, the cook was an old Korean woman. It seemed she fell madly in love with me, which meant we ate pretty well.

I’m not sure what else there is to tell with this story but a big part of our trip was eating our meals with the old Korean woman chatting with us about what a handsome white devil I am.

Edit – a couple places available during the August Olympics (for the moment anyway):

King Street rental – from 287£ per night

Grafton Square rental – from 147£ per night

Related entries:

Atonement movie tourism

London is expensive

Keith Moon can’t make it to the Olympics.

Sequestered: 3 nights locked in a hotel

I was planning to write a big long article about my last 4 days but now that i sit down to write I realize there’s not that much to say. That shouldn’t surprise me since there wasn’t much to do.

On Thursday morning I reported to the Seoul Holiday Inn where I was escorted via the service elevator to the 8th floor. My university had rented the entire floor, blocked the regular elevators, blocked the stairs, and blocked the service elevator. The service elevator could be unlocked by the guy who had the key to the padlock. That was the only way people got in or out. The only people who came in or out were the room service people.

So from Thursday morning to Sunday afternoon, I lived on the 8th floor of the hotel with 10 other professors (all male), and 3 other guys (support staff). No phone, although one support staff guy was allowed to talk to the room service people. No internet. Basically no contact with the outside world while we worked on our university’s entrance exam.

It’s pretty weird having no phone, no internet, and nothing to do. I mean sometimes you get that no phone, no internet when you travel but at least you’re traveling so you can see something new. The 8th floor of the Holiday Inn is pretty boring.

So every meal was room service and the food was good. We did have TV but I don’t really like TV. I got a lot of reading done (should have a book review for you tomorrow) and corrected a bunch of papers (students should expect more detailed comments than usual).

And that’s about it. If there’s anything I’m not mentioning that you’d like to know, feel free to ask. But to summarize, I spent the last four days working, reading, and being bored. But I made some extra money so maybe it’ll help me travel somewhere this winter.

What I’ll be dreaming / planning the next four days

The next four days I’ll be working on a test that’s so top secret we’ll all be sequestered in a hotel with no access to the outside world. So no internet and no blogging. So when I’m not blogging here, I’m scheming, trying to think up new vacation possibilities.

This winter, I might try to go somewhere not too long a flight from Seoul, possibly Borneo (4.5 hours according to one of my students). But long time readers of this blog will know that Italy is always a possibility.

It won’t make sense if I go a lone, but if I manage to put a group of friends together I’ve always wanted to rent a villa. It’s just a travel thing I haven’t done yet. I’ve camped, stayed in lots of hotels, some hostels, B&Bs, people’s homes, even my car. Never a luxury villa though.

So where in Italy have I blogged about but not visited yet? Well, a few places but Tuscany stands out. I mean I was in Florence for one day but that hardly counts. So where do you go in Tuscany? There’s Siena for starters. And where to stay? Well if I get that group together, a Tuscany villa would be good.

And while I remember writing about villas in Tuscany before, earlier this year even, I don’t remember such a huge price disparity. How about a Tuscany villa with pool? Many of these seem to overlook the coast, but there are some farmhouses in there as well. Monte Argentario and Porto Ercole seem to be popular locations and prices seem to be $350 – $5,000 / day.

A lot of villas look pretty secluded and while some seclusion is good, there is something to be said for being part of the town you’re staying in – I guess you have to find the right town first and then the right location within that town. And hope it’s not one of the $5,000 per day villas.

Bridgettine sisters guest houses: worldwide list

I happened to find a guest house in Turku that’s not mentioned on hotels.com or any of the other sites. It’s run by the Bridgettine Catholic nuns and apparently hospitality is part of their tradition so it makes sense for them to run little hotels here and there. I assume by cutting out the hotels.com sites and getting their own sisters to do most of the work, they can offer lower prices than most other hotels.

I thought it would be nice to compile a list of guest houses run by the Bridgettine sisters since I couldn’t find one online. Of course, that means this is a work in progress since I can’t find a list already made…

Birmingham, England

Darien, Connecticut, USA

Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England

Hollywell, Wales

Jerusalem, Israel

Tallinn, Estonia

Turku, Finland

There may be more and some of the ones listed here must have web sites and things but it’s real tough to track down the information – you’d think the sisters would like having it all in one place, especially because there are other places called Bridgettine Guest House or something similar that do not seem to be run by the sisters.

Add dignity to you or stay in a love motel?

So my sister was getting a hotel room in Jinju for her upcoming visit. I recommended a love motel. She opted for the Dongbang hotel – pretty much the only “tourist hotel” in Jinju. She found a very special room on their website with some great copy:

The luxurious interior design of the Junior Suite will add dignity to you.

If you don’t care about dignity, staying in a love motel can be a unique experience and a good value. Normally love motels do business an hour or two at a time (or so I hear) but many are willing to let you stay the night if you negotiate a price. It’s a slightly different experience than normal hotels – you’ve got your condom machine and your dirty movie collection, you might do business through a little window at waist level so you never see the front desk person’s face, the hallways tend to be dark, and so on.

But in Jinju you get a much nicer room for a much lower price. For example when my parents came to visit they stayed in a love motel that we picked out for them (named Versace as I recall). The room was nicer than what you get at the Dongbang hotel and half the price. The bed was much fancier – I don’t remember exactly but different themes are not uncommon (heart-shaped beds, decorations on the ceiling above the bed, etc.). There’s a TV with DVD/VCR (though I think the love motel’s supply of non-dirty movies is pretty limited), a computer with internet access, and a much fancier shower / bath (this place had some sort of cool-looking massage shower head deal – much better than any other shower I’ve seen).

There is one major drawback besides the weird atmosphere. There is no staff in the traditional hotel sense. They still have someone clean the room and give you towels or whatever but probably no one will speak English. My parents just called us whenever they had a question because they couldn’t communicate with the hotel people (person?). Maybe my wife checked up to make sure the love motel was giving them fresh towels or whatever – I don’t remember. But I guess that’s the trade off – you give up some convenience and some atmosphere to save money and get a nicer room.

So imagine you were coming to Jinju. Would you want a room in the Dongbang tourist hotel or would you prefer the love motel (assuming you had someone to set it up for you)?

Personally, I am pretty cheap and am usually willing to spend less. Or maybe I’m just looking for maximum value and spending more for a room that’s not as nice just seems wrong to me. The atmosphere thing is a non-issue for me. Not that I want to live in a love motel but for a few days? Just another travel experience. In fact when my wife and I were living in Jinju and visiting Seoul back in 2001 we stayed in a love motel in Seoul. It was nice and we could afford it. I remember they had rooms with different themes like a space scene above the bed and stuff like that. I thought it was kind of cool – like staying there was an authentic travel experience.

Hanalei Bay Resort: pictures of Kauai birds

Now begins the review of Hanalei Bay Resort, where my wife had a condotel room when she visited Hawaii in March. One of the things my wife loved about Kauai was that she didn’t see any pigeons. All the birds were pretty. Here I have 3 pictures from her first morning at Hanalei Bay. The colorful little guys wanted to watch her eat breakfast on the lanai (balcony).

Interview with Mary Beth Malone, Elysian hotel Partner

I recently got an email regarding a new hotel in Chicago:

The Elysian’s architecture and design is inspired by Coco Chanel and Christian Dior to emulate the era of timeless glamour reminiscent of the grand hotels of Paris in the 1920’s. The Spa & Health Club is situated above the hotel’s open-air courtyard and it features a mosaic-tiled lap pool, intimate relaxation areas, men’s atelier, beauty consultant, a fitness facility with a Pilates studio and the only Gyrotonics studio in the Gold Coast. In addition to its divine spa and a host of luxurious amenities, the hotel holds two exquisite restaurants and a bar; all inspired by CHANEL and Dior.

I was able to ask a few questions based on what I read on the Elysian Hotels website. Mary Beth Malone, a Partner of the hotel, was kind enough to answer them for us.

Q. How many hotels are there and are more being planned?

A. Our flagship property opened late last year in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood and we intend to expand the brand to gateway cities and resort destinations worldwide. We are currently in discussion about several potential locations.

Q. Regarding the “About” page on the Elysian Hotel’s website was there a specific experience that prompted you to “revive that bygone era where travel was an indulgence”?

A. We set out to create an experience for residents and guests that would establish new benchmarks for service. With a smaller number of rooms, we are able to deliver a more personalized level of service, the kind of service that people enjoyed in days past when travel was considered pleasurable. It’s our goal to bring that feeling back. Though our rooms feature the latest in technology, such as televisions in the bathroom mirrors, the rooms are large and luxurious, more like the graciously-sized accommodations one found in older hotels. All elements of the property including architecture and interior design, restaurants, spa, and guest services were brought together with the singular vision of offering an elegant yet unpretentious experience for our guests.

Q. I’m guessing that the gym does not try to emulate the good old days. In what other ways does the hotel embrace modernity instead of trying to recreate an old-fashioned experience?

A. We looked at technology as a way of providing an enhanced guest experience, improving ease of communication and accelerating the ability to respond to guests’ needs. Features at the property include:

  • Intelligent energy control systems, which detects motion and adjusts lighting, heating and cooling levels according to guestroom activity
  • Electronic Do Not Disturb and Make-up Room buttons eliminate the need for door tags and interruptions from the housekeeping staff
  • Bowers and Wilkins virtual surround system with iPod integration
  • Electronically controlled fireplaces
  • Electronic key cards for remote keyless guestroom door entry

Q. The trend for hotels today is to charge for as many extras as they can. Does the Elysian have $4 bottles of water in the mini-bar, significant extra charges for pets, $30 breakfast buffets and so on?

A. At the Elysian, we strive to provide the ultimate luxury experience for our guests. With that said, we do not charge for pets nor do we have a breakfast buffet. In addition, gratuities are not welcome at the property. We also provide an array of amenities you would come to find at a luxury property including:

  • Complimentary national calling
  • Complimentary wireless Internet
  • Complimentary access to the Elysian Spa & Health Club featuring a mosaic-tiled lap pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and fitness equipment
  • International channeling
  • Dry cleaning and laundry services
  • Valet and car service
  • 24-hour doorman, concierge and security

Q. What would you say to people who suggest the least expensive hotel possible because “it’s just a place to sleep and you should spend your vacation out seeing the sights anyway”?

A. We believe that a hotel stay should be a delightful experience, adding to the enjoyment of travel. With the finest amenities at their fingertips, guests can truly relax and feel indulged. Our goal, through gracious, refined service and luxurious accommodations, is to provide much more than a place to sleep. Guests value, and are willing to pay for, experiences that are remarkable.