Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Makes For A Great Hotel?

I know this is a rather strange subject, but I want to chat about hotels. Specifically, what makes for a good hotel.

Tonight, we are staying in a mid-priced hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami. One of those ones considered hip by the cool crowd. If you're into hip things. (Which we really aren't. In fact, we feel very old for this crowd.) We got it for the un-Miami-like price of $60/night through Priceline. (Love that Priceline site!) In the past five hours, I've heard two guests vomit outside our door, inhaled the 'substance' of 10 black guys smoking something dubious by the pool (I entered the water shivering and came out doing moves like Bob Marley), drank a cocktail the size of a '66 Mustang, searched for a bathrobe in the room (obviously not available in $60/night hotels), searched for the air conditioning controls (see comments in bathrobe brackets) and listened to the sounds of some mighty savage rap music blaring out the lobby. ("I want to break your back baby, yeah, let's do it together in your mother's bed, yeah!")

It is now 1am in Miami. And I'm wide awake. (Possibly from all the weed. And the rap music.) I'm also wondering if I should have paid more money for our room?

Wind back to three nights ago. We were staying at the new Nomad hotel in New York. It was $500/night.  That included the New York hotel taxes and a $100 dinner. Was there rap music? No. Were there Marley-esque men smoking dubious things by the pool? No. Were there people vomiting all over the hall? No. Did we get some sleep? Definitely.

So I'm wondering, does price of a hotel room dictate the quality of your stay? My mother would argue no. She somehow finds great hotels for $50/night – AND they come with bathrobes, free tea-making facilities, air conditioning and comfy beds. But I would argue yes.

Miami can keep the marijuana. I'll take a good night's sleep any day.

Next post: The Perfection of The New Nomad.


  1. Dear Janelle

    So sorry to hear about your awful hotel experience in Miami - it's get out of their fast I imagine! We always research places on Trip Advisor and consider comments very thoroughly. Have found some great hotels that way and have never yet had a really bad experience. Of course, even so hotels we've chosen vary enormously in what they offer and their own particular ambience and magic. Our hotel in Antibes was well located, just across the road from the Mediterranean. We had happy breakfasts on the cafe terrace every morning looking across to the sun sparking on the water. It's a fairly new beach hotel so has no olde world ambience but room was quiet, large and comfortable. However we experienced an amazing number of problems (though nothing of the Miami kind). The wifi for rooms server (or whatever) had burned out some days before and they hadn't been able to fix it. Journalists there for the Cannes Film Festival and sending interviews home had to sit in the hotel lobby to access wifi (we were there too but just doing our normal thing of emailing family and friends and reading blogs). The next day we decided to use the hotel's laundry facilities for guests. The washing machine broke down with my clothes still inside it. The staff came and managed to get the machine open but advised the clothes would have to be sent to a professional laundry. We'd get them back in 24 hours or so. The next morning the in-room safe seized up with all our valuables inside it. They had to drill a hole in the door to open it and then replace the whold front unit. Then the toilet seat broke. It was kind of like, what will go wrong next! But all through it the young staff were so enthusiastic and helpful and genuinely nice and apologetic. To make up for all the minor catastrophes they decided we should have all our breakfasts for free and didn't of course charge for professional laundering (and ironing of my clothes). They were so helpful and good that despite the things going wrong, we would stay there again.

    Other hotels have varied from beautiful, charming and olde worlde dignity (Kaiserin Elisabeth in Vienna - bath robes and all) to switched on modern and young and economical - Art Hotel Hotel Bohem in Budapest with great buffet breskfast compris, fabulous variety from smoked salmon and German champagne to cheeses, eggs, salads, wonderful rye and other dark breads, pastries and coffee - and modern art works everywhere. We've just had our first evening at the Hotel Cezanne in Aix en Provence and are looking to a breakfast which includes omelettes with truffles, cavaillon melons and other wonderful local fruits and delicacies.
    We're then off for a day trip to Cassis, the Calanques and Marseilles.

    Hope your next hotels are better! And more conducive to romance!

    Best wishes

  2. Nothing strange about chatting about hotels! Does the price reflect the quality - provokes a response similar to something Jim of Vicar of Dibley would give - No, No, No, - yes.
    I am with your mother, you can find economical hotels that really give value for dollar but it does take a bit of research.
    You are more likely to get a better quality place if you pay a bit more, but again it does not guarantee it!
    Recently, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on Trip Advisor researching accommodation in Italy (looking at apartments mostly), so after my upcoming trip, I think I will have the definitive answer.

  3. I think it definitely depends on the location of the hotel, bargains in both a cheap and expensive hotel will be relative to this. I absolutely loath a cheap hotel now (by cheap, I mean a hotel that has a horrible bed, tired decor, no service and that is not necessarily reflected in the price). Research is definitely key. And as my trips away are usually lightning speed in their length, I tend to spend more on a carefully researched and better hotel and the overall experience as I'm there for a short time. This is the complete opposite of my parents, who like a cheaper hotel as "you're only there to sleep" (and I have such fond memories of family trips through the US in the 80's with museli bars from the suitcase for breakfast - a cost cutting measure of theirs). I also remember travelling through Vietnam 8 years ago with my husband and we stayed in 5 star hotels, which cost $100-120/ night (including breakfast). The three star hotels cost $75 - and there was a big difference in the quality of the rooms between the two. I hope your hotels improve from here on - the Miami one sounds pretty awful!!

  4. Perhaps there is a happy medium!!!!!!! xx

  5. Miami is super expensive and what you're paying is impossibly cheap! So I guess, yeah, you get what you pay for. The decent hotels there are around $400-500 a night so I'm wondering where you're staying. Next time check out some hotels on the bay, they can be really nice and a bit less expensive! Have a great night and enjoy Miami cuz it's awesome!

  6. Dear Janelle

    After 5 days at the Hotel Cezanne in Aix-en-Provence, I'd like to add that great breakfasts help to make a hotel memorable. The best feature of the Hotel Cezanne is its fabulous breakfast prepared by the wonderful chef, Christiane. In addition to the usual hotel buffet of high quality fruits, cereal, eggs and bacon, juices etc, Christiane comes to your table to ask if she can make you something special. Something special might be a truffle omlette, or one made with chevre and local honey, or lemon and orange pancakes, or pain perdu with orange flower essence, all of course available with glasses of Ruinard champagne. In addition there are wonderful local cheeses and ham, breads, pastries etc. If you're staying at the Cezanne, leave the diet at home for the duration and sample this wonderful food, served with care and warmth. Another nice feature of the Cezanne is the way they always have wonderful bowls of fresh local fruit in season scattered around on coffee tales in the lobby and lounges, this week it was luscious cherries. In the countryside in the Luberon the fields are filled with cherry trees, drooping under the weight of a magnificent cherry harvest. The lavender fields are already beginning to show some colour because the weather has been so hot - and the wild red poppies are blooming everywhere, in the fields and even by the roadsides.

    Have fun in Key West! Wouldn't dare try the cocktail!
    Best wishes, Pamela

  7. Dear Janelle

    Latest instalment on what makes a hotel great. We're now in St Remy de Provence staying at the little Hotel Sous les Figuiers. This is not a luxury hotel, it's very small and the rooms are in a way like cabins, though bigger and with their own bathrooms and very comfortable beds and decorated with things that look as though they might have come from the brocantes at Isle sur la Sorgue, though chosen by an artist rather than a decorator/stylist. But it's not a place for bathrobes or luxury toiletries or even television (have to admit husband misses CNN or BBC business News - but I don't). What makes it great is that almost every room has a fairly private deck-terrace, each with a couple of deck chairs and a table and chairs for two opening onto the beautiful courtyard garden, under the fig trees. It's so lovely sitting out with the laptop (there is wifi) looking out into the greenery and flowers. There are climbing roses in full flower and there is the scent of star jasmine wafting on the breeze that blows over the wall into this lovely garden. As evening draws on there are the sounds of the birds singing and also the music of the fountain. It's so peaceful and very beautiful. I don't mind not having the bathrobes or the toiletries - I just love the garden. The staff are helpful and relaxed and friendly. We take breakfast in another smaller garden courtyard. Givenchy is never worn here. Many of the guests are French - and are very relaxed and casual. Some are American. Everone seems to love it.

    For this trip, it's our last hotel in Europe, from here we move to an apartment in Paris which will have almost all the business channels so husband will no longer have to suffer withdrawal symptoms. He's taken to haunting newsagents/bookshops looking for English language business news, and of course is also glued in the evenings to his i-pad.

    Take no new posts as evidence you're having a wonderful busy time. Best wishes



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