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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ocean Lodge Hotel, Santa Monica, CA

While on vacation, my husband and I wanted to stay as close to the Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Prominade as possible, but we wouldn't pay the exorbitant $500/night prices most places were charging the first week of June.

Ocean Lodge was the cheapest we could find at $199/night. I am a hotel snob, so I prepared myself for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised. Of course this is no Ritz Carlton, but if you want a place to stay near the Santa Monica Pier (that is clean), without breaking your budget, this is a great place. The Location is Awesome!

1667 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Bayhill Inn, San Francisco, CA

We had an early flight out of San Francisco, and needed a cheap place near the airport to stay the night before. This place was closeby, cheap, and not scary looking. The lady that runs it is very nice.

Olallieberry Inn, Cambria, CA

The website for this pretty and relaxing Bed & Breakfast allows you to see a picture of each room so you can choose where you want to stay. We stayed in the Angel's Nook room and really liked it.

The fireplace is a great amenity! It warmed the room really well. Even though we went in June, it was really chilly at night and we needed a jacket and long pants.

The bed was comfortable, too. The wine and hors d'oerves were alright. The breakfast the next morning was really good, but my husband said it didn't fill him up.

This is a very peaceful and relaxing place. I enjoyed sitting outside in the garden and reading. This is a great place to stay for one night.

Sheraton Dallas Hotel, Dallas, TX

I stayed in a suite in the South Tower (which is supposed to be the refurbished rooms - 3 years old). The suite was beautiful. It was very comfortable and had great amenties. Free bottled water, a loofah, and even a bathroom scale!

However, when I went to take a shower, the water wasn't hot. It wasn't even very warm. I called guest services and they said it was normal, especially because I was on the 20th floor. (The higher up you are, the more likely you won't have hot water.) They offered that I could change my room, but I was in a beautiful suite and didn't want to move rooms.

Then she told me to just let the water run until it turned hot. I let it run a full 15 - 20 minutes, which is expensive and wasteful. After 15 - 20 minutes, it was a good temperature. But it is pointless to stay in a suite and not have hot water!

I didn't like the food in the restaurant either. Not only was it extremely overpriced ($6 for a cup of soup), but the food wasn't anything special. When it was the Adam's Mark (before April 2008), they had an awesome restaurant on the top floor. Now, that's gone and the only restaurant is the mediocre one in the lobby.

On a positive note - the staff is wonderful and they offer free postcards with postage if you send them from the hotel's front desk.

I would recommend this hotel if you can get a good price, or if you need the great location.

Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, Las Vegas, NV

AMAZING room. I had just the basic, run of the mill room and it was AMAZING. I am a white girl who normally doesn't use this phrase, but my room was "off the hook"! There was a remote control to move the window coverings. The bathtub was perfect, and they give you bath salts upon request! They even will bring you a humidifier at no extra charge! (Although mine didn't really work very well, but still it was better than most hotels who don't have humidifiers at all!)

The restaurants are so good, although be prepared to pay A LOT for the food. about $6 - 10 for breakfast. $15 - 20 for lunch and definitely $35 and up for dinner. I loved the restaurant at the Spa. It was very healthy and not too overpriced.

The pools are beautiful and free. However it costs $35 per day to use the health club to work out. But the room TVs have DVD players, so bring your own work out DVD to have in your sleeping room.

My biggest complaint was the cigarette smoke. People can smoke in the casinos, and even though I stayed in a non-smoking room, cigarette smoke wafted through the vents. If I was pregnant, I couldn't have stayed at the hotel at all.

All in all, the hotel was fabulous and beautiful.

Carlisle Inn, Walnut Creek (Amish Country), OH

I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. This is definitely the place to stay in Amish Country. I won't stay anywhere else now, and am looking forward to coming back for when I need to "get away from it all." The views are great and I loved sitting out on the balcony and just gazing at the landscape.

Liked — sitting on the balcony with the beautiful views
Disliked — the free choc chip cookies could have been better

Super 8 Sapulpa/Tulsa, OK

If you are driving through Tulsa, Oklahoma, this is a great place to stay if you are just stopping for the night and don't want to spend a lot of money, but also don't want to stay in a dump. I am a hotel snob, and while I wouldn't vacation here, I definitely would stay here again to save money on a road trip.

Marriott Orlando World Center Resort & Convention Center, Orlando, FL

I had a similar problem/situation at both the Marriott World Center and Las Vegas' Venetian. It was handled in two totally different ways. In both hotels, the person staying in the room next to me was smoking and it (the smoke/fumes) came over to my room. At the Venetian, I called and they said there was absolutely nothing they could do. and that was that. Even though it was a non-smoking floor, "people are going to do what they want." My clothes, and belongings, smelled like cigarette smoke all week. At the Marriott, I called and they understood and were concerned. She immediately offered several suggestions. (Perhaps it's coming through an open balcony door? Would you like air freshener? etc.) When I told her it was concentrated in the tub/toilet room, so the neighbor must be smoking in the bathroom, she said, "I'll call security immediately." One to two hours later, the smell was completely gone!

I also wanted to point out that the convention food here is unbelievable!!! The restaurant food was average, but the buffets they put out for large groups in the convention halls were phenomenal! I was so impressed I asked for the recipes for two of the side dishes and the chef gave them to me! I particularly enjoyed the pesto tortilloni and the scalloped sweet potatoes ! Amazing!

Miyako Japanese Steak & Sushi, Montgomery, AL

The food was excellent. It was pricier than we expected, but once we tasted the food, we understood. Get the filet mignon - it was so good! Worth the price!

Cena Brazilian Mediterranean, Centerville/Miamisburg, Ohio

My husband and I tried this restaurant during "Restaurant Week" meaning we paid half price. The meal wasn't even worth the discounted price! I can't imagine paying full price.

First, the salad bar was mediocre to poor. For the price, it needs to be higher quality. The selection was average and the quality was below average.The meat was awful. I only had a bite or two of the 5 meats they brought out. They were tough and dry and just plain unappetizing.

To its credit, the ambiance was nice. If the food were good, it would be a romantic place to go, however, I don't advise going.

All in all, I don't think this place is going to make it. For the prices, they need to drastically improve the quality. But to do that, it would probably diminish their profit margin.

Greek Isle Deli, Fairborn, OH

I was pleasantly surprised with this reasonably priced, good tasting Greek deli/restaurant when I tried it today for the first time. They have a good assortment of the traditional Greek foods I love: grape leaves, hummus, falafels, tabouli (sp?), and gyros. I tried their spinach and feta pie for the first time and it was wonderful!

It is very well priced, too. So many Greek restaurants are over-priced, but not this one. This place is definitely worth trying.

Quizno's in Fairborn, OH

This is one of the worst managed/run Quizno's I have been to.

I have been here probably 10 - 15 times in the last 6 months and every time I go, there is only one person working because a) no one else was scheduled or b) the other employees didn't show up. It seems as though whoever actually shows up for work has to make up for those who skip out on work. The reason I know this is because the person working seems so tired and worn out, so I ask where the other employees are and they tell me the answers above.

The employees that actually show up are really nice and friendly as people, but you can tell they don't care about this job at all. I probably wouldn't either! Quizno's needs to find a different manager and/or owner before this one restaurant gives the rest of the chain a bad name.

Abuelo's in Beavercreek, Ohio

We eat here about once a week. There is something for every kind of budget and I haven't had anything I didn't like.

When I want to splurge, I order the Enchiladas de Cozumel - about $15 and absolutely amazing. For about $8 they have the enchilda plate and I get 2 enchiladas (Beef and avocado) with rice and beans. We primarily like to go at Happy Hour (M-F 4 - 6p.m.) because tacos are $1, and fajita tacos are $1.50. We can eat a full meal for less than $10 for the both of us.

Additionally, this was voted best Mexican Restaurant by Consumer Reports.

Chili's Restaurant in Beavercreek, Ohio

This was just ok. It is your average Chili's. I have eaten at pretty much every Chili's in the country and this ranked right in the middle -- not the best, not the worst. The service was worse than most Chili's, though.

Max & Erma's in Beavercreek, Ohio

The food was good, the service was good, but not worth the price. If someone else is paying, by all means -- go to Max & Erma's, you'll enjoy your meal. But when I am paying, I prefer to go to a hamburger place that is not as expensive.

Marina's on the Square, Murphreesboro, TN

We first learned of this restaurant on Trip Advisor and it was a great recommendation! The food was excellent. The Ambiance was nice -- just off the historic courthouse square. The prices were reasonable, and our waitress was great.The caesar salad was one of the best caesar salads I've ever had. The bread that comes before your meal was so fresh and soft. We ordered the artichoke/spinach dip as an appetizer and it was good as well! I ordered the lasgna for my entree and it was very good, but I couldn't finish it because of the salad, bread, and appetizer.

Comfort Suites Murfreesboro, TN

Nice Hotel for Less --

My husband likes to stay in the cheapest hotel possible; I like a 5-star luxury hotel. This particular Comfort Suites was a great compromise. The room was spacious, clean, decorated nicely and had a very comfortable king size bed. It included a refrigerator and microwave. The rate was reasonable and even included a hot breakfast. The only downside was that the shower wasn't the best, but that can vary by room.

Marriott Horseshoe Bay Resort in Horseshoe Bay, Texas

Tucked away in Texas' Hill Country, this Marriott Resort is a wonderful retreat if you are within driving distance. It was well worth the 4 hour scenic drive, but I don't think it would be worth spending the money on airfare if you have to fly in.

While this property is not new, Marriott does a good job keeping it up to date. The lobby is very attractive with a nice gas fireplace, free wireless internet, and nice comfy chairs. The bellmen, front desk staff, and all other staff I encountered were very friendly, professional, and went out of their way to ensure a pleasant stay.

The food was fabulous! I had read some reviews saying the food wasn't very good, so I was worried, but it was wonderful! I hate spending the high prices hotels charge on mediocre food, but while the prices were high (it's a Marriott resort after all), the food was worth it. The service was also very good. The manager of the main restaurant (Lantana Grill), James, went above and beyond to ensure satisfaction. I especially enjoyed the tortilla soup and fresh salads.

The Spa was the best part of the whole experience. Getting a massage is my guilty pleasure, but I usually pay $50 for 60 minutes. Here, they are $144 for 50 minutes (including tip), so I really debated whether to get one or not. For the price of 1 here, I could have 3 massages back home! Well, I gave in --- and it was WORTH IT!!!!!!! I can not tell you how much I enjoyed the spa and massage. I spent the whole day at the spa: working out (loved the fitness center), swiming in the gorgeous resistence pool, and relaxing in the hot tub and then the sauna. I then changed into my robe and slippers and waited in the outdoor relaxation lounge for the massage, which was worth every penny of $144. Afterwards, she gave me a hot compress for my neck and I lounged in the indoor relaxation lounge while enjoying the complementary citrus water and honey granola. At the end of the day, I was able to take a shower and get ready because all the necessary shampoo, etc. were available in the locker room. LOVED the Spa!!!

I also enjoyed just walking around the grounds and sitting out by the hotel pool and on the man-made beach by the lake. They really kept everything nice for as old as the property is.

OK, so the downsides to this Texas Oasis:

1 -- the bed was AWFUL!!!!!!!!!! I stayed 3 nights and checked out early because I couldn't handle sleeping in that bed one more night. After the first night, I called the front desk and they sent someone up to flip the mattress for me. It helped, but it was still pretty bad.

2 -- The pina coladas were $9! I know, I know - I've already mentioned how I expected the prices to be high at a resort. But $9 for a poolside Pina Colada!?!?

3 -- The guests in the room next to me brought small little dogs who barked in that annoying, high pitched yelp all day and also activated my allergies. I called the front desk and asked if pets were allowed. She said no, that the dogs were service dogs. I explained they were affecting my allergies and the barking was constant. She said she would move me to a different room, or move them. Well, apparently neither of us ended up being moved (although I don't know why). And, I don't mean any disrespect, but when I finally saw the guests staying next door with the "service" dogs, they didn't look like they needed service dogs. So I guess the moral of this story is perhaps you can bring your furry friends along!

All in all, I had a pleasant 3 days here. If you are within driving distance, I would definitely check this place out!

Bob Evans in Fairborn, Ohio

I have not been to a Bob Evans in years. I usually prefer IHOP and Waffle House if I'm going to eat in a chain breakfast restaurant. So when I went to Bob Evans today, my expectations were low. However, the food was excellent!

Here's a run-down on what I ordered:Eggs over medium hard - Usually (even at my favorite breakfast restaurants) the eggs are too runny or too hard when I order medium hard. Today, they were perfect. Home Fries - I don't like home fries, but they came with my meal and were really good!Bacon - again, I usually don't eat pork, but they came with my meal and were also pretty good.

Blueberry crepe -- This was the best part! It was amazing!!!!

I was pleasantly surprised by how good (and reasonably priced) this Bob Evans was!

Parc 55 Hotel, San Francisco

If you can stay for less than $100/night, then this hotel is fine. There's nothing disgusting or unsafe about. However, if you are looking for a nice place to stay for $100 or more per night, I would choose somewhere else.

First, on Tuesday night around 9 p.m., I called for a wake up call and no one answered. I hung up and kept calling back every 15 minutes with the same results. After an hour of trying, I called every number I could find -- front desk, conceirge, housekeeping, room service, etc. and NO ONE answered the phone. This was very frustrating. (However, I was able to place a wake up call request on the other nights of my stay) Second, I wouldn't rely solely on the wake-up call. It wouldn't ever be right at the specified time.

Third, the street noise was extremely loud. I heard sirens and construction noise all day and night the entire week. As I was checking out, a colleague told me there are floor vents that are left open, but if you close them, it quiets the noise significantly. I wish I had been told I could close those vents (or if those vents had been closed in the first place.)

In conclusion, this hotel is fine, but I'd stay somewhere else with all the great hotels San Francisco offers!

Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach & Villa Resort

Mediocre food, awful drinks, and terrible service

My husband and I booked this trip for our honeymoon. I attended a Sandals night presentation, and we both researched the resorts and islands to find the best resort to fit our needs. Sandals did not meet our expectations, especially for the amount of money we spent.

Our first area of disappointment was with the food. We were told Sandals had gourmet food. Not only was the food not gourmet, it was not even very good. One night, I ordered chocolate ice cream, and it was freezer-burned. The lobster was rubbery and overly chewy. Every meal was a disappointment, especially the food at the Arizona restaurant. We even ventured over to Dunn’s River Resort. While the food was noticeably better than the food at Grande Ocho Rios, it still was not good enough to be classified as “gourmet.” The hummus was dry and not characteristic of good hummus. I ordered an appetizer that was described as having caviar on top. When the appetizer arrived, there was not any caviar. I asked the waitress and she said, “Oh, that black stuff?” and finally brought out some caviar for the caviar appetizer.

When we made reservations for the “Gourmet” Japanese Restaurant over at Dunn’s River Resort, we thought, “Ok, maybe now we’ll get good food.” It was as big of a disappointment as all the other restaurants, maybe even more because it was known as the “good” restaurant. The quality was very poor (and they were out of beef).

Not only was the food disappointing, but also it was a hassle to get into the restaurants. We had to wait, on average, 45 minutes to get into a restaurant. This was frustrating because we did not want to spend our vacation waiting around to get into a restaurant when we were hungry. Reservations were not accepted, so we started arriving at the restaurants right when they opened, which was hours earlier than we wanted to eat. Thank goodness we were not one of the ones who waited 1-2 hours for Arizona, which was one the worst restaurants there.

Once we finally got into the restaurant and were seated, we had to wait forever for our food to be served. Now, I completely understand the concept of a long, leisurely meal. Spacing out your courses adds to the ambiance – but this was ridiculous! For example, one morning we went to have breakfast at Orchids. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. and told the waiter we had to leave at 9:55 for snorkeling. He looked at us with incredulity and told us it could not be done! We explained that we already knew exactly what we wanted to order. We looked around the restaurant and saw only 2 other couples already eating. With much hesitation, he finally sat us and served us breakfast. Even though we ordered immediately and there weren’t any other couples present to place an order, it took the full 55 minutes for him to serve us and us to quickly eat – And that was the with the waiter in fast motion! This is just one example of how long it took for us to enjoy a meal. Most meals took 2-3 hours! It became ridiculous.

Whereas the food quality was poor, the service was even worse. While at the Japanese restaurant at Dunn’s River Resort, a waiter clearing my salad plate spilled the plate’s remaining salad dressing all over me. I am a reasonable person and can understand that every once a while, a waiter spills things. If he had apologized and offered to get a wet cloth so I could wipe it off my body and dress, I would be fine and there would be no problem. However, when he spilled the dressing on me, he just looked at me and shrugged with the common “No problem, Mon” attitude. While this “No Problem” attitude was fun every once in a while, it seemed to become a crutch for the workers. Instead of working hard and making our stay pleasant and enjoyable, they just shrugged their shoulders with an air of “no problem, Mon.”

Here is another example: While at breakfast one morning, my husband ordered orange juice. The waiter grinned and said, “No problem!” I then looked at the menu and chose hot chocolate. The waiter just stared at me as if I were a moron. “No.” I answered with, “no?” He replied, “We don’t have hot chocolate,” as though I was suppose to know it. What happened to service? What happened to “I’m sorry ma’am; we are currently out of hot chocolate.”

Not only was the ice machine at the pool restaurant (up by the Manor pool) consistently out of ice, but also the Manor House restaurant workers would not open on time for breakfast. Also, many of the restaurants closed too early for breakfast and dinner and opened too late for lunch. These are just a few of the many situations we encountered poor service.

Just as the food was not found to be “gourmet,” the drinks were not “premium” as advertised. The only beer available was Red Stripe. The only rum was Appleton. They were out of the ingredients for Mojitos the entire week. Kahlua was not even available, nor was Crown whiskey. When we traveled over to the Dunn’s River Resort, we tried a Jamaican Sunrise (½ pina colada, ½ strawberry daiquiri) and liked it! When we went back over to our resort, I asked for it and they refused to make it. I said, “it’s just a mixture of those two mixes right there” (and pointed to the machines). They said “no” and would not even try to accommodate my request.

This was not the only difference between the two resorts. Dunn’s River Resort had pool floats and we had none. I asked one of the workers and he said that if I wanted one, I would have to buy one in the resort store. This was not an ALL-inclusive resort!

Another thing that was not included was the fee for Casino night – which was highly over-rated. We were excited about this evening activity – until we arrived at the door and they informed us it was $20 per person to play. This was not included in the ALL-inclusive resort. We ended up paying $20 for my husband to play and we were both disappointed with the event. This could have been an opportunity to have a really cool Casino Night – but it was not organized well at all, especially not for the $20 we spent. We realized it was for charity, but you should not have charged a fee at an all-inclusive resort. If you wanted to give money to charity, then set up buckets for donations, not charge for the evening activity.

There were various other things that contributed to our disappointment with Sandals. The water pressure in our room was weak. Housekeeping would turn off our air conditioner during the day, so it was hot and humid when we came back to our room. Housekeeping did not change the bed linens. We did not receive a washcloth and champagne when we arrived at Sandals as advertised. The basketball tournament started half an hour late and the “play maker” told my husband and the others who showed up on time (2:30 p.m.) that they were wrong about the time (even though all the boards said 2:30 p.m.). There was just a rude-ness with all the workers.

We returned from our honeymoon feeling like we were ripped off. My husband said we would never go to another Sandals (including Beaches) resort again.

Maggiano's Little Italy in Tyson's Corner, Virginia

I love Maggiano's and have eaten at multiple ones in Denver, Dallas and Cincinnati. This was my first time to the Tyson's Corner, Virginia Maggiano's and I will not go back, nor do I recommend it.

When we first arrived, I immediately noticed how it just didn't look nice. All of the other Maggiano's I've been to just look better.When we were sat at our table, it was incredibly noisy. I even noticed someone else in the dining room saying (yelling) how noisy it was. I told the hostess and she moved us out on the "patio" which was really just in the mall, but outside of the restaurant. The noise level was a lot better out there.

The food was not as good as at other Maggiano's. My husband and I love the Maggiano's Salad and the one here didn't even come close to how good it usually is in Cincinnatti. We were very disappointed. The service was fine, but we felt we were waiting more than usual.If you are going to go to Maggiano's, go to a different one. Not the one at Tyson's Corner.

Embassy Suites Hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia

My husband and I stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Tyson's Corner, Virginia-- he was on business, I tagged along for fun. I definitely recommend this hotel and will stay here again, but I did just want to point out that the rooms are just average. Yes -- it has all the cool stuff a suite does: mini fridge, microwave, 2 rooms, sofa, chair, desk, 2 TVs, etc. But when you walk into the room, you don't get the "wow -- this is nice" factor. It's just your ordinary hotel room with a desk, sofa, 2 TVs, etc. The bed/mattress was your average hotel bed -- a little lumpy, but not bad.That being said, everything else was great! The breakfasts are great! The happy hour is a nice addition (nothing spectacular, but it's free!) and the staff are wonderful!Everytime I asked a staff member for something, they were so curteous, knowledgeable and accomodating. As long as you're not expecting a luxury hotel -- this is a nice place to stay.

Geranio Ristorante in Alexandria, Virginia

My husband and I are very frugal and hardly spend more than $30 on a meal for the two of us. That being said, we wanted to go somewhere nice while visiting Alexandria, Virginia for Valentine's Day and didn't mind spending more if it was worth it.

Geranio Ristorante is worth it! We ended up spending $75 and was worth every penny! To start, I had the proscuitto wrapped mozzella with brasied tomatoes salad and my husband had a green lettuce salad (can't remember which one). Both of our salads were amazing! I think I will dream about the proscuitto wrapped mozzella -- it was so unique. For my main dish, I ordered the Tuna with artichokes and tomato compote. My husband ordered the special of the day -- I think it was a pasta with smoked chicken (can't remember exactly.) Both were out-of-this-world amazing! I don't know which entree was better, they both were so good!

The ambiance was also wonderful! We feel like we have found a hidden gem and don't want to tell anyone because we don't want it to be packed the next time we go back. But I couldn't not reward this restaurant with a positive review. I just hope they don't raise their prices. The prices, while higher than we usually pay, we justified because the food was so good!