5 star hotel. Worth it or nah?

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So….. I embarked on an experiment. Does that extra star or two count in a traveler’s xperience? I have been coordinating several trips for people very close to me and this is an issue that arises repeatedly. Does the quality of the sleep affect one’s overall enjoyment of a vacation. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I hear the question “would YOU pay the extra just for a hotel” I have typically said “ABSOLUTELY!” I got to thinking that it has been an awfully long time since we have stayed at less than a 5 star or equivalent property. I seldom place clients at lower tier properties either. After all why would we chance it? With the BucketListed Signature amenities that come with booking hotels with us, the difference in cost comes out in the wash. We usually get our clients room upgrades, daily breakfasts, a Signature Amenity, early check in AND late checkout as well as a 50 -100 USD credit to spend on food and beverage or SpaūüéČūüéČūüéČ. That being said, some people come to me asking to book ‘deals’ they find that,when complete, the costs add up not simply in inconvenience but in cold hard cash. Those deals don’t end up looking deal like by trip’s end. Sooooo… I decided to remind myself of the hotel experience that one gains by NOT being BucketListed. Here we go. (More to follow)

Windsor Court Hotel – A Review

Property name: Windsor Court Hotel

Where: New Orleans CBD
Street address: 300 Gravier Street, New Orleans, LA
Phone: 504-523-6000

Rates for Reviewed Suite: Approx US$ 475 –¬†675¬†per night based on seasonality.¬†

According to verbiage on the hotel site: “A haven for the discriminating traveler, Windsor Court offers a touch of England in the heart of New Orleans. Guests enjoy the food, jazz, history, architecture, and the sultry sensuality of New Orleans, while also experiencing the luxury, superior service and privacy of Windsor Court. This newly renovated, award-winning property boasts 43 deluxe guestrooms, 213 suites and 60 club level accommodations that include access to our exclusive club lounge. All accommodations offer private balconies or bay windows overlooking the Mississippi River or the city skyline. Hotel amenities include a fine-dining restaurant, two lounges, gift shop, a boutique spa and an outdoor heated swimming pool.”

Windsor Court Hotel

Windsor Court Hotel

Windsor Court Lobby
Windsor Court Lobby

We travelled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2016 and put the above verbiage  to the BucketListed test.  Here is our experience:

Check in was smooth. The bellmen/doormen met us and collected our luggage promptly. There was a short queue but immediately when we walked in to the beautiful lobby, a receptionist who was across the room came over and offered to assist us at a separate desk. He efficiently ensured that our Suite was available and that our special Signature Amenities courtesy of BucketListed Travel* were explained and provided.

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Windsor Court Hotel Lobby
Windsor Court Hotel Lobby

We had an excellent Balcony Suite 310 that provided us with views of the parade route on Tchopitoulas. Though partially obscured by the tree canopy, it enabled us to see much of the activity and we could go down for a closer view of anything that caught our fancy. We were riding in a Krewe ourselves so catching throws (beads) was not a priority. Despite being right on the parade route, we were not inordinately disturbed by the festivities (and they were LOUD). In addition the suite is directly infront of the elevators. That could be room for concern but we were absolutely undisturbed by hall noise the entire trip. The suite was well kept and housekeeping was very good.

Suite at Windsor Court Hotel
Suite at Windsor Court Hotel

Service in the Bars was excellent despite the hubbub of the season. Many people alternated between the game set up on big screens in the Lobby Lounge and Mardi Gras parades outside on Super Bowl Sunday. Despite the competing interests, the staff in the Bar and the Manager acquitted themselves well. The one minor downfall was the Grill Room restaurant. One evening the entrees were inconsistent with previous experience. Service recovery was swift and the entrees were removed from our bill without question. Otherwise the restaurant offerings were also well above average with particular kudos to the Prix Fixe lunch menu (meat and three) replete with a martini, sorbet and a delightful amuse bouche of crab and citrus. Heading out to our floats at 330 am on Fat Tuesday, the bell staff was not out front. Not to worry, in a jiffy someone stepped out to call us a taxi without us having to search around. Check out was smooth. Overall I would say this hotel is well deserving of its reputation for anticipatory service. Nicely done.

This Property meets our criteria to be BucketListed and received five circles from us on a Trip Advisor review. BucketListing is our highest praise and means we would be inclined to recommend and book this hotel for our clients, and will likely stay here again.

Disclosures : BucketListed Reviewer pays for ALL lodging and expenses and is not incentivized in any way by a reviewed establishment. We may be provided amenities* based on being clients of  BucketListed Travel, an agency- member of Signature Travel Consortium.

*BucketListed Amenities

Continental Breakfast for two daily
Lunch for two, once during stay
The following amenities were subject to availability at time of check-in: Upgrade

For booking assistance inquire at bucketlistedtravel@gmail.com or Book online with www.bucketlistedtravel.com

 

Intercontinental Singapore – Hotel review

 

Property name: InterContinental Singapore
Where: Bugis Junction neighborhood
Street address: 80 Middle Road, Singapore 188966
Phone: 65/6338-7600
Rates for Reviewed Suite:  Approx US$500 per night

This Property meets our criteria to be BucketListed and received four circles from us on a Trip Advisor review. BucketListing means we would be inclined to recommend and book this hotel for our clients, and likely stay here again.

REVIEW:

I am usually inclined to root for the underdog and love both an overcomer and an overachiever. This is why I grew to like the Intercontinental Brand. Many of their properties are unsung heroes; they excel in service but I am beginning to realize that they often need work on the physical plant.

Now on to the Intercontinental Hotel- Singapore in specific. I am a tiny bit disappointed with the Intercontinental Singapore. Not because it was bad but rather that they have the bones of EVERYTHING they need to be truly stellar. The staff is great and get the concept of service, the location is prime, attached to a convenient shopping mall and right across from the light rail. They have all the ancillary services in check, and clearly Management is engaged. The club lounge had ample presentations at breakfast and at the cocktail hour.

I was really prepared to love this hotel but I couldn’t. Here’s why. It really is time for a complete renovation. The carpet in the halls are soiled and threadbare, the walls are sorely in need of a coat of paint and there should be a general spit shine through the entire property.

We stayed in a Shophouse Suite which was beautiful and a perfect reminder of Singapore’s¬†Peranakan culture, which dates back to the 17th century. ¬†This history which may be overshadowed by Singapore’s¬†relentless march to modernization.¬†Peranakan decor was evident and there was ample use of¬†mosaic glazed tiles and ¬†intricately carved cabinetry. These suite’s¬†high ceilings and large windows gave light and airiness to the space. ¬†Our Suite’s French¬†windows opened onto the indoor mall pavilion adjacent to the hotel. It really was lovely.

The downside of that particular suite is there were small but persistent maintenance issues with the room along with the smell of mildew.

Overall, this beautiful property put me in the mind of an aging rockstar who continues to tour. There are all the signs of a history of greatness but the definite knowledge that there are a few missed notes. Does this mean that I wouldn’t go to see the show? Of course not; but as the Beatles sing “I long for yesterday”. In much the same way, I will be back to this fine hotel but will long for what it really could be with a few tweaks.

Contact us for booking assistance at bucketlistedtravel@gmail.com or through the website at www.bucketlistedtravel.com

 

 

See the Caribbean the BucketListed way

A FANTASTIC overview of countries in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean as seen from a Clipper ship. The trip afforded “off the beaten path” views of St-Maarten, St. Martin, Nevis, Dominica, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, Antigua and St. Baarths. They were all lovely and quite a few became #BucketListed for different reasons. Antigua provided one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve had. I am still working on duplicating the recipe in my home kitchen. St. Barthelemy was sophisticated yet still had an accessibility to it. I imagined the South of France in decades past. Dominica was rustic and charming and the people were warm and friendly.

If you have “done” the Caribbean and think you know it, I would suggest a view from a slightly different vantage point.

 

See the Caribbean in a new way

Bucketlisting. – Creating, curating and fulfilling ‘The Travel List’

What qualifies for that category? It’s not the cost, nor is it necessarily how popular an experience is. To be on my bucket list there needs to be an element of exclusivity or specialness combined with some sense that I will be happy and fulfilled by seeing that place or participating in that activity. There is no point in filling my must see concerts or my must visit places list with a bunch of cliches. Some people neeeeed to be photographed holding a pyramid in their hand. Not I. Do I need to see the pyramids? Absolutely! I just don’t need that particular twitter bait pic. ¬†I could also opt for the pyramid building cultures of North, South and Central America over Egypt. Chichen Itza, for me was special.

So is it about checking out other lists and cosigning those? Nope. There is little impulse associated with my choices. There is, however, an awful lot of serendipity involved. Oftentimes, the true bucketlisted experience is not what I went expecting to receive. The best ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences are sometimes offshoots of the main event. I love it when that happens.

So we are narrowing down on my bucket list creation process. Essentially,¬†I need to walk away feeling “I’m so glad I did that in my lifetime”

Some of the most highly touted experiences hold no magic or attraction for me. I can’t imagine what is coveted about being at a “must see” sight surrounded by thousands of ogling, sweating tourists all of whom, just like me, have been seduced into misery by the promise of awesomeness. Being knee deep in a throng of people with selfie sticks protruding, holds no charm. (At least not for me)

The issue, however, is that there are some very popular sites or experiences which are in fact magic! They live up to and often exceed the promised hype. So how to deal with the hordes? How do you actually get into the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain when there are a specific limited¬†number of tickets allotted daily? What happens when those tickets are ‘finished’ for months BEFORE you even began looking? Do you go all the way to Spain and not see it or do you stay home and mope? ¬† I will give you one alternative in another¬†post. Stay tuned.

In the interim check out one our bucket listed experiences.

Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

 

Failure is strength training for success.

” Aim for perfection but be satisfied with excellence.” I read this quote and it stuck with me. It reminds me that many spectacular successes begin in abject failure. Perfection is not possible for man but if we learn from the times we fall short, we can apply those lessons to our continued efforts.

This thought, that failures do not define or limit our potential, is very powerful. If every failure is looked at as a vehicle to learn something new, it means even our failures are successful. At minimum, we learn what not to do next time.

I find that life is all about perspective. I begin each and every day stronger and more purposefully because of the mistakes of yesterday. By the time I awaken In the morning, the results of yesterday’s experiments in living are clear. It is fresh in my mind what I did and the outcome is crystal clear. If I didn’t succeed, I ¬†know exactly what NOT to repeat and simply have to figure out which new direction to take. I love looking at errors as strength training. ¬†With every failure, I am building the muscles of success.

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Calling all Food Nazis.

I am so pleased that many people have taken a new interest in healthy living and wellness. My social media pages are flooded with healthy eating advice and work out tips complete with the requisite fitspo selfies. As a physician with particular expertise in Lifestyle Related Diseases and Wellness, it warms my heart to see. Finally, I thought, we will get out ahead of the Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart Disease epidemics that have plagued us for ages.  But then something troubling started happening. What began as a positive movement has, in some instances, become quite negative.

No longer are we content to improve ourselves and our health but we have become incredibly judgmental of others. We have become food nazis and exercise czars. ¬†The inspiration has morphed into a dictatorial, holier than thou carnival complete with the requisite food shaming and fat blaming. Where I used to see pictures of lovely fresh, leafy green vegetables and appealing arrangements of fruit and plant based meals, I now am greeted by posts that read more like “listen you dumb, fat, lazy, meat eating, non- exercising Lunkheads, it is time to stop eating meat. or carbs, or fats or whatever I’m not eating”

This kind of thing:tumblr_mfnoo19DGN1qak6ufo1_500

Gone are the days of selfies of perspiration drenched friends doing their thing on the track or in the gym and here have come the snarky memes about “running laps around others on the couch” or the well meaning ¬†yet insulting advice ¬†about why the intended audience is going to die early of a heart attack because they haven’t ¬†jumped on the latest fitness bandwagon.

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Can we talk? Really? Let’s talk. Regardless of your intention or how it is phrased, meanness is exactly that. ‘Badmind’ kills just as many people as a bad heart. Believe this to be true because it is. Stress and isolation are predisposing to heart disease and other illnesses as is a sedentary life style and poor eating habits. Certainly the cortisol secreted from stress contributes to abdominal obesity which also predisposes to coronary artery disease.

A lack of sleep robs the body of restorative time and the disruption in sleep patterns contributes to hormonal imbalances and multiple diseases. ¬†Perhaps you are happy with the 4 am workouts and the constant weighing and measuring, perhaps being tied to the scale doesn’t bother you one iota. I believe that because it really doesn’t bother me either…. well maybe not the 4 am workouts. I will NOT be on that schedule, Thank You. ¬†The point however is this; in much the same way we choose healthy habits and overlook the inherent stressors and difficulty with compliance with a healthy lifestyle, let’s allow others to choose their path to health. Perhaps instead of cutting out certain foods, your BFF¬†may choose to incorporate meditation or laughter. Perhaps the extra hours gained from not working out in the morning are spent boosting a spiritual practice . There is ample scientific evidence that faith improves health and prolongs life.

Am I suggesting that you purchase a Big Mac for your obviously overweight friend or Valentine’s Chocolate for the fluffy amongst us? No. You certainly shouldn’t¬†¬†contribute to what you feel is harmful or dangerous to the health of others. ¬†No one is asking you to encourage your friend who is a fitness newbie to sit on their butts while you work out. All I’m asking is “Can we all live?”

Encouragement sweetens labour. There is much to be said from encouraging others to emulate ¬†and be inspired by your progress as ¬†opposed to a steady force fed diet of all the things they’re doing wrong.

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Frankly, I miss the inspirational pics like the one below and could do well with less of the demotivating rhetoric. And you know what? Something tells me I’m not alone.

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