I'm still in shock from Delta's announcement effective 2015. Ugh. I am seriously thinking of switching to United.
In addition to the changes to the ways you can earn miles, there are also major changes in the works as to how you can redeem miles. Here's a link to the new 2015 redemption schedule. (Not as bad as the skymiles change?) I think my days of being loyal to Delta are almost over.
Way back in January, we flew down to Miami for a long weekend. Our initial plan was to spend the entire time in Key West. Instead, we ended up just spending one night in Key West and two nights in the Key Largo/Islamorada area.
Little did I know that Key West, Martin King Weekend, is an expensive venture. My usual starwood hotels (Westin and Sheraton) had rooms but they were very pricey. Key West has tons of bed and breakfasts. Unfortunately, most of these were sold out. (We later found out that there was a race going on in Key West over Martin Luther King weekend and a seafood festival, hence the sold out rooms and high prices).
We initially booked Fairfield Inn but then decided to pay a little more and went with the Courtyard Marriott. ($350/night??)
Parking is free at this hotel. The Courtyard is located on the water. Perhaps the best feature of this hotel? They have a free shuttle that leaves hourly for Duvall, meaning you don't have to worry about parking (or drinking and driving) downtown Key West. The Courtyard is located off the main highway (highway 1) and you can easily walk across the street from the Courtyard to a Publix grocery store, Pizza Hut, and a few other restaurants/shops.
The Courtyard is an older hotel, that has recently been renovated. The inside lobby has a starbucks and lounge area. Wifi/internet is free. (As I recall, unlimited devices).
We didn't get a room on the water. Instead the outside of our room faced highway 1 (loud) and the inside faced the Courtyard's pool. As a plus, the pool is heated and there is a hot tub and bar in the pool area.
The Courtyard really tried to be a nice hotel. I mean look at the swan towel decorations! Besides the complimentary wifi, we received two complimentary bottles of water.
We were unable to get a king sized bed and instead were given two doubles. The room had lots of plugs, flat screen tv, and inroom coffee/tea maker.
Here's another photo of the interior of our room. I thought the carpet was a little worn.
The bathroom had a sink and there was also a sink/vanity outside the bathroom.
I have some strong feelings about the bathroom sink. It didn't drain. There is nothing I hate more than washing my face in a sink and worrying about it overflowing.
Let's talk about another terrible feature in this room. The shower.
I don't know if it was the nozzle or the shower, but the water alternated between extremely hot (scalding) and cold. I thought the shower was extremely difficult to work. The nozzle took me a good five minutes to figure out.
The bathroom had complimentary soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. It also had a blower dryer. Not the best dryer, not the worst.
Would I stay here again?
Maybe. If I stayed here again, I'd request a room towards the water, not one near the highway. Because we checked out so early in the a.m., I didn't have time to complain to the front desk about the shower/sink (and I didn't find out about the problems until the late evening/early morning). I would want to make sure that the sink/shower works.
Way back in January, we flew down to Miami and drove from there to Key West. We got into Key West around 3pm and headed down to the Conch Republic (we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott which has a free shuttle downtown Key West, dropping you off in front of the Conch Republic).
While on the shuttle, some of the other guests tipped us off to a free Key West event. Tarpon feeding. For those of you that don't know, tarpon are giant fish.
We gathered behind the conch republic on a chilly Friday afternoon around 4pm to see the tarpon feeding. (as you can see, we were not the only ones lined up to see tarpon feeding.)
Alas, it must have been too cold for the tarpon. Instead, 30 or so pelicans swooped in to eat the food. These photos are for all you pelican lovers out there.
Even though we didn't see tarpon, watching all the pelicans feed was pretty interesting.
We had a voucher for a free Marriott hotel and decided to stay at the Renaissance Austin Hotel to use up the voucher. My mom lives in Houston and we already had plans to visit her. Why not drive to Austin for a night and check it out?
Brian got the free Marriott hotel night through his credit card. Each year, he gets a free hotel stay, up to category 5. Sure there were other Marriott hotels in the Austin area, but we decided to go with the Renaissance since it was a category 5.
We should have done our research. The Renaissance Austin is not located downtown Austin. Rather it is located in an area known as the Arboretum which is a short (15 to 20 minute) drive to UT and downtown Austin.
The Arboretum is a great area for shopping.... this normally would not be a bad thing, but we were there a few days before Christmas, thus traffic was nuts.
At least the hotel was decorated for the holidays!
This hotel reminded me of a Hyatt I once stayed at near O'Hare. The hotel was shaped like a square. Inside the square was an open area with a restaurant, bar and fish tank. All the rooms faced the square. Thus, you can see everyone coming and going to their rooms.
I dislike when hotels are shaped like this since it usually means that you can hear the noise from the courtyard/square area. I had high hopes for the Renaissance... perhaps they solved that problem? Alas, as we later found out, no such luck.
Let's check out our room.
We opted for a room with two queen sized beds. No complaints about the room. Lots of plugs and you can tell that everything had been recent redone. The room's theme was (what else when you are in Austin?) Austin, Texas.
The bathroom was sleek and modern. No issues with hot water or water pressure. I am pleased to report that the Renaissance Austin had Aveda bath products and a very nice hair dryer.
Also a plus- the shower curtain didn't suck in and touch me during the shower. (yuck!)
Like most modern hotels these days, our room at the Renaissance Austin had a flat screen tv and in room coffee/tea maker. Because of our status with Marriott, we got wifi free. As I recall, there was a limit on the number of devices permitted wifi.
Staff were friendly and parking was free.
What didn't I like about this hotel?
A) Location (too far from downtown Austin and UT); and
B) Noise. During our stay, a local company had its holiday party in the atrium/courtyard area. The party went into the wee hours. We could hear every giggle, sneeze, etc. coming from the party. I am a light sleeper and I had a hard time sleeping.
Sure, in a pinch, I'd stay here again. Next time, however, I think I'll stay at a different hotel in Austin.