Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and San Diego -- June 2005

A business trip for my husband, on which I tagged along.

2 nights Sheraton Gateway Hotel LAX
3 nights La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta (in the Palm Springs area)
1 night Hyatt Regency Islandia in San Diego

Photos: http://tinyurl.com/2ykhq6

Sheraton Review:

We spent two nights here in June, on the first and last days of a weeklong trip. We actually booked the room through Priceline for $100 a night, which was a great deal! The hotel has been very recently renovated, and as a previous reviewer stated, it is indeed “surprisingly cool”! There’s a Starbucks in the lobby, which is very convenient for that early morning caffeine fix. Overall, I would definitely recommend this hotel if you need to stay by the airport.

Rooms A
As Starwood gold members, we hoped for an upgrade, but there were none available. However, the standard guestrooms were actually quite nice. They are not large, but well decorated and very comfortable. Standard Starwood heavenly beds, but with a dark blue duvet instead of the usual stark white. The rooms look exactly like the ones shown on the website, which is rare! The windows are triple paned, and we did not hear so much as a whisper of a plane taking off or landing. Both rooms we had overlooked the pool, though, so I can’t say how the noise would be on the other side of the building.

Service A
The valets were quick, the bellmen did not complain one bit about the insane amount of luggage we had with us, and the woman who checked us in both nights was very quick and courteous. Our wakeup calls came right on time, which is always good—I am always surprised at how many hotels can’t seem to get this right!

Bar A We came here for dinner and drinks both nights, and enjoyed it. The mojitos were great, and the food is pretty impressive (taste-wise) for bar fare. The first night we ordered nachos for an appetizer, which were so enormous we didn’t need any dinner! Don’t remember what else we ordered, but it was all good. The service is fast and generally friendly, and it is nice to be able to take your drinks and wander out by the pool to relax on a cushy chaise lounge 

Business Center A The woman working at the desk in here was very helpful and friendly, and they seemed to have anything a business traveler could possibly need. Free coffee, too!

Pool A There are lots of lounge chairs, and well as padded benches and several cabanas. You can get bar service out here as well, which is nice. We saw several planes fly overhead, but somehow could just barely hear them!

La Quinta review:

coming soon...

Hyatt Regency Islandia review:

We spent one night here while on a business trip for my husband. We booked through Priceline and paid $100 a night (darned per diems!), which was fair, but I would say that the hotel is not worth any more than that. It was very quiet, and not bad, but not the 4-star property they claim to be either.

Rooms B
The room itself was okay, a pretty standard 3 star room, with a very tiny bathroom. The bathroom did have marble countertops, but that does not a 4-star make. I do have to say that they did a great job with the lighting—so often hotel rooms do not have enough lamps and/or overheads, but our room here was very well lit. There was a very small balcony with a couple of metal chairs and a tiny plastic table. We did enjoy the fact that we could see the fireworks (put on by neighboring Seaworld, I believe) from the balcony. We did not enjoy the fact that our room (we were either on the 3rd or 4th floor) was directly over the area where they have the dumpsters, making being on the deck hard on the olfactory glands! ). I normally would have asked to switch rooms, but we were exhausted by the time we got there, and it just did not seem worth the effort for one night. If you are planning to stay here, I would recommend asking for a room on a high floor, with a view of the marina (we had a bit of one, but it was heavily obstructed by HVAC systems or similar equipment

Service A
The valets were very friendly, check in was quick and courteous, and the bellhops were also nice as can be. We had dinner at the Blue Bay California Bistro at the base of the main tower, and our waiter was quite friendly and brought our food out very quickly. There were only about 2 other parties in the restaurant at the time, so not sure if it would always be that quick, but hopefully so!

Restaurants B+
I was disappointed to see that the Islandia bar and restaurant was closed during our stay. We asked and were told that it is only open for dinner Wed-Sat, and for Sunday brunch (we were there on a Sunday night). It is the more upscale of the two restaurants at the hotel, and looks out directly onto the marina. The dinner we had at the California Bistro was actually delicious, though, so we were pleased with that  They have a pretty basic menu of sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc, but very fresh ingredients are used, making the sandwiches we had quite tasty.

Bars C
If the Islandia Bar had been open during our stay, this category would probably have gotten a much higher score. It looked spacious and pleasant, with (I believe) a seating area out on the deck where you can relax and enjoy the sunset or the lights of the marina. But, again, this was closed, so the only other bar option was a very small, dark, depressing one at the base of the tower. We walked in and pretty much walked right back out—it just had sort of a grim atmosphere.

Pool/Grounds B-
The grounds are kept clean, there’s a small koi pond, which was nice, and the landscaping is well maintained. But nothing particularly spectacular here. The pool itself was not at all impressive—small and very basic, surrounded by a fence which tends to take away from the overall look of the grounds. I’m sure they have to have the fence up for liability purposes, though, since many families stay here. There is also a tiny (maybe 20 feet by 15 feet) manmade “beach” right off the marina. Be forewarned: this is not an actual beach, but more of a dirty sandbox. If you want to lay in some sand, I would recommend the Hotel Del Coronado or even the La Valencia in La Jolla (just up the hill from a bit of beach) instead.

Location Depends
If you are planning on spending a lot of time at Seaworld, the location probably cannot be beat! The location is also pretty much equidistant to La Jolla and Coronado, among other areas, so if you want someplace where you are 30-40minutes from nearly everything, this may be a good choice for you. If you are just planning on spending most of your time in downtown/Old Town/Coronado (for example), though, this hotel is probably not the best option. There are also no restaurants within walking distance, which can be a problem when they only have one restaurant open. If you want something different, your options are to order room service (pretty much the same menu as the Cali Bistro) or to get in the car and drive a little ways away (not always appealing when you are exhausted from traveling!)

Overall, this is a decent hotel, just not quite up to the standards of a 4-star property, in my opinion. If you can get it for around $100 a night, and don’t want anything fancy (or want to be very close to SeaWorld but not anywhere else), it is worth considering.

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