Friday, December 19, 2014

The Year-end Best...The Top 10 Hotels

The Buccaneer, St. Croix

Here are the best 10 hotels, inns, motels, etc., that we've ever stayed at. In no particular order, all are outstanding properties...

Ambassador Hotel - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - An art-deco jewel next to Marquette University near downtown. For a small upcharge, they include a very indulgent breakfast in the lobby restaurant. The rooms are very generous in size, up-to-date, and have some of the most comfortable bedding we've ever had. For an old, historic property, it's very nice to see modern accessible bathrooms in rooms that are not an afterthought or located in a dark, corner of the hotel. All of this would be moot, however, if the service wasn't good. Thankfully, the staff here is at the top of the game and very attentive to their guests needs and wants.

The Buccaneer - St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands - Another historic hotel and the best in the Caribbean. Incredible staff that will walk miles to make sure you're comfortable and having a good time. The accessible rooms are really suites with a bedroom, living room, two bathrooms, walk-in closet, and a large terrace overlooking the sea. The breakfast buffet will amaze you as you take in the morning beach views from the open air dining area. Only downside is it's hilly and tough to walk down to the beach along the steep slope. 

Riu Palace - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic - Part of a very large group of Riu properties on a mile of beachfront and hundreds of acres at the far eastern end of the island of Hispaniola. While the fully accessible rooms tend to be hidden in the back, a large selection of step-free rooms are available throughout the hotel. Oustanding beaches, endless pools, and all inclusive, what sets the Riu apart from it's competitors is an attitude of "if you're not happy, we're not happy and we'll do whatever it takes to change that." Best service we've ever had at any hotel in the world...period. You'll end up with life-long friends from the staff when you leave here.

Homewood Suites - Seattle, Washington - This Hilton property in the Queen Anne neighborhood is like most Homewood Suites...large, multiroom suites that are very comfortable...but, again, it's the service that sets it apart from the manager actually going the extra mile to get great local microbrews and locally inspired cuisine in the evening reception, providing detailed jogging maps and telling you where to stop to get the best breathtaking views, to procuring special needs products like bath chairs for your room. I wish every Hilton's staff could be as good as this one.

Shenandoah Inn - Plymouth, California - Mom and Pop motel in the Gold Country. Marie is the mom and Ken...a former the pop and a friendlier mom and pop you'll be hard pressed to find. It's a basic motel but the rooms are clean, up-to-date, and comfortable. Each one comes with million-dollar views of the rolling hills of Amador County's wine country. The pool and jacuzzi...with a lift for the disabled...sit on a delightful patio with the same views, along with picnic tables and barbecue because you're gonna want to sit here with dinner, drink the bottle of wine you bought today, and watch the sun go down.  Just a beautiful, comfortable, friendly slice of  Heaven.

Mission Inn - Riverside, California - Another historic hotel in the heart of Southern California's Inland Empire.  Along with the gorgeous property, with it's endless hallways, pathways, nooks, and crannies to get lost in, you get impeccable service, larger than you thought rooms, great pool area (lift too), wonderful food and drink, and an ever-present feeling of being somewhere very historical.  It's also located smack dab in downtown Riverside where a large assortment of restaurants and shops lie just outside to tempt you. Across the street is the historic restored Fox Theater making this a great place to take in dinner, a show, and spend the night.

Drury Plaza at the Arch - St. Louis, Missouri - Drury Inns is a large, midwest based chain of hotels. We've never had a bad stay at any that we've been to but their flagship hotel in downtown St. Louis takes it to another level. Again, the rock is great service that's attentive to guests and makes them happy. Great, fully accessible rooms and suites. Very comfortable and plush.  Great location next to the Gateway Arch and the statehouse...just a few, easily walked blocks to Busch Stadium for those Cardinal games. And the freebies...oh, those freebies...Drury is the king of the free extras. Breakfast (darn good one, too), happy hour and light dinner, local calls, long distance calls, popcorn and soda...the list goes on of all the free stuff you get here included with your reasonable room rate.  An expansive lobby, complete with a large Lewis and Clark diorama fountain, provides a nice place to relax and the pool and gym upstairs will keep you in shape while you're here.

Village by the Sea - Wells, Maine - A hotel made up of condos, the rooms here are very large and very reasonable (but you must pay an upcharge to get the alcove with the washer and dryer unlocked in your room). Not quite on the beach but only separated from it by a wildlife preserve, the the views are outstanding. You won't find as much bang for your buck anywhere else downeast in Maine.

Best Western Station House Inn - South Lake Tahoe, California - This motel next to the stateline in Lake Tahoe not only has it's great service going for it but it has the best free breakfast we've ever had at a hotel. On the property is a nice restaurant where guests get to select from a menu of 7 great, full, and complete breakfasts, all served with a smile by the waiters at your table. The rooms are large with comfortable furniture but the ceilings are just a bit low. You can walk a block to the lower gondola of Heavenly Valley for skiing and another short block east to visit the casinos of Nevada. One of the world's most beautiful lakes lies only 100 yards away.

The Flamingo Inn - Santa Rosa, California - I can't believe the prices of the rooms here (but make sure you get a big enough room, some are pretty small). This resort is modeled after it's namesake in Las Vegas and looks just like a retro, 1950's Vegas hotel, sans the casino. The well kept-up building rings a large lawn and olympic size pool where a party atmosphere rules in the warmer months. An on-site nightclub can provide entertainment and the wineries of Napa Valley and Sonoma are less than 30 minutes away. Great staff and great, oldschool vibe. It's our go-to hotel for visits to Napa Valley.

Notice the one thing in common that ties all these hotels together...great service. It doesn't matter if you're a mom-and pop motel, a Caribbean island resort, or a corporate behemoth...provide great service and you can be a great hotel.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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