Hotel Review – Doubletree Lower Manhattan

As mentioned in a previous post, I spent last week in NYC on business. With my client’s offices being in the financial district, I decided to stay at the same Doubletree a coworker of mine uses when he goes up. This is only my second stay at a Doubletree property, the other being the one in Blooomington, IL a few years ago. I used to travel there 3-4 times a year for business, normally staying at the local Courtyard, but was convinced to try the Doubletree on one of my last trips there based on the non-stop recommendations of others. I found that visit totally underwhelming compared to the build-up, and not worth losing out on Marriott points.

So how did they hold up on this visit? Well, things started out with a small issue, but overall it was good. After landing at LGA, I grabbed a car to the hotel, and upon arriving, was greeted by a friendly gentleman at the front desk who handed me my room keys, the warm cookie, and a bag containing two bottles of water. Check-in took all of 3min thanks to Doubletree allowing you to check-in online ahead of time, including selecting your room (nice touch, BTW). I chose 4310, a king deluxe room with a view of the Hudson river. After getting my keys, I headed up to 43 and tried to enter my room. I tried, really I did. I must have tried both keys a couple dozen times, but no go. Neither worked, so back down to the desk it was with all of my stuff in tow. The clerk apologized, set those same cards up for the room once again, and back up I went. They worked like a champ this time, so that little glitch was resolved. No harm no foul, I guess.

The room itself was fine, albeit the normal tiny NYC hotel room size (smaller than I expected for something labeled “deluxe”). The view was pretty good, looking out over Battery Park with a view of the river. Some shots of the room:

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Going in to the trip, I read the reviews on TripAdvisor and noticed one repeating issue that had me a little concerned, that some people found they had long waits for elevators in the morning. Being a business trip, the last thing I wanted to deal with was a long wait for an elevator each morning, but for the most part, it was never an issue, except for Wednesday afternoon. I’d finished the day’s meetings early, and headed back to the hotel around 3:45pm. Upon arriving, I went right up to the room to change so I could head up to Central Park. When I went to grab an elevator to head out, I encountered the wait those reviews mentioned. I waited 10 minutes until one arrived, only to find out it was being used by the staff to collect garbage from each floor, basically being used as a service elevator. No go, so I waited some more. And waited. And waited. After a total of 23 minutes, an empty elevator finally showed up, and I headed out. Was it the end of the world? No, but I’d hesitate to stay there in the future because of it. That, or stay much lower (without a view) just in case I need to take the stairs if the elevators are slow to arrive in cases where I’m strapped for time.

My only other issue, my last day there I went to lower the room temp and found that the AC unit wasn’t working. I’d lower the temp on the thermostat and the unit never kicked on. Since I was leaving the next morning and the window opened a few inches to allow for airflow, I didn’t report it until I checked out. Again, no biggie, the fresh air was cool enough. I have no doubt they’d have sent someone up to fix it had I called that night.

I can’t speak to the room service food or the attached restaurant, as I didn’t have food from either. My dinners were spent at tiny little hole in the wall places I found while I was out walking around, and lunches were spent eating with the client. I did eat breakfast over at the Andaz the last two mornings with one of my customer contacts (he’d flown in for this too), and loved their buffet. Pretty cool hotel, too, so I’ll probably give that a shot next time I go up there.

The location of this Doubletree was pretty good for my needs. The entrance is on Stone St, which isn’t too busy, and it was an easy walk to my customer’s office on Water St. There was also a subway station a very short walk from the hotel entrance, which allowed me to pick up the R train up to the midtown area the last couple of afternoons I was there. One other thing I saw in a couple reviews of this place is that since it’s on a less traveled street, people felt the need to walk over to the ferry terminal so they could get a cab upon checkout. Hogwash. Yes, the street is small and gets less traffic, but all you have to do is ask the bell staff standing there at the entrance and they’ll call you a cab. They had one for me in less than 5min Friday morning at 5:30am.

Overall it was a good stay in a clean hotel room with a view, but I still don’t get the hype around the brand. People swear by Doubletree, so maybe I just keep choosing the wrong ones. That, or the cookies are laced with something that makes you fall in love with the place :). Regardless, I’d stay there again if the situation warranted, but would like to try a couple others in the area first, including the Andaz I mentioned earlier.

Here are a few more shots from my various walks around Manhattan, including some of a protest I stumbled on near Central Park, along with a shot of the sunset from my plane on approach to LGA:

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Dealing in Absolutes

It’s been a while since my last post, mostly due to workload and lack of recent trips. We’re rectifying that over the next month and a half, as I’m headed to NYC for work this week (staying at the Doubletree in Lower Manhattan), and we’re going to Disney World in mid-May on vacation. While both should provide me with plenty of blog fodder, I did want to rant about an article I ran across a couple of months ago that really irritated me:

11 Reasons you should never ever take a cruise

It’s an older article that seems to reappear every year during peak cruise season. Headlines like that are obvious click-bait, and I hesitated to click on it for that very reason, but in the end gave in to my curiosities and contributed to the problem. It doesn’t bother me that the author and the referenced sources don’t like cruising, as everyone has different tastes. I just find articles that deal in absolutes annoying, regardless of the topic, especially when posted on a “trusted” site. As expected, it was an aggravating article filled with only one side of the story. Shocker.

Before we get in to the points presented, I want to start out by saying that I’m not sitting here trying to say that everyone should cruise and love it. Everyone’s different, and people have different travel tastes. People are capable of making up their own minds, but anyone on the fence about trying cruising that runs across biased drivel like that could end up swayed by someone else’s failure to present a fair argument. Let’s look at the reasons presented:

Dangerous fellow passengers: I’ve heard the arguments presented in here before, including from the sources quoted and other prominent maritime lawyers. I don’t doubt that the threat is real, but it’s also one that exists just about anywhere you go on vacation, whether it’s a cruise, all-inclusive resort, vacation house in some exotic country, etc.  I do agree with the insinuation that it’s a bad idea to let your kids roam freely on a ship, and it does surprise me every cruise to see how many young kids are allowed to do so. A little common sense goes a long way, especially when it comes to being aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye on your kids, and watching how much you drink. That applies to any vacation.

Unhealthy eating and drinking: I’ve fallen in to this trap on cruises before, as our Thanksgiving cruise in 2011 quickly ended my 2500cal (max) per day diet that helped me drop just over 60lbs, and it was a real struggle to get back on track, but that was solely on me for caving at the first sight of Carnival’s warm chocolate melting cake. The cruise lines have added a number of healthy options over the years, but when you’re surrounded by a lot of delicious (and unhealthy) food, your willpower is tested. We’ve done all-inclusive resorts with the same issues, but on a cruise, it can be argued that it’s harder to avoid the temptation since you can’t just leave to find healthier options elsewhere. Is this a reason to “never ever take a cruise”? No more so than any all-inclusive vacation, just be smart about what and how much you eat. USA Today has some solid tips on how to eat healthy on a cruise.

Food poisoning and norovirus: Yup, it happens, although we’ve been fortunate to never encounter either on a cruise. Norovirus exposures are something the media loves to call out, but only when it happens on a ship, since there’s nothing sexy about reporting outbreaks at more common locations like hospitals and nursing homes. According to CDC stats, there are between 19-21 million reported cases annually in the U.S.. If you count the number of passengers on all U.S.-based sailings who contracted noro last year, again based on CDC stats, you get 1,766 passengers and crew reported to have contracted noro. Comparing against the lower end of 19m cases per year, U.S.-based cruises accounted for less than 1% of reported noro outbreaks in this country. Being smart while on a cruise (or anywhere with food, frankly) can go a long way to staving it off, too. The CDC has tips for that: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/pub/cruisingtips/healthycruising.htm

Mechanical difficulties and their consequences: We’ve all seen the news reports of the various breakdowns ships have had in the past few years, with the most famous probably being the Carnival Triumph. That was easily the worst I’ve heard of in modern cruising, and it’s something Carnival learned from as well, upgrading the backup power on all ships as well as implementing other safety measures to try and avoid that kind of damage again. Cruise lines still encounter issues that cause them to cut trips short which isn’t surprising given the number of moving parts on a ship, but for the most part they seem to handle those situations appropriately and provide some level of compensation to passengers in the event a cruise is cut short or a port has to be skipped. Yes, it’s disappointing to miss ports, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Yet another issue that seems to impact a very small number of cruisers every year.

Unqualified doctors: I can’t really speak to this one, as we’ve only had to deal with medical on one cruise after my daughter was hurt during a cruise-sponsored shore excursion in Jamaica during our trip on the Norwegian Jewel several years ago. The doc took good care of her (which is more than I can say for the rest of the staff we dealt with about it), and I don’t recall having any complaints in that regard. The author was sure to select a scary looking picture to try and play on people’s fears of non-American doctors, so be afraid!

Too much fun in the sun: This is one of the most ridiculous arguments in the list. No one every has too much fun in the sun on a non-cruise vacation, right? That really bad sunburn I got skiing in college or the one I got at the resort in Mexico when I fell asleep in a lounge chair must have been all in my head. The author’s grasping for straws here.

Cruises rock – and roll: Another one that’s got some truth to it, as storms do happen at sea. If you cruise during hurricane season to an area they tend to hit, the risk is increased as well. Ship propulsion systems have gotten pretty good over the past few years, with stabilizing systems that can dampen the effect of smaller storms, and we’ve seen course changes made to avoid larger ones. My wife gets motion sick very easily, but in all the cruises we’ve done she has only had an issue once, when we were buried on a low deck with a porthole in a storm, and only when she was looking out the window. She wears motion sickness patches that she gets a prescription for prior to departure, and outside of that one incident has been fine. One of these days I need to get her to do a guest post with tips on how to avoid motion sickness on a cruise.

Your bed might bug you: I honestly have no idea what the stats are here, but in 9 cruises spanning 4 lines, we’ve never had this issue or known of anyone that has. Hotels seemed to get more press on this a few years ago when there were larger outbreaks, which just goes to show that it can happen anywhere.

Nothing to sneeze at: I’m not really sure what they’re getting at here, as the author gives nothing in the way of cruise-centric statistics showing that you’re more likely to suffer from allergies on a ship other than to say some allergens prefer moist environments (duh). I have significant allergy issues. I was tested a few years ago, you know the one where they put a tray of needles on your back and stab you with 50 different allergens? Yea, I had very noticeable allergic reactions to 48 of them, yet I’ve never had allergy issues on a ship. I have issues in hotels with 100% down pillows, when we’re out on excursions in the jungle, and even when I mow, but that’s why I carry stuff like Claratin D.

Mental health challenges: This was the final argument against it, one that I feel was a reach yet again. I completely understand that the environment might not suit someone who’s on the edge, but quoting statistics that include what one of the quoted sources calls “alleged” suicides is reckless in my opinion. Unless you’ve got the evidence to back it up, you leave that alone. The most that I’ll say to this one is that anyone feeling depressed should consult a doctor prior to *any* vacation, regardless of where it is.

The last slide is the only part of this that’s actually somewhat objective in my opinion, with even the sources stating that the majority of people who cruise have a good time, just like any other type of vacation. Shame it was buried at the end of a bunch of obviously biased arguments.

As I said before, cruising isn’t for everyone, but a headline that deals in scary absolutes is nothing more than a cheap attempt at click-baiting. If you never cruised before and are interested, research it. Read reviews, talk to friends who have, look at actual statistics for things you’re concerned about. Use all that info to make up your own mind. If it doesn’t seem like something you’d want to do, spend your hard-earned money on a vacation you will enjoy! Just don’t base your opinion of anything you haven’t tried on such an obviously biased article.

 

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