Bay Lake Tower (Florida, USA)
Disney's Contemporary Hotel was part of the original opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando in 1971. It is an easily recognisable iconic structure with a distinctive A-shape and a monorail track running straight through the middle. Futuristic in its time it now holds great charm in a retro-stylish way. It is the closest hotel to the ... Magic Kingdom and is classified at a Deluxe Resort. In the last couple of years a new hotel has been built adjacent to the Contemporary Hotel with the same general theme and now Bay Lake Tower also forms part of the Contemporary Resort.
Bay Lake Tower is actually part of the Disney Vacation Club which is the company's time-share scheme however a certain number of each room type are also available as part of the ordinary Contemporary Resort inventory. The rooms range from the Studios which have a double-bed, a sofa-bed and a kitchenette, through one and two-bedroom units to the two-storey Grand-villas which can sleep up to 12 people. We stayed in a One-bed roomed Villa. The rack-rate for Disney accommodation varies tremendously depending on demand and package deals, currently the basic price for a Studio for one week in February 2012 is £2330, 1-bed prices are not released at the minute.
Finding Bay Lake Tower is easy as it is part of the Magic Kingdom resort so we simply followed the signs to the Magic Kingdom and then when we arrived at the ticket booths we said we were checking-in and we were allowed in with no charge and told to take the road to the right. With-in two minutes we could see the distinctive Contemporary Hotel and pulled in to the gatehouse where the guard instructed us to park at the doors of Contemporary to check-in. Bay lake Tower itself does not have its own reception so we had to park the car outside the main hotel to check-in.
When we arrived the reception area was empty so we were dealt with immediately. The lady who served us was delightful, she was efficient and knowledgeable as well as very friendly and we were soon all checked in. We left a credit-card number so we could use the automatic check-out on departure. We were all issued with our Keys to the World cards which act as door keys and charge cards and also park entry cards if you had bought park passes through Disney (we hadn't done this), I declined charging facilities my children's cards so theirs were simply door keys.
We then had to go back to the car and drive around to Bay Lake Tower. The car park was large but it was also quite full so we ended up parking a reasonable way away but our suitcases have wheels so it was not a problem. We could have unloaded our cases outside the main hotel and the Bellboys would bring them over (for a tip!) but it was easy enough to do it ourselves. We had to swipe the card in a machine by the main door to access the lobby and we easily found the lift to reach our 4th floor room (3rd floor really but in America they have no Ground Floor)
===Arriving in Our Room===
On opening the door we were immediately struck by the amount of space we had. A few years ago we stayed in a one bed apartment at another hotel and it was very cramped but this one was huge. The decor is in keeping with the retro feel of the resort with curved designs, bright colours and quirky features such as sliding doors to the bathrooms.
We had a large lounge area with a sofa-bed and chair-bed and enormous flat screen TV as well as a fully equipped kitchen, breakfast bar and dining table and a door to the balcony. There was also a washer/dryer in its own cupboard and a bathroom with over-the-bath shower and toilet with a wardrobe in the hall area as we walked in. On entering the bedroom we were greeted by the biggest bed I have ever seen, I think you could sleep about 5 people in there if you were so inclined! There was another flat-screen TV, ample drawers and sliding doors to the balcony. There was a smallish wardrobe with a safe in it. A sliding, frosted glass door led into the bathroom with an enormous whirlpool bath and a sink in a vanity unit, another sliding door led to the toilet and walk-in shower.
Everywhere was very clean and there were plenty of towels, toiletries and useful things like washing up liquid, dishwasher powder and laundry detergent.
===Staying in Our Room===
All of the first impressions of our room were good but there were a few things which we only noticed once we were in residence.
Some of the furniture was already looking a bit tired. The hotel has only been open a couple of years but the furniture is not standing up to the wear and tear very well and has several chips and dents as well as some stains. This did not bother me too much but for a Deluxe resort I think this needs to be looked at carefully.
The balcony had a lovely view over the marina toward the Contemporary Hotel. We could see Bay Lake as well as the Cypress trees in the distance; it was a peaceful place to sit during the day. However it was quite small and only had two chairs, since the apartment can sleep 5 comfortably (6 if using a cot) this seems a bit odd. Unfortunately once the sun started to go down we had to close the door and resist the balcony as the mosquitoes were terrible. The weather when we travelled seems to have been a particular problem and there were literally thousands dead on our balcony every morning, I sent hubby out there with a broom every day before we could sit out. The Tower is 15 stories high and some of the higher rooms and those on the North side seem to have fewer problems but those of us on the South side had to put up with swarms of the things! It is a real shame that the balconies are not netted.
The main bathroom had the most unusual feature of sliding panels in the wall so you could lie in your Jacuzzi bath and watch the massive TV in the main-bedroom. I can't say this appealed to me but both of my children thoroughly enjoyed this and there was a lock on the main bedroom door to ensure privacy whilst luxuriating!
Like most US hotels there was no kettle, to make tea I had to use the coffee maker or boil water in a saucepan. However besides the absence of a kettle there was really nothing else missing that we needed, plenty of plates, cutlery and utensils, a good hairdryer, iron and ironing board, iPod dock and alarm clock.
The lounge has a massive panoramic window which gave us a brilliant view of the Electric Water Pageant each evening.
The walls and floors appeared to be paper-thin. We didn't realise this until 2 days before we checked-out, prior to this the rooms adjacent to us must have been empty. We could hear the toilet and the shower as clearly as if it had been in my room and I also soon found out the names of my neighbours children and the fact that one of them snored horrendously.
Storing the suitcases was a bit tricky. We travel relatively light so only had 3 medium sized cases to store but the bed base was solid so there was no-where to put them except in the top of the wardrobes but since they were not very big there was only room for one in each so I ended up hiding one case behind the chair in the bedroom!
The enormous bed was the comfiest I think I have ever slept in. It really was a struggle to get up in the morning; I think I could have lay there all day quite happily.
When we booked the hotel it had wired internet access in the main bedroom which was chargeable to none DVC guests. However I was very pleased to find that when we arrived Disney had just installed wireless internet in Bay lake Tower (literally the previous week!) which is currently free of charge but a charge may be introduced in the future. This worked well and was a good speed.
Each corridor had a place to deposit trash, an ice-machine (we had a freezer but Studios only have a fridge) and a vending machine for snacks. Cash reservations should get house-keeping every day but DVC residents only get it every fourth day so if you are staying on an ordinary reservation and your room is not cleaned contact reception as occasionally the rooms can be mixed up.
Bay Lake Tower has a small outdoor swimming pool which has a water-slide which is attractively housed in an unusual glass-bricked tower. Towels are available free of charge at the poolside and there are plenty of pool chairs. We were technically off-season and there was never any problem finding chairs, infact finding another person around the pool was very unusual. There is also a water-squirting area for young children. There is a larger pool at the Contemporary Hotel that guests can use too.
There is a Marina at the Contemporary hotel where you can catch a boat launch to the Wilderness Lodge Resort or hire varying boats for exploring the lake.
Around the pool area there are BBQ areas, shuffleboard courts and table-tennis tables.
The Cove Bar is located at the pool and sells a selection of drinks and snacks.
There is a free laundrette on-site for guests in Studios as they do not have the washer/dryers.
All of the facilities at Bay Lake Tower are only for use by BLT residents but BLT residents are also able to use all facilities at the Contemporary Hotel.
The 5th level provides access to the Contemporary Hotel via a walkway. The main hotel contains several restaurants, most require reservations but the Contempo Cafe offers a quick service option for all guests. There are also several shops selling everything from Disney T-shirts to packets of Bran Flakes.
The Resort Monorail runs straight through the Contemporary hotel so BLT residents can easily access it via the walkway and one escalator.
===Location, Location, Location===
We chose Bay lake Tower due to its location so close to the Magic Kingdom. I knew that there was a walkway to the park from the hotel but I hadn't realised really how close it was. Some rooms actually overlook the park. The walk took less than 10 minutes and only involved crossing one quiet road, the walk home was a couple of minutes quicker as you are able to exit the park via a gateway which is even closer but which is not used for entrance. Considering how busy the transport out of Magic Kingdom can be at the end of a party night or after the fireworks this proximity was wonderful, we could be back in our room long before we would have even got to the car-park using the usual methods.
My children are older teens and they loved the freedom of walking to the Park themselves when we were busy packing before we came home.
The access to the Monorail also meant that Epcot was exceptionally easy to reach too as it only involved a change at the Ticket and Transportation Centre.
Other parks can be accessed through the Disney Bus Service from the front of the Contemporary Hotel but we preferred to drive to them and free parking at all Disney Parks is included in the hotel charge.
===Will we Be Back?===
Definitely! We love Walt Disney World and this hotel offered us fantastic sized accommodation alongside a perfect location that suited our short holiday perfectly. If we were going for a longer break then I would probably chose somewhere with a larger balcony and a greener setting but would happily return here anytime.
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Le Dauphin Hotel (Fort Dauphin, Madagascar)
Le Dauphin Hotel, Port Dauphin, South Madagascar Our flight back from Fort Dauphin was due to leave at about 7am and so this would have meant leaving Berenty at 1am and driving the four and a half hours along a really awful road so that we would be there to check in two hours before the flight. We asked our guide about this ... and they contacted the tour company and changed it so that we had two nights at Berenty and one in this hotel in Fort Dauphin. It was not difficult as the same people owned both places and there an available room fortunately .
Having had two nights at Berenty and knowing it was the same owner we didn't have very high expectations for the hotel .Our driver dropped us at the front door and pointed us in the direction of Reception. A man came from the hotel and grabbed our bags and we followed him in.
The lady in reception greeted us with a lovely welcoming smile and asked us how we had enjoyed Berenty. She told us that we were on breakfast and dinner included but would have to pay for drinks and lunch which we did know but nice to have it confirmed. She also told us that our flight time had been changed and now the car would collect us from this hotel at 6.30am so we would actually be able to have breakfast before we left which was a bonus.
She explained that breakfast was in this part of the hotel but lunch and dinner were in another part of the hotel just down the road. She then took us and showed us our room which was actually right next to the reception area so not too far to walk in the early morning.
Just in front of the sliding doors into the room was a small a patio area which looked out onto the lovely tropical gardens. There was a really comfortable sofa with sponge base and big cushions behind. My husband enjoyed a little siesta there in the afternoon while I wrote a few reviews.
The room was not huge but was quite big enough for the night. We had a large double bed with three pillows. The bed was made with white cotton sheets, a blanket and a quilted bed cover in a dark burgundy. As the rooms were all open when we arrived I peeked in a couple and they all had different coloured bed covers but were otherwise pretty similar.
A round table and one chair allowed me to plug in my laptop and sit to type. All that was on the table as we arrived was a large lamp with a ceramic base and raffia shade. Behind me on the wall as I sat at the table was a book shelf, empty apart from a silk orchid, an ash tray and an empty photo frame. A fridge stands on a wooden stand but when I opened it I found that it was not really cold at all and when I went to ask at reception about the prices I discovered that it was a mini bar and the prices were higher than at the restaurant so we bought our water from there instead.
We had an air conditioner in the room which we hoped to use at night but during the day there was a lovely breeze going through from the back window to the open sliding doors at the front. These were very nice and gave a great view of the garden but did of course mean that anyone passing has a good view of us in the room too. The window at the back had no bars and we were on the ground floor so it was definitely going to be shut in the night.
This was not huge but adequate and clean and far more modern that those at Berenty. The toilet was newish looking, the basin has a unit around it and two towels were under the sink on a shelf, white and okay, not thick and fluffy but okay. There was a proper shower cubicle with doors. We were only given a small simple soap and nothing else and of course there was no hair dryer either.
The hanging space was in the bathroom behind the door as was the safe. When we arrived it was open but in the lock position so we had to go and ask for it to be sorted at the Reception desk. A man came within minutes and left us the key which sorted the problem.
When we arrived after our long drive from Berenty we had only had our bread and jam breakfast so we both fancied something to eat and a cold drink. We headed to the hotel next door and found a lovely big bar and on the other side a nice restaurant which looked out onto really pretty gardens. We had a bit of a walk around and found that there was a pool but that it was empty which seemed strange.
We were asked if we wanted to sit inside or out and we chose outside which was on a sort of patio overlooking the garden. We ordered cold water and cold beer and then studied the menu more closely. It was positively exciting to have so much choice. We could have had sandwiches, pizza, three course meals and there were some Malagasy dishes. We always like to try local food so we chose two dishes from those.
My husband had a zebu (beef) and ginger stew dish with rice which he said was very tasty and the meat really well cooked and tender. Mine was a local fish cooked in coconut milk which again came with rice. Rice is the main staple in the country and is grown in many areas throughout Madagascar and we saw a number of padi fields near Antananarivo and also on the drive between Fort dauphin and Berenty. My fish was obviously a large fish as it was almost meat like tuna and the sauce was very tasty.
We hadn't realised that the dinner menu was the same as the lunch special menu and so unfortunately my husband had chosen a dish from the special menu and the other dish was prawns which he can't eat so he had the same meal for dinner as lunch, I chose the same dish as it was the nicest on that menu. The food was much better than at their other hotel in Berenty where we had stayed for two nights before this and the service was polite and friendly.
There were lovely gardens and walking around we found a large swimming pool but it was empty. I don't know if this was a temporary thing or if they planned to refill it but it seemed a shame. We spent a while wandering around the grounds exploring and had planned to have a look around Port Dauphin but we seemed to be a fair way out of the town and this would have meant a taxi ride and we were not really sure what there was to see anyway . We chose to spend the afternoon relaxing and reading in the garden area which was most pleasant after all the walking we had been doing in the last couple of weeks.
We attempted to shut up the room and pointed the remote at the air conditioner and sadly nothing happened. We then remembered that we had had the small table fan pointed out to us on arrival. We put this on and indeed it blew hard across us in bed. It was not entirely pleasant to be blown at all night but the choice was that or bake as we had to have the back window shut as we were on the ground floor and backing on the a very dodgy looking piece of ground. The front of the room was one large sliding door so that also had to be shut for security so we really had little choice.
We had to get up quite early for our journey to the airport so I got up first to use the shower. I fiddled with the taps for ages and couldn't get any cold water. The result was an extremely speedy and rather hot wash of the essential bits and certainly no hair wash. About twenty minutes after we discovered this staff arrived with buckets of water and told us that they had no water in the hotel there was some problem. Luckily we had had a shower the night before and were not too dirty. We also knew we were flying back to Antananarivo and were booked in to the Tamboho hotel which was lovely so we not too bothered.
This was in a lovely room in our part of the hotel so very modern with nice views of the gardens. We were welcomed by the young girl there and shown to a table. She asked whether we wanted tea or coffee and then popped off to return with some fruit juice, our tea and coffee as well as French bread, a plate of fresh fruit and also some croissants. It was a pretty basic continental breakfast but at least we got some fresh fruit and juice with our French bread and jam.
We were next to the Reception area so we pulled our cases into the lobby and sat to wait for the car to the airport. As we had paid for our meal, not used the mini bar and everything else was included we just handed our key back in and that was all done.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
Yes it was a very nice clean and comfortable hotel in lovely grounds but a little way out of the town. That may or may not have been a good thing as I do not know what was in the town and if that would have given you choices in places to eat. Judging by some of the other small towns in Madagascar I would think this unlikely but I may be wrong.
There were things that needed sorting out such as ensuring the air conditioners worked as a table fan is not great blowing at you next to the bed. The water problem may or may not have been their fault; it might have been a problem with water supply in the town. The rooms were nice and clean and fresh looking. The little patio areas in front of the rooms with a sofa to sit on was really nice as it was a comfortable place to sit and read. The food was all pretty good, the prices of the food and drink were reasonable and the staff were all lovely, friendly, smiling and helpful.
This deserves three and a half stars so i have gone for four stars.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
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Monte Da Quinta Hotel Suites (Monte Da Quinta, Portugal)
My boyfriend and I stayed in this hotel in September 2010 for 10 nights. We booked it as part of a package with Easyjet which consisted of flights & B&B accommodation in the Monte Da Quinta suites. The holiday was discounted by 30% on the Easyjet website which made it good value. The prices vary depending on what time of year you ... want to go and how far in advance you actually book. As an example if you were to go in September 2012 it would cost roughly Euro179 per night at full price value for two people.
Despite booking through Easyjet I sent the hotel an email a few weeks before our arrival date just to check the booking was in place and they were expecting us. I got a quick email back confirming the booking which put my mind at rest. This was just the start of the very good impression the hotel made on me.
The hotel is located within the Quinta Do Lago complex which is a huge man-made area consisting of hotels, private villas, a beach and a few bars and restaurants. The beach has a special section reserved for Monte Da Quinta guests which entitled guests to free sunbeds. I think some guests might find the resort slightly fake looking but this didn't particularly bother us. I enjoy modern surroundings and would rather stay somewhere like this and travel out to see the 'real Algarve' during the day.
The area appeared to be well guarded by resort security, although I felt this was more a measure to keep unruly guests under control than preventing outsiders from coming in!! Despite this we always found it easy to get in and out of the resort which appeared to be very open. Perhaps if one tried to enter the resort late at night there may have been some questioning. The resort had a central area which comprised a few bars and restaurants, as well as a small supermarket. We shopped here once but found the prices to be outrageous, so from then on bought anything we needed from a cheaper supermarket in nearby town Almancil.
**Hotel & Rooms**
When we entered the hotel we were greeted by a vast spacious lobby area where a helpful receptionist took our details and explained how to locate the room. We had a suite on the ground floor looking out onto the gardens. The suites are beautiful, all furnishings are very modern and new looking and the rooms are well appointed and practical.
The bedroom consisted of a double bed, dressing table with stool, television and separate chair. The bed was comfortable and everything in the room looked modern and stylish. There was an 'in-between' space joining the bedroom and ensuite bathroom. In here was a huge wardrobe with plenty of hangers and a long wall mirror so you could see your entire outfit before going out. There was also an electronic safe in the bedroom which was free to use. This was very reassuring as I usually end up locking passports/money etc in my suitcase which is a bit risky! The safe was easy to use and we never had any problems with it. Because we were on the ground floor we had a terrace rather than a balcony - yet this was still very private and the garden area it looked onto was quiet making it very relaxing. On the terrace there were 2 comfortable modern chairs and a table which was all we needed to sit outside and have a drink and play cards.
The kitchen contained all the features we needed to make basic lunches which were all we required as we ate out in the evening. Having said that the kitchen would be quite sufficient for making evening meals as there was an oven, 4 hobs, microwave and every kitchen accessory you could possibly need, plus plenty of crockery and cutlery. All was of good quality. We also had a small dishwasher and full size fridge which was perfect for storing drinks and sun creams.
There were 2 bathrooms although we only really used the ensuite, the shower was powerful and the water was always hot. There was a bath in the en-suite however we didn't use this. We were impressed by the heated mirror in the bathroom which meant it never steamed up! There was also a host of complimentary toiletries, bathrobes and slippers for us both which was a really nice touch.
We also had a living room area consisting of a dining table with 6 chairs, 2 sofas, coffee table and television. We didn't particularly use this area too much but it was a nice place to chill out if we fancied some chill time indoors. The television was a huge flat screen and although we didn't use it too much we found there were plenty of channels in English and also noticed there was a DVD player attached for anyone who remembers to bring films or cds.
The rooms were air-conditioned with a unit you could control yourself. The air-conditioning worked very well, even leaving us cold on some occasions. The weather was very hot and so air-conditioning was a must and we were pleased that it worked so well. The rooms were cleaned daily and all sheets / towels changed. It was clear that the cleaners were doing a very good job in the rooms and the rest of the hotel as everything was always spotless. The cleaners were also very discrete and only visited when we were out, therefore we never actually saw them! It is a pet hate of mine when cleaners come barging into your room while you are either still in bed / in the shower etc!
The service in the hotel was perfect, there was always a staff presence when required yet it never felt over-crowded with staff so was just right. We only communicated with the reception staff during check in and departure yet found them to be well presented, polite and efficient. All staff members at the poolside, hotel bar, restaurant etc followed suit.
We went for breakfast every morning and I can say it is the best buffet breakfast I have ever had. There was so much choice, I tended to have cereal & toast followed by fruit with yoghurt. But we did also try the cooked English breakfast and some of the delicious pastries! We were always shown immediately to a table and there was never any waiting. The tables were always set and tidy looking when we sat down. Neither of us drink tea or coffee yet we were always offered this by the various staff members.
We spent a couple of afternoons at the hotel pool, we soon noticed the fact that the Suites pool was very busy and most sunbeds were taken very early on. So we ventured out to the Monte da Quinta club pool which was a 10 minute walk away. This pool area was much quieter and became our pool of choice for the holiday! The sunbeds are very comfortable and towels were available from the poolside staff. We mainly drank water so carried bottles with us most days, but on one occasion we fancied a Coke so ordered from the poolside bar - when I was given the bill for Euro10.00 I thought there had been a mistake and asked the waiter to clarify that we hadn't ordered any alcohol with the cokes - it transpired however that a regular coke was Euro5.00 a glass!! I thought this was ridiculous and vowed never to buy a drink from the pool bar again!!
Despite our shock at the poolside drinks prices we often went to the main lobby bar for cocktails. The waiter on this bar was very friendly and the cocktails, although not cheap, were definitely worth it : ) There was a wide variety of cocktail choices and all were well made with decent ingredients and nice glasses (rather than those horrible 'cordial' style cocktails served in plastic cups!!) There was plenty of seating in the bar area both inside and out and it was never particularly busy.
A hire car is a must when staying in this area as there isn't any particular public transport to speak of. However taxis can be booked via the hotel. We hired a car from the airport for the full duration of our stay. We ventured out to most nearby villages and could do so at our own leisure. We also used the hire car to find restaurants, we ate out at various restaurants in the surrounding area & the neighbouring Vale do Lobo resort. On our final night we ate at 'Casa do Lago' which we had heard great things about. It is within the Quinta do Lago resort and certainly didn't disappoint. It was one of the best meals I have ever had and I would definitely recommend it!
We parked our hire car in the hotel car park which is beneath the hotel. This was always straightforward and was also free of charge. We never had a problem finding a space as the car park was large, and the spaces were of a good size. There was a choice of either a lift or staircase to get from the car-park back to the hotel lobby.
The whole hotel is really nicely decorated featuring unique original art works which were labelled showing information of their origin. Therefore going for a stroll down the hotel corridors was actually like looking round an art gallery!
We weren't aware of any evening entertainment, but this didn't bother us as we were out most nights and preferred to relax quietly when in the hotel. Speaking of relaxation we did visit the hotel spa a couple of times. It is amazing and like a proper spa with various features within such as steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and a large indoor pool. I was so impressed that access to the spa was complimentary to hotel guests, as I would probably pay up to £80 for a spa experience day like that here in the UK! There was an option to book spa treatments and a price list for this was located in our room.
We also made use of the hotel gym on one occasion. This was a light airy studio with mirrored walls and roughly 20 cardio machines, a wide selection of free weights and some floor equipment (exercise balls, mats etc) The gym area was well air-conditioned and had a friendly attendant who appeared to be a sports specific staff member as we witnessed him helping other guests use equipment and recommending work out programs.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic hotel and would highly recommend it!
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4 Stars Hotel International
Hotel International / Resort in Colorado, USA complete with hot springs.
Address:P.O. – Olassery, Kodumbu / Hotel International / Palakkad Dist 678551 Kerala / India
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Hotel International / Luxury hotel accommodation in Djerba, Tunisia.
Address: 400 West Broadway / Hotel International / San Diego / California / 92101 / USA
Address: 377 Cua Dai / Hotel International / 200 Nguyen Huy Hieu St / Hoi An / Vietnam
Address: 7C / Hotel International / Narva Mnt / EE -10117 / Tallinn / Estonia
Address: 1855 South Harbor Boulevard / Hotel International / Anaheim / CA 92802 / Tel: 714 750 1811
Address: No.9 Lane 64, Section 2 / Hotel International / Jianguo North Road /Zhongshan District 104 / Taipei
Address: Begonvil Sok 9 / Hotel International / PK 50 Kalkan / Antalya 07960 / Turkey / +90 532 553 2006
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