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After a couple of nights visiting Belfast our trip was finishing with a visit to Dublin. I wanted something central, non rowdy and reasonably priced.........a combination that can be a tall order for Dublin. Our plans included sightseeing and tickets for a show at Dublin's O2 arena . My eye was caught by the North Star hotel - Right opposite Conneley Station - so ideal as we were travelling down by train from Belfast and they even ran shuttle buses to the O2 . Prices looked fine - not too expensive - until I found a special offer with hotels.com - I have no idea if it was a mistake or not but we grabbed the 35 euro rate for our standard room - and the rate was honoured. We arrived and were delighted that we could actually see the hotel as soon as we stepped out of the railway station. No hunting for the hotel required. We entered the hotel and stepped into a reception area with a separate check in, concierge desk and some comfy chairs. So far so good....then we tried to check in ! We were informed we had only paid for one night and still needed to pay for the second. The receptionist was a bit abrupt and we were in a hurry so I told them I'd sort it out with them later (I knew we'd paid for both nights) as we had an appointment. This was the only encounter with a member of staff I found to be unsatisfactory -every other encounter was great and all the other staff were very helpful and friendly. Our room was fine - clean - two comfortable beds (a double and a single although we had booked a twin room)-a decent if small bathroom , a small tv -really all you'd expect for a three star hotel in the city centre. I went back to reception a couple of hours later and spoke to a different (and I think more experienced ) receptionist who told me the room was indeed prepaid for the two nights and she couldn't understand why the other girl had thought otherwise and apologized. The hotel's location is about ten minute's walk from O'Connell Street and I'd describe the area as a bit run down but even when I popped out to the late night Spar shop nearby late at night I didn't feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way. We were able to book the shuttle to the O2 for our concert at the desk and it made the night very easy. It was fun travelling with others going to the show and chat about it on the way back afterwards. From memory it was about 7 euros -not expensive for Dublin. Broadband was available by the hour or day -and there was a PC available to use in the resident's lounge for those who needed a PC to connect. When my plans changed at the very last moment and I needed to print a new boarding card at 2am for an early morning flight the reception desk gave me a free ticket for the broadband so I could do on-line check in and print out the pass. Breakfast (included only in some rates) was served in the basement-which sounds awful -but was actually a nice well appointed room -it's a flat rate buffet for around 10 euro and was excellent-lots of choice both full Irish and continental- and the most delicious soda bread. We ate towards the end of breakfast service and when I commented to the waitress that one of my favourite things about breakfast in Dublin was good soda bread -she came back five minutes later with more bread (and butter and jam packages) wrapped in foil me "As you'll be needing a snack later". We had stayed in the fabulous Malmaison in Belfast before coming to Dublin but my companion commented that of the two she preferred the North Star as it was so friendly and homely. The hotel has an airport service for 5 euros - the first service is very early -early enough to get me to Dublin airport in time for coffee and a roll at the airport before my 7 am flight so no expensive taxi required. It's not a fabulous or swish hotel but it is a nice, clean, friendly and centrally situated hotel -ideal for shopping and sightseeing and just far enough away from Temple Bar that it doesn't attract the stag and hen parties. I'd definitely consider staying here again.
I'm a Gatwick girl ! I grew up twenty minutes from Gatwick airport and worked in the travel industry so flew from there often. Easy to get to-great shopping and a wide choice of flights ...then I moved to Kent. The Gatwick experience became a lot less attractive -still a super airport but the battle that is the M25 is a chore at best . Recently I was planning a trip to Belfast.....and came across some cheap flights with Easyjet from Southend Airport. I associate Southend with its pier ....and well it's in Essex -with the Dartford Tunnel to navigate..... it wasn't even on my radar but the fare was great so I decided to find out more before discounting it. I asked friends, I even asked customers at work who lived in or near Southend. I got two reactions "Where ?" or "Oh I've heard it's great but I've never used it myself". Even from people who lived less than fifteen minutes away. I couldn't find a single person who had used it !! I looked at the map -it looked like an easy run -and as I wanted an early morning flight there would be no toll to pay for the Dartford Tunnel so decided to give it a go. I paid less than £20 for my flight -had I wanted to park at the airport there was a special offer for January and February for free parking for the duration of my trip. I looked at the trains (the airport has its own train station too) but it was cutting things a bit fine and I didn't really want to wipe out the savings on my flight by staying at the adjacent Holiday Inn. I set out early on a cold and slightly snowy morning -we flew through-no traffic delays and soon saw the signs for the airport. We actually drove straight past it as the airport is located behind a strip of stores -it is TINY !! We parked by the station -debated popping into the Holiday Inn for breakfast (All UK Holiday Inns do a great all you can eat buffet breakfast and you don't need to be a guest to enjoy it) but it was a bit too early for me so I hopped out of the car walked past the station and into the airport-which took all of ninety seconds. There are hoardings up saying there is building work ongoing for the airport extension but it was still easy to see where you need to go. I walked into the tiny terminal -past the airline desks and straight upstairs to security ...... only to be sent straight back downstairs as my home printed boarding card had no bar code on it. I went to the desk and the Easyjet staff were cheerful and charming-no sighing, no rolling eyes and my boarding card was quickly reprinted with an apology, genuine smile and a bit of chat. Back to security (no queues anywhere) and straight through. Even with having to get my boarding card reprinted I was in the departure lounge within five minutes of getting out of the car..... Fantastic ! The departure lounge was small-one duty free shop (like the larger airports you can shop and pick up on your return -a handy feature with the low cost carrier's baggage restrictions) a bar and a snack bar and an adequate amount of seating. Toilets were clean and well signposted. I don't feel the need for acres of duty free to wend my way through to on my way to the gate so it suited me fine. Oh yes Southend currently has a mere three gates so no trekking required. A cup of coffee and a danish was purchased at a reasonable price. The coffee was hot and the danish fresh. Usually by the time I've trekked to the gate at Gatwick I'm tired, over-heated and grumpy -this morning I was calm, cool and relaxed. The flight was called ontime and we left on schedule.
When you visit Belfast you can't miss the iconic building that houses the Titanic Exhibition -it stands out with its sheer size and unique shape mimicking the grand ship itself. If I'm honest I didn't know anything about this museum before my last visit to Belfast and had low expectations but we had a free day-the weather was typical January Belfast weather-wet and windy so it seemed like a good place to spend a few hours. A decision I certainly didn't regret as this is an excellent and extraordinary exhibition and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. We preboooked the day we went using the Exhibition's own website http://titanicbelfast.com/Navigation/The-Titanic-Experience.aspx , booking was easy and as it was a Tuesday we qualified for a special "Titanic Tuesday" offer which knocked £3 off the admission price and included a hot drink and a scone whilst there. We arrived at the impressive building and were surprised just how big it was and realized there was going to be a lot to see and a reasonable amount of walking. As my companion has problems walking any distance we enquired and were loaned a mobility scooter for her at no charge. The staff were quick to provide the scooter-which looked brand new and ensured my friend was able to navigate it and was comfortable with it. We were then guided to the beginning of the exhibition and advised of the best route to take with the scooter. The first section of the exhibition opens with an overview of Belfast in the early 20th century and explains how the city was thriving and focused on the shipyards and the prosperity the shipyards gave to the city and the pride and excitement about the building of this great ship. As with all the other sections a variety of audio visual effects are used very successfully. The second section is about the shipyard itself -and the mechanics of building the ship. Sounds a bit boring eh ? It really isn't -it shows the vastness and enormous challenges involved as you ride through. The ride was a surprise and the transfer from the mobility scooter was smooth and dealt with efficiently by the courteous and friendly staff. Moving onto the launch of the Titanic itself -it's very clever how you appear to be on the slipway itself and the excitement of the population who turned out for the launch (an estimated 100,000 people -a third of the city's population). The exhibition moves you through the ship itself showing the varying types of cabin -from the basic to the extraordinaryly ornate and the fantastic public areas. Throughout the whole exhibition the human reactions are shown as well as the factual -an element that or me really made the Experience especially worthwhile as oral history for me brings it all to life. We move forward to the voyage itself and the events of that fateful day -it is realistic enough that I wouldn't personally take a very young child although the horror isn't dwelt upon. The exhibition then dwells for quite a while on the aftermath -both the survivors and those who perished. It is touching without being mawkish and also focuses on some amazing acts of bravery. At this point we met a lady whose grandfather had survived the sinking and it was interesting talking to her and seeing how moved she was and also how much she appreciated the exhibition. It was all quite emotional and at tis point we decided we had seen enough and skipped the rest and headed down to the excellent coffee shop for our included hot drink -we decided the included plain scone wasn't enough and had the full monty scone with jam and cream which we paid full price for. It was gorgeous. They were also doing a brisk trade in full hot meals and everything looked delicious. We returned the mobility scooter without any waiting or delay and headed back to our hotel -promising ourselves we would return sometime to see the rest of the exhibition.
Delta Airlines -one of the longest existing American airlines -and recently expanded to offer even more services and flights. So how did Delta get bigger in these times of credit crunch? They bought out another airline. In this case the well thought of NorthWest airlines. This takeover has brought Delta more routes (NorthWest's hubs are Minniapolis and Detroit which compliment nicely Delta's existing hubs at Atlanta, Cincinatti and Salt Lake City) and importantly some very nice aircraft. NorthWest fly the very comfortable Airbus 330 series which in my opinion are the nicest and most comfortable aircraft on the transatlantic routes. Minniapolis is a fantastic airport modern and efficient and a definite asset to the Delta network. However nicer aircraft or not the main reason why I fly Delta iss the crew. I fly several times a year across the Atlantic and I find their crew to be the nicest-that warm southern hospitality is evident on almost all the flights I've taken with them and as I'm poor enough to not be able to afford business class (at least not if I want to travel several times a year ;) it makes a big difference. Most crew radiate a genuine feeling warmth -which is refreshing when compared with the surly or disinterested service I've found on certain other carriers. Economy air travel is never going to be super comfortable or have enormous seats or have gourmet food but with Delta I get a reliable product (on the rare occassions I've had delays and missed connections Delta have rebooked me promptly and without fuss often before my late plane has even landed), their seats are comfortable enough that I can sleep-unlike some of their competitors and the food is edible and sometimes downright tasty-again not something that is always the case with other carriers Delta have some great fares and often run fare sales Delta also partner with Air France and KLM. Try Delta-You'll like them
My name is Rachel and I'm a priceline-a-holic. Priceline-the site where you pick your own price works wonderfully well for me. I've saved hundreds of pounds in a variety of destinations-some of which I'll list further down. My expeience of this site is mainly with hotels so I'll be concentrating of these. The site is very well laid out. It lists normal hotel agency type pricing but also offers the "Name your own price" option. Most cities are offered and the larger ones offer several localities (zones) to choose from. You select your city, zone and star rating -add your price.....and your card payment details. No second chances here-payment is taken before you are given the hotel name and there is no chance of backing out if your plans change or you don't fancy the hotel allocated. Yes it's strict-but the savings can be amazing. To get the best result and the best value you *do* need to do your research but those resourses are free and available on-line at www.biddingfortravel.com and the newer www.betterbidding.com. Not only do they have a comprehensive list of which hotels are offered but they also offer easy to understand bidding stratagies involving "free bid zones" to help you bid as low as possible. Both sites also have historical data of past bids to help you decide how low you can go ! My first ever priceline bid was for a night in New York. I could find nothing better than $150 for a three star hotel in the theatre district even after checking out all the discount sites but then saw that someone had posted a winning bid for the Hilton W 42nd Street for $105. I decided I had nothing to lose by trying-as any of the hotels listed in the zone were suitable so I nervously bid. Instant success-a huge room with two double beds and amazing views at the Hilton for $105. The cheapest rate I found for it elsewhere on the same date was a whopping $275. What a deal-I was hooked ! Since then I've used Priceline for a variety of trips both in the US and the UK. Marriott Manchester (both at the airport and the gorgeous Victoria & albert in the city)-£50, Renaissance in Cleveland $65 (friends booked the same night direct paid $120 and had a smaller room) to name just a couple of about 70 nights in total. Some people say that priceline get the worst rooms for their customers because the rooms are discounted, lthough I understand that logic it has not been my personal experience. I've always had really nice rooms and sometimes even upgrades-often to executive rooms and last October memorably to a full two roomed three bathroom suite in a Vegas hotel. If you don't have a favourite must-have hotel but are happy to pay 2 star prices for a 4 or 5 star hotel then priceline is definitely worth considering whether for a trip to London, a visit to Disneyland or an overnight airport stopover-you can save money and stay in far nicer hotels than you might think you can afford. This review was written several years ago now but nothing has changed -however several other companies like Expedia and LastMinute now offer similar schemes which are worth looking at although personally I find in most cases Priceline still offers the best value for me personally.
So you need to speak to a company. You call them-press lots of buttons and get through to Tech Support. You're talking to a call centre-right ? Well no sometimes you're not. Some of the largest companies actually have advisors working from home. To the unware customer it makes little difference -or so they think but in my opinion it's a really good thing for the customers as you have happier and better motivated staff. I know I'm one of them ! I first came across my job on the internet-someone had posted that he thought he'd actually found a real work at home job that wasn't a scam . I admit I was skeptical but the company concerned was a household name (a large TV/internet company) so as this guy was writing a blog of his experiences I decided to follow his progress and see what happened. He passed the interview and started three weeks paid training. He spoke highly of the trainers and his fellow trainees and explained a bit about how the training was done -remotely using a mix of computer based training and conference calls. So far so good. Payday came around mid training-yes they all got paid-on time and correctly-even better. So I followed his blog as he went into live calls and it really sounded like the kind of job I could do-needed some technical awareness but customer service and been a good comunicator were equally important. So I too applied. I passed the interview-did my training at home and before I knew it I was taking my first calls. I had worked in call centres before and the thing I really didn't like about them was the battery farm approach-tethered to your desk-having to ask permission to go to the loo etc. Working from home banished all those bad bits. Yes I have set breaks -just like in a call centre-but if I need a drink or the loo I also have a set amount of time to self allocate for personal time. Some shifts I use it all-some hardly at all. The only equipment I needed was a PC, broadband connection and a telephone line-we connect securely through a VPN (for the benefit of any techie-types wondering about security) and our data is as secure as if we were in a call centre. My friends wondered if I'd feel isolated working alone as I'm very much a people person. The answer is no-as well as a steady stream of customers on he line I have screens open to my supervisor and to senior techs for any assistance I might need as well as a general screen with my collegues for the inevitable exchange of chat both work and non work related. Our stats are consistently higher than our colleagues in call centres-probably because like the battery chickens v free-range-we're less stressed by our enviroment but we have access to the same resources that they do. In fact when we talk to them they are quite envious at times. Other benefits of working from home-no fares, no lunches to pay for, no work clothes to buy and of course no travelling time. You finish your shift and log out and within seconds you are doing whatever you want without trudging home or even leaving the building first. This also means that when overtime is offered-it's easy to accept. No trotting into work on your day off or late night journeys home-when you finish -that's it you actually only spend the extra time working-not travelling. I qualify for bonuses. heavilly discounted company products and get free medical cover as well as the usual paid holiday. Other aspects are just like other jobs-holiday you need to book well ahead of time and you're expected to be logged in and available for your hours punctually-no different to a "bricks and mortar" call centre. The people I work with are probably as diverse if not more so than the usual call centre-some people are studying, running their own businesses, want to be home based for family reasons. One of the really nice things is that it's a very non-judgemental enviroment. You aren't judged by appearance because no-one can see you (unless you choose to-we have our own facebook community for example) and some of my collegues have disabilities but unless they choose to reveal that fact no-one knows. You are judged on what you are at work not other people's misconceptions. All sounds a bit worthy when put like that but it isn't. Our chatscreens are often full of banter and sometimes you have to stifle a giggle at some of the comments that pop up when you're on a call. I've now been doing this job for a year -I like the customers (the odd angry one doesn't worry me-I like a challenge and regard it as a victory to end the call with them happier and their issues resolved) and although I would never have thought of myself as a technically minded person realise now that I'm actually a lot more capable technically than I ever would have thought possible. I think CSAs working from hme has a huge future as companies come to appreciate the huge benefits both for themselves, their staff and their customers. UPDATE Four years on and I'm still in the same job -admittedly now employed by a different company but my contract was TUPE'd across-Pretty good for a supposedly "unstable" work at home job. Interestingly the client is now taking a greater interest in the work from home project and new departments are also possible from home - so very slowly the prospects for proper jobs at home are expanding.
I'd heard about House-who hadn't. It had won armfuls of awards in America an d my American friends raved about it during the first season. "Yeah -Yeah Another American medical drama "I thought-and Hugh Lawrie is in it. The bloke from the Jeeves series who played the upper class twit and had been in Black Adder -Ho Hum nothing worse than these Brits who sell out for a series in the US with formulmatic scripts and a poor American accent. This wasn 't a show I was remotely interested in watching........... Fast forward a year. It was a rainy Sunday lunchtime and I settled down on the sofa to see what was on. Hallmark had a "House weekend" running-back to back episodes of the first series as a forerunner to the new series. Well nothing much on -let's see a little bit of this before turning over........... I was hooked-Hours later I was lapping it up still. Charismatic and angry but with glimpses of vunerability the very attractive House, his interns -all well constructed and layered characters sometimes collegues, sometimes allies -sometimes at war with each other or with House. The other doctors-Cutty-the boss lady -needing to be tough with her vunerabilities well hidden -but House sees them-sometimes ruthlessly exploting them for his own agendas- othertimes -surprising with his understanding and insight. The best friend-put upon and also exploited by House-but you learn deep down he and House actually understand each other and both do care. The plot-well there's always a mystery to be solved before the closing credits-often by House-but not always and the back stories provide contrast and interest. Hugh Lawrie is a superb actor-he makes you if not like House then care for him and the accent I was so dimissive of in my opening paragraph is so accurate I've actually had arguments with people over his nationality ! The humour is often black but that to me is an advantage not a fault-and rare in US series. House is like an onion-doesn't sound very exciting from the outside but has multiple layers and is powerful within. Peel it-you'll be glad you did !! Sadly this series has now finished and if I'm honest the last season for me started badly -I found myself annoyed at the episodes in prison and wished they'd stop faffing around and et him back into the hospital-which they eventually did and I found the last series much more enjoyable from then on. I'm sure this series will be rerunning for many years to come -and I'm excited to see what new projects the cast will be doing in the future .
Like many people who travel I'm a huge fan of tripadvisor.com. It's one of the most useful resources around but needs to be used properly ! It sounds wonderful -totally impartial reviews by "real people". Well yes -mostly that *is* what the review section is-apart from the disgruntled ex-employees, rival hotels and of course the holidaymakers who paid a 2 star price but expect a deluxe experience. Some reviews need to be read with a large pinch of salt. I've seen glowing reviews and stinking ones posted within days-about the exact same hotel-although often reading closely will give you clues-little hints like "the receptionist didn't instantly greet us but continued dealing with the guests ahead of us" Uh yep that isn't an issue to me but if I was full of self importance it might be. "We didn't win at the casino so the hotel was horrible" Mmmm would the hotel have been wonderful if they'd won I wonder ? One of my favourites was a hotel at a remote beauty spot where a reviewer complained "The nearest McDonalds was 20 miles away" Sounds like a plus to me but this holidaymaker had different expectations. That's the point we all have different expectations and no review will ever be completely objective. All that aside if you can interpret the reviews you'll generally get a good idea of what to expect-and what to pay. If there are twenty good reviews and two bad ones I'll read both types and weigh it up-I wouldn't let a single bad review sway me....and so far that strategy has served me well -all over North America and also in the UK and Europe. Tripadvisor isn't just about hotels though -it's what it is best known for and many people look no further but the forums are an absolute treasure trove of useful information and tips which will often enhance your visit to a new destination. Tripadvisor as the advert (almost) says "Don't leave home without (reading) it !!
I enjoyed the previous reviews on this topic so decided to add my own. I have really enjoyed working with teenagers in previous roles and after seeing friends return to university and qualify as teachers was seriously considering doing the same. I had no illusions about the hours involved as I had seen from my friends how much outside of school hours work is required. I decided that before I applied to uni I need to test drive the job and when I was offered a job as a classroom assistant at a large local high school-I accepted. I absolutely loved the job itself. I worked with years 7,8 and 9 both in small groups and giving one to one support. Yes there were behavour issues, yes there were times I could have happily wrung the necks of certain pupils yet despite been known as "That strict classroom assistant" I had a good rapport with many of the kids and they would come to me outside of lesson times for advice or support too. The buzz when you'd see a kid who struggled finally "get" a concept they had struggled with or get a better mark than they'd previously got was honestly great and made up for all the frustrations of the times they didn't or the kids who simply didn't want to even try.Although it was a challenging school the discipline side didn't worry me-yes it wasn't always easy -but in time you earn the respect of the kids and once they realize you aren't a pushover most are no issue. I think I had to raise my voice ONCE in the year- the "look" was far more effective !! :) The other teachers...... I worked with some absolutely brilliant teachers -dedicated, interested in the kids who really made a difference-and some right wastes of space who were either burned out, worked only for the holidays or went into teaching for all the wrong reasons. No particular age group fell into one category some had taught all their working lives, some were straight from uni and others had entered teaching as their second career-good and bad in all. So I completed a year.......had the offer of a training place.....had funding-but then didn't proceed. The reason-schools aren't run for what is best for the children, they are run as businesses-meeting targets, quotas etc-even when these directly conflict with what is best educationally and emotionally for the students. In the end it would have driven me crazy to not be able to do the best job I possibly could. I have the greatest of respect for those who teach for the right reasons and work endlessly for what is best for their students within a flawed system. I still do a little invigilating exams in school and whenever I do I remember all the good reasons for teaching and feel a pang of regret but ultimately I know teaching would have broken my heart.
The Road Trip movie....... a genre that has been done to death but this one featured Donny Osmond so I reckoned it was worth a look ! Just released this week on DVD I watched it flying over to Las Vegas last summer. Unlike some other movies that get cut to bits by the airlines Disney movies usually survive this very american censorship and the plot survives. This film to be honest isn't big on plot though. It's the standard parent not wanting to let their child grow up, misunderstandings, bit of slapstick, bit of sentimentality and everyone lives happy ever after formula that Disney does better than most. The Dad is played by Martin Lawrence -as the hapless father taking his teenage daughter to visit colleges. He wants her to stay locally-she has other ideas. Lawrence is adequate in the role-he's played this part so many times before and he's mostly amusing-verging on irritating at times but that's the stereotypical character he's playing. Raven Symone is the daughter-loves her Dad but is growing up and needs to make her own way despite his best efforts. Yep nothing new here plot wise-the two elements that stop the movies been one big yawn are Donny Osmond...........and a pig !! The pig is the best character actor in the cast causing mayhem and raising laughs in the best tradition of Disney. Donny plays a wacky parent visiting the same colleges with his equally wacky, irritating daughter and in the best tradition of these movies the two families (plus pig) end up travelling together with Donny and daughter bursting into song at every appropriate and some inappropriate moment. They both ham it up to the max and to some degree it works. Overall a good family movie-nothing exceptional but worth a rental for a wet Sunday afternoon.
One of the things I like about Aldi is that although prices are lower than many supermarkets the products are usually of the same quality or higher. However I've often found that cheaper washing powder is often the exception and doesn't do the job as well as my usual name brands do. I'm delighted to tell you that Almat Washing Tablets are the exception to the rule. They work just as well as my usual brand (Bold) for cleaning but at a much better price. For heavy soil washes -yes you do need to throw in an extra tablet-but that's true of the name brands too. They aren't as heavily perfumed as my usual brand -but to me that isn't a disadvantage. I don't need to smell of silk and jasmine or whatever anyway and prefer something more "neutral like this product has to scent my clothes I recommend you try this product out for yourself-it's a winner-and a moneysaver. And you can't go far wrong with that !
Denny's is one of the most famous resturant chains in the US. If you want a reasonably priced meal in a strange town do what the Americans do -Hit Denny's ! Best known for breakfast-well they DO serve it 24/7 but lunch nd dinner are also available -if a burger or meatloaf floats your boat instead. I've yet to visit an American town that doesn't have a Dennys franchise (yes it's franchise but so are most name resturants in the US). They have standardized menus-you know exactly what you'll get to get whichever state you happen to be visiting. Prices are incredibly reasonable-$4 for a Grand Slam (bacon and eggs with pancakes-you'll be stuffed when you get up from the table). There are always deals-Kids eat free, seniors discounts, early bird specials and of course your coffee cup is always bottomless with constant free refills. The service is generally pretty good and most of their waitresses are either college students or "grey haired ladies eeking out their pensions-these senior ladies are usually either incredibly friendly and helpful or dead grumpy-but either way the service is good, the food is hot and arrives promptly. You haven't "done" America until you've tried Denny's-it's a national institution !!
I booked this hotel via Priceline after same careless bidding(entirely my fault)-and was somewhat disappointed to have won it as it is North Strip. (I had wanted Central or South Strip) That's the way it goes with Priceline sometimes so I checked in with low expectations-anyway who spends much time in their room in Vegas anyway ! Check-in was very busy -which for an October Friday afternoon was no surprise and as I waited in line I discounted my previous idea of trying the $20 trick as check in was a weird mix of automation and check in staff. The line was staffed by a very helpful and pleasant gentleman who answered everyone's questions and was generally charming. You stand in line but when you get to a desk you have to type in your details and put your card into kiosk. I couldn't see how the trick could be worked-however to my amazement I was upgraded anyway-to a full suite !!! Not bad for a Priceline cheapie. The suite was huge-sitting area with wet bar -separate dining area with a table seating six ,1.5 bathrooms, huge king bedroom and best of all a full size balcony-suddenly I WANTED to spend more time in my room :) The Riviera in many respects reminds me of the Flamingo-except the casino is airier and lighter (and cleaner) and the location is not as central-however with the Deuce stop right outside it was not any issue at all to get to mid or south strip-I had planned to go to downtown on the Deuce as well but never made it. I only ate once at the hotel buffet and although it wasn't as bad as some reviews make out it wasn't wonderful either-but as it was free and mostly edible (present your airline boarding card at the Player's club for a free breakfast or lunch) I had no real complaints. The slots were very tight on Friday and very loose on Saturday-I didn't play any table games but there seemed to be more lower stakes available than mid-strip-as you'd expect. They had a Vegas style crooner singing in the casino Saturday afternoon-it was a nice Old Vegas touch. Overall a very nice stay -to the point I called and asked if they could offer me player rate for my next weekend in December-to my amazement they comped me both nights and threw in a food credit of $30. I know the credit crunch is hitting but it was still a very generous deal for weekend nights considering I'd played very low stakes during my visit. It isn't high end luxury-but it still has the atmosphere of "Old Vegas" without the seediness of Downtown and offers good value with an excellent chance of upgrade (I met other people who had also got upgraded). Definitely worth considering if you want to spend less on a room and more on entertainment. As the mid Strip cheaper options go (Bill's closed this week) the Riviera still offers good value without going off the Strip.
I'd been aware of JetBlue for quite a while and had heard mainly good things about them so when we decided to add a side-trip from Utah to Los Angeles it seemed like a chance to give them a try..... especially as their fares were so much lower than the legacy airlines. We checked in on-line for our first flight from Salt Lake City to Long Beach and simply had to drop our bags off at the desk. Simple-or would have been had the desk been manned but there was no-one in sight-just a note saying "back at 3pm" a mere 45 mins before takeoff. The staff were pleasant-even if they made us repack as we were over the weight limit. As we had booked before the new charges for luggage came in we weren't charged despite having luggage for a three week trip. Down to the gate and our next surprise-a smoking room. Most airports no longer have these and as Salt Lake City is predominantly Mormon and therefore non smoking it was quite a surprise that there was one there. Boarding was fast and the seats were fine. Leather with decent seat pitch. I'd heard that Jet Blue crew could be a bit OTT and come across like Butlins Redcoats but our crew both ways weren't like this. They were efficient and smiley (which is something some of the big name American carriers can't claim on domestic flights). There were seatback entertainment screens -however earphones had to be purchased on the ground ($1) so we ended up using one pair from a previous flight for my son and I had nothing. This could have been better publicised. Surprisingly for such a short flight there was both free beverage and snack service. The snacks were in a basket-the usual cookies and potato chips...one snack per person the only notable feature was that the potato chips were BLUE ! Bit of a gimmick but they tasted fine. Long Beach airport is a small but perfectly formed airport and a refreshing change from the vastness that is LAX. Within ten minutes of landing we had collected our bags and were picking up our hirecar. If we'd flown into LAX we'd still have been walking to baggage claim by this point ! The return flight was equally good and the smallness of Long Beach airport came into its own as we'd underestimated the LA traffic and arrived less than twenty minutes before scheduled takeoff time. We checked in with no problems or even comment from the ground staff. All in all a solid product-I'd happily fly them again. The last time I flew into LA had been with United and it had been a miserable experience -this was much better both in terms of the airport and the attitude of the crew and ground staff.
Ahhh Donny I grew up with Donny Osmond-he was the cute kid next door-well if next door wasn't four thousand miles away he would have been-he was my first crush, my first concert ahhh the memories. But then I grew up and discovered other kinds of music and less cute but infinitely more interesting men too ;) Fortunately Donny grew up too and this album shows that the Puppy Love boy grew up to hone his craft and extend his range to become the talent (often under-rated) that he is today. Donny's voice is still strong and he has a terriffic range which comes in handy with this collection of songs from musicals. For me the standout tracks are This Is The Moment, Imortality and Seasons of Love- three very different tracks but like the rest of the album Donny stamps his own mark on them without spoiling them by going too far from the original. If you enjoy Broadway, remember Donny or just enjoy a great voice-give this a listen. You won't be sorry you did !