December 2013 archive

Comfort Hotel Bayer’s Lake Halifax: What are you looking for in a hotel?

Comfort Hotel

Comfort Hotel

I have worked on this review for a while now because I am comparing different hotels in the greater Halifax area. However, I have decided that it would not be exactly fair to this place to compare it to the downtown hotels. It is like trying to compare and apple to an orange. They are both satisfying, they both serve their purpose, but that is it. We really need to compare different verities of apples to other apple verities to understand which is better.

Can you get a hotel that is more luxurious than this place in Halifax? Yes you can, but at what price and what is included. Will you find something that offers free parking and a free hot breakfast in the downtown locations? For me, I like the super quality mattresses, the large bath areas and other amenities that are available in the more expensive hotel lines. Will I continue to pay for this when there is an alternative like this? Time will tell.

For now, let’s look at this location, on its own and not in comparison to other locations.

Comfort Hotel - Welcome Gift.

Comfort Hotel – Welcome Gift.

1. Value: It is easy to see why this is the number one choice at TripAdvisor. The value is here. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The best value you can get in a hotel is the staff. Here, the staff, are all great.

I was met with a smiling face who has the name of Klong. He made the check in process a breeze, as it should be, and went on to describe what this hotel offered and where everything was located. As well, he was sure to point out the operating times of such things as the indoor pool and dry sauna and the hot breakfast that included scrambled eggs and pancakes. They also had multiple catalogue books where you can choose from their large collection of Blu-Ray movies.

I was also introduced to Nimfa Bautista, the General Manager that happened to make my hotel arrangements. She too wanted to make sure that all my needs were looked after and gave me a warm welcome. She was talking to someone at the time and as it turned out, it was the Owner, Stephanie. Instead of being above the guests, she too was welcoming. You can tell when the good training comes from the top down and it does here 100%. I failed to note the kitchen staff names, but they interacted with the guests and made it a very pleasant part of the hotel experience.

Comfort Hotel - Room Interior

Comfort Hotel – Room Interior

2. Comfort: The room I had was 417. One of the business suites which by looking at the floor plan means it is the larger size rooms. Not a unit with a separate bedroom. The king size bed was comfortable, but they have some type of waterproof covering on under the sheets that well, creaked if you rolled over. I know it must be for sanitary reasons, but not the best idea in my opinion. I minor point, but the microwave and coffee maker were nice and clean. The room over all was a little sparse from the doorway in. It was large enough and could have used a table and chairs for eating in that end of the unit.

The bathroom was functional, but the tub/shower area was small and lacked modernization. They have installed the curved shower curtain, but that was it.

3. Amenities: The TV was a larger flat screen that has multiple inputs. A HUGE point for the traveler as I use my computer to feed to HDMI to watch the shows I want to watch in HiDef. The room also does have the blu-ray player but I did not use this. I am still surprised that it is still the norm to have no HiDef channels coming into the room. Nothing against this hotel as it is that way in most hotels I stay in.

They did offer me 10% off the restaurant and a free drink that included alcohol, but I was out for dinner and did not get to take advantage of this. However, later in the evening I was hungry so I did order room service. The late night menu really pushed their pizza’s and when I called, they stated that this was a popular item. Well, I really could not eat the crust. Yes, it was that bad. The toppings were good but not worth the price tag. If you want a late night pizza, I would recommend you order out.

Comfort Hotel - Room Interior

Comfort Hotel – Room Interior

4. Hotel features.: The hotel did have a nice pool area. Sort of a different location as there are windows through to the eating area. I suppose some parents might head to the kitchen while kids are in the pool, but I would suggest that this is not a great idea. I did not take pictures of the pool since the tile lining was a very dark blue and I know they would not look good. The water was conditioned well and was at an excellent temperature. If you enjoy a pool, this is a good one to do a few laps or just relax.

The dry sauna should have been a nice experience. It was until I looked at the heater or rather the floor area surrounding this. It is a dry sauna, but people still bring in water from time to time. In this case, the area surrounding the floor had black dots where people splashed something. I welcome the comments from the hotel on this as it looked like possible mold and I left the sauna area.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience here. Again great bang for the buck. More so if I was travelling with a family as all the perks would be multiplied. It is in the Bayer’s Lake area so, lots of shopping, eating and movies to entertain you. It is only 10 minutes to the downtown area, but you will still have the downtown parking and other expenses. If you are coming to Halifax for the Bayer’s Lake shopping, I would recommend this location to stay at.

It is interesting and always a treat when I post a review on my Trip Advisors page and the staff reply to my comments. I take this as a response that means the owners / managers care about the feed back and take the concerns to heart. Here is the reply I received.

Stephanie G, Owner at Comfort Hotel Bayer’s Lake, responded to this review

1 week ago

 

Dear Valued Guest,
Thank you so much for your wonderful, detailed review. We truly appreciate the comments on all aspects of your stay. It is through this type of feedback that we can work on maintaining and improving the level of excellence that we want our guests to experience.
I am delighted you appreciated our staff, value, amenities etc. 
I will take this opportunity to comment on some of your valuable feedback and recommendations.
 
a) Our waterproof mattress coverings. Yes Steven, we have placed them for sanitary reasons. They are there to protect our guests. During our 2 1/2 years of operation we have had a couple of comments regarding creaking noise and most do not notice it at all. I have been trying to source something as effective but of a different material. No luck yet. It is something though that I will keep looking into.
b) In regards to the lay out of our Junior suite. I sincerely appreciate your recommendation for more furniture. I am on it!
c) Our phone and tv channel provider, had informed us before the summer that many channels were to be converted to High Definition. They have some technical issues in implementing and we are still waiting.
d) I have spoken to our Kitchen Manager regarding the pizza crust. He will definitely work on improving it and discussing with the rest of the cooking staff, so there will be consistency.
e) It is unfortunate that you did not enjoy our dry sauna. I had a close look at the spots you were referring to with my housekeeping manager. They are the result of natural residue released from the heated stone. Even though the sauna floor is cleaned daily, getting rid of those, required a stronger chemical agent. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, as it can be confused for mould.

I hope you will visit us again when you are in Halifax!

Kind Regards,
Stephanie G
Owner/General Manager
 
 


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Canadian Travel Cards, The Good, The Bad and Everything Else

 

Canadian travel Card
Canadian travel Card

 There have been a lot of changes in the Travel Card Industry, and if you like to collect points, you really have to keep on top of which is the best, for the next two years or more.

Now, we need to cover a few basic things before we get into this. First there are three main types of points to collect in Canada.

  1.  AeroPlan by Air Canada. Yes there are other airlines, but none that are National and apply to all Canadians flying.
  2. AirMiles is a private point collector that has successfully crossed the product line barrier and has been accepted by many store brands as well as Credit Card Companies.
  3. Credit Card Companies. These cards need to be broken down into sections.
    Canadian travel Card

    Canadian travel Card


    1. Traditional cards where they add to your AeroPlan or AirMiles points and

    2. The newer style cards that have their own travel point systems.

 One important point here when we get into the Credit Card systems. I do not endorse or recommend that anyone get a credit card that cannot say they would never, ever carry a balance. The whole point of saving money on travel gets destroyed if you do not pay the entire balance off each and every month and end up paying interest charges. You have been warned and I say this because the newer bank driven travel plans are, simply put, great.

I can remember when, AeroPlan was really the only card and way to get travel miles. Yep, I go that far back. But, over the years, things have changed a lot. Do I still have an AeroPlan account and do I use it? Yes, but no longer for my “basic” travel.

To choose the best card for you depends on 2 things.

 

  1. The travel points and how much you have to spend to get free travel and
  2. What are the soft costs that still have to be paid to get that travel?

 This second item is a really big point with the newer bank reward systems. With plans like AeroPlan and AirMiles, after you save for a long time to get your points, you still have to pay the taxes and fees. In many cases this can be over $200 per person travelling. A family of four spending $800 in travel frees is not exactly a free plane ticket.

To combat this, Banks started offering their own reward system that could not only be used for air travel, but any kind of travel including Hotels and All inclusive travel packages. This was good, in that, it offered a product outside of the plane travel, but it used to take far more points per dollar value then AeroPlan did.

 

Canadian travel Card
Canadian travel Card

 Are you confused yet? The 1990’s was a confusing time for travel points. The good news is that Banks have caught on to this need, more and more banks offered their own reward systems and it is getting more and more competitive. This means better and simpler choices for you, the consumer.

There are programs that offer great point value on economy flights and the same points for separate great value on vacation packages. In fact, I have just used up my AirMiles travel points and have basically stopped collecting them through Credit Cards. Yes, I will still use my AirMiles card when merchants offer this. I would be silly not too. But, not for collecting via Credit Cards. The New generation of point systems are just too good. For example, my local grocery chain offers 95 AirMile points when I buy a $200 Gift card. So, we tend to spend a little over $400 a month and by getting two gift cards, I gain and extra 190 AirMile points plus the $400 in points on that Credit Card.

AeroPlan is getting to be the same with one MAJOR exception. For flights 3 hours or less, I don’t mind Economy, but, when I travel for longer time periods I want to be in business class. AeroPlan is the best and really only choice if you want to travel Business or Executive Class on a reasonable number of points. I have never seen a card that has polarized itself quite so badly as this one. I find for any reasonable short-term reservations, booking my travel in less than a month in advance, I really have a hard time getting classic seats in economy and my newer card offer better value in any case. However, the point system leaves everyone else in the dust on Business class seats.

If we speak of AeroPlan Classic Rewards, one long haul ticket is 25,000 points. One business class is 40,000 points. Yes, these levels are changing in 2014, but I see for the small point person, it gets worse, not better. So, 15,000 points to upgrade to Business class. So a 60% increase in points.

Now, all the newer cards are based on the real cost of the tickets. So I looked up the cost from my airport (East Coast)to Vancouver (West Coast). The best Economy price was about $1,500 and the corresponding Business Class (Executive Class Lowest) was $3,500. An increase of $2,000 or a whopping 130% increase. So for any point system that uses the airline ticket price to figure out the points used, they don’t hold a candle to AeroPlan Business Class points. But again, this is the only exception that I can find.

Another way to look at this is you will need to spend $40,000 in purchases for this ticket in AeroPlan plus say $200 in taxes and fees. On the norm for leading bank cards, you would need to spend about $175,000 to $350,000 in purchases to get the same ticket. Again this really only applies to business class travel. Long story short, AeroPlan is still a good choice for those looking for long haul business class flights.

There are features I like in 3 of the newer plans, but really, it all has to come down to, Which plan will me, for my travel needs, travel sooner.

 

  1. If you are going to be traveling economy, I would recommend a travel card like the new CIBC Aventura MasterCard since they offer special point pricing on airfare only. Unless you live outside of a major metropolitan area like I do. In this case most tickets are over the allowed maximum price.
  2. I do really like the Scotia Gold American Express Card since it is the only one that allow you to book on any site, I.e. Air Canada or Expedia or directly with a hotel, use this card to pay and then call and have them apply the amount to be paid in points. If you hit a great seat sale, you might cash in with this card. My 2 draw backs are that for most purchases, it is still a dollar spent for 1 point and it is American Express. I still find many places that do not accept this card since they have higher costs to the merchant.
  3. But for “package travel” the all-inclusive that so many of us use, right now the choice would have to be the BMO World Elite MasterCard as they offer 2 points instead of 1 for each dollar spent and for packaged holidays, cars, hotels etc. It is a penny a point on all for redemption for mast cards with the exception to the CIBC airline system, so, about 1/2 the points needed from the Bank of Montreal Travel card.

 I am building with BMO for now, being very specific on target amounts going on the card and as these approach, I will once again check the murky waters to the Travel Card business.

I am hoping that the next big card out there will offer 2 or more points on ALL purchases, be a Visa or MasterCard product and allow me to book with anyone and charge it the points on the card. This last point is really huge and will be the next game changer since it is the one thing that will guarantee us that we are getting the best price possible and using the least amount of points to get it. The last thing it needs to have a point for point transfer without penalty to AeroPlan so if you want to be in Business Class … you can.

Hey, this is a travel article, so I am allowed to dream.


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