The following is a summary of Mandy and Mike Dwyer’s trip to Hawaii, Seattle, Vancouver and Ireland in April/May 2017.
- Halekulani Hotel, Waikiki - Stayed 4 nights
- Location, location, location! Great waterfront position, nice pool area, two towers of accommodation.
- Considering its reputation as the premier 5-star hotel on the strip, the guest rooms are a bit disappointing – they’re quite bland, and the technology is dated. Great views, but you need to be specific about what type of view you want (full, partial water view, etc.)
- Public areas are very good.
- Service outstanding – however, there was usually a 5 -10 minute queue to get into the breakfast restaurant.
- Royal Hawaiian (the Pink Place) – Inspected
- Grand old hotel, oozes character, perfect location on Waikiki beach
- Guest rooms are generally quite small with small balconies.
- Four top suites are huge and luxurious in the old-world style, each quite different and will not appeal to everyone – but some will love it.
- Beautiful grounds and gardens
- The Modern – Inspected
- Located just past the Hilton complex, it’s still walking distance (15 – 20 mins) to the Waikiki strip. It’s not absolute beachfront, but has great water views (ocean & marina), and the location suits those wanting a slightly quieter location than Waikiki.
- Quite a funky hotel – think QT & W hotels combined
- Didn’t inspect rooms this trip, but looked at them 3 years ago - all-white, stylish, not large but pretty good and can recommend the property.
- Very good pool and bar areas, with an excellent nightclub.
- Four Season Ko Olina - Inspected
- Located 15 – 20 mins from Honolulu airport, in the opposite direction to Waikiki, adjacent to the Disney resort, and surrounded by golf course/s.
- Good option for those wanting to break their journey on the way home from the US, if you don’t like Waikiki but don’t have time to get to Maui or the other islands.
- Very large, well-appointed rooms.
- 10 – 15 minutes to outlet shopping.
- Took us close to 90 minutes to drive from Waikiki to Ko Olina in peak hour, but takes about 25 minutes off-peak.
- Hotel 1000 – stayed 2 nights
- Good location in downtown Seattle, excellent quality hotel – more business orientated than leisure but fine for anyone.
- Large room - we were upgraded to a junior suite, which gave us a separate lounge area from the bedroom. This proved ideal as it allowed me to work without disturbing Mandy.
- Excellent service, friendly staff.
- Unfortunately we only had one full day in Seattle, and spent a chunk of it visiting the Virtuoso office – but it looks to be an interesting and attractive city.
- We did the ½ day Boeing factory tour – I thought it was fantastic and Mandy managed to stay awake for most of it.
- Rosewood Georgia Hotel – stayed 4 nights
- Our allocated a room on 3rd floor was unimpressive, with an outdoor bar/restaurant located between the 3rd & 4th floor, and only a couple of metres from our windows, we couldn’t open the blinds as bar patrons would be looking directly into our room – and it was very, very noisy.
- After 2 nights, we had enough, and I emailed the MD of Rosewood – we were immediately relocated to the 12th (top) floor – similar room layout but with a view and quiet. Quite good, but very little wardrobe space.
- So, ensure you request a high floor, and write to the GM a week out. It’s a good location, directly opposite the Four Seasons, handy to shopping, 10 minutes walk to the waterfront. It has an outstanding jazz bar in the basement – plus the outdoor terrace mentioned above.
- Four Seasons Vancouver – comments.
- We didn’t stay here, but a number of our Aussie colleagues did – and they were scathing in their comments – one moved out after 2 nights. Comments were:
- rooms are very tired,
- not particularly clean,
- bathrooms badly need a refurb,
- and the service was average.
Recommend caution if you are thinking of using this property – there’s better options available.
- Fairmont Hotels x 2: Waterfront, Pacific Rim and Hotel Vancouver – comments, based on feedback from delegates and attending functions
- All 3 are stunning properties. The Waterfront is obviously on the waterfront, The Pacific Rim is virtually next door, whilst the Hotel Vancouver, referred to as the ‘Castle in the City’ for its unique rooftop, is about 5 minutes walk away in a very central location.
- The Waterfront is the hotel of choice for cruise companies and their pre- and -post cruise pax, and it’s also located across the street from the Convention Centre – and I would probably avoid it unless I was about to board a cruise ship or attending a conference.
- The Hotel Vancouver is an iconic hotel, a real landmark. We didn’t go inside but delegates were very complimentary about it. PacRim is very highly regarded.
- Delegates were spread across the Fairmont Hotels and I only heard positive comments.
- Trump Hotel & Tower Vancouver – inspection (at 11.30pm!)
- If you can get past the brand name, this is a stunning new property in a very central location.
- They are desperate for business as the brand is killing them, and you can be assured your clients will be upgraded and VIP’d if you drop the GM a line in advance. I sent a separate email showing the MBT amenity they’ll provide our clients (pictured left).
- This would be my first choice for the next 12 months because they are so keen for the business, and the rooms are pretty amazing. There’s about 19 room categories though, so let me know if you need help booking anyone in here.
- DUBLIN: Westbury Hotel – stayed 2 nights / Merrion Hotel – stayed 1 night
- Both are very good Virtuoso properties, but quite different.
- Both in good locations. The Westbury is a little closer to the nightlife of Chatham St, with the Merrion in a classier area, but its only about 10 minutes’ walk from one to the other – it’s a good city for walking and both hotels are well located.
- Westbury is more old-world style, Merrion is quite a bit larger and much more modern luxury.
- We arrived into Dublin at 6.00am, and the Westbury explained our ‘suite’ (upgraded) wouldn’t be ready before 3.00pm – but they had put aside a twin-bedded room for our use, so we were able to get a few hours’ sleep – and the hotel was fully booked, so this was outstanding service and forethought by the hotel.
- You could happily recommend either hotel with confidence.
- The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore – stayed 2 nights, Deluxe Seaview Room
- Boutique (less than 40 rooms) amazing hotel built into the cliff face overlooking the wild seas on the S.E. coast.
- This is an extraordinary hotel, stunning architecture (8 years old on the site of the very old original hotel), and amazing features throughout.
- Michelin-starred restaurant – we did the degustation menu with paired wines (5 or 6 courses @ €150 p.p.) and it was worth it. Very memorable and a highlight of our trip. Breakfast is fantastic too – and they do have a more casual, less expensive dining restaurant and bar.
- Beautiful walks along the cliff tops in this relatively remote and historic part of Ireland, and the tiny town of Ardmore (only 2 pubs) is cute.
- If you want to add some “wow-factor’ to an itinerary, I’d include the Cliff House as it’s one of the most memorable things we did. However, if I was to choose only one ‘wow’ factor property, Ashford Castle would be it.
* The golf balls are filled with fish-food and you can hit them to a floating target in the ocean @ €1 per ball.
- Killarney Park Hotel, Killarney – stayed 2 nights, upgraded to junior suite
- Beautiful older style hotel, quite large, in a good location on the outskirts of the CBD – a 3-minute walk to the pedestrian mall and pubs etc. but away from the noise and the crowds.
- Killarney is a large-ish tourist town, and well worth a couple of nights on any itinerary – it’s a favourite getaway spot for the Irish.
- This is the launching pad for Ring of Kerry tours – which is basically a full day-tour (or more) along the historic coastal region, and we hired a private guide for the day. Our guide was a bit of a dud, but despite this, I’d still recommend hiring a guide as the history of the region is significant, and it really helped us understand so much more about what we were seeing.
- There’s an endless line of large coaches doing the circuit during the peak season, so if the budget doesn’t run to a private guide, maybe recommend a regular day tour. Our guide was €400 for the day, including a very comfy 8-seater vehicle.
- Wide range of accommodation available, but quite a lot of it is 3 - 5 km’s out of town. I’d recommend staying in town, where there’s a wide choice – in fact, I’d recommend the Killarney Park Hotel as it was everything you’d expect of a classic Virtuoso hotel in this part of the world, and the location is hard to beat.
- Ashford Castle – stayed 2 nights
- Nothing short of amazing, from the moment you arrive, this place makes you very aware that it’s something special (No. 1 Virtuoso hotel in the world in 2015).
- Only 80-something rooms, but looks big enough to have a couple of thousand! Our room was, I think, the entry level category, and it was great.
- Absolute highlight was the Falconry School i.e. the Hawk Walk. If you haven’t seen the video clip of Mandy and me doing this, it’s worth a look. Mandy & I agree this was the single most outstanding memory of the trip. You MUST pre-book as it’s often fully booked well in advance.
- The Castle runs a very high occupancy year-round, so ensure your clients book well in advance if possible.
- We dined in the fine dining room (George V) one night, and this should also be booked in advance. Gents are requested to wear a jacket (no tie) ‘in recognition of the elegance of the setting’. Its expensive, but we opted for one course instead of the 2 & 3 course suggested menus. The mains are around €40 euro, and a decent glass of red was €12 – 15 approx. (A glass of O’Dwyer red from the Clare Valley in S.A. was €40 and a bit beyond our means, damn it!)
Summary of Ireland
The itinerary totalled 9 nights, with 2 in Dublin at the start & 1 night at the end, and was just about perfect. We didn’t include Northern Ireland.
We hired a car (Sixt – VW Passat) and total driving distance was a tad over 1,000km. I bought a local SIM for €10 and used my iPhone for SatNav, which proved much better than the plug-in GPS that came with the car.
Flights – a few brief observations
Hawaiian: We flew in ‘Extra Comfort’ (HA’s premium economy) – well worth the small additional charge for the extra legroom. The seating config is 2/4/2, with the 2 on each side ‘Extra Comfort’. I took my own food as they don’t cater for any dietary requirements – not even kids.
Westjet: Their equivalent of premium economy was also worth it, and they exceeded our expectations. Very comfortable and good service.
Aer Lingus: Economy – was fine.
Etihad: Business – excellent as expected. On the ABU/BNE leg, it was the Dreamliner, and I was in a rear-facing seat. Although I prefer forward facing, I didn’t find the rear-facing seat a problem (but I reckon any business class seat is great!). However, its worth being aware of this as some pax object to the rear-facing seats. If you have a couple travelling together, ensure you do the seating as early as possible if they want to be able to talk to each other during the flight - the middle seats are what you need and they are forward facing.