Sunday, August 27, 2006

Of colds and storms

We're back at the San Jose Hilton, after two disappointing nights at Chaminade in Santa Cruz (more on this later).

The wedding was lovely, and I'm sure it was a hell of a party.  I don't really know, because I was miserably sick the whole time.  In fact, I noticed that I was coming down with something Thursday afternoon.  By Friday morning, it had mushroomed into a full-blown flu, and, by Friday evening, I was struggling through dinner at Shadowbrook with my in-laws.  Something, no doubt, that I picked up on the flight over here.

In any case, I was miserable from the moment we left San Jose until the moment we returned, and, I have to say, I'm not really over it yet.  I have my fingers crossed that it is fully out of my system by the time we land in Atlanta Tuesday night, because, as you may have guessed, the Red Cross has already put us on alert for Hurricane Ernesto.  The storm is looking to make landfall in Florida late Tuesday, and the keys are already being evacuated.  Best guess right now is that we will be deployed to Orlando, and we figure we can be there by Wednesday night, assuming no flight troubles on our way back to Atlanta.

We have some friends in Atlanta we were hoping to see while we were in town, and at least one affiliate club to sample, but we will likely not get to do either of those things on this visit.

Speaking of friends not visited, we also had some other folks here we hoped to see, and my flu kept us from adding anyone to the agenda.  In fact, we had a dinner date tonight, and Louise is there without me -- no need to expose anyone else, and I'm trying to keep quiet and recuperate.

I did get a chance to see and briefly catch up with quite a number of folks at the wedding, though I refrained from shaking any hands or giving any hugs.  I managed to make it all the way through the ceremony and most of dinner before crashing -- Louise stayed for most of the rest of the party.

It was extremely disappointing to have flown all the way here for this wedding, only to be flat on my back for most of the event.  Adding to that was the disappointing hotel experience to which I alluded earlier.

Chaminade is billed as a destination resort -- it has a spa and a conference center, in addition to several well-designed wedding-ceremony venues.  They mostly book weddings on the weekends, and high-end business meetings during the week -- you know, those management-team "off-site" meetings that involve almost as much drinking and golfing as actual strategic planning, generally unbeknownst to investors.  Rooms start at $300 per night, with a two-night minimum, and go up from there -- not counting the mandatory resort fee and a number of taxes that bring the minimum tab to nearly $700 for a two-night stay.

All very well and good -- we're no strangers to four- and five-diamond properties, having rewarded ourselves from time to time with a stay at the Ahwanee, the Four Seasons, or, our perennial favorite, the Furnace Creek Inn back in our motorcycle touring days.  But, at these prices, and with the lofty four-diamond rating, one expects a certain extra measure of service.

As soon as we occupied our room, we made immediate note of the fact that the Hilton, a three-diamond property with a rack rate of perhaps $200 per night (we're using points, so I can't say for sure), provided more basic amenities in the room: a mini-fridge, for example, and free bottled water (Chaminade wanted $5 a bottle for the fancy "Fiji" brand water provided in the room).  The two properties use the same TV system, but the Hilton provided HBO free, while Chaminade provided no premium channels.  Both properties use the same in-room high-speed internet system, at identical pricing of $10 per day, but the Hilton provides free wireless in the lobby and lounge areas.

What really torqued me, though, was how uncomfortable the beds were.  I'm sure there are some to whom this is really the epitome of luxury, but, to me, featherbeds are so last century.  Yet here we had a room with featherbeds and down pillows.  I was in bed most of the time we were there, and I felt like I was sleeping with the ducks -- the damn feather ends kept poking me through the covers.  The mattress itself was not of sufficient quality to want to try sleeping without the featherbed, so I just suffered through it.  Of course, the featherbed also kept slipping around on top of the mattress.

The final straw, as it were, was housekeeping.  Since I confined myself to the bed most of the day Saturday, housekeeping called around noon to ask when they could make up the room.  Knowing that I was going to make the ceremony, at least, come hell or high water, I asked them to do it at 5:00, when I was sure to be out of the room.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I returned to the room close to 9pm, miserable and ready to crawl back into bed, to find that the room had not even been touched.  Sick as I was, at $700 for two nights I damn well wanted fresh linens and towels (not to mention for someone else to straighten up the mess that became of the featherbed), so I fumed at the front desk, who sent a pair of housekeepers, who then insisted on asking me 20 questions about why the room did not get made up and did I really need service.  Harumph.

When I groused about all this at checkout this morning, they did take 25% off the room rate, which amounted to a cool buck-and-a-half.  But, really, that did not make up for the dismal failure of the property to meet expectations.  Suffice it to say, I am happy to be back at the Hilton, where I can get on-line, sleep in a comfortable bed, and get free breakfast and hors-d'oeuvres in the executive lounge.  Chaminade is, as they say, so off my list.

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