Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch



October 1, 1984 -- Hotel rooms are my second home: itís been that way for more years than I care to remember. I spend more than one-hundred nights a year ensconced in commercial establishments of all shapes and sizes, in this country and abroad. More often than not I check in for just the overnight stay. (It itís Tuesday, it must be Seattle); on rare occasions Iíve been under one roof for as long as two weeks. Generally speaking, Iím usually satisfied, if not pleased, with my homes away from home.

In conversations involving travel experiences, here are topics that invariably crop up, such as which are the best and worst airlines, and why? Airlines seem to generate the most curiosity and the most deeply felt emotions. But hotels are not that far behind; as the population becomes more and more peripatetic, the volume of hotel encounters grows proportionately, and so do the travelerís reactions.

Iím always being asked whether I have a favorite hotel. Whatís the best hotel in the world, in this country, in a given city? Dicey questions, at best. I usually reply with what is often mistaken for an evasive gambit, even though it is the truth. I say that I fancy many hotels in many places. I also draw some skeptical looks when I say that in the last few years Iím as comfortable as Iíve been anywhere when I stay at a small, elegant property on Chicagoís Lake Shore Drive.

Itís not that Iím reticent to identify my favorite hotels, itís just that there are so many good ones today that itís hard to be both objective and inclusive. Beyond that, the traveler has different needs at different times. Location may be his prime consideration on a given trip, or he may require a large commercial downtown property for a convention or business meeting. At other times heís looking for a resort setting for a family vacation. The permutations are many. And my grouping (the best, the worst, all-time favorites) is bound by numerical restrictions to leave a percentage of worthy contenders by the wayside.

Despite these caveats, when pressed to the wall by aggressive cocktail party sharks, Iíll not only drop names (hotel, airlines and whatever), but Iíll also describe those elements which coalesce to compromise my current favorites.

In addition to the Mayfair Regent of Chicago to which I alluded above, I might mention the following: in San Francisco, the Clift, (although Iím also partial to the Mark Hopkins, the Fairmont, the St. Francis, the Hyatt on Union Square and the Sir Francis Drake); in Los Angeles, the LíHermitage and the Westwood Marquis, with warm spots for the Beverly Wilshire, the Century Plaza, the new Sheraton Grand and the Bel Air Sands; in Atlanta, on quick acquaintance, the new Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, and the first of the Portman atrium structures, the Hyatt Regency (June 1967).

In London Iíd choose Inn on the Park, but Iíve had good luck at the Churchill, Inter-Continental, Hilton International, and Brownís. The Hong Kong Regent appeared spectacular, but I only dined there; and you canít go wrong at the likes of the Mandarin and Peninsula. In Acapulco itís still Las Brisas, but downtown Iíve always felt at ease at the Exelaris Hyatt Regency. In Honolulu Iím partial, with some reservations, to the spanking new Halekulani, while the Hawaiian Regency retains a strong hold on my loyalties. You also canít go wrong at the Kahala Hilton, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and the Westin Ilikai. Iíve never stayed at the Royal Hawaiian, but it has a strong following too. On the Neighbor Islands I was very impressed by Mauna Lani on the Big Island, and I liked the modernized Waiohai on Kauai.

As you see, Iíve been picking and choosing and skipping around, which is my usual practice, unless Iím pinned down to a specific city or resort community. My selections are also restricted, obviously, to where Iíve stayed. Nothing scientific here.

What I looks for in a hotel? There are no hard and fast criteria, but I generally prefer small to large, moderns and uncluttered to elderly and overstuffed. (I donít cotton to odors of wear and tear.) I donít like to wait on lines for check-in or check-out; I look forward to those systems where youíre at least partially preregistered, then signed in by an assistant manager or guest relations person, although I think that being escorted to the room is unnecessary, unless youíre a first-time guest. (And I never know where to tip those bright, chirpy young people.) I want the baggage brought up as soon as possible, and picked up expeditiously on check-out.

I do like hotel staff to know my name.

Room service around-the-clock is a plus, so is fast and reliable delivery of the food. Newspapers in the morning are desirable; so is a shoe shine service. A selection of restaurants is an asset, particularly a late-night coffee shop. One dining rooms of outstanding quality, for entertaining guests, certainly helps, especially in bad weather, I am partial to evening turn-down services, all those goodies in the bathroom from designer soaps to spray cans of shaving cream and talcum powdersótowels and washcloths should be plentiful and generously woven. A bathtub large enough to fit the human body is appreciated. Iím turned on by finding a terrycloth robe, slippers and an umbrella in the bathroom, radios that work on both AM and FM, and also by fine-tuned TV sets. Wake-up calls must be honored, as well as the DO NOT DISTURB sign.

Above all, consistently warm and friendly service. Who says Iím not easy to please?

This column originally appeared in Frequent Flyer magazine.

Copyright © 1991-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.