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I have spent many times going through T5, which I think is one of the best terminals I have flown through in recent years, clean, open, quick, straight through and easy are words that all come to mind with the terminal.
My review here though is more to do with the Galleries Lounge which is available to Business Class travellers and Silver BA Members, and if you get a chance you really should use the lounge.
In the past year due to travelling more with BA I have managed to progress to the Silver level in the Executive Club, this means you get access to the BA lounges when flying any BA class, this is a huge reason for joining and flying BA. The Galleries club lounge in T5 is probably the best lounge I have been in around the world. It is huge covering one end of the main terminal building. Furnished in relaxing modern furnishings, and having distinct areas for food, work and relaxing it is almost a perfect calm away from the storm of the terminal.
Food and drink is supplied in a number of stations around the lounge allowing you to eat and drink as much as you like before the flight and the food is very good. There are coffee and tea stations through the lounge and a cinema style screening room. This was perfect for watching a game of football before heading onto a flight.
There is free wireless available which is of good quality which is useful for doing work before a flight as well as there being a number of places to plug in laptops and phones.
The toilets are large and always clean as you would expect.
The whole experience of this lounge is of relaxation and work before getting on a flight. I have always walked out of here relaxed and calm which is a great help before a long haul trip.
We have stayed in the Excalibur twice in the past years, the most recent was last year as five of us booked in for a 10 day holiday in Vegas.
The main draw for the Excalibur is the price as you can easily pick up rooms for $50 a night at times, sometimes they are cheaper during the week other times they go up over the weekends, but you are never going to pay that much here.
The thing to always remember is that you don't actually spend that much time in the room of the hotel, especially in Vegas where you are more likely to be in the casino of the hotel or walking the strip to another hotel. Therefore the room needs to be functional, clean, with a good bathroom and good bed for recovery time.
The Excalibur matches these requirements pretty well from the times we have stayed and the location isn't bad for traversing the strip.
Check in processes in Vegas are mass scale, you are often checking in with large numbers of other guests, but Excalibur (and the others) do this well, with lots of desks and of course the brilliant American service. The last time we were there we had booked through the iPhone app so had a free upgrade to a superior room, they often do deals when you check in so be aware of that.
The room itself is pretty basic, but carries the castle motif through to the decoration. The beds are huge and comfortable, with good bathrooms and lots of space. If you have stayed in America they are pretty standard American hotel rooms which normally trump anything in the UK for the same price. They of course don't have tea and coffee making facilities, but there are numerous coffee shops to buy from first thing in the morning.
We had a view over the swimming pool complex which was nice. We did actually use the swimming pool a couple of times including renting a cabana which was very nice as it provided shade and drinks and food for about $100 for the day.
The Excalibur resort itself is one of the younger styled resorts, with a lot of lively bars and a carnival type areas of games and shows. It is not posh at all like a Belliagio, but it is probably not as tacky as things like Hooters sound.
There a number of food options, from steak, to buffet to Quiznos and McDonalds. The fast food places are all in one food court including a number of tacky souvenir shops.
Excalibur is nicely linked to Luxor in one direction and New York New York in the other, making it a good base for what I would class as the Party end of strip. It is also possible to get a monorail up to Mandalay Bay (beyond Luxor) or walk across to MGM to get the monorail down the strip to the other hotels. As a base there may be better but for cost it works pretty well for what you want from a hotel.
In conclusion if you want a comfortable room for the night and not much else this is it. It is not top quality, but it is good for Vegas and you can then spend more money doing other things on the strip.
I have been a member of the Priority Club for many years now and have found it the best and most rewarding scheme to join. I do travel a lot with work and stay away in hotels an lot, I have almost every card going for each hotel chain, but this is the only one which I continually use and actually get anything out of it.
Firstly two hints on how to get the most out of this scheme. Use Holiday Inn's, if you have a choice go for the Holiday Inn wherever possible. And secondly sign up to every single special offer they send through, even if you don't think you will meet the criteria it is worth signing up as you just might get some bonus points.
There are 3 levels of membership which you can move through, basic is Club, then Gold and the top is Platinum. To move between levels you either have to stay a set number of nights, 15 to get Gold and 50 to get Platinum. Or you need a set number of points 20,000 for Gold and 60,000 for Platinum. It is normally easier to get the levels with a number of points rather than nights, especially if you pick up bonus points for stays.
Once you get to Gold level each stay gains an extra 10% on points and at Platinum you get 50% bonus points. This also helps keep the level once you get to the top. I have managed to stay as a Platinum level when I didn't get enough points or stays one year, not sure how often this happens.
Now lets look at benefits of having the card. At the lower level you don't get that much, yes you can gain some points and then spend them on nights away but turning up at the hotel you only really get a newspaper.
Once you get to Gold you get a priority check-in option which normally just means that the hotel has already set up your room and you just sign for a key. This is quite nice and very useful after a long trip to a hotel.
If, or when, you get to Platinum you then get one of the best things about the club, that is you get room upgrades where possible when checking in. When checking in I have probably been upgraded 8 or 9 times out of 10 and on the other occasions they have been apologetic that they haven't been able to upgrade me.
This often means you move from a standard floor to the business rooms or to a nicer view, or larger room. This is a really nice touch and does make you feel wanted by the hotel brand.
Once you are in the club you can also get a number of complimentary items at hotels, this includes free drinks, money off meals and free internet. Recently I got a free drink on arrival and 25% off all food and drink at the hotel.
So this means that staying at a hotel is much nicer and you get some nice rooms and feel important when checking in. But what else can you get from the points and club. You can decide to collect points or air miles, I have always chosen points as I see air miles as pretty pointless in the long run.
Priority Club have a shop on line where you can trade in points for goods, I have friends who have traded points in for a PS3 or John Lewis vouchers to then buy an iPad. I haven't traded in points for goods, I have always used them for free nights in hotels. This has really pleased my wife over the years as we have had many short breaks in a hotel for free. I have used points for single nights throughout the UK and around the world.
I managed to get 4 nights in Rome for free through the points and 2 nights in the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. Depending on the type of hotel and the area depends on how many points a free night will cost. Prices range from 20,000 to 50,000 that I have seen. 50,000 is normally for Intercontinental hotels, while 20,000 could be Holiday Inn's or Expresses depending on locations. The four nights in Rome in a Crowne Plaza cost 25,000 a night.
These points can be used at any point in time and the points do not expire which does mean you can slowly build up points and then use them at a later date.
When using points you just get a room you cannot book extras such as breakfast, so be aware of that.
Priority Club does have links to other partners such as Hertz which means you can book cars with a discount and gain points for the booking. This has also resulted in me getting some very nice cars from Hertz at times.
Cards like this work, because you start gaining advantages so keep staying at the same hotel to gain more things. It really works for me because I get very good service from the Intercontinental brand due to being a Platinum member and I know the hotels are going to be pretty good most of the time.
I would strongly recommend signing up to this club and attempting to make it work for you as it is pretty easy to get good things out of it.
I recently stayed at the Holiday Inn Atrium while working in Singapore and have to say it is one of the most stunning Holiday Inns I have stayed in around the world.
The lobby is the atrium of the hotel name and runs up about 27 floors. The route up and down is via a glass fronted elevator which is where a fear of heights could be a problem. The elevators are designed so you could stand near the door and not see the height you are. All the rooms doors open into the Atrium area offering stunning views up and down the structure.
I was placed on the 24th floor with a view over Singapore which was stunning. From this floor you also had access to the Executive Lounge on the top floor which offered breakfast and complimentary drinks in the evening. It does help if you are a Platinum Member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club.
Breakfast is a buffet on the fourth floor and was pretty good, offering local and international dishes with good service.
Evening meals were available as a buffet or from a Chinese restaurant, I tried both and they were very good although the Chinese was quite pricey. There is also a bar in the lobby which has live music nightly.
The rooms were a little tired, but practical with the one I had having an iPod dock as a clock and good internet connection.
For the price I paid it was a very good hotel and I would recommend staying here again if in the region. Just be warned if you don't like heights the elevators could be a bit of a problem.