Have you ever looked at hotels at Hotels.com or TripAdvisor.com, and wondered what the difference is between a three-star or four-star hotel is, really? After this trip, I can tell you! We stayed at the three-star Courtyard Marriot Marketplace in San Antonio, after spending two nights at the four-star Hote Felix in Chicago.
Now, I realize that comparing a hotel in Chicago with one in San Antonio is not exactly comparing apples to apples. In Chicago, space is money -- and so perhaps it is understandable that the rooms even in a four-star are less spacious than in the grand ol' state of Texas. (Although I recently discovered that San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the U.S.). However, I did expect that I'd be able to walk from the bed to the bath without impaling myself on the corner of the bed, or tripping over a suitcase. In any event, here's what we discovered about the stars ...
* The four-star room was dominated by the extremely comfy queen-sized bed -- all white, lots of pillows, the kind you didn't want to get out of once you were in. Which was a good thing, because you'd whack your shins on the wall getting in and out of bed -- better just to lie there quietly. Three-star room -- which my husband says is only twice the size of the one in Chicago, not four times per my original estimate -- has a KING bed AND a couch AND a refrigerator. And I still didn't whack my shins even once ... which brings me to my next bullet.
* The four-star room has no microwave, refrigerator, or coffee maker in the room. (They assumed you'd want to avail yourself of room service or restaurant, instead of "camping out.) On the other hand, they do bring you as much ice as you want. And my husband says the decaf in the lobby was exceptionally good. Even after the lid came off as we were dashing down the sidewalk to catch the bus, and he spilled half of it down his shirt. ("At McDONALDS they give you spill-proof lids!" he grumped. Poor dear.)
* The service in a four-star hotel is extremely attentive. They even called to check on us in the middle of our afternoon nap to see if we needed anything else. (Craig had on his c-PAP machine, but the desk staff didn't seem the least surprised when Darth Vadar answered the phone.) The extra star intimidated me into being a bit more generous with the first housekeeper -- but the $5 I left for the three-star maid produced a hand-written thank-you note!
* Bathrooms were a wash, so to speak. The sink in the four-star kept splashing the front of our pants every time we turned it on (it being a "green" hotel and all); no bathtub, but shower was nice and roomy. The three-star bath was larger -- but the soap and shampoo not quite as luxurious.
For the money (including the fact that it cost $42/day to park at the four-star, parking was free at the three-star), I'm probably a three-star traveler overall. Frankly, if I'd paid the rack rate at the first one, I'd be pretty disappointed ... but at the special summer rate of $85/night, it was not a bad deal for Chicago. (We took the train, so parking was a non-issue.)
Next time I think we're going to stay a little closer to Midway, and not shoot for (so many) stars! Of course, now that we're here at the Catholic New Media Celebration, we can star-gaze all we like! Father Rod, Lisa Hendey, Danielle Bean, Julie Davis, Pat Gohn -- now THERE'S a little star-power worth paying for!