Monthly Archives: April 2015

Hilton South Wharf

Hilton South Wharf Hotel Review

Hotel Review of the Hilton South Wharf Two Bedroom Suite

The Hilton South Wharf hotel in Melbourne, Australia is our home away home. Since the old Hilton on the Park in Melbourne recently became a Pullman, this is now our hotel of choice when staying in our home city. The only other Melbourne hotel in the Hilton chain now is the newly opened Doubletree Melbourne.

Hilton South Wharf is located in an ideal part of the city, right next to the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre so it’s an excellent hotel choice if you’re coming to the city for an exhibition. Next door to the hotel on the other side is the South Wharf DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) which is great for finding shopping bargains. There is also a little convenience store right next to the Hilton South Wharf if you want to grab some snacks and drinks instead of paying exorbitant hotel mini bar prices. You can also find plenty of nearby cheaper eateries around and along South Wharf Promenade and Southbank as the Hotel restaurant is pretty pricey for meals. It’s only a short stroll to one of Melbourne’s biggest entertainment venues – Crown Casino which is another good place to grab a bite to eat.

For our latest stay with our two young boys we booked a Family Fun Package that included:

  • Accommodation in a two bedroom suite
  • Family pass to the neighbouring Polly Woodside Tall Ship and Museum (read our Polly Woodside review here).
  • Roast dinner with gourmet sides and soft drinks served in-room
  • One new release in-room movie with popcorn
  • Full breakfast for two adults and two kids in the Dock37 hotel restaurant

We had booked the package with a city view suite and were given one on the top 19th floor which had the most spectacular view of Melbourne. The suite has floor to ceiling windows that come with very effective block-out blinds, so if you need to be up early we would recommend setting the alarm or leaving the blinds open a little – otherwise enjoy a great nights sleep!

The two bedroom suite comes with a nice big comfortable King bed in one room which also has a bathroom with a good size shower and nice big bath. The second bedroom consists of two twin beds. Next to that bedroom is another smaller bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet (no bath). There is a living area with a couch and a little self-contained kitchenette with a round table and four chairs for dining. The kitchenette includes a sink, dishwasher and a microwave along with plates, bowls, cutlery and glasses. We found the house keeping staff excellent – they were happy to service our room at whatever time we requested.

The buffet breakfast is at the newly renovated Dock37 restaurant. It has a pretty good selection of hot and cold dishes. We love the self juicing station and staff also make some pretty good freshly squeezed juices for guests to grab on arrival for breakfast. The staff here at the restaurant really have to be complimented, they are extremely friendly and helpful. They only thing we didn’t like is the extra cost charged for a latte, cappuccino or even a hot chocolate for the kids. They did however bring the kids a babycino each free of charge. If you don’t want the full buffet breakfast there is the Caffe Cino which is good for a quick bite or breakfast on the go.

Also as part of the family fun package we received a roast chicken dinner served in-room which was absolutely beautiful. The chicken came with seasonal vegetables – broccolini, cauliflower, beans, onions, zucchini along with freshly baked bread rolls and 4 soft drinks. The only problem we had with it was that it was delivered 45 minutes late. Upon check-in we booked the dinner in for 5.00pm but we knew that was not going to happen when we got a call to the room just after 5.00pm asking what time we wanted dinner! Unfortunately we had to leave the room at 6.00pm so we were quite rushed, only having 15 minutes to eat it all.

As Diamond HHonor members we also have access to the Executive Lounge on the 4th floor, which we always make the most of at the Hilton South Wharf lounge as we think it is one of the best going around. It is quite a big executive lounge and as an added bonus it has a lovely outside decking area which is nice on a warm sunny day.

As well as all day snacks, coffee and soft drinks – the lounge offers breakfast, afternoon tea and evening pre-dinner canapés with drinks. The evening drinks on offer are self pour beer, wine and sparkling or you can order spirits from the staff (available from 6.00pm-8.00pm Mon-Fri and 5.00pm-7.00pm Sat & Sun). On this occasion there was also Canadian Club on tap.

Each night there is always a selection of two hot canapés as well as a good choice of cold meats, cheeses, dips, sushi and on this occasion there were prawns which we hadn’t encountered before. There is also free Wi-Fi and plenty of newspapers and magazines to read in there. We would recommend spending a bit extra to get the executive lounge access as it is definitely worth it.

Just a note on the Wi-Fi and the 2 computers in the lounge, they are very slow! We find the Wi-Fi pretty slow all throughout the hotel and the having to always re-log in is very annoying – we are just fortunate that we don’t have to pay for due to our Diamond status because if we were paying for it we would get pretty frustrated.

Also on the 4th floor is a good-sized gymnasium, but please note there is no swimming pool which is a big minus. Right next door to the gym is a little Art Gallery which is quite unique. In fact there is quite a lot of art available to purchase here all throughout the hotel and in the lobby. The lobby area also has a Mercedes-Benz or two on show which is also something a bit different for a hotel!

Just one nice touch that we wanted to mention – we stayed here on the Anzac Day weekend and got up at 4.30am on Anzac Day to attend the dawn service. It was nice to go downstairs and see that staff had set up a little refreshments table with coffee, tea, juices and pastries for all those people who were up early to attend the service. We found it a nice touch and the coffee at that hour of the morning was much appreciated!

We have also done a review of a Hilton South Wharf standard city view room – read review here.

Head to www.hiltonmelbourne.com.au for more details and rates for the Hilton South Wharf.

Embassy Suites Waikiki

Embassy Suites Waikiki Review

The final hotel that we stayed in when visiting Hawaii was the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk in Honolulu. As we don’t have any Embassy Suites in our part of the world, we thought it was a great opportunity to try one out as we had heard good things about the hotel chain. If you haven’t heard of Embassy Suites before, they are a part of the Hilton HHonors group and they provide all suites accommodation which makes them a perfect choice for families.

On arrival at the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk we were all provided with a lovely cold tropical fruit juice. We travelled as a family with our 2 boys who were aged 6 & 8 at the time. We stayed in a one bedroom suite which had a king bed and a single bed in one room and a pullout sofa bed in the living area. Our room was on the 17th floor in the Hula Tower which gave us a nice ocean view from the balcony/lanai. The room was a good size, with lovely Crabtree & Evelyn bathroom amenities and a little kitchenette that included a microwave, bar fridge and coffee facilities (they also gave us a bag of popcorn to use in the microwave). Cleaning staff did a good job and we loved the little history cards they left on the bed each night, great for the kids to learn a little bit about Hawaii and its culture.

The big bonus of the Embassy Suites chain are the inclusions it provides in the room rate, without the extra charge of a resort fee. This included full cooked breakfast daily and the nightly Managers Reception.

The breakfast that was provided had a good variety of hot and cold dishes and a great omelette station. Other foods that are available are pancakes, toast, donuts, pastries, fresh fruit, Japanese dishes like miso soup and fish and plenty of fruit juices. The breakfast area is semi outdoor next to the pool, just watch out for the birds though!

Our favourite part of staying at the Embassy Suites was the Managers Reception by the pool every night which was great! It went from 5.30pm to 7.30pm and serves complimentary beer, wine, spirits, selected cocktails, soft drinks, juices. Be aware though that the barman there are excellent and they don’t hold back, so some drinks can be quite strong! They provide 3 different snack foods during the Managers Reception every night like potato chips, celery, carrots & dip, corn chips etc. On a couple of nights there is also a band that provides some entertainment. It was nice to have a few relaxing drinks at night while the kids enjoyed playing in the pool.

The pool is not huge when you compare it to resort pools but our boys still loved it. We did stay off peak season though so it wasn’t too crowded. I could imagine during peak season that it may get quite overcrowded in there. There is the Pakini Bar by the pool where you can order food and drinks. They do stop serving drinks at 5.00 though due to the Managers Reception starting at 5.30. There are plenty of sun lounges available either in the sun or shade and they have an outdoor massage area if some pampering is required.

Other amenities included in the room rate are complimentary wi-fi, yoga classes and 24hr fitness centre. On arrival we also received a little gift bag which included a coupon book for specials in and around Honolulu.

While this is not a luxurious 5 star resort, it is a good little economical hotel for families, especially those with a few kids. The location is great in Waikiki, there are plenty of nearby restaurants and shops and only a couple of minutes walk to the beach.

For more information go to www.embassysuiteswaikiki.com
While in Honolulu we also stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village – you can read that review here

Hilton Hawaiian Village

Hilton Hawaiian Village Review

Hotel Review of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Another one of our favourite family Hawaiian hotels has to be the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu. It is Waikiki’s largest resort, 22 acres right on the famous Waikiki Beach strip. This resort has just about everything you need in a family friendly hotel.

Yes it is a big hotel, but we stayed during the off-peak season and found it easy to get around and didn’t find it at all overcrowded. We stayed in 2 interconnecting rooms in the Tapa Tower with our 2 boys who were then aged 6 and 8. We arrived on an early flight from Australia and were given an early check-in which was much appreciated. The rooms were nice and we had a great ocean view looking along Waikiki Beach.

The location is fantastic, right on the beach and easy walking distance to all that Honolulu has to offer. It is just a 10 minute walk one way to Ala Moana shopping centre and 10 mins along Waikiki Beach in the other direction to get to the heart of Waikiki. There is a pink line trolley stop at the hotel (if you are not much of a walker) which goes between Waikiki and Ala Moana and only costs $2 per person one way.

There are quite a few pools at the Hilton Hawaiian Village,  we mainly used the Tapa pool, the Super pool and the Lagoon Pool. A few of the other towers within the hotel have their own pools as well. The Lagoon Pool was our boys favourite as it had the water slides. As well as the beach, there is also the lagoon which you can swim in and try a few other water activities. We did the paddle boarding in the lagoon (cost was $35 for 1 hour or $55 for 2 hours). We were beginners and it was a great opportunity to try it out on nice calm waters.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars on the property (20 in fact!!) and we loved CJ’s Deli the best for great family value meals. Most of the bars have happy hours as well as nightly entertainment. As we were staying in the Tapa Tower, we would always stop by the Tapa bar for a couple of drinks and to enjoy the different musicians who would be playing each night.

If you are a Gold or Diamond Hilton Honours member, the Hilton Hawaiian Village provides a complimentary continental breakfast in the Rainbow Terrace, which we took advantage of and it was sufficient enough for us. It is mainly cereals, toast, bagels, muffins, pastries, fruit, juices and coffee. It gave you a great view overlooking the lagoon, just watch out for the birds (which is the same all over Hawaii though!). Diamond Hilton Honors please note that there is no executive lounge for cocktails at this hotel though.

There are so many shops at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to choose from, from the high-end Louis Vuitton & Co. shops to the market type Rainbow Bazaar stalls – there is something to suit everyone’s budget. If it is a shopping mall you are after then definitely walk down or take the trolley to the Ala Moana Shopping Mall. There is a fitness centre as well as the Mandara Day Spa if you looking for some pampering and a nice relaxing spa treatment.

On Tuesday and Friday nights the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a great fireworks display and some Hawaiian Dancing around the Super Pool (although I wouldn’t pay for the seats as you get a great view of the fireworks from the beach). The resort also provides plenty of other free daily activities at various times throughout the day such as Yoga, snorkelling lessons, hula lessons, ukulele lessons and lei making. Our favourite one was the free outdoor kids movie night that they have on Wednesdays and Saturdays at sundown near the Tapa Tower. There is a kids club (we didn’t use however as it was a bit expensive for us) called the Camp Penguin which you can use for full or half day programs. Cost for a full day (8.00am-3.00pm) is $85 or $90 with excursion. Half day program (8.00am-12.00pm or 11.30am-3.00pm) cost is $60 or $65 with excursion.

The kids did love continually walking past the Penguin and Turtle enclosure. If you are up by 8.00am (Mon-Fri) one of the keepers gives you an information session and they allow a photo opportunity with one of the Penguins (no touching allowed though).

You can also just walk straight out onto the famous Waikiki Beach. If you want to spend the day on the beach, there are beach umbrellas available to rent at an extra cost from the hotel.  Another fun thing to do with the kids is the Atlantis Submarine ride which leaves from the Hilton Pier. There are other boat cruises that leave from the Hilton Pier as well which is now and handy.

For those looking for a wedding venue, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has the most beautiful wedding chapel here as well. Definitely worth taking the time to go in and have a look.

The one thing we didn’t like as mentioned on other Hawaii hotel reviews was the resort fee, especially as for Gold or Diamond HH members, we get free internet anyway so you don’t really feel like you are getting anything for the $25 per day on top of your room rate. Also the internet can cut in and out a bit and the daily re-logging in is a bit annoying. We would definitely recommend this resort though and will be back on our next trip to Hawaii – Mahalo!

For more information go to www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com

While we were in Honolulu we also stayed at the Embassy Suites Beach Walk – you can read our review here

Grand Wailea

Grand Wailea Hotel Review

Hotel Review of the Grand Wailea in Maui, Hawaii

We thought that it was about time that we did a review for our favourite hotel – the Grand Wailea in Maui, Hawaii, USA as it is by far the best family hotel we have ever stayed in. We came here in September 2013 to celebrate a very special milestone and it was such a fantastic experience that we will never forget. This 40 acre beachfront resort in the south of Maui is true luxury on a grand scale and is also a water park paradise for kids.

The Grand Wailea definitely has the wow factor when you walk into the open lobby, with a beautiful grand entrance and surrounding water features. We received a Lei greeting on arrival, and check in was nice and easy. As we were Hilton Honors Gold members back then, we received an upgrade from a garden view to an ocean view room on the top (ninth) floor. Being Gold members we also received a $40 food voucher and a voucher for 2 free drinks. We were there to celebrate a 40th birthday and for this we also received a voucher for a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate along with a box of Big Island Candies (delivered to the room).

The rooms at the Grand Wailea are large and spacious, but were starting to show age (renovations are currently underway however updating the guest rooms due to be finished mid 2015). Bathroom was a good size and loved the Spa Grande Honey Mango amenities. Would highly recommend getting an ocean view room as we loved just sitting out on the balcony/lanai with a few drinks and nibbles and just relaxing and enjoying the view. The house keeping staff were fantastic, rooms were serviced twice a day and we loved the little quote cards left on the bed each night.

Pools & Water Activities

It’s hard to know just where to start with this water oasis. The main highlights are:

Hibiscus Pool is reserved strictly for those aged 18 and over so if it is peace and quiet you prefer this is your pool of choice. It features two jacuzzis and is surrounded by a mix of lounge chairs, cabanas and casabellas.

Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is a truly awesome pool area for kids. This 25,700 total square foot area consists of nine pools on six different levels. It is all connected by a river that carries swimmers through a series of four jungle pools, four intertwining slides, a whitewater rapids slide, a Tarzan pool with rope swing, a sand beach, six waterfalls, caves, three jacuzzis, an infant pool, the lava slide, the Anu Puka slide and the worlds first water elevator which takes you from the bottom up to the top level. Definitely worth buying an inflatable ring from the pool shop and just float around the pools to take it all in.

Grotto Pool Bar is nestled away in part of the Canyon area but is one of the best swim up bars we have ever encountered. Recommend getting the souvenir Pineapple or Tiki Cups as the refills work out to be much better value and they can also be used as money boxes for the kids when you get home. Open for cocktails and lunch daily from 12.00pm to 5.00pm

Fishpipe is the world’s first rotating barrel ride and is available at an extra cost. It is a unique type of water ride, 90 seconds of the Fishpipe is like going down a mile long rotating water slide  and our boys loved it!! Suitable for ages 4+ and open daily from 10.00am – 4.00pm

Scuba Diving training pool which offers complimentary lessons to first time divers.

Wailea Beach is simply beautiful and  if you are not into pools that much, this is the place for you. The hotel has a beach club where you have access to stand up paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear and boogie boards for a one time rate (four and seven day rates available). Complimentary beach umbrellas are available upon request.

The pool areas are open from 7.00am – 10.00pm. Slides are open daily from 10.00am – 5.00pm. Water elevator is open from 11.00am – 4.00pm Guests must meet minimum height requirements to ride the Lava and Ana Puka slides. The pool cabanas and lawn casabellas are available by reservation (at a premium price) and can be reserved up to a year in advance.

 

The hotel uses a wristband system for the pool area where you get a different coloured wristband each day. This stops non guests taking advantage of all the facilities. We had read many negative reviews about the pool area and how people have to be up at 7.00am to get lounges around the pool but we stayed in the off-peak season and didn’t get down to the pool until about 8.30-9.00am and were able to easily get lounges in the shaded areas.

Spa Grande

The Spa Grande here is also not to be missed. It is the largest day spa in all of Hawaii (40 treatment rooms) and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a treatment or two.

Would advise to arrive an hour before an appointment to take full advantage of the Terme Hydrotherapy Baths. These baths have a spa bath, cold baths, different Hawaiian salted spas, a Japanese Spa and steam rooms to relax in for an hour before your treatment. Thoroughly enjoyed using these baths as it was something we had not experienced anywhere else and they were wonderful. The treatments there were fantastic (also pricey!) but as a once off indulgence for a special occasion, it was definitely worth it.
You can access the full spa menu here

Other facilities available are:

Grand Salon where you can get waxing, make-up, nail treatments and hair care services.
Fitness Center which is open 24 hours and has weight training and cardiovascular rooms, fitness classes and a challenge court (half court for racquetball, squash, basketball or handball).
Wailea Tennis Club is less than a mile away and features 11 courts for hire and has instructors available for clinics and lessons.
Golf Courses are only minutes away from the resort and by all reports are world-class.

Kids Activities

The Grand Wailea caters very well for kids of all ages. If you have teenagers there is a teen lounge called The Spot aimed at guests aged 13 – 17 years. It includes a snack bar, pool table, ping pong table, air hockey, foosball table as well as a game room with Kinnect, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and Wii U. Open daily from 9.00am – 10.00pm.

There is also the Ohana Hale which is a family friendly lounge (under 13’s must be accompanied by an adult) which features Xbox 360 with Kinect, Nintendo Wii, Wii U and Playstation 3. It also caters for the younger kids with Lego, soft toys, doll houses and play houses.

Then there is the kids club called Camp Grande which has three sessions and is not cheap, especially when you have more than one child. Morning session is from 9.00am – 12.30pm with activities and lunch. (cost $75). The afternoon session is from 12.30pm – 4.00pm includes activities and snack (cost $65). Night camp is from 5.00pm-10.00pm and includes activities and dinner and a snack (cost $95.00). You can also put the kids in for a full day session which is from 9.00am-4.00pm and includes activities, lunch and snack (cost $125). We only put the boys into Camp Grande one night (due to the cost!) so we could head out and at least have one romantic dinner together and they had good time there and the staff were lovely.

The Grand Wailea also runs daily workshops by the pool which the kids enjoyed, such as shell necklace making, Lei making, wood creations and t-shirt tye dye.

Dining Options

There are a few different eating options available on site if you are like us and didn’t have a car to get around the Island.

Humuhumunukunukupua’a

We tried Humuhumunukunukupua’a one night when the kids were in the kids club and it was amazing. This place has a wonderful ambience along with a nice romantic atmosphere and if you like fine dining you must come and try. We tried the Poke and the Scallops for Pupus – delicious! For mains it was the Filet Mignon with garlic mashed potato and it was excellent. Then it was time for dessert, a must try is the Huma Hula Pie, cant rave about it enough. Also tried the cheesecake (deconstructed) and both were was amazing. Definitely a restaurant for a nice romantic dinner rather than a family venue. Can’t complain about anything, the service was great, the food was great. We also took advantage of cheaper prices by arriving there before 5.30pm which is actually good because you get to watch the sunset while finishing off a fantastic dinner.

Alang Wong’s Amasia

We didn’t get to eat at Amasia, but have heard it is very good. Alan Wong is one of Hawaii’s most renowned chef so we will definitely try this Asian inspired restaurant on our next visit.

Grand Dining Room

This is where you can sit back and enjoy the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean while enjoying a buffet breakfast. We tried it one morning and it was quite nice with a good selection of foods. On Sundays they have a special Sunday Champagne Brunch with live Hawaiian music.

Bistro Molokini

Bistro Molokini was undergoing renovations while we were there so didn’t try it out but it is more of a casual dining restaurant near the pool.

Sunset Cabana Dining

For those looking for an intimidate dining option under the starts, this is definitely for you. If you are on a honeymoon, this is a unique and once in a lifetime dinner experience to do.

Cafe Kula

This was our choice to grab lights snacks for breakfast or to take back and have in the room. It is open from 6.00am – 8.00pm and you can get light breakfast selections such as pastries, cereals, pancakes, smoothies, as well as cooked eggs selections. For lunch and dinner options there are salads, sandwiches, paninis, pizzas and various dessert options. This was a good way for us to cut costs on this trip.

As well as these eating options there is the usual in-room dining facilities as well as the different bar choices – the Grotto swim-up bar, the lobby Botero bar and the Volcano bar by the pool. If you plan to hire a car there are also plenty of nearby off site choices available to choose from in Wailea as well – definitely no shortage of food options.

Grand Luau at Honua’ula

While we were at the Grand Wailea we decided to try the Grand Luau at Honua’ula which is on the Grand Wailea grounds (it is not part of the Grand Wailea though). This was our first and only Luau so I can’t compare to any others but we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The price of the ticket included dinner, dessert, soft drinks, beer, wine, mai tais, pina coladas, coffee and tea. You can buy VIP tickets to get better seating, but we did not bother and could still see the stage fine (although it was not fully booked when we went and had empty tables in the back row). They recommend to go over and check in at 4.00pm for better seating, which we did. You then head back over at 5.00 start your Luau experience. This time you are greeted by a couple of the dancers and get your photo taken (not obliged to buy, it was around $20 if you did want it). You then head to your table (10 per table) and you are free to go and get drinks or you can go have a look at a few stalls that are selling souvenirs and gifts. They also did some Hawaiian lawn games which our boys aged 6 + 8 loved. You also get to witness the raising of the pig, which the kids were fascinated by.

They start the buffet by tables and the VIP ticketed tables go first. It is all done in an orderly manner and they just call up a table at a time so no real queues when getting the food. We loved the food, it was great quality for a buffet and a there was a good selection. It’s in a great location and you get a spectacular beach sunset over dinner. They start the show by getting people who want to go up on stage and do some Hula Dancing. All the kids on our table got up on the stage and had a ball. Then the dancers begin the show which was great and the storyline was easy enough for the kids to follow. They especially loved the fire dancer at the end. There are photo opportunities with the dancers after the show. Would definitely recommend anyone staying at the Grand Wailea to go and experience the Luau. You can check out the website for the Grand Luau at Honua’ula here


Summary

The last feature of the Grand Wailea that we want to mention is the beautiful Wedding Chapel that they have so be sure to go and have a look, it is simply stunning. This truly is an ultimate luxury Maui resort that is perfect for families.


The only thing we didn’t really like at the Grand Wailea is the daily resort fee ($30 per day) but it applies to most resorts in the United States (be aware that this will be applied on top of your room rate). We don’t really see the point of it when you are already paying pretty high room rates.

Before we stayed here at the Grand Wailea we had all intentions of getting out and exploring the beautiful island of Maui but to be honest we didn’t end up leaving this resort! It just has everything you need and we would happily stay here again. Our big tip would definitely be to try to go during off-peak season as the prices are much more reasonable. They can get quite pricey during the busy peak season.

For more information go to www.grandwailea.com