Report Cards

This item appears on page 4 of the July 2010 issue.
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NEWS FROM NETHERLANDS

Nadia Hotel (Raadhuisstraat 51, 1016 DD Amsterdam, Netherlands; phone +31 20 620 1550) — great central location near Dam Square.

Our standard room without canal view was quiet but very small. Not for the mobility impaired — steep stairs and no elevator, but they will carry your luggage up and down for you. Helpful, friendly staff.

Continental breakfast included. Booked room online for €95 ($117) per night, May 20-24, 2010; discount for cash payment.

— Bonny Brady, Tucson, AZ

NEWS FROM GREECE…

Central Athens Hotel (Apollonos 21, Plaka, Athens, Greece, 10557; phone +30 210 3234357, fax 3225244) — great location a few blocks from Syntagma Square. Beautiful Acropolis view from the rooftop patio (you can bring your own food and drinks up).

Our Superior room was modern, clean, quiet and good-sized, with hair dryer, mini-fridge and balcony. Good breakfast buffet included. For May 12-14, 2010, room was booked online for €145 ($178) per night. Very small elevator.

O&B Athens Boutique Hotel (7 Leokoriou St., Psiri 105 54, Athens, Greece; phone +30 210 33 12 940, fax 12 942) — located in Psiri, near Monastiraki metro station. Good location for sightseeing and restaurants.

Wonderful hotel! Elevator. Our standard room was very quiet and extremely comfortable. Great shower. Excellent breakfast included in price. For May 18-19, booked online at €161.50 ($198) per night with two-night stay.

Staff was very helpful and went out of their way to make sure our stay exceeded our expectations.

— Bonny Brady, Tucson AZ

NEWS FROM VIETNAM…

• Saigon, Vietnam, is a super-interesting city if you are shown around by a local, and “Vi” (e-mail vihalam85@yahoo.com), as she calls herself (I don’t know her full name), turned out to be an excellent guide.

For three days in February ’10 she took my wife, Sandy, and me to places most tourists in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) do not see, like Dai Nam Van Hien Park.

This park is fabulous and very much like Disneyland, with man-made 300-foot-tall mountains, waterfalls, a zoo, rides, food booths and much more. It’s about a half hour’s travel northeast of Saigon, but unless you know where it is, you will never find it. (Admission, VND40,000, or $2.)

We made arrangements with Vi by e-mail about two months before our trip. We paid $100 for three days, starting each day after breakfast and ending at 9 p.m.

We traveled in an air-conditioned Toyota van that she rented at local rates (about $30 a day). We also paid our own park admission fees, Vi’s admission to Dai Nam park and for one dinner with Vi.

We recommend this sweet, 25-year-old guide.

— Jim Delmonte, Honolulu, HI

NEWS FROM NETHERLANDS

Four of us are impressed with and enjoying the Mövenpick Hotel (Piet Heinkade 11, 1019 BR Amsterdam, Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 20 519 1200).

It’s dramatically situated among the docks of Amsterdam, with a panoramic view of the North Sea channel, train station and town. Cruise ships dock right behind the hotel. Tram stop in front and a free shuttle to the nearby train station where all the public transit connects.

On Priceline.com, I bid on and won a price of only $100 (near €82) per room per night for May 9-10, 2010. Breakfast was not included and cost €23 ($28) in the main dining room — costly but comparable to city restaurant prices.

— Jon Lafleur, Kent, CT

NEWS FROM FRANCE…

Acting on another ITN Report Card (Feb. ’10, pg. 4) about the Campanile Airport Hotel (3, avenue Didier Daurat, Blagnac, 31700 Toulouse, France; phone +33 5 61 16 90 90 or fax 61 71 65 71), my wife and I stayed two nights, May 3-4, 2010.

Small and ordinary, as reported, it’s more a motel than a hotel. The staff and restaurant were okay. We checked out on a holiday and the desk did not open till 8 a.m. — a bit late if you have an early flight. No shuttle service, but free parking.

Despite its proximity to the airport, it’s not easy to find. It’s also a bit farther than reported, about 900 meters away, which would make a fair undertaking if you had much baggage. If you plan to drive there, have a GPS or a good map or you’ll be driving laps around the place on freeways as we did. A room at one of the airport hotels with shuttle service would be much easier.

I booked through Expedia.com for $263.96 (before taxes and fees) for two nights. Upon arrival, we were told the reservations had been canceled. Fortunately, they still had empty rooms and we booked one at €95 a night (with taxes and fees, $314.23 total).

Expedia later was unable to explain why the reservations had been canceled. It was a “system problem,” we were told. Expedia gave us a voucher for about 20% (about $50).

— Joe Phelan, Lincoln, CA

NEWS FROM ZANZIBAR…

Garden Bungalows/Restaurant — on Jambiani Beach on Zanzibar’s east coast. It’s next door to the Sau Inn Hotel, on the way to Kendwa village.

The bungalows, right on the beach, cost $20-$30 (you can bargain for a lower price if staying more days). Bungalows each have a toilet and shower plus a TV and veranda. Some have two rooms. Some have two beds.

The bandas, at $15-$20, are smaller and quite simple, each with one room plus a veranda. There’s a bed or, on the floor, a mattress with sheets. Each banda does contain a toilet and shower.

Quiet. Good staff, but if you want your room cleaned, ask. Food is available but must be ordered ahead of time. (Feb. 2, 2010)

— Janice Flaherty, Bridgewater, MA

NEWS FROM CAMBODIA…

I met Sovann Koth (phone 855 012 529 905) in 1998 and have used him as my tour guide at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, four more times since. Friendly, easygoing and knowledgeable, he is fluent in Cambodian, English and Japanese.

He’s excellent at determining your desired pace of travel, never pushing too far or too fast. On some trips I allowed him to select hidden places away from the typical tourist spots and he did a magnificent job. My most recent day tours with him were on Dec. 12 and 14, 2009 — Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and more.

He arranged all my transportation needs and I had him take care of all incidentals, such as fees, parking and customary tips. I paid for my own meals.

I have paid Sovann in either US dollars or Cambodian riels. For his guide service, he charges $25 per day (seven hours) for one or more people. Transportation runs about $25 per day for an air-conditioned car with driver or $15 a day for a tuk-tuk and driver.

An excellent tour guide. Highly recommended.

— Robert Aagre, Binghamton, NY

ON A PRINCESS CRUISE…

• My wife and I enjoyed a two-week cruise on the Coral Princess from Florida through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles over Christmas 2009 and New Year’s. En route, we discovered an unexpected perk: free wheelchairs.

Hearing about them on board, I asked at the information desk and was told they had several for passengers to use. Ours was an older model but serviceable.

As my wife has difficulty in walking any distance and the Coral Princess is a BIG ship, the chair made a big difference to her. We used it the whole cruise and returned it before disembarking.

— William Suter, South Pasadena, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

NEWS FROM NETHERLANDS

Nadia Hotel (Raadhuisstraat 51, 1016 DD Amsterdam, Netherlands; phone +31 20 620 1550) — great central location near Dam Square.

Our standard room without canal view was quiet but very small. Not for the mobility impaired — steep stairs and no elevator, but they will carry your luggage up and down for you. Helpful, friendly staff.

Continental breakfast included. Booked room online for €95 ($117) per night, May 20-24, 2010; discount for cash payment.

— Bonny Brady, Tucson, AZ

NEWS FROM GREECE…

Central Athens Hotel (Apollonos 21, Plaka, Athens, Greece, 10557; phone +30 210 3234357, fax 3225244) — great location a few blocks from Syntagma Square. Beautiful Acropolis view from the rooftop patio (you can bring your own food and drinks up).

Our Superior room was modern, clean, quiet and good-sized, with hair dryer, mini-fridge and balcony. Good breakfast buffet included. For May 12-14, 2010, room was booked online for €145 ($178) per night. Very small elevator.

O&B Athens Boutique Hotel (7 Leokoriou St., Psiri 105 54, Athens, Greece; phone +30 210 33 12 940, fax 12 942) — located in Psiri, near Monastiraki metro station. Good location for sightseeing and restaurants.

Wonderful hotel! Elevator. Our standard room was very quiet and extremely comfortable. Great shower. Excellent breakfast included in price. For May 18-19, booked online at €161.50 ($198) per night with two-night stay.

Staff was very helpful and went out of their way to make sure our stay exceeded our expectations.

— Bonny Brady, Tucson AZ

NEWS FROM VIETNAM…

• Saigon, Vietnam, is a super-interesting city if you are shown around by a local, and “Vi” (e-mail vihalam85@yahoo.com), as she calls herself (I don’t know her full name), turned out to be an excellent guide.

For three days in February ’10 she took my wife, Sandy, and me to places most tourists in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) do not see, like Dai Nam Van Hien Park.

This park is fabulous and very much like Disneyland, with man-made 300-foot-tall mountains, waterfalls, a zoo, rides, food booths and much more. It’s about a half hour’s travel northeast of Saigon, but unless you know where it is, you will never find it. (Admission, VND40,000, or $2.)

We made arrangements with Vi by e-mail about two months before our trip. We paid $100 for three days, starting each day after breakfast and ending at 9 p.m.

We traveled in an air-conditioned Toyota van that she rented at local rates (about $30 a day). We also paid our own park admission fees, Vi’s admission to Dai Nam park and for one dinner with Vi.

We recommend this sweet, 25-year-old guide.

— Jim Delmonte, Honolulu, HI

NEWS FROM NETHERLANDS

Four of us are impressed with and enjoying the Mövenpick Hotel (Piet Heinkade 11, 1019 BR Amsterdam, Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 20 519 1200).

It’s dramatically situated among the docks of Amsterdam, with a panoramic view of the North Sea channel, train station and town. Cruise ships dock right behind the hotel. Tram stop in front and a free shuttle to the nearby train station where all the public transit connects.

On Priceline.com, I bid on and won a price of only $100 (near €82) per room per night for May 9-10, 2010. Breakfast was not included and cost €23 ($28) in the main dining room — costly but comparable to city restaurant prices.

— Jon Lafleur, Kent, CT

NEWS FROM FRANCE…

Acting on another ITN Report Card (Feb. ’10, pg. 4) about the Campanile Airport Hotel (3, avenue Didier Daurat, Blagnac, 31700 Toulouse, France; phone +33 5 61 16 90 90 or fax 61 71 65 71), my wife and I stayed two nights, May 3-4, 2010.

Small and ordinary, as reported, it’s more a motel than a hotel. The staff and restaurant were okay. We checked out on a holiday and the desk did not open till 8 a.m. — a bit late if you have an early flight. No shuttle service, but free parking.

Despite its proximity to the airport, it’s not easy to find. It’s also a bit farther than reported, about 900 meters away, which would make a fair undertaking if you had much baggage. If you plan to drive there, have a GPS or a good map or you’ll be driving laps around the place on freeways as we did. A room at one of the airport hotels with shuttle service would be much easier.

I booked through Expedia.com for $263.96 (before taxes and fees) for two nights. Upon arrival, we were told the reservations had been canceled. Fortunately, they still had empty rooms and we booked one at €95 a night (with taxes and fees, $314.23 total).

Expedia later was unable to explain why the reservations had been canceled. It was a “system problem,” we were told. Expedia gave us a voucher for about 20% (about $50).

— Joe Phelan, Lincoln, CA

NEWS FROM ZANZIBAR…

Garden Bungalows/Restaurant — on Jambiani Beach on Zanzibar’s east coast. It’s next door to the Sau Inn Hotel, on the way to Kendwa village.

The bungalows, right on the beach, cost $20-$30 (you can bargain for a lower price if staying more days). Bungalows each have a toilet and shower plus a TV and veranda. Some have two rooms. Some have two beds.

The bandas, at $15-$20, are smaller and quite simple, each with one room plus a veranda. There’s a bed or, on the floor, a mattress with sheets. Each banda does contain a toilet and shower.

Quiet. Good staff, but if you want your room cleaned, ask. Food is available but must be ordered ahead of time. (Feb. 2, 2010)

— Janice Flaherty, Bridgewater, MA

NEWS FROM CAMBODIA…

I met Sovann Koth (phone 855 012 529 905) in 1998 and have used him as my tour guide at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, four more times since. Friendly, easygoing and knowledgeable, he is fluent in Cambodian, English and Japanese.

He’s excellent at determining your desired pace of travel, never pushing too far or too fast. On some trips I allowed him to select hidden places away from the typical tourist spots and he did a magnificent job. My most recent day tours with him were on Dec. 12 and 14, 2009 — Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and more.

He arranged all my transportation needs and I had him take care of all incidentals, such as fees, parking and customary tips. I paid for my own meals.

I have paid Sovann in either US dollars or Cambodian riels. For his guide service, he charges $25 per day (seven hours) for one or more people. Transportation runs about $25 per day for an air-conditioned car with driver or $15 a day for a tuk-tuk and driver.

An excellent tour guide. Highly recommended.

— Robert Aagre, Binghamton, NY

ON A PRINCESS CRUISE…

• My wife and I enjoyed a two-week cruise on the Coral Princess from Florida through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles over Christmas 2009 and New Year’s. En route, we discovered an unexpected perk: free wheelchairs.

Hearing about them on board, I asked at the information desk and was told they had several for passengers to use. Ours was an older model but serviceable.

As my wife has difficulty in walking any distance and the Coral Princess is a BIG ship, the chair made a big difference to her. We used it the whole cruise and returned it before disembarking.

— William Suter, South Pasadena, CA