Amazing…Incredible…Spectacular Harbour View Junior Suite of InterContinental Hong Kong

My husband, my adult daughter and myself stayed at InterContinental Hong Kong on Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui for 5 nights from Dec 20 to Dec 25, 2015.

No words could actually describe the WOW factors of our stay. We were treated like royalties from the beginning to the end. Staff members from the front desk, concierge, housekeeping, bell service, business centre, reservations and hotel managers were just unbelievably professional. I am so excited to share my fantastic experience at the InterContinental Hong Kong here in my blog.

Walkway from Salisbury Road to hotel

Pros:
1) Every morning, my family of 3 woke up to a stunning panoramic view of the beautiful Victoria Harbour (so rare & expensive in HK), sometimes sunny, sometimes foggy, sometimes overcast. There’s nothing we could do but to be thankful to God.

Panoramic view from room
Sunset view from room
stunning night view
Beautiful Victoria Harbour

2) Being an InterContinental Ambassador, I accumulated a lot of points & were able to redeem my stay using 50,000 points per night. (I just got an email announcing that starting mid-February in 2016, this hotel needs 60,000 points for each standard room redemption!!) Then I paid HK600 per night to upgrade it to a harbourview deluxe room when I made the booking. When I got to the hotel, they gave me a complimentary upgrade to a harbourview junior suite (Room 716) with a sitting area, walk-in closet, separate toilet & a Jacuzzi. An extra single bed was added for my daughter sleeping in the sitting area beside the single sofa…a perfect spot in terms of privacy…we couldn’t see each other while in bed.

Ultra spacious Harbour View Junior Suite
Bathroom with jacuzzi
Sitting area with an added bed for my daughter
Bedroom area
A glimpse of the Cultural Centre on the right
View of Hong Kong Convention Centre from room

It would be quite unpleasant if I didn’t upgrade the city view room to harbour view as there were still 2 big construction sites on both east & west sides of the hotel. When we were swimming in the pool or enjoying ourselves in the whirlpool, it’s hard to totally relax with the noises and views around us.

Big pool with not so good a view
Smaller infinity pool facing the harbour

3) The hotel offered a free mobile smartphone for us to use with data & WIFI, and it’s the best to bring with us while touring around Hong Kong with all the apps & free unlimited local calls.

4) The location of the hotel is super convenient as it’s close to Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, with lots of bus routes & Star Ferry nearby. Eateries were everywhere, less than HK$40 for a breakfast with coffee/tea, or highly recommended expensive restaurants on Michelin lists.

Cons:
1) Since we were there on Dec 24, Salisbury Road where the hotel is located was closed to all traffic. It’s only for pedestrians so we had to make a LONG detour to go from Nathan Road back to the hotel. A normal 5-minute walk became a 30-minute one with the crowds & the constant stops as we were not allowed to “CROSS” the road using the intersection. We chose to use the Tsim Sha Tsui East detour as we would like to see more light decorations but we could also use the “U-turn” outside the HK Cultural Centre, but not directly from the Peninsula Hotel as we normally crossed from. Underground exits from the Sheraton Hotel were also blocked so allow more time if you are there on Dec 24, Dec 31 or when Chinese New Year Fireworks are on.

Main roads were closed for pedestrians only

2) There was no airport hotel free shuttle from the airport. A one-way taxi was HK$240. With 3 adults, 3 large suitcases, 3 carry-ons plus 3 backpacks, we could load everything in a taxi sedan with the trunk half-closed. This is the phone number to reserve a taxi van: 8191-1219 for more passengers. Taxi vans were not easy to get at the airport without prior reservations.

3) Not many rooms & suites could accommodate 3 adults. Extra beds need to be reserved in advance. That took up quite some space in the room if staying in a standard one. There was also an added cost for the 3rd adult.

Since both my husband & myself got our IHG Capital One MasterCards linked to our IHG rewards accounts, we were able to get a lot of signing up bonuses. We also put most of our daily expenses on the credit cards to enable us to get free points. Joining the IHG InterContinental Ambassador program also gave us free points and free nights, that’s why we got so many points to redeem for expensive stays at InterContinental hotels in Hong Kong, London (England), Wellington (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia).

My family stayed in many luxurious hotels when we travel, the InterContinental Hong Kong was by far the best. At least it’s a much better choice than another 5-star hotel that we stayed at after our Asian cruise on the other side of the Victoria Harbour in January 2016. I would totally recommend the InterContinental Hong Kong to everyone.

Hotel Bristol, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Vienna, Austria

Wow! Wow! Wow! Just 3 Wow’s are simply not enough to show the WOW factors of Hotel Bristol! Its location, its authenticity, and best of all, its hotel personnel are just incredible! We were so blessed to stay there for 2 nights after our Danube River Cruise on Crystal Bach in July 2018.

Unbeatable location opposite the Vienna State Opera

Being an SPG Gold member, I got a free upgrade to the most gorgeous Opera Suite of over 1,000 sq. ft., opposite to the famous Vienna State Opera.

Vienna State Opera at night (photo credit to my photographer husband Brian)

Our suite was Room 475, with a balcony wrapped around the corner suite from the sitting room to the bedroom, providing a stunning panoramic view.

street view from room

We were in the Chinese Suite full of precious antiques and pictures.

Spacious sitting room
entrance area of the room was full of Chinese antiques
free champagne on the coffee table and dining table by the window
Huge bedroom with tons of closet space
Another glimpse of the bedroom
Marble bathroom

We even invited our friends who also stayed at the same hotel to enjoy the complimentary champagne with us. For both nights that we stayed we bought take out to enjoy eating in the sitting room at the round dining table. We also used an HDMI cable to connect to the large flat screen TV to watch our Danube river cruise pictures and videos. 

The concierge was extremely helpful and gave us lots of tips on how to get to various attractions using public transport. They helped us make reservations for the guided tour of the Spanish Riding School, the morning horse show “Piber Meets Vienna”, and confirmed our taxi that we booked in advance. With the red Vienna Card that included public transport, we loved using Bus Route 2A to go from the hotel to most famous sights like the Spanish Riding School, Sisi Museum and the Vienna Ring Tram at Schwedenplatz. Tram D or #71 took us to Upper/Lower Belvedere. Mozart’s statue was only 1 bus stop away. All these bus/tram stops were just right outside the hotel, super duper convenient!

While we were there, we had a fabulous lunch at the restaurant.

A great restaurant with excellent service

For dessert, we thoroughly enjoyed the coffee and delicious apple strudel at Gerstner K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäcker, just a few shops next to the hotel on Kärntner Strasse.

A huge and special thanks to Kathleen S. for showing me around the hotel and shared Hotel Bristol’s history with me.

Beautiful display by the hotel elevator
Authentic staircase

Classic Room #368 is the most basic room in the hotel.

Then we were in Penthouse Suite #663. All rooms on the 6th floor have beautiful terraced views.

The penthouse suite bedroom in the tower building
sitting area with cathedral ceiling

President Suite #174 was absolutely incredible with so many rooms. Guests were also offered free limousine service from the airport.

The entrance
Sitting room of the President Suite
The study of the President Suite
The bedroom of the President Suite
Another bedroom corner of the President Suite leading to the sitting room
Bathroom of the President Suite
Dining room of the President Suite
separate bathroom and toilet in the President Suite
Double sink in the bathroom with tons of towels

Here comes the Grand Deluxe Bristol Suite Room 52.

The Grand Deluxe suite offers a much more modern feel

I would definitely recommend Hotel Bristol to everyone to enjoy this “home away from home” in Europe.

University Arms Hotel, Autograph Collection, Cambridge, England

My husband and I stayed at the University Arms Hotel, Autograph Collection, on a warm sunny day in early Spring 2019. Being a Marriott Platinum Elite member, I used my Suite Night Award to get a complimentary upgrade on top of my free night certificate, so the room cost us nothing but just a very steep parking fee of £30 (equivalent to CA$57) per night.

Check-in was fast and easy. We were greeted by the bell boy/concierge who took care of our luggage immediately after we stopped our rental car in front of the hotel. A few days before arrival I already received an email from the hotel saying that they have reserved the Terrace Suite on the top floor for us. Though we already had some expectations of what the room was like, we were awed by the lay-out and loved the ambience of the super comfortable and well-designed corner suite #907. After the fire, many areas of the hotel were remodelled to keep the authentic look with modern comfort. Kudos to the architect and the designer!

Cornered terraced Suite #907 marked with a red rectangle in the bottom right corner with double balconies
Spacious room with a lobby, a sitting area and a bedroom area

The bell boy from the concierge who was like a butler explained to us all the special room features like the 2 terraces.

The bathroom located in the tower between the 2 terraces
A smaller terrace that overlooked the side street next to Parker’s Piece

A bigger terrace that spans the whole room from the bathroom in the tower to the lobby
Gorgeous view of Parker’s Piece

The bathroom has 7 big and small windows and heated bathroom floor that was controlled by a thermostat behind the bathroom door.

It would take you a while to close all window coverings before taking a bath or a shower.

We were offered complimentary alcoholic drinks like brandy & whisky and the tea/coffee machine with numerous selections.

The suite was so wonderful and relaxing that I just wanted to spend the whole afternoon lying around on the terrace with a glass in my hand, watching the passers-by on Parker’s Piece. However, with just 1 day to spend in Cambridge before attending a wedding on the following day, we had to leave the hotel for some sightseeing and punting on River Cam.

The hotel was so well-located that we felt safe walking around in the area after dinner. There were lots of restaurants and shops on Regent Street.

Beautiful facade at night

The next morning, we enjoyed our complimentary breakfast buffet in the restaurant as there was no club lounge for Platinum members in the hotel. The food was nicely-presented with bread on one table, hot entrees on another table and drinks,
fruit and cold meat/cheese selections on the 3rd table. It was a sumptuous breakfast though they didn’t offer our favourite big and lean English bacon.

Parker’s Tavern where we had breakfast
Plentiful selections of juice, hot items, fruit and cheese
The bread table
cheese, cold items and juice
sausages & bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes and hash browns
beautiful silverware for coffee and tea

Check-out was prompt and valet parking staff were quick and efficient. We would definitely stay at the hotel again if we’re in Cambridge.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 8 – April 7, 2019 – Amsterdam (disembarkation)

Enjoying our breakfast onboard the Crystal Bach, we said goodbye to our cruise buddies and the dining room waiters and waitresses. After breakfast at 8:30 am, we checked to make sure that all our luggage was in the coach’s luggage compartment, then just 4 of us (another couple were on transit to Denver via Toronto) took off to the airport. For just the 4 of us, Crystal sent a rep with us, other than the driver. Then Crystal had another rep at the airport, waiting for us to lead us to the Air Canada counter. Since we had priority check-in, we went through security in 20 minutes and arrived at Aspire Lounge at 9:50 am. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:55 am, so we should have over an hour to spend in the lounge before boarding at 11 am. The lounge was very pretty.

Unfortunately, due to full capacity reached, we were denied entry though we had Lounge passes. Instead, we were offered a voucher of 12.50 Euros each to eat anywhere inside the airport, or wait for people to leave. We figured that since we only had about an hour, we’d rather eat somewhere else, so we chose to take the vouchers.

Having eaten western food for 10 days, we decided to have Ramen at Kebaya.

It was delicious and we had to pay just a few more cents to have a drink with the ramen.

On board the aircraft, we had very spacious first row seats of Premium Economy and I could stretch my legs straight, very comfortable with the inflated foot stools. The flight was on time and we got to Toronto at 2:40 pm as scheduled.

Feeling relaxed and revitalized after a wonderful cruise! Time to start planning for our Alaska cruise in July.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 7 (con’t) – April 6, 2019 – Amsterdam (overnight)

Docking Location: De Ruyterkade Oost No. 3

After lunch on the boat, we walked to Amsterdam Central Station which was only 10 minutes on foot. We did our flight check-in online which was quite easy. I was very happy with the 1-month O2 UK SIM card that I bought in Canada for CA$29 + tax = CA$32.77. The store I bought it was on the 2nd floor of the same plaza as T&T on Kennedy & HWY 7. It’s a Pay-As-You-Go card with £10 preloaded and I got 500 minutes, 5000 texts, plus 2 GB data to use in 30 days max. For my 10-day trip, I used it for almost everything and I still had data left. It received better than the boat’s satellite so I had it on all the time. It covered UK, France, Germany & the Netherlands that we went, but we bought a $10 data card to cover Switzerland as an add-on.

Fast & reliable International SIM card

At the Central Station, we bought a 24-hour public transport pass from the iAmsterdam store for €7.50 each. A single-use ticket is available on the tram or bus at a cost of €3.20, so one return trip will cost €6.40. We could also get the card from a ticket machine in the Central Station.

We took Tram 2 or 11 or 12 from the Central Station to Leidseplein and the journey took about 15 minutes. On the crowded tram, I got pickpocketed and my wallet was found hanging outside my backpack like this:

Even with a Pacsafe bag, the pickpocket could undo the zipper of the backpack and undo the zipper of my coin wallet in less than 10 seconds & took the contents inside my wallet. Luckily, I just used up all the coins so there was just a folded passport photocopy that the pickpocket took but there was no money nor credit cards inside. Lucky Me!! My husband was standing right behind me and after he looked at the bus stop names on the bus screen, he saw my backpack open with my wallet that was supposed to tie to the inside by a long connector, now outside the bag. I was lucky that my real wallet was tucked at the very bottom of the backpack, with lots of things on top of it so it was saved. What a blessing!

The reason why we had to take a tram to Leidseplein was that we had to check out the starting point of our evening canal boat location, operated by Blue Boat Co. I paid CA$32 for 2 people online but on site it was advertised a lot more. if we joined the ship tour to do the evening canal cruise, it cost US$89 per person. I was so glad I did some homework before our trip and we know how to get around Amsterdam since we were there many times. We saved A LOT!

As we had to pack, we took Tram 2 back to Central Station and walked back to our boat. It’s definitely the least favourite time of the whole cruise: packing (BIG SIGH!!!) We finished packing in about 30 minutes as we only brought 1 big suitcase & 2 carry-ons. Beside, we only had to leave our bags outside our room 45 minutes before our assigned departure time of 8:30 am on disembarkation morning. No rush like the ocean cruises that we had to pack the big bags the night before disembarkation.

Our waitress, Gessica, and waiter, Stelios, were excellent and incredibly efficient in their service, knowing that we had to get out to town for our canal cruise. We finished our dinner in 45 minutes without rushing and got out to Leidseplein at around 8:15 pm. It was not even completely dark so we took some beautiful pictures of the canal.

The jetty of Blue Boat

As our tour was booked for 9:30 pm, we asked if we could be switched to the 9 pm cruise and the sales rep was kind enough to help us change. We still had around 45 minutes to spend so we went shopping nearby.

We did daytime canal cruises many times so we were very thrilled to do an evening one. It felt really different this time. This was the canal boat we were on.

Little motor boat in the shape of a clog
Passing by many well-lit bridges
House boats in front of many buildings with slanted facades
The Red Light District

We even sailed by our boat, the white Crystal Bach, with the black AmaSerena doubled-parked on the outside.

We could purchase drinks and snacks on the boat for only a few euros and the commentary in English was clear and easy to follow, wearing the headphones. After 1.5 hours, we took the tram back to Central Station and walked back to our boat, just in time to spend the last hour of the day at the Palm Court. At 11 pm, there were only 2 tables of guests there so we had a very nice chat with the bartenders and the servers before retiring to bed.

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 7 – April 6, 2019 – Amsterdam (overnight)

Docking Location: De Ruyterkade Oost No. 3

Though we have almost come to the end of our cruise, this is the most colourful page of the whole blog. I feel so cheerful and happy just by looking through all these wonderful and colourful pictures.

In Amsterdam, we had to triple park, so Crystal Bach was the one in the middle, with Belljour closest to the dock and AmaSerena arriving after breakfast on the outside.

Very busy Amsterdam river dock

At 9:30 am, we started our tour to Keukenhof Gardens which was a 1-hour drive from Amsterdam. We were all super excited to do the highlights of our cruise. Keukenhof was only open for 8 weeks throughout the entire year, from March 21 to May 19 in 2019.

We had only 2 hours to spend in the garden, so we had to fast track everything in order to visit all the different pavilions. My husband took a map and plotted a route so we could cover most of the gardens. We were only able to visit Oranje Nassau, Willem-Alexander, The Mill, Beatrice and Juliana/Tulpomania. We didn’t even have time to line up to order tulip bulbs. Oh well…next time!

As soon as we walked in from the main entrance, we were greeted by a sea of tulips.

Beautiful floral displays inside the Oranje Nassau

Then we walked to Willem-Alexander where we spent the longest time.

We didn’t have time to walk to the front of the windmill. Just the back will do for this time.

Garden staff dressed up in flower costumes of all kinds.

Wow! Wow! Wow! Exceedingly beautiful Cherry Blossoms!

Inside the Beatrix pavilion:

Not just tulips, there were also beds of hyacinths.

…and daffodils…

Flowers galore

There were also some exquisite flowers:

Farewell, Keukenhof!

On the way back, we passed by many tulip fields.

Praise the Lord for a gorgeous morning in Keukenhof Gardens!

Crystal Bach Rhine River Cruise – Day 6 – April 5, 2019 – Cologne to Bonn (8:30 am – 1:30 pm)

Docking Location in Cologne: Pier 5  

Crystal Bach docked at Cologne

After breakfast, we boarded the coach to Bonn. As a musician, I was really looking forward to visiting Beethoven the famous composer’s birth place. It was unfortunate that his house was under renovation so we were not able to go inside. Many people did not take part in this excursion because there was not really much to see without Beethoven’s House.

After an hour’s drive, we arrived at Bonn. Sebastian was our guide and he was very good, very fluent in English. Originally we were going to look at the recital hall with some exhibitions and explanation, but the hall was only going to open at 11 am, so we had to do the Beethoven’s Walk in the area first.

Beethoven’s birth place

Then we went to a local church where Beethoven’s baptismal font was housed. It was moved there from the old St. Remigius Church.

Beethoven’s baptismal font

Next we walked to the Market Square.

Market Square in Bonn
delicious white asparagus
City Hall of Bonn in the Market Square

Then we walked to Bonn University.

No Beethoven Walk is complete without seeing the statue of Beethoven. Here is one in front of the Post Office:

Beautiful flowers were grown around the statue.

We walked to the Bonn City Wall before going back to Beethoven’s House.

City Wall in Bonn

This was the recital hall inside Beethoven’s House.

After buying some souvenirs from the official Beethoven’s store, we walked around the area before having some snacks at the restaurant nearby.

Another unfortunate incident was that the pianist who was supposed to do a mini recital at the restaurant had train problems so she could not get to us on time. We were just having complimentary German sausages, apple strudel, coffee or local beer as snacks.

delicious snacks

We left Bonn at 12:45 pm and got back to the ship for lunch at 1:30 pm. It was a pity that we did not have time to walk around the area as we had to set sail for Amsterdam at 3 pm. I went to Ana, the Crystal Society Hostess to book our next cruise. This time cruising the Netherlands and Belgian waterways in late March, so I can have more time at Keukenhof to see tulips and other blossoms.

We were tired after a lot of walking, especially a super late night in Cologne, so we did not even go to Palm Court for the Irish Pub Night with Joe & Liv. How we missed the Irish Guinness & the folk tunes!!