St. Regis Hong Kong (May 12-14, 2019)

The newest & most luxurious gem in Wanchai

The posting of this hotel review has been delayed by a year, strongly hindered by the frightening political unrest and numerous protests that happened a couple of weeks after our wonderful peaceful Hong Kong vacation in May 2019, followed by the outbreak of Covid-19. I feel sorry that not many international tourists would choose to go to Hong Kong while it was so politically unsafe, as I really think St. Regis deserves a much better recommendation than anybody would have given in the past year, rather than just staycations from the local people.

In mid-May 2019, my husband and I went to Hong Kong from Canada to celebrate my father-in-law’s 90th birthday. Originally, we booked the W Hong Kong to start our vacation, but then St. Regis Hong Kong’s opening reviews were so flattering and inviting that we decided to give it a switch, just 3 weeks before our arrival. As soon as I made the reservation, the St. Regis butler and restaurant teams sent me numerous emails, introducing their teams and asking for my arrival details so they could personalize my stay. I was totally impressed by these little touches and already felt pampered even before we left Canada.

Upon arrival, our lovely butler Lydia (now promoted to be the butler supervisor) greeted us with a huge smile at the entrance of the hotel on the ground floor.

We were so surprised that she was actually waiting for us to arrive by taxi from the airport. As a Marriott Platinum elite member, I was asked before my arrival the room type that I’d like to be upgraded to, so I knew that my harbourview corner room awaited us. Our luggage was taken care of as soon as we stepped out of the taxi and delivered to our room. Check-in was done comfortably in our 500+ sq. ft. Premier Harbour View room on the 22nd floor.

Below was a picture of my room with the beautiful harbor view that I downloaded from the St. Regis website.

In reality, the window facing north was half blocked by a huge TV. If I were the designer, I would move the TV to the corner and have the sitting area and round table right in front of the window to maximize the “harbour view”.

Sorry to have gone side-tracked! Let’s get back to the awesome butler, telling us that she could help us unpack, do ironing, make our drinks, etc. Then she took us downstairs to the “Great Room” (lobby) where the St. Regis Bar and the Chinese restaurant Rùn were located, and showed us another elevator lobby that we had to use to go to the street level.

As soon as I stepped into the Chinese restaurant, I was greeted by name by the restaurant manager, Welly, who has also exchanged many emails with me regarding a dim sum lunch there with my in-laws and my husband’s siblings. She kindly introduced me to the table location by the window, even though it was not the restaurant’s regular opening time.

When we got back to the hotel after some sightseeing, we called the butler for some tea. Then a table of English and Chinese tea with snacks and chocolate-covered fruit appeared in 15 minutes with personalized hand-written welcome notes.

Other than a complimentary room upgrade, Marriott Platinum members also got free breakfast at St. Regis Chinese Restaurant Rùn. Four breakfast choices were offered: Continental, American, Chinese or Healthy, all served with a semi-buffet breakfast. Here is the menu.

On the 1st day we chose the American breakfast.

Then on the 2nd day we had the Chinese breakfast which was a much better choice with a whole abalone in the congee. Other than the congee, there were personal steamers with sticky rice in lotus leaf, siu mai (pork dumpling), ha gau (shrimp dumpling) and a spring roll.

The semi-buffet was sumptuous, with tables spreading all around the restaurant so nowhere would be crowded.

The Chinese Restaurant Rùn offered the best dim-sum lunch experience that we have ever had in Hong Kong. The ingredients were fresh and the presentations were attractive. We were always circled by numerous waiters to check if we needed anything or about the comments of the food. Best of all, they made everything to 6 pieces for the 6 of us so we could all taste the same food and no one had to split the food or have extras. It was a lovely pre-birthday lunch to celebrate my in-law’s 90th birthday.

After breakfast, we were so fortunate to have a hotel tour led by 2 of the hotel personnel so we were able to see different types of hotel rooms and hotel facilities. They showed us a suite that we could have stayed instead of the corner room that we chose, with a much less promising view, though the room size was definitely much bigger.

The sitting area of the suite was very spacious but there was no harbour view, whereas the bedroom had quite a good view. The bathroom was super big with 1 shower stall, one stall for the toilet, and a bath tub on the other side of the mirror. You could see the reflection of the bath tub on the glass panel of the toilet.

This was the grand lobby of the hotel on the 2nd floor,

where the bar with the famous mural was located. 

There was also a beautiful terrace with a moon-shaped gate.

All in all, I highly recommend the St. Regis Hong Kong with its fantastic location, top-notched service and incredible food.

Newfoundland Sept 2021 – where we stayed

It’s been almost 1.5 year since we last had a long vacation, so I’m here to take you on our Newfoundland 15-night tour. This post is mainly about where we stayed, as I spent almost half our tour budget to make sure we had a sitting area in all the accommodations (all suites and cottages) so we didn’t have to work on the bed while the other was using the desk for meetings. Whether cruising or on land, I’m a strong believer to have a “home away from home” and not just a “bedroom” away from home to enhance my travelling experience. Due to COVID, we deliberately stayed away from B&B’s to avoid sharing a house with strangers with no masks on while eating breakfast.

To further lower the risk of contracting COVID during the pandemic, we decided to splurge on transport. with premium direct flights (only 7-12 passengers using the toilet in that section instead of over 100 in the economy section), flying out from Toronto to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Another reason of flying Premium was that I had over $1000 in my West Jet travel bank so I had to use the money before it expired soon. I also exchanged one of my 2 companion vouchers for 4 complimentary lounge passes since my Priority Pass membership does not cover the use of Plaza Premium Lounge in Toronto Pearson’s Terminal 3 anymore. I will talk about the details of the flights in a separate post.

Here is a summary of where we stayed on our 15-day trip:

Newfoundland travel map by days

Day 1 – St. John’s (midnight flight arrival) – Fairfield Inn by Marriott (Executive King Suite) the only place with NO oceanview throughout our whole trip.

Days 2 & 3 – Port Rexton (Bonavista Peninsula near Skerwink Trail) – Fishers’ Loft Inn (Oceanview 1-bedroom ground floor suite)

Day 4 – Twillingate – Anchor Inn & Suites Annex (Oceanview 1-bedroonm suite)

Day 5 – Fogo Island – Finn House (Oceanview 1-bedroom cottage of a duplex)

Day 6 – Twillingate – Carriage Hill Cottage (Our favourite luxurious oceanfront 1-bedroom cottage)

Days 7 & 8 – Woody Point (South side of Gros Morne National Park) – The Rooms at Woody Point (Efficiency unit with separate sitting and dining areas in an oceanfront quadruplex)

Days 9 & 10 – Rocky Harbour (North side of Gros Morne National Park) – Crow’s Nest at Meeting Hill Cottages (Oceanfront 1-bedroom cottage in a 4-unit row house)

Days 11 & 15 – St. John’s – Courtyard by Marriott (Harbourfront 1-bedroom suite)

Here is the detailed description of each accommodation:

Day 1 – Fairfield Inn by Marriott, St. John’s (Sept 8, 2021)

A convenient & well-maintained little gem in St. John’s

I was very happy with the service provided by the hotel: from the email communication regarding current major road work in front of the hotel, to the complimentary upgrade from a regular King room to an Executive King Suite. Room number was provided to me in the afternoon of my arrival day on my Mobile Bonvoy app. Check in & check out at the hotel was super fast and easy.

Spacious Executive Suite of Fairfield Inn & Suites, St. John’s
Sitting area of the Executive Suite
little pantry with microwave, coffee machine & a mini fridge
Bathroom of the Executive Suite

Breakfast served by a waiter was just the normal fare with egg, sausages & potatoes. Muffins, boxed cereal, milk, juice and fruit were all self-served items. Tables were well-spaced to allow social distancing at the breakfast area on the main floor next to the reception.

Complimentary hotel parking was plentiful and the parking lot was well-lit. The hotel is about a 10-minute drive from St. John’s airport and there are lots of restaurants and shops around. Walmart Supercentre with a lot of other stores is only 5 minutes away. Trans Canada Highway is also a 5-minute drive so the location is very convenient. I highly recommend this hotel.

Day 2 & 3 – Fishers’ Loft Inn, Port Rexton (Sept 9 & 10, 2021)

A luxurious oceanview suite with some unexpected moments during Hurricane Larry

I booked this hotel mostly due to the raving reviews & its close proximity to the famous Skerwink Trail. Loved the well-appointed Ground Floor Oceanview Suite #5 that was in the building right beside the Lobby and the main dining room.

Yellow building with 5 suites and light green building is the Main House & restaurant
The Yellow House where Suite #5 was in with the gravel path leading to the parking lot

Check in was a breeze. There was a small parking lot opposite the reception that we could park our car then walked over to the opposite side of the road for check-in.

Gorgeous view from the reception

During check-in, we were given the map of Fishers’ Loft so it was very easy to get to the parking lot which was less than 100 meters from our suite.

parking lot with a luggage cart that guests could use to transport luggage to their accommodations on gravel road
Our suite was #5 in the Yellow House (circled) next to the Main House which is in the middle of the hotel compound; 2 seatings for breakfast were written under “5”. The black patch marked with a “P” on top of the Main House is the closest parking lot.

The 1-bedroom suite was very spacious. Knowing that there were stairs going to the 2nd & 3rd floors and it was not as easy to bring our bags up, I specifically called and asked for a ground floor suite.

Stairs next to our ground-floor Suite #5 leading to the upper floors
The spacious sitting room
bathroom without much vanity space, the toilet was next to the window behind the bath tub

Unfortunately, we were there during Hurricane Larry and the window facing the ocean was leaking on the 2nd night of our stay. We had to put towels on the window to soak the water.

Leaking window during Hurricane Larry

There was also a power outage at around 2 am on the day that we’re supposed to check out, but we brought an LED flashlight so it was handy. It was almost as bright as a regular lamp. We didn’t go to bed early as we were trying to change our return flight to a direct one that just got added to the airline schedule, so we spent over 4 hours trying to talk to an operator, otherwise we wouldn’t even have noticed the power outage in our sleep.

Fishers’ Loft also provided a flashlight in the TV cabinet but it was not as bright as our own so we didn’t use it. We had no water from 2-9 am on Sept 11 since there was no electricity to pump water from the well. Fishers’ Loft gave us a few bottled water for washing and brushing our teeth so it was a nice touch.

The restaurant offered superb dinner ($66 each without drinks) and breakfast ($16-20 each). I’m going to write about food in a separate post. I would highly recommend both the lodging and the restaurant, though the accommodation rate was the highest of our 15-night Newfoundland trip. Nonetheless, the well-appointed furnishing of the suite, the hotel location with its close proximity to Skerwink Trail and the amazing restaurant all made it worthwhile.

Day 4 – Anchor Annex, Twillingate (Sept 11, 2021)

We booked an Oceanview 1-bedroom suite and was housed in the Annex of the Anchor Inn up the hill.

1-bedroom oceanview suite of Anchor Inn, Twillingate, with full kitchen

There was a big open space with loungers overlooking the ocean,

Open space with great view of the ocean

From parking, we had to get our luggage to walk up one flight of stairs so this was a bit inconvenient for us.

stairs to get to the 1st floor suite

The view was great and the complimentary continental breakfast at Hodge Premises opposite the inn was adequate.

Breakfast house in Hodge Premises across the road
complimentary breakfast – own choice of coffee, pastry/muffin, yogurt & fruit

Check in & check out were both fast, accurate and easy. Georgie’s Restaurant provided great food and we had dinner there after we came back to Twillingate from Fogo Island.

Day 5 – Finn House, Fogo Island (Sept 12, 2021)

This beautiful property, Finn House, located in Deep Bay (about 17 km from the Fogo Ferry) was perfect for our stay on Fogo Island.

The ocean view was absolutely spectacular!

Cabin interior
A video tour of our cottage

The cottage was clean and beautifully decorated. It’s a pity that there was no microwave so we had to use the oven to warm up our food which was a bit time consuming. Yet the beautiful view with nice seating area on the patio made it all up.

Huge patio with spectacular ocean view
Sitting area facing the ocean
breakfast area also facing the ocean
bedroom with a door to the outside

Our host Theresa communicated well with directions to the location and photos of landmarks and parking.

Road sign indicated a right turn

The only inconvenient part was the steep gravel road from the parking to the cottage.

Steep path from parking to the cottage

It’s impossible to wheel any suitcase or bag so we had to lift our luggage to the house.

Lifting the luggage to walk down the steep path
The journey to the cottage continued…

Occasionally we could hear our neighbours next door from Aiden House but the noise level was quite minimal. I would totally recommend this place as driving to the main town Fogo was only 15 minutes. While driving in Newfoundland, there were road signs that we saw quite often and we thought they were rather unique and interesting!!

So true! Potholes were everywhere in all parts of Newfoundland.
Beware of Moose! Heard many scary moose stories.

Day 6 – Carriage Hill Cottage, Twillingate (Sept 13, 2021)

This is by far our favourite lodging of our 15-night Newfoundland trip. If I could give this property a 6-star, I would definitely do it in a heartbeat!

Carriage Hill Cottage in Durrell, Twillingate
The sitting room, dining area & kitchen
The bedroom
Luxurious bathroom with freestanding bathtub & separate shower

As soon as I unlocked the deadbolt of the house using the keypad, the new furniture and superbly designed layout with upscale equipment totally blew me away.

Sitting, dining areas and fully-loaded kitchen
Sitting area
Dining area and kitchen
Spacious bedroom

The freestanding bath tub, the washer and dryer, plus the fully loaded kitchen with all sorts of condiments and breakfast needs were all fine touches added to make this cottage a little gem in Twillingate.

Luxurious bathroom with freestanding bathtub
Multi-program fullsize washer & dryer

The patio with gorgeous view and lovely cushioned furniture, the outdoor fireplace, the BBQ and spacious parking all contributed to a wonderful stay.

Patio with gorgeous ocean view
Beautiful sunset

To our host Marie, many congratulations on providing us with extremely clear instructions and location coordinates so we had no problems finding this place although Durrell Street was not listed on Google Map. However, we could see the yellow cottage behind 174 Main Street on the opposite side of the road, right by the ocean. I’ll highly recommend this cottage to those looking for a great stay in Twillingate.

Day 7 & 8 – The Rooms at Woody Point (Sept 14 & 15, 2021)

After 1 week in Eastern & Central Newfoundland, we finally arrived at the famous Gros Morne National Park in the western coast.

park entrance

After the 2 pm Bonne Bay Boat Tour in Norris Point, we drove for another hour to reach the south side of Gros Morne National Park. The Rooms at Woody Point were cozy little cottages with gorgeous view of Bonne Bay from the patio.

Phenomenal evening view of Bonne Bay from the patio

The best thing about this cottage was that we could drive our car all the way up the steep hill and park right in front of this fully accessible cottage. There were only 2 of the 8 units that offered direct car access to the cabins. Other 6 units all had stairs from parking to the cabins.

Units 1-4 above the main office
Units 1-4 with stairs access
Parking lot & stair access of 2 more units

Both the bathroom and the roll-in shower areas were big enough for a wheelchair/walker to get by.

separate toilet and sink
Roll-in shower and vanity area on the opposite side of the corridor

A huge King bed welcomed us as soon as we opened the front door, with hooks for outdoor dirty overcoat behind the door.

A huge King bed facing the door

To the right there was a folding rectangular table that could be opened up to a square table. A well-equipped kitchenette was next to the 2 huge comfy single sitters.

Sitting & working area

I especially liked their “breakfast box” for $10 per person, as it was not easy to find any breakfast place nearby. The box was delivered to us the afternoon before after we pre-ordered for the next morning. The host put the box in the fridge with clear instructions on how to heat up some of the hot breakfast items.

One of the 5 breakfast choices
$10 per person breakfast menu – emailed to us before our stay for pre-order

The well-designed blinds which could be pulled down from the top or pulled up from the bottom allowed more privacy and let in more day light even with the bottom part down.

Well-designed blinds

There was a mattress under the bed which could be pulled out to accommodate an extra person in the sitting area, though we did not use it.

Internet could be very slow and spotty at times but we were still able to have Zoom meetings though with long wait time to log on.

The host Donna gave great recommendations for nearby restaurants for dinner. The Rooms also provided patio dining when the weather was warm enough. I would certainly recommend this place at Woody Point as it was a great location to access the Tablelands Trail and the Gros Morne Discovery Centre in Bonne Bay.

Easy to walk Tablelands Trail
Inside the Gros Morne Discovery Centre
View of Bonne Bay from the terrace of Gros Morne Discovery Centre

Day 9 & 10 – Crow’s Nest, Meeting Hill Cottages, Rocky Harbour (Sept 16 & 17, 2021)

This was another cozy and clean cabin that we stayed in the Gros Morne area (north side) in Rocky Harbour.

Check in location was at 140 Main Street and this cabin was further down the street at 170B. It was the 3rd unit of a 4-unit row house with parking right in front of the house.

Crow’s Nest, Meeting Hill Cottages, Rocky Harbour

Bottled water was offered to us as the town was undergoing some pipeline problems so it was safer not to use tap water for drinking, cooking and even brushing teeth. Everything was clean and well-equipped especially with the welcome goodies placed on the table.

Well-prepared welcome tray for guests
Video of the Crow’s Nest

The only problem we found was the limited sockets for plugging in our electronic devices. Either we had to use the ones in the kitchen, or we had to disconnect light fixtures in order to use the plugs. The one close to the front door was not working so we had to move the table to get close to a plug while charging our laptops and working at the same time.

Crow’s Nest living area

To be honest, I found the blue/green colour not quite pleasing in my own opinion, I much prefer a more neutral colour like the bedroom.

Do you like the bathroom in blue?
Nicely decorated bedroom in a more neutral beige colour with just a few touches of blue

Another reason to choose this unit instead of the one next door, also a one-bedroom “Cuddy Cabin”, was because we didn’t want anyone to walk in front of the window or peek into our cabin, since the long patio was shared by 3 units. Closing the blind all the time would defeat the purpose of having a gorgeous view of the beautiful ocean! The sunset view from the cabin was spectacular though it’s a little blocked by the hill.

Sunset view from the porch
Little sitting area outside our cabin

We drove down the road to a huge public parking lot opposite the Oceanview Hotel for a more stunning, completely unblocked sunset view.

Stunning sunset in Rocky Harbour

Day 11-15 – Courtyard by Marriott, St. John’s (Sept 18-23, 2021)

This check in was seamless at the Courtyard St. John’s. Front desk staff Robinson was extremely helpful and friendly. As a Bonvoy gold member I was offered a free upgrade from a Junior Suite to a 1-bedroom harbourfront suite for our 5-night stay in St. John’s. Though it was on the ground floor, the room was a little raised from street level so passers-by could not directly see the inside of the room. We thoroughly enjoyed the extra space and loved the room location which was super close to the little complimentary parking lot on Water Street. There was a much bigger complimentary parking lot for hotel guests opposite the Courtyard on Duckworth Street. For us, the one on Water Street was convenient as we didn’t even need to use the elevator to take our luggage to the suite, which was the 1st room from parking.

Video tour of our 1-bedroom suite

The location of the Courtyard made it able for us to walk to many nice restaurants (Peaceful Loft, Merchant Tavern, Oliver’s, Adelaide Oyster House, etc.) on Water Street, Duckworth Street and George Street. It was close to Jellybean Row and Terry Fox Monument. Signal Hill & Quidi Vidi Brewery were just a few minutes drive. Since the hotel is situated on a slope, the lobby of our hotel block is on the 4th floor, which is the ground floor of the Signal Hill block with the main entrance on Duckworth Street.

Courtyard entrance from Water Street with a little parking space in front of the brown railings & stairs
Our 1-bedroom suite location marked in green with smaller junior suites next to our room
sitting room
view of the suite from the bathroom
a little foyer before entering the sitting room – perfect for our bags and shoes
standard bedroom
oversized bathroom

During COVID, daily housekeeping was not offered at the hotel but we could request fresh towels, Kleenex and big garbage bags for our stay. Again, Robinson at the Front Desk had everything prepared in a plastic bag and handed it to us after our 1-hour dinner at Peaceful Loft, a 5-minute walk to the #1 restaurant in St. John’s. I would strongly recommend you make dinner reservations for other restaurants as many were closed on Monday & Tuesday when we were there. That’s another reason we stayed for so many days in St. John’s, as we knew many restaurants and sites were not open on Mondays & Tuesdays after Labour Day. Take into consideration when planning for your off-season trip to Newfoundland.

I highly recommend staying at Courtyard by Marriott St. John’s.

Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel (Dec 2017)

Posted on “Travel with Wismergirl” May 23, 2021:

With a lot of good and positive news from various cruise lines, I finally have the energy to update my travel blog after over 1 long year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that I am researching for my Asian cruises in January 2022, I receive many questions about hotel stays in both Hong Kong and Singapore. Thinking back to our Far East family cruise in Dec 2017, we booked rooms at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel for our pre-cruise stay.

Views from the room were quite good right in the city centre.  

Being Marriott Platinum members, we were upgraded to an executive premier room with club lounge access.

We woke up early on embarkation day so we had a great swim at the lovely pool before breakfast.

Breakfast in the club lounge was reasonably good.

The lounge was spacious and comfortable. It was not crowded even during Christmas time.

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The hotel was easily accessible with lots of public transportation options to visit tourist sights and areas. I would definitely recommend this hotel for pre- and post-cruise stays in Singapore.

Westin Singapore (Dec 2013)

We booked 2 double-bedded rooms and paid extra to stay in premium sea view rooms. It’s so NOT worth the US$30+ per night. All we could see was the huge container terminal and it’s definitely not a pleasant view at all. It’s better to choose rooms facing the infinity pool, at least you could see the modern design of the Air Science Museum and the Singapore Flyer, or the room with nice city view. Here is the view of the pool at night.

Infinity Pool

The hotel is definitely not generous in offering upgrades to SPG (now merged with Marriott) Gold members. There was not even complimentary online flight check-in service and the front desk and concierge staff could not offer help when asked. They just kept apologizing for the inconvenience. Please remember that guests appreciate good service way more than incessant apologies.

Westin hotel lobby:

Westin’s lobby

No doubt the hotel is very new and all facilities and rooms are brand new which made our stays quite comfortable with new bedding and a modern bathroom. It was indeed very relaxing to swim in the infinity pool early in the morning as there was no other guests but just our family at 8:30 am on a weekday. What a great start of the day!

We enjoyed the usual amenities and the Heavenly products from Westin. However, when we chose to have the Green Program we thought that we only requested it for 1 night, then we could have the housekeeping service the next day, but the hotel assumed that it was for the entire 4-night stay. But then we didn’t get the $6 off voucher for the 2nd day and we had to call for housekeeping the 3rd day. Housekeeping service and hotel communication was definitely not up to par to keep up with the Westin brand.

Getting a taxi could be hard on weekends but during the week there were lots of taxis at the Asia Square, all we did was just to walk 200 meters to get them.

Asia Square right next to the hotel:

The Downtown MRT Station opened on Dec 22, 2013 made going to China Town and Bay Front for Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay really easy.

The hotel was just opposite Lau Pa Sat (the Satay Street) and we had a yummy satay dinner the first night in Singapore.

Lau Pat Sat

Westin Singapore has lots of potentials to do well. We may stay there again when better reviews are offered and the construction work around that area is completed.

July 13, 2004 (Tuesday) Saint John, NB to Bar Harbor, ME (Day 11)

Sights: Reversing Falls, Acadia National Park, Lobster Dinner, Cadillac Mountain

Driving Distance: 298 km

Accommodation: Atlantic Oakes by the Sea

Reversing Falls boat tour
a whirlpool formed when the sea water and river water meet at different levels
Wildlife at the Saint John River
My younger daughter was thrilled to be splashed on the boat tour
Market Square, Saint John
Saint John Harbour Front
Atlantic Oakes by the Sea
Lobster dinner in Bar Harbor
Beautiful sunset on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park