I read reviews. Specifically, when I am making a hotel reservation, I devour online reviews of potential places to stay. To me, hotel reviews are really important, because you are choosing a place to leave you valuables and sleep at night while you are traveling. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere unpleasant or unsafe.
Making a reservation for the New York trip I just completed reminded me of some of the ins and outs of reading a reviews -- be they of hotels, shows or restaurants -- particularly in this Internet age, where everyone's a critic.
Now, some of my limitations this trip were, I was booking late and into New York City during the busy Holiday season. The Herald-Leader was happy to send me on the trip, to cover stories about several Central Kentuckians on Broadway, but asked me to keep a lid on expenses. That seemed hard to do, as when I logged onto Orbitz for Business, most everything in New York City a two-star rating or above was running over $300 a night. After a frustrating while searching the mainstream travel searches such as Orbitz and Expedia, I went searching for inns and bed and breakfasts that might be in NYC, a route that had served me well on a trip to Toronto in 2005 for the Toronto Film Festival. There, I ended up in a quiet inn, Victoria’s Mansion, that was a perfect home base for a five night stay.
The best option to emerge from my New York search was a place called The Broadway Inn, at the corner of 46th Street and Eight Avenue. Having stayed on the Upper West Side my last few trips to New York, I really wanted to be in the theater district on this trip. The price and accommodations looked right, so I went looking for reviews. And they were mostly good, even at places like Trip Advisor and Yahoo Travel, which are good for providing unvarnished opinions of a place. But here is the hazard with things like the reader reviews at Travelocity and other places, even movie reviews at imdb or Rotten Tomatoes. You don’t know who the people are, what their standards are, what their personalities are like, none of that. So, I tend to look for a consensus of opinion and what people are saying. For instance, one of the first negative reviewers of the Broadway Inn was upset they pulled back the sheets and there was a hair on the bed. That was sort of the extent of their complaint. OK, it shouldn’t be there, but one hair on a sheet is not going to kill me. Another complained that he was penalized for canceling late, though the cancellation policy is clearly stated on the hotel’s website. A few other people didn’t really seem to understand New York very well, specifically that you will pay twice to three times as much as you’re used to paying for a room elsewhere and probably get half the accommodation. It’s a big city with a lot of dinky hotel rooms, and most of us shrug it off saying you don’t go to NYC to sit in a hotel room. So, anyway, user reviews were mostly positive, and I read deeper to understand what some of the complaints were. Then, I went to a few sources like Frommer’s and Fodor’s, because these are travel experts who know what to expect and what a good value looks like. I may not always agree with them, but they have track records I trust. They and a few other mainstream sources I consulted all seemed say the Broadway Inn was a good option.
So, I e-mailed a reservation request late one night. When I arrived at my desk the next morning, I already had a call from a woman offering me a room, including a discount on the weekend rate Friday night because I was checking in for a five night stay ($215 a night). Still, I was a little nervous because there were some negative comments. Coming into the city, I was a tad concerned my cabbie had no idea where the Broadway Inn was.
But, for a budget traveler, it turned out to be a really nice option. My room (photo, right) was a shoebox, which I expected, but not so cramped I couldn’t stand it. The wireless connection was only available in the lobby. But the lobby was so cozy, I kind of enjoyed going down there each night to file blog posts. The last day I was there, the staff was even sharing a box of chocolates a customer had given them. One web reviewer, and a guest I heard while I was there, complained the continental breakfast was just pastries. But I had never stayed in New York hotel that offered any complimentary breakfast before, so I was happy. Overall, I was happy, particularly considering the money spent and time of year I was there. So I would join the rest of the net in a good review of the hotel, and I was glad I had so much information to help me decide whether or not to go there.
~ Now that I'm home, this seems like a nice post to end the New York series on:
So, I’m going to see Adam Miller Friday afternoon (Dec. 8). He’s a UK grad and Lexington native who has established himself on the management end of things on Broadway, working in the offices of shows such as Urinetown; Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang; Ring of Fire and now A Chorus Line. Adam gave me directions to his office on the Eighth floor of a building at the corner of 51st Street and Broadway. Nice address. But I still wasn’t prepared for the name on the door of his office: Cameron Mackintosh Incorporated. Uh, yeah, Adam has moved up, working for the guys who brought you Cats and Les Miserables.
Anyhoo, it was great to chat with Adam because he is so plugged into the Broadway scene, but also keeps in touch with Lexington Theatre. Nice to talk to a guy who can make really astute third party observations about the fate of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival and also evaluate the likely impact of Ben Brantley’s subtley savage review of High Fidelity in the Times that morning.
But the interesting recurring theme was the preponderance of Central Kentuckians in New York, and even on Broadway, as most recently demonstrated by he and Lyndy Franklin both working on A Chorus Line. He recalled how they commiserated the day of the crash of Flight 5191, when they were both in San Francisco for the out-of-town preview for Chorus Line. They waited for news of whether they knew anyone on the flight and were calling back to New York to check in with other Kentuckians in The City.
“Anytime I need a taste of Kentucky,” Adam says, “I don’t have to look far.”
Broadway, Adam says, is a small community, and it is amazing, he adds, how many Kentuckians are in it.