Review: DoubleTree by Hilton Krakow Hotel & Convention Center

Review: DoubleTree by Hilton Krakow Hotel

Introduction

We decided to take a little family vacation with my mom included, and I ended up booking two Executive rooms in DoubleTree Hilton Krakow, Poland for 5 nights in June. None of us had been to Poland before and I had heard positive comments about Krakow. The DoubleTree Hilton is a new hotel and from the photos the pool area looked really nice and I thought it would be the most important factor for our daughter who's keen on swimming.

We arrived by taxi from the airport after about 2 hours' direct Finnair flight from Helsinki. The taxi took about 30mins and brought us to the front of the hotel. Curiously there is also a Hampton by Hilton Krakow, which is next to the DoubleTree.


Lobby and check-in

From the outside the hotel looks a bit...dull, I guess. But once you enter, the experience transforms. At least it happened to us. The lobby is very light, there is open space and although not luxurious, it's neat, nice and functional.
We were greeted by a friendly associate, who was training at the time being. It took around 10mins to sort it all out - we had two rooms but only one was ready at the time of check-in. We were also given cookies, a map and some instructions to get to the city etc.


Executive Room

We took the lift up to the 5th floor and made our way to the first room that was ready, piled our luggage there and checked how the room was. It was marvelous. We enjoyed the design, functionality, large TV and a good-sized bathroom. With multiple power outlets there shouldn't be a problem to have your electronic appliances charged.

All the Executive Rooms are located on the 5th floor.

Executive Room DoubleTree Hilton Krakow
Executive room


Executive Lounge

After a bit of unpacking we went to have a coffee in the Executive Lounge.

Executive Lounge


The lounge is just lovely. The colors, layout, furniture, staff. Super.
Upon entering there is desk, which seems to be occupied most of the time the lounge is open, so you'll be hard pressed not to get some assistance from the staff if you so require.
I think the size of the lounge is great, since it is small and intimate enough to properly enjoy it. To be honest, it wasn't very crowded at any time we were there and we found plenty of seating each and every time we were there, which was quite often ;)
All the time the staff seemed to be ready and eager to help, were polite and friendly and gave good suggestions as where to go and what to do.

We returned to the hotel later in the afternoon to enjoy the lounge offerings.
We were surprised to find such a variety of dishes and snacks to taste. Depending on the day there were starter kinds of things like little glasses of gazpacho, small breads with salmon or ham, fresh salad items and warm dishes like zurek (excellent local rye soup), chicken, rice, vegetables etc.
We were impressed! It all looked good and was tasty.

DoubleTree Krakow Executive Lounge dinner items and snacks


Red wine and gazpacho in DoubleTree Hilton Krakow Executive Lounge


There was white and red wine, beer, still and sparkling water as well as some soft drinks and a coffee machine.


Executive Lounge, DoubleTree Hilton Krakow
Executive Lounge


Spa

In the evening we paid a visit to the Spa area downstairs. First we went to a counter to get a locker key and sign for the visit. On the left side of the counter there is a gym that looked pretty well equipped, and on the right there is the pool.
Then off to changing room for a shower which after to see the pool area. It was surprisingly nice looking and our daughter appreciated the water being of sufficient warmth in the bigger pool and nice and hot in the smaller one.
There is also a steam and a normal sauna in the spa area.
Overall, quite impressive!


Breakfast

Breakfast was available both in the main restaurant and in the Executive Lounge. We are twice in the restaurant and three times in the lounge. The selection was of course a bit better (with an omelet station) downstairs but otherwise we enjoyed having the breakfast in the lounge as it was much more peaceful and relaxing. The quality of food was good throughout our stay.
This time we didn't have dinner at the hotel so can't comment about that.

DoubleTree Hilton Krakow Executive Lounge breakfast


DoubleTree Hilton Krakow Executive Lounge breakfast


DoubleTree Hilton Krakow Executive Lounge breakfast



Bottomline

-WiFi worked well the whole time at the hotel and the speed was fast enough for our use.

-Staff and service - excellent! Very well done. Almost on par with Hilton Tallinn Park.

-The location wasn't too bad. Although away from the center of Krakow, the connection was straightforward and inexpensive and the trams ran frequently.

We were more than happy to have stayed at this hotel. For the price we paid I think you couldn't get much better price/quality ratio.


Qatar Airways Business Class sale


Qatar Airways has just launched another global business class sale (2 for 1), and now that they've started flying from Finland, there are a few quite good deals from: 

Helsinki:

Bangkok (BKK) from 2139€ = 1070€ /pp
Phuket (HKT) from 2259€



*Other interesting deals from Scandinavia include these:

Stockholm, Sweden:

Krabi (KBV) from 20519 SEK
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) from 22519 SEK
Singapore (SIN) from 23459 SEK


Oslo, Norway:

Bangkok (BKK) from 20999 NOK
Singapore (SIN) from 24019 NOK
Cape Town (CPT) from 24659 NOK
Maldives (MLE) from 24759 NOK


Copenhagen, Denmark:

Bangkok (BKK) from 20019 DKK
Bali/Denpasar (DPS) from 24699 DKK
Phuket (HKT) from 20999 DKK
Melbourne (MEL) from 21895 DKK
Singapore (SIN) from 21519 DKK
Krabi (KBV) from 22459 DKK
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) from 23619 DKK


Other points  to consider with the sale:

Qatar Airways claims it's a "two for price of one", but actually the starting price for one here is a bit higher that can usually be found on their website, so I would approach some of the deals with caution.

Qatar Airways' Krabi route opens 6 December 2016.
Book by 7 November for travel from 15 November 2016 to 15 June 2017.

With the sale you also earn 2x Qmiles, the Qatar Airways frequent flyer program (FFP).
Other options are to credit the miles to some other oneWorld airline's FFP, such as British Airways Executive Club or Finnair Plus - both of which credit 125% redeemable miles of the miles flown.
You can easily check the numbers from wheretocredit.com to see which option you would prefer.
If you have elite status with American Airlines, it might make sense to credit there for redeemable miles.
On the other hand, British Airways Silver status (oneWorld Sapphire) can be achieved from zero with one of these Qatar roundtrips plus 4 BA flights.


Qatar Airways business class champagne flute



At the same time Finnair published their own business class campaign prices to multiple destinations, for those who rather prefer a direct connection from Helsinki, Finland, a few deals might be of interest:

Chongqing (CKG) from 1399€
Bangkok (BKK) from 1499€
Beijing (PEK) from 1599€
Krabi (KBV) from 1599€
Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) from 1699€


Bookable until Nov 14th, travel period depends on destination.



Review: Restaurant Pegasus, Tallinn

Review: Restaurant Pegasus, Tallinn

Before leaving to Tallinn I made a few bookings to different restaurants, and this one was called Pegasus. It's located in the Old Town and we hadn't been there before so we wanted to give it a try since the reviews in Tripadvisor were quite solid.

We were running a bit tight on our schedule since we enjoyed the Hilton Tallinn Park's lovely SPA for quite a while, so we used an app called Taxify to get a ride from the hotel to the Old Town. It was easy and affordable! 

The building itself isn't one of the prettiest in this part of the city but we weren't going to sit outside and look at it :) Otherwise the area is quite lovely!

Near Restaurant Pegasus Tallinn
Old Town Tallinn



We were escorted to the 2nd floor and to our table by the window overlooking Niguliste kirik (St. Nicholas' Church).

Menus were brought and we were thrilled to find so many interesting dishes.

First we were served complimentary house bread, which was warm, succulent and looked amazing. It was basically white bread that had also beer in the dough giving it a darker color and a terrific twist in taste. There were pumpkin seeds in it, too. It was served with butter with salt grains on top. Perfect!




Restaurant Pegasus complimentary house bread



For children there isn't that much choice, but ours went for a chicken pasta, which was big and tasty.


For starter I had Oriental Duck Salad, which was absolutely superb. A lovely mix of ingredients and different Oriental flavors with nicely prepared pieces of duck. It looked great and tasted even better.



Restaurant Pegasus Duck salad



My wife ordered a Creamy soup from wild mushrooms. It was smooth and full of flavor. There were croutons in the soup, and they were also just perfect: not too soft, not too dry.


For main courses we chose a Bean stew on toast, and Wild game picked by the chef.
My wife fell in love with the toast and I agree: it was incredible. Real comfort food at its best. The goat cheese on top of the toast hit the spot. There was a poached egg that was again beautifully done.


The game dish was exquisite: meat was tender and the surface of a beautiful, grilled color. Lingonberry-red wine sauce worked really well with the game. Baked red onion was mostly savored by our child ;) The dish looked like a piece of art.



Restaurant Pegasus main course - wild game


For dessert we shared Apple stewed in red wine. It was interesting and well prepared although perhaps it wasn't so much to our liking compared to the rest of the meal which was outstanding.


We had a bottle of Prosecco which was a good choice since it worked well throughout the meal.
Service was friendly and professional. Well done!





Review: Hilton Tallinn Park

Review: Hilton Tallinn Park Hotel

Introduction

This is my personal review of Hilton Tallinn Park Hotel.

A little autumn break was due so we decided to take a little family vacation in Tallinn, Estonia and try the new Hilton Tallinn Park, of which we had heard praise from my colleagues. I booked a four night stay in a King Deluxe Room with a view for three persons. 

We took a boat trip in a completely packed Tallink Silja SuperStar on a beautiful, sunny Wednesday morning and arrived on time in Tallinn. The disembarkation took quite a while and it was a longish walk before entering the terminal. Outside were taxis and we took one to take us into the hotel.


Hilton Tallinn Park facade
Hilton Tallinn Park

Hilton Tallinn
Hilton Tallinn Park

Lobby and check-in

When you step in to the hotel, the first view is quite fabulous. The lobby is gorgeous and modern with a high ceiling and dark, beige and golden colors. In the middle there is a bar which looked awesome and seemed to invite clients at all times of day. We were immediately impressed. A nice photo on the Hilton website.

On the right side there are check-in counters to which we proceeded and were greeted by very friendly employees. When finding out we were booked in an executive room they gave an option to check-in in the lounge. We liked the idea and they made a call to the executive lounge to inform we were coming and showed us to the elevators.

Inside Hilton Tallinn Park
Hilton Tallinn Park, elevators


Up we went to the 11th floor and the lounge was directly facing the elevators. We walked to the door and another friendly employee came to let us in and helped with the check-in while we had a drink in a window table and marveled at the beautiful autumn scenery towards the city of Tallinn.

In a few minutes we had our room keys and took our bags again to take them into our room 1007 on the 10th floor.


Executive Room

As the hotel itself, the room has very pleasant and appealing decor and everything looks brand new.
For those who need space for working there is a decent sized desk with USB and power outlets in the corner next to the window.

A stylish, thin 42-inch TV is on the wall in an unobtrusive way.


Hilton Tallinn Park Executive Room
Executive Room



On a small round table there was a welcome letter along with a small bottle of Vana Tallinn liquor, and thin rye bread with cheese and cloudberry jam. A wonderful and tasty local greeting!

Hilton Tallinn Park, welcome gift - drink and snacks
Welcome amenity with a local twist


Hilton Tallinn Park, drink and view from 10th floor
A pretty glass with Vana Tallinn liquor


Beds are comfortable and big though some of the pillows could be more distinctively different. They all felt a bit soft but we had a good night's sleep anyway. We had a king bed and an extra rollaway bed for the child.

On both sides of the bed there are small tables and over them little reading lights. Two power outlets are provided near the tables as well.

The bathroom was of good size and had both a shower and a bath.
One strange thing is the door that leads from the bedroom to the bathroom. When you open the door to enter bathroom, the same door functions also for the loo. Thus it is not overly private to go to the toilet when there are other people present in the bedroom. But it's not a big issue in my opinion, though.


Executive Lounge

The lounge is located on the uppermost (11th) floor facing the city of Tallinn with a glimpse of harbor and the Gulf of Finland. The decor is elegant as in the other parts of the hotel.
There is personnel in the lounge during its operational hours, so there should't be any hardship to find assistance for booking a table at a local restaurant or getting some hints as to where to go and what to see.

On the far right corner there are two iMac work stations and a printer, which I used later on to print some ferry tickets.

There are chairs and couches around quite a large area that still feels private and the view is definitely gorgeous from here.

Hilton Tallinn Park, self-service bar at Executive Lounge
Executive Lounge

Hilton Tallinn, Exec Lounge seating
Executive Lounge

Hilton Tallinn Park, Executive Lounge
Executive Lounge

Hilton Tallinn Park Executive Lounge, tables and view
Executive Lounge with a view towards the city
Breakfast can be had at either the lounge or the main restaurant, and we did try both. On the first morning we wanted to enjoy the view as the weather was terrific so we opted for the lounge breakfast.
It was adequate, but the food selection is of course much bigger at The Able Butcher.
Basic items were present, such as tea and coffee, juice, cereals, fruit, bacon, bread and croissants.


Hilton Tallinn Park Executive Lounge breakfast items
Cereals and nuts

Hilton Tallinn Park Executive Lounge breakfast: bread, croissants
Bread, croissants and pastries 



The lounge had a Happy Hour from 6pm to 8pm when you could have complimentary drinks and light snacks. There was Vodka, Gin and one kind of red and white wine available and a few different kinds of warm and cold options for food. Perhaps they could add a sparkling wine to the collection? As well as hot chocolate, which our daughter missed.


Hilton Tallinn Park Executive Lounge evening snacks
Happy Hour offerings at the Executive Lounge

View from Hilton Tallinn Park Executive Lounge
Panorama view from Hilton Tallinn Executive Lounge

Spa

Spa (treatment facilities, pool and gym) is located on the 2nd floor together with the restaurant.
When entering the pool area you sign your name and room number, and you're given a rubbery bracelet kind of electronic locker key.

The changing room is stylish and there is a restroom, two shower cubicles and large desk with hair dryers.

The pool area is strikingly beautiful and it's nice and warm there. The main pool is 18m long heated to 30.5c whereas the jacuzzi is 36.5c. About ten loungers are facing the pool and you can find a few additional ones in a more secluded space if you venture further left close to the saunas. There is a conventional Finnish sauna and a steam one, both of which were perfectly fine.


Spa at Hilton Tallinn Park
Spa - big pool with a whirlpool in the background

I made a reservation for my wife and myself to try a 60 min massage. I opted for an Elemis Freestyle Deep Tissue Massage. The process started by filling out a form and waiting for the therapist to come and take you to the treatment room.
My therapist's name was Inna and as like the rest of the staff at this Hilton, she was lovely: friendly, smiling, professional and spoke excellent English.

The massage was very good and relaxing, exactly like it should have been. Inna asked me to let her know if she should apply more pressure or adjust the room temperature etc.

The little details make a spa visit worthwhile: Beautiful surroundings, scented and harmonic treatment rooms, groomed and nicely dressed therapists and faint, relaxing music.In every way, ELEMIS Spa at Hilton Tallinn Park delivered :)


Dining 

We tried the lighter breakfast on the first morning in the Exec Lounge, but the next three days we chose the main restaurant due to the bigger variety of breakfast items.

Breakfast was of good quality and always looked delicious. Again, service was superb. Every morning we were greeted with a genuine smile and a warm welcome. The staff were proactive and always ready to fill up your empty glasses or coffee mugs.

We enjoyed the luxury of having an omelet station and loved the quality of bread and croissants.
It was nice to see local dishes present, too.


Hilton Tallinn Park breakfast at The Able Butcher: Quinoa pudding
Quinoa pudding, breakfast at The Able Butcher restaurant

Hilton Tallinn Park breakfast at main restaurant
Omelet station, breakfast @The Able Butcher


We dined once at The Able Butcher and the restaurant surroundings were very pleasing to the eye in the evening.

We found a few dishes to try - ladies tried burgers whereas I gave a shot at risotto.
The burgers were handsome and large, the buns were of beautiful color and the burger itself was juicy and lovely.

The risotto was excellent! Rice was perfectly cooked and taste was delicate. I asked for a suitable white wine to accompany the dish and a German Riesling was suggested. I tried it and it worked well :)


Hilton Tallinn Park dinner at The Able Butcher
Dinner time @The Able Butcher

Hilton Tallinn Park dinner at The Able Butcher
The Able Butcher, kitchen in the background

Hilton Tallinn Park dinner at The Able Butcher
Excellent risotto @The Able Butcher

Bottomline

We were extremely pleased and impressed by the level of service at Hilton Tallinn Park. Much more so than at Hilton Helsinki Strand we visited a few weeks earlier. The staff was friendly, talkative without being pushy, helpful and hard-working, always polite and smiling. Kudos to the management for doing a great job hiring so good staff.

The Spa area was beautiful and treatments offered were very good. My wife said the massage she experienced in the hands of Kristiina, was one of the best she's ever had.

Thanks in part to excellent food and service in restaurants (like Pegasus) across Tallinn this ended up being one of the best holidays for our family so far.
We will definitely return, hopefully sooner than later!

Review: Hilton Strand Hotel, Helsinki

Review: Hilton Strand Hotel Helsinki


Introduction, booking and room

To celebrate my 36th birthday I booked a King bed room @Hilton Helsinki Strand for our family of three via Hilton App only about two hours before arriving. After about an hour I made a check-in via the app and saw that we were upgraded to an Executive Room on the 7th floor.
There seemed to be only one room to choose so we ended up in room 737, which is a good number for an aviation enthusiast ;)

Room keys were swiftly in my hand as there was nobody on the counter before us.
Room was quite spacious and immaculately clean although view was not the best in this case since we were facing an opposite building. Two bottles of water and some candy were waiting as a little extra for a Gold member. The sofa wasn't done to serve as an extra bed yet. The room itself is quite modern and there are power and USB outlets.

The usual - good - Peter Thomas Roth bathroom amenities.

Executive Room bathroom Hilton Strand Helsinki
Bathroom, Executive Room


Executive Lounge

After unpacking we walked to the Executive Lounge on the same floor. At that time there were some snacks and fruit available, as well as soft drinks and coffee machine. A few magazines were available just after the entrance. Different kinds of chairs and tables were arranged around the lounge. The furniture and decoration might need an update soon, at least in the seating area left side of the entrance. 


Cookies and fruit, Executive Lounge, Hilton Strand Helsinki
Cookies and snacks at Executive Lounge


The lounge itself is neither very big nor too fancy, but provides a decent place to spend a little time. There's a workstation with an iMac and a printer in a corner. The lounge didn't seem to be staffed other than someone bringing in the food and drinks. The view towards the sea is an added bonus of course!


Seaview from Hilton Strand Helsinki Executive Lounge
Afternoon view towards the sea from Executive Lounge
                      
Soon after was time for some drinks and light supper (canapes), which consisted of excellent duck in lemon sauce, different salad items, grilled aubergine, hummus and some cheese. Unfortunately no photo of the duck dish as it was quite busy right then. The next photos are from a previous visit about 6 months earlier but might give you an idea of what to expect:


Light bites at Hilton Strand Helsinki Executive Lounge
Sushi and salad items at Executive Lounge

Happy Hour wines at Executive Lounge, Hilton Strand Helsinki
White and sparkling wines at Executive Lounge


There were two kinds of sparkling (an Italian Prosecco and a Spanish Cava) and white wines and one red wine to enjoy. We tried both of the sparkling ones and they were totally acceptable :) It was great that an ice bucket was provided to keep the wines cold.

After returning to our room we noticed the sofa had been turned into a bed, which was quite big enough for an 8-year-old :)


Lobby, bar and restaurant

The hotel lobby / bar is gorgeous. I think the design is just great with the high ceiling and nice details. There seemed to be at least some people in the lobby most of the time and no wonder - it's beautiful and inviting!

The main breakfast area is also here and sort of continuing to the lobby. We ate breakfast here and didn't even go to see the offerings at Executive Lounge. 


Breakfast at lobby bar/restaurant
Front lobby


Breakfast was pretty good though not amazing. There was the normal fruit, bread, yogurt, muesli, bacon as well as Chinese meatballs and some noodles. Croissants were excellent!
The highlight was when an employee came to ask our daughter if she wanted something for dessert. After about 5mins she came back with a LOVELY Belgian waffle with maple syrup, berries and ice cream. It was delicious and looked spectacular!


Breakfast at Hilton Strand Helsinki
Breakfast treat - Belgian waffle with berries and ice-cream
     

Pool and sauna

After the breakfast I asked for a late check out. 2pm was approved and so we went up to the top floor (8th) to see the sauna and swimming pool.


Entrance to the pool area and sauna, Hilton Strand Helsinki
Entrance to pool and sauna

When you enter the area there is a little gym that provides some basic cardio equipment and weights.

I think the sauna area (Gentlemen's side at least) starts to look a bit outdated and it would be great to have lockers there because there's no secure place to put your valuables in. And I wouldn't mind seeing the P.T.Roth amenities in the shower. I just think for a high-end hotel it looks a bit cheap to have some other stuff in the container.

In the men's sauna the thermometer was broke although you could guess the temperature since the thermometer plate was sort of cracked into two.

There wasn't any water or other drinks present although there were lots of plastic cups in the dressing room. Obviously you can drink tap water in Finland but still…



Men's sauna, changing room
Dressing room


The pool was very cool according to my family members who went for a short swim. A nice little detail was a fish tank that was attached to the pool :) A few chairs were arranged around the pool.


Pool at Hilton Strand Hotel Helsinki
Cool pool 

At about 1pm we were ready to leave and took a leisurely walk to the railway station in the crisp October wind and sunshine.

There are tram and metro stops very close to the hotel and there is also an outside market square (Hakaniemen Tori) with a market hall opposite the square.


Bottomline:

A very decent Hilton hotel close to city center with a lovely lobby bar downstairs and a bit tired sauna area. Having properly chilled sparkling wine in the Executive Lounge is the way to go!
Staff were polite but service wasn't as friendly as in the brand new Hilton Tallinn Park, Estonia.