Review of the Swissotel Chicago

Location

The Swissotel  Chicago is on Wacker Street within walking distance to the city’s main attractions like the Art Institute, Miracle Mile and the Navy Pier.The location provides convenient access to restaurants, including fast-food joints, mini markets and local drugstores to purchase water and snacks for the room.

Hotel

The building itself is a high rise (like many others in downtown Chicago) with decorated in a modern minimalist style.The Lobby design with pod-like areas instead of the regular reception desks and glass cascade chandeliers looks futuristic.The budget-friendly property offers  661 oversized guest rooms and suites (including kids suites)with magnificent views of the Chicago River.

First Impression

When we arrived, the lobby area looked chaotic with some guests trying to check in while others were leaving.Apparently, the hotel is popular with large groups like conferences and wedding parties, especially over weekends and holidays which makes it busy during both weekdays and weekends.

Dining

The hotel boasts a luxury restaurant ‘The Palm’ that serves lunch and dinner as well as a lively bar and a breakfast buffet. There is a 24-hour room service with a rather disappointing menu composed of one salad and two types of cold sandwiches. If you are arriving on a late evening flight with kids who have allergies or are picky eaters, you should plan to dine at the airport or a local restaurant.


Review of the Swissotel Chicago lobby Family Stay at Chicago's Swissotel
Place to improve

The worst problem we encountered were the  automated elevators  where you had to punch your desired floor ahead of time      ( since there are no buttons to do so inside.) If you suddenly changed your mind or mistakenly pressed the button for the wrong floor you needed to exit and start the whole process over again.This process managed to both frustrate and scare my autistic son.

Best Feature

The hotel provides chilled citrus and berry flavored water in the lobby felt refreshing after walking in the hot and humid  Chicago weather.

Would like to take home

The giant display clock in the lobby area was gorgeous and added a cosmopolitan vibe to the space.

The room

Our room had a river view and two double beds with a relatively hard mattress none of us felt comfortable sleeping on.
The front door had a safety lock a useful feature if your child tends to wander, and a doorbell that our son loved to press continuously.
The closet provided ample hanging space and a safe while the elongated desk/bar area was convenient to place snacks and beverages on.
The room also has extra outlets under the desk on the right-hand side for to recharge several electronic devices simultaneously, which was a much-welcomed bonus.
The bathroom featured the standard tub and granite counter-top sink combination as well as a separate glass-enclosed shower which I thought would be helpful for families with younger kids.Our bathroom didn’t have a handheld shower head which many parents would find useful when bathing younger children.

Review of the Swissotel Chicago room Family Stay at Chicago's Swissotel
Housekeeping

We found housekeeping to be prompt when we asked for extra toiletries(soap, lotion and shampoo) as well as feather-free bedding.
We did have an issue with getting two additional chairs in the room and it did take multiple calls to the front desk over a period of 24 hours to resolve the matter and send up the two chairs from one of their conference rooms.

Autism travel tips

This property allows small pets so if you or any family members suffer from allergies be sure to ask for a hypoallergenic/on chemical-free room ahead of time.
Ask for a high floor during booking, especially if your family is not used to city traffic noises or your child is noise sensitive.
The hotel has a Mini Mart in the lobby if you are in need of quick snacks or bottled water.
Be sure to bring your own anti slip bath mat and a night light if your kid has any balancing issues or is fearful of the dark.
The hotel interconnects through underground tunnels to other hotels so you can walk in a temperature-controlled environment to the Miracle Mile and nearby restaurants.

London’s Marriott Grosvenor Square Hotel

This 237 bedroom establishment is a five-star hotel that is run by the Marriott hotel chain. The refurbished former private mansion is located at Grosvenor Square in the heart of Mayfair, very close to the US embassy.

What makes it family worthy?

 The centrally located and luxurious hotel has wonderful family rooms. These suites can accommodate two adults and two kids (even older teens) comfortably. The main shopping areas in London are only a short walk from the building and the hotel also received a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2014.

Review of London's Marriott Grosvenor Square Hotel our room

Fellow Travelers

This hotel is a good spot for families and couples, but travelers of all types are well represented.

The upscale establishment is decorated in a sleek modern, minimalist style with mostly neutral colors throughout. Some public areas featured colorful ambient lighting with upholstered velvet and leather furniture.

Our room had a large, well-lit closet that contained plenty of space to hold our belongings. A shelving unit was included inside the closet as well, for even more storage. The room’s mini bar area was furnished with clean glasses, some beverages, a miniature refrigerator, and an in-room safe. There was also a small fold out chair in the suite and a large LCD television to keep travelers entertained while they are in their rooms for the night. Along with the usual amenities, the hotel sent us a number of complimentary gifts due to some minor inconveniences we encountered upon check-in. This was a very nice gesture, which we appreciated.

Our quad room contained one sofa bed, a regular sized bed, and a poster queen-sized bed. On either side of the poster bed were sizeable nightstands and small reading lights over the bed. Our favorite feature in this suite was the special sockets on the poster bed that allowed us to recharge easily our electronics. Another elegant touch was the live plant in the suite that enhanced the elegant ambiance. A work desk with plentiful drawers and a comfortable chair rounded out the room’s furnishings.

The bathroom had spotted tan and gray granite countertops and tan and black patterned tile that gave the whole area an elegant appearance.  The amenity kit that included shampoo, soap, conditioner, and a good number of fat, fluffy towels were waiting for us in the open wooden cabinet that was located right by the sink.

This bathroom also contained a scale so that guests could easily see if they need to pay a visit to the hotel’s gym. Meanwhile, the shower curtain had a swirled black and white pattern that added a bit more pizazz to the overall decor. Our room had a hand held shower device, a feature that makes it easier for handicapped persons or small children to take a bath with ease.

Review of London's Marriott Grosvenor Square Hotel maze restaurant

The hotel

Over seven different languages are spoken by the staff, and the reception desk is open at all hours to better meet the needs of their guests. Complimentary Wi-Fi is likewise available in all public parts of the hotel. In room internet is also offered for a modest fee Free for Marriott Elite members)  so travelers should definitely be aware of that fact.

The small outdoor courtyard is a good spot to hang out when the weather is nice, but this being London travelers should expect rain more often than not.
Indoors, guests might want to pay a visit to the Michelin starred, Maze.The restaurant as it one of the many establishments founded by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
The executive level on the bottom floor is a large well-designed room, able to accommodate the different travelers, for breakfast and light lunches and dinners.We found the staff enthusiastic and helpful trying to cater to requests.

Autism travel tips

Make sure to ask for a room that overlooks their interior courtyard because they tend to be quieter.
It is also a good idea to ask for higher floors to avoid the noise that may result from the wedding receptions that often take place here on weekends. Handicapped persons should have no trouble entering and exiting the bath because the tubs have two safety handles. However, those who need a bathmat for more traction should be sure to bring their own as these are not provided by the hotel.
Allergy sufferers will additionally be happy to learn that the entire facility is nonsmoking and pet free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dining at Gordon Ramsey’s Maze, London

One of our family’s favorite things to do when traveling around the world is discovering and sampling new foods and locales. Over the years, we have created our own short list of ‘the best ‘, as well as less nice lists of the worst of and never again counterparts.However, what started as an educational attempt on our part to expose our kids to cultural diversity took a life of its own in today’s world bombarded by chef reality TV and demonstration cooking shows.

When the boys grew older, they started insisting on compiling their restaurant bucket list; like Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons in Savannah or Emeril in NOLA. Since as our autistic son eloquently put it; if they have a TV show they must have cooked something good in their lifetime. So, it seemed quite natural, on our latest visit to London, to focus on ‘Hell’s kitchen’s maestro himself, Gordon Ramsey.

We chose to stay at the centrally located converted Victorian townhouse, Grosvenor Square Marriott, not for it’s well-appointed and quiet family rooms, but because of the hotel’s Ramsey owned restaurants, the Michelin-starred Maze started in 2005, and the more relaxed Maze Grill launched in 2008.

The restaurant

After sampling and thoroughly enjoying the Maze Grill’s different steaks along with freshly made salads and pasta, we decided it was time to upgrade and dine in the hotel’s main restaurant Maze.We made a reservation for a laid back late Sunday afternoon lunch when we were told there would be fewer patrons present.Upon arrival, we were allocated ample time to admire the modern looking leather and wood decor as the restaurant had effectively lost our reservation even after I showed the manager, the hostess’ handwritten confirmation card, clearly stating our reservation date and time. With that finally sorted out, I still had to have a lengthy unpleasant ‘chat’ with him to reiterate multiple times the medical reasons why my special needs son could not abide by the restaurant’s required attire.

Upon arrival, we were allocated ample time to admire the modern looking leather and wood decor as the restaurant had effectively lost our reservation even after I showed the manager, the hostess’ handwritten confirmation card, clearly stating our reservation date and time. With that finally sorted out, I still had to have a lengthy unpleasant ‘chat’ with him to reiterate multiple times the medical reasons why my special needs son could not abide by the restaurant’s required attire.

Once seated, it took another half hour to place the orders, and when one of us asked about a particular ingredient in a specific dish, the server just muttered she’ll be back soon and vanished for an unspecified period. Matters did not improve any during our meal, as orders were confused, served out of sync and the staff did a poor job verbally presenting the dishes that did arrive at our table.

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London APPETIZER

 

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London salad

Luckily we were seated in proximity to the large glass enclosed kitchen and managed to entertain ourselves by watching the kitchen staff turn the different miniature plates into detailed edible works of art.
The dishes we sampled, four each were adequately prepared, except my duck dish that felt like it had drowned in a bucket of salt.

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London entree

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London meat dish

By the time, I did manage to flag down our elusive server and complain, my family members had already completed their dessert and left.
A redone duck was eventually brought back to my table with no attempt at an apology for the lack of quality or extra wait.

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London dessert

Dining at Gordon Ramsey's Maze,London ice cream

Naturally, the staff’s rude behavior affected and impacted our meal, but whether that was connected or not in any way to my pre-lunch encounter with the manager, we’ll never know.
Maze is clearly not the place to come hungry and leave happy with their bite-size portions and sporadic service, but more of a see and be seen the type of hyped place.

Nevertheless, Jeff, when asked, was glad to have been able to scratch it off his bucket list.
His only noteworthy comment about the experience was, ’ Ramsey must have needed staff hired fast for this restaurant and did not train them as well as he does to his subordinates on TV’, a thought I concur with. His recommendation as well as mine, for a good meal, do try Maze’s more unassuming sibling -The Maze Grill.

Family Stay at the Marriott Vienna

 

The J W Marriott Vienna, a five-star establishment, is part of the Marriott chain and can be found at Parking 12A in Vienna, Austria.
The hotel contains approximately 323 rooms and is easily accessible via trolley or subway. Its location makes it ideal for families and travelers that wish to be near music venues like the Schadt Park, the Haus der Musik, and the famous Kursalon. Concert goers can walk to get back to their hotel at the end of an evening.
Likewise, the hotel is only ten minutes away from all the famous shopping and tourist attractions like Grabenstrasse, Hofburg Palace, and Stephen’s Dome, Karlsplatz, and the Belvedere Palace ; not to mention the proximity to the city’s excellent eateries and cafes like Figlamuller.

Family Friendly Stay at J W Marriott Vienna Austria buffet Decor

This establishment is decorated in trendy modern style with generous splashes of color and wooden accents throughout. The lobby central atrium boasts live plants and ample comfortable seating.The building’s spaciousness is further enhanced by the large windows that are a prominent feature of the décor.

Rooms

Going by European standards, the two double beds room we stayed in at this hotel was quite sizeable. The clean and comfortable room adequately housed our party of four. A rollaway bed was even supplied for our son because he didn’t want to share with his brother and this was much appreciated. The spacious bathroom area was also outfitted with a shower and tub, which we greatly enjoyed.

Facilities and Service

All of the staff members that we encountered at this hotel were deserving of praise, but there were three groups that stood out as being worthy of special recognition. We do a lot of traveling, and I have to add that the housekeeping staff found here is among the best I have ever seen. They promptly responded to all requests in less than 10 minutes, even when it was late, and the hotel was filled.The creative folks were working the front desk likewise went above and beyond to find solutions to even the most perplexing guest problems.I would further like to compliment Olivera, the Night Manager, and Sandra, the Morning Manager, on their excellent service.Our son with autism loved the small keepsake teddy bear that the manager gave him.

The concierge staff was also incredibly helpful. Although we started discussing our arrival a full month in advance, they always responded to our emails in an expedient fashion. The concierge services were crucial in helping us book fun tours and find great places to dine in Vienna.

Although we were very impressed with the staff, there are other noteworthy attributes of this particular Marriott. The hotel has complimentary Wi-Fi in the public areas for their guests to use. Those who tire of the city will be happy to learn that the building contains an onsite restaurant, a bar, a sauna, an indoor pool, and a gym.

Family Friendly Stay at J W Marriott Vienna Austria bear

Executive Level

The executive lounge found here is well worth the additional expense. Breakfast and complimentary beverages, such as bottled water, are included. Executive level guests are additionally provided with a substantial evening snack. Travelers who aren’t very hungry in the evening hours could substitute this repast for dinner if they so desire. Since we were upgraded, we had the option of taking our breakfast in the room, enjoying the first-floor buffet, or partaking of the meal served at the executive level. We selected the last of these three options and were pleasantly surprised by the fantastic array of breakfast foods provided for guests.

Autism travel tips

Hypoallergenic, non-smoking, and soundproof rooms are all available at this hotel, making it an excellent destination overall for autistic travelers.
Make sure you bring your own bath mat for the bathroom.

 

Rita’s Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas statue
Location

Rita’s Cantina is a Mexican themed restaurant aboard Royal Caribbean‘s Allure of the Seas cruise ship. It is located on the ship’s BoardWalk.The deck which is on the ship’s sixth deck aims to replicate a Coney Island boardwalk and boasts a handcrafted carousel, several food venues including a hot dog stand, ice cream place, and the Aqua Theater. Though boardwalk tends to be more noisy and crowded at night, it still maintains its family friendly vibe the cruise line is so famous for.

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas hat
When you should go

The restaurant is open for lunchtime and dinner when the ship is at sea.On most days one can just walk- in or wait for a little to get a table, however, Fiesta Nights are popular so make sure you book your desired date in advance if you want to participate.

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas table
What you can expect

The restaurant painted in vibrant colors is on the small side with the majority of tables providing an open a view of the ship’s Boardwalk.Most tables are for 8-10 persons though there are a few smaller ones that accommodate parties of four persons.Although the main stage is in the front of the venue, the music and dancing encompass virtually the entire restaurant, spilling into the boardwalk at times.

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas carusel

Should you go?

Although on the ‘kitschy’ side it is still fun to attend and the food is surprisingly good.In the $20 per person package fiesta you get several rounds of appetizers and main courses that are served on family style platters and replenished as needed.The package also includes three margaritas or any other alcoholic drink of choice for passengers 21 and up as well as unlimited sodas drink for patrons under 21.

Noteworthy
The fresh guacamole and salsa were a great starter and, unfortunately, we ended up eating too much, leaving less space for the variety of food items that followed.

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas food
Autism travel tips

Since the restaurant is incredibly noisy, ask to be seated in a booth -away from the main dancing floor or loud speakers when you make your reservation.
If your child is noise sensitive, bring earplugs or noise canceling headphones.
The food menu is fixed with no real selection possibility so if your kid is on a restricted diet, ask the Maitre D’  to bring food from alternate ship food venues.
When you first arrive the servers hand out Mexican sombrero straw hats for the guys and light-up necklaces for the ladies but the staff is very accommodating and will let you chose whichever trinket your kid prefers. Our son found the sombrero hat itchy and opted to take the light-up necklace instead.

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas entree
Our personal favorite

Like many other fellow diners, our kids found the fresh churros with the chocolate dip pretty irresistible and asked for seconds, and third helpings.

Rita's Cantina aboard Allure of the Seas nachos

 

Hotel with the heart of Gold-David Intercontinental Tel Aviv

Hotel with the heart of Gold-David Intercontinental Tel Aviv city view

During Jeffrey’s and my stay at the Intercontinental David in Tel-Aviv last month, I was enthralled by the heightened autism awareness the staff practiced towards us and gave my glowing review to the front door manager.

He smiled, telling me that the hotel management staff is involved in community service efforts, spearheading efforts to help underfunded projects in the Tel Aviv area. The next day, he arranged an interview for me with two out of the three ladies involved with these projects: Sigal Cohen-Tzedek- Gazal assistant director of human resources/training and Livnat Nahmias Benisho, assistant training and development manager as well as corporate responsibility manager over morning coffee.

 

How did your work on these projects begin?

When this hotel was built the management decided that it would be an integral part of the community and not just a hotel. We wanted the name Intercontinental to mean something to our neighbors and residents of Tel Aviv beyond the tag of a luxury hotel. Being located in the heart of the city we could see the need to get involved in projects to help the ones that need our help. However we don’t just stop by a place, make a donation, and leave; our staff tries to help implement much-needed core values in struggling ventures around the city. To encourage our employees  to participate in community service projects, we treat them with respect, dignity, support (like sending food home on sick days), and recompense (paying regular salary on days they participate.)

Hotel with the heart of Gold-David Intercontinental Tel Aviv lobby

So, which program started it all?

The program that catalyzed it all was our first community outreach project with a Jaffa-based rehabilitation school for disabled and economically disadvantaged teenagers.

Our plan was to introduce them to vocational skills—working in a restaurant kitchen—that could benefit their career choices later in life. Every September we interview applicant teenagers and select seven to eight people to complete the year-long program. In it, we first start off by teaching them basic kitchen safety, leading to cooking training, culminating in an official cook’s helper diploma from the Ministry of Labor.

The special-needs students are trained by the hotel staff and treated no differently than any other employee; they are required to show up for work daily and behave appropriately. However, if they face any problem or difficulty in their studies, they may come to us for help and advice—we act as the “support” system.

After completing the year, many are directly hired to work for the hotel (some find employment elsewhere) The most significant gain from this program is their demonstration as capable and qualified individuals who can find work and make a decent living.

We believe our program to be a huge success, with over 95% of students completing it. Our “secret” to achieving this success is what I referred to earlier: treating each student with the same respect and dignity we expect to be given. To us, these students are more than labels; they are our students and possibly future employees.

By guiding and teaching these teenagers to the best of our abilities, we never have to lower our work expectations; in reality, most students flourish with our guidance and care, exceeding our goals significantly. One of the many success stories that come to mind is that of a non-verbal student; even without any social skills, he completed the program and now is successfully employed in a Tel Aviv pastry shop.
Our hotel itself is currently hiring five program graduates, with many more hopefully to come.

What are your other programs?Hotel with the heart of Gold-David Intercontinental Tel Aviv hamsa

.We are involved with a couple of schools in Tel Aviv. For instance, we have worked with Rogozin Elementary where many kids come from incredibly low socioeconomic status, some even being illegal immigrants.

Our first encounter with them was when the school reached out to us and asked for a contribution of 50 sandwiches for their students. We were so enthralled by the offer that one of our staff members decided to take it upon herself to make them all at home.
Since then, the program has expanded, and our hotel now donates much-needed lunches and even brings the students to tour the hotel once a year.

At Ort Geula we’ve adopted the special needs class, offering them opportunities to visit the hotel, exhibiting their art photography work in our lobby, and even hiring some eager participants for summer jobs.
After the devastating Carmel forest fire last year, our staff “adopted” a teen orphanage that had been destroyed by the fire, not only helping to rebuild it, but furnishing it with new beds, desks, and other badly needed objects. Also, during the last Tu’Bishvat celebrations, we organized a “day of fun” for the orphans at the Rupin College, where hundreds of our employees participated as volunteers (but also received a paid salary day). Lastly, our hotel is also involved in “green” projects, such as recycling kitchen oil and glass, and cleaning the beaches we all love.


Hotel with the heart of Gold-David Intercontinental Tel Aviv ceramics
You mention the hotel features a monthly program at the hotel that guests can participate in?

Yes, this month’s project is sponsored by the “Make a Wish” foundation.
Every guest in our hotel will receive a small card documenting the foundation’s stories and a unique coin on their pillow, a bedtime story of sorts.
We are grateful for participation at any level from our patrons, and no donation is too small. We hope this drive will be a great success, so we can repeat it in August—when our hotel is booked at full capacity.
Before this endeavor, we had very successful donation drives in which we gave our patron guests art figurines from the special needs organizations Akim, Aleut (for Autism) and Beit Miriam.

Although we are very proud of our initiatives and would love to see other hotels copy our concepts, we have never pursued fame or even acknowledgment for what we do. Many years ago, we decided that a hotel, being a microcosm of cultures, should always be an active participant in its environment, ours being no exception.

 

The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv

Location

The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Hotel ‘s location is ideal for most travelers seeking to explore the different aspects of Tel Aviv life. It not only faces a pristine Mediterranean beach and city park that appeal to beachgoers but borders the famous bohemian neighborhood of Neve Tzedek and the revived charming old railway station ‘Hatachana With its unique boutiques and nouvelle cuisine eateries.

For those interested in architecture, the hotel is but a short distance away from the colorful Carmel produce market, the UNESCO declared ‘White City’ zone of preserved Bauhaus buildings as well as the picturesque town of Jaffa.

 

The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv palms
View from the hotel-Hassan Beck Mosque and Shalom Tower that was Tel Aviv’s first department store
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv street
Old Jaffa ‘s main thoroughfare -the Clock Tower  and old Ottoman police station
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv carmel market
Tel Aviv’s outdoor colorful produce  Carmel market


Rooms

The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated in neutral tones of creams, browns, and pale greens. Our room boasted two incredibly comfortable beds (a hotel associate told me that they change their mattresses on a yearly basis), a separate sitting area, flat screen TV, and small refrigerator.

The bathroom tiled in light marble colors offered the usual tub/shower combo with the specialized top of the line massage shower heads, much to Jeff’s delight. The amenities’ kit replenished on a daily basis featured famous Dead Sea products.

 

The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv beds
Our room on the 13th floor
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv view
View of the beach from our 13th floor room window


Did I mention the top notch service?

Our room had been ready and waiting for us even though we arrived quite early in the morning, and the official check-in was several hours away. During our check-in, the front desk person not only made a point of verifying all our special requests were met before sending us to our assigned room but called the room later to ask whether we needed anything else.

The servers in the breakfast buffet area as well as in the executive lounge made a point to come and greet us daily as well as remember our names and our drink preferences.There was even the incredible gesture of a watchful restaurant server who upon noticed my autistic son struggling to pit the olives on his plate, went back to the kitchen and returned within minutes with a plate full of already pitted olives.This hotel also has one of the most meticulous housekeeping department.

I had come across in my many years of traveling When we entered the room the two beds were placed together to form a queen-sized bed, so we asked the housekeeping to send someone to separate them.They showed up within five minutes and completed the task. Two minutes later a knock on the door surprised me. When I asked who it was, and they answered housekeeping, I replied to the matter had already been resolved.

However, to my surprise the person knocking was the room maid who had come to re-vacuum that small carpet area that was now uncovered between the two beds!I found the hotel’s staff to be highly professional, helpful, well trained and eager to please across the board but what truly set them apart from another hotel personnel we’ve encountered over the years during our travels is their high autism awareness and visible human compassion.


Food Venues

Although we did not get the chance to eat at the newly upgraded Aubergine Restaurant, we did enjoy our scrumptious daily breakfast at the Jaffa Court. The food quality and selection were impressive even though due to kosher laws no meat products were served. Jeff was happy to discover some new foods he hadn’t tasted before like the Israeli Tahini, white cheeses like ‘Tzfatit’ and ‘Labaneh’ as well as his favorite his eggplant salad, pickled herring, egg shakshouka and potato ‘burekas’.We also liked their newly designed Executive Lounge temporarily situated on the third floor by the pool.

The room design  with darker woods.,Granite counter tops, futuristic lighting and top to glass bottom windows showcasing the pool, and beachfront views was perfect for us. It had an excellent spread of finger foods and salads throughout the day accompanied by various complementary choices of juices, sodas, coffees and alcohol. Both our son, Jeff and I found it very relaxing to sit and read the newspapers or use the provided computers to check email after a tiring day of travel.
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv executive lounge
David Intercontinental ‘s executive lounge beverage selection

 

The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv food
David Intercontinental executive lounge salad selection

 

Hotel Amenities

The public spaces have outstanding works by famous Israeli artists like Nahum Gutman on level three that enhance the architectural beauty of the building. Our son with autism loved the giant wall carpet adorning the restaurant area and was disappointed to hear they did not sell any replicas in their souvenir store.

The hotel has several shops on the lobby level selling the usual; sundries, trinkets, souvenirs, a clothing boutique, an upscale jewelry store, as well as some art galleries displaying current Israeli talent. The pool area and spa looked inviting, but we never got to try it out as we had a busy itinerary that week.
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv lobby
Some of  the Gutman Wall hangings that Jeffrey wanted a replica of
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv lobby seats
A view of the renovated Aubergine restaurant
The Family Friendly David Intercontinental Tel Aviv view lobby
David Intercontinental third floor coffee bar

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head

      The greatness of a five-star establishment lies in its ability to modify itself to the needs of its different patrons, and its never-ending capacity to solve any issues that hamper planned stays. The Inn at the Harbor Town, Sea Pines Hilton Head fits this description to perfection.
Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head bellman

The service

 

We have stayed at this amazing property, several years in a row always enjoying the wonderful hospitality. This year we unexpectedly encountered some unforeseen ‘glitches’.
It started with arriving at a balcony street facing room after I specifically requested a quiet room, continuing with getting our booking dates wrong and culminating with various minor room malfunctions.

The front desk managers, Sarah, and Andrew , were on top of the situations and solved them patiently and graciously.Moreover, all staff was enthusiastic and helpful.  I had the opportunity to speak the hotel manager Attila, who assured me that he and his team would go the extra mile to work with families of special needs persons, including offering those rooms facing the golf course with a large window, which we got instead of the noisier balcony one. He also said he would look into my suggestion of other child proofing the rooms and teaching his staff to become more autistic aware.
Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head Island drinks

 The hotel is cozy, sixty-five rooms in all, about five hundred square feet each, built about ten years ago on the southern side of Hilton Head Island, as part of the Sea Pines Resort Plantation.

Fellow guests include business people that come to attend conferences as well as families who come to enjoy the beach.
The property is meticulously decorated in a colonial style with beautifully carved last century wooden furniture. The inviting lobby has multiple comfortable seating areas, a library, complete with TV and computer access, as well as manicured shaded patio areas featuring fountains, lawns, and walkways. The careful attention to details is evident throughout the resort and can be seen from the moment you arrive and are welcomed by the bellman dressed in a Scottish quilt even on the humid hot summer days. One can find fresh refreshments like coffee, lemonades, and cold water all day long in the lobby.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head Island lobby 

Our Room

Our room had two queen beds, a lounge chair, and two sitting chairs as well as a desk and a flat-screen TV on top of a spacious dresser. Our bathroom, all marble, offered both a shower as well a separate sunken tub, rather oversized vanity and commode.

The property has two restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but visitors can go to the neighboring resorts for more selections.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head beds 
The best time to visit late spring and early summer, especially for families with younger kids including those with autism.
The soft sandy beach alongside the shallow almost waves free fewer waters are a winning combination for many ocean fearing persons or sand loathing ones. Our son, riddled with sensory issues fell in love with swimming and now tolerates walks on the beach.

Hilton Head offers many other outdoor activities guests can try like kayaking, biking, horseback riding to dolphin or alligator watching cruises.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Request a quiet room with no balcony facing the golf course and not the tennis courts.
  • Bring your night light and bath mat.
  • Check out the free kids activities offered on selected days.

 

Mariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant

The service

The service at  Mariner of the Seas  Portofino restaurant was just right, being neither slow nor rushed, and quite well coordinated.The Maitre D’ was very understanding after my short explanation and even permitted our son to wear his usual shorts and t-shirt combo instead of the more dressy attire usually required. He even helped to cut Jeff’s steak and returned to the table multiple times to inquire as to whether we had any other needs or requests.
Moreover, when our server noticed that our son liked the eggplant dip, he replenished it continuously. They were somewhat dismayed to see me leave before the meal ended and gave my husband my dessert platter to take back to our cabin (in case I wished to enjoy it later.)I wanted to, but my son beat me to it and had a second helping for the evening.

The decor and food

The venue decorated in dark tones of gold and winter greens had an understated modern look with its velvet seating and stainless steel open kitchen. The dishes offered in the restaurant’s prix fixe menu were average sized, beautifully presented and tasty.Our sons’ favorites were as expected the assorted fresh bread and the mouth watering desserts!

Noteworthy

On a personal note: I enjoyed the music played, composed of a selection of San Remo 60’s and 70’s Festival winners, the likes of Peppino di Capri and the famous duo of Romina Powell and Albano, for those who are familiar with the genre. It not only provided me with a rare chance to expose my family to a different type of music but also to reminisce about my favorite childhood songs.

Autism travel tips

Since this is an upscale venue on the ship, I would recommend trying this restaurant only if you have kids or teens that have had some gastronomic exposure and are eager to sample different Italian regional dishes, as it would be difficult to enjoy a meal sitting next to a fussy eater or misbehaving child.
The trick to enjoying the Mariner of the Seas  Portofino restaurant when traveling with autistic family members is to go as early as possible during the cruise, preferably even the first night.
Also, you should never book a table for a formal night, and always try to be the first customers in the restaurant when it opens. By doing so, it ensures that the restaurant will not be overcrowded, allowing a more personalizedservice from the crew and complete parental relaxation.

Mariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant kitchenMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant decorMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant kidsMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant tables Mariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant breadsMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant melon and percuito
Mariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant appetizersMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant shrimpMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant soupMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant steak Mariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant meatMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant food arrivingMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant serverMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant kebabMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant entreeMariner of the Seas Portofino restaurant dessert

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest