After three days at the best hotel I ever expect to stay at in my whole life (the Myconian Imperial on Mykonos, which even allowed me to stay in my room till 5:30 since I had a 7:30pm flight to Athens), I worried because of all our complaints of diminishing service, attention to status, breakfast, etc. that one of my two favorite Marriotts in the world (the other being Ghent) would disappoint.
It says a great deal to me that it not only did not disappoint, but even exceeded previous experiences. We're talking about Greece, which is in a fiscal crisis, where every euro undoubtedly matters to every proprietor of a business. Maintaining standards in such an environment is challenging to say the least and improving them is deserving of a special world.
So here's the deal. They arranged for my taxi transfer for the airport (and to the next day), all at below average cab rates. When I arrived, I was greeted effusively by Kalliope, who not only recognized me (seemingly personally but also as a PP), then she said she had a very nice suite for me (this was a room I prepaid 159 euros for), although she was sorry it was only one night.
VERY NICE??? Duh? I walked into my suite to see a huge living room with sofa, many chairs, large screen TV, then an equally large dining room that could have hosted most boards of directors, then a kitchenette. My only worry, since this happened to me once at the Radisson in New Orleans, is that I couldn't find the bedroom. I did find a half bath and I figured they wouldn't give me a suite without shower or bath so I kept looking. (You're probably laughing but I'm serious -- at the Radisson NO, it turned out the sofa was a sofabed.) Then I found the luxurious bedroom with flat screen tv, and I walked outside to the balcony, which was at least 25' long with a view of the Acropolis. WOW. And then the full bathroom. This suite was double the size of my apartment in Maine.
Moreover, I was given lounge info. It is open every day of the week, although there are 'enhanced continental breakfasts' and hors d'oeuvres and dessert hours M-F, but there are continental breakfasts and access on the weekend. The computers all work and you can easily print your boarding pass.
The best was last in many respects, although I did worry I might get lost in the suite. When I checked out yesterday morning, the person at the desk handed me a going away gift!!! Was this for real? It was a beautifully wrapped luggage part leather luggage strap for attaching extra pieces to your suitcase. I asked why and was told it was because it was my 5th stay at the Ledra. Over 3 years, they kept track of an occasional stayer like me.
Like I said, please come to Greece. The hospitality is nowhere else, and don't believe the soundbites and few clips you get of occasional demonstrations or violence. IN Athens, it's pretty much limited, when it happens, to Syntagma Square and in Thessaloniki to the university area. Greeks are the epitome of hospitality and friendliness, and I would rather spend my money there than almost anywhere else. Both hotels, one on an affluent island and the other on Syngrou Avenue in Athens, made me understand how lucky I was. Plus thanks to the stay on Mykonos, I'd actually become partially fluent in a few Greek phrases beyond the basics.
Thank you, Athens Ledra, and your wonderful staff and management!
My Firefox browser does not like either either Destinations, or the place where it asks you to specify a location. I tried it four times (in case you got it four times, and then pasted it into other in Safari. All of the text came through but only one picture. Now I'm going to try to add the other pics.
Hi Prof Chiara
I spent 5 nights in that property and it is SUPER and the staff is even better!!.....Bill. p.s. I also have trouble getting the proper selections on Posts--it just is not as easy as it was at one time. I am in Venice week after next and will give you a report when I return.
I learned yet again today that Destinations will not work with my browsers. Everything goes well till it gets to choose a place. Then I typed in Athens, they asked me what brand, I checked it, they asked me what hotel (only one), I checked it, then I always get the error message -- no valid choice selected. I tried four times till I changed to Safari (where I've had the same problems with destinations, so I just choose other).
I am in Venice at the end of June -- are you at the Boscolo, Bill?
Tef, there are only two Marriotts in the world that could possibly disappoint me -- Athens and Ghent. Neither ever has, and each just keeps getting better.
Great post, thanks profchiara for persevering! I've applied the location tag for you and moved it to Destinations. Just curious, after you selected the hotel in the 3rd step (Athens Ledra Marriott Hotel), did you click the "add tags" button below that? Without clicking that button, the selected location tags won't be applied and you'll get an error because the location tag is required in Destinations.
Hi Prof Chiara:
I am at the Hotel Ca' Vendramin www.hotelcavendramin.com By the way have you been to The Scrovegni Chapel or Cappella degli Scrovegni also known as the Arena Chapel in Padua, Veneto Italy with its fresco cycle by Giotto, I have not but am going. In an adult art course I took at Emory University we spent one whole session on it so I am excited to see it up close....Bill p.s. a friend of mine was in the following location a couple of weeks ago and said the outdoor seating in the Campo di Santi Giovanni and Paoli near the Ospedali civile was beautiful.
Hi Bill, The Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel is one of my favorite places! It's so tiny and yet so incredibly beautiful. I was there during the heat wave (but staying in Venice) when hundreds died several years ago, but I did persevere to wait in line to see it. Truly amazing and don't miss it!
But after I got out it was so, so hot that I could not get back to Venice soon enough!
You'll love Venice as long as you get accustomed to getting lost. WHen you cross one bridge you can usually only go in one direction, which can be disorienting. Still there are very good signs pointing you to landmarks like the Fondamente, San Marco, etc.
Don't miss Murano and Burano, and if you'll be there three days or more buy a long-term vaporetto pass. I often just ride it continuously because the canals are so beautiful and if it gets hot, you have a homemade air conditioning system.
As I said, the Athens Ledra from the first time I stayed there (the only time I stayed 5 days -- I made my '5th stay gift' thanks to 4 one-day stays) is in my view the best Marriott in the world, with the Ghent Marriott being second. From what I heard from SteppingStones, a friend of his named Al was sent over a decade or so ago to set it up (and Al's name is recognized even today) and they did the job to perfection.
You're not downtown, but like I said, you don't want to be. If there is going to be a strike or demonstration it will not be near the Athens Ledra. But the hotel has a daily shuttle that takes you right near the Acropolis and agora. I even walked home from the agora once, but that was only because of one bad experience with a cab driver on a previous trip (there are a lot of gypsy cabs -- get the hotel to get you one, or at the airport make sure to have a yellow cab).
This is where democracy began. It had its problems, certainly including slavery, but we owe our system of governance to the ancient Greeks -- as well as the first real historians and philosophers. I can't get enough of Greece, and if you stay away from the hot spots (Syntagma and the university part of Thessaloniki) you'll have no problem at all. The islands are essentially immune from any of these problems, and I had no problems using credit cards or getting money from ATMs. And Aegean air, which can take you cheaply to an island rather than paying an arm and a leg through your airline (just get off in Athens after checking the connections -- the Athens airport is one of the easiest to navigate quickly anywhere).
In short, I love Greece, and may go back in August. I say to all my new friends in Greece Kali Mera and Efkaristo!
BTW, Mykonos, where I stayed the other three days this trip was where Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Ari made famous. Santorini and Patmos are more beautiful, but for relaxation and great treatment and very reasonable prices (look through expedia and orbitz), I'd say Mykonos. I went for Delos, the second most sacred site from ancient Greece, 3 km by ferry from Mykonos but uninhabited since antiquity (except for a few archaeologists).
Probably if I go back in August it will be to Crete. I only got a taste of Crete in my first ever cruise, which was much too quick. I was in line behind an American veterinarian who had spent a week on Crete and she said it wasn't long enough. It has the traces of the most ancient civilizations of the Aegean.
Trust me, you can't go wrong unless you decide to hang out with the students and anarchists in Syntagma! (Somehow I doubt that!)
But the Athens Ledra truly is the best. I often wonder, especially after my recent stay, how cost cutting, benefit cutting, etc in the US is going on at Marriotts at an alarming rate (enough that it has alarmed all of us) and why in France they tack on huge charges for 'free' room upgrades on points -- why can a hotel in a country in fiscal crisis do more than almost any other Marriott I've ever stayed at.
The answer is that they understand fully the hospitality industry. Customers return if they are happy and treated well; they write bad reviews and never return if they are not. The Athens Ledra really brought that home to me because they obviously invested a lot in me for one night. (I forgot to mention I also got a free voucher for a bottle of wine at lunch or dinner at Zephyros Restaurant, which I got on previous trips.)
Greece is amazing and you'll love it! Go! Take advantage of the dropping euro and the lower prices to and in Greece because of the 'situation.' You'll love it. And besides islands, do not miss Delphi, my favorite part of mainland Greece -- the wonderful tour director/concierge at the Ledra can set it all up.
Also, for those of you who are interested, the Athens Ledra is (ridiculously) a Cat 5 hotel (I presume again bizarre and mostly nonexistent fears), so if anyone wants a real deal, use your points and stay there.
And while I can provide info on most places in the Greek islands and mainland, I know NewHilton has been to Meteora (which I have not), so perhaps she can add her two cents in favor of all of us flocking to Greece!
To me part of my travel and research experiences is coming to know not only the sites but the people. The Greek people are wonderful, and I want more than anything else to counteract that image of rioting Greeks in Syntagma a while back. Most were probably not even Greek, but anarchists. I have never, ever had anything but an amazing, hospitable experience in Greece whether based at the Ledra doing day tours on the mainland, doing a short 3-day cruise where I stayed at the Ledra before and after, but got to experience briefly Patmos, Santorini, Heraklion (Palace of Knossos [Minotaur]). Ephesus and Mykonos were also part of the tour, but I'd been on a 14-hour trip to Ephesus while in Turkey, and Mykonos was way late before a morning trip I had to experience -- which is why I was determined to stay there this time -- especially so I could go to Delos. But oddly my hotel in Mykonos provided the most outstanding part of the experience.
Greece is an amazing place of mostly mountains or sea, then Athens with a huge proportion of the population. But although I'd studied it even in the '80s every single trip has proven better. I would love to see us as Americans support the fount of democracy by using our dollars in a place that is magnificent. And if your friends try to talk you out of it (i.e. dangerous!) sorry, it's not. It's got some of the kindest, most helpful and caring people in the world (and I'm no sucker). Take advantage of good dollar rates and lowered hotel or cruise fees. You'll have the time of your life. And until the Middle East settles down, Greece will be my main destination.
Cheers (they taught me that word on Mykonos, but alas I forgot it), ProfC
One of my Greek friends told me to be very careful where you stay in Athens as a tourist, as they have not only a lot of immigrants, but many are illegal, and cause many problems in Greece. He told me that when traveling alone in Greece as a tourist, to always pick a good hotel for safety reasons. He said these illegal immigrants harass alot of women on their own including Greek women, but that its particularly difficult for non-Greek speakers because you have no idea what is going on or what to do about it.
I have always felt very comfortable in the Athens Marriott, though I rarely spend time in my room as I love that roof top pool.
What could be better than swimming laps looking at the acropolis, and a nice glass of wine and good greek cheese and olives with that view after a good swim?
The only thing better is walking around the Acropolis and the agora ! Once when I couldn't find a trustworthy cab about a year ago, I ended up walking all the way back from the agora, around the Acropolis, just missed the hotel bus, and all the way up Syngrou Avenue. I did find a row of cabs around 5 blocks from the hotel but by that time I just kept chugging along.
I've never had any problems in Greece, including Athens (you definitely won't have problems on the islands), but then I don't go to places like Syntagma Square. It may be historic, but far too modern for me -- and it is the heart of where most demonstrations (and probably harassment) occur,
Actually I had asked this Greek friend of mine to recommend a reasonable hotel in Athens for a friend at work who wanted to take her 2 daughters on spring break, but said she could not afford the Marriott that I had recommended.
His response was to advise her not to go if she couldn't stay in one of the better hotels, as the neighborhoods the cheap hotels are in, have a high population of illegal immigrants and can be dangerouse for women traveling alone.
I suspect that the tourist sites, shopping areas and hotels have pretty good police surveillence, as well as the security in the better hotels.
The cheaper hotels and neighborhoods, not so much per my greek friend who goes back to Greece regularly on business.
Glad your experience was a good one. I thought the hotel was starting to look a bit tired but the roof pool was nice. Foutain soda and no bottled water in the executive lounge was unusual. However, they did have a large bottle of complimentry water in my room each day. I drink a lot of water. As a Platinum guest, I usually get a room upgrade. The photo below shows my view looking out the window but it was on the executive floor. I can live with the view since i didn't spend much time in the room. What really got to me was that they wouldn't honor the rate they gave me when I booked even though i brought a copy of the agreement with me. They wanted 30 Euro more. The issue they said was that I booked a package for two but I didn't indicate there would be a second person in the room. Again - the package was for two. In 20 years and 850+ nights at the Marriott, I never had to indicate this before. I even went back into the reservation for this hotel to double check and there was no difference in rate between 1 person and 2. In the end they gave me a rate of 12 Euro additional and no dinner (which was part of the package). All in all the stay wasn't bad but i certainly have a different opinion of Marriott after this particular stay.
This is so odd -- I will have stayed 6 separate times as of November, and always got room upgrades, had amazing CL experiences, etc, with everyone going out of their way to help me. It almost sounds like the equivalent of my last Rive Gauche experience, after many years of being happy there. And now I will never stay at that Paris hotel again.