I will write at length (as I usually do ) about my trip to Israel when I get home but wanted to salute the Renaissance Tel Aviv for a great stay. I used points for 5 nights, which was a particularly good deal because I got one free night and it only was a Category 5 hotel.
The people here have been fantastic. My luggage did not follow me between my Bos-JFK flight and my JFK-TLV leg. So of course I had to fill out all kinds of documentation on arrival at TLV, and didn't get my luggage for another 32 hours (late Wednesday night). The lost/found at Tel Aviv gave me a toiletries kit and 160 shekels and Delta has given me a money voucher for future flights. But it was the staff at the desk at the Renaissance who hurried things up. When I returned from a tour Wednesday night my luggage was not in my room (as had been promised) but I had a phone message that it had arrived and would be delivered Thursday. The number they gave me didn't seem to work so the people at the Renaissance desk got on the phone and I had my luggage within two hours.
The Concierge Lounge is open every day of the week, all day, except Fri and Saturday when it closes at 9pm for shabat. Wine is free, as are hot and cold appetizers. I got to know Isaac and Catlin well, and they were very helpful.
The hotel is right on the beach which is always a playground. You can sit on your balcony and watch. There's also an indoor pool. Tours from Tel Aviv (Rent-a-Guide) are a great deal -- better than from Jerusalem because people in the latter have to leave earlier and get home later. My three tours were fabulous -- again more later.
A couple of hints for those planning to come to Israel:
-If you don't know Hebrew, think twice about renting a car. The signs on the roads vary, sometimes Hebrew only (I found this a special cause of alarm for car renters because there were often yellow/orange signs about road work, closings etc.), sometimes Hebrew/Arabic, and sometimes Hebrew, Arabic, English.
-I was actually very surprised that English words are very uncommon on most stores and a lot of other things since everywhere else I've visited usually does so (including Turkey and Egypt).
- This turned out to be a real problem for me. Banks are not marked (anywhere I was) as such, but only have Hebrew words on them. Unless you know to peer inside, you would not know it's a bank. The hotel gave me directions to an ATM, but when I got to it, it only offered options in Hebrew. Since I didn't want to inadvertently empty my bank account I didn't push any buttons and left. I finally got shekels on my tour of Bethlehem and Jerusalem thanks to the tour guide. He stopped at a bank and went with me. Again, all Hebrew. He pushed some buttons and got an English version and I got my money, but then at the end it reverted to Hebrew (apparently asking if I wanted another transaction). So be prepared.
It's been a wonderful trip despite the inconvenience at the beginning, and I've felt safe everywhere - including in the Palestinian Territory and on the border with Lebanon (where I inadvertently took a photo of the border gates because the sign was in Hebrew and Arabic) before my guide said photography was prohibited. Happily all was well and nothing happened.
Anywhere, here are some scenes of my hotel room, from the room, and of the beach.
Since I always travel alone, I can't say for sure because I always list my preference as king or queen sized bed. I would put in a request for two full-sized beds if that is on the reservation form, or if not call them. But it is a very modern hotel right on the beachfront, which I found wonderful. There's also a very modern mall a short cab drive away (in case the airlines lose your luggage, as happened to me).
The Marriott organized all of my tours, which were great. One issue to be aware of -- I found to my surprise that I had a number of problems since I don't know Hebrew. ATM machines were only in Hebrew, and despite there being one not too far from the hotel, I couldn't get it to switch to English (a problem I've never had anywhere else in the world, where there are usually at least four language options) and was afraid of mistakenly emptying my bank account. On the day I took the tour to Bethlehem and old Jerusalem, my guide stopped at an ATM for me and even he had some trouble getting it to switch to English before handing things over to me. Also, I was glad I was taking tours because I could never have driven in Israel. While some signs were in Hebrew and Arabic and English, many (especially what I would assume were the red and orange warning ones) were only in Hebrew or Hebrew and Arabic.
As for sites to visit, I would strongly urge old Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River, Caesarea, Acre. I should point out that at no point did I feel unsafe, even though you have to be exchanged (to another van) at a shop on the border of the West Bank to go to Bethlehem (and I assume Jericho, though I didn't get there). One of my tours also stopped at Nazareth en route to Capernaum, but while it was interesting, it is a big and crowded city nowadays. Haifa was interesting but not at the top of my list. The grottoes at Rosh Haniqh, where you can go after a tour of Caesarea, are amazing. Just don't take photos of the Lebanese border when you get to the top from the cable car ! As I did so, my guide said you weren't allowed to take photos, but again the signs were only in Hebrew and Arabic. But nothing happened.
Hope this helps!