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2019

This year we needed to save some cash so we’re giving our summer vacation a miss - not - really, I’m an insider, we don’t miss summer vacay! Instead of spending money however we’re blowing points redeeming on the Polish Riviera (yes, Polish Riviera, who knew?) for 2 nights at the Cat3 Gdynia Waterfront Courtyard and 7 nights at the Cat4 Sopot Sheraton on the beachfront burning a Travel Package certificate.

 

 

The 2-hour flights are courtesy of RyanScare at £35 each way including priority boarding, seat selection, backpacks and 10kilos of hand luggage each. I’ve ended up with one backpack - Mrs BrightlyBob has filched the rest of my luggage for her stuff. And she’s still complaining to any friends on Facebook that will listen!

 

Her misery levels will increase even more when she finds out that Sopot is actually colder than home, in fact it’s the coldest place on my Weather App - Oooops - and it’s raining too! 

 

In

 

But it’s a cheapo, and I’m sure the sun will break through at some point, although the 10-day weather forecast isn’t optimistic!

 

So travel with us to a soggy Polish Riviera. See the sights. Try the Pierogis - we do it so you don’t have to!

 

brightlybob

London Heathrow Bonvoys

Posted by brightlybob Jul 5, 2019


At long last tonight I made it through all the Bonvoy Heathrow hotels and am now able to give you the lowdown on the lot!
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So what are the choices? Well in order displayed by the Marriott website when searching LHR they are:
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1. Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel ——-Starting from £60/nt
2. Sheraton Skyline London Heathrow——— Starting from £80/nt
3. London Heathrow Marriott Hotel————-Starting from £90/nt
4. Sheraton Heathrow Hotel ———————-Starting from £70/nt
5. Moxy London Heathrow Airport—————Starting from £50/nt
6. Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel———— Starting from £70/nt
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FIRSTLY let’s deal with a much misunderstood fact - The “Heathrow Hoppa” shuttle-bus service. A cause of many complaints, it’s so unfair on the hotels as they have no say in the shuttle. You see Heathrow prohibits hotels using their own shuttle busses and provides facilities only for its own contracted monopoly bus provider, the “Heathrow Hoppa” and like any monopoly winner National Express that won the last bidding round takes full advantage! Lots of stops and an outrageous £5pp each way! On the other hand it does mean that if you’re toting too much luggage for the free local bus then with the Hoppa there’s no real obvious disadvantage for any hotel, except the Moxy which is one of the longest rides and the Heathrow Windsor Marriott where the Hoppa there only connects to T5!#
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So, what are Bonvoys Heathrow options like?
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Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel
Giant 1960s Heathrow sleep factory. No swimming pool and the “fitness room” feels a bit like the afterthought it obviously is, but it does have a good variety of equipment. Modern and recently refurbished the rooms are very small, I have no idea how 2 adults sharing a double room with 2 hold cases apiece would organise themselves.
The 3rd floor lounge is however the best of all the LHR Bonvoys, firstly because it overlooks the runway and secondly because of it’s 4 hours free beer and wine. Lounge food is a “chefs presentation of mini appetisers” which won’t serve as a meal but you can ask for seconds!
Bread, cheese and desserts are help yourself and there are generous amounts of each that are promptly replenished as they run down, so you can make an evening meal of it, especially if you like artisan bread, desserts and cheeses. I do, and as a result eat well! Finally Exec lounge guests can take breakfast free in the restaurant which is an excellent buffet with a chef for eggs and omelettes. The restaurant and bar are large and well run, day and evening food is solid rather than spectacular and subject to usual hotel pricing. There’s also a Cha Coffee shop serving Starbucks that is open lengthy hours. The Three Magpies Pub is an easy walk but if eating, The Pheasant which is a little further but still walkable is worth the effort. The hotel is very easily accessed by the free London Buses, indeed it’s the closest on the bus route. Parking £15/nt.
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Sheraton Skyline London Heathrow
Another enormous 1960s property but with more facilities than the Renaissance. The pool is a real feature of the property in the centre quad it features a tiki-bar and plenty of tables to enjoy your Zombie Cocktail! The pool itself is very much recreational, it’s all great fun!
There’s also a tidy gym too. Rooms are large but old-fashioned, however everything has been well maintained.
The lounge is on the top floor and you can vaguely see the runway through one of its windows. The decor is definitely very “gentlemen’s club” and offers 2 hours of free beer and wine 7 days a week.
Food offerings are help yourself but you’ll struggle to make a meal of what’s on offer unless you’re a fan of the ubiquitous salad bowl! Like the Renaissance you can choose breakfast in the lounge or restaurant and it’s a good breakfast spread there! The hotel has a large American sports bar serving American style food and a big Indian restaurant too.  If you want to eat or drink offsite it’s easy walking distance to the Pheasant which is a very good traditional urban English Pub. Finally the Skyline is also on the free bus route. Parking £15/nt.
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London Heathrow Marriott Hotel
Built about 20 years ago it has a large atrium design upon entry. Usually the priciest option it does have a very nice gym and pool. Rooms are large and recently refurbished to the new Marriott palette but have (thankfully) retained their desks!
The internal lounge is on the ground floor and really too small for the numbers. You can certainly make a meal of the food here and like the Renaissance there’s free beer and wine lasting 4 hours, 7 days a week. Unlike the Renaissance and Skyline lounge, breakfast is in the lounge only, unless due to overcrowding you’re directed to the restaurant. Which brings us to the restaurant which is a Carluccios, an upmarket Italian-style chain. Food here is very good, in my view, the best of all the Bonvoy choices, but then I do enjoy Carluccios!
Like the Skyline, if you want to eat or drink offsite it’s easy walking distance to the Pheasant which is a very good Pub. Finally the Marriott is also on the free bus route. Parking £15/nt.
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Sheraton Heathrow Hotel
 
Another big 1960s build recently refurbished but unlike the Renaissance the rooms are much bigger and the quality of the finish feels better too.
The lounge here is internal but a good size with a variety of seating and good evening food, albeit it’s difficult to make a meal of what’s provided here.
Like the Skyline beer and wine is a 2-hour service from 6pm to 8pm. The Orchard Restaurant is nicely set up and serves mainly British food at customarily high hotel prices, it does have plenty of tables so you’ll have no problems being seated which is a good thing as this property is off the main hotel run where you’ll find the first 3 which means that McDonalds is really your only off-site food choice, and requires sprinting across the dual carriageway. It is on the free bus routes but not the same as the first 3, and less busses run, so a longer wait for the free service is likely however it is by some distance the closest one to T5 on the free bus zone. Parking £15/nt.
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Moxy London Heathrow Airport
Welcome Millenials - to Bonvoys newest Heathrow Property built in 2017. Small bedrooms (but still bigger than the Renaissance rooms) and an absence of desks, wardrobes, Exec lounge and a pool make this a pared back choice. Although there is a large fitness room with a good variety of equipment.
But it is cheap, I’ve stayed here at £50 on a 5,000 point BRG - theres serious value right there, especially with its $10pp daily amenity that can be spent in its huge bar. There’s also some food available and as it’s very much at the edge of the Heathrow hotel zone there’s a couple of offsite local restaurants (turn right out the doors) and both KFC and Costa are an easy walk down the road (turn left out the doors). If all you’re after is a drink though the hotel bar is definitely a great place to spend some time and it’s always busy! Connection wise there is of course the Hoppa but no free busses as although it’s on the 105, 111 and 140 bus routes it’s past the free zone so costs £1.50 payable only by contactless credit card (USA contactless usually fails) or London’s Oyster card. Parking is however £3 cheaper than the rest at £12 per night.
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Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel
Ok, let’s be honest here, it’s neither Heathrow nor Windsor but it is situated right next to a “Welcome to Slough” sign! I think it claims it’s Heathrow monicker by having a T5 Hoppa Bus service and charging Heathrow’s ubiquitous £15 per night car parking charge! This is another giant property with a maze of corridors but you’ll find yourself in a large room replete with last decades furnishings and beige carpets minus the red bedrunners!
The hotel has been well maintained though and benefits from a gym and pool too. The ground floor exec lounge is small and you may have to share tables at times but food provision is very good, it’s easy to make a full meal of it there. Unusually for British Marriotts the free beer and wine only lasts 2 hours and it’s the only Marriott in the country to close the lounge on weekends. Plat breakfast can be taken in either the lounge or restaurant and when closed breakfast is restaurant only, but it is the best restaurant breakfast of all the Heathrow choices listed here, in fact it’s one of Europes best Bonvoy buffets! Restaurant food is also very good here and it has a beer garden with a kiddie playground too, so in the summer paying for your beer can give you a nice outdoor drink and the kids a little runaround! Although there’s not much within walking distance there are two pubs, a Toby and a Harvester, both good chain pubs. Of course you do have the delights of Windsor just a £10 Uber ride away with its extensive history and foodie choices so there’s no need to be bored at the Heathrow/Windsor Marriott. Alas no free bus service but as mentioned there is a T5 Hoppa. Parking £15/nt.
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Heathrow Transport & the free bus travel zone
Lastly, let’s talk about getting to your hotel from London Heathrow terminals. Of course there’s the famous London Taxis. Easy to find, always ready but alas expensive. Depending upon traffic delays and which terminal you’re coming from/going to, expect to to run up a £10-£20 meter. I’ve already discussed the Heathrow Hoppa bus at the top of this post, but there’s also the little known “free bus travel zone” where red London buses run up and down Bath Road, which is the main area for Heathrow’s hotels that are not actually on-site. Here’s the official schematic routemap:
  
 
As can be seen four of Bonvoys five Heathrow hotels are on the free route, of those four, three of them namely the Renaissance, Marriott and Skyline are on the “main hotel drag” using the free 105/111/140/285 routes which makes these three easily the most convenient since between 07:00 and 22:00 you’ll never wait more than a minute or two for one of those buses. If you don’t mind a very short walk and crossing a dual carriageway at a Pelican crossing then the free buses will almost certainly get you to any one of these 3 faster than the Hoppa. The Sheraton is also on the free route but more isolated and for that you’ll need the U3 or 7 bus. Because there’s fewer buses you’ll likely experience longer waits, although between 07:00 & 22:00 it’s unlikely to be longer than 15 mins. The hotel is also some distance from Pelican crossings making it more difficult to get across the fast-moving dual carriageway road with heavy luggage.
 
Finally, although not in the free travel area, the Moxy is actually on the 105 and 111 bus routes but just a little further past the free zone. A £1.50 fare is therefore payable, alas however cash is not accepted, only London’s public transport smartcard, Oyster, or contactless credit/debit cards - unfortunately whilst European contactless cards work well North American cards are frequently rejected. To be safe if staying at the Moxy you would do well to have an Oyster card!