This review was originally posted on 26July erroneously under what I believed was a generic heading for Hampton Inns. It has been re-posted under the correct hotel heading, specifically for Jacksonville, Florida.
Last week, the luscious Mrs. Xeno and I were in Jacksonville, Florida for a couple of days of business. Ever since the birth of our youngest daughter Jenna (J.J.), 9 years ago, Ive become accustomed to traveling alone. But with J.J. in camp in the wilds of the Blue Ridge Mountains of west Georgia, we decided to make this trip together. Seemed like old times.
Not being familiar with Downtown Jacksonville, I took the recommendation of a friend and made a reservation with the Hampton Inn located on the South Bank of the St Johns River just two minutes from the Osborn Convention Center. And, since the hotel is less than a minute from I-95, if you can make it to Exit 350A, youll have no problem finding this location.
Over the years I have found Hampton Inns (and Suites) to offer the business traveler superior accommodations at reasonable rates. This is particularly appreciated by the self-employed, traveling sans expense account. (Oh god! I do miss that expense account. I wonder if the statute of limitation has expired? Ill check. Well talk about those days another time.)
With my triple A discount, a King room (bed-size) was mine for the rate of $89.00 a night. Not bad at all.
Hampton Inn South Bank Downtown, Jacksonville, Florida
This particular hotel has 117 rooms on five floors and had a general air of newness to it although I cant tell you when it was built. Given the title of this review why dont we jump right to the room. Well discuss other facilities later.
Our King size room was quite large and comfortable. A non-smoking room it smelled fresh with no hint of that sub-tropical mildew odor so common in Florida.
The room was equipped with a coffee maker, ironing board, and hair dryer. In the bath there was a supply of shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and body wash. There was also a comfortable sofa, coffee table, desk and a 27 TV with a fair cable TV lineup in addition to a selection of extra cost on-demand movies. But the chief selling point of this room without question is the Cloud Nine Bed.
Cloud Nine Bed
Over the last couple of years, hotels have been teaming up with companies such as Serta, Sealy and Simmons to offer their guests luxurious bedding. Hampton Inns has been installing the Cloud Nine Bed, manufactured by Serta. This is far and away one of the most comfortable sets of bed and bedding Ive ever experienced. The combination of firmness and at the same time plushness registers high with this reviewer. Having experienced the Heavenly Bed (manufactured by Simmons) offered at Westin Hotels and other Starwood Resort properties, Mrs. Xeno and I purchased one from the hotel chain following Hurricane Wilma last year. Had we tried out the Cloud Nine Bed first we may have been inclined to purchase it instead. Mrs. Xenos take on the bed? Well from the coquettish smile on her face at the moment, Id say she enjoyed this bed every bit as much as I did.
Like most Hampton Inns, there is a Business Center. Computers with high speed internet access and a fair suite of business application software are available at no charge. Fax and copy services are also available at nominal expense. Since Hampton Inns targets the business traveler, the computer facilities are not usually jammed up by kids as is so often the case at many hotels. Just dont get caught hovering over a keyboard with a cup of coffee. Food and beverages anywhere near the computers, a definite no-no. Having witnessed a keyboard succumb to the dreaded Pepsi syndrome, this policy makes sense to me. Each guest room has a high speed, password activated internet connection for laptop users.
Other than the Complimentary Breakfast dining area there are no other dining facilities at the hotel. Room Service however is available and is provided by the neighboring restaurant, The Wine Cellar. The daily Complimentary Breakfast is served from 6am 10am and is something more than the usual Continental Breakfast. In addition to the predictable assortment of donuts, danish, bagels, muffins, cereals and fruits to go with pretty respectable coffee blends, this hotel offers a hot meal. On the first day of our stay it was scrambled eggs, sausage patties and grits (this is the south after all). The hot breakfast on the second day was Sausage Gravy and Biscuits. Though it might have turned the lovely Veronicas stomach, it hit me in my sweet spot. (God, Im becoming a Florida cracker!).
Many adequate to excellent restaurants are within easy walking distance to the hotel. And, many of them offer take out service that can be arranged from the front desk. Mentioned earlier is the Wine Cellar. Also there is Crawdaddys for Gumbo and Blues loving travelers. A Jacksonville favorite, b.b.s Restaurant is only 2 blocks from the hotel and will shortly be the subject of its own review. This is a place to experience if staying in the area.
The hotel has an outdoor pool with chaise lounges that is more than adequate for a quick swim at the end of the day or an hour or two of of sun. No refreshments are served in the pool area.
Although there is no fitness center at the hotel, complimentary membership in a nearby health club is provided. And while Id love you to believe that this might be of some importance to me, whos kidding whom. Exercise while away on business is pretty low on my list of priorities.
Complimentary copies of USA Today and Newsweek Magazine are provided all guests as are local magazines. Additionally, there is a surprisingly good lending library available in the lobby. Very nice touches.
This is the second Hampton Inn in which Ive stayed in the past month. The other, in Buford, Georgia was virtually identical in terms of features, price, cleanliness and comfort. The ever-observant Mrs. Xeno commented on the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff at both hotels. At some point during our stay in Jacksonville she noticed a small sign attached to the desk clerks computer keyboard that stated simply Smile at your Guest. Smart touch.
As important as it is to know what the Hampton Inn is, it is also important to know what it isnt. This is clearly not a resort hotel. There is not much in the way of activities for family travelers and location generally favors business centers.
As a frequent business traveler I rank consistency of accommodations very highly when it comes to chain hotels/motels. It simplifies matters immensely when I can concentrate on the business to be done and not be distracted by my choice of hotels and the consequence of that choice. In my experience, in this regard I find the Hampton Inn delivers the goods.
Well done, and highly recommended.
©Rudi Xeno 2006
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