A primer on hotel categories and star ratings
Some inns include dinner and breakfast in room rates; some have full-service restaurants open to the public. Characterized by unique, stylish or even quirky decor and interior design, offering a stark alternative in appearance and experience to chain brands where furnishings may be identical in every location. Boutique hotels were originally independently owned, but today there are boutique hotel chains, such as Kimpton hotels and Starwood's Ws. Some resort rates include activities like kayaking, canoeing or tennis; others add fees for equipment rentals, lessons, excursions and access to facilities. Resorts can range from rustic lodges to luxury hotels. [...] to earn three stars, a property must offer a 24-hour front desk, on-site dining, business services, remote controlled TV with premium channels, a telephone with voicemail, a radio alarm clock, iron and ironing board, and a hairdryer in the room." Priceline customers are sent a survey after each stay, and if satisfaction ratings for a hotel drop, Priceline will re-evaluate the star rating. "The top-rated properties on TripAdvisor are not necessarily the most opulent or luxurious for a particular destination, but typically provide outstanding service and value," said TripAdvisor spokesman Brooke Ferencsik. [...] Starwood's Aloft in Harlem is a stylish, trendy hotel in an interesting neighborhood where there are few other lodging options. Paul James, global brand leader of Starwood's luxury brands, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and The Luxury Collection, says consumers may be better off picking hotels based on personal taste, budget and purpose of the trip rather than relying on ratings.