If you're trying to get out of the heat, a Summertime trip to Monterey Bay is a great idea. Unfortunately it is one shared with throngs of tourists. This leads to hotels booked months in advance throughout the Summer. So whatever you do -- don't arrive in Monterey without a reservation, unless you can afford the last available suite at one of the resorts.
My recent trip to Monterey involved a stay at the Hotel Pacific, billed as a AAA 4-diamond property within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their website also promised "handcrafted tile bath features separate tub and shower, a second phone and a second television" and "French doors opening to a private balcony or patio."
Some of the above was a bit of a stretch of the truth. Although Fisherman's Wharf was nearby, the aquarium was only walking distance if you meant that you can pick up the free tram in front of the hotel to get there, or if you were accustomed to walking a few miles per day. Our bathroom had a shower with just a curtain -- no tub or even a raised area to keep the water from flooding the floor -- and a fold-down seat for the elderly or disabled. No TV, and not at all the luxurious or romantic accommodation we were expecting. The sink being in the main room -- not the bathroom -- was another odd choice. And that patio? Think an eye-level walled alleyway with only 1 lawn chair. All this at about the same price as staying at a truly luxurious room at the W in most cities. I'd also much rather be able to pay for room service than have to stand around, with children running to-and-fro, waiting for coffee urns to be refilled and the ransacked Continental Breakfast tables replenished. Live and learn. We won't be staying there again.
As a side note, how is it that a hotel that advertises itself as having conference and meeting facilities does not have a business center or even a computer that hotel guests can use? We forgot our pre-purchased Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets, and were directed to a Kinko's about a mile away. And that was after watching the desk person print another guest's airplane boarding passes. That's not the level of service I would expect from a self-proclaimed "luxury" property.
Once we had our pre-purchased tickets in hand, we parked in the hotel garage and took the free bus to the aquarium, avoiding the $20-$25 parking lot fees for the few available spaces. Having pre-purchased tickets also allowed us to avoid the line of several hundred people waiting to see if they would be able to buy tickets. As always, the facility's impressive aquariums, and their educational presentation on the deep sea research they are conducting with an affiliated non profit research arm, was well worth braving the crowds.
Next post will be on the glorious food, which was second only to the otters as a highlight of the trip.