I’ve got a ton of posts to crank out on our family vacation to Sicily and Salzburg. I’m hoping to get my butt in gear. Here’s a quick peek at what I expect to cover:
- Getting There. Connecting In Rome And Using Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Points Overseas
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Catania, Sicily
- A Return To Taormina, A Beautiful City On A Hill
- Exploring Mt. Etna
- Walking And Eating In Downtown Catania
- A Day In Siracusa
- Rooftop Dining At Primo Piano
- Priority Pass Lounge At Catania Airport
- airberlin To Salzburg
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Grand Salzburg
- Sound of Music Tour
- Walking Around Salzburg
- L’Osteria Restaurant
- Salt Mines at Berchtesgaden
- Cable Car at Untersbergbahn
- Tasty Donuts, Salzburg
- Train To Vienna
- Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Vienna, OMG
- Haus des Meeres: Aqua Terre Zoo
- Austrian Airways Lounge, Vienna Airport
- Austrian Airways VIE-IAD, Business Class Review
- Wrapping Up
The Sheraton Catania is one of those hotels that falls into an odd box for me. I’m able to use my Starwood Preferred Guest points to get a free stay. It’s really cheap. When we booked, we used a Cash & Points award for 1,500 points a night plus $30. Back then, the property was a Category 1. Now, as a Category 2, it’s a whopping 2,000 points and $35 a night. A standard award will set you back 4,000 points per night. Since it’s that cheap, it’s also not an aspirational property. It solidly falls in the category of “gets the job done”.
What Does a “Get The Job Done” Property Look Like?
We stayed at the Sheraton Catania on our last trip to Sicily, roughly 7 years ago. Not much has changed. Upon arrival, we were greeted by friendly staff who had accommodated our request for connecting rooms. Having an SPG Ambassador makes a difference in situations like this, advocating to properties on our behalf. It’s one of the single most important benefits when we travel. I’d rather have connecting rooms than a suite in certain hotels.
The property is equal parts utilitarian and funky. The lobby level has a bunch of unused retail spaces. The hallways have some live foliage which lends a bit of a tropical feel.
We were in similar room types to our last trip. I’d almost swear it was the exact same rooms. Each of our rooms had a small balcony, with the larger room having 2. Those made for a nice area to hang outside.
The rooms themselves were a bit spacious by European standards, though fairly utilitarian. The smaller, standard room had a Queen bed with a small desk. The bathroom had a standard Euro tub/shower setup. There was also a small closet and the aforementioned balcony.
The larger room had a small dining room table and a ledge to sit on along with a Queen bed and a desk. Both rooms had a small refrigerator. There was enough room to fit a twin-sized rollaway bed, which is where I ended up sleeping. The bathroom in the larger room/suite had a bit more space and contained just a shower. It was a larger shower with ample water pressure. And, my son was pretty happy to show that the bathroom had its own scale.
We didn’t eat any evening meals at the hotel, but we did have breakfast most mornings. The breakfast was free due to our Platinum status. I failed to verify the price if it doesn’t come for free. The hotel was pretty full when we were there, at least based on the breakfast restaurant. The room easily sat over 100 and it was packed most days we were there. There was a decent variety of offerings, but there never seemed to be enough. Trays were frequently empty for long periods of time. I had to jump up when a tray of food came out, wait for folks to descend on it like a pack of hungry wolves, and then snap a quick picture before it disappeared again!
Ultimately, there just didn’t seem to be enough staff to keep up with the guests. The food we had was fresh and reasonably good. But, given the lag in getting food, I wouldn’t pay much for breakfast.
Pool and Beach
The pool is a decent size, though the pool deck doesn’t have a ton of chairs. It was mostly full during our stay but we generally managed to find at least a couple of seats for our group of 5. The pool was definitely under-utilized and we spent most of our brief time there. There’s also a small bar where you can order drinks and food from the room service menu.
Over on the edge of the pool deck, there’s a stairway tucked behind a column on the side that faces the street. Head down that stairwell, through two gates and a tunnel to get to the small beach area. There’s no sand area specifically for the hotel, though an adjacent hotel has a small play area. There are another couple dozen lounge chairs for sun worshippers. Lastly, there’s a set of stairs down to the water. While there’s a ton of rocks, the kids had quite a bit of fun jumping off them into the water. The current isn’t too bad but parents with smaller kids will want to be in the water with them.
Health Club and Tennis Courts
The hotel has a spa and health club located right near the pool. To get to the health club, enter the spa and take the staircase downstairs to the ground level. Sheraton just a pretty good job keeping hotels in compliance when it comes to new equipment. The Sheraton Catania was no exception.
On the back side of the hotel, there are a couple of outdoor tennis courts. We never did figure out how to get back inside from the courts without walking around to the front of the hotel.
The Final Two Pennies
As mentioned above, this hotel is now a Category 2 in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. That means a free night will cost 4,000 Starpoints. 2,500 and $35 is also a screaming deal for Cash & Points bookings.
Catania doesn’t really have a vibrant city center. There is a small area of shopping but there are other places in Sicily to visit (more on those later). This hotel isn’t located in the center of town. It’s about a 15-minute drive on the outskirts of town, but an easy ride to the highway. It’s a good jumping off point to explore the East Coast of Sicily.
I like to say, “I don’t expect McDonald’s service at Morton’s (the moderately upscale steakhouse), and I don’t expect Morton’s service at McDonald’s”. If you think about this hotel as less than $100 a night when redeeming points, then there’s reasonable value to be had. If you’re looking for luxury, look elsewhere.
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