Oyster Hotel Reviews changing course – will become a hotel booking site

Some pretty sad (but not surprising) news from Oyster Hotel Reviews this morning – the site is changing its course from hotel reviews, to hotel bookings.

Originally, Oyster launched with a lot of fanfare, promising some of the most reliable hotel reviews on the Internet. And they really did deliver – their reviews were always comprehensive, full of great photos and a keen eye for details.

Sending their large pool of journalists on review trips resulted in two things – a really good collection of hotel reviews, and no real way to turn those reviews into cash. The concept behind the reviews also meant that Oyster would show up unannounced, and pay their own way for the rooms.

Dennis Schaal from the always excellent Tnooz.com broke the news on the upcoming changes, reporting that Oyster will become a hotel-transaction site in early April. The initial focus will be on reservations for hotels included in their own pool of reviews. At its peak, Oyster employed 16 freelance reporters who were on the road reviewing properties – the current pool consists of just 3 reporters.

It is a shame to see this change in direction for Oyster – they regularly appeared here on Gadling, and having to part ways with the majority of your staff is always a painful decision to make. Best of luck to the new Oyster, and to their freelance reporters who are now looking for new gigs.

Update: Our friends at Oyster reached out to clarify that hotel reviews continue to be the main aspect of the site, and that they are still 100% devoted to helping people in a research capacity. The addition of hotel booking feature is just another way they plan to offer users a way to book their vacation.

The best from the world of overpriced minibar items

I’d be insulting your intelligence if I asked whether you knew that the hotel minibar was overpriced. It is something we all just take for granted. However, every now and then the hotel tries to take things to the next level. Take for example this “couples pleasure kit”. It is pretty normal for a hotel to charge $20 for a cardboard box and two $1 condoms, but the Gild Hall hotel in New York city actually has the guts to demand $195 for their kit.

Sure, you’ll get a vibrator, handcuffs, condoms and lube, but seriously – $195? That scores an A+ on the ripoff meter.
$10 imported Scottish water

Water is the biggest scam in any hotel minibar. Hotels market their water perfectly – putting it right next to your bed, in the hope that you’ll arrive parched and might miss the price tag assuming the water is free.

In recent years, hotels have discovered premium water brands, and traded the $3 generic bottle for a bottle of eau de euverpriced. The Mansfield Hotel in New York City offers guests a large bottle of imported Scottish water. For $10. You need to be a special kind of thirsty to drop ten bucks on a bottle of water.

$14 Gummi bears

Minibar candy sucks. You’ll rarely find a good old Snickers bar, but there is never a shortage of overpriced organic weirdness. Or, like at the Omni Berkshire Place, a metal container with gummi bears. $14 gets you about 30 of the little bears, which means you’ll be paying just under 50 cents for each of them. Better eat them slowly.

Dealing with bad breath can save you $14

At the W hotel – The Tuscany, in New York City, the overpriced selection includes a $14 toothbrush and toothpaste. Even though a small dental set is offered for free at most decent hotels, the upscale W thought you’d have plenty of cash left to pay for their set.

Pricey water – in three sizes

The Amalfi Hotel in Chicago is another of those properties that discovered the money making machine that is water. Thankfully, they cater to all kinds of thirst with three different bottles. If you are “two large gulps” thirsty, that will be $5. If you are “need expensive imported water” thirsty, it’ll cost $7. All three bottles cost just $19. Which is about $15 more than the price you’d pay in a retail store.

(Many thanks to Oyster Hotel Reviews for providing some of the content for this article!)

Las Vegas restaurant week serving up the best food, for a great cause

From August 31st till September 6th 2009, many of the finest restaurants in Las Vegas will be participating in a yearly charity event to raise money for the local food bank, Three Square.

If you happen to be in Vegas, this is your chance to eat some amazing food, and support Three Square. The list of participating restaurants is impressive, and they have all put together prix fixe menus for a tremendous value.

Even the more upscale establishments are taking part, which means you’ll be able to have a three course meal at Bradley Ogden or Fleur de Lys for just $50.09.

Check the gallery below for photos of some of the participating restaurants, with links to the review of their attached hotel. Many thanks to Oyster Hotel Reviews for providing the amazing photos.


Eight of the best value hotels in Las Vegas

If there is one thing the global economic meltdown has actually helped with, it is bringing prices of travel down to its lowest level in years.

Even some of the luxury hotels in Las Vegas have not been able to escape the clutches of the recession, which means ultra-luxury has become affordable for everyone. Here are the top 8 hotel deals in Las Vegas, as selected by Oyster Hotel Reviews. After the jump, a list of the hotels, their lowest rates and amenities on offer.

Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas

Price: From $119 for a city view studio suite
Room amenities: Stearns and Foster “sleep system”, Sub Zero appliances, entertainment center
Hotel amenities: Two restaurants, spa, Trump Kids services
Web site: trumplasvegashotel.com

Treasure Island

Price: From $67 for a strip view deluxe room
Room amenities: Floor to ceiling windows, in-room safe, recently renovated rooms (2008)
Hotel amenities: Fourteen restaurants and bars, two shows, various nightclubs and a casino
Web site: treasureisland.com

Excalibur Hotel And Casino

Price: From $40 for a standard room, additional $20 for upgraded rooms
Room amenities: Recently renovated, 42″ plasma TV’s, iPod alarm clocks, granite bathroom countertops
Hotel amenities: Seven restaurants, $25 all you can eat – all day long buffet, shopping mall, kids rides,casino
Web site: excalibur.com

Flamingo Las Vegas

Price: From $55 for a deluxe room, $85 for upgraded rooms
Room amenities: Flat panel TV, premium sound system, bathroom mirror TV
Hotel amenities: Nine restaurants, spa, pool, casino and shows
Web site: flamingolasvegas.com

The Platinum Hotel And Spa

Price: From $99 for a large 2 room balcony suite
Room amenities: Flat panel TV, whirlpool tub, kitchen
Hotel amenities: Two restaurants, bar, pool, gym, spa
Web site: theplatinumhotel.com

Luxor Hotel & Casino

Price: From $50 for a pyramid room ($70 for an upgraded tower room)
Room amenities: $210/night room offer for unlimited food, passes to most shows, spa admission, vip check-in
Hotel amenities: Ten restaurants, various shows, spa, pools, casino
Web site: luxor.com

California Hotel and Casino

Price: From $36 (standard room)
Room amenities: Flat panel TV,
Hotel amenities: Five restaurants, shows and entertainment at Fremont Street, casino
Web site: thecal.com

Wynn Las Vegas

Price: From $200
Room amenities: Panorama view, electronic drape controls, flat panel TV
Hotel amenities: Ten restaurants, various shows, art gallery, casino, amazing outdoor pool complex
Web site: wynnlasvegas.com

Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel shows how to throw an opening party

Yesterday, we showed you photos of the newly renovated Paradise Tower at the Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel and casino. It goes without saying that when a hotel like the Hard Rock plans a party, it knows what it is doing.

The party was held at the Rehab pool area, and if you were not one of the hip people shown in the photo above, then you can still experience your own “day at the beach party” during one of the upcoming Sunday Rehab parties. It’ll cost $150 to get in, or $1000 for a “season pass”.

Real high rollers will probably want to rent themselves a cabana where they can enjoy some personal attention, and a nice place to relax and get drunk off Bacardi soaked watermelon.

In the gallery below, you’ll find some more photos from the Paradise Tower launch party, courtesy of Oyster hotel reviews.