At the end of a recent visit to Japan, but faced an early flight from Tokyo's Narita International Airport, I decided to stay near the airport rather than remain in the city and then take the hour-plus train from central Tokyo the next morning.
I picked the business-oriented ANA Crowne Plaza, since I had a fair bit of laptop-in-hotel-room work to get done before departure, and wanted a hotel that would let me make the most of my stopover time.
Location & Impressions
The ANA Crowne Plaza sits a couple of kilometres north of the terminals at Narita, set back from the airport expressway road link into Tokyo.
But despite its proximity, getting there is a surprisingly frustrating experience. There's only one bus an hour from the airport's two terminals to the hotel between 0935 and 1620.
Miss it, and you're standing out in the open air at the terminal for an hour, or it's a $20-30 taxi ride to the hotel. One of the worst airport hotel transfer experiences I've had (outside Sydney), and not a good first impression.
On arrival, though, the front desk staff had me checked in swiftly and heading up to my room.
My Deluxe Corner Twin room's layout was spacious and slightly unusual: a normal hallway from the door past the bathroom, but then opening out into the bed area plus an extra triangular space "added on" in the corner with the TV, a two-seater sofa, armchair, separate smaller chair and a coffee table.
The two single beds were comfortable enough (at least, the one of them I slept in was), though the upper-midscale Crowne Plaza bed really doesn't live up to its theoretically less luxurious Holiday Inn sibling, which revamped its beds back in 2009.
There's only a very thin mattress pad on the bed and polyester decorative cushions that have nowhere to go when it's time for bed.
Charitably, the room could be called "well-loved", with large bubble-shaped lumps and inch-wide rips in the wallpaper, stains on the carpet near the minibar, and a bathroom decorated in fifty shades of beige.
Internal soundproofing is a problem, with conversations in the hallway outside clearly audible.
Inexcusably for an airport hotel where half the rooms face the rising sun, the curtains aren't flush with the ceiling and they're so old that the theoretically blackout material is cracked, letting in light.
While not exactly high-class, there's a workmanlike and convenient extension lead on the bedside table between the two beds to power your phone overnight.
The view's absolutely lovely, though: the back of the hotel has a small Japanese farming village, rolling hills and forests stretching to mountains in the far distance, while the front of the hotel has planes soaring into the sky or floating down to land over a forest stretching to the horizon, depending on which way the wind's blowing. No grim industrial airport wasteland here, despite the car parks in front of the hotel.
The small desk would do for an evening's PowerPointing, but the chair -- although it looks Aeron-like -- doesn't adjust high enough for anyone over about 5'8".
There's no hotel-wide wifi available, with in-room options restricted to Ethernet only, at JPY735 (A$9) per day.
If you're one of the many business travellers who travels without a wired connection, you'll want to ask the hotel for one of its wifi routers, which Housekeeping will bring up to you.
Ask early, though: staffers told me there are only about 25 in the hotel.
Be prepared for some faffing to get the registration system to go through, too -- it took two or three tries before I managed to get it to work.
Once running, the speed was absolutely outstanding, though: 64 Mbps down and 47 Mbps up, with a ping of 17 ms.
By contrast, the free Internet in the lobby and restaurant is unusably slow, with pages refusing to even load.
Dinner in Ceres restaurant was unremarkable apart from a parade of screaming children, which surprised me given the Crowne Plaza's business focus.
The room service menu, meanwhile, was sparse, and my club sandwich arrived not as the usual three slices of bread but as two sets of smaller two-slice sandwiches. It rated only an "okay".
Breakfast was the usual international Asian hotel buffet spread, with options from Indian to Japanese to Western. The French toast and waffles were pretty good, but the coffee was dire.
I resorted to a Japanese style can of coffee from the Family Mart convenience store inside the hotel. (Note that the Family Mart can't charge to your room, so you'll need cash, a Suica touch-card or a bank card that works internationally.)
The hotel is well set up for chilling out before or after your flight. With a semi-outdoor pool (a curved transparent wall can open and close depending on how warm it is outside) and a small gym with modern equipment, you'll be able to keep up your fitness routine.
My room had a handy double sofa and armchair, which was great for curling up on with a book.
And a top-floor bar with panoramic views and decent ¥500 happy hour prices means that a relaxing beverage in front of a Japanese sunset is well within reach.
Overall, the ANA Crowne Plaza Narita merits a "you can probably find better".
Its rooms are only okay and in need of a refresh, but the hour's gap between shuttles -- and the hotel's decision not to offer relatively simple alternatives -- is a potential dealbreaker.