that is right, it was completely google and their properties on the entire visible portion of my laptop screen and there wasn't any carousel.
Yes, it does seem to be around for more than a year in US. I read a post written by Danny sullivan in 2012, after I posted it here. Here is the post - [marketingland.com...]
I am not sure when it was rolled out to other parts of the world but the hotel finder is there on top for many hotel related queries now i.e. hotels + <place|landmark> queries.