Review: Dining At Hotel Cala Di Volpe


As I explained in the previous post, we booked a half board rate at Cala Di Volpe. That meant breakfast was included, and then either the choice of lunch or dinner. Food at Cala Di Volpe was out-of-this-world, so I feel like it’s only fair to devote a separate post to it.

Breakfast and lunch were served at the poolside restaurant, which was outdoors though covered, so could be enjoyed regardless of the weather. We ended up having breakfast here every morning, and then had lunch on three of the four days. Only on the last night did we choose to have dinner as part of our half board rate.

The breakfast buffet was great, and I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking there.

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Malaysia Airlines Has A Creative Plan For Their A380s


For quite a while now, Malaysia Airlines has been trying to get rid of their A380s. The airline has six A380s, though only really needs them for their London Heathrow route, which doesn’t require all six of them.

Despite their best offers, unfortunately they haven’t found an interested party to buy or lease the plane. While the A380 has worked out extremely well for Emirates, otherwise the plane has been a bust, as airlines would much rather buy fuel efficient lower capacity planes, like the 787 or A350.

So without some creativity, Malaysia Airlines basically has the option between flying the planes at a loss, or parking them in the desert or at Kuala Lumpur Airport; none of those options is ideal.

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More Than I Wanted To Know About Craigslist “Massages” Near Heathrow…


So I landed at Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport earlier, then took the bus to Terminal 5, because I’m spending the night at the Sofitel. The Sofitel is connected to Terminal 5 by walkway, so as usual I took some pictures as I was going down the walkway.

A guy passed me, and said “You’re going to the Sofitel? You still have quite a ways to go.” I laughed, and assumed that was the end of it.

Then he stopped me and started talking. “Did you land here, or where are you coming from?”

“I landed at Terminal 4 and took the bus here, which took about 20 minutes.”

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Impressions Of Kazakhstan After Visiting Almaty And Astana


I’ve just wrapped up my flights on Air Astana. As some of you may recall, my itinerary from Seoul to London allowed me to have stopovers of just under a day each in Almaty and Astana.

This trip was exciting not only because I’d get to try a nifty new airline, but also because I’d get to experience a little bit of a new country that I can’t imagine I would have otherwise visited anytime soon.

Let’s be honest — when you bring up Kazakhstan in the US, the first thing that most people think of is Borat. At least that’s the feedback I got when I planned my trip.

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GREAT NEWS: Marriott Is Bringing Back Desks!


In December I wrote about the disturbing trend at Marriott hotels, where they were removing desks from guest rooms, instead replacing them with side tables.

Apparently they felt desks were unnecessary in the age of laptops and smartphones, and that eliminating them fit into the overall theme of minimalist decor that they’re going for. As laptops continue to get more popular I’d think desks would be more important, and not less important. But maybe that’s just me…

Sure, not everyone is going to work from their hotel room for hours on end, but that has never been the case. But they suggested the reason for the change was millennials, which seems ridiculous to me. For that matter I think hotels have their perception of millennials all wrong. On one hand they love to market how they understand that millennials care about being individuals and don’t want to be stereotyped. Then hotels make broad changes like suggesting that those millennials don’t work from rooms.

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6 Reasons You Should Consider Buying Alaska Miles


For a while now Alaska Mileage Plan has offering a mystery bonus on the purchase of miles. You can earn between 35% and 50% bonus miles when you buy Alaska miles, depending on what your account was targeted for. It’s worth noting that this is a limited time promotion that expires on Thursday, September 29, 2016, so you only have a few days left to take advantage of this offer.

There’s no doubt there have been some negative changes to Mileage Plan lately, including a devaluation of Emirates first class awards and them not having access to all Cathay Pacific award space.

However, it’s still one of my all around favorite airline programs, and if you were targeted for a 50% bonus on purchased miles, there are many circumstances under which I’d consider buying miles. With a 50% bonus you’re paying just ~1.97 cents per mile.

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Hotel Commissions On Tours — How Much Is Too Much?


I’ve just wrapped up an incredible two days in Kazakhstan, and managed to tour both Almaty and Astana for a bit, despite the limited time I had. I decided to arrange tours through the hotels in both cities in advance, since I wanted to be sure the experience was as seamless as possible given my limited time.

Both tours were great. I loved one of the cities, while the other city was just “meh” (I’ll share my thoughts on the two cities in a follow-up post).

I don’t want to throw the hotel or tour guide under the bus, but there was something that came up that surprised me. The more I think about it, the more I’m conflicted about how to feel.

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What You Need To Know About Marriott Gold Status


As of Friday Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are letting members link accounts, which includes the option to status match and transfer points between programs. Obviously there’s a big learning curve for many members, given that most of us are much more familiar with one program than the other.

On Saturday I outlined what newly minted Marriott Platinum members can expect, and yesterday I outlined what newly minted Starwood Platinum members can expect.

However, status matching isn’t limited to just top tier elites, and arguably Starwood Gold members are actually getting the best deal of anyone. Starwood Gold members are being matched to Marriott Gold, which is a significant status upgrade.

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Air Astana A321 Business Class In 10 Pictures


After a great flight in Air Astana’s 767 business class, I was curious to see how their regional business class product compared (I had already found out their domestic lounge is quite disappointing). The ~590 mile, 80 minute flight between Almaty and Astana was operated by an A321. It certainly wasn’t quite as new as Air Astana’s gorgeous 767s, but still very nice.

I was surprised by how premium heavy the configuration was, as the plane had 28 business class seats, spread across seven rows in a 2-2 configuration.

The seats were roughly similar to what you’d find in domestic first class in the US, with decent legroom and good padding.

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Great Deal: Buy IHG Points With A 100% Bonus


IHG Rewards Club is offering a bonus on purchased points this week, valid through September 30, 2016. Through this offer, IHG Rewards Club is offering a 100% bonus on purchased points, which is as good as their offers get.

Unlike some past promotions, you get the 100% bonus no matter how many points you buy, whether it’s 1,000 or 60,000 (in the past there were often minimum thresholds to get the 100% bonus).

If you max out this promotion and purchase 60,000 points you’d end up paying $690 and would get a total of 120,000 IHG Rewards Club points.

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New Contender For The “World’s Worst Airline Lounge” Title


In February I shared my experience at the Changsha Airport lounge that Hainan uses. I said it was the worst lounge I had ever been to.

Well, I’m happy to report that there’s a new contender for that title, if this place can even be called a “lounge.”

Yesterday I shared my great experience in Air Astana’s 767 business class, which really impressed me. Well, today I took a domestic flight from Almaty to Astana, and can’t say that Air Astana’s domestic lounge at Almaty Airport left me with the same great impression.

The domestic lounge is actually located before security, and is in the same area as business class check-in.

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Emirates Is Considering Unbundling Business Class


Over the past several years we’ve seen the US carriers add an almost endless number of fees for passengers. Fees are really what’s driving US carriers into profitability. While we’ve seen fees for things like bags for years, the biggest trend we’re seeing nowadays is US airlines truly unbundling economy.

This is an area where Delta innovated with their “Basic Economy” fares, where increasingly their cheapest fares don’t come with seat assignments, aren’t refundable in any ways, and offer no upgrade opportunities.

Initially these were introduced in markets where ultra low cost airlines like Spirit operated, but they’ve expanded significantly. American is planning on rolling these out over the coming months as well.

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Review: Hotel Cala Di Volpe Porto Cervo


As a Starwood loyalist I assumed I had already visited almost all of the group’s best properties, given the number of St. Regis properties I’ve stayed at. However, Cala Di Volpe is a hotel I heard about for the first time last year, and it’s generally regarded as one of the best Starwood properties in the world.

As I did some research I quickly learned that Porto Cervo in July and August is possibly the most expensive place on earth. During the peak season of July and August, standard rooms at Cala Di Volpe go for over $2,000 per night… and the hotel sells out months in advance.

So clearly there’s a market for people with unlimited funds, as Porto Cervo seems to be one of the world’s most popular hangouts for the uber wealthy.

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Should You Redeem Your Starpoints At Ritz-Carlton Hotels?


It’s now possible to transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, and vice versa. I think that’s a fair ratio, so I’m quite pleased with that aspect of the merger.

As much as I love Starpoints, I’ll be the first to say that all around Marriott has more attractive redemption rates for most hotel stays; a lot of the value I derive from Starpoints comes from their flexibility, including being able to efficiently convert them into airline miles in virtually any quantity.

As a reminder, here’s Marriott’s free night chart:

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