Introduction: Christmas Markets With A Touch Of Garuda

Introduction: Christmas Markets With A Touch Of Garuda
Review: Lufthansa First Class A330 Dallas To Frankfurt
Review: Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Review: Lufthansa Business Class A321 Frankfurt To London
Review: Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Review: No1 Lounge London Heathrow Terminal 3
Review: Garuda Indonesia First Class 777-300ER London To Jakarta
Review: Garuda Indonesia First Class Arrivals & Chauffeur Service Jakarta
Review: Keraton At The Plaza Jakarta
Review: Garuda Indonesia First Class Lounge Jakarta
Review: Garuda Indonesia First Class 777-300ER Jakarta To Singapore
Review: Dnata Lounge Terminal 3 Singapore Airport
Review: Garuda Indonesia First Class 777-300ER Singapore To London
Review: Lufthansa Lounge London Heathrow
Review: Le Meridien Munich
Review: Park Hyatt Vienna Park Suite
Review: Lufthansa First Class 747-8 Frankfurt To Boston
Review: Aloft Boston Seaport


As is usually the case, the motivation behind this trip started innocently enough. Ford and I were going to take Ford’s mom to the Christmas markets in Germany and Austria. Initially we were going to do a simple five day trip to Munich and Vienna (while I know there are other great markets, we wanted to keep the logistics as simple as possible).

christmas-markets

So we redeemed Aeroplan miles (transferred from Amex Membership Rewards) for Lufthansa first class for the three of us. However, that didn’t last very long.

Planning the flights

In late November I wrote about how Garuda Indonesia was having a Black Friday sale for travel originating in the UK. The fares were available for travel in both first & business class, and they had some of the lowest fares I’ve ever seen.

Garuda Indonesia has the first class product that I hadn’t yet flown but most wanted to try. In my never-ending quest to stay up to date on the world’s best premium cabin products, I had to take advantage of this offer.

In terms of my schedule, it seemed best to try and nest this ticket into the Christmas market trip, since I’d already be in Europe.

So I ended up booking the following fare for ~$2,500 roundtrip in first class:

12/06 GA87 London to Jakarta departing 8:15PM arriving 5:05PM (+1 day)
12/10 GA86 Jakarta to Singapore departing 7:20AM arriving 10:00AM
12/10 GA86 Singapore to London departing 11:05AM arriving 5:35PM

garuda-indonesia-first-class-1

From there we adjusted our flights slightly to work around the itinerary. Like I said, we had already booked roundtrip first class tickets in Lufthansa first class using Aeroplan miles, though ended up adjusting the itinerary to the following flights:

12/03 LH439 Dallas to Frankfurt departing 4:10PM arriving 8:50AM (+1 day)
12/04 LH906 Frankfurt to London departing 12:00PM arriving 12:45PM
12/15 LH1247 Vienna to Frankfurt departing 6:10AM arriving 7:40AM
12/15 LH422 Frankfurt to Boston departing 10:55AM arriving 1:10PM

Those flights cost 140,000 Aeroplan miles per person, plus about $800 in carrier imposed surcharges (which is more than I’d ideally like to pay, but I think it’s worth it for Lufthansa first class).

For the outbound, Dallas was one of the only gateways with award availability, probably due to the pilot strike the previous several days. Fortunately all first class equipped planes now feature Lufthansa’s new first class product, though I still prefer the A380 and 747-8 to the A330.

lufthansa-a330-first-class-4

On the return we chose to return to Boston, as that’s the closest airport to where Ford’s mom lives, and I managed to snag three first class award seats on that flight. Getting three of the eight first class award seats booked using miles right at the 15 day mark is pretty rare, so I was very happy about that.

lufthansa-first-class

In terms of other intra-Europe travel logistics:

  • After our Garuda Indonesia flight we had to get from London to Munich, so booked cheap ~$80 Lufthansa economy tickets for that
  • We had to get between Munich and Vienna, and decided to take the train rather than flying

trip-route

Booking the hotels

This trip would give us two nights in London, three nights in Jakarta, two nights in Munich, and three nights in Vienna.

Usually London is a city where I like to redeem points, though in this case a paid stay seemed to make sense. The Sheraton Grand London Park Lane was recently renovated, and I was keen to check it out. A free night there would cost 20,000 Starpoints, though the paid rate was ~250GBP, which is ~$300. Given the weak GBP, this seemed like a good opportunity to book a paid stay. I was curious to compare this hotel to the Park Tower Knightsbridge, which is the Starwood Luxury Collection property just a few blocks away.

sheraton-grand-london-park-lane-10

Then in Jakarta I booked the Keraton at the Plaza, which is the Starwood Luxury Collection property. The paid rate at this hotel was ~$200 per night, which seemed like a better value than redeeming 12,000 Starpoints per night.

keraton-at-the-plaza-jakarta-14

In Munich we needed two rooms, so I booked Le Meridien Munich, which has a great location in the center of the city, even if the hotel itself isn’t that great. The rate was 120EUR, which was significantly cheaper than so many other options in the city. One of the things I love about Starwood is that you can earn elite nights for multiple rooms, so that two night stay earned me four elite qualifying nights.

le-meridien-munich

Then in Vienna I booked the Park Hyatt on a Points + Cash rate. I reviewed the Park Hyatt Vienna just last year, so I’ll keep the review this time around short, as not much has changed. I applied a Diamond Suite Upgrade to one room, though both rooms ended up getting upgraded to suites — sweet!

park-hyatt-vienna

Since this is a Category 6 hotel, a Points + Cash booking cost 12,500 points plus $150 per night, which was much better than the paid rate of $500+ per night.

Lastly in Boston we had a quick overnight before our connecting flight, so we spent the night at the Aloft Boston Seaport, which ended up being an interesting experience, so I’ll include it in this trip report as well.

aloft-hotel-3

Bottom line

While I’m not usually one for cold weather (I typically only travel to places where it’s warm), we had an amazing time at the Christmas markets in Germany and Austria. I was also excited that Ford and his mom got to fly “my” beloved Lufthansa for the first time. 😉

Flying Garuda Indonesia was a special treat, and I’m so happy I had the opportunity, given that their first class is easily one of the best in the world. Furthermore, that price for over 30 hours in Garuda Indonesia first class is a steal, in my opinion.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be publishing the trip report over the coming days!

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Comments

  1. I’ve stayed at the Keraton at the Plaza in Jakarta and it’s easily the best hotel in the area (so much better than the Sheraton Bandara, which starts to feel like a prison island after a couple days). The mall access makes getting dinner after work much easier. The humidity does do a number on the rooms though as it does all of the hotels I’ve stayed around Indonesia. One tip, if you’re not going to be in town long, the traffic in Jakarta is some of the worst I’ve ever seen and it can take 2+ hours to get from the airport to downtown…

  2. Has anyone knows what happen in Berlin yesterday at Kesier Christmas Market, the timing of this posting is inapproiate. God Man, is air points miles the only thing that consumes, wake up , be respectful of world events.

  3. @Mark O

    I don’t think that a travel blog has to really post much about deadly news. Sometimes having a website that takes the attention from the news is better for the traveling mind.

  4. @Mark O’ So Lucky shouldn’t post about his travels because of a random terrorist event that occurred AFTER he was there? While there are places one should probably avoid for safety’s sake at the present time, say Cairo or Istanbul, a Christmas Market in Germany is no more dangerous than any other tourist site in Europe. I for one am not about to stay home and hide in my closet due to a possible terrorist attack, which statistically is no more likely to happen to me than a fatal traffic accident. 😉

  5. Currently staying at the Park Hyatt Vienna using C+P too. Great hotel! The location can’t be beat, and the bathroom is picture-worthy.

  6. I just want to voice my support for the total reasonableness of mentioning (and even saying nice things about) a place that’s just had a horrible thing happen. Why on earth wouldn’t one??

  7. “Fortunately all first class equipped planes now feature Lufthansa’s first class product”

    Well, duh. 😉 I think you meant “new” first class product.

  8. I think you should change your valuation of SPG points. Three times you went in for a booking, three times you came out with paying cash b/c it didn’t meet your valuation. Maybe your valuation is wrong.

  9. What are the rules for crediting Multiple SPG rooms and getting them credited towards your count? I thought you get only 1 night credit but you get points for all other rooms if you pay during check out as 1 bill.

  10. I don’t have any problem with Ben posting this. There are two ways to respond to terrorist attacks. 1) Grab your knees and cower, which is what the US has done since 9/11 and I hate it. Terrorists have won. 2) Be defiant and carry on.

    While I haven’t seen the numbers, I assume that it’ll end up being similar to the Sandy Hook elementary school incident where the real story was that ~99% of the students survived. Nope, instead the fear-mongering media and government focus on the 1% whose lives were unfortunately ended too soon by a deranged person.

    Germany’s Christmas markets are amazing and worth seeing, despite recent events. If I had the time off & $, I’d be over there right now enjoying them myself, without worry. There are other things in Germany I would worry about, but I’ll save the politics for a more appropriate forum.

  11. yay! can’t wait for your full report on Garuda Indonesia First Class that you recently flown. Btw, I really enjoy reading your website , forward it to my friends and now they’re a fan of yours and especially Garuda!

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