Hotel Reviews

Review: Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort Al Husn, Muscat

Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort entryway

After a 45-minute, 15 OMR ride from Muscat Airport, I arrived at the Shangri-La. Hidden behind a towering mountain range, the resort was built in the middle of nowhere. Turning to the left at the hotel roundabout, we entered the driveway to Al Husn, the most exclusive of the three Shangri-La resorts on the grounds.

Al Husn is an adult-only hotel, featuring a private beach and pool area. While Al Husn guests are allowed to use the general hotel beach and pool facilities, Al Bandar and Al Waha guests cannot use those belonging to Al Husn.

Pulling up to the entrance, we were greeted by a porter who escorted us to the lobby.

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Review: US Grant Hotel San Diego

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Ford and I recently spent the weekend in San Diego visiting Tiffany and her husband. I’ve reviewed quite a few hotels in San Diego, including the Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Sheraton, and W (which is now a Renaissance). San Diego isn’t a terribly exciting hotel market. What I’ve noticed over the years is that there’s very little variability in rates across hotels.

While other cities will have 4-5 star hotels ranging in price from $150-1,000, the San Diego market just doesn’t seem to be able to command a premium for luxury hotels. So there’s not much variability in terms of cost or quality among those hotels.

One hotel I’ve stayed at probably five or so times over the years is the US Grant, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. I reviewed it eons ago, but haven’t reviewed it for my past several stays. However, the hotel recently underwent a renovation, and I was really impressed by the work they did, so figured an updated review would be helpful.

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Review: Sheraton Kuwait

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Before returning to the US we had a one night layover in Kuwait — we were arriving at 12:25PM, and departing the following day at 9AM. As someone who tries to stay at Hyatt and Starwood properties whenever possible, the options were fairly limited — the city has no Hyatt properties, though has both a Sheraton and a Four Points by Sheraton.

The Four Points is a Category 5 property, meaning that a free night would cost 12,000 Starpoints. Meanwhile the Sheraton is a Category 6 property, meaning that a free night would cost 20,000 Starpoints. Kuwait clearly isn’t a cheap hotel market.

The price difference in cash wasn’t huge between the hotels — the Sheraton was ~$300, so we decided to stay there, and paid cash, since that seemed better than redeeming 20,000 Starpoints.

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Review: Presidential Suite At The Le Meridien Dhaka

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We had just under 24 hours in Dhaka — our flight from Paro arrived at 9:05AM, and our flight to Kuwait City the next day departed at 8:55AM. As a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist I had a few hotel options. Hyatt doesn’t have any properties in Dhaka, though Starwood has a Le Meridien, Westin, and Four Points.

We decided to book the Le Meridien, given it seemed to be the property closest to the airport, and also looked the most modern. At the time I booked I didn’t realize that the Le Meridien is actually widely considered to be Dhaka’s best hotel.

The paid rate at the Le Meridien was about $220 for our night, while a free night redemption would have cost 10,000 Starpoints, as this is a Category 4 property. That’s roughly a breakeven redemption (I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each), though when you factor in the points you’re forgoing by redeeming points, paying cash seemed like the better value.

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Review: Le Meridien Paro

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After three nights at the Le Meridien Thimphu, we spent the balance of our time in Paro, and stayed at the Le Meridien there. As a reminder, we booked this stay using Cash & Points, which I considered to be a great value.

While the Le Meridien Thimphu is located right in the heart of the city of Thimphu, the Le Meridien Paro is about 15 minutes out of town, so it’s pretty secluded. There’s nothing within walking distance of the property.

The hotel was stunning from the outside. It’s right on the river, and it’s just such a beautiful setting. As much as I spend most of my time indoors sitting in front of my laptop, there’s nothing I love more than being in a place with natural beauty and fresh air, and just sitting by the river delivered plenty of that.

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Review: Le Meridien Thimphu

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Le Meridien has two properties in Bhutan, which is pretty cool. Bhutan is a country that has a lot of independent hotels, and then also a lot of super high end luxury hotels (like Amans), which run $1,000+ per night. So it’s great to have a mid-range option where you can redeem points. There aren’t really any other mid-range chain hotels in the country where you can redeem points, which is why I was excited to review these hotels.

With five nights in Bhutan, we split our time between the two Le Meridien properties — we spent the first three nights at Le Meridien Thimphu, and then the next two nights at Le Meridien Paro. The order and number of nights we stayed was entirely dictated by availability. The Paro property was sold out for the first three nights, which is why we did the first three nights in Thimphu.

At the time I booked, both of these hotels were Category 5 SPG properties, and both had Cash & Points available, so the cost was $110 plus 6,000 Starpoints per night. Both hotels had cash rates of $400+ including tax and service charge, so I considered that to be a good deal.

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Review: Prince De Galles Hotel Paris

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I’m keeping this trip report series relatively brief. After being in the Maldives we flew Etihad to Abu Dhabi and then Doha, and then Qatar Airways first class to Paris. We had three nights in Paris, and stayed at Prince De Galles, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. This is generally regarded as the best Starwood property in Paris, and it’s also a Category 7 hotel, meaning that a free night redemption costs 30,000-35,000 Starpoints per night.

Paid rates at the hotel were ~600EUR per night, though through Starwood Luxury Privileges there was a third night free promotion. So with a rate like that, paying 400EUR per night seemed like a better value than redeeming points.

The hotel is located immediately next to the iconic Four Seasons George V. I’m far from a Paris expert, though I know some people love staying in that area, while others don’t. Personally I found the immediate area to be pretty boring, though from the hotel you have easy access to the metro, etc.

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Review: St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

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In the last installment I talked about the overwater suite I had at the St. Regis Maldives, while in this installment I’ll be talking about the rest of the resort. I’m going to keep it relatively brief, given how much there is to potentially cover.

Does this place look like it’s straight off a postcard, or what?

All the overwater villas were on one jetty, and at the end of that was the hotel’s main restaurant and pool.

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Review: St. Regis Maldives Overwater Villa

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At many resorts in the Maldives, only a small percentage of rooms are overwater villas, and often require a big upcharge. In the case of the St. Regis Maldives, the resort has a total of 77 rooms, and about two thirds of them are overwater.

All overwater villas are located on the same jetty.

We were assigned room 518, which was a sunset overwater villa, located towards the end of the jetty.

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Review: St. Regis Lounge Male Airport

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As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I’m keeping this trip report pretty brief, and just focusing on the new aspects of the trip. So after checking out of the InterContinental Hong Kong we flew to London in Cathay Pacific first class, then to Abu Dhabi in Etihad first class, and then connected to Male in Etihad business class (which I didn’t write about this time, but it’s a route I’ve reviewed before).

That’s because we were staying at the new St. Regis Maldives Vommuli, which opened last year. This hotel is expensive, and justifiably so — it’s stunning. When the hotel first opened they allowed redemptions for 26,000 Starpoints for overwater villas for a very brief period, which is a great deal. I made a few reservations using this deal, but canceled all but one.

They updated the pricing pretty quickly, and I believe the property now costs 90,000 Starpoints per night. However, historically Starwood has run promotions for 35% off resort redemptions once per year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that at this property in the future.

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Review: InterContinental Hong Kong

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As I mentioned in the first installment, I won’t be covering every aspect of this trip with this report. After flying to Bali we stayed at the St. Regis Nusa Dua and W Seminyak, and then we flew Cathay Pacific business class from Bali to Hong Kong. So that’s where we’ll pick up.

We had an overnight layover in Hong Kong, as we were arriving from Bali at around 8PM, and continuing the following day to London at around 3PM. So we needed a hotel for one night.

In looking at the options, it occurred to me that I had an IHG free night certificate expiring in a couple of months. Just for having the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card (which has a $49 annual fee) you receive an annual free night certificate valid at just about any IHG hotel. That most than justifies the card’s annual fee, given that a vast majority of IHG hotels retail for over $49 per night.

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Review: Grand Hyatt Amman Grand Suite

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For our last two nights in Jordan, we chose to stay at the Grand Hyatt in Amman. Technically it was the last 1.5 nights, as our flight to Istanbul left at 3AM, but it seemed worthwhile to have the hotel for the full evening so we could at least get a few hours of sleep.

Our stay overlapped with Ben’s (which was super fun), so I won’t review the full hotel. I did, however, apply a Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade to the reservation, and I figure other people might be interested in knowing what the suites are like. We had breakfast in the Grand Club instead of the restaurant, so I’ll cover that as well.

We made several stops on the drive north from Petra, so it was about 4PM when we arrived at the Grand Hyatt. As Ben mentioned, security was tight, so the valet took the car at an outbuilding where we cleared security, before walking to the main hotel. It was a decently efficient system, and whenever we left the hotel the car was brought to the main entrance and the parking berms were lowered for us, which was nice.

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Review: Petra Marriott Hotel

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After a full day in Wadi Rum we headed north to the town of Wadi Musa, where Petra is located.

It was an easy drive along highways we’d traversed the day prior (how was it only a day?!), so even with a brief maintenance stop it only took ~90 minutes from leaving Wadi Rum to arriving at the Marriott.

As I mentioned in the introduction, I’d booked the Marriott Hotel Petra during the Black Friday sale. We paid $95 + tax for each of our two nights. This is a Category 4 hotel though, so you could also use:

• Anniversary certificates from the credit card
• 20,000 Marriott Rewards points (15,000 on PointSavers)
• 6,667 Starwood Preferred Guest points

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Review: Glamping In Wadi Rum

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Now you’d think, given that we were just up the hill in Little Petra, that Petra itself would be our next stop. Instead, we stopped for lunch in Wadi Musa (and worked for a few hours, I couldn’t help it!), before continuing south to Wadi Rum.

We arrived in Wadi Rum as the sun was starting to set, which made for a beautiful drive in.

I’ve already detailed the adventures of getting walked from our previously-booked Airbnb in Wadi Rum, so won’t go into that here, but you’ll want to read it if you haven’t yet voiced your opinion on the scam/no scam question. Instead, I’ll review the camp we actually stayed at — the Teva Milky Way camp.

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