Hotel Reviews

Review: Sheraton Gateway Toronto Airport

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By the time I got through immigration in Toronto it was around 1AM, and my flight the next day was scheduled to depart at around 1PM. So I decided to book the only hotel connected directly to the airport, which is the Sheraton Gateway Toronto Airport.

The price for the one night stay was 230CAD (~175USD), which isn’t cheap, but seemed worth it for the convenience. As a point of reference this is a Category 4 SPG property, meaning that a free night costs 10,000 Starpoints. Since I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, paying cash was the better option.

I was arriving on Air Canada and departing on EgyptAir, and they both operate out of Terminal 1. Meanwhile the Sheraton is connected to Terminal 3, which is the terminal used by most non-Star Alliance airlines.

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Review: Four Points By Sheraton Havana

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Cuba is not a place you visit because you’re looking for a great luxury hotel. Instead you make the best of the hotel situation that you can.

Since this blog is ultimately about miles & points, I decide to book the first & (so far) only U.S. hotel in Cuba that you can redeem points at. That would be the Four Points by Sheraton Havana, which was formerly the Hotel Quinta Avenida.

We were staying for two nights before New Year’s, so the price was high. We paid $335 per night including taxes and fees, and the rate was pre-paid. That’s because American credit cards aren’t accepted in Cuba, so Starwood is able to charge you for the stay in advance, and then you just have to pay for incidentals when you depart.

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Review: Aloft Boston Seaport

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The reason we flew to Boston was because it’s the closest major airport to where Ford’s mom lives, so this was a good way for us to drop her off before continuing our journey. We arrived from Frankfurt at around 1PM, and had a flight the next morning at 6AM.

We decided to book the Aloft Boston Seaport. This isn’t an airport hotel, and also isn’t even really in the most desirable part of Boston, but the reason we stayed here was because I needed to make one Aloft stay before the end of the year in order to earn 11,000 bonus Starpoints through Starwood’s brand bonus promotion.

The paid rate for our one night stay was ~$140. As a point of comparison, this is a Category 5 SPG property, meaning that a free night redemption would have cost 12,000 Starpoints, so paying cash was definitely the better option.

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Review: Park Hyatt Vienna Park Suite

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I reviewed the Park Hyatt Vienna just over a year ago, so I’ll keep this review pretty short. We spent three nights at the Park Hyatt Vienna, and I managed to book both rooms using Points + Cash, which cost $150 plus 12,500 Gold Passport points per night. I considered that to be a pretty good value in comparison to the paid rate of 400EUR+ per night, or even in comparison to redeeming 25,000 points per room.

I used a Diamond Suite Upgrade Award for one room, though they ended up upgrading both rooms to suites, which was extremely generous. This is an area where I find that Hyatt consistently excels. While they don’t award stay credits for multiple rooms, I find that more often than not they honor all elite benefits for both rooms.

At a minimum, if you make a “Guest of Honor” booking you’re guaranteed elite benefits when redeeming points for others, even if you’re not traveling with them.

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Review: W South Beach

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For the past several years I’ve been participating in the SPG Amex Stars program, which has taken me to some pretty awesome places. I love the SPG Amex, and it’s one of the cards I’ve had in my wallet for the longest amount of time. It was one of the very first cards I applied for when I was 18, and I’ve had it ever since.

For the SPG Amex Holiday Challenge, I was given 70,000 Starpoints to redeem for a winter getaway at a Starwood resort in the United States. Now, when most people think “winter getaway” they’re probably thinking about snow, but personally I’m more of a fan of warm weather.

Over the years I’ve stayed at many of the best Starwood properties in the U.S., including the St. Regis Deer Valley, St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis New York, St. Regis Bal Harbour, St. Regis San Francisco, just to name a few.

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Review: Le Meridien Munich

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For the second part of our trip, Ford’s mom was joining us to to visit the Christmas markets in Munich and Vienna. While we were arriving from Jakarta by way of Singapore and London, she had landed from Boston earlier in the day.

We were spending two nights in Munich, and in the end we decided to book two rooms at the Le Meridien Munich at the rate of 140EUR per room per night. Munich isn’t a great hotel market, in the sense that there aren’t many centrally located hotels for which you can redeem points. While I’ve stayed at the Sheraton and Westin in Munich in the past, their locations aren’t great, as they’re a bit removed from the center of town.

While some of Munich’s luxury hotels are sometimes reasonably priced, that wasn’t the case for when we were visiting. The Mandarin Oriental, for example, was going for over 600EUR per night.

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I Was Walked From My Airbnb!

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Airlines often oversell space on flights, then ask for volunteers to be “bumped” from the flight. Hotels will sometimes overbook as well, and use the industry term “walked” to describe the process of accommodating a guest at another nearby property.

I’ve never actually been walked from a hotel, and it’s definitely not something I was expecting to have happen at an Airbnb!

As a quick background, my husband and I are in Jordan, and planned a night in the protected area of Wadi Rum. If you’re spending the night in Wadi Rum, your only real option is to stay at some iteration of a Bedouin camp.

There are a range of options, but the basic amenities are pretty much the same, with a handful of tents set up for guests, along with a main common area tent for meals and socializing, and two buffet-style meals included in the price. Most everyone uses the same goat hair tents, so the bathroom facilities are probably where there’s the most variation in quality (and thus pricing).

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Review: Keraton At The Plaza Jakarta

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As a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist, there are quite a few hotels to choose from in Jakarta. Beyond that, given how cheap luxury hotels are in Jakarta, it’s even tempting to stay at other properties, like the Four Seasons.

However, after much consideration I decided to book the Keraton at the Plaza, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. The rate at the hotel was about ~$220 per night, including the 20%+ taxes and service charge. I chose the Keraton because I heard good things about it, because it seemed to be the nicest Starwood property in the city, and because I was intrigued by the club lounge (more on that later).

The drive from Jakarta Airport to the hotel took only about 30 minutes. I had heard horror stories about traffic in Jakarta, though it seems we really lucked out. I guess that was thanks to our late night arrival.

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Review: Sheraton Grand London Park Lane

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For our trip we had a two night stay in London. In the past London was a city in which I typically redeemed points whenever possible, though with the weak GBP, it’s once again worth considering paying for stays in some instances.

Last time I was in London I stayed at the Park Tower Knightsbridge, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. I was happy with my stay, so figured the best apples-to-apples comparison I could make this time around would be at the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane. The hotel was recently renovated, and was only a few blocks away.

The paid rate was 250GBP per night, or about $300. For London that’s a pretty darn good rate, especially when you consider that it includes VAT. As a point of comparison, this is an SPG Category 6 hotel, meaning a free night here would have cost 20,000 Starpoints. I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, so paying cash was the better option.

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Review: The Mira Hotel Hong Kong

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The same weekend The Mira Hotel in Hong Kong joined Starwood Preferred Guest, they invited me to stay with them for a night to show what this Design Hotels member had to offer.

The Mira is a SPG Category 5 hotel, meaning a free night in a standard room costs 12,000 Starpoints. I did a search and most dates seem to price out around HK$1,500, while the 12,000 Starpoints rate is pretty widely applicable as well.

Finding The Mira was easy. Outside there was a large sign with an extravagant wall design, which matched the interior of the hotel quite nicely.

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Review: Royal Plaza Hotel Hong Kong

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The Royal Plaza Hotel is one of the cheapest five star hotels I’ve ever seen in a metropolis so naturally, I was intrigued when I saw it on TripAdvisor. The rates start at $140 per night, which is a low rate for any hotel in Hong Kong. I ended up paying $155 per night, which was a fantastic deal to me.

I figured it would be an easy walk to the hotel from Mongkok station, which is part Hong Kong’s world famous metro. The problem was that all the signage pointed me one direction while my phone pointed me another. It turned out the metro signs were rotated – sucks I chose to trust those over my phone.

After walking around Mongkok, arguably the craziest and most neighborhood area in Hong Kong, for 45 minutes in 100% humidity with two suitcases, I finally found the mall which was connected to the hotel.

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Review: Hilton Zurich Airport

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On this trip I had just one night in Zurich. While I love Zurich as a city, I was trying to be realistic, and knew I wouldn’t have time to do a whole lot of sightseeing while there. I was just getting over a nasty cold, I knew I wouldn’t get a very good night of sleep on the flight over, and I knew I wanted to go to Zurich Airport at the crack of dawn in order to be able to review the excellent Swiss first class lounge.

So I decided that the most practical option was booking the Hilton Zurich Airport, which is a short shuttle ride from the airport. My rate for the one night stay was ~$164, which isn’t especially cheap, though for that I’d earn 13,000+ points, thanks to the great promotions Hilton HHonors is running at the moment.

After my flight from Los Angeles to Paris on Air Tahiti Nui, and then my Swiss connection from Paris to Zurich, I found myself in the arrivals hall of Zurich Airport. I followed the signage in the direction of the train station, and then followed the signage towards the shuttle center.

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Review: Bloc Hotel Runway Suite London Gatwick

Get 12% Cashpoints while enjoying this view from the room!

I arrived at the Bloc Hotel around 2:30pm after my flight from Fort Lauderdale. Unlike most airport hotels, i.e. the Sofitel Heathrow, this hotel is actually in the terminal. After leaving luggage claim, I walked straight toward Marks and Spencer before taking a sharp right turn, at which point signs appeared for the hotel.

I had to take the elevator up to the reception area, which is on the same floor as security. The reception is beautifully designed in my opinion, and makes great use of limited space.

There was minimal paperwork at check-in, which took less than two minutes – a good start to my stay. Three minutes after arriving, I was escorted to my room: The Runway Suite. Rates for this room are usually around £240, which is an incredible deal for a two room suite in an airport terminal. Since the Bloc Hotel is a Norwegian Reward partner, I could earn 12% cash back on my booking, which translated to 305 CashPoints. Thanks to their partnership, my total cost went down to just over £21

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Review: Hyatt Regency Baku

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Baku is a fascinating hotel market. The city is growing quickly, and in 2012 a handful of luxury hotels opened in the city, though there hasn’t been too much hotel growth since then. There used to be a Park Hyatt that was attached to the Hyatt Regency, though apparently it’s undergoing a long term renovation, and is now closed. Our tour guide explained that there was a Trump Hotel that was built in Baku, but for whatever reason they never ended up opening it.

So as Hyatt and Starwood loyalists, our best option was the Hyatt Regency Baku. We got a great rate of just ~$100 per night for our two night stay. That was a better value than redeeming 12,000 Gold Passport points per night, in my opinion (I value those points at ~1.5 cents each).

The ride from the airport to the hotel looked like it was only supposed to take about 25 minutes, but we hit horrible rush hour traffic on our way to the hotel, so the drive took closer to an hour.

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