Friday, November 13, 2015

SPG Elite Benefits at a new Hotel Brand

Hotels in Holland are improving. Several new hotels belonging to major Chains have been introduced, like the new W Hotel in Amsterdam. Now there is a new SPG hotel.

I can’t wait to visit the Kruisheren Hotel in Maastricht. It is a good location for when I drive to many other European Cities. Starwood Preferred Guest members can earn Starpoints and get free internet at this new Brand.


The new W in Amsterdam also has a Roof top bar & pool with view. There are 2 SPG hotels in Amsterdam. One is my regular home away from home, The Airport Sheraton, and the other is the one we wanted to dine at, (the Pulitzer Hotel). This was not possible because it was closed for renovation. I stayed at the Pulitzer once but did not stay again because it is one of those Hotels that is Touristy and I don’t think gets much repeat business.     

Many  Select Design Hotels have already joined SPG and more will follow. Gramercy Park Hotel NYC, is another gem.

It is a nice location if you want to be out of the crowded Times Square area, but in the heart of the City. It is a grand hotel and has hosted distinguished guests since 1925.  Rooftop Terrace providing stunning views of New York.

SPG is introducing Design Hotels. Select Design Hotels have already joined SPG, and additional hotels will follow  in the future.
Design Hotels, “offers a curated selection of individual hotels that offer cultural authenticity and thought-provoking design and architecture”. At participating Design Hotels™, SPG members can now enjoy these benefits:

  • Starpoints®, including an elite member bonus and welcome gift
  • Eligible nights toward elite status
  • Complimentary in-room Internet access and bottled water

Starting in early 2016, Starpoints can be redeemed at participating Design Hotels™.

Other participating Design Hotels are:  Ten Bompas in Johannesburg S.Africa and Nira Montana La Thuile Italy.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trick or Treatment at the The Ritz-Carlton Spa

As much as I love seeing the dog in his hot-dog costume and the 10-year-old as Pizza, my favorite Halloween event is at Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dallas. ritz-carlton-dallas-2The Spa has an annual “Trick or Treatment Happy Hour” for adults in need of a treat. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dallas is a wonderful, luxurious spa, with high standards, that you can only find in Texas.

You can ride the Trolley to get around Down Town Dallas, since it passes the Hotel. The hotel has a Rolls Royce Ghost, so they are also happy to take you to nearby destinations and pick you up. W Hotels have a similar program where -The_Ritz_Carlton__Dallas-20000000002841822-500x375they chauffeur guests around to nearby places in an Acura vehicle for free. Just contact Whatever/Whenever for a ride, but be forewarned that some of the W hotels do not offer this service over the weekend. I was disappointed that I was not able to get a ride on a Saturday while staying at the W Chicago.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton Spa and a dip in their beautiful, small pool, but I would not want it bigger. The next morning a Champagne Breakfast at their Fearing’s Restaurant is in order.

The Ritz has a Special offer called the “Rejuvenate You” Package, if you ask for Promo Code Z47. It’s valid through December 31, 2015. Starting at $549 USD per night includes:

  • Overnight Deluxe Accommodations
  • One 50-minute Signature Spa Treatment per stay
  • One 50-minute Barre Fitness or Pilates class per stay
  • American Breakfast for two in-room or Restaurant
  • Overnight Valet Parking

the only complaint I have about the Ritz is that they don't allow Marriott Reward Platinum Elite members access to the Club Lounge. Most of the other Marriott brands do allow Club /Concierge lounge access.


Ever wanted to run your own country?

For €70,000 a day at some villages you can have the mayor and band greet you and your guests. In Austria and a few in Germany. A few medieval-bran-castle-in-brasov-romania-known-for-dracula-story-1600x1071years ago Snoop dog tried to rent the principality of Lichtenstein but it did not work out because he did not give them enough time. Plus they thought that the drugged-up Hollywood guy would ridicule and tarnish Lichtenstein's reputation. 

Several people have rented villages, apparently they hope that People that do this will utilize local vendors and services. Talking about a couple of years ago, I remember a Halloween when CNBC's Rick Santelli sparked a revolution of sorts on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Bankers and spies The tax controversy between tiny Lichtenstein and its big German neighbor is more intriguing than fiction. I love Rick! He is the main reason I watch CNBC. If you don’t have the 70k Euros to rent a country, a nice Halloween trip is to go to Dracula’s country with really inexpensive Lodging in Romania, just 45km away from Dracula's Castle and Brasov Old City Travel Holiday Visit Lodging B&B Europe at Prahova Valley Ski Rental. Busteni Brasov, Romania.

I’m going to stick with luxurious accommodations at the Ritz.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


robot2I found the Aloft Brussels Schuman Hotel, similar to Aloft hotels in the USA apart from being much more expensive and less helpful staff.—I know that all hotels in Europe are more expensive than most US cities, so I thought I would try the funky Brand, though I don’t like that they have showers and no bath tubs. It is conveniently located in the center of Brussels, adjacent to the European Parliament and Schumann Palace. The bustling traffic was exhausting in this area and it took another half an hour to drive to the very city center, Square Grand Place (Grote Markt) surrounded by opulent guildhalls and Gabled edifices.

The hotel is about 6 years old and full of twenty somethings staff in blue jeans. That's not a bad thing, but we are a little older and could not help smiling at their young arrogance. Most of them had never worked in the hospitality industry, or any industry at all. It was difficult to get in to the hotel parking, where they charge about $35 overnight, so it is not a good idea to rent a car. The Aloft is easy to reach near the Metro station Schuman (EU quarter). If you fly in to BRU, the Airport is 40 minutes from the hotel, by train, then it is a two minute walk from Schuman Station.

robot1In the news, today in Belgium is the much touted RoboHotelier! The Marriott Hotel Ghent, has employed a new “employee”. His name is Mario, a “human” robot. Mario will assist at the front desk.

Robot Mario can hand you your room key when you check-in. During a conference, he can even assist with your PowerPoint presentations, or he can baby sit in the play area. Don’t know if I believe that this is possible? Some mini-humans can be tricky.

According to Roger Langhout, the Marriott hotel manager, Mario will be very useful at meetings and conferences and this will be good for a business hotel. Mario will not replace a “human” employee and guests can choose if they would like to use Mario’s services, or not.

Mario even held his own press conference and performed a dance. He is not the first Robot to be utilized in hotels. The Aloft and the healthcare service have been using them for some time. California's Silicon Valley was the pilot Robot, as may be expected from the tech-savvy area. They have 2 to deliver towels and other necessities to guests. This Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, has 2 robotic "Botlrs," named ALO, made by Savioke. Inspired by Star Wars' R2D2.They have been working there, as butlers since last year. When a guest calls the front, desk asking for something, -- say a bottle of water or a toothbrush, employees load up the basket and send the Robo butler to the room. Mario was manufactured by the Flemish company QBMT in Oostende. They produce more than 100 robots called “Zora”, used in the healthcare sector in Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Switzerland

You don’t have to put up with rude service from a Robot, but I wonder if you have to tip the Robot bellboy porter, assisting patrons with their luggage?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Star Alliance Airline Lounges

I was so glad to make a pit stop at Munich Airport Lounges to regroup and enjoy the Bavarian hospitality, the city of Munich, known locally as M√ľnchen, has been a refuge for travelers since the time that the monks provided lodging to pilgrims in the 11th Century. Munich means "by the monks". Derived from the monks of the Benedictine order.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is nice to have Elite status to get into Airline lounges for free, Star Alliance members have access to the Lufthansa lounges and as you can see in my photo below, the Lufthansa lounges are really nice!


You can de-stress in the relaxing Airline Club lounge. You can buy a lounge membership or can get in for free if you have Elite United Platinum Premier 1K status. Lounge access when traveling internationally is for Gold Platinum and 1K United and Star Alliance members. Munich also has a Priority Pass lounge in T2-D (Schengen Area) I visited on a previous trip. Priority is a paid Annual membership, and can be used, no matter which airline you fly.  The advantage of a break to feel calm amongst the airport chaos is worth the cost.

The best airport lounge in the world that I have visited is the Lufthansa First class Lounge in Frankfurt. LufthansaI could easily spend a week there in the Spa and eating the exquisite food. HEAVEN mmm…

Though, my newest favorite lounge is the new United lounge at Heathrow Airport,

The United Global First Lounge and the United Club occupy a large area of space and are located near the airline's gates in T2. I enjoyed sitting at the extremely long bar, to refresh. It’s a lounge conducive to relaxing or getting work done and if you are hungry there is a buffet area where I grabbed some delicious Curry and then snuggled up in the quiet zone on a sofa with privacy drapes.

I still miss the Continental Airlines lounge at LAX because, years ago they had a massage chair in the lounge. In June 2015 The Star Alliance Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has been voted best Alliance Lounge by Skytrax.

See you in one of them, passing ships ….

Friday, February 27, 2015

The newest hotel in Austin is fabulous

I stayed at the W Austin, the week it opened, and have now notched the new JW Marriott Austin too.
This Spectacular hotel opened this month and is very well managed. The helpful front desk Receptionist walked me over to the Concierge/ Bell desk when I asked about Spa treatments. Unfortunately, their Spa is not open yet, but I'll be back when it is. All the Staff at this hotel were respectful and attentive, as expected for a JW hotel.

The Concierge (Executive Club Lounge) is big and beautiful with lots of treats. Great coffee (k -Cups by Keurig). Breakfast was good too, eggs with smoked salmon, yogurt, fruit and freshly baked croissants. In the evening Complimentary hors d'oeuvres with a cocktail from the honor bar is nice. The lounge is available to those that book it included in their rate or complimentary for Gold and Plat Elite members.
The pool on the 5th floor was heated the first day but a bit chilly on the second day. I could see bicycles for rent, on the street, outside the Hotel and will try this on my next visit. This hotel is close to everything downtown. It’s within walking distance to the Austin Convention Center, the Texas State Capitol building, and the famed, lively music bars on 6th street.


Since it opened mid-February and is the largest hotel in Austin, with only 3 elevators to the rooms. My tip is to stay on a lower floor, because I had a long wait for the lift but they were repairing it so that problem won’t be an issue. 

By the way, don’t loose your Marriott Points, There are some upcoming changes to the Marriott Rewards program. Starting February 1, 2016, members who do not have qualifying activity in the prior 24 months will forfeit all accumulated points.

Hotel Amenities at this JW are nice! I like the modern key fobs to enter rooms, love the USB ports in the wall next to the bed, (so next time, I don’t have to bring so many chargers) and the huge HDTVs for viewing the full screen to the edge of the TV.
My room only had a shower but next time, I will request a bathroom with both a tub and separate shower.
On the whole, I’d highly recommend staying at the JW Marriott Austin especially for the hordes flocking to Austin for the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). I would also recommend the Renaissance Hotel, if you want to stay out of the city


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Aim for Airline Elite Status

I found the rocking chairs at Boston  Airport very relaxing, You can also de-stress in the relaxing Airline Club lounge. You can buy a lounge membership or can get in for free if you have Elite United Platinum Premier 1K status. Lounge access when traveling internationally is for Gold Platinum and 1K United and Star Alliance members. Perhaps the chairs are used most for rocking babies to sleep, so on slightly related news: … The USA has too many laws, but they keep adding more. 2015 has started with over 900 new laws in CA. One of the new laws is that there must be mandatory breast pumping stations at airports. Bizarre but you know that they will add a fee to cover this. The fuel sur-charge went up when oil prices were high but never came down when prices did. Fees and laws never disappear.

Boston Logan Airport

It is good to get Elite Status as early in the year as possible because it will last longer. Once you qualify for a Premier status, the status is valid from the date you qualified through the end of the following Program year.

For example, if you meet the four flight segment minimum, earn 25,000 PQM and earn $2,500 PQD on June 1, 2014, you will reach Premier Silver status, and it will be valid through the end of the 2015 Program year.United encourages all MileagePlus members to request an upgrade while booking to confirm an upgrade right away (if available) and avoid the wait-list process. You need Premier qualifying miles (PQM) to reach Elite Status. PQM are based on the number of paid flight miles traveled and the fare purchased and the fare price is what counts in 2015. (Previously it was the distance traveled)

You need 100,000(and $10,000) PQM’S to be eligible to get Premier 1K status. To qualify for any Premier level, you must fly a minimum of four paid flight segments on flights operated by United

When searching for flights, specify that you want upgrade availability displayed in the results by following these steps:

Sign in to the MileagePlus account you want to use to request the MileagePlus Upgrade Award.
On the home page, under the flight search tab of the booking box, click on the “Advanced Search” link.
After entering your flight search criteria on the advanced flight search page, select “MileagePlus Upgrade Award” and select “Price” or “Schedule” under the “Search By” option found in the “How would you like your flight results displayed?” section. Click “Search.”
Select the flight(s) you want to upgrade, and continue.
You will be presented with a list of flight options and an indication of whether a MileagePlus Upgrade Award is available for each flight. Simply select an option that has upgrade availability, and continue with your booking. At checkout you will be prompted to pay for your original booking and provide any applicable miles and co-pay for your MileagePlus Upgrade Award. This process will confirm your upgrade.

If none of the flights in your itinerary have upgrade availability, you can still book that itinerary and later request the upgrade(s) using the steps in the “Request after booking” tab. You will be placed on a waitlist that will be cleared as upgrades become available.

Premier Silver status provides:

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at check-in (when available);
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades (when available);
  • Premier Access(SM) priority airport services;
  • One complimentary standard checked bag (50 lbs.);
  • 25% Premier bonus award miles on United flights