Showing posts with label Starwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Starwood. Show all posts

June 3, 2017

Amazing Service at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong

We're back from our week long trip to Kyoto and Hong Kong.  Per usual, I'll post the review segments in chronological order.  Before I get to the full review, I wanted to post about the unreal service at the Ritz in Hong Kong.

We only stayed one night and booked a paid reservation through Amex FHR.  I booked a standard room and figured we'd get an FHR upgrade to a room with a better view.  I had emailed the property to let them know that we were celebrating our 5th anniversary.  They emailed back and asked for a few pictures of the two of us and said they would ensure our stay was special.

I checked the Marriott up prior to departing the Conrad and noticed we had been upgraded to a Victoria Harbor view suite with club access.  What?

Upon check-in, they confirmed that we were upgraded to a suite and congratulated us on our anniversary.  After check-in formalities were complete, we were handed off to Piper in guest services who took us up to our room on the 110th floor.  We walked in and were blown away.

The hotel had a watermelon cake made special for us (it was really good) given Emily's gluten allergy.  They had printed pictures that we sent prior and taped them to the corner glass in the suite along with balloons and a sign.  They also found a wedding picture (presumably from Facebook) and had that printed along with a congratulatory note from the team.

The views from this suite were unbelievable.  Probably the best views of any city property I've stayed in.

In the club lounge, we were again congratulated on our anniversary and made to feel completely at home.  Same thing at Ozone, the hotel's rooftop bar on the 118th floor.

I can't wait to write this review.  Our stay was near perfect.  While we both appreciated the suite upgrade, extra space, and club access, it was the staff going above and beyond that really made it special.

May 6, 2017

Peloton Cycle and Westin Launch Partnership

I've had a Peloton bike at home for a couple of years and love it.  If you're not familiar, Peloton sells very high quality spin bikes with a 23" tablet mounted so you can enjoy live/on-demand studio style spin classes from home.

The bike runs ~$2,000 and the monthly subscription is $39.  It's not a cheap purchase but definitely worth it in my opinion.  We've had zero issues with our bike and the quality/production of the classes (filmed in their NYC studio) is excellent.

Peloton just announced a partnership where participating Westin hotels will make Peloton bikes available in their fitness centers and in-room.  This is pretty awesome.

I figured Peloton would partner with hotels eventually but never considered they would make bikes available in-room!

Given the "Peloton hospitality" branding on the site, I have a feeling Westin is not the last partnership for Peloton.  I'd highly recommend checking out Peloton next time you're staying at one of the participating properties.  I would definitely go out of my way to book a participating property knowing that there would be a bike available in the fitness center or in-room.  I'm curious how they are going to manage shoes for these bikes - is it BYOS or will they make them available in the fitness center?

Has anyone stayed had a participating Westin and experienced Peloton yet?

April 16, 2017

A Week in Japan: Planning & Booking

Planning & Booking
United Polaris Business Class 787-8 San Francisco to Osaka (KIX)
Intercontinental Osaka
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER Tokyo (HND) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

I'm still working on a couple of segments from our latest trip to Al Maha in November of last year.   I plan to finish those trip reports in April but given that our next trip is coming up next month, I wanted to get the introductory post on the blog.


At the moment, we have 10 hotel nights planned.  We fly out early to San Francisco, catch the direct United flight to Osaka and land early afternoon.  I booked the Intercontinental Osaka for 40,000 IHG points for the overnight.  We have nearly 150,000 IHG points so seemed like the right thing to do given we'll only be in town for one night and convenience is key.  The hotel is located next to the train station so will be convenient to get from the airport and to Kyoto.

In Kyoto, I booked the Ritz-Carlton for a total of 210,000 Marriott Rewards points using a combination of Marriott Rewards points and SPG points.  This was an incredible redemption given cash rates of $1,700 per night!  The property looks gorgeous and we're really excited about visiting Kyoto.

March 11, 2017

Review: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa

Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

We left the JW Marriott Dubai en route to Al Maha around 11AM.  Our driver was super friendly and explained a number of sites along the road as we exited the city and headed out into the desert.  30 minutes later we were pulling up to the first gate to enter the conservation reserve.

Welcome to DDCR
Al Maha!
Upon seeing the small footprint of Al Maha set against the desert, both of us were so excited to be back again.

Jump on the bed excited

February 25, 2017

How Quickly Do SPG Amex Referral Points Post?

Last week I posted about the outstanding SPG Amex signup bonus.  I've had half a dozen people ping me for referrals and a couple have already posted (thank you!).

ATRP reader Elissa emailed me on Sunday, 2/19 to ask for a referral.  She applied and was approved that day.

The 5,000 points posted to my account on 2/22 so just 3 days later.  Kudos to Starwood for such a compelling offer for both parties and for posting the points in such a timely manner.  Who else is interested in picking up this card?

300 Free Points from Marriott Rewards

Marriott Rewards tweeted at me the other day to offer 300 Marriott Rewards points for my "anniversary."  Not exactly sure what that means - I've been a gold member for 4-5 years thanks to credit card benefits and now am Marriott gold for life (assuming they don't change the terms) thanks to my Starwood SPG lifetime gold status.

Certainly a nice and unexpected gesture (I value the points around $2.50) but the funny thing is that I don't have the points yet.  I received the tweet on 2/'s now 2/25 and they haven't posted.  You would think they would send the tweet on the day the points would post since that is fully in their control.

Doesn't really matter - it's a nice gesture and I appreciate it.

February 18, 2017

SPG Amex 35,000 Point Offer is Back!

The Starwood Preferred Guest Amex is the credit card with the longest stay in my wallet.  I've had the card for nearly 12 years and don't plan on giving it up anytime soon.

The standard offer has ranged between 25,000 - 30,000 SPG points (we've seen 35,000 before a few times) for the past few years but Amex is now offering 35,000 SPG points on both the personal and business versions of the card.

In order to take advantage, you'll need to spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to earn 25,000 points.  Then another $2,000 within the first 6 months to earn another 10,000 points.  That's 40,000 SPG points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership.  That is a fantastic deal as SPG points are among the most challenging to earn while being the most flexible.  

Remember, you can transfer SPG points to Marriott at a 3:1 ratio making this deal worth 120,000 Marriott points.  Or you can transfer at a 1.25:1 ratio to a number of airlines turning the 40,000 SPG points into 50,000 airline miles.

If you haven't had these cards (keep in mind Amex's once in a lifetime rule) then I would encourage you to apply now.  It's unlikely that the offer will ever be better than this and the card may actually go away should Marriott choose to focus their card issuing partnership exclusively on Chase.

To that end, if you are interested in a referral link (I'll earn 5,000 SPG points) please send me an email and I will send it over.  

December 26, 2016

Tallying Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card Benefits

I've written several posts about Chase's new Ritz-Carlton Rewards card.  For those just catching up, you can read earlier posts:

I've reaped so much value from the card, I figured I'd add it all up.  I should note that the card carries a $450 annual fee which isn't waived for the first year.  So before you apply, know that you're in for $450.

I've had the card for a few months and had a chance to use many of the advertised benefits.  While I am still loving my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card actually offers more value (at least for me) in terms of non spending bonuses/benefits. 

Here's a recap of what I've received in exchange for my hard earned $450:
  • 3 complimentary nights at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (~$1600 value)
  • $200 in airfare discounts
  • $300 in airline incidentals (first class upgrades)
  • 10,000 Marriott Rewards points (valued at ~$100)
  • Additional $300 in airline incidentals coming next week (2017)
That is $2,500 in "value" from carrying the card for just a few months.  While this is the cash value, these aren't the prices I would personally pay.  So let's go through that exercise:
  • I wouldn't pay $500+ a night for the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown but I would pay $250/night so let's knock that down to $750.  
  • The airfare discounts are real money.  
  • While upgrading to first class is a luxury, I would pay $50/segment/person for the privilege.  So we'll knock that down from $600 to $200.
  • The Marriott Rewards point value is real
Add it all up and you're looking $1,250 in exchange for a $450 annual fee.  Not bad at all.  I plan on booking 2-3 additional roundtrips for 2+ people in 2017 - that should result in $200-$300 in additional savings against the annual fee.  This card may just be a keeper!

November 6, 2016

Buy SPG Points Up to 50%

SPG is out with their most lucrative "buy points" promotion of all time.  The best you can do with the promotion is 50% off which is an incredible deal.

 To determine your discount, you'll need to head to this page and enter your name, email address, and SPG number.  Note that the promotion runs through 12/31/16 and you may buy up to 30,000 SPG points per calendar year.  You must buy at least 5,000 SPG points to receive the bonus.

I was targeted for 35% off and Emily 25% off so unfortunately, I'm not a buyer at those prices.  At 50% off, you can buy up to 30,000 SPG points for $525.

30,000 SPG points will convert to 90,000 Marriott points or 37,500 airline miles of your choice assuming you have another 10,000 SPG points (total of 40,000) to convert into 50,000 airline miles.  That is 1.4 cents per airline mile - about as cheap as you're ever going to be able to acquire via a miles purchase.

Given the 30,000 point limit, it's hard to scale this deal.  Even so, I would speculatively buy at 1.4 cents each if I had received the offer.

October 31, 2016

Amex Platinum Provides SPG Gold in One Day

Over the weekend, I wrote about upgrading Emily to SPG Gold via the American Express Platinum Business Card.

Well we didn't have to wait long.  Emily's SPG account was upgraded this morning to SPG Gold until February of 2018.  That's another 16 months of status.  I would imagine that will stick regardless of whether she keeps the Amex Platinum card or not

Kudos to Amex and Starwood for great IT here.  Emily will be putting her newly minted Gold status to work later this year!

October 30, 2016

Return to Al Maha: Planning & Booking

Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

We're headed back to Dubai next month to spend a couple of nights at Al Maha.  While we've had an incredibly warm October here in Denver (it was 80 degrees today!) we wanted to head somewhere a bit warmer in November to relax and outside.  Southern Europe is nice but just not that warm.  We were just in Asia a few months ago so Dubai fit the bill.  Using our BA Travel Together Ticket to fly first class all the way to Dubai made it even more appealing.


As it stands now, we have 6 hotel nights planned.  We land late in Dubai so booked the JW Marriott Marquis for 35,000 Marriott Rewards points.  Dubai's hotel market is insane - we had so many options it was hard to choose.  But we'll be heading to Al Maha around noon the next morning so for 12 hours, we certainly don't need something crazy.  The JW Marriott Marquis is also the tallest hotel in the world so that clinched it for me.

JW Marriott Marquis advance purchase rate

How to Get SPG Gold With Amex Platinum

I recently upgraded Emily's Amex Business Gold to Business Platinum.  The offer was too good to pass up - 50,000 mile bonus after spending $10,000 in 5 months.  That's after receiving 75,000 miles for signing up for the gold card in the first place.

I was also able to pay a pro-rated annual fee (~$120) and received the $200 travel credit at Amazon!  One of the benefits of the Amex Platinum is the ability to receive free SPG Gold.

While not life changing, SPG Gold provides the potential for an upgrade, additional points (3x vs. 2x) on stays, and a welcome amenity.  Emily has a few SPG stays coming up in the next six months so figured it would be worth getting her status upgraded.  Since I've been SPG Gold, I've never actually leveraged the SPG Gold perk from Amex.

It was actually super easy.  First, go to this Amex website.  Click on "Enroll Now."

Login and confirm your SPG Number.

That's it.  The page states that status should be updated within 72 hours.  I upgraded this morning and still haven't seen the status change but will post once it's upgraded to Gold.

October 23, 2016

Return to Al Maha: Introduction

Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

I'm still in the middle of writing trip reports from our RTW adventure in August, I'm getting excited about our next trip and wanted to get the introductory post out.  We spent a couple of days at Al Maha  last year and vowed to return as soon as possible.  Of all the hotels we've been around the world, Al Maha is the most unique, special, and we've both lusted after returning for a year.

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai

Starwood 500 Point Brand Bonus

Starwood's SPG dashboard provides infographic information on past stays.  You can view your progress towards elite status as well as review your stays by brand and location.

It's been awhile since I checked out the dashboard and was surprised to see a 500 point bonus (which I've achieved) for staying at 5 different SPG brands.  So far the bonus is limited to Starwood brands and doesn't include Marriott's.

There's also an 11,000 point offer for staying at all 11 Starwood brands in a calendar year.  To achieve the bonus, we stayed at:

500 points isn't life changing, but still worth $12 based on my SPG point valuation.  Thanks, Starwood!

October 15, 2016

Earning with SPG's More for You Promotion

SPG's latest promotion didn't seem to be especially rewarding on the surface.  I clearly wasn't doing the math right as I had a qualifying stay last weekend that ended up earning me a ton of points.

The promotion offers 2x Starpoints on weekday stays of 2+ nights and 3x Starpoints on weekend stays of 2+ nights.  Our 2 night weekend stay at the Westin Riverfront Beavercreek fell into the latter category.  Beyond that, this was my final (of 3) stays of a targeted promotion I received earlier in the year.

For two nights with tax, meals, valet parking, resort fees, and dog fees our total spend was $814.  I had an Amex offer for Westin which reduced that by $50.

So how many points did I earn on $677 of eligible spend?

  • 1,354 base points
  • 677 point elite bonus
  • 2,708 points for the More for you promotion (3x base)
  • 3,000 bonus points for the targeted promotion
  • 500 bonus points for making the green choice

That's a whopping 8,239 SPG points on $764 in spend or 10.8 SPG points per dollar spent (or 32.4 Marriott points per dollar spent!).  I value SPG points at around 2.5 cents so that's a return of 27%!  

October 9, 2016

The $500 Aloft

I'm working on a November trip to the UAE to head back to Al Maha and spend a bit of time in Dubai.  I'll have more on the trip soon but we'll be flying back from Abu Dhabi aboard Etihad's 777 first class.

We needed an overnight in Abu Dhabi and hotel rates are insane.  All three Hyatt properties are sold out.  Both St. Regis properties are selling for $700 and $1200 respectively.  The city is crazy that week due to the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.  I would have loved to return to the Park Hyatt given our stay earlier this year essentially was rained out.

Cash or points?
We settled on the Aloft Abu Dhabi given the proximity to the airport and a couple of sites that we'd like to check out during our overnight.  Rates were insane.  The Aloft was selling for more than $500 with tax.

And this is why points open up the world.  3,000 SPG points (actually 9,000 Marriott points instantly transferred) scored us a hotel room worth $500.  Is it the most aspirational use of points?  Definitely not.  But we need a hotel room and it should do.  Full trip details coming soon.

October 2, 2016

How Long Do Starwood Household Transfers Take?

The Starwood/Marriott merger opened up a whole new world of possibilities.  I've been stockpiling Marriott points for a rainy day (this one) and it definitely paid off.  The 3:1 transfer and instant point transfer enabled us to move points into SPG's program in order to take advantage of Starwood's resort sale which is currently offering up many amazing properties at 35% off.

First, I exhausted Emily's Marriott account by moving all of her points into her SPG account at a 3:1 ratio.  I then needed to move her Starwood points into my account via the "Household transfer."  Starwood will let you consolidate points into another account with the same address (don't abuse this).

Starwood household transfer
Unfortunately, this isn't an instant process.  Not sure if it's because they manually review each transaction for fraud or if it's just outdated technology.  Either way, the delay is annoying when you are itching to book an award.

It's been awhile since I've made one of these transfer.  Reports online mentioned this could take up to 5 business days!

Transfer out
Well I'm happy to report that I submitted the transfer on a Friday afternoon (9/23 - the day I she received the instant Marriott transfer) and the points were in my account on Tuesday morning (9/27).   Technically I think that's only 2 business days.

Transfer in
 Kudos to Starwood for allowing this and enabling it online (despite the slow process).  Marriott offers spouse pooling of accounts but in my experience, it requires paperwork.  Hopefully the merged company will improve upon Starwood's online transfer process!

September 25, 2016

Favorite New Hotel Amenity

One of the hardest parts of traveling is navigating.  Today, we take our smartphones for granted.  At home, we can make a dinner reservation, get directions, call an Uber, or Instagram all while trying not to get hit by a car crossing the street.

Internationally that's a bit more challenging,  Yes, there are carriers (T-Mobile) that offer pretty good international cell phone plans but do those phones work as well at home?

I generally add 100MB of data and 100 minutes of voice calling to my Verizon plan each trip.  $40 isn't cheap but it's an insurance policy against needing to call home, work, or use some data while out and about.

St. Regis Istanbul complimentary smartphone
The St. Regis Istanbul offers a free smartphone for the duration of your stay.  The Samsung phone (first tab using a Samsung and I much prefer my iPhone 6S) was pretty easy to setup although I found the navigation a bit challenging.  Regardless, we used the phone for maps, lunch recommendations, and weather.

I know more hotels are offering this as an amenity.  Given the (at least locally) cost of cellular data has come down so much, this can't cost the hotel very much and was really a huge benefit for us.  Kudos to the St. Regis Istanbul for offering a great amenity to guests!

Review: St. Regis Istanbul

Introduction Part Two
Planning & Booking
Sheraton JFK Airport
Lufthansa Business Class Lounge JFK
Turkish Airlines Business Class 777-300ER New York (JFK) to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Istanbul Arrivals Lounge
St. Regis Istanbul
Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class A330-300 Istanbul to Male
Transfer from Male to Conrad Maldives
Conrad Maldives
Transfer from Conrad Maldives to Male
Singapore Airlines Business Class 777-200 Male to Singapore
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Business Class Lounge to Singapore
Singapore Airlines Business Class 777-300ER Singapore to Tokyo (HND)
Andaz Tokyo
ANA Suite Lounge Tokyo (NRT)
ANA First Class 777-300ER Tokyo (NRT) to San Francisco

We exited the airport and hopped in a cab for the 30 minute ride to the St. Regis.  Our driver spoke broken English but I showed him the hotel address and location on my phone and he seemed to know where he was going.  The ride was gorgeous - the sun was still coming up, traffic was light, and we drove along the Sea of Marmara most of the way into town.  Istanbul is among our favorite cities in the world and the it felt so good to be back after all that's happened just enjoying the scenery.

St. Regis Istanbul views
We made it to the Nisanti area where the St. Regis is located and guided the driver to the hotel.  He was on the phone and blew past the entrance.

St. Regis Istanbul exterior

September 24, 2016

Starwood & Marriott Merger Complete

The marriage between Starwood and Marriott is finally complete and the drama is over.  The merger closed yesterday and both companies have already made a lot of progress in terms of merger integration.

I worked for W Hotels in 2003 and have been a Starwood loyalist ever since.  While it's a bit sad to see the Starwood name go away and the company folded into the world's largest hotel chain (now with 30 brands!!) I was pleasantly surprised with the rollout on Friday.

Accounts linked