Monthly Archives: April 2017

Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

My return flight left Budapest at 6:30 AM.  I had booked this leg of the trip using my Miles & More points, hoping that shortly before I left Budapest, Lufthansa would open up space and I’d be able to fly first class via Frankfurt.  But the space never opened up so I had to “settle” for business class.  Poor me.

My friend and I shared a taxi to the airport even though she was returning on Turkish Airlines and her flight was nearly three hours later.  Sure enough, when we arrived she couldn’t even check her bags as no one was at the Turkish counter that early.  So we said our goodbyes and I headed through security to the lounge.

The lounge I was directed to was very small and nearly full.  It did have free wi-fi but didn’t even have its own restrooms.  It was a contract lounge, not a Lufthansa lounge and while it was better than sitting the terminal and had some free beverages, I was completely under-whelmed.

Eventually though we boarded our flight for the relatively short flight to Frankfurt, which was very uneventful.  Like many intra-Europe flights, business class was simply economy with blocked middle seats and nice service.  We did get an edible, if unremarkable breakfast.  Before long we were in Frankfurt where I was able to enjoy the lounge for  a couple of hours.

When I got to the gate, I admit I was surprised.  Where was the German efficiency I so appreciate?  With Frankfurt being a Lufthansa hub, there are naturally a lot of people with elite status who are not flying in First or Business class.  So they hover around, waiting for priority boarding to be called instead of queuing up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen priority boarding be so chaotic, though my experience is not that widespread.  At any rate, eventually I boarded through door 1L and found my seat.

LH 430
Frankfurt (FRA) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 10:40 AM
Arrive  2:10 PM
Duration: 9h 30m
Boeing 747-8
Seat 6D (Business Class)

As I was traveling solo for this leg I selected a seat in the middle section so I wouldn’t have to worry about climbing over anyone or being climbed over.  Waiting for me at my seat was a blanket and this pillow.  I loved the color scheme.

LH 430 Business Class Seat

LH 430 Business Class Seat

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Categories: Award Travel, Lufthansa, Star Alliance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

We arrived at the Hilton Castle District by taxi in the late afternoon after having walked all over the Pest side of the city.  A bellman quickly assisted us with our bags and we found the bell staff was very helpful each time we needed them.  We’d arranged for the taxi driver who brought us up the hill to take us to the airport on Monday morning.  When he didn’t show, the bell staff jumped in and got us another taxi right away.

There are several sets of entrances into the lobby.  Upon entering, the front desk is at the right side.  The lobby’s stainless steel and dark wood look combined with the rather low ceiling should make the area feel smaller than it is but I never felt like the walls were closing in.

Hilton Castle District Lobby

Hilton Castle District Lobby

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Categories: Europe, Hilton, Hotel, Hungary, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

We awoke the next day expecting to board motorcoaches that would take us into Budapest.  However when we look out from our cabin the fog was so thick we couldn’t see the riverbank!  Viking decided that it was pointless for us to wend our way along a beautiful drive if we couldn’t see anything, so they announced we’d be staying on board until we docked in Budapest around mid-day.  That also meant that our city tour was postponed until the afternoon and any optional tours we had scheduled for the afternoon were canceled – though of course the refunds wouldn’t be processed until after the cruise was complete.

bud-foggy-morning

The view from our cabin. The Danube is not THAT wide – where’s the riverbank?!

After busy days of touring it was actually kind of relaxing to have a morning to ourselves where we could linger over breakfast and catch up on emails (thanks to the free wi-fi).  Gradually the fog lifted and we had a sunny day, though it was a bit cool on deck. Continue reading

Categories: Cruises, Europe, Hungary, Viking | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

Our penultimate stop was the place I most wished we could have spent more time.  Of course, that just gives me a reason to return to Vienna.  Included with our trip was a morning tour of the city and the afternoon brought optional excursions to the Schönbrunn Palace, the Fine Arts Museum or accompanying the chef, Marcus, to the Farmer’s Market.

The first part of our tour was a motorcoach ride along the Ringstraße, the boulevard that encircles the city, and gaze at the gorgeous architecture.  From our bus windows we viewed many of the city’s famous buildings, like the Opera House and the Parliament building.  We also cruised by the Hotel Imperial, the grande dame of hotels in Vienna.  Its presidential suite is typically the home of visiting US Presidents.  However, in 2006 the Rolling Stones had that suite booked so when George W. Bush came to visit, he had to stay elsewhere!

We eventually stopped at Maria-Theresien-Platz, named in honor of Maria Theresa, who was the last of the Austrian Habsburg line.  Though she died in 1780, her influence is still widely felt.  She reigned for 40 years and was the ruler of 10 regions on her own and by marriage was the Holy Roman Empress.  Naturally there was a statue of her at her namesake plaza.

Maria-Theresa Statue

Maria-Theresa Statue

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Categories: Austria, Cruises, Europe, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Residence Inn – Palm Desert, California

I recently spent four nights at the Residence Inn in Palm Desert, California with a couple of friends. When we travel together we each like our own bed so that can sometimes be a challenge to find properties with this configuration.  It’s one reason we love Residence Inns and Hyatt Places – we know we can have the bedding we want AND free breakfast!

Residence Inn Palm Desert

My two friends had already spent a couple of days in the area at a different property before I could join them late on a Tuesday evening.  So thanks to them for taking most of the room photos you’ll see below. Continue reading

Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey

Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago

When you’re cruising on the ocean or a large sea, it’s common to have a “day at sea” which gives you a chance to catch your breath between ports of call.  A river cruise typically doesn’t offer one of those but may offer a day with fewer planned activities, which can be welcome in the middle of a busy trip.

By Wednesday we were a bit tired so it was rather refreshing to have a morning where we could take it easy.  Of course since our longship could not move to the next town, we had to take a bus for a couple of hours to Melk, where we boarded a sight-seeing boat for a lunch cruise through the scenic Wachau Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A church in the Wachau Valley with vineyards in the background

A church in the Wachau Valley with vineyards in the background

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Categories: Austria, Cruises, Europe, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

[Targeted] 2x Bonus Miles from AA Aviator

The AAdvantage Aviator MasterCard is offering a targeted bonus for the second quarter of 2017.  Normally this card only offer bonus miles on purchases from American Airlines but during this promotion cardholders may earn 2x bonus miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores, home improvement stores and restaurants between April 1 and June 30, 2017, up to 2500 bonus miles.  If you were targeted you should have received an email from Barclays providing a link to activate the offer.  Note that you must activate the offer by May 31 to be able to take advantage of it.

The phrase “2x bonus miles” had me stumped.  To me, that sounds like I should get 2 miles (the bonus) in addition to the 1 mile per dollar I’d normally get at these types of businesses, which would mean I’d only have to spend $834 to max out the offer.  I reached out to both the Twitter team (@AskBCUS) and using the secure message center on the Barclays US credit card website. The folks at the secure message center didn’t even take the time to understand my question.  They seemed to think I was having trouble registering.  Fortunately the Twitter team was on the ball.  They clarified the offer is for a total of 2 miles per dollar spent in these categories, meaning I’d need to spend $1250 to accumulate all 2500 miles.  That was what I had suspected but it was good to get clarification.

For me this is one of the easiest offers to use.  Grocery stores and home improvement stores each sell gift cards – both Visa and merchant – which makes it a piece of cake to meet the requirement.

Note that bonus miles will not be awarded until 6-8 weeks after the promotion ends.  While I hate that it takes that long to get the extra miles, that’s pretty standard for Barclays.

Categories: AAdvantage Aviator, American Airlines, Barclays, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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