Hotel

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.

The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Iberia, Iceland, Icelandair, IHG, Marriott, Netherlands, OneWorld, Radisson, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

One of my co-workers and I took a taxi from the Cologne/Bonn airport to the Hilton Bonn. It’s a lovely yellow building located right on the Rhine River. The Viking River Cruise we took on the Rhine a few years ago would have sailed right by this hotel after we spent the day in Cologne, just a few miles away. It’s in an area very convenient to a pedestrian-only section of shops and even the train station is not a far walk away. I liked the hotel itself, with one GIANT caveat about my stay.

Hilton Bonn

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Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

I was disappointed that for the first few nights of this trip we would not be staying in a hotel where I had any status. Though I had never signed up for an account with Accor Hotels (the parent company of Novotel) I did have an account with Fairmont Hotels and they’d recently been acquired by Accor. I ended up having to call Accor to find out my account number but I did manage to get it attached to my reservation.

The car service (I used both Rideways and Sun Transfers on this trip and both were fine) dropped us off at the front door of the Novotel Torino. It’s in a rather industrial area and I don’t mean there are necessarily factories around but it was not an area I’d feel very safe walking around alone at night. Perhaps that’s just my perception but buildings around seemed to be a bit run down. There were no restaurants nearby, just the one in the hotel. It was, however, very convenient to the office where our meeting was held.

Just below the trees is a covered entrance which faces a side street.
(Image courtesy accorhotels.com)

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Categories: Accor Hotels, Europe, Hotel, Italy, Lodging Review, Novotel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Turin, Italy and Bonn, Germany

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

Late last year I took a business trip that included stops in both Italy and Germany. The trip details were finalized while I was on my fall vacation to Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich so I only made my reservations about 10 days before I left. That actually worked to my advantage. Oftentimes our company gets better pricing on Delta. I know Delta has a great product and a lot of my co-workers love traveling on them and even have status with them. But for me their routing doesn’t often work. (For example, I really don’t like having to fly from Memphis to Atlanta and then west to go skiing. Yes, I could route via Minneapolis or Detroit and I know they handle the snow well, but it just doesn’t make sense to me when I could go via DFW or Houston or even straight to Denver.) And those of us who like to use airline miles for travel know that Delta doesn’t even have an award chart and can often charge ridiculous amounts for premium cabin flights.

But by booking so late, my co-workers had already used the allotment of cheaper business class fares so by booking on United I saved the company money and earned miles I’ll be able to use more easily. My solitary business trip in 2017 had earned me Silver status with United for 2018 so I earned 7x the base fare for my flights, enough to re-qualify me for Silver status for 2019. One downside of booking through our company’s travel department is that whenever possible our longhaul flights have to be on US-based carriers. So while I’d have loved to have flown on Lufthansa on the longhaul legs, I flew United to Munich and Lufthansa for the intra-Europe legs. While both flights between Chicago and Munich were in B777-200ERs, the one on the flight to Munich was the kind with 10-across seating in Business Class while the one on the return leg had been retrofitted with the new Polaris cabin in a 1-2-1 Business Class setup. That was my first time to fly Polaris and it’s just soooo much nicer than United’s older version it’s not even funny.

Outbound route in red: Memphis-Chicago-Munich-Turin, Domestic Europe Route in blue: Turin-Munich-Cologne/Bonn, Return route: Cologne/Bonn-Munich-Chicago-Memphis

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Categories: Accor Hotels, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Italy, Novotel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: SpringHill Suites Salt Lake City Airport

One good thing about flying to my ski destination a day before the group is that often I can use the free night that comes with one of several credit cards in my wallet. That’s one of the reasons I selected the SpringHill Suites at the SLC airport. Another is that they have a free airport shuttle. Normally the included breakfast would be a draw as well but in this case I have friends in the SLC area and they came and picked me up for breakfast so that was a non-factor this time around.

SpringHill Suites Salt Lake City Airport

I arrived at the airport and while one of my bags was one of the first bags on the belt, it took another 30-45 minutes for my skis to be delivered. It was after 10:30 PM before I collected my luggage and called the hotel regarding the shuttle but fortunately it did not take very long for it to arrive. The shuttle services both Hilton and Marriott properties that are all very close together. In my case the cabin crew from a recent flight was on the shuttle with me but was not staying at the same hotel. The SHS was the third stop for this particular shuttle run. Continue reading

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Lodging Review: The Huntley Lodge, Big Sky, Montana

I was back in Big Sky, Montana recently. It’s one of my favorite resorts because I love the slopes and (shh!) there are never any liftlines. They’re in the midst of a multi-year, multi-million dollar project performing upgrades all over the mountain. This year saw the addition of North America’s first 8-seat chairlift (complete with a bubble and heated seats!) and in coming years the ancient beginner lift will be replaced with a gondola that will service both beginner slopes as well as bowl skiing for advanced skiers.

In the recent past our ski club has stayed at The Summit, which is a high-rise condo right at the base of the slopes. But two years ago the property began the process of upgrading from a 4-star property to a 5-star. Though it’s only a 4.5-star at the moment, that was enough to push the pricing out of our club’s budget. I really hate that because it’s so convenient and has the best hot tub on the mountain.

So this year our club stayed at the original base lodging facility, The Huntley Lodge. Named after resort co-founder Chet Huntley (he of NBC News fame from the 1960s & 1970s; look it up, kids) it’s a 3-story hotel with half the rooms facing the slopes. Rooms in one wing are mere steps from the beginner Explorer lift while rooms in the other have the mountain village right outside the door at the end of the hall. For convenience, it’s really hard to beat.

While I have stayed here before, it had been at least 20 years so I was curious to see what had changed. The answer: not a whole lot, which is actually a good thing for the most part.

The lobby is not huge but has a fair amount of seating and, like all the common areas, has a mountain theme to the decor. I especially liked the old skiing items mounted up high.

Skiing artifacts decorating the vaulted ceiling

The dominating feature is The Bear. If you ever need a meeting point, it’s a great landmark.

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Review: Hilton Garden Inn, Bozeman, Montana

As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I flew out on a Friday for my ski trip even though the group wouldn’t arrive until Saturday. I do this because I’m in a different origin city and I want to be sure I’m not late catching the bus from the airport to the ski resort. If all my flights are on time it works out fine but at some airports I just can’t arrive before the group due to flight schedules. And with so many credit cards offering free nights I can usually spend one of those certificates although that’s not what I did in this case. I looked into using my IHG free night but by the time I got around to booking a room, the Holiday Inn Express had no more availability.

This year my first ski trip was to Big Sky, Montana, one of my favorite resorts. I believe my first visit was in 1994 and I’ve returned every 3 or so years since. On my club’s last trip here I flew up on a Friday and spent the night at the Residence Inn in Bozeman and that was when I learned they no longer had a hotel shuttle. So instead of burning my Marriott certificate here I thought I’d try out my newly minted Diamond status with a Hilton property.

I was fortunate that the cabin crew from my flight was also staying at the Hilton Garden Inn because by the time I’d collected my luggage (and kudos to the BZN baggage crew for making priority bags first on the belt!) and called the hotel, the cabin crew had called the hotel, the shuttle had arrived and they were already on board so I didn’t have to wait for the shuttle at all.

Lobby and Check-in

Since I had so much luggage to wrangle I let the flight crew check in first while I got all my bags inside. The lobby has a large seating area for breakfast on the right side and more casual seating on the left side though there’s a long table there that could be used for breakfast too.

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman Lobby Seating

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman Lobby Seating

Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman Breakfast Seating

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Regent Hotels Joining IHG Rewards Club on February 1

Yesterday IHG announced that the six hotels of the Regent Hotel chain will become part of the IHG Rewards Club starting on February 1st. There are four Regent Hotels in Asia and two in Europe:

Regent Taipei
Regent Berlin
Regent Porto Montenegro
Regent Beijing
Regent Chongqing
Regent Singapore

These are considered luxury properties, on par with – or even higher than – Intercontinental Hotels, which are already under the IHG umbrella.

We stayed at the Regent Beijing in October 2017 for the kickoff to our Roof of the World tour with Viking River Cruises and were generally quite pleased with the room size and amenities. You can read our review of the property here.

The IHG portfolio is far-reaching and covers the full array of property types.  Adding Regent Hotels helps to beef up the top end.  Here are the current brands available within the IHG Rewards Club portfolio:

Which of the properties would you like to try next?

 

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Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites New Orleans Airport, Kenner, LA

One perq of holding the Marriott credit card from Chase is that each year you pay the monthly fee you get a certificate good for one night at a Category 1-5 hotel. I had a certificate that was due to expire in October, when the annual fee is due, and the stay must be completed by that date, not just booked. That’s one thing I’d like to see changed with the Marriott-SPG merger – let me book the certificate within the date range, even if the stay is not completed by then.

Since the annual fee of the “regular” Marriott card is $85 (moving to $95 with the next renewal), you can sometimes get great value from using a certificate. The Fairfield Inn and Suites in Kenner is not an especially great use of this certificate as rooms are just over $100 pre-tax but since the certificate would otherwise be going to waste it just made sense to spend it here. This is also the only Marriott property in the immediate airport area and thus the only one with an airport shuttle.

After touring all day in the sticky heat and being caught in a rainstorm just 2.5 blocks from the Hyatt House, we were fairly drenched by the time we caught our Uber to the Fairfield Inn, arriving in the late afternoon.

While we didn’t spend a lot of time inspecting the exterior it looked to be in good shape and we made our way to the front desk. We were assisted by a very friendly associate who noted our status and that we were staying on an award. She filled us in about breakfast though we’d be leaving too early for the buffet. She did arrange for us to have sack breakfasts available for the next morning and got us booked on the appropriate shuttle.

The lobby looked as if it had been recently refreshed and I liked the furniture and the geometric designs on the carpet. Though the breakfast area was not in use I liked the layout and the bright colors of the seats.

A quick note that this hotel is in the flight path for the airport but flights are typically operating in the 0530-2130 timeframe so there shouldn’t be an issue with plane noise overnight.

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Lodging Review: Hyatt House New Orleans/Downtown

For the second consecutive year I found myself back in New Orleans just before Labor Day for an event at the Hyatt Regency. Last year I stayed at the Regency but this year a friend was coming with me and we were going to stay over for a couple of days to play tourist. As I started comparing prices, and knowing we’d need breakfast, I realized we’d be better off at the Hyatt House which is next door to the Regency but is connected by a walkway.

We stayed three nights here, using a combination of cash, the free night certificate that comes with the Chase Hyatt credit card and World of Hyatt points. I called in to make the reservation and got a fantastic agent who compared my corporate rate, member rate and the AAA rate to figure out which night was the cheapest so I could pay cash for that night and use the certificate and points for the other two night. Then she was able to put that all on one reservation for us, which was terrific. I’d hoped for a room with two beds, but none were available on points so we got a room with a king bed and a sleeper sofa.

The building housing the hotel is at the corner of Loyola Ave and Poydras Street, with the hotel occupying floors 11-17. The Hyatt House entrance is on the Poydras Street side and there’s an express elevator up to the 11th floor main lobby.

Check In

As I arrived after 10 PM there was no waiting to be checked in and the whole process was quick and efficient. Every staff interaction I had was very pleasant. My Discoverist status (a result of holding the Hyatt credit card) was recognized and I told I was being given a slightly larger room. I asked again about a room with two beds, just in case one had opened up, but none were available. I was offered a choice of two of several welcome amenities and I took the 1000 points plus a plate of fruit. I was also given a large bottle of water, and one was available each day per guest.

One large bottle of water per guest per day is complimentary

Hyatt House New Orleans/Downtown Elevator Lobby

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