Hotel

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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Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

There were about 35 of us from the Viking Emerald who were taking the extension to Tokyo and you’d think that Viking could have found all of us seats on the same plane but nope, we were on a number of different flights leaving Shanghai at various times of the day. Originally two of us from our small group of 12 were on one flight and the 3rd person was on a different flight but we were able to get that changed so at least the three of us were all together. However that meant missing out on a noon-ish JAL flight and taking an earlier Delta flight instead so there was definitely a trade-off. We did manage to purchase bulkhead seats so at least we had legroom.

We arrived at Tokyo Narita airport and began to search for the Viking representative. Besides the three of us there were probably 6-8 other Viking Emerald passengers all looking for the rep with no success. She was a little late but every last one of us passengers had been looking for someone in a red coat or jacket and this rep was not wearing red. We had been so trained by Viking with all their tour guides and crew members wearing red that we never even considered that the guide might be wearing some other color! But eventually we were loaded on to our motorcoach and we were dropped off at the large complex that houses not only the New Otani Hotel but also an office tower and a shopping tower.

Check in was efficient, as we expected by now, and we set off for the elevator bank. We were amused that during busy times of day there typically was a hotel staff member waiting to push the elevator call button for us – always with a polite bow.

Our rooms were fairly high up and, conveniently, were connected. However, we had to ask management to unlock the connecting doors. The rooms were perfectly servicable though compared to our rooms during the first part of the tour, these were a bit of a let down. Like many hotel rooms upon entering the bathroom was to one side and beyond that was the area with the beds.

This room was not large enough for two double beds so we once again had twins with a single nightstand in between.

New Otani Hotel Twin Beds

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Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We had chosen this Top of the World tour in the Beijing to Shanghai direction because you get to do the rickshaw tour of the hutong and you don’t if you take the tour in the Shanghai to Beijing direction. But we came to realize we were fortunate to have done the tour that way for a couple of other reasons. First, after being on tours or traveling every day for a week, by the time we got on the boat we really enjoyed having a few afternoons with nothing to do but nap and watch the scenery. The other reason was that had we stayed at the Fairmont Peace Hotel first, we might have been disappointed with the other hotels on our tour.

The Peace Hotel was orignally called Sassoon House and was built by Sir Victor Sassoon in the late 1920s. It’s a beautiful art deco building that was closed for three years for renovations and reopened in 2010 when Fairmont took over running it. Continue reading

Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, Fairmont, Hotel, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

After visiting the local home, we were all ready to get to the hotel that would be our home for the next three nights, the Shangri-La Lhasa. Nothing in the city of Lhasa is very far away from anything else so it didn’t take us long to reach the hotel’s drive. The hotel is on a fairly major street but has a high wall between the sidewalk and the hotel. The end of the hotel that’s closest to the street is actually part of the conference center so there’s no need to worry about any traffic noise – not that I think it would truly be an issue.

The hotel’s drive continues down beside the building all the way past the conference wing to the lobby. The lobby itself was quite large with numerous seating spaces available. To the left was the buffet restaurant, Altitude. A jag left from there and then straight ahead and you were in the conference wing.

Shangri-La Lhasa Lobby

Shangri-La Lhasa Lobby Seating

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Categories: Asia, China, Hotel, Lodging Review, River Cruise, Shangri-La, Tibet, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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