Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam

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

When IHG acquired Kimpton, that added a number of desirable properties to the IHG portfolio. One of those was the Kimpton DeWitt which has a great location near Centraal Station, the canal cruises and lots of restaurants and shops. Yet this area was quiet in the evenings and we did not have to deal with noise either inside or outside the hotel.

Hotel Exterior. The entrance is at the lighted portion halfway down the block.

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Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class

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

Flights between Memphis and Chicago were on American Airlines, then Chicago-Madrid-Amsterdam and Munich-Madrid-Chicago on Iberia

Outbound: Chicago – Madrid

I’d flown from Memphis to Chicago on Tuesday evening and spent the night at my friend’s house. Then we spent a leisurely morning doing a few last-minute things before driving to the airport garage where she’d park while we were gone. Mid-day, mid-week it’s about a 45 minute drive from her house to the airport. We had left in plenty of time but were over halfway to the airport when I realized I’d left both my charging cords at her house. Well, we’d stop and I could get another one at Walmart. Then I realized I’d left my tablet there too. Oh boy was the trip off to a great start or what?! I still had my phone so we did stop and get a charging cord – I’d needed one to keep at work anyway – and we were able to get a family member to stop by her house and turn off the tablet so it all ended well but it was quite a bummer to start things off like that. Continue reading

Categories: Iberia, OneWorld | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

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

Though I usually do these trip reports in sequential order as to the activities, I skipped over the flight from Chicago to Munich as it was on a B777 configured in the old 2-4-2 layout that we experienced on our flight from Chicago to Brussels a few years ago. So I’ve included the food options below but am not providing a detailed review. Since my reservations were made only 10 days before, I was not surprised to find that the only available BusinessFirst seats were middle seats in the middle section. However, when I checked in 24 hours in advance I was thrilled to see it was the new 1-2-1 layout. But I was unable to select a seat. I was fine with that since now it no longer mattered where I sat. Later in the day, however, the seat map later reverted to the old 2-4-2 as I assume they had changed which aircraft would be servicing this flight. The good news was that now I had been assigned an aisle seat though it was still in the center section.

On the return, we did indeed finally get the 1-2-1 layout with the new Polaris amenities so I’ve included photos of that seat below. I did not include a review of one of the Lufthansa business class lounges in Munich as it was quite busy and there really wasn’t a way to take photos without people in it.

UA 952 ORD-MUC
Aircraft: B777-200ER
Seat: 8D (BusinessFirst, aisle of center section)
Depart: 1900 CDT
Arrive 0930+1 CET

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Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport

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 had a very early start to the day for my return trip. My flight from Munich to Chicago departed at 11:25 AM so I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to connect – and even to catch a backup flight should my original flight get canceled. So I was booked on a 6:20 AM flight from the Cologne/Bonn airport to Munich. I booked a ride with Suntransfers and my only complaint was that they were non-negotiable as to pickup time and that was at 3:55 AM. At that time of day, with no traffic and it’s a short drive anyway, I was at the airport around 4:30 AM and the Lufthansa ticket counter didn’t even open until 5 AM so I had to stand there for half an hour with my bags. Ah well, certainly better than being late.

CGN airport is quite small. In fact, on their website, the motto is: so simple. There are two terminals. Terminal 1 handles Lufthansa, Germanwings, Austrian and Star Alliance partners and Terminal 2 handles all other airlines. Each Terminal has a lounge. In T2 it’s a generic business lounge for all the airlines while in T1 it’s a Lufthansa-branded lounge.

As the airport is small, so is the lounge. However with Lufthansa being the dominant carrier I can see that it might get crowded with elite travelers gaining access even if they’re on an economy ticket. It opens at 5:30 AM so I had to wait a bit for entry.

The lounge is circular in shape and one side of the room has the comfortable lounging chairs while the other side has tables and chairs for dining.

Lufthansa Lounge CGN Casual Seating

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Categories: Europe, Germany, Lufthansa, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Categories: Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Activate 2nd Quarter Bonus Categories

As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2019, it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

US Bank has added a new category for this quarter, TV, Internet & Streaming Services.  If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment.  You must register your card before mid-June to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank.

Discover Card

Discover gave us the full year’s calendar late last year:

 

This quarter’s categories are Gas Stations, Uber and Lyft.  As a reminder the Discover card does not have foreign transaction fees but may not be as accepted worldwide as Visa, MasterCard and even American Express.  But if you use ride-sharing services a good bit here in the US you’ll be fine.  To register, sign in to your Discover account and click on the Activate button.

 

Chase Freedom

Chase is offering 5x Ultimate Rewards points at Grocery Stores and Home Improvement stores.  This is one of my favorite categories because it’s the easiest to max out.  You can redeem the URs for a penny apiece on your credit card statement or, if you have one of the UR-earning cards that comes with an annual fee you can transfer these points to airline frequent flyer programs or hotel loyalty programs.  Alternately you can shop through the UR portal and use the points like cash.

To register you can go to this linkthis link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button as seen above.

 

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Attraction Review: Museo Egizio

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

Turin’s Egyptian Musem, Museo Egizio, contains over 30,000 Egyptian artifacts, and is said to have the largest collection of Egyptian items anywhere outside of Egypt. It receives well over 500K visitors per year and is definitely worth visiting if you have a few hours to spare.

The first item in the collection was an altar table in an imitation of Egyptian style that arrived in 1630. This piece inspired King Charles Emmanuel III commissioned Vitaliano Donati to travel to Egypt and acquire more ancient items in 1753. Donati returned with 300 pieces that became the basis of the collection.

In the 1800s the French Consul General had built a collection during his stay in Egypt and it was acquired by Italian King Charles Felix in 1824. Other collections have been added to the museum over time until it reached its present size.

Here are a few things I found interesting.

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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

Changes coming to American Airlines credit cards

Last week we were notified by both Citibank and Barclays that there will be changes coming to their affiliated American Airlines credit cards.

Through the end of April both cards will continue to offer you a 10% rebate on award tickets, up to a maximum of 10,000 miles per year. Starting May 1, 2019, this benefit will be removed from both cards.  So if you were thinking about redeeming AA miles, do it sooner rather than later.  Remember that AA allows you to change dates and routings on award tickets, as long as the starting and ending point remains the same.

There are other changes, both positive and negative as well though they vary by card.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®

(Supposedly) Positive changes:

– If you spend $20,000 on the card during your cardmember year you’ll get a companion certificate for $99 plus taxes and fees.

– You can get up to $25 back on inflight wi-fi purchases each year

– Resuming a trial program they had last year, your final total each month will be rounded up to the nearest whole dollar and for each penny it’s rounded up you’ll be given 1 AAdvantage mile. So if your total spent for the month is $xx0.45 it will be rounded up to $xx1.00 and you’ll earn an addition 55 AA miles.

Negative changes:

– If you (like me) had a version of this card that was converted from the old US Airways president’s card that earned 10,000 miles each year when you renewed your card, that program will be discontinued. You will receive your last 10,000 mile bonus upon the next renewal after May 1, 2019.

– Barclays hands out discount certificates for $100 off an AA flight if you spend $30,000 or more during a cardmember year. This program is also being discontinued effective with your next anniversary date on or after May 1, 2019.

– The annual fee will increase to $99 from $89.

Even the supposedly positive changes are mostly negative to me. I fly to meet up with friends and only very rarely fly an entire route with someone so I don’t need the companion pass. I’ve never used wi-fi on a flight so while that’s nice, it’s not something I’ll likely use. I wouldn’t mind the Flight Cents program but am not lost without it.

As for the negative changes, I’d already concluded that it was a waste of my time to manufacture spend $30,000 for a $100 certificate so I hadn’t planned to do that this year. The annual fee increase is not a deal breaker. The loss of the 10,000 miles per year just for owning the card is the big hit here.

 

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select®

The changes here aren’t quite as drastic. The card will not lose any other benefits and if you spend $20,000 per year on the card you’ll get a AA discount certificate whose value is being increased from $100 to $125.

I’ve owned Barclays AAviator card for a number of years and have held on to it primarily for the 10,000 mile bonus each year. With that feature gone, I’ll try to product change this card to something else or cancel it when my cardmember year is up in December. I’ve had the Citi AA card for over 20 years so I’ll hang on to that for the free checked bag and priority boarding.

It’s a real shame these benefits are being removed. As bad as American’s been lately you’d think they’d be looking for ways to entice the public to use their cards but that appears not to be the case.

Categories: Credit Cards, Citibank, Barclays, AAdvantage Aviator, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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