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It is time for a March hotel promotions update. This is the first time I will include the Choice Privileges in this update as well. In the future you will most likely see Accor and Best Western promotions as well. There are so many different promotions going on that there is, for sure, something for everyone.

I am working on the Two Days of Happy Starwood promotion that is about to end. Will probably have quite a few InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton stays next. Both have very good promotions going on.

Carlson Hotels – Club Carlson

Club Carlson is offering triple points for all stays. This promotion is valid until March 16th, 2012. Note that you will receive 2000 bonus points for online bookings.

club-carlson-triple-points

Club Carlson “Triple Points – Faster Nights” Promotion – Triple Gold Points Worldwide

Choice Hotels – Choice Privileges

Choice has a promotion starting on March 8th for 8000 points for every two stays. On some brands you need two nights for a stay.

choise-hotels-march-promo

Choice Hotels Promotion – Stay Two Separate Times & Earn One Free Night

Hilton HHonors

Hilton has the most promotions running that you can combine together. You should sign up for the two promos below. Even if you are Diamond with Hilton, you can still get 40K HH for four Hilton stays.

Register Your Visa and Get 1000 Hilton HHonors Points + 4000 Bonus for Spending $100

Instant Hilton HHonors Gold Status for Visa Infinite Card Holders + 40K HHonors Points After Four Stays (For All?

You can choose one of these airline promotions as your double dip earnings partner. My personal favorite still is BMI that would earn 1k per night and up to three nights regardless of the Hilton brand. Please note that all these airline related bonuses are scheduled to end on March 31st.

hilton-hhonors-emirates-promo

Triple ANA and Double Emirates Miles for Hilton Stays Until March 31st

Airline Promotions for Air Canada Aeroplan, US Airways Dividend Miles, Lufthansa Miles & More and American Airlines AAdvantage

Earn 2012 Bonus Delta SkyMiles per Two Night Hilton Stay

The British Airways promotion shows 1500 bonus Avios, but what has been posting to members is 1000. If you don’t get the correct amount,  I would suggest that you write to Hilton and reference their own promotional page for this offer.

hilton-hhonors-avios-campaign

Hilton HHonors With British Airways Offering 1500 Bonus Avios Per Stay Until March 31st, 2012

These are the two main promotions for the time. More Points promotion for extra points for each nights and more for weekend stays, and free night certificates for longer resort stays.

Hilton HHonors 1st Quarter 2012 “More Points” Promotion

‘Resort Escapes’ Promotion – Free Night Certificate After Five Nights and Two After Ten Nights

Hyatt Gold Passport

You can earn up to 44K extra points for 16 stays during the promotional period. That is extra 2750 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night.

hyatt-spring-promo-2012

Hyatt Announced Spring 2012 Promo – Earn up to 44000 Bonus Points

InterContinental Hotels Group – Priority Club

The first promotion for double points starting from your second stay and the 5/7/15 stays for 5K/10K/15K bonus points are combinable. The first one runs until the end of April and the second until the end of March. Note that you need to choose the bonus after 5, 7, or 15 stays. If you don’t meet the threshold, you won’t get the associate bonus.

Priority Club 1st Quarter 2012 Promotion Announced – Double Points or Miles – 2X More

Priority Club Bonus Points Promo for 1st Quarter 2012

Marriott Rewards / Ritz-Carton Rewards

Remember that you can have only Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards account. You cannot have both. You can, however, switch between accounts as often as you wish just by calling the rewards customer service.

ritz-carlton-rewards

Ritz-Carlton Rewards – Earn Free Night Certificate After Two Stays Promotion

Note that you can only register for the MegaBonus or MegaMiles promotion. There are number of different MegaBonus thresholds. Pick up the ones that fits you best, and call the Marriott Rewards customer service if you need to switch your targeted promotion to something else.

Marriott Rewards Spring 2012 MegaBonus Announced – Few Variations of the Offer

Earn Up To 50000 Virgin America Elevate Bonus Points During Marriott’s MegaMiles Promotion

Marriott Rewards MegaMiles Promotion – Earn Up to 50K Bonus Miles

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood has two different promotions that are both exclusive. The Better By the Night is valid in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. The list of non-participating properties is rather long. Note that this is NOT valid in the Asia-Pacific region that has their own promotion. The Two Days of Happy end of March 15th.

Starwood Preferred Guest 1st Quarter 2012 “Better by the Night”–promotion

‘Two Days of Happy’ – Stay 5 Nights Get One Free Night Certificate – Stay 9 Nights Get Two Free Night Certificates – 4MCFN

There is a promotion of 1000 extra Starpoints for booking a Club accommodation at Sheraton hotels and paying using an American Express card.

spg-1000-bonus-points-sheraton-club

Starwood Offering 1000 Bonus Starpoints for Sheraton Club Floor Bookings

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American Airlines announced that they will start rolling Main Cabin Extra to all of their aircrafts starting this spring. American used to feature a product called “More Room Throughout The Coach” but dismissed this as it wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to offset the lower number of seats available for sale. This time this product is only available in part of the aircraft.

american-airlines-main-cabin-extra

You will get 4 to 6 inches more legroom compared to regular coach. This doesn’t sound a lot, but it does make a noticeable difference, however. I don’t have a problem sitting in United’s Economy Plus and even open a laptop, but trying to do that comfortably in AA’s coach is very difficult.

United has had their Economy Plus service for years. Delta started their Economy Comfort product in the summer of 2011 and is rolling it in all of their domestic fleet including two class regional jets. Virgin America has had their Main Cabin Select that sounds a lot like AA’s Main Cabin Extra. Jet Blue has more room in all of their aircrafts, and even more in back of the plane.

Initially this Main Cabin Extra product is available free of charge for all American Airlines elite members. Gold members will lose complimentary access on December 31st, 2013. Platinum and Executive Platinum members will continue having free access past that date.

AA will up sell this product to those that are not eligible for the complimentary access. United and Delta are also doing this. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me that if they would start marketing a Main Cabin Extra annual pass once they have got all of their aircraft fitted with this roomier configuration.

It is interesting to see how long it takes AA to roll it fleet wide. American was really fast adding additional seats when they decided to ditch the More Room Throughout the Coach-product. Making this Main Cabin Extra should take even less time because they are essentially just removing couple of rows and redistributing the rest.

You can read more about this product at AA’s website AA.com/MainCabinExtra. [click to continue…]

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This is the first day for many of us that didn’t hit the requalification requirements last year, and thus were dropped a notch or two (or three on my Delta case) in frequent flyer programs. Last year and 2010 were quite exceptional for me flying wise. I was at some point United 1K, Continental Platinum, BMI Gold, American Airlines Executive Platinum, Delta Diamond, and Emirates Gold. All these were earned in actual flying and none of them were comped.

delta-diamond-aa-exp

In 2011, I moved out from the United States, and as a result my flying on US carriers was down dramatically. I was very close requalifying to 1K and decided to make my way to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo from Asia the long way and earn the EQM’s needed. I am not planning to requalify for the United top tier status this year.

I am in a somewhat lucky situation. I am a 2.6 million miler (not a coiner) with American Airlines, and thus have a lifetime Platinum status with American that translates to Oneworld Sapphire status. That guarantees a business class check in and lounge access if I find myself in economy.

With Star Alliance I am covered through United. After United and Continental merge their frequent flyer accounts, I am somewhere around 1.5 million lifetime flown miles. This will guarantee me lifetime Gold level status in United’s program, and more importantly with Star Alliance. Like with Oneworld this will give me a business class check in and lounge access if ticketed in economy.

SkyTeam? Forget about it. I think that Delta is a fine domestic US airline and I did enjoy flying within the United States, but the alliance is second/third rate. It is way behind both Star Alliance and Oneworld when it comes to quality of the airlines and implementation of the alliance wide benefits. To be frank, it would be nice to have some sort of status with SkyTeam as well, but I think that I have to learn to live without it.

Overall, I think that I will survive.

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Choice Hotels is about to launch their spring promotion. For every two stays you will receive 8000 Choice Privileges points that are enough for a free night at the lowest Choice redemption category hotel. There are more than 1500 Choice hotels that are at 8000 Choice Privileges points per night. This promotion runs from March 8th to May 8th, 2012 and requires a registration.

choise-hotels-march-promo

There’s bit of a small print attached to this offer. For promotional purposes a stay is defined at least 2 consecutive nights at the following brands: Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, and MainStay Suites. For all other Choice brands (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites or Ascend Collection) a stay can be 1 night and qualify for this promotion.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of these motel style hotels and haven’t stayed at one for quite some time. I am sure, however, that I could survive a night here and there, if the points earned are high enough. You can redeem Choice Privileges points for Preferred Chain properties as well.

  • Register now to earn unlimited free nights during the promotion
  • Book at ChoiceHotels.com or 800.4CHOICE and after your second stay with arrival between March 8 and May 8, 2012 you’ll receive enough Choice Privileges® points to redeem for a FREE night at over 1,500 hotels

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Last week I had had enough of Denarau Island and Nadi, and decided to make my way to the city of Suva, the capital of Fiji. Of the three hotels that I visited in Denarau the Hilton was by far the best. I wasn’t very satisfied with either Sheraton or Radisson Blu hotels. I also had a quick overnight at the Mercure hotel. This hotel is bit on the pricey side and thus it is very good value using Priority Club points/Points and Money rewards as I pointed out.

Location

This InterContinental is located in Natadola Bay, which is about an hour drive from Nadi International airport. The actual distance is only 40 kilometers, but the road itself is in terrible condition. There are numerous villages that you pass by and very deep potholes.

intercontinental-fiji-nan-natadola-bay-google-maps

I am sure that the hotel can arrange a transport from the airport to the resort. Whether you need a rental car is entirely dependent what you are planning to do. If your main focus is relax in the resort and only fly in/out, I wouldn’t rent a car. If you are planning to get around and maybe visit the Suva, renting a car is basically essential. I got a pretty good deal from Europcar for the days I needed one. There are quite a few car rental agencies at the airport. You might be able to negotiate something on the spot, but I made the reservation over the website, however.

There are few signs on the main road, but they are easy to miss if you are driving in the dark. I would suggest that you try to get to the resort during the day light hours. Also, the GPS in my phone was not able to work properly on the Pacific. I did get an approximate location based on the cell phone towers, but not the exact one.

Check in

The check in could have been better. For some reason their system showed me as a Gold member even when the correct InterContinental status is Royal Ambassador. I didn’t have the card with me so I had to log in to the Priority Club website to show them that I was indeed RA.

intercontinental-fiji-lobby-area

Not sure what is the usual Royal Ambassador upgrade here but the entire Club section of the hotel was closed due to low occupancy during the southern summer. You can see the club buildings on the attached map. They are further away from the main pool and beach. I would rather be on the buildings that are next to the beach.

intercontinental-fiji-resort-map-zoom-2

They hadn’t prepared a suite for me as they had the wrong status on their system. I was told that it would take 10 to 15 minutes for them to prepare a suite for me. I went to the bar by the pool and had a margarita while waiting.

Suite 2112

This was a beautiful ground floor suite with an outside terrace that had a nice bath tub. You could walk on the grass to the beach or just relax on the couch outside.

intercontinental-fiji-suite-2112-livingroom-sofa

The living room had a really long sofa, work desk, entertainment system, a hair, and the access to the patio.

intercontinental-fiji-suite-2112-patio-sitting-area

Bedroom was anything you would expect from a modern hotel. There was obviously another TV and wired internet connection. The hotel didn’t have wireless internet access in the rooms.

intercontinental-fiji-suite-2112-bedroom-bed

Bathroom had a shower and a toilet, but as I noted above the bath rub was actually on the outside patio.

Royal Ambassador Amenities

intercontinental-fiji-royal-ambassador-amenity

This hotel honored all the Royal Ambassador benefits even on an award stay. Per the program they don’t have to extend them beyond paid stays. It is always nice, however, when they do. I had a nice white wine amenity and a fruit display brought to the suite. Late checkout 4PM was granted and the minibar was complimentary as well, although I didn’t have time to take extensive use of it.

Beach/Pool

There are two main pools around the property. According to the map there might be one in the club area as well, but that was closed as I noted earlier due to low occupancy. The main pool is by the beach and is infinity style. There are plenty of sun chairs and loungers around. You can watch the pool while eating or drinking in the pool bar/restaurant.

intercontinental-fiji-pool-1

The other pool is closer to the buildings. There are quite a few loungers and sun chairs in this area as well. I think that this pool is a lot swallower than the infinity one.

intercontinental-fiji-pool-sun-chairs-around

The beach here is much better than in the Denarau area, but I would still probably spend most of my time by the pool or in the private patio. There is also a small island on the other side, that you can access during the low tide by just crawling. During the evening you can see quite a few local people crawling in the water and doing some fishing.

intercontinental-fiji-second-pool-2

Restaurants

There are two/three restaurants on the property, and as one might expect this being a resort they are all on the high side when it comes to the price. There aren’t any local other options around. I only had a snack on the restaurant in the evening as I had arrived rather late. In the late morning I had a lunch of fried calamari and fries. Both were fine.

intercontinental-fiji-pool-bar-frozen-margarita

Fitness Center

They had a modern fitness center that was housed in one of the buildings. It had all the modern equipment that one has come to expect.

intercontinental-fiji-fitness-center-2

Conclusion

This property surprised me very positively after subpar Hilton, Starwood, and Carlson properties in the Denarau area. This was truly made for international InterContinental standards and the target audience is definitely more upscale clientele than those of the above mentioned other hotels. The pool and beach area is basically fantastic. Employees were mainly Fijian but the GM and one lady working in the guest relations were from Australia/New Zealand.

intercontinental-fiji-sunset

I am glad that I decided to stay here for a night on my way from Nadi to Suva. Could have easily spent few days, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible on this trip.

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Please note that this offer is not currently valid. Sign up for our free email alerts so that you won’t miss when this is available next time.

Accor has run number of promotion with various banks for giving Platinum Status for their customers. Apparently now it is Citibank’s turn. This promotion is supposed to run to May 31st, 2012 but these tend to end earlier. Last time Accor run similar promotion with HSBC.

accor-a-club-plt-benefits

The terms and conditions indicate that you would need to reside in the United Arab Emirates to be eligible for this offer. I just signed up my brother, who lives in Finland, and all went through just fine.

accor-a-club-plt-sign-up

You can sign up for the Platinum status using the following link: http://bit.ly/accorplt

accor-a-club-city

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Marriott just released a list of hotels that are moving up and down in award categories in 2012. According to the release 100 hotels are moving down (I counted 97) and 526 are moving up (I counted 516). In percentage terms 3% are moving down and 14% are moving up. The rest are staying at the current category level. Marriott also has four Ritz-Carlton moving from Ritz-Carlton Category 4 to 3, two moving from category 2 to 3, and another two from 3 to 4.

marriott-rewards-category-changes

Starwood released their category changes on February 16th. They had 13% moving down and 17% moving up. InterContinental Hotels Group announced on January 3rd that 25% of their hotels are moving up and 20% are moving down. They didn’t, however, provide a list of actual hotels moving in categories due to “competitive” reasons.

marriott-properties-moving-down-per-category

The vast majority of Marriott Rewards hotels are still in categories 1 – 4. I would argue, however, that the hotels that me and you would actually like to stay at are in categories 5 and higher.

marriott-properties-moving-up-per-category

You have until March 15th to book the hotels that are moving up in categories at the old point levels. You can download the PDF file that Marriott made public about the changes here. [click to continue…]

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American Airlines sent an email few hours ago regarding global elite level benefits. They invite you to play a game and to earn 1000 AAdvantage bonus miles after finishing it. According to the email I received, the bonus AAdvantage miles are only for the first 20000 participants. It already had more than 35000 participants when I just played it, so getting the bonus miles at this point are unlikely.

american-airlines-global-elite-benefits-email

It never hurts to try, however, and you will be eligible for a chance to win a two Oneworld Explorer 3-continent tickets.

american-airlines-go-for-the-emerald

This seems to be a Flash-based game so it will take some time to load on slower connection. I am here in Shanghai right now, and I had to refresh it couple of times before it started correctly.

american-airlines-more-than-35000

Good luck!

Gold Level Room

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Platinum Level Room

american-airlines-platinum

Executive Platinum Level Room

american-airlines-exp

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Priority Club has had these Points and Money awards for already some time. If the hotel has award availability, you can always choose to pay partially by cash. This is, in essence, buying points from Priority Club.

intercontinental-fiji-reservation-points-and-cash

I took advantage of it for the very first time last week for a stay at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & SPA. I would have had enough points just to do a basic redemption, but decided to buy 10K Priority Club points for $60. I could have bought 5000 Priority Club points for $40.

intercontinental-fiji-points-and-cash

What happens here is that Priority Club sells you the points first, as you can see from the attached account statement, and then withdraws the number of points required for the award night. If you later cancel the award night, you will get the full amount of points credited back to your account. Priority Club will not reverse the point sale transaction.

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Kingfisher Airlines has had a tumultuous month. Its entry to Oneworld was put on hold and it was temporarily suspended from IATA clearinghouse membership. Also, there has been reduction in scheduled number of flights, and discussion also of unpaid wages for its employees.

kingfisher-king-club-conversion-offer

Now, Kingfishers King Club is offering bonuses for mileage transfers into its program. Whether this makes any sense it is really a gamble. If the airline somehow manages to stay afloat, this offer appears to be quite lucrative.

  • Convert your loyalty points equivalent to 1,000 to 4,999 King Miles in one shot & earn 20% bonus King Miles
  • Convert points equivalent to 5,000 to 9,999 King Miles in one shot and earn 25% bonus King Miles and 1 upgrade voucher
  • Convert points equivalent to 10,000 King Miles in one shot (and then onwards in multiples of 10K) and earn 30% bonus King Miles + 2 upgrade vouchers + 1 One-way Kingfisher Class/Red domestic ticket (base fare) free

There are number of partners that you can use to transfer miles in. The ones that caught my eye are Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Marriott Rewards.

Starwood offers a bonus of 5000 miles for every 20000 Starpoints transferred. Transferring 40K Starwood points would yield 50000 King Club miles. And with the 30% King Club transfer bonus this would become total of 65000 King Club miles. You would also get 5 one-way Kingfisher domestic tickets + 10 upgrade vouchers.

There are terms and conditions attached to both of these “free” tickets and upgrade vouchers making them not entirely free. This offer is valid for transfers that are posted to the members Kings Club account by March 31st, 2012.

Terms and conditions of the transfer offer: [click to continue…]

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It is always good time to burn miles when airlines temporarily lower the number of required miles. Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue program does this every couple of months. They just released the list for destination that they have at 50% for March and April 2012. The booking window starts on February 28th, 2012

air-france-klm-promo-march

Thing to note is that you can book these also as one way.  These are not only for originating from Europe as all the destinations are for both directions. The discounted awards within Europe, however, are only from the listed cities. Other awards allow the origin/destination in Europe to be in zones 1, 2, and 3 basically meaning that these awards are valid from/to anywhere in Europe.

Thing to remember is that Flying Blue charges rather hefty taxes and fees for award tickets. The fees are mainly fuel surcharges (YQ) that they collect. As a result, it rarely makes sense to redeem for an economy class ticket. Also, there are no changes or cancellations of any kind allowed on promo tickets. You either use it or lose it.

You can sign up for the Flying Blue account and have a look at the availability. I would suggest first trying to find availability for the long haul flights and work the connecting fights, if needed, separately

Europe

air-france-klm-promo-march-europe

Africa & Middle East

air-france-klm-promo-africa-middle-east

Asia Pacific

air-france-klm-promo-asia-pacific

Caribbean

air-france-klm-promo-march-caribbean

North America

air-france-klm-promo-march-north-america

South America

air-france-klm-promo-march-south-america

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Sheraton Fiji resort is located on the Denarau Island that is a basically a huge resort area. There are two other Starwood properties in the same complex; Sheraton Denarau Villas and a Westin hotel. Right next to Sheraton is also a Radisson Blu hotel, where I stayed the previous night before moving to Sheraton. Close by is also a Wyndham timeshare property, Sofitel hotel, and a Hilton resort where I spent one night also.

Getting to/from hotel

Easiest way from the airport is to take one of the taxis that are waiting outside. Although they are bit more expensive than the regular ones, the fare shouldn’t be more than 20 to 25 FJD. The ride takes about 20 minutes.

There really isn’t much in the Denarau island besides these hotels and a “harbor”. There are quite a few restaurants in the harbor including a Hard Rock Café.  You can catch a boat to one of the island excursions from there as well. There is a hotel hoppa style bus that can transport you from any of the hotels to this entertainment venue for a daily flat free.

Check in

Was a borderline disaster. Only one person working who was checking someone out that was taking forever. Didn’t see a Platinum check in area anywhere. Finally a front desk manager was able to sort out the check in and escorted me to the Ocean Studio.

Room 1370

This was on a second floor of the beach front building. From the patio was an ocean/garden view. The studio was fairly good sized with a work area.

sheraton-fiji-ocean-studio-1370-view-of-the-room

Pool/Beach

The beach in all of the hotels in the Denarau area is unremarkable. The key is just to spend time by the pool. There are number of them in the entire resort area.

sheraton-fiji-beach-2

Fitness Center

This hotel doesn’t have one. You can use the one at the Westin apparently.

Platinum Benefits

Beyond the studio upgrade? None. No welcome letter, no fruit or any other kind of amenity.

Check out

Was equally as disastrous as check in. Took about half an hour.

Conclusion

This was very average/below average Sheraton hotel. Most of the clientele is from package tourists from Australia and New Zealand. This hotel is fine if you are only looking for a getaway that is not too far from where you live. This is NOT a place to experience anything Fiji related, however.