Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai – Breakfast

1 Comment

Emirates has grown very fast in the past few years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They have very competitive fares for economy, business, and first class travel, and almost impossible to avoid if one is traveling in and around in the Europe and Middle East.

[nggallery id=38]

Earlier in the week, I had a long transit in Dubai and used the Emirates complimentary limo service to/from Abu Dhabi. I will write later about the limo process and the service on the flights. This will not going to be a lounge review, but rather a review of the breakfast service in the lounge.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-restaurant

The lounge was very quiet when I was there on a recent Wednesday morning from 8AM to 9:30AM. When you enter the “restaurant” area there are typically a waiter seating you and handing you their breakfast ala carte menu. Normally they take your drink order at this time. You can also request them to bring you a morning cocktail like Mimosa or Bloody Mary. I just tend to drink plain Veuve Clicquot and some tea with the lounge breakfast.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-plate

There is rather extensive selection of buffet items available as well. My favorite is the sushi section and proper salmon.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-sushi

This morning I placed an order for eggs benedict with smoked salmon instead of bacon and the sauce to be on the side. They actually don’t have this item on the menu, but I am most likely not the only one that had requested it as it came just fine.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-eggs-benedict

I really like the proper bread basket that they have in this lounge. Almost identical to that on the flights as well.

The service in the restaurant area is very attentive. I had my first flute of Veuve and before I had had a chance request more the waiter was already coming with a bottle to refresh it.

This is probably the best breakfast experience I have had in any of the airline lounges.

Novotel Suva, Lami Bay, Fiji – Review of My Stay

9 Comments

The main selling point of this hotel is the close proximity to the capital of Fiji, but yet far enough away from the city to feel like a resort. I was on my way from Nadi to Suva and spent a night at the InterContinental Fiji resort, that was stunning, before continuing my way to Suva. As it was starting to be late I decided to spend a night here before continuing to the city, and to the Holiday Inn in the morning.

[nggallery id=37]

The drive from Natadola Bay and Nadi is long. This will take about three hours if you drive fast. I would not suggest driving during the night-time as there are rather large potholes at times. It is impossible to see them in the dark.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-sign-on-the-highway

There are numerous villages on the way and you need to slow down considerably when you are driving through them. They have at least two speed bumps in every village. Just before you enter one and when you leave.

Check in

novotel-suva-lami-bay-lobby-sitting-area

The check in was fast. I had made my reservation earlier in the day while logged in to my Accor A Club Platinum account. Not sure about this A Club because apparently there are no benefits for staying at Novotel hotels besides getting some extra points. Anyway, I was allocated a room facing the bay and on a wing that appeared to been renovated fairly recently.

Room

The room itself was nice but rather small. All was very functional, however. There was a lovely view of the bay from the balcony.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-room-228-bed

Bathroom, again, was quite small but functional.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-room-228-bathroom-sink

Restaurant / Bar

Didn’t have a breakfast at this property so cannot comment about it. I did, however, have a soup, dessert, and couple of beers in the evening when I arrived. There was couple of musicians playing some Polynesian themed songs and the atmosphere was quite nice.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-dinner

What I didn’t like was the number of insects flying around in the bar due to the lights. This entire area is open and probably because it is so close to the water it is impossible to control these. It didn’t seem to bother anybody else than me so I am most likely just not used to it.

Pool / Fitness Center

novotel-suva-lami-bay-view-of-the-hotel-and-swimming-pool

They had a small pool on the property and few chairs around it. There were more chairs on the deck very close to the water. As I was leaving early in the morning, I didn’t have time to check out the fitness center at this property.

Transportation

The hotel was offering a shuttle (not sure if it was free) to the city center of Suva and back three to four times a day. So it is possible to explore the city and still day at this hotel. I didn’t use the shuttle because I had a rental car and staying at this hotel only for a night.

Conclusion

novotel-suva-lami-bay-outside-terrace

Nice and relaxing hotel that is located very close to the Suva city. I probably wouldn’t spend here longer than couple of days, if you are just planning to explore the city. I also stayed at the Holiday Inn hotel in Suva that is right in the city center. I will write about it tomorrow.

Priority Club One Day Sale – 50% to 67% off Regular Redemption Rates

2 Comments

This Priority Club One Say Sale is apparently their new weekly feature. I don’t mind as it is always great to save when you are redeeming points.

priority-club-one-say-sale

These discounted rewards are only available until midnight Thursday EST.

This time they have 12 properties from 50% to 67% discount off their regular redemption rates. I don’t understand why they have the InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai Financial Center on this list as this property NEVER has any paid or redemption availability. I again checked ten different dates during this redemption sale period and none was available.

priority-club-one-say-sale-march-8

priority-club-one-say-sale-march-8-2

You can access this sale at http://www.priorityclub.com/onedaysale.

Accor A Club Rate Promotion “3 Nights For The Price Of 2”

2 Comments

Accor is having a sale for stays between March 9 and April 15, 2012. You can get 3 nights for the price of 2. There are quite a few hotels participating to this promotion, but obviously not all. They just sent an email notification for their A Club members before making the offer more widely available.

accor-sale-email-march-2012

I was just looking for options in Kuala Lumpur, where I will be this weekend, and Novotel had quite decent rates. If you are looking for some stays that are 3 days or longer, it might make some sense to check out the Accor’s prices.

accor-sale-march-2012

accor-sale-march-2012-novotel-kuala-lumpur

There is still the promotion going to get instant Platinum status as well with the Accor’s A Club. You can access this sale using the link here.

Fairmont Presidents Club Extends Certificate Expiry Date By Month

It was a very nice move from Fairmont to extend the validity of February 29, 2012 expiring certificates by a month until the end of March. I had few certificates going to expire, but now have another four weeks to use them. I was just surprised to find this out when I checked the new certs that were issued for the 2012 Platinum year. No communication from Fairmont though.

fairmont-presidents-club-certificate-extension

Hilton HHonors Premium Room Reward & Why I Used It At Hilton Shanghai

3 Comments

Hilton launched their Premium Room and Points And Money rewards last year. The other week, I wrote about my Points And Money reward at Hilton Fiji. I have also written about the Premium Room Rewards at Hilton Abu Dhabi where I was thinking of staying at late last year.

When I have looked at these Premium Room Rewards, the Hilton has always valued the Hilton HHonors point from anywhere between $0.003 and $0.007. The price using points is directly linked to the price of the room/suite. It sometimes creates a situation where this Premium Room Reward actually costs less than the basic level room reward for the hotel in question. Also, there is/was a Get Points Back Promotion where Hilton would credit back 30% of the points used back for Points And Money & Premium Room Rewards.

After having had a great stay at the Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria in Shanghai, I wanted to stay at the Hilton Shanghai as well. The rates there were rather high and couldn’t get the price to come down using any of the discount codes that I am eligible for.

hilton-shanghai-basic-room

The regular redemption rates at this hotel are 35000 Hilton HHonors points per night, but there was also Premium Room Rewards available starting at less than 31000 points per night. I decided to book the Premium Room Reward because I had a hunch that I might get the 30% of the used points back, although the reservation was done after the official cut off time.

hilton-shanghai-premium-room-reward

Lo and behold. The stay posted to my account and there was again the line for Get Points Back Promo essentially making this award cost 21647 Hilton HHonors points. The “value” of a Hilton HHonors point, considering the paid rates and after getting 30% of the points back, was around $0.01/Hilton HHonors point.

hilton-shanghai

This Get Points Back-promotion proves why it always makes sense to sign up for the promotions even if you are not initially planning to use them. I had absolutely no plans to use these new awards, but I have already done it twice and saved nice number of Hilton HHonors points in the process.

Transit Visa For Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka started to require an Electronic Travel Authorization for quite a few countries that previously were exempt of visa to enter Sri Lanka. I belong to this group. Personally, I don’t think that this “Electronic Travel Authorization” is nothing else than a sort of tourism tax that the government now wants to collect.

sri-lankan-website

Yesterday, I arrived for the very first time since this new system took place. I was flying in on Thai Airway and was going to fly out on Emirates about 36 hours later on a separate ticket. I just proceeded to the regular immigration counter that first tried to suggest that I would need a visa and would have to pay for that. After I explained that I was flying out the following day on Emirates and showed my itinerary from my cell phone, she just stamped the passport with a two day transit visa.

sri-lankan-transfer-stamp

On my previous transit the transit visa was for three days when my transfer was only 12 hours.

timatic-sri-lanka

I normally rely on Timatic for all kind of visa and transit issues. This time, however, the information on Timatic is somewhat vague. The information on the Sri Lankan Electronic Travel Authorization website is correct.

Accor A Club And Getting Stays Credited Properly

As Accor has been running quite a few promotions lately to get folks to sign up for their frequent stay program and give them the Platinum status right away, I finally decided to check out couple of their properties when I was in Fiji.

I have already written about my disastrous stay at the Mercure hotel in Nadi and will do the write up about my Novotel experience tomorrow that was acceptable. The stay at the Novotel posted without problems to my A Club account, but the stay at the Mercure is apparently MIA.

Both of these reservations was done one Accor’s website while logged in to the A Club account. I can also see post of the stays on my reservation history. So, these are both linked to my account and my account number MUST have been on file.

accor-aclub-mercure

Decided to check out how the system of requesting a stay credit for a past stay that hasn’t posted to your account is working. Apparently they want you to scan a copy of your folio and attach it to the request. I didn’t have it on hand so attached a picture of the cockroach that I had in my room there.

a-club-missing-stay

a-club-missing-stay-continue

Just got the following reply back that this is a no go.

a-club-missing-stay-email

Is this scanning of receipts and sending them to A Club worth of my or anybody’s time? Of course it is not and they very well know that. Hotels are paying for the A Club points awarded for A Club members, and they can simply remove your account number from the reservation so that they don’t have this extra expense. It would be the right thing to A Club to contact the properties and request copies of the past stays that have been reported through their website, and then post the missing points.

Flying On Paid First Class On Emirates? Check If You Have Been Downgrade To Business.

2 Comments

Not sure what is going on with the Emirates at the moment. I have two tickets bought from them during the January fare sale for first class travel in the next 30 days. The last time I checked the reservations, about two weeks ago, everything seemed normal. Yesterday I decided to check the flights using Expertflyer and was rather surprised to see that the flight I am taking tomorrow didn’t have first class at all.

emirates-cmb-dxb

emirates-canceled

Apparently Emirates has been doing quite a bit of plane juggling lately. When I then checked the second ticket, two of my four segments have also been downgraded from first to business.

Emirates has also changed the eticket receipts to reflect the downgrade for business class. Luckily I have the original eticket receipt saved as well as the mileage accelerators offered for these flights.

Not sure why Emirates doesn’t have better procedures in place for aircraft swaps. I don’t think that it would be too much asked for them to contact the passengers that they are being downgraded, and at the same time offer alternate solutions i.e. rerouting on other carriers (EY/QR/SQ) and/or compensation.

Taxi Scams Around The World

14 Comments

The other Friday the taxi driver that took me from the Maglev station here in Shanghai to the Park Hyatt hotel, tried to “take me to a ride”. I have used taxis high hundreds if not thousands of times, but can recall being trying to be ripped off only handful of times.

Here are examples from Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City & Shanghai.

Lima (Peru) – Completely Wrong Foreign Exchange Rates

On my Lan Peru flight from Los Angeles to Lima I had asked one of the flight attendants what is the typical taxi fare from the airport to the JW Hotel in Miraflores. Cannot remember the exact figure anymore but it was something that sounded reasonable.

In Lima the taxis don’t have meters so you always need to negotiate the fare beforehand. If you are foreigner, your fare is typically higher than if you are local. Try always getting a local to negotiate the fare in your behalf.

I and the taxi driver agreed about the fare to the JW hotel in pesos. Some guy hopped to the taxi on our way to the hotel, and requested that I pay in USD’s using the (completely) wrong exchange rate sheet that he was showing to me. I declined several times and told that I will pay the agreed amount in the currency we (driver & me) had agreed. BTW the exchange rate was off 10 to 15 times. It would have been VERY expensive ride to the hotel. Finally they must have come to a conclusion that I wouldn’t fall on their tricks and we continued the ride to the hotel. The taxi driver told me that the guy was his “boss”.

Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Exchange Given In Self Printed Money

OK. This one I didn’t catch. I had a waiter running after me from a restaurant where I had paid using pesos. Some of the notes that I had left were fake. Basically a taxi driver had given me some fake notes as a change. Late at night when it was dark and this is probably quite easy to execute.

Sao Paulo (Brazil) – Taxi Using a Fake Meter

In this case I had to get the airport police to intervene on the fake meter issue. All the normal taxis in Brazil have the same meter. The fare by distance/time is exactly the same regardless what taxi company you are using.

The taxi fare from the Renaissance hotel to the airport was about twice what it should have been. I called the taxi driver about the issue but he was not giving up. I had to get the airport police to intervene on this issue because I flatly refused to pay the inflated rate. Probably most of the people taking the taxi to the airport are in a hurry, and I am most of the time too, but this time I had time to play this game.

With the help of the police we were able to come up with the figure that was agreeable.

Mexico City (Mexico) – Claimed That I Gave Smaller Notes

Getting a cab in Mexico City can be sometimes bit difficult if you happen to stay in Polanco. There are plenty of more expensive taxis, but not that many of the cheaper ones.

I was taking a taxi from the W to the Zona Rosa. I had just withdrawn money from the ATM and all of the notes were in the same denomination. After paying for the cab and waiting for the change the driver insisted that I had given him a small note. His English was actually quite good and he eventually gave me back the correct change.

Shanghai (China) – Another Fake Meter

Apparently the Maglev station has become a new place for all the “creative” taxi drivers in Shanghai. I was suspecting something when the first taxi didn’t want to take the Chinese group, but would rather help me when I was second in the line.

The driver managed to miss the Park Hyatt entrance and was leaving me close to the entrance but on the sidewalk. The fare on the meter was 201 RMB. This was somewhere between 6 to 8 times more than it should have been. Two weeks prior the fare from the Fairmont Peace hotel to the airport was less than 200 RMB, and from the Maglev station to the hotel about 40.

The taxi driver tried to insist that I pay the 201 RMB, but I wasn’t taking any of it. Gave him the 40 RMB and told him to get lost.

Conclusion

It is always good to have an idea how much the taxi fare should be. Ask the hotel, flight attendant, airport information center etc. if you are in a country where you haven’t been before.

1. Avoid everybody that offers you a taxi in a general arrivals hall. Use the normal taxi stand.

2. In some countries taxis that linger around the hotels/places of interest used by westerners try to rip you off.

3. Try to catch a cab on the street

4. Ask them to use the meter – and make sure that they use a correct rate. In some countries they have different rates for day/night.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask the taxi to stop and get out if meter is not used or you feel uncomfortable with the driver. I have had drivers turning on meters only after I have asked them to stop for me to get our

6. Local currency in small notes and try to give as close to the amount as possible.

Most of the taxi drivers are honest and hardworking. There are always few that try to take advantage of tourists and non-locals. Using common sense when taking a cab is always a good idea.

Lifetime Starwood Preferred Guest SPG Platinum & Gold Status

9 Comments

Last month Starwood announced enhancements to the SPG program. Additional benefits were added to Platinum members starting with 50+ nights, and new program features for Gold members as well. Starwood also launched a way to earn both lifetime Gold and Platinum status. Both Hyatt and Marriott programs had had the lifetime option already for a while.

spg-lifetime-plt

Starwood just rolled out a new website function that not only shows the number of nights you have had since joining the program, but also the number of years you have had  an elite status with them. It does not, however, show the number of years you have had a Platinum status with Starwood.

Requirements for lifetime SPG Gold status

– 250 qualifying nights

– 5 years of elite status (Gold or Platinum)

Requirements for lifetime SPG Platinum status

– 500 qualifying nights

– 10 years of Platinum status

During my four years as a SPG member, I have earned close to 400 nights. I should be lifetime Gold sometime next year. I will probably have the required 500 nights before the end of this year, but need another 5 years of Platinum status to meet the number of years as a Platinum member requirement.

The number of nights required is on the low side, but the requirement of having had the actual Platinum status for 10 years makes it more difficult. Last year Starwood started to count award nights as qualifying too, so basically all the nights count.

US Airways Dividend Miles Share Miles Offer – Get 50% Bonus

There is yet another offer from US Airways for essentially buying US Dividend Miles. US Airways had an offer for their credit card holders for buying & gifting miles that just expired on 29th.

us-airways-share-miles-offer-march

This time you can transfer up to 50000 Dividend Miles and get a 25000 mile bonus. You would need to pay $567.50 (2.27 cents per mile gained) for this privilege. I can see this being a good way to consolidate accounts, and paying 2.27 cents per mile is not horrible if they are used for international business and first class tickets.

us-airways-share-miles-offer-march-2012

This offer is valid for transfers/purchases made from March 1st to March 14th. You need to the this link to access this offer.

March Hotel Promotions Update: Choise, Carlson, Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton & Starwood

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

American Airlines to Launch Main Cabin Extra – Roomier Economy Product

4 Comments

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.

Trending Posts