Club Carlson 30% off Sale at Selected Country Inns & Suites, Radisson, Park Inn & Park Plaza Hotels

Now you can save 30 % off of Best Available Rates (BAR) at select Country Inns & Suites, Radisson, Park Inn & Park Plaza hotel in the Americas if you book your stay by June 12th, 2012, and stay between June 22nd and September 1, 2012. This offer is not valid on all dates at every hotel, but rather the dates when the offer is available varies a lot. You can use the hotel specific links below, or just use the 30PCTOFF promotional code.

There are number of hotels where this 30% of discount is only available for one night during the period.

When you use these links or input the 30PCTOFF promotional code, you will not see other rates offered by the property. It pays to check the rates without this discount code as well. There are other discount rates such as advance purchase rate and AAA rate that can be close to this 30% off rate.

Club Carlson is running very lucrative promotions for their Radisson / Radisson Blu, Country Inns & Suites, and Park Inn properties. You can get 50000 point for a stay at Radisson, 44000 points for Country Inns & Suites, and 44000 for Park Inn. You can participate to all these three promotion and get more than 150K Club Carlson points including regular points based on the revenue and the online booking bonuses.

You can read more about the various status levels at the Club Carlson program and the status match opportunities they offer.

Country Inns & Suites

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The 30% off discount came off nicely from their Panama property.

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Radisson

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The Mexico City property offered advance purchase rates that were close to the 30% off discount.

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Park Inn

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The discount worked perfectly for the one Park Inn property that Club Carlson has in Mexico. The rate was discounted by 30% as the offer promises.

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Park Plaza

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This was really a complete failure. The discount is available only on one day during the promotional period per the terms, but the rate is not available even on that single date. Why bother even participating?

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Here are participating Country Inns & Suites locations:

United Airlines Terminates Codeshare & Frequent Flyer Partnership with Qatar Airways

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First United terminated the partnership they had with Emirates, then Virgin Atlantic was gone earlier this year, and now the ability to earn and redeem on Qatar Airways will end on 14th of September, 2012.

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I have flown with the Qatar Airways quite a lot recently, and their service in business class is excellent. I am not a huge fan of the Doha airport, but the ground experience should get a lot better early next year, when the new airport opens.

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It is sad to see more United partners to go. Qatar Airways has offered very good connections to number of destinations in Middle East/Indian Subcontinent that are borderline impossible to get to using other partners.

There are no notes on the United.com regarding this change, but it should get updated sometime in the next week.

Effective June 15, 2012, United will terminate its codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways. Reservations booked through United for Qatar Airways-operated flights scheduled to depart on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed. Customers booked through United on Qatar Airways-operated flights scheduled to depart on or after September 15, 2012, will be accommodated on their scheduled flights with new flight numbers. Customers will be able to accrue mileage on Qatar Airways codeshare and interline flights until September 14, 2012. Award travel ticketed on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed and valid for one year.

Complimentary 6 Months Clear Membership for SPG Gold & Platinum Members

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Starwood Preferred Guest Gold and Platinum members can get a complimentary 6 month trial of Clear membership. You need to sign up with a valid credit card and you will be automatically charged after the trial period, if you don’t cancel in advance.

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Clear membership can help with the long lines at the selected three airports where it currently operates. Instead of having the TSA to validate your travel documents, the automated Clear line will do it. You still have to go through the usual TSA search.

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If you haven’t received the offer code from SPG that is required for sign up, you can contact SPG by email using any of the following addresses: smassistance@starwoodhotels.com or spgchampion@starwoodhotels.com.

Here are the full terms and conditions of this offer:

Valid for new CLEAR members only. SPG elite members who are already CLEAR members can email memberservices@clearme.com to request a 1 year free upgrade to CLEAR’s Family Plan, which adds your spouse or partner to your CLEAR account. And your children under 18 get through the lane free when you accompany them — no enrollment necessary. Must be at least 18 years of age and be a U.S. citizen or legal, permanent resident of the U.S. Following your initial CLEAR trial period, your card will automatically be charged at an applicable membership annual rate for a 12-month paid membership. You will be notified 30 days before your card is charged. Refunds of your Annual Unlimited CLEAR membership commenced after your six-month membership will be pro-rated by CLEAR based on the time remaining in your membership. In-person verification is required at one of the Enrollment Centers prior to using the CLEARlanes; valid passport and driver’s license are required, or for other acceptable identification, visit clearme.com/how-to-join. See full list of enrollment locations at clearme.com/enrollment-centers.

See full Terms & Conditions at clearme.com/sites/default/files/pdf/clear_membership_terms.pdf.

US Airways Dividend Miles Purchase Offer – Get 100% Bonus

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US Airways is always very active at selling Dividend Miles. Their previous offer was also a 100% and those that participated to it just had the remaining 25% bonus deposited to their accounts couple of days ago.

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This time, however, the bonus is instantaneous. US Airways will instantly double time number of miles purchases up to 50K Dividend Miles. The maximum number of miles you can buy through this offer is 100K at $1881.25. The Price of a miles is bit more than 1.8 cents. This offer is valid for purchases made from June 1st to June 30th, 2012. There is no need to register for this offer. The double miles will automatically show, when you go to do the purchase. The only requirement is that your Dividend Miles account has been open for 12 days before making the purchase.

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This is a very good offer, if you have firm plans in mind how you would use the miles. Redeeming for international first and business class tickets on Star Alliance is the best option.

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Here are the terms and conditions of this offer:

Offer available for purchases made between June 1 and 30, 2012, 11:59 MT. All purchases are non-refundable. Bonus miles will be awarded upon completion of the transaction. The maximum number of Buy Bonus miles that can be received by one member for this offer is 50,000 bonus miles. All miles purchased beyond this limit will not be eligible for a bonus. Offer is subject to change. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Share transactions are not eligible for bonus. Only purchases made online are eligible for the bonus. Miles are sold for $0.035 per mile plus a tax recovery charge of 7.5%. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian residents. Miles purchased through Buy, Share or Gift Miles do not count towards Dividend Miles Preferred status. All other Dividend Miles Terms and Conditions apply. Miles may be used based on award availability at the time of booking. Please note that Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift Miles. All purchases are non-refundable

My Experience of Booking Governor’s Residence Hotel in Myanmar Through Luxury Link

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Later in summer, I will find my way to Myanmar few times due to very good air fare specials. I had been planning to visit the country already for couple of year as my long term goal is to visit every country on earth. My current total is somewhere around 70.

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Now that the Myanmar is opening up, the hotel rates have gone through the roof, relatively speaking, in Yangon. The rates have about doubled in the past two years and most of the hotels aren’t yet to the international standards.

There are no hotels in Yangon that would be part of any of the chains that I tend to stay at. There is a Traders hotel that is part of Shangri-La Golden Circle and one could redeem these Golden Circle points there. Unfortunately, I am not member of this program and there isn’t an apparent way to transfer points to Shangri-La’s program.

A FlyerTalk member pogonation pointed out that there is a very good deal for Governor’s Residence Hotel in Yangon by using refer a friend $100 credit and a 10% off code (LUX10) through company called Luxury Link. This hotel is bit out of the city center, but it is rated number one on TripAdvisor for Yangon.

Luxury Link is an interesting company. I have come across them few times in the past, but hadn’t used their services before. They have teamed up with number of luxury hotel chains like Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Preferred Hotel Group, Oberoi Hotels & Resort and Orient-Express. The Governor’s Residence is part of the Orient-Express family of hotels.

Booking a Hotel Through Luxury Link

Luxury Link is running two parallel models. You can either bid for a hotel or you can reserve them at a highly discounted price. Auctions have a minimum price and you can bid in increments of about $10.

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The downside of bidding is that there is no guarantee that the dates that you need are actually available. If you decide to buy, they will, however, first confirm the dates with the hotel before charging you.

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First you need to sign up for the service. To get the $100 refer a friend credit, you need to use a specific link that you can then use for signing up. If you need a referral, you can click here and use mine that will give us both $100 credit. .

So, there was one bid for this property. About an hour before the auction was about to end, I submitted a bid of $445. You need to submit your payment information at the time of placing the bid. The confirmation screen showed the booking fee of $40, 10% promotional discount for using a coupon code LUX10, and the $100 refer a friend credit. I received a confirmation email that my bid had been accepted and that they would inform me by email, if I was outbid.

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Before bidding, I checked the www.evreward.com website that tracks the cash back amounts that various shopping malls are offering for Luxury Link. I decided to go through Mr. Rebates that had a rebate of 3%. I could have as well used Ebates that had the same amount. Discover Card was offering a 5% rebate through their shopping portal. Using Mr. Rebates will generate further $10 discount of the purchase price.

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Couple of hours later, I received an email that I had won the three night package that I had bid for and that they would charge my credit card on file. Also at this point, I was requested to put in the dates when I would like to use the three nights that I had just won.
I requested the dates and I am now waiting for Luxury Link to confirm that the package that I bought can be used for the specific dates in question.

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Conclusion

Booking through a Luxury Link seems to offer significant discount at times. The same package that I got for $340.50 not including the $10 rebate, is going for close to $1000 on hotels own website. This is really a terrific deal for Yangon. All the other options, that I had been contemplating, were in the $200 range per night including taxes.

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Now, if they would only confirm the dates that I wanted……

My Hotel Award Dilemma for Doha Qatar

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I have been to Doha few times in the past when flying on Qatar Airways. The city is an easy stop for a longish transfer of less than 24 hours or for a short stopover. Normally there are only a handful of people at the luggage claim as most of the passengers are on transit. The immigration has always been a breeze. Airport is close to the city center and the taxi fares are cheap

It is not the most exciting city in the Middle East, but there is enough to do for a couple of days.

I have checked out the W, InterContinental (old one), and the Sheraton hotels on my previous trips. There are new hotels popping up almost every few weeks and decided to try something else this time around. The headline prices for hotels in Doha seem to start at $200++.

When there isn’t a stellar promotion around, I tend to check both the paid options and award options for quite a few chains. Preferably, I would have liked to have a stay at any of the three Club Carlson brands that are giving away points enough for a free night (see the promotions here, here, and here). Unfortunately there are no Club Carlson properties in Doha.

So, I decided to check Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, Starwood, and Wyndham options for Doha and eventually settled for Points & Money option with the Hilton.

Hilton HHonors

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There was four options for Hilton; pay 820 QAR, use 40K HH points, Points & Money option of 20K HH and 254 QAR, or use the last free night certificate from the Hilton’s promo last year.

Hyatt Gold Passport

The Grand Hyatt in Doha is located close to the sports world complex and now burned Villagio mall. The location is horrible if you are planning to do sightseeing in Doha.

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With Hyatt there are basically two options, pay the 1000 QAR or use 15K Hyatt Gold Passport points. There is a nice promotion going on with the Hyatt for the airline points, but not worth paying the premium for this hotel, however.

InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club

There are two InterContinental hotels in Doha. The old one, where I have stayed at previously, and the new one that is located in the city center, and is very close to the nice City Center mall.

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Both were in the 900 QAR range and would require 40K PC for the old and 30K PC for the new one. Hotels had points and money option available as well.

Marriott Rewards

To my surprise Marriott had the greatest number of properties in Doha and they would have been the best deal using points.

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The Renaissance and Courtyard hotels are both collocated at the City Center mall that I was referring earlier. You have direct access, at least from the Courtyard, to the mall itself. The number of points require for the Renaissance is 15K and for the Courtyard 10K. I think that both of these present exceptional point redemption value. Then there is the older Marriott that is located close to the airport. It also requires rather modest number of points (15K) considering the going rates of 950 QAR at this hotel.

There are also two Ritz-Carlton properties that are Tier 1 point wise in the Ritz-Carlton Rewards. I probably wouldn’t use points at these two properties, but could considering using a free night certificate that the Ritz-Carlton was giving on their last promotion.

Starwood Preferred Guest

There are three Starwood properties in Doha, and I have previously stayed at the W hotel right after it opened few years ago and at the Sheraton Doha Resort late last fall. I like the location of both of these hotels. There is a brand new St Regis in Doha as well, but the location of that hotel is disadvantageous.

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The Sheraton Doha Resort (category 6) is absolutely horrible value point wise. It would require 20K SPG and didn’t have any cash & points available.

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The W is category 5 hotel and would have had a price tag of 999 QAR for last night. The number of SPG points required for a free night would have been somewhat reasonable 12K, but the Cash & Points at 4800 points + 90 USD for the night is a great deal for Doha.

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The St Regis had the highest price at 1400 QAR and category 6 award level. Neither 20K SPG or 8K SPG + 150 USD would had represented any value for me.

Wyndham Rewards

I haven’t stayed too much at the Wyndham family for hotels. Last time when I stayed at the Ramada in Colombo, I later found out that I would not earn any points. This was not clearly presented on the website, but was rather hidden in the terms and conditions of the rewards program. You won’t earn any points for stays in Sri Lanka and number of other countries.

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Wyndham family would have had three options in Doha; two Ramada properties and one Wyndham. All these are located in the old city center of the Doha and are quite close to the airport.

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The cheaper Ramada property would have required 15K points and the more expensive 30K points.

Conclusion

It pays to be part of number of frequent guest programs as not all the chains has coverage in all cities or offer reasonable point based pricing.

On this trip I decided to check out the new Hilton in Doha and use Hilton’s Points & Money awards. I am going to be back next week for a night as well and have decided to stay at one of the Marriott Rewards properties as they are offering exceptionally good redemption value for Doha.

Sometimes SPG’s categories seem to be somewhat unreasonable as is the case in Doha. Both the old Sheraton and the brand new St Regis are very expensive to use points. The best Starwood option is the W that is still category 5 hotel.

Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Collection Hotel – Review of My Stay

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This is probably one of the most aspirational properties for Hilton HHonors members to spend their points. The hotel used to be under the Hilton brand before switching to Waldorf Astoria collection.

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Under the Waldorf Astoria flag the property requires whopping 60K Hilton HHonors points per night during the high season and 50K points per night on shoulder months. I did, however, use two free night certificates from a promo that Hilton had last year. I had some trouble making the reservation as the inventory was constantly changing and wrote a piece about it.

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Although the hotel is very expensive points wise, the paid rates aren’t always that bad. For some dates this coming summer, the rates can be as low as 187 euros per night, that is really competitive and not worth spending the points. Of course, the prices can vary a lot based on the season and promotions that the Hilton is running. The Points & Money rewards are sometimes available as well.

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Location

The location on a rather steep hill overlooking the Vatican was perfect for my stay as I had been to Rome before and seen the usual sights. If you want an easy location to act as your base when you do sightseeing, the hotel may not work as well for you.

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The hotel does provide a scheduled bus schedule from/to hotel to the Piazza Barberini. I didn’t take advantage of this bus, but saw some in the lobby who did.

The location on the hill does provide its advantages as well. You are somewhat secluded from the hustle and bustle of the city self and can spend some relaxing time by the pool.

Transportation to/from Airport

As I was arriving on a relatively late flight from Shanghai, I decided to take an airport bus from the airport to a place close to the Vatican. The price was 8 euros. If you have more than one person, you probably won’t save a lot over just taking a regular metered taxi. Their rates to the Cavalieri are around 50 euros. From the stop close to the Vatican, I then took a taxi to the hotel. There might be other public transportation options as well, but I was quite tired at that point and wasn’t willing to spend any more time getting to the hotel.

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When I was leaving from the hotel, the lady at the Imperial lounge printed me a time schedule of the bus service to the airport from the same spot I was originally dropped off. The taxi during the day time was bit more than 10 euros + the bus fare of 8 euros.

Check In

This was probably the least good part of my stay. I was getting tired and bit cranky. There was some confusion about the credit card guarantee and identification requirement. As Italy is (still) part of the European Union, I can use my identity card that is issued by a European Union country for identification purposes instead of a passport.

As a matter of fact, I later called the front desk and spoke with a supervisor and apologized for being bit cranky that night.

Room 435

The room overall was very nice, although bit on the traditional side. You can get the best idea to have a look at the video above.

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Although this was not a suite, it was very spacious room for Europe. I had a view of the Vatican instead of the TV tower that would have been my view, if I had had the room on the other side of the building.

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It had a nice sitting area and a work desk. The first room had two beds, but I switched to a king one the following day.

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Pool

The April days that I was at the hotel were somewhat chilly and there were occasionally only a handful of people by the pool. I did have my breakfast by the pool on both mornings.

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Probably not the wisest idea to position yourself close to the restaurant, if you want to just relax by the pool, and not to have too many eyes watching at you.

Fitness Center

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I was actually really surprised that the fitness center had the latest equipment that is available. The fitness center was on a lower level by the SPA and you could use the sauna and the steam room as well.

Imperial Club

This hotel has two lounges for hotel guests. Hilton Gold and Diamond members used to have access to the Imperial Club by the default, but now the hotel has a second lounge that is used for Hilton HHonors members, and it is called Colosseo Lounge. I have never been to this Colosseo lounge, but it is described not to be nothing close to what the Imperial Club has to offer.

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I was given the Imperial Club access for the two days that I spent at the Cavalieri, because the other lounge was closed. The Colosseo lounge is closed during the lower occupancy or when fewer number of Hilton Gold/Diamond members are at the property.

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This Imperial Club is one of the best, if not the best, lounge on the Hilton system. They had continuous food presentations throughout the day as well as wine/prosecco. The view of the Rome and the Vatican is fantastic from the balcony.

The staff at the lounge was fantastic. I spent quite a bit of time just working with my laptop and they were continuously asking if I need something else when cleaning the nearby tables. I don’t think that I have even seen a Hilton hotel lounge that has had as many people working at any given time from morning to the night.

If you can choose between a breakfast at the lounge or at the L’Uliveto Restaurant, I would most certainly choose the latter, however.

Breakfast at L’Uliveto Restaurant

The breakfast spread was at the two restaurant rooms. It is buffet style, but I did find the hot items to be fresh. Sometimes these buffets turn very stale, if the food items are not replaced often enough. The variety of pastries, breads, and some cakes was very good.

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Overall, the quality and the variety of the breakfast items were very good, but not as great as you can often find at similar hotel restaurants in Asia.

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My suggestion would be to have the breakfast outside by the pool, if the weather allows.

Hilton HHonors Benefits

Back in January Hilton first quietly changed some terms and conditions of the program when it came to the Diamond benefits at various Hilton family of hotels. Then in February Hilton sent out emails regarding the enhanced Diamond benefits.

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Rome Cavalieri has a handy chart up on their website what benefits you can expect based on your Hilton HHonors status at their property:

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These are the minimum benefits that you should expect and to be positively surprised if you receive something extra like the Imperial Club access and the Rome view that I had.

Conclusion

Rome Cavalieri is a wonderful hotel. The location may or may not work for you, however, as I have pointed above. Also, I don’t like the fact that they opened a “special” Colosseo lounge just to be able to deny Imperial Club access from Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond members,

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The best time to visit would be the slower months when the paid rates are rather reasonable. This hotel is also a very good place to burn any promotion free night certificates that you might have from Hilton promotions. Instead of burning 120K Hilton HHonors points, I just used two free night certificates.

Priority Club Member Exclusive Offer of up to 40% Discount

InterContinental Hotels Group is having an exclusive sale where Priority Club members can get up to 40% discount at number of hotels in Australasia, India/Middle East/Africa, South East Asia, and Japan/South Korea.

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This pre-sale is open for Priority Club members from May 28th to June 3rd, 2012 for stays between June 1st and September 30th. The discount for non-members after this pre-sale period is 30%.

Note that the terms and conditions of this offer such as minimum stay period, full prepayment or not, and other conditions may vary from region to region. The terms and conditions are not universal.

I have found out that it is always best to see if these sale prices are real. Here’s an example from InterContinental Asiana hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.

The sale rate is $153

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The Luxury Weekends rate is $165

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The Best flexible rate is $189

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The sale rate is lower but not by a lot. If your plans are firm, these might be worth checking out. Also, as I noted above, the actual discount and the minimum stay requirements do differ.

Here are the terms and conditions of this sale by regions:

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Australasia

Rates are per room, per night and are subject to availability. Exclusive 10% discount has already been applied to rates. Full prepayment is required at time of booking, can not be amended and is non-refundable. Blackout dates may apply. Rates for the participating hotels are available from 28 May 2012 to 3 June 2012 for stays from 1 June 2012 to 30 September 2012 with a minimum of 2 nights stay, excepting InterContinental Fiji and Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu which requires a minimum of 5 nights stay.

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India, Middle east and Africa

Rates are per room, per night and are subject to availability. Exclusive 10% discount has already been applied to rates.Tax and service charges apply. One night non-refundable, non transferable deposit is required at the time of booking. Cancellation or failing to arrive results in forfeiture of this one night’s deposit.  Rates for the participating hotels are available from 28 May 2012 to 3 June 2012 for stays from 1 June to 30 September 2012. A minimum length of stay is required to qualify for the offer, which varies by country.

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South East Asia

Rates are per room, per night and are subject to availability. Exclusive 10% discount has already been applied to rates. Tax and service charges apply. Full prepayment is required at time of booking and is non-refundable upon cancellation. Rates for the participating hotels are available from 28 May 2012 to 3 June 2012 for stays from 1June to 30 September 2012 with a minimum of 2 nights stay. Advance booking is required and the stay period and lead time available with this discounted rate vary by hote

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Japan and South Korea

Rates are per room, per night and are subject to availability. Exclusive 10% discount has already been applied to rates.Tax and service charges apply. Full prepayment is required at time of booking. No refunds if cancelled or changed. Blackout dates may apply. Rates for the participating InterContinental hotels are available from 28 May 2012 to 3 June 2012 for stays from 4 June 2012 to 30 September 2012. Rates for the participating Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels are available from 28 May 2012 to 3 June 2012 for stays from 1 June 2012 to 30 September 2012. Advance booking is required and the stay period and lead time available with this discounted rate vary by hotel.

Best Western Rewards Summer Bonus Offer SUM12 – Free Night Voucher After Three Stays

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Best Western’s summer promotion is just around the corner.  When you have 3 separate stays between June 17th and August 19th, you will earn a free night certificate that is valid until January 31st, 2013. This promotion is valid Best Western Rewards members residing in United States, Canada, Bahamas, and the USVI.  You need to register for this promotion prior to your stays.

You will receive a total of 1000 bonus points, if you use a Best Western MasterCard to pay for these three stays.

Here’s the link for registering for this promotion. Please note that you need to sign in to your account before you can see the sign up screen.

Terms and conditions of this promotion:

Stay 3 separate times between 6/17/12 and 8/19/12 and earn a free night voucher – (Jun 17, 2012 – Aug 20, 2012) – Promo Code: SUM12

Best Western Rewards® members (Member(s)) residing in the U.S., Canada, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands who REGISTER for the promotion and complete three (3) separate qualified stays* between June 17, 2012 and August 19, 2012 (Promotion Period) at any Best Western branded hotel worldwide may earn a free night voucher (Promotion). Promotion Registration and Best Western Rewards enrollment/membership required prior to the first qualified stay. Limit one (1) free night voucher per member during the Promotion Period. Free night voucher may be redeemed at any Best Western branded hotel worldwide. Free night voucher expires January 31, 2013. No voucher extensions, substitutions or replacements available.

*A qualified stay for the purpose of this promotion is defined as one or more consecutive nights at the same Best Western hotel at a rate eligible for earning points or airline/partner rewards through Best Western Rewards. Only one (1) check-in/check-out permitted per qualified stay.

Bonus Offer: Use your Best Western Rewards MasterCard® to pay for each of your three (3) qualified stays and receive 1,000 Best Western Rewards bonus points. Maximum one (1) Bonus reward per Member during the Promotion Period.

Other restrictions may apply. Offer not valid with any other promotion or discount. Promotion is subject to cancellation or change without notice.

Free night voucher redemption subject to hotel availability. Free night voucher redemption reservation must be completed by calling 1-800-567-4009. If a valid email address has been provided in the Member’s account profile, the free night voucher may be sent electronically to the valid email address 2-3 weeks from the third completed qualified stay. Otherwise, a paper voucher will be mailed to the address on the Member’s account profile 4-6 weeks from the third completed qualified stay. Best Western is not responsible for any loss of communication via technology or any other technology issues with Member’s computer.

Allow 4-6 weeks for posting of Best Western Rewards MasterCard® bonus points from third completed qualified stay.

All Best Western Rewards program rules apply. See www.bestwesternrewards.com for additional program terms. Each Best Western® branded hotel is independently owned and operated. Best Western and the Best Western marks are service marks or registered service marks of Best Western International, Inc. ©2012 Best Western International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Star Alliance Carriers Still Have Trouble with New United Airlines Frequent Flyer Numbers

United Airlines and Continental merged back in 2010. On January 1st this year the Continental Onepass and United Mileage Plus accounts were merged under the United brand, but using the frequent flyer numbers from Continental. If you didn’t previously have a Continental number, you were given a new United Mileage Plus number using the numbering syntax that Continental used.

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I had linked my United and Continental frequent flyer accounts back in 2011, so the account information and the miles were just merged. United requested that from now on the new number (old Continental one) should be used, but that the United number would continue to work for some time.

But I have found out that the Star Alliance carriers are not recognizing the old Continental number that is now my main United number correctly. I have had several flights on Lufthansa where I am only shown as UAP (United Premier) when it should have shown my status as UA*G (United Airlines Star Alliance Gold status). I have had this same problem with Blue1 once as well. It seems that if they take away the new United number and input the old one, the status is then shown correctly.

united-lufthansaticket

I had exactly this same thing happen last night when I was taking Lufthansa flight from Jakarta to Singapore in economy class. I had checked in online and entered my United (old Continental) FF number. The status was shown incorrectly on the electronic boarding pass. At the airport, I requested the lady to enter my old United number and then the status was shown correctly. I had my SAS EuroBonus card on hand just in case as well, if both of my United numbers would have failed. I needed this to get the lounge invitation.

So, if a partner airline doesn’t recognize your status correctly, just ask them to plug in your old number. Problem solved.

united-lufthansa-seat

On a side note, you may wonder, how I survived the Lufthansa flight in economy? The short flight wasn’t bad at all. They had failed to load the special meal that I had ordered (KSML), but I was able to get a nice and roomy seat, and the seat next to me was empty. I was also able to catch up with the flight attendant who was sitting on the jump seat in front of me during the take-off and landing.

Problem with an Airline? File a Complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

You have tried to solve an issue with the airline directly, but have come to a dead end. Filing a complaint with the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings most likely would help and is very easy to do online.

Normally, I have been able to solve an issue that I have had an airline by going through the usual customer service channels. Some airlines take their time to reply where others are very good at solving issues that have arisen during the travels promptly. I have faced issues that have required me to contact DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings only couple of times.

Based on my personal experience, airlines tend to take the complaints that come through DOT more seriously than from their usual customer service channels, and resolve them expediently. My advice is to first contact the airline in question and give them a chance to make it right. If they don’t, then file a complaint with the DOT.

dot-air-travel-complaint-web-form

The complaint process is very straightforward. You can either email your complaint to the DOT or file the web form at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/es.cfm. To save DOT’s time it is probably better to fill out the web form that helps them to capture all the necessarily data than calling them. Note that DOT doesn’t act based on an individual complaint, but does forward them to the airline in question for further review. The DOT produces a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report that includes the number of complaints that each individual airlines has received through the DOT.

dot-air-travel-consumer-report

Also, the Air Travel Consumer Report is worth reading once in a while. It includes important data about the performance of various airlines and statistics about involuntarily denied boarding’s, flight delays, mishandled baggage, number of complaints received per number on enplanements etc. For example based on the last data, United received more than ten times the number of complaints than Southwest per million enplanements.

dot-report-complaints

Is Starwood Spying Its Guests on Facebook and LinkedIn – Global Personalization at Starwood?

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Would you feel comfortable if a hotel, where you will have a stay, has a look at your Facebook wall, LinkedIn profile, or does a Google search on you? Don’t be surprised that the hotels are already doing this. Now Starwood, however, is about to take this to entirely new level on their “Global Personalization at Starwood” also known as GPS.

Back in January a FT member Moriens noticed a change on Starwood’s privacy policy. Starwood had deleted the following sentence from its privacy policy:

We endeavor to collect information only with your knowledge and with your permission if necessary.

starwood-privacy

Also, if your Facebook or LinkedIn or other social media accounts are public (make them private) they, Starwood, can access them without your consent to “personalize” your stay as an FT member 1Kwoman recently found out. Westin hotel had accessed her LinkedIn profile. She then complained about the practice General Manager of the hotel. The response from the General Manager was eye opening. According to the GM this was:

2.) to provide a “personalized” experience as decreed by Starwood in their “Global Personalization” program. ie, to provide you with a mention of your alma mater, your pets, or what not.

starwood-privacy-1kwoman

I made couple of Google searches using the GPS and Global Personalization at Starwood. There was an interesting piece about this subject on Starwood’s own blog:

GPS will allow us to connect with guests on their own terms, in and outside of their stay. It enables our Associates to anticipate guest needs and deliver tailored experiences at their fingertips.

starwood-privacy-miguel

According to the publicly available material on the internet, Starwood believes that this this GPS (Global Personalization at Starwood) will be the next game changer in hospitality industry.

Also this doesn’t only apply to social networking sites but for sites like FlyerTalk as well. If you interact with Starwood “Lurkers” or representatives on any public message boards, they will link your handle with your Starwood account. Don’t be surprised, if they contact you after you have commented about a hotel or a stay that was less than stellar.

Conclusion

I take my privacy seriously. All the hotel companies, Starwood included, already have enough information about me based on my stay history to personalize the stay. I do not want Starwood or any other hotel company for that matter to start doing searches on my social networks about my personal preferences outside of my hotel stays.

My personal Facebook profile/wall is private. My LinkedIn profile is private from Google searches, but visible if you are logged in LinkedIn user. Quite frankly, I could care less if they know what my Alma matter is, or with which companies I have been associated with in the past.

Of course Starwood is not the only hotel company that does this. I just had a look at my LinkedIn profile, which I haven’t updated for years and there was recently a search done by a member of Conrad hotel where I stayed at.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the hotels are doing this after I have given them an explicit permission to do so. Hiding it in the yearly Privacy Policy change is not enough. It is probably true that you do not need a permission to do searches like this for the customers based in the United States where privacy laws are weak, but possibly doing something like this for residents in the European Union could prove to be playing fool with the privacy laws.

Star Alliance 15 Years Competitions

Star Alliance just turned to 15 strong years earlier this month. To celebrate this milestone each of the Star Alliance members are running the following promotion to their frequent flier members:

star-alliance-15-years-competition

Fifteen members of each of the Star Alliance frequent flier programs that fly as many of the Star Alliance carriers will receive 15000 bonus points. You can find the link for each of the program terms and conditions for the competition from the Star Alliance page for this promotion.

Star Alliance is also running three parallel promotions:

Star Alliance is running a pin dropping game with some great prices.

star-alliance-15-years-sa

1. Business class tickets for 15 people to visit any of the 27 international festivals

2. Round the world business class tickets for two people to visit any of the 27 festivals

3. Two return tickets to any of the 27 festivals (15 prizes)

Here are the terms and conditions of this offer:

Club Carlson Red, Silver, Gold, & Concierge Status Levels Explained

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Many of us, myself included, have started to stay at the Club Carlson properties due to number of very lucrative promotions that they have run recently. You can still take advantage of the following three promotions (as of writing this May 2012) that will earn you, base points and online booking bonuses included, over 150K Club Carlson bonus points by staying at three different Carlson hotel brands; Radisson Big Night Giveaway, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Stay One Get One, and Park Inn & Suites Stay One Get One.

Here’s a chart that shows the benefits by status level in a nutshell

club-carlson-elite-benefits-chart

Club Carlson Red

club-carlson-red-benefits

When you sign up for the Club Carlson, you will start at the Red level. It just basically means that you have enrolled to the program and will earn points for booking Radisson family of hotels online and based on the room revenue.

You will have complimentary internet access at all Radisson hotels worldwide and at ALL Carlson Rezidor hotels in North America.

You will get 1000 bonus Club Carlson points for every reservation that you book on Carlson family of hotels websites.

Club Carlson Silver 15 nights/10 stays

club-carlson-silver-benefits

You can get the Club Carlson Silver status after 15 nights or 10 stays within a calendar year. There are occasional promotions for getting this status by just sign up up for the program using a correct link. You can also do a status match to Club Carlson program if you have a status with a competing chain. You can read more about the Club Carlson status match process here.

Being a Silver you are eligible for 25% bonus points based on your folio revenue, 2000 bonus points for booking online at any Radisson family of hotels website, early check in & late checkout, room upgrades, rollover nights, and elite

Club Carlson Gold 35 nights/20 stays

club-carlson-gold-benefits

At the Gold level you are starting to get more benefits. To my surprise one of the benefits, the ability to book discounted stays is not listed at all on the main Gold benefit page of the program. I have covered the discounted rates on my recent post.

At the Gold level you will get 50% bonus points on eligible folio revenue, 2000 bonus points for bookings made on Radisson family of hotels, early check ins and late check outs, room upgrades, roll over nights, 72 hour room availability guarantee at participating hotels, and elite phone line.

Club Carlson will match to Gold status if you have similar level status with a competing chain. I recently wrote a piece about the Carlson’s status match process and you can access it here.

Club Carlson Concierge 75 nights /30 stays

club-carlson-concierge-benefits

This is the highest status that you can have with the Club Carlson. You will need 75 nights or 30 stays to achieve it.

At this level you will receive a complimentary continental breakfast, 75% bonus points on the folio revenue, 3000 bonus points for reservations made at Radisson family of hotels websites, early check in & late check-out, room upgrades, rollover nights, 48 hour room availability guarantee at participating hotels, and a Global Concierge service.

Conclusion

The Club Carlson elite level benefits sound rather good, but if we look at the actual terms and conditions they are rarely confirmed, but rather based on availability or by request etc.

Some other chains like Starwood and Hyatt both promise guaranteed 4PM check out with very few exceptions. Also, InterContinental Royal Ambassador status gives a guaranteed 8AM check in. Some other chains like Hilton also extend the breakfast benefit for mid-tier elites i.e. Gold.

 Here are the Terms and conditions of the elite benefits:

  • All member benefits may vary by participating hotel, are subject to availability,  may not be available at all locations, and are subject to change at any time. For elite member benefits, you must qualify for elite status each calendar year in order to receive elite benefits.
  • All members earn an online booking bonus when booking reservations online at clubcarlson.com or any Carlson Hotels brand website (the number of bonus Gold Points varies based on membership tier status) and free high speed internet at Radisson hotels worldwide and at Carlson hotels in North America (standard internet service only). For online booking bonus, regular eligibility rate rules apply and will not be awarded for reservations made through a third-party reservation site or for redemption stays.  Bonus points are credited after the stay is completed.

All other benefits are for elite members as specified below:

  • Club Carlson Concierge members are eligible to receive one complimentary continental breakfast per night of member’s stay. Continental breakfast offerings will vary by hotel but may include an assortment of cereals, breads, fresh fruit, juices, coffee, tea and milk and may be provided via buffet or menu (at hotel’s discretion) in the hotel restaurant as determined by the participating Radisson®, Park Inn®, or Park Plaza® hotel. Complimentary continental breakfast is not available through room service.
  • Complimentary room upgrade is determined by the participating hotel depending on availability at time of check-in. Upgraded room types will vary, but may include rooms with a higher or lower floor, rooms with preferred view, or recently renovated rooms. All upgrades subject to availability.
  • Elite Point bonus is in addition to the standard Gold Points received for eligible stays while member has elite status. Point bonus does not apply to other point earning opportunities.
  • Early check-in and late checkout are subject to availability upon request at the hotel and may be requested for up to 2 hours prior to or later than the hotel’s published check-in and check-out time provided the elite member has a credit card number on file for the reservation.
  • Roll Over Nights are any elite qualifying nights remaining in member’s account at the end of each calendar year in excess of those used to qualify the member for elite status. Roll Over Nights will be added to the member’s elite qualifying night count for the next year but will not carry over more than one year.
  • Room availability guarantee must be requested via the Elite Member Service line and is only available for an Elite member’s personal guestroom. The 48-hour or 72-hour guarantee is calculated based on noon local hotel time on the intended arrival day. Guaranteed room availability is for a standard room only at standard rates, and is subject to the participating hotel’s standard guarantee and cancellation policy. Free Award Nights or Points + Cash Award Stays are not eligible for the room availability guarantee.  Room availability guarantee is not available at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, and does not apply in cases where a nationally or internationally recognized event is occurring within fifty miles of a participating hotel (as determined by Club Carlson).
  • All other Club Carlson terms and conditions apply.

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