Conrad Koh Samui Resort & Spa, Koh Samui, Thailand – Review of My Stay at Villa 219

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Overall this is a very nice hotel and definitely worthy addition to the Hilton’s Conrad brand. There was only couple of small service issues that can probably be attributed to the hotel having been open for bit over a month when I was there. I had visited the island couple of time previously and both times stayed at the Renaissance hotel which is closer to the Lamai beach. This time I stayed also one night at the Le Meridien hotel.

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I was going to be around Bangkok in late November, and realized that I could take advantage of Hilton Points Stretcher deal, that had the Conrad Koh Samui at 40% discount off of the regular point rates.  Considering that the regular rates at this all villa property are normally in excess of 16K THB + tax/service charge (around $600 per night) even the 50K/night is a reasonable deal.

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If you stay for four nights (probably my ideal stay at this property), the best award would be AXON7  that would require 145K points averaging 36250 HH/night. For stays of six nights or longer (except 8/12/16 etc. nights) the VIP/GLON award is the best bang for the buck at 37500 HH/night.

Start Earning and Burning Miles on the Latest Star Alliance Member Ethiopian.

As I wrote a week ago, the Ethiopian was to officially join the Star Alliance on December 13th and they did just that. Ethiopian is a good choice for Star. It opens up new connection options and destinations in the horn of Africa. Ethiopian complements the two other African based Star Alliance carriers, South African Airways and Egypt Air, very well.

Ethiopian Star Alliance

You can already redeem on Ethiopian using other Star Alliance carriers programs, as the award inventory is loaded in to the system. Sometimes it is bit of a struggle first because not always the front line employees making the award reservations are aware of the newest members.

Had a quick look and United, US Airways, and Lufthansa had a chart for Ethiopian fare classes eligible for mileage credit. BMI, which if my favorite program to credit business class flights, haven’t published a chart yet. The elite qualifying miles earned on United for paid business class flights on Ethiopian looked rather low. You only earn 100% (125% redeemable miles though) when business class normally earns, depending on the program, up to 200%.

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

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Marriott has been very predictable when it comes to promotions they are running. Two weeks ago I wrote about the MegaMiles promotion that runs from January 1st till April 30th. The new MegaBonus dates are from February 1st to April 30th.

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The “generic” version of this promotion is for a free category 1 to 4 certificate after two paid stays. The maximum number of free night certificates one can earn is two. The limiting factor is the category 1 to 4 where the free night certificate can be used, and the relatively short expiration. Most of the category 1 to 4 hotels in the United States are not full service Marriott hotels. There are hotels in Asia like JW Marriott Beijing that is a very good value for a category 4 free night certificate.

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InterContinental Hotel Group’s (IHG) Priority Club Bonus Points Promo for 1st Quarter 2012

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Priority Club Offer RegisterationThe 2012 promos are slowly strarting to be introduced. IHG’s Priority Club just launched their stay/nights based bonus points promotion for the 1st quarter of 2012. Normally Priority Club member is targeted to one of these based on their stay history, but that doesn’t prevent them for registering one of the other offers if they decide to do so.

Please note that you can only register for ONE of these, and once you have registered you cannot change it.

Depending how many nights you expect to stay during the first quarter of the next year, you should choose 3, 7, or 15 nights version of this promotion.

Now You Can Start Earning (and Redeeming too) Hyatt Gold Passport Points On Dining and Spa – Even When Not Staying.

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As a Starwood Preferred Guest member, I have been able to earn Starpoints, even when not staying at a hotel, for food and beverage charges already for years. As a matter of fact, just did it last week when I was having couple of beers and a burger at Captains Arms in Le Meridien hotel in Abu Dhabi. Starwood employee just fills a credit card style slip with your SPG account number and the revenue amount, and the points eventually find your account.

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Hyatt had been whispering about their coming change for the past few months. The program, however, was just officially announced yesterday. You can earn 5 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every eligible charge in/converted to one USD.

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Saadiyat Island, UAE – Not Quite Ready Yet.

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Was scheduled to stay few days in Abu Dhabi, and decided to check on my way out the new Park Hyatt hotel opened for the Formula 1 race last month. Saadiyat Island is just 15 minutes from the commercial center of Abu Dhabi. There isn’t much on the island yet, but they have rather grandiose plans for the area in the future. Some of those plans were put on hiatus last month but not cancelled.

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Check in:

After getting off from a taxi I was escorted to the front desk for check in. The usual Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum/Diamond sign was at the other end where nobody was working (nothing new here). They had correctly read my name from the airline tags attached to my bags as they greeted me by my name.

American Airlines is Offering Double Elite Qualifying Miles Systemwide Until January 31st, 2012 – Promotion DBLELITE2011

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American Airlines (AA), whose parent AMR is currently in chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, just sent an email blast regarding their latest offer for double elite qualifying miles (DEQM). They have been running a limited DEQM promotion for residents of IL and CA for flights between LAX/SFO and ORD. Now all the AA flights marketed and operated by AA and American Eagle are eligible for DEQM until January 31st, 2012. Unlike previous promos, there is no need to reticket. All the flights are eligible. You just need to register for the promotion.

American Airlines DEQM

This promotion doesn’t double the elite qualifying points or redeemable miles. Only the base flight miles will be doubled for the elite qualifying purposes. Personally, I would be all over this promotion had I not moved out from the United States earlier this year.

New Hyatt Stay Certificate Level – Exclusive

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Hyatt stay certificates have been a great way to save money when the rates are high. Also, location like Park Hyatt Maldives is a bargain, in Maldivian standards, when using stay certificates ($319 per night). Only thing to remember is that the stay is not a qualifying one when it comes to Hyatt Gold Passport promotions, stay credits, or points. You will get points for any incidentals during your stay but not for the value of the cert itself.

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Now, Hyatt has come up with a new Exclusive level of stay certificate that is valid at the following locations below. They haven’t, however, made it possible to buy them yet, and thus the price is unclear. My hunch is that the price will be around $450. Currently the highest stay certificate (Inspire) costs $319 per night.

Short on Elite Qualifying Miles on United or Continental? Here’s the solution – Elite Maximizer.

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Last week I wrote about Delta’s offer of selling Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) for ca$h. United doesn’t sell EQM’s but their Continental part does. It is called Elite Maximizer, but you cannot buy just EQM’s, you need to buy Reward Maximizer miles at the same time.

Here’s how it works. You need to have Continental ticketed itineraries on your My Bookings at Continental.com, if you don’t have any; I have some tips later for that. Then you just choose the View of the itinerary, and you presented the screen below:

Continental Buy Extra Miles

As you can see, the itinerary that you want to “Maximize” doesn’t even need to be on a Continental or United metal, or even a revenue ticket. You can use the “Elite Maximizer” on all Continental issued tickets.

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Award Availability Woes.

Yesterday, I wrote about contacting Starwood Platinum Concierge using the online chat function. It is a good way to sort simpler things out. My issue on hand was getting complicated, and decided to make the call to SPG Platinum Concierge in the States, although I am currently here in Abu Dhabi.

The problem on hand was the award availability at the Sheraton Resort in Dubai. I had free resort nights about to expire that could be only used in Dubai at that one specific property. Only one of the six nights I was looking to book was available when checking the availability online.

One of the nights did show standard room availability but was bookable only as a prepaid rate. The Platinum Concierge, with whom I initially dealt with on the phone, was not able to book it as an award. I asked him to escalate the issue, and the call was then transferred to a supervisor.

SPG Standard Room Sheraton Resort Dubai

The room types that are available for “Standard” awards:

Buy AviancaTaca LifeMiles and Get 100% Bonus.

AviancaTaca LifeMiles LogoAviancaTaca is about to join Star Alliance sometime in the next six months. The alliance invited them to join November 10, 2010. The process of formalizing the procedures and joining the alliance, was expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete at the time. Once they have joined, you can earn and redeem LifeMiles on all Star Alliance carriers.

Right now AviancaTaca is running a promotion for buying LifeMiles and getting a 100% bonus. This only applies, however, for LifeMiles accounts that were opened before December 6th, 2011.

AviancaTaca Buy LifeMiles

Great Way to Contact Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum Concierge – Use Chat!

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SPG Online ChatAs I am on the road close to 100% of the time, it makes contacting various entities in the United States bit difficult. Starwood has contact centers that deal with SPG issues in Ireland and Singapore as well, but I have found that the folks sitting in the United States are the most competent of them all.

Some countries block Skype and other VOIP access and calling using a landline or cellphone can be very expensive. You could probably send an email request but, if issue needs back and forth communication, it can take quite some time to resolve. My preferred channel of contacting SPG in a situation like this is the Platinum chat.

You can find the link to the chat on the upper right corner under the Customer Service-link. I then opens the actual chat-application window where you should have your name, email address, and the SPG Platinum account number. You can then enter your question to the space below. I always try to be as comprehensive and complete with my question/request, so that the Platinum concierge, dealing with the chat, can start working immediately with my issue without having to clarify several times.

Aloft Sukhumvit 11 Bangkok, Thailand-Review

Just stayed at the newly opened Aloft hotel at Sukhumvit 11 in Bangkok, Thailand. The opening of the hotel was delayed several times due to constructions issues, and later due to the flooding situation in Bangkok. The hotel finally opened its doors on December 1st, 2011. I have previously stayed at handful of Aloft properties, but all of them have been int he United States. Often, even limited service hotel concepts like Aloft, have more full service offering in the Asia due to competition and lower labor costs.

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Executive Summary

The hotel is done very nicely. One could use words modern chic, to describe it. I especially liked the way the ground floor and the second floor set up was done.

– As a SPG Platinum member it is very difficult for me to choose this property over other SPG options in Bangkok that all offer a breakfast and a happy hour for SPG Platinum members among other benefits.

– Without any Starwood status? Maybe as long as the price is in line with the competitors.

Get 20% Discount For Buying SPG Starpoints – Capped at 20K Starpoints per Calendar Year.

Normally Starwood sells Starpoints at 3.5 cents each, and the maximum number of points one is allowed to buy each calendar year is 20K. Now until December 31st Starwood is offering 20% discount for buying points. Instead of the usual 3.5 cents you can buy them at 2.8 cents. Sounds a bit high, doesn’t it?

SPG Starpoints 20 Discount

The reason why I quite like Starpoints is due to the fact that they are very flexible. You can use them for straight hotel awards, you can use cash + points awards, you can book flights using them, and most importantly you can convert 20K Starpoints to 25K miles with number of carriers.

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