Last month my wife and I got to see Adele in the SPG suite at The o2 Arena in London. For me this was an incredibly decadent way to redeem my SPG points for an event that I would normally not be able to buy tickets for. Starwood, has a really cool redemption option called SPG Moments where you can redeem your points for concert tickets (like these), baseball, hockey and even other events. Two years ago I even redeemed them for two luxury box seats at Wrigley Field to see a Giants game and it was INCREDIBLE. Continue reading
Ok let me start off by saying in the grand scheme of things my issues are minor at best. But when you travel too much like I do, you’re sensitive to wanting a good night’s rest and a good start to the day.
Also in this case the hotel immediately gave me a room refund once I complained. So for that I’m happy, but did it really make me happy?
I had a one night stay at the aLoft Ontario/Rancho Cucamonga this week. I specifically stayed here to take advantage of two sweet Starwood promotions that I could achieve in a one night stay. One was the 2500 Starwood points for using keyless entry and the other was 2015 Starwood points in 2015. For me to earn these points I needed a stay at a hotel that had keyless entry. This hotel fit the bill, but was 80 miles roundtrip from where I was working. But for 4515 extra points it was worth it, or so I thought. Continue reading
I’m always excited to try out a new hotel brand, so when I’m in a city that has one I’ll do my best to check it out. On a recent trip to Dallas, Texas I was able to do just that and stayed at the Element DFW. Element Hotel is one of the new/hip extended stay brands made for the 20-40 something traveler. It offers rooms with full kitchens, separate sleeping/sitting areas and modern lobbies with a communal vibe and a nod towards environmentally friendly building supplies and green hotel habits.
I was in Seoul, stranded for 24 hours and needed a hotel pronto. My first choice was a Sheraton property due to constantly chasing platinum status. There are actually a lot of SPG options in Seoul, but due to not wanting to take a 45 minute or longer bus/cab/train ride to a more central hotel I chose the closest one, the Sheraton Inchon Hotel in the Songdo International Business District. I really had no idea what to expect, but TripAdvisor gave it pretty decent reviews, and I was hopeful. Continue reading
After my stupid good flight on Singapore Airlines from Shanghai to Singapore, I had about 12 hours to kill before heading out on SQ 12 Suites Class to Los Angeles. I arrived at about 10 PM and could have easily slummed it at the airport. The lounges are open 24 hours and there’s a transit hotel and a Crowne Plaza connected to Terminal 3. Besides these hotels Singapore is chock full of 5 star properties that run the gamut of hotel chains. I was trying to stay on a budget of sorts and based on cost would have used points or cash depending on how expensive the hotel was I would end up staying at. In this case it came down to how much time I would actually have at the hotel and how much it would cost, and decided that the Sheraton Towers Singapore on cash was the best way to go. I really wanted to stay at the Conrad or W Sentosa Island, but they were both too expensive anyway you sliced it (cash, points, or cash points).
After a quick cab ride I was quickly greeted by reception at the hotel. It was quiet at reception, but there was a wedding going on one level up and you could tell people were having a really great time. I had requested a Sweet Suite Upgrade. As a Starwood Platinum who stayed 50 nights with them in 2014, I get 10 confirmable upgrades. These can be used and will confirm up to 5 days out from arrival. At the four day mark I received an email letting me know I had been upgraded to an Executive Suite. This is my fourth year as Platinum, but the first year I’ve qualified on nights and gotten the 10 upgrades, so I had no idea how good a deal this could or would be. In this case once I got there I was assigned my room and quickly went off to get some shut eye. On a side note, I’ve almost gotten upgrades as a Platinum, so I’m hopeful that the Sweet Suite Upgrades will actually get me an upgrade when I haven’t previously. Continue reading
Over the past month I’ve stayed here twice. For a full service hotel not in Calgary or Edmonton, this is a pretty good spot.
They offer a 13 story tower wing and a two story section called the west wing. Apparently it was the original part of the hotel and over the years the original owners added on to it. According to the staff Sheraton purchased it from the family 4-5 years ago, and during that time they are bringing it up to Starwood and Sheraton standards.
180 view of living room, bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom Continue reading
Just another week in paradise I suppose. After my amazing stay at the Sheraton Red Deer, well not really. It must have been a precursor to the week ahead.
Now to be fair the hotel is perfectly fine. I’ve stayed here two times and the rooms are fine at least in the tower section that is. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three rooms. Well not sure if call that a pleasure when you’ve only stayed there twice.
To recap the hotel had a planned power outage that was to last only four hours from 2-6 pm. I got there just a shade after 2 and they explained the deal sure no problem, except they didn’t inform anyone who had a reservation. Oops. Anyhow I hoofed it nine floors dumped my stuff and left the hotel to find something to do. They texted me at 5 letting me know lights would be back on at 6. Cool deal.
Fast forward I’m still sitting in the lobby and at 7:15 pm finally, the power goes on but not the elevators. Again I do the stair master mind you there are no lights in the stairwell so they have glow sticks and have a staff member walk me up. Anyhow, at 8 the power goes out again. Holy crap. Seriously. So they move me to a different wing that has power. If I had only known I would have moved there initially. Anyhow read my rant here if you’re interested.
But as I said earlier this crappy day was the tone setter for the week. My trip to the client’s office is an hour about 60 miles on two lane snow covered roads. At the 30 mile mark a sign states the bridge was out. WTF. This is the only way I know how to get to their office in rural Alberta. GPS was no help, so I found my way to a gas station 20 miles away, and got some okay directions. 11/2 hours later I made it to the office. A total of 2 1/2 hours, damn I was pissed. GPS was no help and I had no data due to being international so I limped along. Mental note when in Canada, have maps and alternate directions.
The kicker, I had the same commute back that night and also snow to contend with about 6-8 inches that fell all through the day. Oh the joy. Ultimately, this was my commute for two days, it sucked. I don’t mind the one hour commute, it’s a beautiful drive in the valley, but 2 1/2 each way, that’s ridiculous.
Uugh what a week.
So I’m out of town again what a surprise. I get to my hotel around 2 pm and find it unusual that the parking lot is super empty. Then the staff are opening the front door for me. This too is unusual when they have automatic doors and no bellman.
Finally I realize there’s no power. Thankfully it’s not due to weather like they’re having on the east coast. This is a planned power outage. Apparently they are adding a pool and other amenities and today they needed to shut down power for some part of the install.
I wouldn’t care too much about this except that I had no idea it was happening. I made a comment about that at check in and said an email for a warning would have been nice, and they said they informed some guests, I guess I’m not one of those guests.
After hoofing it 9 floors to drop off luggage and to take care of business I had no choice but to leave. There was nothing open in the hotel and I was hungry after a 12 hour travel day. At least they carried my bags for me. Otherwise I’d still be climbing the stairs, I’m just not that fit.
I was told the outage should only be 4 hours longer. Under normal circumstances, this would not be a big deal, but after leaving the house at 3:30 am and arriving at 2:30 pm I was ready to relax. I had no choice but to go for a Starbucks and a very early dinner.
So here I am four hours later and the power is still not on. They said power was planned to be back on at 6 pm I was even texted that and hour prior by the hotel. I had asked them to let me know so I knew when to come back. But alas at 6 pm I’m sitting in the lobby waiting. It’s dark outside and they have emergency lights on in the lobby. The staff is excellent. They have offered me a drink and dinner at the restaurant and even a different room in a part of the hotel that has power. I’d be glad to take it but I’d have to go up to my room and repack my stuff. They’ve even offered to get it for me, but since I need to go up and make sure all my stuff got packed, I’d rather wait. I know if I hike up 9 flights, pack my stuff and hike back down the power will come back on.
First world problems I guess.
My love affair with Starwood’s Aloft brand continues. This time I’ve visited their outlet in Calgary which opened about 8 months ago. I had a one night stay here and I found this hotel to be as unique as their other properties in the public spaces, and almost exactly the same in the rooms as any other location I’ve visited over the past few years. Which is kind of comforting if you ask me.
This particular location (they only have one in Calgary) is located near the University and the Calgary Stampede Football Stadium. It’s near a ton of low budget hotels, so its modern façade and the fact that it’s a new build make it really stand out.
I’ve stayed next door half a dozen times at the Hampton Inn, and its fine nothing special, but when I need to be on this since of town I will for sure stay here again. The location is perfectly fine, it’s close to the University as I mentioned, also a couple malls and tons of restaurant, and is only about 10 minutes drive from Deerfoot Trail (Highway 2). So it’s pretty convenient to a lot.
360 view of the lobby from the pool fireplace
So I almost ended 2014 with 27 stays and 49 nights at Starwood Properties. Really that was just fine, I had enough stays to qualify again for Starwood’s top tier Platinum Status, and I was pretty happy about that. Sadly thought, the push for Platinum with Starwood meant that I didn’t requalify for Hilton Diamond status after having it for the past 10 years and I ended up 8 stays or 20 days short in that program so I’m stuck with Gold. In any event if you hit 50 nights with Starwood in one year you get a perk that I’ve not had before and thought could be worth it to get. When you qualify with nights versus stays they provide you with 10 Sweet Suite night upgrades. Since I’ve never had this perk before, I’m not 100% sure it’ll be that great but for one more night’s stay it might be worth it to attain. Here’s what the award provides me.
So on December 31st, nothing like waiting till the last minute, I decided a mattress run was in order. Now I really didn’t have time to stay at a hotel, we had friends coming over to celebrate the New Year, nor did I really want to schlep to a hotel family in tow for one last night. The really good hotels in San Francisco were running $300-$500/night. So I found a pretty good deal at the local Sheraton Dublin $93/night AAA rate and I booked it at 11 AM that day. Now the challenge was I had to work and didn’t have time to check in, so my wife the trooper that she is, and the ULTIMATE supporter of my habit obliged me and said she’d check us in. So off she went and 45 minutes later she was checking into the hotel. Continue reading