Marriott tagged posts

Stelllaaaaaaa – Or getting stuck in Sao Paulo and the Sao Paulo Airport Marriott

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This is part 19 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

It may seem like this trip report series is taking forever, but (a) it was a long trip and (b) other things have been going on which I will blog about shortly.  This should have been my last post from my trip, but the travel gods intervened.

DC had very little snow this winter – indeed one day of accumulation total prior to my March trip.  Of course, that meant a storm was then predicted for the day I returned home. Winter Storm Stella was predicted to bring 2 to 6 inches in DC – but in Dulles, far west of the city, they were predicting 6 to 12 inches.  So, even taking off from Johannesburg, I was prepared for the possibility of a travel disruption.

Still on the SAA plane, I p...

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Hotel Review: The Disappointing Protea Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton

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This is part 15 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I had initially planned to use my Protea Prokard one free night voucher to stay at the Protea Fire and Ice Melrose Arch and then use a Prokard Bogo voucher at the African Pride Melrose Arch, but when PointBreaks opened up rooms at the Holiday Inn in Rosebank, I changed things up. In retrospect, I should have kept the one night at the Fire and Ice, but instead changed to the Protea Balalaika Sandton.  I ended up staying in ten different hotels on this trip, and the Protea Balalaika Sandton was the only one I had a bad experience at.

Sandton, Johannesburg

Sandton is an upscale area of Johannesburg, with lots of office buildings and hotels, as well as some high-end shopping centers...

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Protea Hotels of Cape Town:  Protea Cape Castle, Protea Victoria Junction, and African Pride 15 on Orange

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This is part 9 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

As explained in my intro post for this trip, my five nights in Cape Town were all spent at Protea-family properties – the South African chain that became a Marriott brand a few years ago.  Four of my nights were booked using Prokard Explorer BOGO certificates, and the fifth was my annual Marriott Rewards free night from my Marriott Rewards Premier Visa card.  In all, I was very happy with the choices I made, as the hotels ranged from good to outstanding, the locations worked, and the value was excellent – even taking into account that I didn’t even use all of the certificates in my Prokard Explorer account...

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South Africa & Namibia Preview #2: Planning My Stay, Hotels, the Protea Prokard Explorer, and IHG PointBreaks

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This is post #2 in a series about my February-March 2017 Trip to South Africa and Namibia.

With flights booked into Cape Town and out of Johannesburg, I had to figure out how I would spend my 12ish days in Africa.  From talking to folks, it seemed I really could spend the whole time in Cape Town and its surrounds, and that Johannesburg didn’t require a long stay.  But I also figured I should do a safari or something outdoors; you don’t go to Africa just to see cities.

Several people had recommended Namibia, so I looked at safari options there, after deciding Krueger National Park wasn’t a great option for me as a solo traveler given its location and the options I saw.  (I had also thought about Victoria Falls and Botswana, but the travel time from Cape Town was a negative.) I was pretty limited because I didn’t want to do a very long safari, and there was actually only one tour leaving on days that worked for me, the Etosha Express tour, which will start in Windhoek on a Tuesday morning, spend two nights in Etosha National Park, swing down the Skeleton Coast, and end in Swakopmund, a coastal resort-ish city with a strong German heritage.

Etosha Watering Hole

One reason this tour worked is I was able to get easy nonstop flights that allowed for a half-day in both Windhoek and Swakopmund, for a nice 4 night exploration of Namibia.  I’ll be flying on Air Namibia from Cape Town to Windhoek, and then on South African Express from Walvis Bay (just south of Swakopmund) to Johannesburg.

Two new airlines a-comin’: Ai...

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2015 Index and YWW Year in Review

Category: About YWWAirlinesHotelsTrip Reports Comments: One comment

It’s a bit late, but here is my 2015 travel year in review post.  It was a huge travel year for me, as I hit 5 continents and did more long-haul flying than I’d ever done before. It was a lot of mileage redemptions, and low on the mileage earning front.  I re-qualified for American Airlines Gold status. I thought about going for Platinum but it was a busy enough fall and winter that the marginal utility was not enough to outweigh the financial and other costs.

As for the blog, I have kept it as a personal travel diary rather than changing to something else, but hopefully folks find it enjoyable, useful, or both.   My philosophy is the same today as it was in my 2013 year in review post: “I will never stop loving travel, but business class and nice hotels isn’t the point of life.”

So, what were my travel patterns and accomplishments of 2015? I’ve put indices of the places, planes, and hotels I’ve reviewed at the bottom of this post, and have some statistics as well. It was a heavy year of international travel, with only one domestic purely leisure trip.
6
Total continents visited: 5
New continents: 1 (Australia)
Total countries (excluding U.S.): 10
New countries: 5 (Australia, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil)
New states: 1 (Missouri)

New airlines: 7 (Qantas, Etihad, Asiana, TAM, Virgin Australia, Germanwings)

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Exploring Budapest, Day 2: Sunday in the City and the Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center

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On Sunday morning, I had breakfast at the Executive Lounge of the Hilton and climbed back into bed for a little bit, as I had had a late but not particularly adventuresome night out. The weather was quite gray, so I wasn’t inspired to hit the streets right away. Around noon, I checked out and took an easy tram ride over to my next hotel.

For my last night in Budapest, I was staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center. I had a free Marriott voucher expiring at the end of January, and figured I’d use it – even though the hotel room was actually going for about $45 – less than the annual fee of my Marriott Rewards Visa card. Oh well. I took the tram about four stops from the Hilton to the Courtyard, which was in a more lively part of Budapest, but in more of a residential/for-locals area.

Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center

Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center

The Courtyard doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I was pleasantly surprised on the inside, as it was huge and recently renovated. I was assigned a room on the third floor, and given a choice of a courtyard or street view. Although there was street noise, it was a nice view- better than my view at the Hilton actually. The room was about the same size as that at the Hilton, though the furnishings were a bit sparer and in line with Courtyard’s fairly recent new branded standard design.

Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center room

Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Center room

20150118_122835I had thought free wifi...

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La Concha v. El San Juan – Comparing hotels and 2 lazy days in San Juan

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San Juan is an interesting vacation destination, in that there are three main clusters of hotels, and each provides a completely different vacation experience. From West to East, there’s Old San Juan, which is charming and full of historical, colonial buildings, forts, and older charm, right on a peninsula in the ocean. Then there’s Condado, with a walkable street with shops and restaurants, and a lot of hotels right on the beach. Finally, there’s Isla Verde and Carolina, closer to the airport, and full of self-contained resorts, where you will be ensconsed by mainland tourists wearing bikinis and sipping overpriced fruity drinks from the poolside bar.

I’ve stayed at three different hotels before in San Juan, two in the Condado area and 1 in Isla Verde/Carolina. The first was the Caribe Hilton, which I got on Priceline in my pre-blogging, pre-elite days. It was a very nice property, though it’s location is a bit isolated, and a long walk to the heart of Condado. The second was the Radisson Ambassador in Condado, which I reviewed here, and is a wasted opportunity for Radisson as a brand, as the location is great but the property is lacking. The third was the disgusting Verdanza in Isla Verde, reviewed here.

For my two nights this time, I ended up splitting my stay between La Concha and the El San Juan, two large chain properties despite their names.

On each of my two prior stays I had thought about staying at La Concha, a Renaissance resort (in the Marriott family), in Condado and right on the beach. It is one of the hipper hotels in San Juan by reputation, but also kept in very good condition, with a great location on Ashford Avenue.IMG_1057

I was able to grab a night us...

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Three Vienna Hotels: Radisson Blu Style, Hilton Vienna, and Courtyard Vienna Messe Reviews

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I’ve decided to break up my Vienna post into two – one reviewing the three hotels we stayed at, and one describing the sights and sounds of Vienna.  I’ll review the hotels here.

Radisson Blu Style Hotel Vienna

For our first two nights, we stayed at the Radisson Blu Style, which definitely had the best location of the three properties we stayed at in Vienna, but was also one of the strangest hotels I’ve ever stayed in.

Radisson Blu Style Vienna

Radisson Blu Style Vienna

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Alaska Adventure Trip Report Part 2: Courtyard Anchorage Airport Review and the Seward Highway to Seward

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Alaska Adventure Trip Report Part 2:  Courtyard Anchorage and the Seward Highway

Once I arrived in Anchorage, I zipped through the Alamo car rental, and unlike my New Mexico experience, the counter agent did not threaten me if I didn’t take extra coverage.  Given the hour I was arriving,  I had decided to stay at a hotel right by the airport, and head out of the Anchorage area in the morning. I actually don’t know why I booked the Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport, as I don’t think I looked at any of the other airport hotels.  I did have a special Marriott Rewards “Elite” rate, which wasn’t super cheap, but was fine.

Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport

Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport

It was about a four minute drive from the airport to the Courtyard, and it actually took longer to find parking than the whole drive, as the lot was very full.  I had called ahead to let the hotel know of my late arrival, but was stuck in an accessible room on the first floor, facing the main road.  Not ideal, but I was exhausted, so it worked.  The accessible room was very odd, in that the bathroom was accessible, with a high toilet and roll-in shower, but there was no possible way the room was, as the furniture was laid out in a way that  a wheelchair would not have made it past the nightstand.  (When you litigate ADA accessibility cases, you notice these things.)

Courtyard Anchorage room

Courtyard Anchorage room

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I Won! and What Should I Do?

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There are a ton of travel-related contests in blogs, Facebook, and Twitter every day.  I don’t enter that many – especially those that allow daily or unlimited entries.  The odds are not in your favor and I don’t have the free time that others appear to have.  But occasionally I enter.

I entered one such Twitter contest last week, sponsored by Asiana Airlines.  I really want to fly Asiana Airlines, especially its new Oz Quadra Smartium business class.  I’ve heard great things about Asiana’s business service, and the seat looks great (although the name is a tad unwieldy).   Well, the contest was not for free travel, alas, but  the “End of Year Giveaway” promised either a $10 Itunes gift card or an “Asiana Airlines surprise goody bag...

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