Radisson tagged posts

Aer Lingus Bilbao to Dublin and the Bloody Radisson Blu Dublin Airport

Category: AirlinesHotelsTrip Reports Comments: One comment

This is part ten in my trip report series from my July 2016 trip to Spain.  For an introduction, see this post.

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Aer Lingus A320

The business class fare that I had booked home was out of Dublin. I thought that flying from somewhere in Basque country to Dublin would be pretty cheap.  Alas, it wasn’t; the only nonstop was on Aer Lingus from Bilbao.  (After I booked, Aer Lingus added a second weekly late evening nonstop on a wet-leased BA Cityflyer Embraer regional jet.)  And it wasn’t that cheap; I booked a “Plus” fare, which included a checked bag, advanced seat assignment, and the ability to earn miles (Aer Lingus ended up delaying the launch of its own Avios program, so I’ll be crediting to British Airways Executive Club (how many remains to be seen, as I’ve had to manually request after they didn’t automatically post)), it came to 150 Euros.  But hooray for trying a new airline!  (Fun fact- it’s my 57th airline, not including regional/express carriers flying for mainline carriers.)

Although there is a bus from Bilbao to the airport, it would have had me heading out of my way, taking the metro downtown and then turning around.  The Holiday Inn was on the way to the airport, so the ride took less than 15 minutes and was worth the 25 Euros.

Main Hall of Bilbao Airport

Main Hall of Bilbao Airport

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney

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Sydney is not a cheap city. Add in Mardi Gras and the Cricket World Cup and hotels were pretty expensive. At first, I hoped to use my Hilton “Be Our Guest” certificate for a free night at the Hilton, but five months out, all the “Standard” rooms were “sold out.” So I moved down the list of points and other tricks up my sleeve.

In the end I decided to do two nights at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney, taking advantage of Club Carlson’s “bonus award night” for cardholders, which gave you the last night free on any award stay of 2 or more nights. I say “gave” because yesterday the card announced it would be getting rid of this benefit. (Given how meaningless Club Carlson elite status has been, I see no reason to continue to pay the annual fee on this card—the only real benefit is 40,000 points a year, which aren’t enough for one night at most decent Club Carlson properties.  The benefit was too good to expect it to continue for a long time, but Club Carlson botched an opportunity to get people hooked on its properties.  If Club Carlson treated its elites wonderfully over the past few years this benefit was available, people would stay loyal.  But it hasn’t, and as I’ve discussed before, benefits are inconsistent at best, and even when they are provided aren’t even that good.)  After that, I’d move to the Intercontinental Sydney, where I’d use my annual weekend BOGO certificate as an Ambassador.

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney
The Radisson was a perfectly fine property, and a great use of points with the bonus award night. Without that option, I probably wouldn’t stay there again unless there was a good rate, given the range of options in the city.

Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney

Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney

The weirdest part of my stay was at check-in. It was after noon when I got to the hotel, so hardly super early. The agent told me that because the hotel was “fully booked,” my room wasn’t ready….unless I wanted to pay for a “Business Class” upgrade, in which case the hotel would have become not fully booked and a room immediately available. For 66 AUD a night ($50), and as a matter of principle, I wasn’t going to do that. The availability of that room meant that either (1) the hotel was not “fully booked” or (2) non-business class rooms were overbooked, meaning someone who booked a non-business class room would be put in a Business Class room, and that should have been me, an elite guest. (Especially since Business Class rooms are the same size as the room I ended up in and the only difference is lounge access and a higher floor.)

So I asked when the room would be available. The response “Perhaps you’d like to make some plans for the day and come back later?” No. When will the room be available. “Well I must have it ready by 2!” The agent seemed to act like no one ever tried to check in early before, which was certainly not the case as both of the next two days I saw people checking in at 10am (and getting rooms right away). Finally she said, “Perhaps you would like to use the health club?” “Are there showers there?” (why else would I want to use the health club?) “Oh, yes.”

Great. So I schlepped my luggage to the basement health club, and went into the small locker room. The lockers required you to pick a code to set the lock, and I put my most valuable things in there, since my suitcase wouldn’t fit. The shower was fine, but, of course, when I came out, I could not get the locker to open. So in a towel with no glasses, I had to go out to the front desk. Apparently this is a common issue, as the woman knew the problem immediately and said she’d send someone to open it. Someone came in less than 5 minutes and opened it, and I was clothed.

I headed up to the lobby, left my suitcase at the bell desk, and then sat in the lobby to try to make a plan and finish catching up on the past 24 hours of the world. Unfortunately, most of the lobby is a restaurant/bar, and I am guiltable, so ordered a Coke Zero when the waitress came over. Turned out to be only 7 AUD – ~$5.50 for a small glass bottle. Theoretically, I may have been able to get a discount as a Club Carlson elite member, but Club Carlson does not post a list as to which hotels that benefit is available at outside the U.S. and Canada. When I’ve asked Club Carlson, I was told you have to ask each individual property if they offer the benefit. Making the benefit close to useless.

After about two hours walking around the city, I came back to the hotel and was told the room was ready and my luggage already waiting. I was a bit nervous as to what the room would be, but it was actually quite nice. Using the base level of points, all you can reserve is an “atrium room,” i.e., one that faces an interior courtyard. I did get upgraded to a “premier” room, one category up, which faced the street. On the relatively low fifth floor, though, there was still very little natural light and no view at all. But the room was decently sized and recently renovated, with a large comfortable bed and a sitting area.  (The walls were oddly bare.) The bathroom was very big, with both a stall shower and a separate tub. IMG_3089 IMG_3091

Premier Room, Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney

Premier Room, Radisson ...

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Trocadero, Paris

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We had a total of five nights in Paris. We could have done an Airbnb or apartment rental, but instead we split the stay into two different hotels – mindful of my boyfriend’s no-fun rule that he will not change hotels if it means less than two nights at a given property.

Paris is a pricey hotel city, so it’s a great place to make use of points and what not. But for the most part, you have to keep everything in perspective, as even some of the fanciest, most expensive hotels lack the amenities you’d see in comparable properties in New York, Tokyo, London, or even a place like Warsaw.

For our five nights, we ended up splitting the stay into 3 and 2. I have had a certificate from Club Carlson for almost a year and a half, good for one night at any property. I almost used it a few times, but always found great other deals, so this ended up being the time to use it.  We figured we’d use that for one night at one of the three Radissons in town, and then do two more nights using Club Carlson points- noting that, as a Club Carlson Visa cardholder, I would only be charged points for one of those nights. For the last two nights, I had convinced my credit-wary boyfriend to get the Hyatt Visa, with its generous bonus of two free nights at any property with a $1,000 spend, which we used at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome.

Picking a Radisson wasn’t so easy. The best Radisson in Paris, the Radisson Blu Ambassador, left the chain last year, and became a Marriott. That left three properties in the center city, and one, the Radisson Blu Boulogne, on the outer fringe. Of the three in the city, we quickly eliminated the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees, as my boyfriend said it wasn’t a particularly nice or convenient neighborhood, and the folks on Flyertalk seemed to agree it wasn’t a particularly special hotel. That left the Radisson Blu le Dokhan’s Trocadero, and the Radisson Blu le Metropolitan, which are owned and managed by the same company, and are about two blocks away from each other in the 16th arrondissement, which I have come to refer to as the Upper East Side of Paris. The reviews said there wasn’t much difference between the hotels in terms of room size or amenities, though le Metropolitan has a small indoor pool. Le Metropolitan has a more modern design, and le Dokhan’s has a more classic French theme. My boyfriend prefers the classic French, so we went with that. Of note, as of May 1, all three of these properties jumped up to a new top tier redemption rate of 70,000 Club Carlson points – up from 50,000 when we booked and stayed. It’s also been speculated that these properties will become part of Club Carlson’s new luxury “Quorvus Collection” brand, but so far, they have not been part of the initial three properties announced.

Radisson Blu le Dokhan's Trocadero

Radisson Blu le Dokhan’s Trocadero

Le Dokhan’s was very easy to get to by public transport, even with luggage, and is a few blocks from the Boissiere metro, and a short walk to the Trocadero metro. Approaching from the outside, the hotel really looks lovely – well maintained, landscaped, and lit, on the corner of two smaller streets. On the inside, the lobby area is charming as well, though not really conducive to seating, and really just feels like a small Parisian hotel. One reason I had given into the older-style Le Dokhan’s was that Flyertalkers had reported that Club Carlson Gold Elite members frequently were upgraded to “Business Class” rooms, or were given complimentary breakfast. Consistent with my experiences with Radissons in Europe, alas, neither were offered, and I even asked about breakfast.

Le Dokhan's Lobby

Le Dokhan’s Lobby

Everyone talks about the elevator at this hotel, as the walls are an old Louis Vuitton trunk cu...

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Hotel Review: The Radisson Decapolis, Panama City

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The Radisson Decapolis, Panama City

It’s rare that you have a hotel experience that is pretty much exactly what you expect based on TripAdvisor reviews. But my experience at the Radisson Decapolis was just that. The reviews painted a picture of a perfectly fine hotel, but nothing remarkable. Particularly, they suggested a hotel that was great when it opened about 10 years ago, but could use a refurbishment, and had service issues. They also said it was not a hotel for light sleepers. I agree with everything. My overall summary is that it’s a fine hotel to stay at, but in a city full of inexpensive luxury properties, you can probably do better.

Radisson on the left, supermega Hard Rock hotel on the right

Radisson on the left, supermega Hard Rock hotel on the right

After I picked up my suitcase from the Intercontinental, I walked about a half mile to the Radisson Decapolis Hotel. The hotel is behind one of the older shopping malls (with a casino) – which it’s connected to by a skywalk. The hotel is also immediately next to the newer, larger, posher Hard Rock Hotel. The area is much more hectic, as lots of buses stop near the mall, and the highway runs right along the street in front of the hotel.  (The mall itself is kinda dead, as there’s a newer, larger, fancier mall nearby.)

When I got to the hotel, there were a number of workers standing out front, though none offered to help with my luggage. I proceeded up an elevator to the lobby, where I waited about eight minutes to check in, as there was only one person at the desk. The lobby is very W-esque – very dark with mirrors and colored lighting in the bar. Even though I was on an award stay I was given vouchers for a VIP breakfast, and was told I had been upgraded and given a room on the hotel’s 25th floor. I was also given vouchers for $20 nightly beverage credit at the bar, which I’m ashamed to say I did not use (partially because there was a dress code for the lobby bar and after a day in Panama City humidity, once you get to your air conditioned hotel room, you don’t want to re-dress).

Hotel entryway

Hotel entryway

Lobby bar

Lobby bar

I have had bad l...

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Trip Report: Tallinn! The Ferry from Helsinki, the Radisson Blu Tallinn, and Exploring the City

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When my boyfriend suggested we go to Finland, I knew I also wanted to squeeze in a stop in Estonia as well, as I had heard great things.  My boyfriend hadn’t heard these things, so thought it was just weird.   But there were better flight connections using Skymiles out of Tallinn than Helsinki, so we compromised on spending one night in Tallinn on the way home.  Of course, as we got closer to the trip and people started telling my boyfriend how awesome Estonia was, he got a bit more excited.  It was definitely one of my favorite cities of the trip, though we only scratched the surface.  But what we saw was beautiful, and a lot cheaper than Finland, and an easy (and fun) ferry ride from Helsinki.

We hailed a taxi to the West Harbor, for a quick 14 Euro taxi ride. A number of different boat companies operate on the Helsinki-Tallinn route, on a variety of different kinds of boats.  The high-speed catamaran we wanted had sold out when I went to book it about three weeks ahead.  So instead we had a huge cruise ship-style ferry boat that took a little longer, about 2.5 hours, and left in the early morning.

Check-in for the ferry

Check-in for the ferry

Helsinki to Tallinn Ferry

Helsinki to Tallinn Ferry

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Hotel Review: The Radisson Blu Plaza Helsinki

Category: HotelsTrip Reports Comments: 2 comments

For our three nights in Helsinki, we stayed at the Radisson Blu Plaza Helsinki, a property I highly recommend.  Originally, I considered splitting our stay between the Radisson and the fancy-shmancy Hotel Kamp, a Starwood property, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Radisson Blu Plaza Helsinki

Radisson Blu Plaza Helsinki

The hotel is a grand older building connected to a newer glass building.  The location was perfect, about a block away from the central railroad station, with a large park outside the back door.  We ended up not needing to take transportation at all in our three days in town except for the ferry to Suomenlinna and our feet.  Granted, we didn’t hit some of the sights farther afield, but had we wanted to, we could have easily gotten anywhere in Helsinki via tram, bus, or subway.

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Trip Report: Turku, Finland, and the Radisson Blu Marina Palace Review

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Given the amount of time we had in Finland, we decided we wanted to spend some time in the country outside of Helsinki.  I generally enjoy exploring small to medium-sized cities, so narrowed it down to two options – Tampere and Turku.  Tampere is a little larger, and is a more industrial city, whereas Turku is the old capital, more historic, and on the water.  We went with Turku, a city of 180,000 people (with a metro area of 300,000) about 100 miles west of Helsinki, and I am super glad I did.

Turku

Turku

I had researched the options for getting to Turku from the Helsinki airport, and there were basically two: “Expressbus” from the Airport, with a change of buses at an Ikea in Espoo for 30 euros, at 2 hours and 40 mins, or a bus to a train into the city, changing to another train to Turku,...

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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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Trip Report: Madrid, Part III, The Radisson Blu Madrid Prado Review

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The Radisson Blu Madrid Prado

The Radisson Blu Madrid Prado

When I booked this trip, I discovered that Madrid isn’t a great hotel city.  The few major chain properties, like the Westin Palace, are very expensive, as were the hotels available through Amex FHR and Visa Signature Hotels.  Since my flight out of Madrid was at 6am on Monday morning, I thought about getting a hotel like the Westin for Saturday night, and either staying out all night before heading to the airport, or getting a cheaper room by the airport for the second night.  On a Sunday night, I didn’t know how feasible the first option would be, and I thought it would be good to have a room for the entire day Sunday.  None of the airport hotels were that impressive.  I ended up getting a good price for the Radisson Blu Madrid Prado through its Best Rate Guarantee, though, for both nights, and figured I’d stick with that.  The reviews weren’t amazing, but for under 100 euro a night it would do.

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Trip Report: Two Days in Dublin and the Radisson Blu Dublin Review

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The Radisson Blu Royal Dublin

I’ve been a Club Carlson Gold member for most of this year.  Overall, I’ve found Club Carlson elite treatment completely inconsistent – particularly in terms of upgrades.

The most valuable perk, though, has been “Weekend Extender” rates offered to gold elites.  At locations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, elites can stay two nights for the price of one for stays starting on Thursdays or Fridays, or four the price of two for stays starting on Wednesdays or Thursdays.   And unlike other 2-for-1 rates, the Weekend Extender rate does earn points, and is not a prepaid rate.

So when I was heading to Dublin for two nights starting on a Friday, it was a great opportunity to get two nights at a nice hotel for a great rate, especially as Dublin hot...

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