Starwood tagged posts

Hotel Review: Sheraton da Bahia, Salvador, Brazil

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There are not a ton of big chain hotels in Salvador. There are a bunch of big hotels on the beach in the Rio Vermelho neighborhood, and then a bunch of boutique hotels in the old town, Pelourinho, including the well-reviewed Pestana Convento do Carmo.   But about three years ago, Sheraton took over the Hotel Tropical da Bahia, a large hotel closer to the commercial center of town, in the Campo Grande neighborhood, kind of in between the tourist mecca of Pelourinho and the beach neighborhoods of Barra and Rio Vermelho. The hotel itself was pretty well-reviewed, and quite affordable, with a breakfast-inclusive rate of $75.

Lobby, Sheraton da Bahia

Lobby, Sheraton da Bahia

While I was initially concerned about the location, I think it totally made sense, as everywhere I wanted to go was a cheap taxi ride away. Of course, as is always my experience, my SPG Gold status was meaningless, but otherwise, I really enjoyed the hotel and recommend it highly.

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Four Nights in Brazil, Part 5: Sheraton Iguazu and the Argentine Side of Iguazu Falls

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I could have just done a day trip from Foz do Iguassu to the Argentine side of the falls, but I decided that the Sheraton in the park on the Argentine side seemed more relaxing given the extra time I had. And while I had 2 more expensive taxi rides, it wasn’t that much more than a tour from Brazil and a taxi back to the airport would have cost anyway. (If I could drive a stick I would’ve rented a car and that would have been really easy and economical. Alas automatic car rentals were very expensive.)

Sheraton Iguazu

Sheraton Iguazu

One of the fun experiences was getting to do international taxi rides!  From the Wyndham in Foz, it was only about a 10 minute drive to the border area, and the first stop was Brazilian immigration.  I had read online that a lot of taxi drivers handled this for you, but mine didn’t.  Pretty easy to figure out.  I went inside a room with a row of bank teller like counters, where there was no wait, handed over my passport and landing card, and got stamped for my exit out of Brazil.   Then we continued driving for a few minutes before hitting Argentine immigration, which appeared a bit more formal.  It’s toll booth style, in that you don’t leave your car.  I passed my passport and receipt for my reciprocity fee payment up to the cab driver who was confused, but the immigration agent explained to him what it was.  Then there was a second stop for a cursory vehicle check (some cars had their trunks being checked), and then I was in Argentina about 25 minutes after leaving the hotel.

Argentina l...

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One City, Three Hotels: Reviews of the Imperial Palace, Four Points by Sheraton Seoul – Namsan, Holiday Inn Express Seoul Euljiro

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I spent a total of four nights in Seoul, which ended up being split between three hotels.   The first hotel I booked was the Imperial Palace in Gangnam, for a great rate on Skyauction.com. Unfortunately, when my plans changed and I wanted to add a third night, there were no rates via Skyauction available. Since I’d be heading to the train station on the morning after my third night, I figured I’d find a hotel closer to Seoul Station. I originally booked an award night at the Millenium Hilton, but then I decided to book a revenue stay at the new Four Points by Sheraton Namsan, also walking distance to Seoul Station. After my trip down to Gyeongju, I also booked an award night at the Millenium Hilton, but then decided to switch to the new Holiday Inn Express Euljiro, not terribly far from Seoul Station.

In a city with hundreds of hotels, I don’t particularly recommend any of the three, although I would consider the Imperial Palace. Now to the play by play…

Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace Seoul

Imperial Palace Seoul

The Korean Air Limo Bus from Incheon dropped me off across the street from the Imperial Palace, and the driver called over to have a bellman meet me as I walked over. The hotel is fairly large, with multiple towers, and an opulent lobby with bar and live music area. The property looks like it was built in the late 90s, and has a “European” theme, which isn’t my personal aesthetic, but works.

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A Tale of Two Hotels: The Wonderful Le Royal Meridien and the Terrible Hilton Abu Dhabi

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Abu Dhabi is a city of hotels (and not much else). There are tons of options ranging from midrange to high end to super luxury. I was spending three nights in the city- the first on my own, and the next two with my friend. So I considered that an opportunity to try two different hotels. For the first night, I got a room at Le Royal Meridien, one of several Starwood properties in Abu Dhabi, located in the center of the city. For the following two nights, I made the mistake of getting a room at the Hilton Abu Dhabi, on the Corniche with its own private beach. The Hilton was significantly more expensive, but I liked the idea of a beach and I have been fairly loyal as a Hilton HHonors Gold member. Big mistake. In the end, the two properties represented the best and worst of hospitality.

Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi

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Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi

The fancy airport taxi, a metered Mercedes van, took about 25 minutes to get to Le Royal Meridien, for about $30. (Not to be confused with the older, cheaper Le Meridien.) A bellman rushed to the door and took my suitcase, and a friendly clerk promptly checked me in. I had gotten a great rate, the “Dine Your Way” package, which was about $122 a night and included a 25 Euro dining credit. The agent confirmed the rate and also acknowledged my SPG Gold elite status, stating that I had been upgraded to a higher floor, with, “of course, a sea view.” She then proactively offered me a 4pm late checkout.

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Hotel Review: The Westin Zagreb, SPG Preferred Rooms, and Sudden Whooshing

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Let me preface this post by staying that the Westin Zagreb is a perfectly fine hotel.  It provided the basic amenities that the Maistra Park Hotel Rovinj did not, and at less than half the price.  People were friendly, and the one problem I had was rectified immediately without any problems and with apologies from the staff.  It’s not the newest property, though, so those expecting a modern cosmopolitan property might be disappointed.

As a reminder, I booked my entire Croatia trip in a day, which I do not recommend doing.  In picking a hotel in Zagreb, I looked at four large chain properties in Zagreb – three Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, and Four Points), and a Doubletree by Hilton.  None were right smack in the middle of the tourist part of town, but both the Sheraton and Westin seemed close enough, and had good reviews– with the Westin having slightly better ones, and was seen as the more luxurious option.  I didn’t drill down the options with any detail, figured a Westin is generally a safe choice, and booked a buy two nights, get one night free prepaid rate that came out to about 75 euros a night.  Though the Westin was fine, in the end the Sheraton would probably have been a better fit for me now that I know a little bit more about the city.

It was an easy tram ride from the bus station to the Westin, only five stops.  At check-in, I was stuck behind a man collecting two dozen Qatari passports of his group from the agent, and individually reviewing each passport (there’s a nonstop DOH-ZAG on Qatar).  The super friendly front desk agent asked if the man could step aside so she could check me in, and I was checked in quickly and efficiently. She explained wifi was free for everyone, and asked how many codes I needed as it was one per device. (Take that Maistra.)  Since wifi was free, she asked me if I wanted points or a welcome drink as my SPG Gold member amenity.  When I chose points, she responded “good choice.”  Oh, and as a Gold member, I had been “upgraded” to an “SPG floor.”

Now, here is an aside that ha...

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Alaska Trip Report Conclusion: Of Early Morning Fire Drills: The Sheraton Anchorage Review and Delta ANC-SLC-JFK

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Alaska Trip Report Conclusion:  Of Early Morning Fire Drills:  The Sheraton Anchorage and Delta ANC-SLC-JFK

I arrived in downtown Anchorage at around 5pm, and headed right to my hotel.  Hotels in downtown Anchorage weren’t particularly expensive, and there was a Marriott, a Hilton, and a Sheraton all downtown.  I went with the Sheraton based on price and my positive experiences as an SPG Gold member.  I hadn’t realized, though, that the hotel is the farthest from the actual downtown.  In colder weather, it would have been a rough walk, but it was fine for me in May.

Sheraton Anchorage

Sheraton Anchorage

The hotel kind of stands out as the only tall building in its area, but I was a little confused as to what to do when I pulled up.  There is a small driveway, with no signs or clerks, so I just left my car and went in to check in.  I was asked if a “mountain view” room was okay, and said yes, though I didn’t realize that there were two views  – “mountain”, which was really a view of an industrial area, and a view of downtown and the water.  Parking wasn’t explained to me, but there was both a small indoor garage and two larger outdoor lots.  I didn’t receive any welcome amenity or an upgrade, and my corner room actually appeared smaller than a standard room based on the schematic of the hotel, though on a “SPG Guest” floor – whatever that means.  Upon arrival, I noticed a dirty room service tray that would stay there until I checked out.

Lobby, Sheraton Anchorage

Lobby, Sheraton Anchorage

The r...

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YWW Does East Asia: The Sheraton Macao Hotel Cotai Central Review — Starwood’s Largest Property in the World

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There are two main areas to stay in Macao:  the Macao peninsula, and the Cotai Strip.  Cotai is actually a new area of reclaimed land, and its name is actually a portmanteau of the two (former) islands it connects – Coloane and Taipa.  Cotai is now the home to new mega-Vegas-style casinos and hotels.   Several of the complexes have multiple hotels, including the Sands Cotai Central, which has a Holiday Inn, Conrad, and Sheraton.  (If you’re a Marriott fan, you’re out of luck.)  On the exterior, the three hotels are pretty much identical, and the rates are similar at all three.  The hotels are interconnected by a bunch of malls, and the three hotels share two casinos.  I was able to get a pretty good deal at the Sheraton for a Club Room with lounge access (with a hot breakfast buffet), free wifi, and a credit for about $50 good in any of the shops and restaurants in the Sands complex.

The Sands Cotai Central

The Sands Cotai Central

Rear view of the hotel tri-pack

Rear view of the hotel tri-pack

As with many of the hotel casinos, the Sands has a free bus that runs between the complex and the airport, the two different ferry terminals, the Macau peninsula, and the border with China. It was easy to find it leaving the tiny airport, and was definitely one of the nicer shuttle buses I’ve ever been on.

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YWW Does East Asia: Trip Report Part 9: Four Points by Sheraton Sukhumvit- Bangkok Review

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Bangkok has a ton of relatively affordable hotel options.  That being said, rates were higher the week we were going than usual.  Starwood happens to have an extremely wide footprint in Bangkok, with at least one properties from eight of its nine brands! (There is no “Element” in Bangkok.)  Everyone recommended the Le Meridien in Silom, based on its location and quality, but rooms were going for over $200 a night, more than the newly opened W, and more than double the price of the well-reviewed Aloft and Four Points properties in the Sukhumvit area.  Originally we were going to stay at the Aloft, but upon poking, it seemed the Aloft was much more about hipness and style, whereas the Four Points was a little bit of a nicer hotel, so we switched to the Four Points.  In retrospect, I don’t think the Sukhumvit area would be my recommended place to stay, but it was convenient and the hotel was excellent and a great value – and I imagine one of the nicest Four Points, Sheraton’s mid-market non-full-service brand, properties in the world.

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100 Free Starwood Preferred Guest Points

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Pretty easy.  Just go to this Facebook page and “like” SPG if you don’t already, and fill out the form.    You’ll get 100 points automatically, and be entered to win 100,000!

 

HT: Lucky

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Four Days in San Francisco . . . Part 1

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Greetings from the City by the Bay, or more specifically the SFO SkyClub.

After a whopping two days in New York after my Brussels trip, I hit the air again for a law conference in San Francisco.   At first, I didn’t even think the trip would merit blogging due to its rather boring nature  from a travel perspective, but it turned out to be anything but.

As a start, I’ll point out I ended up talking about travel and blogging more at the conference than I did law, and one reception involved me and another lawyer pulling out our credit cards and comparing what was in our wallet.  So to all of the new lawyer readers, welcome!

My flight out to San Francisco was uneventful, and I had an “Economy Comfort” seat on Delta’s nonstop out of JFK.   I was able to get a lot of work done, and watch some television.  My boarding pass had printed with a “Have One on Us” coupon, so I was able to get a snack  box for free.

My conference was on Nob Hill, at the Fairmont Hotel.   Usually when I stay in San Francisco, I stay at the Intercontinental San Francisco, which is very close to the federal courthouses and is a very new, lovely property.  Unfortunately, given the conference schedule and Nob Hill’s inaccessibility, I wanted to stay on Nob Hill.  The conference rate for the Fairmont was attractive, as it’s a very nice hotel, but I have no use for Fairmont points and no status with Fairmont.  But right next to the Fairmont are both the Renaissance Stanford Court and the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, both of which had lower rates than the Fairmont.  Given my recent acquisition of Intercontinental Ambassador status and the property’s slightly more luxurious reputation, I went with the Intercontinental.

View of SF from the Fairmont

My stay at the Intercontinental was fine...

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