Tuesday, February 26, 2013

RSS Update

Dear RSS Subscribers,

If you've received this message, 1) thanks for following! 2) it's time to update your settings. With the move to First2Board, I now have a new RSS feed link:

http://first2board.com/foodwineandmiles/feed/

The FeedBurner link is still the same: http://feeds.feedburner.com/FoodWineAndMiles

Leave me a note in the comments if you have any trouble switching over, and thanks again for following!

If you liked this post, make sure to follow Food, Wine, and Miles on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also sign up to receive free updates via RSS or email.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Starwood Category Changes Leave (Most) High-End Properties Unscathed

It's that time of year again - the time of year when hotel programs adjust their category classifications. I've already shared my thoughts on the harsh changes to Marriott's program and Hilton's program. Next up is Starwood.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous because Starwood is my primary hotel program. A devaluation of the same magnitude as Marriott or Hilton would've really hurt. Fortunately, Starwood's changes look to be relatively tame - especially at the top end of the spectrum!

The Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens is one of the high-end properties actually moving DOWN a category

Overall, 48 properties are moving down the award chart, and 218 are moving up. What's interesting is how those numbers look when you break it down by the current hotel categories:
  • Of the 41 category 1 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 10 are moving up to category 2
  • Of the 240 category 2 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 73 are moving up to category 3 and 8 are moving down to category 1
  • Of the 332 category 3 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 98 are moving up to category 4 (1 to category 5) and 14 are moving down to category 2 (1 to category 1)
  • Of the 213 category 4 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 19 are moving up to category 5 (1 to category 6) and 2 are moving down to category 3
  • Of the 221 category 5 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 9 are moving up to category 6 and 16 are moving down to category 4
  • Of the 70 category 6 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 6 are moving up to category 7 and 7 are moving down to category 5
  • All 26 category 7 hotels will remain in category 7

A few notable observations:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Food Wine and Miles is Joining First2Board!

Yes boys and girls, it's true - Food, Wine, and Miles is going to be one of the launch blogs on First2Board as of March 1st!


I'm very excited to be joining the First2Board family - and hope you'll join me over there as I migrate away from the current URL.

Be sure to follow @first2board on twitter for more information on the big March 1st launch giveaway!


First2Board, the web's new go-to aggregator of travel blogs


If you liked this post, make sure to follow Food, Wine, and Miles on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also sign up to receive free updates via RSS or email.

Hilton Changes Might Work For Those That Prefer Mid-Tier Hotels

Hilton is catching a lot of flack for their just-announced award program changes. For those of you too lazy to click a link, the changes are:
  • There will now be 10 hotel categories (there are currently 7 + Waldorf Astoria as a separate category)
  • Some hotels will have Seasonal Pricing - meaning the number of points required will vary from month to month
  • Elite members will get a 5th night free when they book stays of 5+ nights

Some of the major complaints are:
  • More categories almost always means more hotels moving up than moving down (and sure enough, that is indeed the case)
  • In theory, Seasonal Pricing should mean that properties are sometimes available at a discount - but many properties have no variation, and are priced at the top of the range throughout the year. This is particularly true for many high-end, aspirational properties in places like the Maldives or Bora Bora (some of which have gone from 50,000 points / night to 95,000 points / night)
  • Elite members were ALREADY GETTING 5th night free on awards, as well as a slightly smaller discount for 4 night stays, and a higher discount for stays of 6+ nights (it's expected that the discount at 4 nights will go away, as well as the extra discount for stays of 6+ vs. 5)

Goodbye overwater bungalows!

But how bad are the changes really, and where do they hit the hardest? Well, Wandering Aramean was able to pull data on roughly half of Hilton's 3900 hotels. He was gracious enough to post his raw data, and so I decided to take a look through it to see what else I could figure out. While the analysis doesn't cover every hotel in the Hilton portfolio, it does cover a wide range of brands, geographies, and award tiers. Here's what I found:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

United Passenger Kicked Off Flight For Taking A Single Photo!

I'm going to cut right to the chase on this one.

Matthew (a near-million-miler 1K, sitting in business class) over at Live and Let's Fly recounts his story of being kicked off a United flight for taking a single photo of his seat area during boarding.


As you all know, I almost always take photos of my seat, the food, etc. whenever I'm on a flight (especially when I'm sitting up front). I've never run into trouble for this before - but unfortunately, that's not how it played out for him.

Definitely worth a read over at UPGRD.com.

Wow.


If you liked this post, make sure to follow Food, Wine, and Miles on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also sign up to receive free updates via RSS or email.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where Did All The Premium Cabin Passengers Go?

I have a trip to Vegas coming up in a couple of months, and I decided to take the red eye back. However, red eyes from Vegas are pretty short which makes for a less-than-stellar night's sleep. Given that + the fact that I'm going to need to stretch a bit to re-qualify for 1K on United this year + the fact that I was able to clear a regional upgrade in advance, I decided to book my return trip via SFO, with the red-eye to take place on a p.s. SFO-JFK flight.

Now I know premium cabins tend to fill up to closer to the date of departure, but I can't remember seeing a seat map quite as empty within 2 months of departure as my two flights are showing right now:

LAS-SFO
SFO-JFK

The first flight doesn't surprise me all that much, given that Vegas is very much a leisure destination - but it's the Sunday night p.s. red eye that's a bit of a surprise. I'm sure it'll fill up in the coming weeks, but if not - it looks like I've got a pretty lonely flight ahead of me! Guess I'll have to console myself with the "famous" seat 9A on United p.s. business (if it doesn't have the most leg room in the entire fleet, I'd really like to see what does):

View from seat 9D on the other side of the aisle

What do you think the over/under is on the number of empty seats these flights end up having up front?


If you liked this post, make sure to follow Food, Wine, and Miles on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also sign up to receive free updates via RSS or email.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Frolicking in Franschhoek, South Africa

Most of my trip to South Africa was spent in Cape Town, but I actually spent the first few days in the Stellenbosch Winelands just outside the city, in a small town called Franschhoek (which means "French Corner").

south africa winelands franschhoek stellenbosch
South Africa's breathtaking winelands region

We were there for a wedding and visited a few of the local wineries for a variety of wedding-related events. First was a wonderful lunch at La Petite Ferme. The meal was a delightful mix of local, South African fare and French-inspired dishes. Here's a quick photo summary of the highlights:

la petite ferme franschhoek south africa escargot appetizer
Appetizer: Escargot on a bacon wrapped brown mushroom, stuffed with creme fromage
la petite ferme franschhoek south africa malaysian fish cake appetizer
Appetizer: Malaysian Fish Cakes with a vegetable atchar, yoghurt raita, baby marrow and coriander salad
la petite ferme franschhoek south africa venison loin entree
Entree: Venison Loin served with a butternut harissa puree, roasted beetroot, thyme jus
la petite ferme franschhoek south africa mango passionfruit cheesecake dessert
Dessert: Mango and Passionfruit cheese cake

With our meal, we enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc, a "Double Gold Michelangelo" award winner - yes, it's a bit of a ridiculous-sounding title, but the wine was really good!