Sunday, September 30, 2012

Score! Unexpected Points at The Langham Hotel in Hong Kong

There's nothing like getting points when you didn't expect to get points. I'm usually really on top of that type of thing though, so this doesn't happen to me very often. However, I received a pleasant points surprise when I checked in at The Langham Hong Kong this past week.

Quick background - I had a short business trip to Hong Kong this past week, and while I would normally look to stay in one of the larger, western chains (Starwood, followed by Hilton, followed by Marriott, followed by Hyatt), the rooms were being booked for our entire group, and our hosts already had an arrangement at The Langham. While this luxury chain started in England, most of their hotels are located in Asia (3 in Hong Kong and 5 in Shanghai), and I didn't know anything about them. After poking around their website, I couldn't find any mention of a loyalty program or airline partnerships, so I'd resigned myself to only getting 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on my Chase Sapphire card (with no foreign transaction fees, of course!).

That was until I checked in...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: China (Part 2 - Westin Bund Center Shanghai)

(Don't forget to check out Part 1, United BusinessFirst JFK-SFO-PVG here)

Upon arriving at the Westin Bund Center in Shanghai, I was pleased to discover that I'd been upgraded to a suite. I made my way up to my room and was pleasantly surprised by the amenities it had to offer.

Living room area, view from entryway
Living room area, view from bedroom
Bedroom area and bathroom

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Reason Why Marriott Will Never Be My #1

This weekend I was in Philadelphia for a wedding, which provided a perfect opportunity to use a Marriott free night certificate that I'd had laying around for some time. While it meant changing hotels in the middle of the weekend (which I do not recommend, especially if you're in the wedding party), it was the last chance I would have to use the certificate before it expired, and I wasn't about to pass up a free night.

I decided to book our 2nd night at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, which was conveniently located, and also looked to be one of the nicer options available in the certificate's category 1-5 eligibility range.

The hotel itself was nice, and the room was exactly what I was expecting (gotta love Marriott consistency). However, I'd forgotten that the Marriott "brand standard" is to close the lounge on weekends. It wasn't that much of a hassle this time around, but it reminded me of yet another reason why I prefer Starwood and Hilton over Marriott. Free breakfast in the lounge is a nice convenience during the week when I'm traveling for business, but free breakfast when I'm traveling on the weekend for pleasure is much more greatly appreciated. It's a small detail, but something I'll be more mindful of next time I'm booking a weekend trip.

What are some of the little things that make you prefer one hotel chain over another? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and make sure to vote in the poll to the right if you haven't already done so.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: China (Part 1 - United BusinessFirst JFK-SFO-PVG)

My last international trip during the Summer of Travel 2012 was to China, during which I got to visit both Shanghai and Beijing. After getting back from Italy on a Friday, it was a quick turn before heading off to JFK Monday morning to start the next trip. Shanghai was my first stop, and my trip there started with a leg on United's premium service ("p.s.") to San Francisco. Unlike most domestic flights, this one operates with 3 classes of service: First, Business, and Economy (actually, the entire economy cabin is classified Economy Plus - though it's more like Economy Plus Lite when compared to other planes with Economy Plus). I was sitting in row 9 in business class, highly sought after by frequent United flyers for what I think may be the most legroom of any seat in the entire fleet:

That's the end of my 6'6" frame stretching as far as I possibly could from my seat

Unfortunately there were technical problems with my plane, which meant no in-flight wifi, and no in-seat power. Given that my flight was during the day, that was a serious drag on my productivity, but I did get an appreciation card from the flight attendant as compensation. I had Platinum status at that time, but decided to wait a little while until I made 1K, just to see if the compensation offer might be better. Judging from the offer I received when entering my details at, I think I made the right call.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Italy (Part 5 - United BusinessFirst MXP-EWR)

(Don't forget to check out Part 1, Hotel Eden Rome here, Part 2, Exploring Rome here, Part 3, RomaMilano here, and Part 4, Sheraton Milan Malpensa here)

Milan's Malpensa airport is physically connected to the Sheraton hotel, so getting there in the morning was a breeze. My colleague and I checked in, and were given an invitation to the ViaMilano lounge. I was hoping to use the Lufthansa lounge instead, but unfortunately it was in a different wing of the terminal, and would've been a long way from our gate. I'd visited the ViaMilano lounge before and was disappointed then. Little did I know that their new setup for wifi access had managed to make things even worse.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

3000-8000 Free Aeroplan Miles via Starwood

(via this FlyerTalk thread)

Starwood and Aeroplan are running a new promotion for the fall that offers 3000 Aeroplan miles after staying 3 nights in Starwood hotels, or 5000 after staying 5 nights.

Plus, if at least 3 of the nights are at Canadian Starwood properties, you'll get another 3000 miles.

At first this didn't seem all that exciting to me, but according to the info provided in the FlyerTalk discussion, this promotion is stack-able with the fall Starwood promotion - and you don't need to change your earning preferences in order to qualify for the bonus!

Full details and registration here.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Eating Out in NYC: Keen's Steakhouse

New York has a lot of great steakhouses, but one of my all time favorites is Keen's on 36th Street. I recently had the pleasure of dining there again, and everything was just like I remembered it.

Established in 1885, Keens is one of NYC's oldest restaurants
As is standard, our meal started with raw carrots and celery, served with blue cheese dressing. Normally, I wouldn't consider this to be worth mentioning, but Keen's is the only place I've ever been to that de-veins their celery sticks. That might not sound like a big deal, but believe me, you'll appreciate it when you try it!

We shared a few appetizers, including the lobster bisque and the crab cakes. The bisque was good, but I would've liked there to be a bit more lobstery-ness. The crab cakes were ok - they were definitely tasty, but there was a lot of filler and I like my crab cakes more on the crabby side.

The meat is what Keen's is all about though. In total, we had a porterhouse for two, a couple of their signature mutton chops, and a few other dishes as well. Good eats all around! The porterhouse was perfectly rare - salty and a little crunchy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. The mutton was also delicious - it had that great, game-y, lamb-y flavor... and was just as big as I remembered it being!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Italy (Part 4 - Sheraton Milan Malpensa)

(Don't forget to check out Part 1, Hotel Eden Rome here, Part 2, Exploring Rome here, and Part 3, RomaMilano here)

I only had one day to spend in Milan, and since I was heading home the next morning, I decided to stay at the Sheraton Milan Malpensa, and head into the city for the day. I'd stayed at this hotel before, and it's easily one of the nicest airport hotels I've ever stayed in - brand new, with a very modern decor.

Sheraton Milan Malpensa
I was able to check-in early, and received an upgrade to a junior suite. As I've said before, a "junior suite" usually just means "extra large regular room' - but it was very nice, and I certainly wasn't about to complain. The bathroom setup was a little interesting, in that it opened right into the main room. I liked it - but it took "open concept" a bit further than I would imagine most people are comfortable with.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Eating Out in NYC: Adour Alain Ducasse

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of dining at Adour Alain Ducasse in New York. I was really excited because a) it has been on my NYC bucket list for some time, b) it's located at the St. Regis, and so we would be able to earn Starwood points for our meal, just as if we'd been staying at the hotel (check out this thread on FlyerTalk for more on that little-known fact), and c) we would each be able to take advantage of a special promotion that BA was running, offering a $50 statement credit for spending $50+ on your BA Visa at any Michelin-starred restaurant in New York ($50 x 2 = $100 off the final bill!).

I only had a few days at home in between my trips to Italy and China, and what better way to spend a Saturday night?

Entrance to the restaurant, through the St. Regis lobby