Greece & Turkey 2014: Blue Palace Hotel

Blue Palace is actually a hotel that was on our radar last Summer, when we went to Le Meridien Split in Croatia so we ended up following through with that plan this year.

As a category 6 hotel, 8 nights cost us 140,000 SPG points in total including all taxes and service charge.  Given the best rate of about 375 Euro + tax at the time of booking, we got approximately 3 cents per point (about 3.05, actually) of value from our SPG points.  Not a mind blowing value, but an acceptable redemption to be sure.

We arrived via the hotel’s car service, which at 90 Euro for a 1 hour trip in a brand new Mercedes sedan seemed like a very good deal.  I checked taxi pricing and it was similar, and the few private car companies I inquired with actually wanted more than 90 Euro.

One reason I always like to get the hotel car whenever it’s not ridiculously expensive is that the hotel knows when you’re coming.  So they can “pre” check you in, which puts you in front of all the guests that may have been on your flight or others arriving at similar times.  That’s crucial for high season upgrades which may be limited to 1-2 guests per night.

At check in, we were told that we’d been upgraded from a standard bungalow to a bungalow with pool, which was exciting news, and quite fortunate given the high season.  When we checked out, we were told the resort was at 100% occupancy minus only the 5000 Euro/nt “Grand Villa.”

Given the late hour (~9pm), the desk agent who escorted us to our room suggested a property tour the following day.

When we woke up, we were treated to an excellent view from our terrace:

View from Pool Bungalow terrace

View from Pool Bungalow terrace

[Read more...]

Greece & Turkey 2014: Getting to Greece

As I explained previously, we chose a routing through London and Munich to get to Heraklion Airport in Crete in order to fly BA first class.

As usual, the evening started with an Uber car from our apartment in Arlington to Dulles airport, which at a flat $80, tip included, is a steal.  That’s roughly the same cost as a taxi + tip (maybe $5-10 more), but infinitely more comfortable, on demand via app, earns 2X Amex points, and with a driver that doesn’t make me fear for my safety (which is more than can be said for Arlington cabs).

Dulles Airport

We got to Dulles around 9:00pm for our 10:35pm flight.  I knew from reading online that the main BA lounge is closed for refurbishment at the moment (it’s being expanded as BA is bringing their A380 service to Washington, and the current lounge isn’t big enough), so we didn’t want to spend too long in the airport. [Read more...]

Greece and Turkey 2014: Planning, Costs, and Intro

We love the Mediterranean in the Summer… it’s a very welcome, and crisp, change from DC’s muggy summers.  Last Summer we planned a trip around Croatia, and this Summer we wanted to go to Greece.

I spotted an SPG Property that looked good, and since we were staying 8 nights, being SPG Platinum saves us about 50 Euro/day in free breakfast.  We decided to stay at Blue Palace in Crete–which is known for beaches and sun.  [Side note, we've seen about 3 total clouds in the 7 days we've been here, so the sun part is 100% true].

Blue Palace Main Pool

Blue Palace Main Pool

[Read more...]

Getting to Israel in Business Class… this Summer!

One of the most popular requests of my award booking service is getting to Israel in premium cabins–often for families of 2-5 people–which can be a challenge with miles.  Add to that, that often they don’t contact me until a few months before travel, and it really becomes a challenge.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

[Read more...]

Maldives Trip 2014: Hong Kong to Munich Lufthansa First Class

Chauffeur + Washington Dulles Airport
Dulles to Abu Dhabi Etihad Diamond First
St. Regis Abu Dhabi Nation Towers
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi Airport and Etihad First Class Lounge
Abu Dhabi to Male Etihad Pearl Business
Conrad Lounge & Seaplane
Conrad Maldives
Male to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class (and Male Airport)
W Hong Kong
Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong to Munich Lufthansa First Class
Munich Airport and Lufthansa First Class Lounge
Frankfurt Airport and Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Washington Dulles Lufthansa First Class

I wasn’t too worried about the lack of food on the ground, because I knew that we had the first class cabin (all all the first class food) to ourselves for the 12 hour flight to Munich… my dream finally realized!  [Read more...]

Now *really* is the time to get the US Airways card!

I’ve written before about getting the Barclaycard US Airways card because:

-We don’t know for sure if they’ll continue to issue an American Airlines card for new customers [We do know that Citi will].

-Even if they do begin to issue an AA card, you’ll almost certainly be able to get a bonus on the US Airways card now, and a bonus on the AA card later, so you definitely want to get the US Airways card now to take advantage of both bonus offers.

There’s always been “zombie” or unofficial links to 40,000 miles offers for the US Airways cards, but I’ve had mixed emotions about posting them, to be honest.  In the past, I’ve posted both the 40k offers and the public 30k offers because I’d hate for somebody to be denied the 40k if they didn’t click an active offer.

Well that’s all moot now, because for a limited time the public offer for this card is 40,000 miles after first purchase[and paying the annual fee]

Offer Link: The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®
[Read more...]

My experience booking an Emirates flight with Virgin America Elevate points

Emirates is an extremely aspirational airline for mileage redemption because A) they have very “glamorous” premium cabin offerings, and B) because it’s generally not the easiest thing to do–they only have a few partners, and none of them are the “traditional big 4″ programs in the United States with big bank tie-ups and easy mileage accrual.

Emirates Business Class Bar

Emirates Business Class Bar

You can redeem for Emirates flights with:

  • JAL Miles
  • Korean Air Miles
  • Alaska Airlines Miles
  • Virgin Elevate Points
  • Qantas Miles [Read more...]

Transfering and showering in London…

Last week I flew British Airways first class via London (Dublin to Washington DC via London) after a fun St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Dublin.  And after “enjoying” Copper Face Jacks until 4am, the first thing I wanted to do after landing in London–both for my sake and my fellow passengers on the long haul segment–was to shower.

Unfortunately, connecting in London Heathrow is the travel equivalent of a triple root canal–even when connecting to intercontinental first class.

[Read more...]

Maldives Trip 2014: Hong Kong Airport

Chauffeur + Washington Dulles Airport
Dulles to Abu Dhabi Etihad Diamond First
St. Regis Abu Dhabi Nation Towers
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi Airport and Etihad First Class Lounge
Abu Dhabi to Male Etihad Pearl Business
Conrad Lounge & Seaplane
Conrad Maldives
Male to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class (and Male Airport)
W Hong Kong
Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong to Munich Lufthansa First Class
Munich Airport and Lufthansa First Class Lounge
Frankfurt Airport and Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Washington Dulles Lufthansa First Class

The coolest part about HK Airport (my opinion) is the in town check in counters available at the Airport Express station.  You do need an Airport Express ticket in order to access the space (they have subway-style turnstiles), but it’s free to use with the ticket.  Not only can you get boarding passes here, but you can actually check your bags as well.  So from the moment you board the airport train, you’ve only got your hand luggage with you.

In Town Checkin

In Town Checkin

We got to the airport and walked past the Lufthansa counter where the first class line was, predictably, empty.  We were scheduled to be the only passengers in First on the HKG-MUC flight, and while the HKG-FRA flight leaves at basically the exact same time, it also had a pretty light load in First.  So had there been a line at the train station, we’d have been better off just taking our checked bags to the airport.

Security was pretty light, and we took the train out to the farther gates.  I looked online and the United Club was just a quick walk away from our gates, so we decided to use that lounge.   [Read more...]

Maldives Trip 2014: W Hotel Hong Kong

Chauffeur + Washington Dulles Airport
Dulles to Abu Dhabi Etihad Diamond First
St. Regis Abu Dhabi Nation Towers
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi Airport and Etihad First Class Lounge
Abu Dhabi to Male Etihad Pearl Business
Conrad Lounge & Seaplane
Conrad Maldives
Male to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class (and Male Airport)
W Hong Kong
Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong to Munich Lufthansa First Class
Munich Airport and Lufthansa First Class Lounge
Frankfurt Airport and Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Washington Dulles Lufthansa First Class

We decided to skip the arrivals lounge and risk it at the W, which in retrospect probably wasn’t very smart on a week day… though we did end up lucking out.

The W is extremely convenient as it’s located directly above the Airport Express train station and mall, so we arrived around 10am–well before check in time.

Entrance to the W from the mall

Entrance to the W from the mall

We were expecting to just leave our bags at the bell desk and start exploring our favorite city, but to our delight and surprise, they had our [upgraded] room available for us.  We were assigned room 3701–a “fabulous suite”–and escorted up by the check in agent.  I used a SPG Platinum Suite Night Award to get the upgrade.

The room opens into a walkway to the living room with an entrance to the bathroom immediately on the right. [Read more...]