Italy 2015: Preview & Costs

During this trip report, I’ll be reviewing:

  • Lufthansa First Class IAD-MUC
  • Lufthansa First Class Lounge & MUC Airport
  • Lufthansa Business Class MUC-NAP
  • Hotel Excelsior Naples
  • Santa Caterina Hotel Amalfi
  • Palazzo Avino Hotel Ravello
  • Lufthansa Business Class NAP-MUC
  • Lufthansa First Class MUC-IAD

It was an amazing trip–probably my favorite we’ve ever taken, though perhaps because we visited the town in Italy where we’re getting married later this year (Ravello).  I really think Ravello is my favorite place I’ve ever been–just so relaxing and charming, but I’ll get to that later on.

Ravello, Italy

Ravello, Italy

It was also the only trip we’ve been on recently where most hotel costs were out of pocket instead of on points, but there aren’t many chain hotels on the Amalfi Coast, so we pretty much had to.  So with that said, the trip costs were:

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Dubai & Mauritius 2014: St. Regis Mauritius

We were the first ones through immigration thanks to disembarking first. After collecting our bags, which took a little longer than I hoped, we met the St. Regis representative. I read in advance that St. Regis transfers were a little more costly than taxis (roughly $100), but much more comfortable.  The hotel offered either:

  • Luxury Coach – 5500 MUR (~$150)
  • Audi Q7 or Range Rover – 8000 MUR (~$220)

We chose the Luxury Coach (described as a minivan via email), but we were upgraded to the Range Rover at no additional charge.  I saw the Q7 on property, in fact we were “upgraded” to it on the way back to the airport, but I never saw a van, so I’m skeptical whether or not it actually exists or whether they are just happy to take an extra $70 from some people who don’t know better…

St. Regis Mauritius Range Rover

St. Regis Mauritius Range Rover

The ride to the St. Regis Mauritius Resort took just over an hour and the sun set toward the end of the drive–most of which was through the middle of the island and not terrible picturesque, though the last 20 minutes or so were mostly along the water.  Our driver, I forget his name but he’s pictured here in the right of the frame was awesome.  As we found out on the ride back, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a smooth ride, and this was great.  Not only that, but he gave us a great history of Mauritius and lots of info on the island.  The hotel also provided a complimentary hot spot in the car which was nice given that data pricing is outrageous there.

Mauritius Sunset

Mauritius Sunset

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Dubai & Mauritius 2014: Grosvenor House Dubai

This was our second trip to the UAE after visiting Abu Dhabi last year (St. Regis and Park Hyatt reviews), and we were much more looking forward to our Dubai trip since we found Abu Dhabi a little boring.

Despite our early arrival, the hotel gladly checked us in to our pre-upgraded room.  The room featured a separate bedroom and living room which is always nice–I really don’t like the word “junior suite” because it’s a contradiction (discussion for another day).

Bedroom

Bedroom

Living Room

Living Room

There was also a small kitchen/bar area and breakfast nook-type space off of the living room:

Breakfast Nook

Breakfast Nook

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Dubai & Mauritius 2014: St. Regis New York City

We flew to New York the day before our departure to Duabi for a few reasons, but mostly because with a morning departure out of New York, we didn’t want to mis-connect on a separate ticket.  US Airways has excellent award availability on the DCA-LGA route with more daily frequencies than you can count, and at 4500 British Airways Avios per person, it’s a great deal.

NYC

NYC

I tried to book an Uber when we landed at LGA, but he wanted us to walk about 2 miles to him, and with 2 weeks of luggage that wasn’t happening, so we hopped into a cab and quickly (for New York, anyways) arrived in Manhattan at the St.Regis.

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Dubai and Mauritius 2014: Preview

We just got back from our last (I think?) intercontinental trip of 2014 where we visited the UAE and Mauritius.

Mauritius

Mauritius

I’ll have a full report coming in the next few days (week, max!), but I wanted to briefly preview what’s upcoming as well as their associated costs. [Read more…]

Why is nobody talking about the Diners Club card?

Recently (as in this month) Diners Club re-launched consumer credit cards in the United States for new applications.  This is big news as Diners Club used to be a major player in the points game and has been closed to new applications for several years as the program has bounced from bank to bank.

My shiny new Diners Club card

My shiny new Diners Club card

They offer a flexible point program with several transfer partners.  Those partners are (via Flyertalk and 1:1 unless otherwise noted):

OneWorld: British Airways
SkyTeam: Delta Airlines, Korean Air.
Star Alliance: Air Canada, Eva Airways, SAS, South African Airways, Thai Airways.
Independent: Alaska Airlines, El Al Airlines, (50:1), Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iceland Air, Southwest Airlines (1500:1200), Virgin Atlantic.
Hotels: Best Western (1250:3300), Choice (1250:2400), Hilton (1250:2000), Hyatt (1250:750), Intercontinental Hotel Group (1250:1500), Marriott (1250:1500), Starwood (1250:750).
Rail: Amtrak.

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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

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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

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Maldives Trip 2013-2014! Overview and Preview

Here’s what you can look forward to on this trip report [assuming all goes according to plan]:

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 to Male Etihad Pearl Business

Conrad Lounge & Seaplane

Conrad Maldives

Male to Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Business Class

W Hong Kong

Hong Kong Airport and Cathay Pacific Lounge(s)

Hong Kong to New York Cathay Pacific First Class

JFK Airport and AA Flagship Lounge

New York to DC American First Class
We’re enjoying our first morning in Abu Dhabi right now, and I have to say, I was very impressed with our first flight on Etihad!
Etihad Diamond First Class

Etihad Diamond First Class

United Devaluation… Thoughts a few days later

If you live under a rock, or don’t follow the points world at all: United massively devalued their award chart overnight on Thursday/Friday.  It was written about extensively in the blogosphere and on the message boards, but I wanted to add a few thoughts after I’ve had time to digest this a bit… [Read more…]