Category Archives: Club Carlson

Getting to Paris via TGV and our Hotel, Le Metropolitan, a Tribute Hotel from SPG

Yes, can you believe that I had never been to Paris before this trip?  I was anxiously looking forward to our four days in the City of Lights.  I had my list of places I would like to go, and things that I wanted to see.  I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it all so I gave myself permission to deviate from the schedule I set up.  Of course I had to save some things to see and do for my second trip to Paris.

For our hotel stay I made our reservations at the Radisson Metropolitan in the 16th Arrondissement using my Club Carlson points more than a year before our trip. Previously with Club Carlson if you booked a reward stay, your last night was free.  In other words, they didn’t even charge you points.  Consequently I booked two nights under my name (remember one of those nights was free) and two nights under Blogger Hubby’s account.  We would spend four nights at the hotel in total but only paying points for two nights.

Before we went to Paris I found out that SPG purchased our hotel and it would be in their luxury collections.  I was concerned that they wouldn’t honor our reservation but they assured me they would.

A month before we left the United States I had made train reservations and purchased our TGV (fast train) tickets to go from Lyon to Paris.  I again turned to The Man in Seat 61 to explain the differences between the trains.  He had recommended purchasing our tickets through the Captain train website which I did.  The Captain Train website has since been taken over by Train Line but it is the same format and I had no problems purchasing and printing out my tickets.  If you plan to go to Europe, for many routes it is much less expensive if you purchase your tickets 60 or 90 days in advance.  For other smaller, local trains it didn’t seem to matter and we would purchase them at the train station either at the kiosk or at the ticket counter once we knew definitively what our plans were. Track information is not posted until 20 minutes prior to the train’s arrival so no sense in asking people which track you’ll be departing from.  Also, since we departed Lyon from Part-Dieu station there was assistance for those with mobility problem as as was the case with our traveling companions.  Her husband went into the office, told them where we were waiting and an attendant came out with a wheel chair and took her to the correct track and helped them on.  If you need help and it is available, take full advantage of it.

For those who are unfamiliar with train travel in Europe, once you have your ticket, you need to validate it prior to boarding at the machine on the platform.  Conductors will still come by and check your ticket to see if it has been validated and if it hasn’t, there is a huge fine to pay.  p1070049

On the Train Line website, which is in English,  you can choose which type of seating you wanted and which class.  We traveled first class (wouldn’t do it again), sat in the upper deck for better viewing and chose single seats facing each other.  Across the aisle were two seats together either facing forward or facing each other like we were.  We had a small table between us with a small lamp.

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I emailed the concierge at our hotel asking for ways to get to the hotel from the Gard Lyon, the train station that we would be arriving in. Obviously the options were to hire a driver, taxi, subway or bus.  He gave us the prices for these options.  We chose to take the bus as it would drop us off about 2 blocks from the hotel and would be inexpensive. We bought a book of ten bus/subway passes called a caret.  If you plan on using public transportation, I would recommend buying a caret as it will save you time.  For us taking a bus was easy as we only had carry-on luggage (me) and a slightly larger case for Blogger Hubby as we allowed room for souvenirs in his suitcase.  The ride took a lot longer than I thought, about an hour, but while we were traversing Paris we got a good orientation to the city and I got my first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower.  Blogger Hubby is always a little nervous about making sure we know that we are on the correct bus/train, that we are going in the right direction and that we know where to get off. Fortunately I have no qualms about asking people.  I found if you have a smile, and ask if they speak “English” people are willing to help you as much as they can.  I’ll tell you this now – we did not get lost once nor did we get on the wrong train or bus or miss our stop.

We got off the bus and headed for our hotel, now called Le Metropolitan, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel.  The hotel is shaped like a triangular between two streets.   I knew that European hotels were small but when they took us to our room, I couldn’t believe how small it was. Both of us could not be up and walking around at the same time.  There was a small chair in the corner but immediately behind it was a floor lamp and if you sat down the back of your head hit the floor lamp.  You couldn’t pull the chair out because there was only about a foot’s length between the chair and the corner of the bed.   When we asked if there was another room they told us no and that we should be happy as this was an upgrade.

I did not know how we would be able to spend 4 nights in this room. That night I sent a tweet out to @SPG assist, sent them the pictures and told them how uncomfortable it was.  Next morning there was a knock on our door and they moved us across the hallway.  This room even had a couch in it – certainly not luxurious but a much nicer room.  I would stay away from room 226 and instead ask for room 230.

There is a wall about 12 inches from the other side of the bed. If I sat in the chair, you couldn't get past my legs and feet.
There is a wall about 12 inches from the other side of the bed. If I sat in the chair, you couldn’t get past my legs and feet.
If we pulled the bench out to sit on it, so one could get by as we would be blocking the narrow passage
If we pulled the bench out to sit on it, no one could get by

 

There is a restaurant on the first floor and it looked nice though we didn’t try it.  I believe the breakfasts there are about $30 each. img_1655 Instead we would go to a pastierrie and purchase our freshly made French pastries.  Around the corner and down the street from the hotel was a Casino – which is a French supermarket.  That’s where we purchased our yogurts, sliced meats, cheeses and wine.

For being branded a “luxury hotel” it did not feel very luxurious to us with the awful royal purple rippled carpeting in the hallway, elevators that didn’t work half the time, the lounge area that had tables where we played cards sometimes and looks better in these pictures than it did in real life.  The lobby is very nice and the staff is friendly and helpful and they met all our needs particularly when we asked for numerous directions, which subway stop to use or how to get to train stations.img_1654

We would walk down two flights of stairs to go down and everyday we had to walk around the housekeeping cart right by the stairs and the elevator. A little awkward.
We would walk down two flights of stairs to go down and everyday we had to walk around the housekeeping cart right by the stairs and the elevator. A little awkward.

As you walk out the door and basically walk straight you will see the Eiffel Tower.  I gasped when I saw it all lit up in the evening.  This is the view as we were about 50 meters from the hotel.img_1649

Nevertheless we are very thankful that we had the points to stay here and that we booked it while we were still able to get one night free through the Club Carlson program.

Next post will be our sightseeing adventures and how we saved some money.

Flights and Preparing for our Trip to Marseille and Provence

Excitement was building in our home as we finalized all of our preparations for our AMA Waterways River cruise up the Rhone River.  As some of you know, I always invite friends to travel with us so we are in essence “a group” and are entitled to group rates.  It was no exception on our AMA Waterways cruise on the Rhone.

Some in my group were doing the pre cruise in Barcelona with AMA while others joined us in Marseille for our own pre cruise.  Ito be honest, I wasn’t overly confident about our stay in Marseille and we were only going there for two reasons.  Since we weren’t doing the pre cruise, this was the closet airport to Arles where we would board our ship and secondly, we were able to use our Club Carlson points to reserve a room at the Radisson Blu on  the Waterfront.  I had booked this hotel before their devaluation of points in May 2015.  I booked 2 nights under my name and in essence paid for only one night with points with the other night being “free”.  We thought that this would be a good opportunity to explore Provence a little with some tours from Marseille.

With that in mind, I began searching through Trip Advisor for tour guides.  Being frugal is always our traveling motto though we do not want to miss a unique opportunity for our frugality – it’ s a fine balancing act that we walk.  As we were going to be in Marseille with another couple we wanted to do things that all of us could enjoy and do.  The husband of the other couple enjoys bike riding as does Blogger Hubby.  I knew that they would enjoy going on an E-bike tour while the wife and I would do the HoHo bus around town.  My friend has some mobility issues so we didn’t want to be walking all around town.  The other two tours we booked were with Provence Xplorer to go to Aix en Provence on market day and spend part of the afternoon in Cassis.  The next day we were booked with One Day in Provence to go into the small villages, a winery, St. Remy and what ever our tour guide suggested.  For the Provence Xplorer, the 4 of us would be doing a shared excursion, joining others and for the One Day in Provence, the 4 of us would be doing a private tour.  More about those later.

We flew Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic into Heathrow and then British Airways to Marseille.  A concern we had was that we would have to pick up our luggage in Heathrow and then check them in to British Airways for the flight to Marseille.  Luckily when we asked the Virgin Atlantic ticket agent at departure if they could Interline them.  He said ” yes” and put a luggage tag on them requesting them to be transferred over to BA.  Nevertheless, I took a photo of our bags just in case they should get lost.  According to him, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic don’t like to play nice with each other but we had no problem.

I was not overly impressed with the Virgin flight although the flight attendants were very nice, friendly and helpful.  The cabin seemed crowded and very little room to move around and, to me, seemed like there wasn’t much storage in our pod.  The food, for airplanes, was fairly decent.  I had a steak and I actually ate most of it.

With the entertainment system along the wall to my left, I had to pull it out and swivel it to be in front of me.  With the food tray fully engaged, if made if very difficult getting in and out of my seat.  I also thought the cabin was warm and was glad I wore a tee shirt under my top.

Would I fly VA again?  Probably not.  It was okay but not the experience I was looking for.  I’m not sure what I am looking for and it may not exist on a transatlantic flight or if it does, perhaps I’m too frugal to spend too many extra points for it.  Nevertheless, it was fine.

The short flight to Marseille was no different than a domestic flight in the U.S.  Once again we were business class but what that means is that you are in a row with 3 seats and they put a tray over the middle seat so you do not have someone sitting next to you   To reserve your seats ahead of time, you need to pay $49 per ticket.  I did not do that.  If you go online 24 hours prior to your flight, you can reserve your seats for free.  When I went on, they had the two of us together and in good seats.  I made no changes.  It was interesting to me that a flight as short as this one we were still able to be served a hot lunch.  Why can foreign airlines do this but American Airlines can not?  As we were closer to Marseille we could see the Rhone River out the window and then closer to landing, we could view the cliffs and the calanque (a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate strata and found along the Mediterranean coast).

approaching Marseille
approaching Marseille

To get to our hotel we could either take a taxi which would cost about 52€ or we could take the city shuttle bus from the curb outside the airport to the central train station for about 8€ each and then either take a cab to the hotel or a bus.  The shuttle was perfect and saved us a lot of money.  We opted for the cab once we got to the train station since it was very hot and we were tired. The taxi which was about 22€ to go to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Waterfront in Marseille.

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As we rounded the bend and got our first view of the waterfront, we were taken back at how beautiful it was.  This was not the grimy port city that I was expecting; instead there were hundreds of sailboats of all sizes around this rectangular shaped harbor. Our hotel faced this harbor.  After we settled in, we went exploring.  Along all 3 sides of the harbor there were restaurants, pubs and shops.  Along the harbor, it was an expanded sidewalk that was well lit with dark sky approved lights.  I felt very safe.  There is even a ferry that crosses the harbor for 1 €.

Ferry across the harbor
Ferry across the harbor

One of Blogger Hubby’s concerns in traveling to France is that neither of us speaks French.  For that matter we don’t speak any other foreign language but his lack of French bothered him.  Our first restaurant we had to pull out the English-French-English dictionary but as time went on, we were able to read about half of the menu.  Most French people that we met spoke a little English but to me they spoke quite a bit.

The hotel, in addition to the beautiful view, was very nice with a restaurant attached that had good reviews on TripAdvisor.  Nevertheless, we didn’t eat any meals there.  For breakfast, we were on our own because when we booked the hotel on points it did not include a breakfast.  As usual, Blogger Hubby offered to go out  early and find a bakery to bring back some delicious just made pastries.  Our room overlooked the secluded pool area,and the harbor.

view from our room at the Radisson Blu Waterfront
view from our room at the Radisson Blu Waterfront

We went to bed a little early so we could catch up on our sleep and be ready to explore Marseille and Provence.

Sunset in Marseille
Sunset in Marseille

Hope you enjoyed our photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budapest and the Central Market

With an extra day in Budapest, we were on our own.  Monika, our cruise director on the AMA:Prima, had taken care of our departure transportation.  She had cabs in place for those who needed them at times requested.  It was very easy to depart our home for the past week – no need to put our luggage out the night before as you do with the ocean liners.  Completely different experience and a positive one at that!

We had reservations at the Radisson Blu because of the promotion that they had.  A short taxi ride from the dock and we were there.   I’m always looking at way to get more points and value for my points and by booking here and paying cash we earned quite a few number of points.   Since we arrived around 9:30  in the morning, our room was not ready.  We left our luggage and set out exploring on another hot and humid day.

One of the things that I really wanted to do was to go to the Central Market in Budapest.  I had read quite a bit about it and was excited to go.  Through sign language and the map we had showing a picture of the Central Market, we were able to ride the subway to the correct station.  This was the first time on our trip where language was a problem yet we were able to make our request known and they were able to gesture and point to where we needed to go.  People generally want to be helpful and that’s what we found.  Of course we needed to purchase tickets for the subway and we used our normal routine of watching those in front of us. Most ticket machines have a language button and by pushing the British Union Jack flag, we were able to understand  what we were being asked to do.  My tip in riding the subway when I am unfamiliar to the area is to take a picture of we you enter the subway so you know what your return stop is.

We emerged from the subway tunnel to a large tiled building. I’ve found out through this trip that I’m a sucker for a really interesting tile roof and this was no exception.

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Excitement was mounting and Blogger Hubby could hardly hold me back.  I walked in to cacophony of sounds, all sorts of scents, goods all over, stalls of fresh produce, butcher shops with all different cuts of meat and stalls selling ready to eat food.  I enjoyed looking at the native embroidered blouses they were selling but I didn’t purchase one.  We wandered up and down the market even going upstairs and walking around and then downstairs in the basement.  I’m not sure how much of this is a tourist destination or if it is a place where the people of Budapest shop.  I really think it was the former.  We did go upstairs to have some lunch.  So many delicious and delectable looking choices we had.  Blogger Hubby had goulash and I had a repeat of what I had in Prague – fried dough slathered with garlic butter then topped with shredded cheese.  Yum!  All I purchased was some paprika to bring home – Blogger Hubby was beginning to be concerned about how heavy my suitcase was beginning to be and we had all of our train rides ahead of us.  If you are going to stay in Budapest after your cruise do not buy the ship’s paprika in their little store – it is much less expensive at the market.

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P1040163P1040162P1040164While we were walking around, we found the train station was right by the subway line.  We had made our online reservations for the next day to go from Budapest to Vienna where we would change trains and board an overnight train to Venice.  We knew we had to bring our confirmation number to the train station to collect our ticket.  We walked into the train station to an information counter and showed them our confirmation letter with the details and the confirmation number.  They directed us to a machine where we could get our ticket.  It was quite easy to do.

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Back to our hotel we went to finally we able to check in.  Once in the room, I was really not impressed.  We had a funky window in our room – a circular window that we had to step up to.    Wouldn’t recommend staying here.

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Since it was so hot and humid, we stayed in our room for the afternoon.  Once it cooled down and got to be around dinnertime, we left and walked to Andrassy Street where there were many outdoor restaurants and cafes.  After looking at several different menus, we found the one to our liking and had an enjoyable dinner.  Walking back to our hotel, we stopped for a delicious, refreshing lemon gelato

IMG_1829Next post – our day in Budapest and the train experience we had in Budapest.

IHG and Club Carlson Hotel Promotions – are you in?

As I have mentioned before, we tend to stay at more moderately priced hotels and it doesn’t bother us.  Most times we are out enjoying the area we are visiting in.  Sometimes these more moderately priced hotels have fantastic hotels in great locations.

Since this is the way that we travel (for the most part) I have enrolled in two hotel promotions for the Fall.  The first is the IHG “Into the Night” promotion.  IHG is the parent company of many well known hotels – Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn and Suites, Crown Plaza, Intercontinental and many more.  Like their promotion last year, the bonus will vary by individual.  You need to log into your account, register for the promotion and find out what your bonus is.  Last year I completed the entire promotion and received about 70,000 points.

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The other fall hotel promotion that I am working on for Club Carlson members.  It is the  Take Off with More Miles offer.  Once you register by October 15th  and complete two Eligible Stays at participating Radisson® hotels by December 15, 2014, will earn 7,500 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles in addition to your Club Carlson miles and the night/stay toward elite status.  If you are interested in this promotion, you can register here.  This must be competed by December 15th.

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Are you working on any promotions?

Club Carlson’s Park Inn Hotel, Cape Town Foreshores, South Africa

After our safari in Kruger we flew from Nelspruit to Cape Town.  Nothing special about the flight.  We landed, collected our luggage, picked up our rental car and was off to find the Park Inn,  Cape Town Foreshores where we booked two rooms with our points.  Blogger Hubby booked one room and I booked the other – a suite which I paid $30 USD for the upgrade.  This was perfect since we had a baby who slept in the living room portion of the suite.  We did ask for a crib for the baby and we received a really nice Pack ‘n Play with a crib size down comforter in a duvet for the baby to sleep on and a baby size pillow.

park inn entrance

The hotel as in a great location close to Long Street known for its shopping.  We were close to all the highways that we needed so it never took us far to get anywhere.  The hotel had a very modern feel to it with an inside atrium on all the floors.  The rooms were very nicely appointed.  Since we were gold elite with Club Carlson by virtue of us having the Club Carlson credit card, each room received a bottle of South African wine and a plate of dried apricots, nuts and jelly beans.  Our room, the non-suite, even had a balcony with chairs so we could sit outside, drinking our wine and watch the clouds over Table Mountain. Did you know that when the clouds descend and settle on he top of Table Mountain it is called a “tablecloth”?  Needless to say,  we were really happy in our room.

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The hotel does urge you not to go out at night and walk around.  There is a hotel shuttle that will take you and pick you up though we found that it took a while and we ended up paying $3 for a cab to bring us back from dinner.

A recurrent theme that we were finding is that hotels do not seem to offer you drawers to put your clothes in.  We each had one smallish drawer.  You can see it sticking out from behind Blogger Hubby in the last picture.  It is floating against the wall.  Next to him in the floor cabinet is the refrigerator which holds the bottles of water that the hotel gives everyone gratis every day – much appreciated.

The hotel had a really interesting Rooftop Terrace bar with the swimming pool up there and at times at DJ.  Not sure I would want to go swimming with all the drinkers around but it sure was pretty with all the colorful lights and again the view of Table Mountain.

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They offer a wonderful breakfast though double check to see if it is included with your room.  I did ask at check-in time and they told us it was but after the first morning we found out that only one room (the Business Class room on points) had the free breakfast and not the suite that we paid points and cash for.  Nevertheless we ate there every morning.  Since I had questioned it and they couldn’t tell me why one room had it and the other, they took the charge off the bill.   Parking is available at $5 USD per day but it is not for the faint of heart.  You enter from a small parking area and go straight up quickly.  The you turn oh so carefully and go up again.  Your space has your name on it so no one else can park there which is nice and you don’t have to go looking for a space.

The best part about having a Club Carlson credit card (and I am not paid in anyway to say this, just my honest opinion) is that when you use points to book a room, your last night is free.  You do have to spend two nights in order to get this benefit.  We saved over $200 USD, received wine and goodies in each room and have free internet.  We were delighted with our accommodations and would recommend it to anyone.

My favorite Hotel Chain – Rezidor Hotels

As I have mentioned before, I’m not really a Hyatt kind of gal…well maybe I am but I am not willing to spend all those hard earned dollars or points staying at the more expensive Hyatts unless they are the free nights that you can get when you open a Hylatt credit card.

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Instead,  I’ve come to appreciate all the benefits of Club Carlson and the Rezidor brand which is Radisson hotels,  Country Inn and Suites and Park Inn and a few more.  I find that they are moderately priced hotels, generally in good locations.  There is nothing pretentious about them.  I like the homey feel of the Country Inn and Suites with their fireplace in the lobby, plenty of warm,  just baked chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies awaiting you.

I began staying in this chain when Club Carlson ran their huge promotion back in the spring of 2012.  We accumulated lots of points during this promotion and were going to use them in Sydney.  After we received the points and before we went to Sydney I became aware of the Club Carlson credit card.  Most of you know the main benefit but for those who don’t let me explain – on your award stay of two nights or longer, your last night is free!  Yes, free.  That has made it, for me, very valuable.  I try to stay in that brand as often as I can so I can extend my points.

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Although award status doesn’t mean too much to me, for those who it does, your award nights go toward Club Carlson elite status.  With the card you are automatically a gold elite and that generally gets me a goodie box in my room free wifi as well as late check-out.

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With our upcoming trip all of our hotel stays are with the Rezidor brand.  They have a strong presence in Europe which I am thankful for.  In Cape Town, we are staying at Park Inn.  In Denmark we have three separate reservations to include our travels at various Radisson hotels.  In total we will be receiving four free nights which equate to over $680  not including the free wifi.   This credit card and this hotel chain are right up my alley.  With 20 points per dollar when I use it at any of their hotels and ten points per dollar anywhere else, it’s easy to rack up points.

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I have stayed at the Radisson Hotel on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the staff could not have been more helpful – and that was before I even had their credit card!  It was a great location though to be quite honest, the Marriott was partially in front of the Radisson so if I had to do it over again, I’d do the Marriott unless we got a great view, like we did, of the Horseshoe Falls.  I’ve had mixed reviews at  Park Inn and I’ll say not to stay at the one by the Montreal Airport.  We’re anxious to see the one in Cape Town but I am confident since they were rated highly by Trip Advisor.

Do you stay at this chain or have the Club Carlson credit card?  If you do, what is your favorite perk of the credit card.  If you don’t have the card, what do you like about this chain?

Savannah, Georgia – Our Arrival

We left Charleston in the rain and that is how our spirits felt after such a great time in the Holy City, the nickname for Charleston, yet we were excited about what Savannah would show us. On our way out of Charleston we drove by Battery Park and Rainbow Row, the sights we didn’t see while on the carriage tour.  I’m sure it would have been great with a narrative on the carriage ride nevertheless, we were glad to see this part of the city.  We had intended to take a scenic tour to Savannah but with the rain, we decided to stick to the main routes.

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The drive didn’t take long, about an hour and we stopped at the Cider Market along the roadside for some great treats and drinks.  Once again, we decided to bite the bullet and stay in the historic district.  This time we stayed at the Country Inns and Suites, part of the Radisson chain and a hotel where I could earn Club Carlson points.  I thought I was being smart in making a separate reservation for each of the three nights we were there and doing it on the internet (2,000 points for internet booking if you are a Gold Elite; three stays since they were separate reservation numbers).  I found out later that Club Carlson revamped their elite program earlier this year and no longer gave points for booking online – oh well.  I still got credit for three stays though.  There was parking for about 15 cars under the hotel and we were lucky enough to find a space. If no spaces are available, there is a city parking lot  across the street where you will be given a pass by the hotel to park there for $10 per night payable to the hotel.

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There was nothing special about our room except for the gift basket of goodies because I am a Gold Elite courtesy of my Club Carlson VISA card.  We appreciated the snacks.   I thought we might have given a better location be cause of my status.  The room was directly across from the vending machines which were in the hallway as opposed to a room off the hallway).

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We went downstairs to speak with the concierge and she gave us maps as well as booked us on a trolley tour of the city and a boat tour on the Savannah River for the next day.  We then asked about a place to have dinner she swore by the Crystal Beer Saloon.  It didn’t sound like our type of restaurant but we decided to trust the concierge and perhaps have an adventure and what an adventure we had.  It is a bar when you walk in but the next room was the restaurant portion of the building.  It reminded me of an old Italian restaurant with black and white old time photos and red and white tablecloths.  We had an amazing meal – shrimp for me again.  The portions were quite large, so large that my friend “Louise” couldn’t finish her meal.  The manager came over thinking something was wrong with the meal.  She kept insisting that she just couldn’t finish, that the food was very good but he wasn’t buying it.  He decided to comp us their famous peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  This was by far the BEST peach cobbler I ever had.  The crust is what made it so delicious because it wasn’t soggy but instead crunchy, flavorful and delectable.  I asked for the recipe but it is a secret so no luck.  If I was to rate this restaurant, I would give it  5 stars.  It was just what we were looking for and it exceeded expectations.

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When we returned to the hotel it was “homemade cookies time” in the lobby which we thoroughly enjoyed as we sat by the fireplace watching television on the big screen.  Finally we went back to our room to rest up for our day of sightseeing.  I will say that I might not stay at this hotel again.  They seem to cater to tour buses – which I understand is probably their bread and butter but it is a little annoying when at 6:30 ish in the morning you hear all the luggage being rolled down the hallway to be loaded onto the waiting bus.  Additionally,  some nights the “cookies” were just for those getting off the tour bus and checking in – not for us regular guests.  Finally, since this hotel is in a city block, there is only room for two cars to fit in the area that was cut into the sidewalk for loading and unloading guests and luggage.  On our departure, a tour bus was sitting in this area and I had no place to put my car (I was in the public lot at this time).  The bus wasn’t idling;  the driver was just sitting on a step waiting for luggage.  In the half hour it took me to load my car, check out, etc not a single piece of luggage was brought down.  In my opinion, it would have been far better if he had waited somewhere else and then come to the hotel once the luggage actually made it down the stairs and the passengers were ready to move on.  It made it very difficult for those of us who were not with the tour group.  I became so frustrated with the situation that I complained at the hotel and then followed it up with a call to Club Carlson.  The end result – they gave me 5,000 points.  Still not sure if I would return to this hotel.

Next up – our tours of Savannah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Promotions for the Fall – Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Hilton and Club Carlson

One of the fastest ways to get hotel points and status is to take advantage of their seasonal promotions.  That’s how we received over 200,000 Club Carlson points last spring.  Here is a rundown of some the active promotions – remember you need to become a loyalty member and you also need to register for them.

Starwood “Take Two” promotion – Starwood (SPG = Starwood Preferred Guest) spgis the  loyalty brand for Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, The St. Regis, Walt Disney World Dolphin and WDW Swan.   This promotion offers double Starpoints on eligible stays and 2,500 bonus Starpoints for every five eligible nights and  up to 10,000 bonus Starpoints for twenty nights.  Award nights are not eligible for this promotion.  You need to register online between September 1st and October 31st.  This is for stays between September 1 and Dec. 15th.  Be warned that some properties are not participating in this promotion – click here for the list for those properties NOT participating.

Hyatt – Beginning September 9, you can earn 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport bonus hyatt logopoints after your first five nights (remember the difference between a night and a stay – you may have to check in and out again unless your hotel works with you), and thousands more for every additional five nights. After 20 nights, that’s 50,000 bonus points.

Stay
Earn
Total Bonus Points Earned 
5 Nights +  5,000 Bonus Points = 5,000
10 Nights   + 10,000 Bonus Points = 15,000
15 Nights + 15,000 Bonus Points = 30,000
20 Nights + 20,000 Bonus Points = 50,000

Obviously this is geared toward the business traveler but that is not to say that you couldn’t do this mattress run toward elite status.  If I was to do it, I would try to book stays at Hyatt Houses on Friday or Saturday nights when they are the least expensive. I know the one out by IAD is $65 per night.  On September 9th, go to the Hyatt site to register.  The promotion ends on November 30th.

IHG (formerly known as Priority Club) is the hotel loyalty program for Holiday ihgInn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo Hotels, Holiday Inn Resort Hotels, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites Hotels and Candlewood Suites Hotels.  The “Big Win” promotion runs from September 1st to December 31st and you will need to become a member.  Sign up, register and see all the offers that you will get.  This is what they wrote me “At IHG Rewards Club, seeing you win means everything. The world’s largest hotel loyalty program is bringing you our biggest promotion this year, creating offers tailored just for you. Each completed offer rewards you with a “win.” Complete them all, and you’ll earn big: 78,300 points. An unparalleled opportunity to earn and win is here. Win big and win often from September 1 to December 31.

The great thing about IHG is that  a few times a year have what they call Pointbreaks, where you can book certain rooms for only 5,000 points each night.  For the list of participating hotels, go to this site and look at the second message that lists them all through the world.  Pointbreak rooms must be booked by October 31st.  These are great deals.

Hilton HHonors – Triple Your Trip Promotion.  Sign up and stay Friday, Saturday hilton family or Sunday nights to earn Triple HHonors Points from July 9 through September 30, 2013. And earn Double HHonors Points on Monday through Thursday at participating hotels and resorts. If you’re not a member, join today. Because whether you’re earning Double Points on business or Triple Points on a weekend away, you can always count on HHonors to get you to your next getaway faster.  Register here for the promotion

Marriott – this promotion with United Airlines was previously discussed in this post

Club Carlson – loyalty brand for Radisson,Radisson Bleu, Park Inn and Country Inn and Suites.  If you rent a car from AVIS you can earn up to 9,000 Club Carlson points.  Reserve your rental with Code MUHA021.  This promotion is eligible for those who are renting 3 or more days, for advance rentals only and you must give them your Club Carlson number when you make your reservation.  Go here for more details.

Club Carlson

How many of you have ever heard of Club Carlson?  Here’s a hint…it is a loyalty program of a hotel brand known as Hotel Rezidor.  I know that I never heard of them till last year.  In fact, it was May 2012 when I first heard of them via their amazing promotion to get their name and their loyalty program more well known.  Give up yet?  They are the loyalty program of the Radisson Hotels, Country Inn and Suites and the lesser known Park Inn.  We’ve all heard of the first two.

club carlson

Basically what they did last year is give you an amazing amount of points if you stayed just one night in their hotels within a two month period ending July 15th.  You had to register by May 15th with them and if you stayed at a Radisson for that one night, they gave you 50,000 points as well as points for booking online and points for staying with them.  They did the same thing with Country Inn and Suites and the Park Inn only for those two they gave you 44,000 points plus booking online points and staying with them points.  Both Blogger Hubby and I separately registered and we wound up with almost 300,000 points which would come in handy for our trip to Australia.  I was fortunate that during the summer we lived about 40 miles from a Park Inn and I had a coupon for 30% off.  We paid $54 for our night and for that we got about almost 50,000 points.

As we were making plans for our trip to Sydney, we needed to find a hotel to spend four nights in.  Up until I got involved with points and miles, we tended to stay at a little out of the way hotels that were clean and less expensive and we would take public transportation to get to the city sights.

With the points we earned we were had our choice of two Radisson Hotels in Sydney.  The Radisson Bleu is in the Central Business District (CBD) and closer to the waterfront.  The other was the Radisson Hotel and Suites still in the heart of Sydney but closer to Chinatown, stores and restaurants.  We chose the later and each night cost 50,000 points or $375 AU which at that time was over $400 USD.

Additionally, before we went on our trip I signed up for the Club Carlson VISA card for one very important reason.  If you stayed two consecutive nights using your points, they refunded you your last night’s points.  That’s right, we got one of our nights free.  In theory we could have booked two nights each;  under my Club Carlson membership number and gotten the second night free and then also book the next two consecutive nights under Blogger Hubby’s membership number and gotten his second night free.  I felt like we had done quite well with all the points the gave us and didn’t want to be too greedy even though it was legal under their T&C (terms and conditions).

Our room was great.  We had a one bedroom suite with a small balcony that overlooked the busy street below, a full size kitchen and living room.  We were within easy walking distance of Chinatown and all the food offerings they had.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were also close to a small grocery store, a wine store, easy walking distance to Darling Harbour, the free city tours that are offered in all major cities in the world, the Chinese Friendship Garden and almost around the corner from one of the main transportations streets – George Street that has a free tourist bus that takes you to Circular Quay. I was even happier when I heard how much friends of ours spent on meals and we got great meals in Chinatown for less than half of what they paid and ours was probably just as good.  We just had more choices.

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In addition to the free last night of a two night or more award stay, the Club Carlson VISA gives you 85,000 points after you spend $2500 in the first 90 days; 5 points per dollar on all purchases and 10 points per dollar for all purchases purchases at participating Club Rezidor Hotels (Radisson, Country Inn and Suites and Park Inn); 40,000 points each year at renewal time; and free Upgrade to Gold Elite with the credit car.

Although this hotel is not on par with a Hyatt it is, nevertheless, a very god hotel and we have certainly enjoyed our stays.  Currently they are running a summer promotion that you have to register for.  You need to stay two consecutive nights and they will give you 10,000 points in addition to those that you would earn for staying there.

I’ve become a Club Carlson convert.  How about you?