Category Archives: Hyatt

Hyatt Regency Aruba – a Winter Getaway

I find that I NEED to get away for some sun and warmth during the winter months even if it has been a mild winter like this year.  It always gives a lift to me since I feel that I have a slight case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  My last minute cruise to the Caribbean didn’t happen this year due to conflicting schedules but I did have my two free night certificates that I earned late last winter from signing up for the Hyatt credit card from Chase.  The two free nights could be redeemed anywhere in the world.  When Blogger Hubby had this card we used his two free night certificates at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

I have Diamond status with Hyatt due to them status matching me last year to my Aspire status with Holiday Inn.  The status was effective for all of 2016 and expires on 2/28/2017. The Diamond status gave me 4 upgrades and I had used two of them already as I mentioned in the previous blog about me being a Hyatt Gal.  With a couple more suite upgrades and two free nights, we decided to go to Aruba for our beach vacation.

Getting There:  I already had some points that I had transferred from one of my Chase credit cards that gave me Ultimate Reward points to Singapore Airline’s Krisflyer loyalty program.  Knowing that there is an expiration on those points, we decided to book our flight down to Aruba using the points that I had transferred over to my KrisFlyer account.  As they are an alliance partner with United Airline, I went to the United website and saw which flights had award availability.  I wanted to get to Aruba as soon as I could and from looking at the flights available to me I saw that we would have a connection in Newark.  Never having flown through Newark before I wanted to allow myself enough time to get from one gate to another, particularly since I would have to change terminals.  I was nervous about that since I had been told to take the train but if I took the train, I would have to go through security again. Instead there is a bus that brought me to my terminal.  There was hanging signage so it was easy to find.

The flight down to Aruba was set.  For the return flight, there didn’t seem to be any good flights for us without having a long layover in Newark, which would mean we would have to spend the night.  I instead began looking at other airlines and found that Delta had a good one that would get us back to our home airport at 10:30 PM.  The only concern I had was that there was a one hour connection time in Atlanta.  We booked this flight because we also saw that there was ever a little later flight to our home airport in case we should miss ours.  I don’t have many Delta miles so we paid out of pocket for this flight.  I used my American Express credit card and received 5 x points for this purchase.

HYATT – To add to our two free nights at the Hyatt, we booked three other nights paying cash and points.  I was charged $150 per night and 12,500 points per night.  I knew that at this point (and it will change as of 3/1/17) that suite upgrades are not given on award stays so I tried to strategize and book the points and cash nights first followed by the free two nights hoping that they would keep me in the suite that I would get from using points and cash.  Of course, there was always the possibility that they would have me change rooms after the first three nights and then transfer me to a standard room.  I was willing to take my chance but didn’t tell Blogger Hubby about it till we were on the plane.

Flights were fine and before we knew it we were outside the terminal with our carry on only luggage getting into a taxi cab for the $25 fare to where the high rise motels were located on the northwest side of the island.

We pulled up and my breath was taken away at how beautiful the resort was.  We went to the reception desk and was helped by Junel.  At first we were told that our room was not ready even though I had asked for an early check in (a benefit of being a Diamond member).  We started to walk away and he called us back and said that he could give us another suite, a larger one, but only for three nights in the high rise and then go to the regular suite in the low rise for the remaining two nights OR we could wait for the regular suite and stay there for all 5 nights.  We chose to go to the larger one that had an ocean front balcony.

A little background on this hotel – there are essentially two parts to this hotel and they are connected where the reception area is located – somewhat like a U shape building.  There is the high rise which has 9 floors and the low rise which has 5 floors. The Regency Club is located on the 9th floor of the high rise.

ROOM #1 – We were taken to our suite and it took my breath away.  It was huge, at almost 1900 square feet it encompassed the entire back end of the hotel on our floor overlooking the Caribbean.  We had 4 sets of sliding glass doors, 4 thermostats, three separate sitting areas, an Apple desktop computer on the desk, a bathroom that would equal my kitchen, a dressing area, 4 sofas and numerous chairs, two refrigerators, 2 bathrooms and so much more.  This was luxurious living at its best.  I was giddy but to be honest, we really didn’t use much of the room as we didn’t spend much time there.  It did make it convenient to go up one floor for the Club offerings and the concierge that was there.

the left side of our large living roompart of our living room and the kitchen area

we were the next to the top balcony and the little balcony to the right.

ROOM #2 – if I hadn’t seen our first room, I would have been thrilled with this room.  It was a 2 room suite though the layout and furnishing were either awkward or outdated.  The little kitchen area had only a small dorm size refrigerator and a microwave sitting on top of it.  There are no glasses, plates, silverware in any of the cabinets in this area.  There wasn’t even a sink.  What was strange was one of the two closets was in the kitchen and the other in the bathroom.  The sofa would convert to a sofa bed but it seemed very outdated.  The bathroom counter could have accommodated two sinks but there was only.  There were two doors leading into the suite from the hallway – one into the bedroom and the other into the living area.  The balcony overlooked the ocean and we enjoyed sitting out at the end of the afternoon sipping our wine and watching the sunset.

GROUNDS – The grounds in the back were immaculate.  They had 3 or 4 cages of birds including macaws.  In the water feature, there were plenty of koi swimming around, many green iguana, turtles and black swans.  Enough there to keep the few children that were staying here entertained not too mention my husband as well!

POOLS – there are really two pools although they are connected.  The lower pool has a large very, shallow area for very little ones.  This is where I saw the children with their little floaties on their arms.  Steps led down to the adult pool where there was a net across for water volleyball. This is the pool that has a swum up bar.  Around the corner, but still in the water, is where the water slide ends so be careful of the adults and children who are speeding down the blue water slide.  Blogger Hubby went down numerous times and had a great time.  The upper pool is is just  a pool, although a very nice pool.  Behind it, hidden away by the tropical foliage is the hot tub which was very relaxing.

LOUNGERS, UMBRELLAS, and PALAPAS – I found the way that you sign up for a palapa (the palm frond covered wooden umbrellas that are on the beach)and loungers with umbrellas around the pool to be a little difficult but honestly, I don’t know if I could improve it.  First of all, you can reserve and rent a palapa, umbrella or one of the few cabanas.  The palapas rent for $55 per day or $80 for the cabanas and they can be rented for up to one year in advance of your stay.  They have the prime location, closest to the beach.  They do have some palapas that are not for rent but in order to reserve them you can either go online at 4 PM the day before or stand in line at the towel hut.  I stood in line but to be honest, you need to get in line around 3:30.  It goes fast so have an idea of the number of the palapa you want because you are competing with those online.  Many people found that the online process didn’t work so I wouldn’t risk it because they can, and do, run out of palapas by the beach or the umbrellas by the pools.  If they still have some available, you can go to the Towel Hut at 10:00 AM and sign up for one there.  There are usually empty loungers available by the pool though there may not be by an umbrella.

The towel hut and those in line at 3:30 waiting to sign up for a palapa at 4:00
If you want service, turn the 2 color block so green is up; no service, keep the red up

STAFF – we found the staff to be very accommodating and they always seemed to know our needs and our names.  The Club has a cooler for water, and soda.  I lamented to the concierge that there was no Coke products in the cooler.  When my husband went up later, she gave him two cans of Coke’s for us since she keeps some in a different area for those who ask.  They have a contract with Pepsi so they wouldn’t put out the Coke products but they still had them for their guests.  Every time I walked by the registration desk I was always greeted by name and was always asked if there was anything I needed.  At the towel hut, they knew my room number when I would go to borrow a floating pad to lay on in the water.  They even knew when we changed rooms.  I cannot say enough great things about the staff.

REGENCY CLUB – who needs to eat out when you have such amazing food at the Club.  Breakfast dishes always had bagels, croissants, toast, English muffins, cold cuts, smoked salmon, hot oatmeal and then another dish such as pancakes, scrambled eggs and more.  Fresh fruit was plentiful and we appreciated the pineapple chunks, in season watermelon, slices of grapefruit as well as apples, bananas and plums.  The afternoon was time for sweets such as cookies, nuts and dried fruit and cake.   Appetizers began at 5:00 PM and we found that several days that we didn’t need to go out for dinner – that’s how filling and ample the appetizers were.

When we did want to go elsewhere for dinner, we could walk out of the hotel and turn either left or right.  I would go to the left (near the Hilton) as there were many good restaurants there.  Many of them had outside seating around a small stage where there was live entertainment.  We particularly enjoyed the Argentina Grill but we could have easily gone to many of the other restaurants.

SUPERBOWL SUNDAY – We arrived on Superbowl Sunday and in case you don’t know me, although I live in Virginia and have for over 3 decades, I am a Bostonian through and through as that is where I was raised and lived till we moved to Virginia – my accent will testify to that.  Well you know who was playing on that Superbowl Sunday and I wanted to watch it.  Of course, we had that large television in our living room but Hyatt went one better.  They had out in the water a large inflatable screen that they televised the game on.  Of course, we could have sat in one of the uncomfortable wooden slat chairs in the sun but we had a better option.  Remember we had the entire balcony facing the water.  As we had been up way too early, we changed into our PJ’s and sat out on our balcony and watched the game with the audio on in our living room.  Great fun.

My goal on this trip was just to sit my bottom in a lounger and read, swim, nap and just relax.  We did take a sunset cruise booked from the tent in front of the palapas and we enjoyed it very much particularly since everyone on board was from Boston and they had no trouble understanding me!  Blogger Hubby went on a snorkel trip and he thought it was so so.  Next time, and there will be a next time, I would rent a car for a day or too which you can do directly at the Hyatt.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mini vacation and this is the only Caribbean island that I would consider coming back to.  Most people just know it from a cruise port of call but it is more than just the downtown area that the cruisers know.  There isn’t a lot to do (aloe factory tour, feeding ostriches, touring the island and seeing the Old Lighthouse) but I wasn’t looking for anything except pure relaxation and this fulfilled it.

FYI – when you leave Aruba, you go through their customs and security and then you go through US immigration and customs before you get to your gate.  If you are leaving on a weekend, particularly on a Saturday, this can take up to three hours so make sure you allow yourself enough time.  We had read that and decided to leave on a Friday.  It took us about 90 minutes to go through everything.

 

I Think I’m a Hyatt Gal and Here’s Why

I’ve often scoffed at bloggers who only stay at some of these higher priced hotels like Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, Westin, etc.  I’ve more or less stayed at Holiday Inns, Radisson’s and Hilton’s.  They were more moderate and just fine for me.  That is until a year ago when Hyatt offered to status match me to the highest hotel elite level that they have.  I just happened to have Holiday Inn Aspire level which is their highest level.  Believe it or not, based on that Hyatt status matched me to their highest level – I was suddenly a Diamond elite.

My first time staying at a Hyatt (and I did it because their prices were competitive) my friend and I were treated to an upgraded room, and a free hot, order from the menu or buffet breakfast in the restaurant at a the hotel.  Other guests were paying about $25 for this meal and we got it free merely by my status.

Second time I stayed using my status was in New York with another friend.  This Hyatt had a Club where there were plates of food to help ourselves to.  Instead of going out to breakfast, we ate in the Club.  Appetizers were in the evening, snacks in the afternoon. There were urns of hot coffee, coolers of water, juices and soft drinks all for the taking.  We stocked up!  We found that we saved money on food by eating in the Clubs – once, we didn’t even need to go out to eat after munching a few duck quesadillas.  Once again, we did pay a little more but we looked at the value we received.  Additionally, every time I checked in I was given complimentary points to add to my point balance.  I find that when we are going somewhere, I am now looking to see if there is a Hyatt nearby.

With the Diamond status I am given 4 upgrades to suites as long as there is a suite available.  I’ve used two of them.  The first was in Seattle with Blogger Hubby and we had a high room in a corner overlooking Puget Sound.  But before I say more, as we approached our room, there was a doorbell to our room!  A doorbell!  We entered into the living room, a bathroom larger than my kitchen back home, a huge bedroom with those drop dead gorgeous views.  Again, what’s not to like.  All I had to pay was for the standard room rate and the upgrade to the suite was free.  The second time I was with a friend in Cleveland staying at the Arcade near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Our room was 1200 sq. feet.  We had a small kitchen, living room, dining room and another huge bathroom.  screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-2-02-55-pm

I’ve also discovered that I can book a room on points and cash and they will still give me points when I check in.  I recently booked a room for another friend – it was 2,500 points and $50 in cash.  I booked the room with my points and she paid the cash portion,  I received 500 for this booking.   Where could I find a hotel as nice as a Hyatt?

When I applied for the Hyatt credit card last year they gave you a free two night stay anywhere in the world.  When Blogger Hubby had the card a few years ago we stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai and it was luxurious.  We could have never afforded to stay there. screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-2-01-22-pm

I now have the credit card and we are using my two free nights next month when we fly to Aruba and stay at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort.  I have booked 3 nights using points and cash and two nights using my free nights that came when I applied for the credit card.  The points and cash are $150 per night and 12,500 points per night.  Essentially we will pay $450 exclusive of taxes and 37,500 points for 5 nights on Palm Beach.  Go ahead, twist my arm to make me go.  Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m using one of my suite upgrades.  I can’t wait to see it.screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-1-58-39-pm

There have been some changes to the program so if you are interested, make sure you read all about it before applying.  I do not receive anything from recommending this card but rather to say how much I have enjoyed it and part of that enjoyment is definitely that I have the top elite status.  Even without the status, staying at the Hyatt House, a lower tier of their brand, is enjoyable because the rooms are very large, almost like having a suite and you always get a free breakfast buffet at the Hyatt House.

The Hyatt hotels are beautiful and are in some amazing locations around the world.  I’ve always had outstanding customer service and at times it has been above and beyond what I have found at other chains.  For me I have found that they really believe that the customer is always right.

I’ve some some stays coming up – Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires that have amazing Hyatt Hotels.

At the end of my first year, I’ll have to decide whether I want to pay the annual fee and keep the card (remember every charge on the card gives you points) or cancel it, wait 25 months and reapply to get the two free nights again.  If I decide to keep the card I will receive a free night at a category 1-4 Hyatt Hotel.  They do have a hotel in the Maldives where I hear the palm tress gently calling my name. But then the hotel at Beaver Creek is beckoning my name urging me to put my ski boots on and swish down the mountain. What would you do?

Hyatt or Marriott – Did I choose one?

In my last blog post I wrote about Chase’s upcoming rules as it relates to their co-branded credit cards.  As I mentioned in this post, I already have 5 personal Chase credit cards and didn’t think that I would qualify for anymore.  In addition to that, I was debating whether I wanted to apply for the Hyatt credit card or the Marriott credit card from Chase .  This would only happen IF I closed one of their credit cards.

Coincidentally, Frequent Miler wrote a blog comparing and contrasting both the Hyatt and the Marriott credit cards.  What do they say about great minds thinking alike?  I glanced at his post but needed to make up my mind as to what would work for me.

I just received Diamond status from Hyatt when they matched the status that I have with IHG in December.  I do not often stay with Hyatt because it generally is more expensive than what I want to pay.  I’ve been happy staying at Holiday Inns or Radissons yet when I stayed at a Hyatt in Fort Lauderdale last month, it was really nice being upgraded to a nicer room with a nicer view and a very nice breakfast.  Blogger Hubby does feel a little out of his element in some of the higher end hotels.  He’s more comfortable in the moderate priced hotels and that is where we stay most of the time but it sure is a treat for me when we do stay at the higher end hotels

Marriott would meet his need for moderation.  I have no status there and probably would not qualify to get it.  For whatever reason I have never been a Marriott fan and I don’t know why.  With their buyout of Starwood, will that change?  Who knows.

I thought more about closing my Freedom and having my husband apply for one but he doesn’t have another Chase card to get the Ultimate Reward points.  We had closed out his CSP thinking he would reopen it 25 months after closing – you know what they say about the best laid plans – and then Chase changed the rules.

I read another blog about a woman who also had 5 Chase personal credit cards and she decided to try for the 6th.  After she was told that her application was “pending” she called up the reconsideration telephone number, moved some credit around and was able to get her 6th.

I thought that I would do the same.  I filled out the application for the 6th card and after I filled it out, I too was given the “pending” status.  I waited about fifteen minutes and then called the Chase reconsideration telephone number (888-245-0625).  They asked a few income questions, how much was my mortgage, gave me my existing credit line and asked if I would consider moving some of credit from one credit card to the new one.  I agree and before you knew it, I received my 6th personal Chase credit card.

Are you wondering which card I chose?  Here it is:

hyatt

Now where am I going to go to use my two free nights?

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Rules for Chase Credit Cards

I receive no compensation of any type from JP Chase – in fact, they probably don’t know anything about me.  The views below are mine entirely.

Chase is tightening up their rules for obtaining one of their credit cards.  This past summer/fall, they began implementing the 5/24 rule.  If you opened 5 credit cards from any bank within twenty four months, you would most likely be declined for any of Chase’s own credit cards.  This was exclusive to their own credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom card and any of their cards that are not co-branded with another company such as Marriott.

 

If you are new to credit card churning, then I would suggest before you get to the 5 card you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, one of my favorites of all time.  I do not have an affiliate link as I do not have a business relationship with them but if you are thinking of getting their card, I would receive 5,000 Ultimate Reward points if I refer you.  If interested, just drop me an email and I’ll begin a dialogue with you.  If not, I still HIGHLY recommend this credit card because of its flexible Ultimate Reward points.

Now Chase is changing the rules AGAIN!  Their co-branded cards will follow the same 5/24 rule sometime in April.  If you are on the fence or thinking about applying for one of their co-branded cards, my advise is to do it within the next month to six weeks.  In fact, I would do it sooner than later. Some of their co-branded cards include British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz Carlton,  Disney, Southwest Airlines and United Explorer.

I have been thinking about getting both the Hyatt card and the Marriott card but my problem is that you can only have five personal credit cards from Chase.  Which card to close is my dilemma.  I already have the United Mileage Plus Select card (a co-branded card) which is my oldest credit card dating back to the early 1990’s.  It is a card that is no longer available and for those of us that have it, it makes it worthwhile to keep it.  I certainly do not want to close that card out since I have had it as long as I do – always keep your oldest card!

hyatt logo

I also have the IHG card ( a co-branded card) which gives me Aspire elite status with IHG (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, etc) and I do participate a few times a year with their promotions and there ALWAYS is a step that has you paying with your IHG credit card.  Also, this card gives me one free night a year and the annual fee is only $49.  I have only had the card about ten months now and do not mind paying the $49 for the one free night, which we will use in Brussels.

ihg

I currently have the Freedom (one of Chase’s cards, not co-branded) which I do love for the revolving quarterly bonus categories.  It has been particularly useful to me before the holidays as Amazon has been one of the bonus stores.  That might be the one that I will consider closing and perhaps my husband could get it instead.

Freedom

In December I applied for and one month later  approved for the United Explorer credit card which gives me free checked bags when I fly on United.  Since I tend to fly United the most, that will be particularly useful to me.  Since I have had that card only about a month, obviously I do not want to close it.

Finally, I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Thinking that I might never be approved for it again, I’m keeping it.  I love the Ultimate Reward points and since am boosting my United points with my new Explorer card, I can use those UR points for other airlines, like Singapore Airlines.

images-3
Chase Sapphire Preferred

So if I want the Marriott or Hyatt card, I’ll have to close one of my Chase cards and it will probably be the Freedom, much to my chagrin.

Have you thought about applying for any of the Chase co-branded cards before the 5/24 rule takes effect?  Are you having the problem that I am as to which card to close?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panama Canal Cruise – our First Day on Holland America Zuiderdam

I just returned home after a last minute booking on the 11 night Holland America Sunfarer cruise aboard the Zuiderdam.  Booking at the last minute does save you money however, your choices in staterooms are limited.  I had looked at the deck plan and saw that one of the staterooms available was 4119 which is listed as having an obstructed view due to the lifeboat outside our window.  Looking closely at the deck plan, it appeared that this stateroom was at the end of the lifeboats and that perhaps not the entire ocean view window would be blocked.  I then googled “Zuiderdam stateroom 4119” to see if there were any reviews of this stateroom.  The reviewers were saying what I was seeing – that it is not a totally obstructed stateroom, that it has a floor to ceiling window and it has a bathtub (not important for me but important to some people).  I was feeling pretty good about our chances for a decent stateroom.

Like many travelers, we flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise.  During the winter months, this is very important to me.  There are so many hotels to choose from that will offer free or low priced shuttle rides to the dock.  We chose to stay at the Hyatt Place mainly because it was within walking distance of the Harbor Shops, a nice strip shopping center that had restaurants, shops and a Publix grocery store.  We paid $169 for the 2 bed suite.  They had a nice breakfast bar but it does close very promptly at 9 AM.  We could walk to the Harbor Shops but elected to have the shuttle bus drive us there.

cruises harbor shops

At the Publix I was able to buy my wine for the cruise (HAL allows you to bring in 2 bottles of wine at the beginning of the cruise per stateroom), my 12 pack of cola and a 12 pack of water.  I would carry the wine on board but for the cola and the water, I taped a luggage tag onto them and had them delivered to my stateroom with my luggage.  I had brought down to Florida my clear packing tape as well as a couple extra luggage tags that I had printed off to use on the cola and water.

I like to get to the docks early and this time was no exception.  We signed up for the first shuttle from the hotel which was at 10:00.  The shuttle to the dock cost us $7 and we had to pay the driver separately from the hotel bill – make sure you sign up for the shuttle when you check in to the hotel.  If you elect to leave your car here while on the cruise, the price as of this date is $7 per day.  By 10:30 we were at the dock, luggage, cola and water dropped off outside, checked in and received our boarding group number, with the deck plan and our ship card in our hand, which is used whenever you leave or return to the ship or when you want to purchase something on the ship.  Getting there early allowed us to find a seat to sit and wait in comfort.  As we were waiting we could see the line to check in was getting longer and longer.  We liked our strategy to get there early.   At 11:45 we were boarding our home away from home for the next eleven nights and going to our stateroom to drop off our carry ons.

cruise 1 port

Since we had sailed on Holland America previously, we were Mariners.  I was a three star and my friend was a one star – the number is based on the number of sea days you sail and how much money you spend while on the cruise.  Many people do not know that one Holland America Mariner perks is that  you can eat lunch in the Vista Dining Room upon embarkation rather than the crowded Lido buffet.  We had a delightful luncheon with a couple from Canada that we would see off and on throughout our cruise.

We explored the ship going to one of my favorite locations first – the Culinary Arts Center by day and the Queens Row Lounge by night.  In this lounge, cooking demonstrations are held during the day as well as a few hands on cooking lessons that are $29.  The cooking lessons are held on sea days and there were two lessons during our trip.  Ten participants are allowed at these classes and there always is a waiting list.  I quickly signed up for the class and chose which one I wanted to do.  I chose the class that featured Cajun Grilled Shrimp over Greens with three different vinaigrettes, mashed potatoes with surfeit, grilled pork chops with a picadillo salsa and tres leche cake.  We were to work with one of the chefs on the ship as well as the “Party Planner” in preparing the meal.  After we made it, we would be served the meal made by the kitchen on board the ship at the specialty dining room Pinnacle Grill complemented with our choice of red or white wine.

cruise culinary arts center

We continued our tour and went to the spa area.  Holland America has a separate thermal pool, a relaxation room with five tiled heated loungers, and two saunas.  There is a few to go here and if you book on the first day there is a discount.  We signed up for this and knew that we would avail ourselves of the thermal pool with jets to ease our aching muscles and to put me in the relaxation mood for this trip.

cruises spa

We stopped by the Digital Workshop which is staffed by Microsoft.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be open for the first five days of the cruise.  Once it was open, they would offer workshops three times a day and then another session for a question and answer period.  Laptops were there but the number of laptops, as well as seats, were limited.  Even getting there 30 minutes prior to the workshop did not allow you to get a seat.  If this interests you, get there about 45 minutes before the class begins.

cruises digital workshop

We had signed up last minute for this cruise and were given the fixed dining time of 7:45.  We did not want this time knowing that we probably would not be having the dining room till about 9:30.  We met with the maitre’d and he could not change us to the early seating and said if we went to the Any Time You Wish seating then we would have to eat at 5:15 as they had no reservations left.  We were a little frustrated but then a waiter whispered to us to just show up.  We decided to take his advice when it was time to dine.

Our final stop before heading to our stateroom to unpack our suitcases was to the Shore Excursion desk.  We had only booked one excursion before we left and although I probably wasn’t going to book another ship excursion, my traveling companion was interested in getting more information for our stop in Aruba as well as Costa Rica.  They explained some of the differences between the excursions as well as the activity level needed for each excursion.  Two booked excursions later we finally went to our stateroom to find our luggage in the room and we began unpacking.

We walked into the Any Time You Wish dining room (Vista Dining room, deck 2) and were seated sharing a table with four other people.  This is the benefit of having Any Time You Wish dining – you get to meet new people every night.  Each night we widen the number of  people that we met and began to know on this ship.

crusie 2 dining

A delicious meal, entertainment in the Vista lounge, going to the Piano Bar and have a late night ice cream in the Lido buffet ended our first day on the Zuiderdam.

I want to say hello to my fellow HAL cruisers who may be reading this blog for the first time.  It was a pleasure meeting you and talking about travel and points.  If you like this blog, please consider receiving my blogs in your email by clicking “Follow Me” on the right side of this blog.  To read more about cruising, go to the category tab and look for it in the drop down menu.

 

 

Grand Hyatt Kauai

grand hyatt

I had read about this hotel and was very anxious to see what everyone was talking about.  We were able to stay here since we had opened our Chase Hyatt credit card that came with two free nights at any Hyatt anywhere around the world.  The Hyatt that everyone talk about are the Grand Hyatts in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and Kauai.  Using it in Kauai was the natural choice for us.  With the free nights and since we have the Hyatt card, we did not have to pay the $25 per day resort fee or the wifi for our room.  There is free complimentary parking or a for charge valet service for your car; we chose the free parking.

In preparation for our stay in Kauai, I emailed the concierge at the Hyatt for a list of suggestions and ideas of what we should do and see.  One of the suggestions was a dinner cruise along the Na Pali Coast.  That sounded like something we would do and since he didn’t say that reservations were important to make ahead of time, we decided to wait since they were having heavy rain and flash floods in Kauai.  More about this later.

We were able to catch an earlier flight out of Honolulu and arrived on Kauai about an hour earlier than planned at 9:00 AM.  As Blogger Hubby was getting our rental car, I called the hotel and inquired if we could have an earlier check-in.   After a few minutes on hold, I was told that we could drive over to the hotel and they would accommodate us.  Before we drove to the airport, we took the rental car shuttle driver’s advice and had breakfast in Lihue at the Tip Top Cafe.  I had macadamian nuts pancakes and Blogger Hubby had oxtail soup.

Hyatt

The hotel is about 20 minutes from the Lihue airport on Kauai.  Very easy to get to.  As were pulled up to the front of the hotel in our rental car, the doorman greeted us, put a beautiful orchid lei around my neck and a black beaded lei around Blogger Hubby’s neck.

Check-in was easy and before we knew it, a bellman had our luggage and as he walked us to our room, he told us a bit about the resort and showed us around.  We were on the first floor with a pool view on the Shipwreck Beach side.  We had two queen size beds, 2 refrigerators and a microwave in our room.  The common bathroom area was quite large with two sinks.  To the left was the bathtub and shower and on the right was the toilet.  Our balcony had two chairs and an eating size round glass table.  Close to our door, was a swimming pool and the pool cabanas.  The grounds were beautiful, multi-level with bridges across the water and pools on different levels.  They even had a lagoon with a sandy beach so you felt like you were in the ocean of which I didn’t see anyone in it.  There is what I call a lazy river that you can float a long way in and even go on a water slide (yes, I went on the slide).  It was a fun way to spend a day.  The hot tub is in a lava rock pool.  I really liked this hotel.

bathroom
                                        bathroom
view from our room
                                                                 view from our room

The Hyatt also has the Anara Spa but it is so much more than just massages.  It is a place to go that is quiet and peaceful with a multi lane lap pool, cushioned lounges around, jacuzzis, lava rock showers, a locker room with a vanity with products so you don’t have to bring your own.  Along the “bar” by the pool they have fruit infused water for he taking as well as a few tables so you can order a meal to eat.  Soft relaxing music compliment the spa.  This is where we hung out after we checked out of our room and didn’t have to be to the airport till 4 hours later.

spa
spa
lava rock shower in the spa
         lava rock shower in the spa

We never made it to the NaPali Coast because when we went to the concierge desk after arrival we were told that we had to pre-reserve the tickets of which nothing was said in the emails that I had received.   We were very disappointed in not having the information early enough to know to make reservations in advance of our trip. Also, when I asked about different luaus on the island, I was only directed to the one sponsored by the Hyatt.  Turns out the concierges are not Hyatt employees but are employeed by Travelocity.  Not sure if this is good thing or not but it is what it is.

I was very pleased with our stay.  They do a lot of little things to make me want to spread the word at how good it is and to come back.  In our room, we had a recycle trash container; nightly turn down service with chocolates and orchids on our bed; our refrigerator had complimentary water and it was restocked twice a day; all the water that was in the pool complex was for our recreation and swimming and not just for show; our room was easily accessible to the main lobby; their beach towels are a very good size, and there was a guitarist each evening that we listened to.  There is so much more about this facility that I could go on and on. Oh, and did I mention that they have a wonderful Camp Hyatt for children.  The ONLY negative that I would say is that there were not enough outlets for me to sit in the very comfortable chair and plug in my computer while using it.

I do want to acknowledge an employee who always had a smile on her face and always seemed to be working at the front desk – Malaika.  I would see her in the

Malaika  -my favorite hotel employee of all time
Malaika -my favorite hotel employee of all time

mornings, afternoons and even the evenings.  She was never bothered with me asking questions and generally wanted me to have a wonderful vacation.  She certainly personifies the hospitality that Hyatt is know for.  If you are looking for a hotel in Kauai, look no further because you should spend your vacation here.

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.