Showing posts with label Intercontinental Hotels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Intercontinental Hotels. Show all posts

Saturday, August 29, 2015

IHG Rewards Credit Card Extra Bonus Points

The IHG Rewards card I picked up earlier this year is still paying out bonus points.  The sign up offer I received was for 80,000 points after $2,000 spent (any offer less than 70,000 isn't worth taking).  IHG ran a promotion when I signed up that gave me an extra 2,000 bonus points for acquiring the card. All these points counted to status and I earned Spire Elite status which comes with 25,000 bonus points (or gift Platinum status).  I thought 80,000 points was a good credit card bonus, but I actually earned 107,000 points.  I wish other credit cards had extra bonuses like this.
I Have a Few Free Nights to Enjoy

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Intercontinental Hotel Geneva Review

Other than being expensive and having the UN, I had no specific expectations about Geneva. I was booked for five nights at the Intercontinental Genève, two blocks away from the UN.  The rooms and public spaces are superb.  The hotel is older, but appears to have been recently renovated and exceptionally maintained.  For 35,000 points a night, it's a bargain.  The staff is helpful and the hotel is on the 5 bus line with their own stop (public transit is free for hotel guests and top notch).  The wireless internet is free, but everything else costs a fortune.  I also had to change rooms mid stay due to 'security concerns of a visiting delegation' that required an entire floor.  That's a first.
Intercontinental Geneva King Room
Intercontinental Geneva Bathroom
Geneva sights to see are the UN, the lake, and the old town center.  That's about it. The UN tour is well worth the hour or so.  The Palais des Nations is an interesting design.  The old building from the 30's has an amazing art deco design and is very impressive.  The new building from the 60's is a typical architectural disaster; the design is almost nauseating.    The tour guides are friendly and informative and it was fun sitting in on a conference and using the interpreter earphone devices to listen in on the live translations.  
UN Geneva
UN Geneva
UN Geneva
Geneva is a small city and easily navigated. There is a pleasant path along the north side of the lake from the botanic gardens, a short down hill walk from my hotel, to the city center. I poked my head in a McDonald's and confirmed the Big Mac Index was right, Switzerland is expensive. It's also pretty.  The lake is peaceful and the mountains are a great backdrop.  The old town is pleasant and there are plenty of windows to look in at watches, watches, and more watches. Nice place, but one day I was there was a public holiday and everything, including retail, was closed.
Lake Geneva
Water Taxi Included in Free Transport Card
Even with the EBACE13 conference, five days proved too long to stay in Geneva (it would be more fun with an expense account or state sponsor to pick up the tab).  With some help, I was able to change my flights to get out of town earlier than planned, but more on that process in my next post.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Burned Up My Priority Club Points Rather Quickly

I started this year with 166,000 Priority Club points.  I haven't earned points from a stay in about two years (just a few thousand here and there for opting into emails), but was feeling comfortable with my balance   The last time I used Priority Club points was for my trip to Santiago, Chile and a stay at the pathetic Intercontinental Santiago.  I booked it with a Points Break award, so it only cost 5,000 points a night.  I was planning on using my balance on Points Break hotels or cheap roadside Holiday Inn Expresses.  The math in my head worked out that my balance would buy 33 Points Break nights or 15 or so HIE nights.  Two to four weeks of hotel stays is a comfortable balance.  
SWISS Avro RJ100
It turns out my balance only buys five nights.  I'm taking a trip to Geneva next month for the EBACE aviation trade show and need five nights in the area (the trade show is three days, but a short notice miles booking required a slightly longer stay).  Three nights at the Intercontinental Geneva, one at the airport Holiday Inn, and one at a TBD hotel (all IHG hotels are booked on one night, so I'm waiting for a late cancellation).  After those reservations, I have only 11,000 points left.
Waiting For The Next Adventure
I'm fine with a small balance.  Priority Club points exist for when you travel somewhere without a Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Fairmont, or Startwood hotel.  Priority Club also does not require hotels to recognize elite benefits on award stays (contact the hotel in advance to see if they will honor your benefits, the Crowne Plaza Helsinki did), so points stays can make for a disappointing vacation.  I see it as a last resort currency only preferential to spending money and went two years without needing any points. You can also buy points from them at a rate of $60 per 10,000. It might be a while before I need to acquire more points.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Salzburg and Vienna to London on Austrian Airlines

The friend I was travelling with wanted to have a Von Trapp style experience while in Austria so we took the train to Salzburg.  It’s about a two hour trip from Vienna and $75 each way.  Our train out was delayed over an hour, so don’t plan on punctuality.  Salzburg has a quaint old town with expensive hotels.  Luckily there is a Crowne Plaza and HolidayInn less than a 10 minute walk away.  The Holiday Inn had a friendly staff, recently renovated rooms, flakey free wifi, and gave a nice platinum welcome gift of a bottle of Austrian wine.  The price was right too.
Salzburg and the Funicular, Take It, Don't Walk
Nice Park
More Nice Parks
Salzburg’s highlight real includes the castle at the top of the bluffs (take the funicular railway), a lovely park on the other side of the river, Die Weisse (best food and best beer on the trip), and the old town with shops, restaurants, churches, and the Mozart house (and a NORDSEE).  This can all be done in a day with an overnight stay as to not feel rushed and enjoy an evening in town.
Die Weisse Was Amazing
After two full days, we went back to Vienna to catch a flight to London.  We took the CAT, City Airport Train, to Vienna Airport and were able to check in and check out bags at the train station (the train ride is about half the price of a taxi to the airport).  The train was comfortable and we glided to the airport with ease, went through a fast security lane, had our passports stamped by customs, and settled in at the Austrian Airlines lounge.
Check In Desks at City Airport Train Station in Vienna
Austrian Airlines recently opened a newly renovated terminal at Vienna International Airport with a new check in area, new lounges, and new gate areas.  The lounge had plenty of seating, fast wifi, good drinks selection, and tasty food.  I also checked out the Priority Pass lounge (thank you Palladium card) which didn’t have a view and had similar food.
Austrian Airlines Lounge at Vienna Airport
Priority Pass Lounge at Vienna Airport
Boarding for the flight to LHR was delayed for no obvious reason and no information was given.  Once boarding started I was first down the jet bridge (Star Gold status perk) and settled into my own row.  About a dozen Austrian Olympians were on the flight.  I talked briefly with a swimmer, so I checked “talk with an Olympian” off my London to do list.  The flight boarded and departed quickly. 
VIE to LHR Flight Map
The cabin crew was very friendly and started the service quickly.  I had a soda and half a sandwich (it had an odd taste, but was free).  The flight went smoothly and we quickly arrived at LHR (The Economist makes time fly).  On approach we went up the Thames and saw all the classic London sights.  I was prepared for a long queue at customs, but there was no wait at all.  Further, the arrivals hall was full of helpful and cheery volunteers, a great experience at LHR, especially since I read about nightmarish conditions leading up to the games.  We were able to get a fast start to out 14 hour layover in London and we walked to the Tube station and headed to the Arsenal station.
Austrian Airlines Coach Meal in Europe

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Priority Club Visa, No Thanks

Priority Club mailed me (I do enjoy direct mail) an offer for 80,000 bonus points for signing up for their Chase issued Visa.  Three years ago I would have jumped on the offer (, but not today.  Priority Club recently devalued their award chart by letting Intercontinental hotels go for up to 50,000 points, up from a cap of 40,000.  Crowne Plazas are more expensive now too (my ‘if all else fails’ chain of choice, not bad really and nicely scatted around Europe).  IHG hotels were my backup chain up until awards went up in price (Hilton is now #2).  I also had some poor experiences at some of their flagship properties.  A new Holiday Inn Express will still be a good stay, but I can't get excited over earning points with them now.  I still have 150,000 to burn, so I’ll have 3-30 nights (award nights range from 5k to 50k) before I’m broke and thinking about their credit card.
The Craptastic Intercontinental Santiago Chile

Thursday, January 19, 2012

South American Adventure - Santiago

  1. Booking
  3. Miami
  4. MIA-SCL
  5. SCL-IPC
  6. Easter Island
  7. IPC-SCL
  8. Santiago
  9. SCL-MVD
  10. Montevideo
What would you expect for $30 a night?  What do you expect from the Intercontinental hotel chain?  While these are two very different questions, they were both on my mind as the TransVIP van dropped me off at the Intercontinental Santiago.  In the weeks leading up to my trip, I booked the hotel with a point special so it cost me 5,000 points instead of the regular 30,000.  You can buy points at a rate of $30 per 5,000 (see this post for details), so that is why I was seeing my rate as $30 a night instead of $250 and had mixed expectations.
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Chile Room
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Chile
Upon arrival, I noticed that the lobby looked top notch. My excitement was building.  The front desk agent found my reservation and thanked me for being a Platinum Priority Club member.  I asked what benefits I would get, and he said none because “Priority Club only paid for the room.”  No lounge access, no wifi, no upgrade, no welcome gift, nothing. My excitement plateaued. It is incredibly frustrating that IHG doesn’t recognize status when you aren’t paying with cash; it kills the relationship with the brand.  Disappointed, I grabbed my keys and went to my room.
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
When I entered the room, I noticed a strange moldy smell.  This was an instant deal breaker.  I immediately called the front desk, explained the problem, then (I couldn’t believe this step was needed) explained why I wanted to switch rooms.  They sent up a bell hop a few minutes later with my new keys.
Intercontinental Hotel Santiago Chile Room
Intercontinental Santiago Room
The new room was on the top floor next to the Presidential Suite - a good sign. I opened the door and it looked as though the room hadn’t seen a decorator since Pan Am stopped flying there.  The problems didn’t stop with the wallpaper color (carpet stains, runny toilet, shower door didn’t close properly), but by this point it was too late for me to care.  I unpacked, plugged in, and fell asleep on a lumpy bed.
Santiago, Chile
Intercontinental Hotels has a web series showing tours of the local area given by the hotel concierge.  This is a great selling point and I have had great experiences in the past with their advice (Budapest was the best).  In the morning, I went to the concierge desk and he brushed me off to a bell hop instead of answering my questions.  He was too busy taping a package to help me explore Santiago (it looked like the same guy from the video). The bell hop was able to hand me a map and practice his broken English, but not help me at all. I was looking for the concierge to enhance my stay, like the video series suggests, but not at the Intercontinental Santiago (luckily I ran across the W hotel and their staff was amazingly helpful).

Santiago is a gritty city. I toured it on foot and saw a few sights and had some odd food (they put green beans on sandwiches).  It’s not the most tourist friendly place to visit though. I enjoyed finding the Christmas by Coca-Cola experience and the huge old cathedral.  There aren’t many actual tourist sites in town.  I did stumble upon a large loacalmarket (selling everything from ceviche to underwear to soap), Chilean art museum, and a pleasant park that runs along the river and is popular with locals.

Back at the hotel, one of the elevators was broken, so it took forever to go anywhere.  I felt like unwinding with a swim and went to the top floor pool.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the pool was deserted.  The views were great, but there were no towels.  I called to have some brought up and was told to go down a floor to the (closed) gym and grab some there.  Not even a roadside Hampton Inn would do that.

I stopped by the concierge desk in the evening to get some post card stamps.  About four staff members were behind the desk watching soccer (there is a mirror behind the desk so I could see the computer screen, earlier they were watching porn).   I knew the stamp price and objected when they quoted me a 20% premium.  They didn’t budge, so I had to give in.  Over a month later, none of these post cards have arrived; I have the sinking feeling they may have just pocketed my cash.  I then went to the front desk to arrange for TransVIP to pick me up in the morning (it was $12 and 90 minutes to the airport).  I was happy to leave.