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BrightlyBob's Blab

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My good friend and fellow TIPPLER pey is making a visit to Blighty and as a man of taste he’s chosen the St Pancras Renaissance for his stay enjoying its spectacularly generous lounge facilities. He invited me to join him as his guest for a Teeny TIPPLE and who was I to refuse?

 

Now alas I’m not flash with points and so I had to find a cheap place to lay my head afterwards so searched and found London’s cheapest Marriott, the Moxy Heathrow, just an hours tube ride on the Picaddily line that runs directly under the St Pancras Renaissance. And finding a £50 LNF and choosing points gave me 5,000 points or the LNF, 600 points for the rate, 450 Plat Premier points and 500 arrival points, plus as my second brand 1,000 megabonus points. Finally adding on the 300 AMEX points gives a grand haul of 7,850 points of the £50 ($65) night! Score!

 

And of course the opportunity of a lovely train ride to London, too. Alas my usual route of walk to Navigation station, pick up the 10 minute train to Stockport and then the 2-hour train to London wasn’t available due to some hooray-berk smashing into a railway bridge. Normally this is no problem as I’d just use the train to Manchester Piccadilly from Navigation station, alas there are engineering world and the entire line is closed. So this is going to be a grand journey indeed. So here goes

 

11.00 leave home, walk to Baguley Station 

 

11.30 arrive Baguley Station

 

 

11:35 Catch tram to St Peters Sq

 

12:05 Arrive St Peters, start walk to Piccadilly train station

 

12:20 Arrive Piccadilly station

 

12:25 Board train to London

 

 

 

 

12:35 Train sets off for London

 

 

14.45 Train arrives Euston slightly late

 

14:55 Arrive at Ren St Pancras 

 

15:00 Meet pey at The Booking Office

 

16:30 TeenyTIPPLE in full swing

 

 

 

21:30 Said goodbye to Mrs pey, good night had!

 

A question entered my mind recently. Earn and burn - or not?

 
I’ve been a member of Marriott Rewards since 2006 and started redeeming my points in 2008, burning broadly as I earned. I’ve kept a record of all my redemptions over the years and these featured in my The long and rewarding road to Lifetime Platinum blog post. But when answering the thread How many points do you keep in the bank? I asked myself, since I always advise to burn as you earn, is that actually good advice? And if so, by how much?
 
Now this should be simply a matter of totalling up the points redeemed by category nights but it’s not that simple, not all redemption methods make sense now, or are even possible, in particular I’m never likely to redeem a travel package, the old redemption cheques have long since gone, and some hotels I redeemed at are no longer part of the Marriott group. So ignoring those and counting only the direct redemptions I’ve made over the past decade, how did things turn out? And what did a decade of category creep do to my choices?
 
Well, my records show I redeemed a total of 99 nights within those qualifying parameters from 2008 to date costing a total of 2,110,000 points to redeem, taking into account those instances when I stayed 5 or more nights thus receiving a free night. Those different hotel-nights ended up in the following new categories:
 
New Category-—-Nights————Points now required

Cat 1 ————-— 1 night————————7,500
Cat 2 ————-- 3 nights———————-37,500
Cat 3 ————-- 18 nights———-———315,000
Cat 4 —————49 nights —————-1,100,000
Cat 5 —————- 6 nights————-——175,000
Cat 6 —————10 nights———-———450,000
Cat 7 ————— 12 nights——————720,000

 

TOTAL TO REDEEM NOW —————-2,805,000

So, that’s it. To redeem these self same properties for the self same number of nights that did cost me 2,110,000 points would now cost a total of 2,805,000 points, that’s an increase of 695,000 points, a category creep amounting to 33% over a decade. Sounds awful, right? Well, I thought so too, till I examined the inflation record, which has from 2008 to date stood at 30%! Admittedly that is the figure over the decade assuming you had all that cash in 2008, I’ve earned and burned and the points earned earned in 2008 had been redeemed by 2010, by 2013 I was burning points I’d earned in 2011 etc, etc. Whichever way you look at it, however, saving points for the long term future is a road to stealth devaluation by category creep and program changes.
Its important to realise, this isn’t a treatise to spend points earned yesterday today, saving points for that big redemption is a big part of what this game is about, but hoarding generally over a decade or more is the long term road to devaluation. Yes, let them build up over a year or two for that big redemption, yes keep a war chest available for that bargain redemption when cash prices are sky-high, but they’re a poor long term savings plan, I redeemed those 695,000 “lost” points for 2 travel packages giving me 240,000 airline miles and 2 weeks of hotel stays. I would have lost those to Marriotts inflation had I hoarded them!

Yes, once-upon-a-time Hilton had an earn and redeem proposition that made its program a leader in value. Then in 2007 it fell into the hands of Corporate Raiders Blackstone who simply intended to increase earnings from hotels by charging franchisees more and slash costs by dismissing staff and cutting the wages of those that remained, then sell it on and pocket the profit. Instead the financial crisis happened and nobody was doing deals. Blackstone was left as long-term owners, and so looked at other ways to maximise profits till they could unload. Eventually their search of the Hilton Manor led them to the Hilton Honors loyalty program and with a wolfish grin they sharpened their knives...

 

Ok, so it’s a Coyote, but I like Wile.E. Coyote, and it’s my blog, right!

 

I’ll not go into the gory details on the rest of the sorry story. Needless to say Blackstone gutted the earn and burn proposition but expanded in-stay benefits that of course are paid for by the franchisees, not Hilton. Eventually Blackstone floated Hilton and earlier this year sold their final stake into the market, ending an 11-year holding.

 

Hilton has recently announced its improved top-tier Diamond benefits package that includes free breakfast across all brands and no Resort fees on redemption. More improvements paid for by franchisees, but it seemed an indication that Marriotts biggest and closest competitor was making a play to increase its membership whilst Marriott was going through its merger pains. But what Hilton hasn’t announced is the end of its 5,000 points starting price. 

 

Now to be honest Hilton's 5,000 point starting price didn’t cover many properties, indeed according to Loyalty Lobby here  Hilton Honors Master Property List March 2018 | LoyaltyLobby they numbered just 47 of its 5,221 hotels. There were 154 properties at 10,000 points, and 6 - yes you read that right, just 6 - 15,000 pointers. Alas, even those measly numbers were too high for Hilton’s cost-cutters.

 

Hilton announced a couple of years ago that it would no longer be publishing property redemption movements and here it’s been as good (or bad) as its word. Effectively it seems virtually all the 5k, 10k and 15k properties have been moved to 20,000 points with just the merest smattering kept back at 10,000. I found just one in Europe, at Newport. Remember, in reality only 207 of Hilton's 5221-property inventory were under 20,000 points. Now I suspect we’ll be lucky if there’s double figures. Effectively, Hilton’s redemptions now start at 20,000 points. Of the 10-base points per $ brigade Marriotts redemptions start at 7,500, IHG at 10,000 and Hilton now at 20,000. Bearing in mind that IHG introduced two new top categories at 65,000 and 70,000 points this year, just a couple of years after introducing categories 55,000 and 60,000 and the pattern is clear, the big boys don’t particularly care about their redemption values, cutting at both the top and the bottom and devaluing when a key rival is struggling to merge its gargantuan program suggests whichever scheme we belong to we need to keep a careful eye on both cash and redemption rates, and a firm hand on our wallet and pockets - The Man is after us all!

brightlybob

Take me to your leader!

Posted by brightlybob Sep 15, 2018

Anybody checked the community leaderboard lately?

 

Well maybe you should because we have a new top-of-the-tree leader. 

 

All hail our glorious Empress pluto77, now bow you plebs, bow!

 

 

Now for those leaderboard watchers out there you may well ask how this occurred. After all pluto77 hasn’t figured anywhere near the top of the leaderboard since the new system began, although clearly a valued and regular contributor - go ahead, click on the link here pluto77 - quite prolific, eh? But nowhere near the top. Well, I felt it was monstrously unfair that those not undertaking activity in an “approved” way weren’t necessarily getting all the worthless participation points they deserved so I had a word with a few friends and we decided to crown our own leader in an excersise of democracy - if you take the richest simply choosing a new leader as an excersise in democracy! We selected unlucky 13 to become our lucky leader, and that was pluto77! Things didn’t work out quite like that, to be honest. By the time the putsch had been co-ordinated, Pluto had slipped down to number 14, but the die had been cast. And since I’m making up the rules, Pluto got all the valueless points in a further act of wanton insouciance, so sorry kharada46, you should actually be King, it actually should have been you based on our 13th criteria, but really we just made it up as we went along!

 

Congratulations to our worthy selection, your new leader based on the choice of just a few of us, imposed on all of you! And why? Well, why not? We reckon Pluto is a great contributor and that top 10 was a testosterone-only zone, a Queen brings regal serenity and a calming touch to her subjects, as a Brit I know that!

As I’m experiencing right now at Regents Park Marriott lounge. Free self pour, 17:30-21:30 every evening.

 

 

LIVE UPDATE - 13 September

 

Second night and how about another photo from the lounge?

 

 

Do you reckon I caught its best side?

 

 

LIVE UPDATE 14 September

 

Third (and last) night so time for an updating photo

 

 

Tonight the beer and white wine pump are joined by their good friends Soda and Red Wine. The full ensemble!

brightlybob

Marriott or Sheraton

Posted by brightlybob Aug 28, 2018

A posting today by erc, got me thinking, Marriott is pushing forward with its “comply or die” program to force the many shoddy Sheraton’s out there up to brand standards which seems to me once done will place it in real direct competition with the flagship Marriott brand itself.

 

 

 

It’s a big project. You see after Marriotts biggest brand, Courtyard with over 1,200 properties, and Fairfield with 1,000, and Residence Inn at over 800, it’s second fourth biggest brand is the flagship, Marriott itself with 571 hotels and third fifth, well that’s Sheraton with 444 466, over 100 of which have committed to immediate renovations and another 150 to renovations within the next 18 months. Could Sheraton finally muscle in on Marriotts turf here? After all Marriotts big advantage over Sheraton was adherence to brand standards and maintenance. Although Sheraton has always been placed as a competitor to Marriott its struggled with consistency. Well that will be no more.

 

 

And the irony, Marriott takes over Starwood and solves its most troubled brand thereby putting its own flagship brand under the cosh!

 

So, if Marriott delivers the goods on the Sheraton renovations are there Marriotts you’d swap out?

 

EDITED to correct errors in brand numbers I farmed from a Skift report. Yup, as erc rightly states, never believe a blogger who “heard it from an inside source” - trust Insiders who know how to get the authentic source, thanks for the correction platpboy4ever, your semantic-pragmatic tendencies paid off today!

Yeah. It’s good to be back folks!

 

 

It’s time for my summer holiday, but this time it’s not 3 hotels in 3 cities plus a sleeper train in China. Nor is it 12 hotels in 4 weeks around East Canada and USA. Nor is it 3 hotels in 10 days in Florida, and definitely not 13 hotels in 17 days (inc original TIPPLE-The-First) combined civil war and research trip. It’s not even 3 hotels in 4 nights for DoubleTIPPLE.

 

Nope, this is simply one hotel for 2 weeks. Namely the Sharaton Dolphin at Walt Disney World.

 

 

Just me and MrsBrightlyBob. And it’s our wedding anniversary too! Our first ever fortnight holiday together, just the two of us - well plus a mystery guest on Friday!

 

So, what’s my plan? Lots of Pandora, lots of Epcot, Magic Kingdom and a bit of Toy Story Land with a hefty side of pool time and plenty of good eats

 

Oh, and enjoying my utterly terrific $150 BRG to Premium Studio Suite upgrade! Loads of space, and two wardrobes, which I’m really needing for my Hawaiian Shirt Collection. Yup, it’s going to be a bright vacation! Seriously fab upgrade, SPG is taking its Platinum recognition ethos up to the finishing line here! Aaah, the spglife

Well, MRI has become a depressing lot as of late. And that’s not surprising, the final changes to the new scheme have been announced in the form of the redemption table and it’s been crushing on the Travel Packages, gateway-city properties and Beach hotels and resorts. And that has unleashed a loud chorus of teeth gnashing and complaining by those who have lost on the changes. That’s always the way, people are much more likely to hand out the brickbats than the bouquets. All the same, I’m putting my head above the parapet. This merger has been hugely beneficial to me as a decade long member and recently qualified Lifetime Platinum Marriotteer - and I’m delighted, totally delighted, it happened! 

 

Get me another - I’m celebrating!

 

This is my take on the improvements I’ve personally experienced here.

 

So, this merger has been hugely beneficial - for me! All good improvements and no downsides at all, not one! Now that might sound selfish, but all the complainers expressing how rotten it is and how they’ve been hosed could equally be said to be selfish. They’re not of course, they’re just showing how bad it’s been for them. So this is me showing how good it’s been for me!

 

Positives since merger:

 

01. 4pm guaranteed late checkout

02. Suite upgrades return to the Platinum benefits

03. Free breakfasts at AC, Protea and Moxy

04. Addition of 1,500+ new hotels to earn and get elite benefits, inc many aspirational properties 

05. $10pppn F&B voucher at Courtyards

06. Welcome Amenity doubles to 1000 points

07. SPG AMEX triples earnings compared to Marriotts U.K. card

08. Addition of SNAs, most years I won’t make 75 nights but 50 nights gets me 5 SNAs

09. Grandfathered to LTPP, pointearning increases by 17%

10. New redemption table cuts points at thousands of properties I’d use around the world

11. Earn points on F&B across all brands

 

For me personally as a Marriotteer against what we had prior to the merger Marriott Rewards has become considerably more rewarding both on in-stay benefits and redemptions as a “road less travelled” kinda guy. Here’s what it means in Pounds and Points on a low travel 40-night year. Some years are much higher.

 

IN-STAY BENEFITS

Personally I reckon I’m up £100pa on the new breakfast and CY F&B benefit (I don’t stay at select service properties very often), another £100 on resort breakfasts (this year I’m £250pa up, most years it’s nothing though), plus the suite upgrades, SNAs, and 4pm checkouts.

POINT-EARNING

Under the pre-merger program my minimum annual 40 paid nights brought in 50,000 points inc Plat bonus, 10,000 checkin amenity, and 20,000 on the credit card. Now my 40 nights at the same annual cost see’s me receive 60,000 points inc PP bonus, 20,000 points on the checkin amenity and 40,000 extra points on the AMEX (after deducting 10k points for the annual fee). So my annual pointearning has increased from 80,000 to 120,000, a 50% increase!

POINT-BURNING

My road less travelled redeeming methodogy will not necessarily see me gain any greater value than my 1UScent valuation. But it will be far easier to redeem with so many properties I’d redeem at reducing in points. And of course all those lovely Starwood choices too. Mmmmmm...

 

So, wow. Yes. Way better than expected, a downside-free zone. It’s a thumbs-up from me, Marriott.

 

Let the flaming commence!

We point enthusiasts don’t like Dynamic redemptions because they set a fixed price on the value our points represent as rebates. We prefer to battle Marriott/IHG/Hilton’s matrix to seek out value when we redeem. Indeed every time I arrange a leisure stay I always, always, always search for redemptions. At all times when I redeem I could pay, but if the redemption makes good value, above 1c per point, then I will consider redeeming, at 1.5c per point I will always redeem. The most telling example of this behaviour was a few years ago when I stayed at the Marriott Marquis on Times Sq for 3 nights, redeeming the first two $500 nights at 45k points per night and paying for the last one as the cash rate was $200.

 

But it does now seem that we will to a great extent have near-dynamic redemption pricing with 8 categories, each with 3 options, off-peak, standard and peak but in the thicket of new information are pointsavers that apply to each option. So that’s actually 6 different rates for each category. So a Cat 1 off-peak point-saver starts at 4,000 points moving to a peak category 8 at 100,000 points through a total of 34 - yes, you read that right - 34 different price levels. 

 

 

So, our old Marriott redemption table was 

6,000, 7,500, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 25,000, 30,000, 35,000, 40,000, 45,000, 50,000, 60,000 & 70,000

See, it fits on one line! 

 

Our new redemption table is (takes a deep breath)

4,000, 5,000, 6,000, 7,500, 8,000, 8,500, 10,000, 11,000, 12,000, 12,500, 13,000, 15,000, 16,000, 17,500, 18,000, 20,000, 22,500, 25,000, 27,500, 30,000, 32,500, 35,000, 37,500, 40,000, 45,000, 50,000, 55,000, 60,000, 65,000, 70,000, 80,000, 85,000, 90,000, 100,000

 

Ok, so it’s not dynamic pricing, but gosh, our Marriott Rewards redemptions just got a lot more complicated!

I’m going to Walt Disney World in just 40 days! Woohoo, excited! Now, Walt Disney World is a very big holiday to us Brits because it comes with a hefty flight cost, direct return economy flights to MCO in July and August typically run around $1,000! As a result we book early and stay long, typically 1-3 weeks. 

 

One of the great pluses of the merger is that Marriott acquired the Swan and Dolphin hotel, a Starwood property directly on-site in Walt Disney WWorld and walking distance from both Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and a very short walk to the Boardwalk, a nightlife and bar area. Actually it’s 2 hotels, the ~1000 room Swan is a Westin and the ~2000 room Dolphin is a Sheraton. Hence I could book them and earn the now interchangeable SPG points, a currency that is otherwise near useless due to a lack of earning availability in the UK. 

 

So, first I found my rate in September 2017 for July 2018 and booked it - $5,600 inc all taxes and fees for 13 nights. Sounds a lot, and it is a lot, but still $2,000 cheaper than the next door Disney Beach Club. Then, like a good scout as taught by fistuk, our resident LNF Scoutmaster, seek out a lower rate and claim Starwoods BRG (If you don’t know what this means see fistuks excellent thread https://insiders.marriottrewards.com/message/243753?commentID=243753#comment-243753) which reduced the rate I found by $3,000 to $2,600. 

 

All good - you bet!

 

 

Well, except that a few changes have conspired to erode the value. None make the deal worse but all do tell of the value-for-money improvements Marriott has made since September. Firstly, earlier this year Marriott adjusted Starwoods BRG discount increasing it from 20% to 25%. Yes, I did look and although I could rebook and get a BRG, I couldn’t find an outcome which even after the enhanced discount would go below $2,600. But if only the new Marriott policy had applied when I did it in September last year it would have saved me an extra $120. Then there’s the new scheme that would mean I would earn 17.5 Reward points per $ instead of the 3SPG (9 Marriott) I am earning. So if only the new Marriott scheme came in just 1 month earlier I would have received an additional 17,000 Marriott points! And of course I’d also recieve almost double the points on my incidentals too, and let me tell you, there will be quite a few incidentals over the 2 week stay, I strongly suspect I’ll be out 20,000 points on that month difference! And of course I’d be checking in as a newly minted PP, as opposed to a plain ‘ol SPG Plat, hopefully giving me all the better chance at those wonderful Starwood upgrades I hear so much about.

 

Now, admittedly, these are truly First World Problems and I was happy with my BRG at $2,600, and content that I’d be earning 9 Marriott points per $ which was after all 9 more than I would have earned without the merger! And I was happy to be turning up as a regular Plat which was far farther up the elite tree than, well, um, no status that I otherwise would have had sans merger. 

 

But now better deals have turned up I’m gagging for them. But can’t get them!

 

Darn these bigger and better baubles Marriott

Starting off from drizzly Manchester... it begins!

 

This is how my DoubleTIPPLE works:

 

Flights and travel

Outbound, UK to USA

04/25 08:00 MAN-DUB RyanAir - £22

04/25 12:30 DUB-IAD Aer Lingus - £88 & 13k Avios

Return, USA to UK

04/29 11:20 WAS-NYP Amtrak train - £38

04/29 19:20 JFK-MAN Virgin Atlantic - £27 & 2k Miles

 

Accommodation

04/25 Intercontinental The Wharf - 35kIHG

04/26 Residence Inn Capital View - Cat 1-5 cert

04/27 Renaissance Capital View - DoubleTIPPLE HQ

04/28 Renaissance Capital View - DoubleTIPPLE HQ

 

And here’s how it turned out, in Eastern time -

 

01:00 Wakey wakey (thats 6am in England)

01:15 Lift to airport.

01:30 Queue for security, belt off, iPad out, toiletries out, pockets emptied.

02:00 Security cleared.

02:15 Flight gated, queue at Gate.

02:45 RyanAir flight boarded seat 32A £22.

03:06 Take off from MAN,

03:46 Land at Dublin airport.

04:00 Passport cleared.

04:05 Selfie time in Dublin, scenic, eh?Well, at least its blue skies...

 

8202A5BB-9BDE-48CF-989A-1EDAC42ED656.jpeg

 

04:15 Queue for security (again) belt off, iPad out, toiletries out, pockets emptied.

04:30 Security cleared.

04:45 Breakfast, coffee and bacon barm.

05:05 Queue for American preclearnce machine.

05:06 Get preclearance slip, go down to preclearance area.

 

E23470D3-1341-4755-89C0-CDCBEDB5ECFE.jpeg

 

05:10 Queue for security (yet again!) belt off, iPad out, toiletries out, pockets emptied.

05:20 Security cleared, queue for USA passport control.

05:40 USA Passport control cleared.

05:50 Flight Gated, wait at gate.

06:45 Flight called, boarding begins. My status at BA puts me in boarding group... let’s see, Z, yeah, Z!

07:10 My bird to DC, for all you avgeeks out there!

 

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07:15 Boarded and found my accommodation for the next 8 hours

 

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07:35 Pushback...

07:50 Take off from Dublin

15:25 DoubleTIPPLE lands at Washington Dulles

15:50 Wait for 5A bus for L’Enfant Plaza

16:10 Bus journey begins

17:05 Arrive at L’Enfant Plaza

17:30 Check into Intercontinental on the Wharf

 

As I was making my way to the hotel I passed shake shack after checking in hotel returned there to grab a quick burger and a beer, only to come across the First casualty of tourism, local customs. In DC fast food places won’t serve beer without identification, and cautious TIPPLEr I am, I’d left my passport in my hotel room. So for the rest time in 30years I was refused a beer! I’m not sure that’s good or bad!

 

Let the TIPPLing begin, lining ‘em up

 

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So here I am sat in the Intercontinental bar burning my free drink voucher on a Caribbean Kicker. It’s a surprise as I’m used to eating my chilles, not drinking them. Pleased they serve free water. Gosh, chillies in drinks, that’s foul.. Luckily the Dc Brau is a better choice!

Happy 27th March everyone. And it’s a special day indeed with only a month to go till we all meet up here

 

A6761260-631E-4A0A-95D0-A037D732CD20.jpeg

 

For a repeat of what we did there

 

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Because guys it’s time for

 

**********Double TIPPLE**********

 

So its time to plan that Plane

 

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Book that train

 

1372236F-810A-4561-86DF-92C62C08EB05.jpeg

 

or in the case of erc, put on those Sketchers

 

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       Very Fetching in pink, there erc - The Fast Show - Suits you Sir! - Solo - YouTube

 

And join us all on this list here Double TIPPLE (Insider Gathering) Guest List on Friday 27 and Saturday 28th April for only the second ever Marriott Rewards Insiders TIPPLE. Bigger and better than ever. Like me!

 

Now our little planning group is working to get together the numbers (I say we but I mean bejacob is) and he needs you to advise of numbers in your party here Double TIPPLE head count, if you haven’t already please visit the thread and give him a number. He loves numbers! And we are also designing name-badges (I say we but I mean seatexan is). And as our TIPPLE is a “live and in person” version of Insiders we are collecting real first names to go with our handles on the badges (I say we but I mean nationwide is) so if you receive an insiders direct message asking for your first name it’s not some internet scam, he’s ensuring you’ll be easily identified at Double TIPPLE, so ensure you reply so he can complete his task! And me? Well I’m looking for ways to claim all their collective glory. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta steal everyones thunder, don’t you know?

 

Lastly, anyone thinking about coming and staying with us all at DoubleTIPPLE HQ, namely the Renaissance Arlington Capital View really needs to get their room booked as soon as possible as our room guarantee comes off book on 6th April and then you’ll be left with whatever the hotel offers at the time. To book your room see the thread here Double TIPPLE Hotel and Booking Info

 

So get going all y’all (still praktisin’ ma Texan) and get ready for an EPIC DOUBLE TIPPLE in just one months time!

 

Oh, go on, there’s just time to repeat my TIPPLE monicker.... I’ve been holding back so here’s a treble for our Double

 

DoubleTIPPLEC5C87866-5CA0-4EE5-ABE0-329BAE012202.jpegDoubleTIPPLEEE92ACE4-76A3-482E-B2B6-9B5447AEB8B8.jpegDoubleTIPPLE3A0202EF-D9BF-4929-917F-C107F515D681.jpeg

Yesterday I was at the Sheraton Skyline in Heathrow simultaneously sampling both my first Starwood lounge and my 50th hotel Exec lounge where I receive complimentary access due to my top tier status in a hotel program, mostly Marriotts brands but there’s yesterdays Sheraton, four Crowne Plazas following a recent policy change to offer free lounge access to top-tier Spires and two Hilton’s following a status match with them last year. I’ve visited all of these lounges in the last decade and have ranked them top to bottom. They’re based on places that are pleasant to spend some of your leisure time, so whilst good food and seating is important so are good views, free alcohol, and general ambience.

 

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The list is divided down into 6 categories, Outstanding, Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor, and alas, Closed. There’s no limit to how many lounges can be in any one category, each lounge is placed where it belongs, if I visit a lounge that makes it to number 4, that won’t relegate Budapest out of “outstanding“, it’ll remain in the outstanding category but will become the fifth in that category, unless a later visit confirms adverse changes that cause its relegation. The below key lists the principal lounge facilities.

 

f = decent Food choices

b = free Beer and Wine

c = free Cocktails or Spirits

7 = 7-day evening service

V = great views, or at least not internal (v)

 

OUTSTANDING LOUNGES - go out of your way to stay:

 

01. London St Pancras Renaissance (fbc7v)

02. Beijing Wangfujing Renaissance (fbc7V)

03. Niagara Fallsview Marriott (fV)

04. Budapest Marriott (fbc7V)

 

I place the St Pancras Chambers Club at the top, although there’s no real outside views from the lounge, inside it’s like an English Gentleman’s club (no, NOT the Spearmint Rhino type) and indeed calls itself the Chambers club, and with that turn of phrase excludes Golds. This I’m afraid is a Plats only lounge. Situated in the historic wing of the building and beautifully decorated with varied seating, interesting architectural and design features clearly a lot of thought has gone into the club. Lots of nooks and crannies and manned all day with the longest free beer and wine hours anywhere in Marriott-dom, serving a very good breakfast in the club or the option of one of the best restaurant Buffet breakfasts anywhere, it follows that up by cracking open the craft beer and decent wine for its impressive afternoon tea followed by a wide ranging and lengthy evening service and a cocktail hour too. And to cap it off, if you’re travelling by Eurostar, an escorted VIP service through to your international departure, simply advise the night before, turn up in the club half an hour before your departure time and you’ll be whisked through the formalities via the VIP facilities and reunited with your luggage on the train in minutes, and well before the great unwashed start boarding! The Beijing Wangfujing Renaissance takes second place. With Forbidden City views in the background it offers varied seating with lots of private nooks and crannies plus excellent service manned all day long. It offers a huge lounge breakfast selection and cooked to order eggs in the lounges own chef-manned kitchen. This kitchen arrangement is repeated at night when chef cooks up a nightly special during the lengthy evening service that has the widest evening food selection I’ve seen in any lounge anywhere. Topped off by long alcohol hours and a full “help yourself” liquor bar selection, including, first time I’ve seen it, Free-pour Baileys! The third place Niagara choice is probably controversial because it’s manned only during service, too small for the hotel and breakfast & evening food offerings are okay at best, but this lounge is about the seating offering sweeping views of Niagara Falls. Where else in the world can you enjoy breakfast or a few evening snacks and a drink overlooking one of the worlds natural wonders? The view is incredible and makes this otherwise uninspiring lounge into a must visit. And finally on this “Go out of your way to stay” list is the Budapest Marriott which has a large lounge with a great range of plentiful food offerings at both breakfast but especially in the evenings with long help yourself beer, wine and spirits hours. What really elevates this though is it’s huge terrace overlooking the Danube and Buda castle. An absolutely excellent place to spend time during the summer months. Just beautiful. Honestly, sit on that terrace with your free beer, wine or spirit and you’ve got the best view in Budapest, free of charge, courtesy of your loyalty!

 

 

EXCELLENT LOUNGES - if staying in the area, these lounges are a great perk:

 

05. London County Hall Marriott (fbc7V)

06. Shanghai City Centre Marriott (fbc7v)

07. London West India Quay Marriott (fbc7V)

08. Copenhagen Marriott (fb7v)

09. Xi’an Hilton (fbc7v)

10. Warsaw Marriott (fb7v)

11. London Park Lane Marriott (fbc7v)

12. Leeds Marriott (fb7v)

13. London Heathrow Renaissance (fb7V)

14. Moscow Royal Aurora Marriott (fbc7)

15. London Grosvenor House JW (fbc7)

16. Newcastle Crowne Plaza (fbc7v)

17. London Heathrow Sheraton Skyline (fb7v)

18. Montreal Chateau Champlain Marriott (fV)

 

All save one of these lounges are open 7 days a week, offer free beer, wine (some with cocktails/spirits) and good food in pleasant surroundings. In fact the Hilton Xi’an provided one of the best hotel experiences in my life, but here I’m marking the lounge, and although a truly top-10 lounge it’s just not outstanding, but the hotel itself is! Now, you will also find a lounge on this list that doesn’t offer weekend service but when open Montreal Chateau Champlains food offerings are amongst the most generous out there and although the beer isn’t free it offers several local craft bottles at reasonable prices all in a very plush environment with excellent views across Montreal.

 

GOOD LOUNGES - if you’re in the hotel, worth visiting during service hours:

 

19. Paris Rive Gauche Marriott (fbv)

20. Brussels Marriott (fb7v)

21. Houston Downtown JW (fV)

22. Richmond Marriott (fV)

23. Dubai JW (fbc7v)

24. Cardiff Marriott (fb7v)

25. London Regents Park Marriott (fb7)

26. Liverpool Airport Crowne Plaza (fbc7v)

27. London Kensington Marriott (fb7)

28. Birmingham Crowne Plaza (bc7v)

29. Bristol City Centre Marriott (fb7)

30. Manchester Airport Marriott (fb7)

31. London Heathrow Marriott (fb7)

32. Birmingham Metropole Hilton (fb7v)

33. Philadelphia Marriott (fv)

34. New York Times Sq Renaissance (fV)

35. London Grosvenor Sq Marriott (fb7)

36. Windsor Marriott (fbv)

37. San Antonio Plaza Marriott (fv)

38. Leicester Marriott (fb)

39. Nottingham Crowne Plaza (b7v)

40. Toronto Eaton Marriott (f)

 

The fact these places have a lounge should be viewed as an advantage, but shouldn’t sell them to you for leisure. They’re still good and - especially the lounges that serve free beer and wine - worth a small premium to stay over other choices. But one way or another they have shortcomings, whether it’s because they’re internal, small rooms, short alcohol hours, or none at all, overcrowded, or poor food. Or in the case of the Ren Times Sq, the R lounge which isn’t really an Exec lounge but instead plays a hybrid role both as a guest lounge in the evening but an elites-only free breakfast lounge each weekday morning, and I score it as an Exec lounge here because of the opportunity to have free breakfast in a lounge environment with an absolutely unbeatable view of Times Sq. Indeed, the view is so good that during times of particularly newsworthy American events, Britain’s Sky News hires the R lounge as it’s HQ, using the Times Sq view as it’s backdrop, as does CNN International on NYE. The Toronto Eaton Marriott just slips into this category as although it’s windowless and it’s evening food uninspiring, it’s big and the breakfast is top-hole as you simply grab a tray, walk through the door into the restaurant, load up your food and then walk back into the lounge, so It’s the full restaurant breakfast grab-and-go style in the lounge, which is great!

 

ADEQUATE LOUNGES - they wouldn’t make me any more likely to stay here:

 

41. Brussels Renaissance (b)

42. Houston Marriott North (fv)

43. Ottawa Marriott (v)

44. Newark Airport Renaissance (v)

 

For a Biz stay these are quite adequate, pop in for a soda (or beer in the case of the otherwise sterile Brussels Ren Lounge, it’s couple of hours free beer is literally all that holds its place here) or maybe a snack, but theres little to detain you in any of these.

 

POOR LOUNGES - don’t be swayed by lounges here, they’re nothing worthwhile:

 

45. Quebec Delta (v)

46. New York Times Sq Marriott Marquis (fv)

47. Newcastle Gosforth Park (v)

 

Just to be clear here, these poor lounges are not bad spaces, they’re clean enough and have seating away from your room. If you need to get away from the kids to do a bit of work, they’ll fit the bill, but expect nothing more here than a table, chair and coffee in a comfortable and clean environment. Quebec Deltas food offerings are unimpressive, Newcastle Gosforth Park Marriott doesn’t provide any service at all and New York Marquis may have slightly better food than the Quebec Delta but is way too small for the size of hotel and number of elites, it’s just not a relaxing place to be during evening or breakfast service. The fact that these places have a lounge wouldn't influence my leisure decision in their favour at all, not one bit.

 

CLOSED LOUNGES - these are no longer available

 

Life moves on and so do Hotels, so it’s inevitable that out of 50 different properties over a decade some would no longer be available, in this case 3 lounges, namely:

 

48. London Chancery Court Renaissance - now deflagged.

49. Miami Beach Stanton Marriott - now a resort, hence closed.

50. Edinburgh Marriott - now closed, no reason, they just closed it!

 

And I’ve managed to rank these 3 as well, not on the quality of the lounges as they stood, though all were actually very good, none were outstanding but all 3 had strong points, so are a sad loss. I can hardly criticise the Chancery Court Renaissance lack of availability as it’s the outcome of the properties decision to deflag and try its fortunes with the more upmarket Rosewood brand. Miami Beach Marriott's excuse is weaker. The pursuit of Resort status for this small property became an exercise in box ticking producing teeny-weeny pools and titchy-tiny eateries, the reward being the opportunity to charge a ridiculous cash-grab resort junk fee and close the lounge to make way for something more profitable. Not an approach I endorse! But at least not as bad as the Edinburgh Marriott who despite remaining a full service Marriott just closed its lounge without notice or explanation. The Marriott Stanton must be kicking itself, no need to become a “fake resort” to get rid of the lounge, in the words of Nike “Just do it”. It’s a great pity Marriott let these 2 get away with their manoeuvres, neither of which justified the lounge closures. Nonetheless with Edinburgh’s excuse for closure being the weakest, well no excuse at all actually - it roots itself ignominiously to the bottom of the table.

brightlybob

Moxy -v- Marriott

Posted by brightlybob Mar 4, 2018

     Moxy-v-Marriott

               AKA

Stratford and Park Lane

 

This weekend I stayed my first 2 Marriott nights this year. I paid £41 to stay a night at the new Category 6 London Stratford Moxy and 45k points to stay at the £360 London Park Lane Marriott. The one stands as often the cheapest Marriott in London, the other the priciest.

 

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So how did they do? Well both recognised me as a Plat Premier even though I got busted last weekend. Both placed me in their best rooms. Both offered the Plat gift and I took the £10 off at the Moxy bar for a couple of pints and a packet of crisps, and the amenity at the Marriott for a couple of bottles of Pale Ale and some chocolate do-dahs. All very tasty.

 

So check in like this at the Moxy

 

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And like this at the Marriott

 

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My upgraded corner room at the Moxy had a view of the carpark and a balcony

 

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No balcony at the Park Lane instead a top of the line upgrade to the £1,000/nt Park Lane Suite - oooh, posh!

 

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Wetroom at the Moxy

 

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Bathroom at the Marriott

 

 

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The Marriotts lounge is excellent with good food, breakfast, afternoon tea and evening and long alcohol hours with good local beers too.

 

 

The Moxy is a great place, literally 2 mins walk from Stratford tube. It’s literally a 10 minute subway ride to St Paul’s and another 10 mins to Hyde Park. This place puts London in easy reach for very small money. Great bed, good sized room, great bar scene. Safe locality. Even with dynamic rates putting this up to £100 sometimes I reckon it represents great value since it’ll still be far cheaper than anything comparable.

 

The Marriott is literally 1 min walk from Marble Arch tube and is easily the most polished Marriott I’ve stayed in. Excellent lounge and on the corner of Oxford Street it’s a short stroll to a host of city shopping names and opposite Hyde Park too. The hotel itself is 5-Star all the way and a great place to redeem points.

 

So would I stay at either of these again? Well, yes I would. Arriving by train late into London and need a cheap place to crash, Moxy is it. Wanna redeem some points for a posh weekend with your significant other, then the Marriott Park Lane is a real contender. Both have a real boutique feel about them, albeit at opposite ends of the market. Marriott Park Lane has the situation, decor rooms and lounge to proclaim its place. Moxy, well I guess if you asked it what it would like to be when it grew up, I like to think it’d answer Aloft...

 

 

So I’ve joined the dark-ish side. SPG tonight replacing a Marriott stay in Liverpool. First ever SPG. And booked solely on brianandlin recommendation. Well actually added to to my search for the night (searched Crowne Plaza, Marriott and Starwood) and found I could BRG it at £54 and gain 2000 extra SPG points too, so it became a no-brainier really.

 

i arrived at 14:30 and was advised my room wasn’t ready but given a voucher for the bar, which is a pretty swish place.

 

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And the receptionist just came up to me advising my room is ready. Time to see what’s so good about SPG...