Atlanta Marriott Buckhead – Atlanta, GA

Hotel Review

As a result of this year’s first quarter MegaBonus promotion, I had two free night certificates for any Marriott property that is Category 4 or below which expired Sept. 30, 2012.  I had tried to use these for friends or family members earlier in the year but was reminded that these certificates must be used by the member who earned them.  With the deadline fast approaching and my wedding anniversary coming up, my wife and I were able to go to Atlanta and stay in the Buckhead area for two nights for free.

The Buckhead area has lots of shopping (Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza) and wonderful restaurants in the area.  This Marriott is obviously an older property as evidenced by the dull, concrete exterior that Marriott used to think looked good.  But, the hotel was fresh, the staff was attentive, and the location was great.  There is a newer JW Marriott just a few hundred yards away but that location is a Category 5 property and has higher room rates.

We ate at the Shula 357 Grille in the hotel and it was very good.  While there is still a football motif focused around Don Shula’s coaching days, it is not the clubby steakhouse that you find in a full Shula’s restaurant.  They still had some great steaks but also a nice variety on the menu that is necessary in a hotel restaurant.  Breakfast in the dining room was very well done with a high-energy chef at the omelette station and attentive service.

All in all, a very good value for the money and a nice base if you want to be in this part of town.

Final Grade: A

First Missed Upgrade of Year for Delta Diamond

It had to happen eventually, I guess.  After 100% first class upgrade success all year long due to my Delta Diamond status, I finally had to sit in the back this week on a PHL to DTW flight.  Maybe it was the end of a major convention in Philly that caused it but hard to complain after the run I’ve had this year.  Even when I have made last minute changes or used same-day confirm benefits to take an earlier flight, I’ve always cleared.  On most flights, I’ve actually cleared several days in advance and haven’t even had to concern myself with the upgrade list.

This is despite the fact that I buy the lowest fare class tickets I can.  I do have the Delta Reserve American Express Card that gives me a little advantage on the upgrade list when compared to flyers of equal status and on the same fare class.  Of course, there have also been some RJ flights this year that did not have a first class section and Delta does not upgrade on international flights (although I did get bumped twice on international flights earlier this year due to oversold situations in coach).

When I look at blog and message postings from other airline programs’ elite members, I feel pretty good about my success rate.  Everyone loves to criticize Delta, but they have treated me great this year and I look forward to sitting in first class, hopefully, and starting a new streak when I fly next week.

New Orient Hotel – Paris, France

Hotel Review

Paris, like many major European cities, can be fantastically expensive and hotel prices in the summer season are usually sky high.  Over the years, I’ve tried several different hotels and have rented studio apartments but continue to try and find new properties that are affordable and in convenient locations.  I used to stay at the Hotel du Ministere on the Rue de Surene, behind the Elysees Palais, as my “go to” hotel, but they went through a major renovation a year or two ago and went from a two-star property to a four-star one with the attendant increase in rates.

This summer I picked a new property near the Gare St. Lazare based on TripAdvisor reviews and price.  The New Orient Hotel is currently the #10 rated hotel in Paris on TripAdvisor.

It is about six blocks from the Gare St. Lazare and only about two blocks from the Villiers Metro stop.  A 15 minute walk takes you to the Place de Clichy on the edge of Montmarte and the Moulin Rouge.

The rooms are what you would expect from a two-star hotel in Paris.  While tiny, they were well-kept, the internet worked well, and the staff was always helpful.

Bottom line is that the hotel is a good value for the price and in a fairly convenient location especially with the proximity of the Metro.

Final Grade: A

Points and Dollars

Here is the key point for this hotel – 105 Euros a night in the middle of July!  That price is hard to beat in Paris.

Sheraton – Salzburg, Austria

Hotel Review

The Sheraton Salzburg could not be in a better location and the hotel was beautiful.  My room looked out over the Mirabell Gardens, famous as setting for much of the Do Re Mi song from The Sound of Music movie.  A two block walk takes you to the river Salzach and into old town where Mozart once lived and filled with small shops and tourist traps.  The staff was super and I wish I had been here more than one night.

The only possible criticism I could level at this property was the fairly slow wi-fi network.  Perhaps it was a temporary issue while I was there but was noticeable.

Final Grade: A

Points and Dollars

At the time of my booking, the best rate was $187 USD.  The standard point redemption was 12,000 points per night which would have yielded a redmption value of 1.56 cents per Starpoint.  Alternatively, I could book at “Cash & Points” award for 4,800 points plus $90 per night which pushes the redemption value up to a little over 2 cents per Starpoint.  Since I earned 632 Starpoints due to my Gold Amenity and spend on incidentals during my stay, it was as if I only redeemed 4,168 points which would take the redemption value to 2.3 cents per Starpoint. 

For my one night stay, my total bill was $281 with tax. As a result, I earned 632 Starpoints based on the following breakdown:

  • Base points = 41
  • Elite 50% bonus = 21
  • Gold Amenity = 250
  • SPG AMEX (2 points per dollar) = 320