Pic: Piazza San Marco Venice (Apr 2012)
Pic: View on San Giorgio Maggiore Venice (Apr 2012)
Venice, my fourth Flyday trip, short but intense! Left Brussels on Friday night 7.30pm and returned on Sunday morning 10.25am, just in time to run the Antwerp 10 Miles. As usual with the Flyday promo, the return flight was €99. The outbound flight on Friday was overbooked as the previous Brussels Airlines flight to Venice had been cancelled due to a technical aircraft issue. This resulted in a Business Class upgrade (better food!) for myself and four other passengers. At the gate, €250 vouchers were offered to passengers volunteering to take the next flight to Venice. I declined the offer, as my original trip was only 36 hours and I was traveling with a friend.
Pic: The Doge’s Palace Venice – Palazzo Ducale (Apr 2012)
To ensure a convenient transfer to and from the airport, I chose Crowne Plaza Venice East-Quarto d’Altino, a 10 minute shuttle ride from Venice Marco Polo Airport. The hotel is not at the ‘island’ of Venice, instead it’s located on the mainland next to a small train station called Quarto d’Altino. From early in the morning till late at night, at least once an hour, a train connects Quarto d’Altino with Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia. The 20 minute ride costs less than €3 and brings your directly to Venice, without the need of taking a water taxi. What made the hotel even more attractive, was it’s listing on the PriorityClub Point Breaks list for Mar-May 2012. Instead of the usual 25,000 Priority Club points, only 5000 were required for a free night. As I booked last minute, the free rooms (5% of the hotel inventory) for Saturday night were already sold out. Friday night was free, Saturday night was paid. The best available rate for Saturday was €90, which I lowered to €75 using the Friends and Family rate. As a PriorityClub Platinum member, I was upgraded to a superior room for both nights. The shuttle service from the airport to the hotel was free on Friday night, but unfortunately fully booked on Sunday morning. The private shuttle charge was €35.Pic: Piazza San Marco – Orchestra Gran Caffè Quadri (Apr 2012)
So how was our stay in Venice? Wonderful! Sunny all day long, strolling along the canals and admiring the beautiful squares and buildings. People spotting at San Marco square while enjoying overpriced drinks. Listening to the Gran Caffe Quadri Orchestra for which a €6 per person ‘live music’ charge was applied to out bill. It’s all part of the Venice experience! All pictures in this blog post were made by my lovely travel companion, Sabrina.
Pic: Piazza San Marco – Drinks at Gran Caffè Quadri (Apr 2012)
Posted in airlines, destinations, Hotels
Tagged brussels airlines, Crowne Plaza, flyday, hotel, pictures, Point Breaks, priorityclub, Quarto d'Altino, review, san marco, venice
Posted in Hotels
Tagged 2 for 1, 3 for 2, 35%, best rate, cheapest, Crowne Plaza, discount, holiday inn, hotel, ihg, intercontinental, lowest rate, room, two for one
Video: New Years Eve London 2012 Fireworks (make sure to watch in 1080p)
Thanks to the very generous Eurostar compensation policy I was able to travel to London for free with three friends to celebrate New Years Eve. On a family trip back in September, our Eurostar train to London was delayed by 135 minutes due to electrical problems in the Eurotunnel. Even with the root cause being out of control of Eurostar, each traveller was compensated with a free round trip ticket from their departure city to London. The train manager even announced this to everyone on the delayed train. I was even more surprised to learn there were no black-out dates to use these compensation tickets. As long as there are seats available on the train, you can book using compensation tickets. Instead of paying €185 per round trip ticket Brussels-London, I used four (out of five) of our compensation ticket for a free trip to London during the 2012 New Years Eve Weekend. Saved us €740!
Pic: Crowne Plaza St James London – Exterior (Jan 2012)
Traditionally, New Years Eve is one of those nights with room rates sky high. A great opportunity to burn points and get maximum value out of them. Initially I had booked Hyatt Andaz Liverpool Street on GoldPassport points, but changed my mind once I understood location was prime for the London NYE fireworks. I was looking for a hotel as close as possible to Westminster (Big Ben) – Victoria Embankment. Mid December the best available PriorityClub hotel with reward nights was Hotel Indigo London Paddington. I booked it for 25K points and started monitoring availability on daily bases. A week before year-end, the best IHG hotel (location wise) showed availability, Crowne Plaza St James. Ten minutes walking distance from Big Ben, excellent! Cancelled my Indigo Paddington booking and booked Crowne Plaza St James instead. Paid rooms at St. James were around £250, so I got excellent value for my 25000 Priority Club points. Out of curiosity, I kept monitoring the availability of IHG hotels and noticed on Dec 30 even InterContinental London Park Lane had opened up some rewards rooms for NYE!
Pic: Superior Room at Crowne Plaza St James London (Jan 2012)
Upon arrival both our standard rooms were upgraded to superior rooms on the second floor. The 2nd floor hallways and rooms looked like they had been recently refurbished as they didn’t match the old fashioned lobby area. Staff was very friendly and helpful, location was perfect for the fireworks, St. James area itself was very quiet. Around 8pm we headed towards Big Ben to join the crowds for the most spectacular fireworks I ever witnessed in my life (see videos) A big thank you goes out to the Mayor of London. Very promising for my upcoming London 2012 Olympics trip!
Pic: Bart Lapers at Big Ben in London on New Years Eve 2012
Video: My view from Big Ben – New Years Eve London 2012 Fireworks
Pic: InterContinental Hotel Group – Best Price Guarantee
I’ve been monitoring the room rates at InterContinental Madrid for an upcoming weekend trip in January. Yesterday, I spotted a rate at olotels.com (via HotelsCombined.com) which was much lower than the published rate on the IHG website.
Pic: Olohotels.com InterContinental Madrid €99/night rate (incl. tax)
Pic: InterContinental.com IC Madrid €146,88/night rate (incl. tax)
After verifying the IHG Best Price Guarantee Terms and Conditions once more, I booked the more expensive rate at the IHG website and submitted a Best Price Guarantee claim. As I didn’t receive a reply on my online claim, I called the IHG Best Price Guarantee Support Desk who assured me an email was on its way. This morning I received confirmation of my complimentary first night and the lower €99 rate for my second night at InterContinental Madrid. Two nights at a five star property in Madrid for €99, another great deal!
How to get the lowest room rates at IHG Hotels?
- BEST AVAILABLE RATE: Determine which IHG hotels (InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Indigo, …) are available for your dates and destination at the IHG website. By default the results will show the Best Available rate.
- BEST PRICE GUARANTEE: Use HotelsCombined.com (or similar) to determine if a third party website is selling the same hotel room at a cheaper price. If that’s the case, submit a Best Price Guarantee claim. If your claim is valid (make sure to read the terms and conditions) IHG will match the lower price, and give you your first night free!
- IHG PROMOTIONS: FrequentFlyerBonus.com has a nice overview of all current promotions (even per country). Also check IHG Weekend Breaks (2 for 1, 3 for 2, 35% discount)
- PRIORITY CLUB POINTBREAKS: Check if the hotel is not listed on the PointBreaks list. If you’re lucky, you can redeem a free night for only 5000 PriorityClub points! If the hotel rate is really expensive and not listed on the PointBreaks list, you can still pay the regular points price to redeem a free night.
- FRIENDS AND FAMILY RATE: If available, this will most likely be the lowest rate but you won’t receive PriorityClub points nor is the hotel obligated to provide you with any of your status privileges (Ambassador upgrades, PriorityClub perks, etc..) You don’t have friends or family working at IHG? No worries, we’re all friends of Doug Castor (Global Sourcing Manager with IHG) He’s sharing his personal link to the IHG Friends and Family rate on his twitter account (which I used successfully in the past)
- Enjoy your lowest rate!
Posted in Hotels
Tagged Best Price Guarantee, Crowne Plaza, free night, holiday inn, holiday inn express, hotel, ihg, indigo, intercontinental, lower price, lowest rate
Pic: Exterior of Crowne Plaza Changi Aiport Singapore (Nov 11)
Pic: Lobby at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore (Nov 2011)
Pic: Lobby Bar at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore (Nov 2011)
On Saturday November 4th, my Lufthansa Airbus 380 flight from Frankfurt arrived at Singapore Changi Airport around 5pm. My next flight (Tiger Airways to Cebu, Philippines) was on Sunday morning at 8am, so an airport hotel wasn’t a bad idea I thought. Turned out, it was an excellent idea. I had seen the appealing look of Crowne Plaza Changi before when transferring at SIN and after reading several reviews (incl. Ben’s OneMileAtATime review) I knew I had to visit it. As Crowne Plaza Changi is a rather expensive property with rates between $250 and $400 SGD, I had chosen to burn 25K PriorityClub points on my one night stay. (25K points equals +- $150 USD)
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly front desk staff member who performed the check-in formalities and prepared my room key in less than a minute. I was informed as PriorityClub Platinum Member I had been upgraded to a King Suite.
Pic: King Suite Living Room at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport (Nov 2011)
Pic: King Suite Bedroom at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport (Nov 2011)
Pic: King Suite Bathroom at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport (Nov 2011)
The Suite was lovely: modern interior which felt as new, living room with sofa and tv, large working desk, second tv in bedroom, spacious bathroom with great amenities and a plate of French Macarons as welcome gift. Check the video below for a walk-trough of the Suite.
Pic: Swimming Pool at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore (Nov 2011)
Another amazing feature of this exceptional airport hotel is it’s stunning swimming pool. It must be one of the most spectacular airport hotel pools in the World. The hotel also offers Spa treatments at The Aspara. Conclusion: Crowne Plaza Changi is an excellent retreat to relax and unwind after a stressful or long flight to Singapore.
Video: King Suite at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore (Nov 2011)