Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN
The cheapest Starwood option in Barcelona is the Four Points hotel, located on Avinguda Diagonal, the city’s main thoroughfare. Interestingly slash frustratingly enough, Barcelona doesn’t have Uber so we had to rely on taxis to get around. The drivers were honest and friendly enough, although as expected language was an issue. Pointing to addresses on Google Maps worked well enough.
Word of warning- certain cab companies have DCC by default, so beware if you’re paying with a Visa or MC card. DCC by default is the scammiest of scams, and the bank will not always side with you. When I called up UOB to dispute some of the automatically DCC-ed charges, they told me I’d have to raise it with the merchant. In the end I didn’t bother because the difference was a couple of dollars, which I was expensing for business anyway. But UOB’s default position was that the bank would stay out of it and this was a customer-merchant dispute. I’m not sure I agree with that, given that if I pushed the matter hard enough I’m pretty sure I had legitimate grounds for challenging it. Flyertalk’s guide to DCC is very helpful in this respect, and I’m quoting from their wiki here-
You can even use terminology from Visa Product and Service Rules when filing the dispute, giving Reason Code 76: Incorrect Currency or Transaction Code. Reason Code 76 is used when the transaction was processed with an incorrect transaction code, or an incorrect currency code, or one of the following:
- Cardholder was not advised that Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) would occur
- Cardholder was refused the choice of paying in the merchant’s local currency
MasterCard’s rules also clearly state that the POI Currency Conversion must be decided by both the merchant and customer. When filing a dispute with a MasterCard, list chargeback Reason Code 4846 from the MasterCard Chargeback Guide, which covers POI currency conversion disputes in the following circumstances:
The cardholder states that he or she was not given the opportunity to choose the desired currency in which the transactions was completed or did not agree to the currency of the transaction
But enough about that. DCC is a scam and I hope that one day a ginormous class action suit will end it once and for all.
Till then, the Four Points Barcelona is roughly 25 minutes from the airport and in an altogether pleasant neighbourhood. The property opened in 2011 and is a rebranding of the Hotel Amrey Diagonal.
The overall building footprint is small, as you can see from the lobby.
But they still manage to squeeze in a computer and free printer
There was no one else checking in when we arrived in the late afternoon, and we were processed very quickly. This property makes you choose between 250 points and breakfast, and as you’ll see later the breakfast wasn’t great.
No suite upgrade for me, but I got a room on the highest floor (I suppose that’s supposed to be some compensation). I ended up having to switch to a room on the back side though, because there was a lot of street noise on the front side. If you’re a light sleeper, you should proactively ask them to place you on the back facing side of the hotel.
The room is really standard hotel fare. You know when you go in the bathroom will be on your left, there’ll be a smallish corridor that opens out into the bedroom proper.
The room is spacious enough for a budget property and the bed was comfortable with just the right amount of firmness. As I mentioned, noise might be an issue depending on which side of the hotel you’re facing so light sleepers should take note.
As a plus, there was a huge flat screen TV in the room that let me watch what was left of the French Open.
A minifridge under the desk which was empty except for two bottles of water.
The a/c controller on the wall is intuitive to use (aka not Westin Paris standard)
A digital alarm clock on the bedside table but no USB ports.
In the closet was a safe and a kettle. I’ve read about the Sheraton Chinese guest program and think this property might be trying to do something similar because there were instant noodles at breakfast as well.
The Chinese guest program is kind of ridiculous because it defeats the purpose of travelling. Why bother trying the local culture and food when you can have congee and rice! Pffft.
Nothing too fancy in the shower. The Four Points brand standard Activ toiletries make an appearance.
It’s funny because you can find the catalogue online and these babies sell for 39 euros per 200 count, or just about 20 cents each. I don’t know how much the W pays for Bliss amenities but I can imagine it’s a fair bit more. Which might explain why the housekeeping carts at the W are guarded a bit more zealously than those at the Four Points.
I’m taking bets with friends to see which hotel chain is the first to introduce those newfangled Dyson hairdryers as a brand standard across properties. I did not bet on the Four Points.
Standard loo and bidet combo as is the case in most European hotels.
And a decent enough shower with good water pressure.
There’s only one restaurant in the property and that’s where you’ll find breakfast. I loved that they were showing the French Open during breakfast.
Like I mentioned earlier, the most amusing thing about the buffet was the addition of instant noodle options. I did see a fair number of Asian visitors in the hotel so that might be why. I just think it’s really sad to travel 10,000 miles to eat instant noodles (he said, as he munched the Oreos in his bag)
There were no prepared to order items like an eggs station, although you need to remember this is a Four Points. There were some breakfast meats and scrambled eggs, which had so much butter in them they were like a cake.
Breads, yogurt and juices were available too
Of course there was the usual cold cut plates of cured meats and cheeses that you tend to see at Spanish breakfasts. I could be wrong but I don’t think breakfast is really a thing in Spain.
In Spain, a breakfast or el desayuno is the smallest meal of the day. It is usually café con leche, a large cup containing a small amount of very strong espresso coffee with a lot of very hot, frothy milk and a sweet roll or magdalenas, lemon-flavored cupcakes or sugary churros.
I think if you don’t go in expecting a massive Asian hotel style breakfast spread you won’t be disappointed.
After breakfast I ventured to the top floor to check out the gym. I patted my stomach and felt proud of my attempt to exercise.
It’s probably good to point out that the Four Points doesn’t have the best location if you’re in town to see the sights. You can do a 10 minute walk to a metro station, but otherwise you’ll be quite reliant on taxis to get around.
Otherwise, if you just want the cheapest Starwood option in Barcelona, the Four Points may be it. It’s a Cat 3 property, which means 7,000 points for a night.
This brought me to the end of the European leg of my RTW trip, but before we move on to Africa, we’ll do a look at the intra-Europe business class experience. Spoiler alert: not good.