Tag Archives: rtw

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Westin Vendrome Paris Review

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
Sheraton Casablanca
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
W Doha
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


I had high hopes for the Westin Paris Vendome, what with its long and storied history. The property opened in 1878 as the Hôtel Continental and was for a long time the largest and most luxurious hotel in all of Paris. It was bought by the Westin in 2005 and is supposed to be one of Starwood’s flagship properties in Paris.

I’m just going to come out and say that this was probably one of the most disappointing stays of the entire RTW trip.

Location wise, the Westin Paris is hard to beat. It’s near major tourist attractions and a short walk from big retail outlets like Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. It’s very conveniently located to wherever you may want to go.

Image result for westin paris
photo: tripadvisor

From the outside, the property certainly looks the part. The facade of the building evokes grandeur

Security is tight, as you can imagine at most Paris hotels given the recent spate of events across Europe. But it was also tremendously inconsistent at the Westin Paris. During the day we were subject to a metal detector and bag scan, but in the evening all security disappeared. It was almost as if the bad guys were on European working hours too.

There was absolutely no order in the check in queues. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the check in area is L-shaped, with 2 associates on one arm of the L and 2 on the other. So you’d have to hazard a guess at which line was moving faster. How hard is it for hotels to implement a simple serpentine queue, ensuring whoever arrives first is served first?

I asked a staff member who was just standing around watching the queues whether there was a priority lane for Platinum guests. She just gave a very Gallic shrug her shoulders and wordlessly pointed in the general direction of the queue. Again, I don’t go in for DYKWIA moments, but as a brand standard there should be priority queues for elite members.

While waiting in line I noticed the inner courtyard behind me. This only opens in summer and is probably the nicest part of the whole hotel. Nothing like sipping a glass of wine in the warm sunlight with your 5 weeks mandatory vacation.

At check in, I was upgraded to a suite on the top floor of the hotel. Based on the room types shown on the website, I assume this was a Junior Suite.

The hallways themselves are narrow and dark. You even get old fashioned radiators on the wall every now and then. I’m not sure if this property has central heating. Would be interesting during the winter…

The suite has a separate bedroom and living room, separated by the door. In the living room there’s a small work desk and a chair with little to no back support.

One of two televisions, just on top of the minibar. At least these were modern. Minus points that they didn’t feature the FA cup final on any channel.

The minibar was, unfortunately not stocked with camembert and french wines. Instead, an assortment of pre-packaged chips and American candy bars were present. Imperialist swine.

My absolute favourite feature about the minibar was that they decided to put both the power adapter and condoms in the fridge too. I mean, we all know that power adapters work best when they’ve been freshly chilled, but I do wonder about the efficacy of chilled prophylactics. Those with experience, please chime in.

The living room also had a large walk-in closet, which seemed like a waste of space. Maybe Parisians like bringing their entire wardrobe on staycations.

The living room had a big couch that was easily long enough to sleep on, in case you have a French-esque quarrel.

Waiting on the table was a gift from management.

I briefly wondered if I could use this as basis for suing management for sexual harassment and getting lots of hush money. But apparently unwanted advances are a cross I must bear for having pretty privilege. Yes, that’s a real term. Now go weep.

In any case, I later found the same chocolates retailing for 14 euros.

The room had a balcony from which I could sip wine and gaze disdainfully down at the proletariat. Pffft. General Lamarque might be sympathetic to them but he’ll be gone soon. And then everything will be ok.

The bedroom had the usual Westin bed

And some pretty nifty blackout curtains that struggled to contain the bright summer light.

On the wall was the AC control unit. This had to be the most intuitive piece of hardware I’d ever seen. Let’s say you’re too hot. Do you turn the right knob to + for greater A/C power or – for lower temperature?

The bathroom was thankfully more intuitive. I believe this is where you relieve yourself.

Or maybe it’s here. Can’t tell sometimes. At least there was ample counter space.

Westin has revamped their line of toiletries, as I noted in one of my earlier Westin reviews. Gone is the green soap and in is this new line of white-toned toiletries. I read that they use green when they want you to believe something is healthy, and white when they want you to believe it’s luxurious. These toiletries were neither.

The slope of the roof meant it was impossible for me (I’m 1.8M, ladies take note) to stand up straight (fnar) in the shower

In any case, the water pressure was a mere trickle. I suppose it was difficult to pump water up five floors in the 1800s, which was when this hotel was last renovated.

The taps and shower stopped working on the second last day and no water would come out from the hot water side, as shown in the video below

I called down and reported the issue. After 30 minutes no one arrived, so I went down to the front desk to ask about this again. I was told someone was on the way, and 10 minutes later someone showed up. He got the tap working for a while, but no sooner had he left that the problem happened again.

Indeed, dealing with requests was not this hotel’s forte. A simple request for a hairdryer took 40 minutes and 2 calls to get done. Housekeeping forgot to give me my MAGC voucher on the first night and the issue never got resolved after four calls and one visit to the front desk (each time I was told someone was on the way to drop the voucher off). I had to get the guest services manager to manually post the additional night’s 500 points at check out.

I wrote in to complain about the issues that occurred during my stay and got a form letter reply that disingenuously said they “wished I had raised these matters during the stay instead of after so they could have fixed it.” I sent a very curt email back saying I had raised the issues, they just didn’t deal with them. To which they sent another form letter saying sorry again.

Anyway, on to breakfast. This property makes Platinum guests choose between breakfast and 500 points, unfortunately.

I was trying to save some budget, so I just took a quick look at the buffet and decided to order off the ala carte menu.

The buffet looked average. The usual assortment of items (including, perhaps not surprisingly, quite a few Chinese-tourist friendly ones like oily noodles and rice), certainly nothing befitting Paris’ gastronomic credentials.

That’s fine, I thought, I’ll just get something cheap off the menu

I decided on some bacon and eggs, which came at the princely sum of 9 euros. It was entirely forgettable.

What was not forgettable, however, was the cost of the orange juice. 9 euros. For a glass of orange juice. Really. People have overthrown governments for much less.

The overpriced food, outdated rooms and indifferent service made the Westin Paris a huge disappointment. The best part for me was the location, nothing more. At Category 6 prices, you’d expect much more, and the Westin didn’t deliver in this respect.

I think the most annoying thing was how management tried to suggest that it was the fault of the guest for not raising these issues during the stay, when in fact they were raised, just not addressed.

Definitely a property to avoid.

Protip: when in Paris, maybe consider Le Dokhan’s? It’s got a famous champagne bar...

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Sheraton Grand Park Lane London Review

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 London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
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
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I last visited the Sheraton Park Lane in 2015 when it was still in the midst of its multi-million dollar renovation. The hotel originally opened in 1927 and until its renovation, looked like it had been opened in 1927. With its relaunch, the Sheraton Park Lane has been elevated to the somewhat more prestigious Sheraton Grand tier, which is meant to make people say, “yeah, it’s a Sheraton, but it’s not a Sheraton, if you know what I mean?”

The Park Lane is located near the Green Park tube station. It’s a close enough walk to some major tourist attractions, including the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery.

You can see evidence of the changes done once you step into the lobby- gone are the depressing Sheraton floors and decor, and instead you have a more stylish design that is clearly trying to evoke comparisons with a boutique hotel.

To get to the check-in area from the main entrance you need to cut through the lobby bar. Again, you can see the Great-Gatsby esque theme they were trying to go for here. Kind of like a shout out to the hotel’s 1920s roots.

The hotel check in area has also received a makeover, with fresh carpet and decorative bookshelves.

As a platinum, I got upgraded to an Art Deco suite, which as far as I can tell is a slightly larger room with more hipster furnishing

There was a digital alarm clock with two USB charging ports on the bedside.

And I’m glad to see these phones are appearing in more and more hotels. It makes sense for both sides- advertisers can hawk their wares to guests, and guests get free internet plus recommendations for restaurants and the like.

The work desk was large

There’s a Nespresso machine in the room as well, together with some complimentary water.

The bathroom had two sinks and plenty of counter space.

The shower and tub were in a separate room within the bathroom itself.

If Sheraton really wants to give its brand a boost they need to look into better quality toiletries. I’m sure many entry-level luxury brands would jump at the chance to partner with a chain that has the reach of Sheraton.

Breakfast is served in the club lounge and is complimentary for platinum members. I waltzed past the unattended desk..

Breakfast definitely leans towards the continental side of things

But there are still 3 hot items every day that rotate on a daily basis.

Where food quality is concerned, the breakfast isn’t anything to shout about. On the first day it was scrambled eggs, mushrooms and bangers.

On the second they replaced scrambled eggs with fried ones and the mushrooms with waffles.

There’s plenty of seating in the lounge and I never saw it completely filled. I didn’t see the happy hour offerings either, for that matter, as I was frequently out of the hotel. Come on, it’s London.

And for settling business, there are two computer terminals plus a printer

The internet in the hotel clonked out completely for half a day during the time I was there. This is the same thing that happened last time round, and the staff at the front desk were powerless to do anything other than ask for patience as the provider tried to fix it.

And that’s the thing about Sheratons. On the whole, the hotel was fine, it really was. But somehow I just felt it couldn’t shake off the Sheraton tag, no matter how hard it tried. Maybe it was the cheap toiletries, or the remnants of the marble floors in the lobby. Maybe it was the all-too-familiar Sheraton design on the keycards, or the fact that things break down once every so often. Marriott has realised that the Sheraton brand has major consumer perception problems, as there’s a handful of really bad properties that have created a stank around the entire brand. The Park Lane Sheraton is clearly one of the better Sheratons out there, but you can still sense shadows of the overall Sheraton brand lurking in the background.

That said, the Park Lane Sheraton was still light years ahead of the Westin Paris, where I was headed to next…

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Heathrow Express and the Great Northern London Review

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 London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
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
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


After exploring the arrivals lounge, my colleague and I took the Heathrow Express for the 15 minute ride into Central London. I know, I know. The Heathrow Express has its share of detractors, and it’s often far from the cheapest option, but those are the perks of business travel.

That said, Heathrow Express tickets can be mighty affordable if you’re willing to commit to dates in advance. Like, way in advance. Here’s how the pricing (in GBP) looks for one-way (OW) trips depending on what day you travel and how far out your book:

  • >90 days: Weekend- 5.50 OW, Weekday- 12.10 OW
  • 30-89 days: Weekend- 8.80 OW, Weekday- 14.30 OW
  • 14-29 days: Weekend- 12.10 OW, Weekday- 16.50 OW
  • Within 14 days: Offpeak- 22 OW, Peak- 25 OW, Return- 37

For comparison’s sake, it’d take GBP 5.70 and about an hour to take the tube from Heathrow into Central London. Of course, taking the tube doesn’t require you to buy a non-refundable ticket 90 days out, and the Heathrow Express drops you at Paddington, which depending on where you’re heading may or may not work for you.

It’s easy to find the Heathrow Express from the arrivals area. Just follow the many, many signs.

You’ll eventually need to head down a lift to the train platform

It can get a bit confusing for first timers because it’s not just the Heathrow Express that departs from this platform- the cheaper, slower Heathrow Connect service does too. But there are many announcements and as long as you can read basic signage you’ll be fine.

The Heathrow Express is also clearly labeled, so as I said, you’d have to be simple or something to get on the wrong train.

photo credit: kwokanathan

My colleague and I both bought standard class tickets, but by virtue of us being Star Alliance Gold members we got a free upgrade to the BusinessFirst cabin. The T&C of this promotion technically say that you need to buy a full fare standard class tickets (i.e not advance fares) to be upgraded, but the fare conductor on both my inbound and outbound legs didn’t care.

BusinessFirst seating is much nicer than the regular cabin, but let’s be honest. It’s a 15 minute ride. You’ll survive being in coach.

Each seat is private and has its own work tray that will just about fit a laptop computer.

Power points are available too, for topping up your devices on the short ride in

There is plenty of luggage storage space throughout the train cabin.

The ride was unmemorable, but perhaps that’s the mark of a good airport transfer. 15 minutes to Paddington, then an Uber to Kings Cross where we had booked ourselves at The Great Northern Hotel, a Starwood Tribute portfolio property. We chose Kings Cross because we had to take a train to Cambridge the next day.

If you pressed me to classify the Great Northern, it would have to fall in some sort of catchall boutique category. It’s not quite business-focused, but its proximity to the train station makes it a good choice for business travelers. It’s not cheap enough to be in the mass market leisure segment, but then again few properties in London are.

The website lists various accolades such as:

Proudly acclaimed in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller 2014 Hot List, Telegraph’s Top 10 UK Hotels, Tatler’s Top 300 UK Restaurants and presented the Trip Advisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence award.

I wouldn’t put too much trust in Trip Advisor ratings of late, though, because of Trip Advisor’s frankly deceptive attempts to boost their revenue by “enhancing” your search results by the nebulously defined term “relevance”, showing you the hotels that have paid them more to get featured higher in the list as opposed to those which were actually rated highly by guests.

The hotel was a short Uber ride from Paddington station that couldn’t have been more than GBP 10 in total. UberX has been a real boon to London, in that you can finally get affordable private car rides without getting ripped off by Black Cabs.

The hotel lobby is small and narrow, and doesn’t have a lot of waiting room. The idea is to get your check in done quickly and head on out.

Our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived at about 10 in the morning, but that was fine with me. It was Sunday, and I headed out to watch Arsenal’s final game of the season, where we won the coveted 5th place trophy after defeating the overwhelming forces of Everton. We even chose to play most of the game with 10 men because awesomeness.

After the match the players did a lap of the field with a thank you for your support for the season banner.

It was exhilarating. Never before had I seen mediocrity so up close and personal before.

I came back later and got my keys. The hallways to the room are filled with hipster black and white photos.

The room itself  is pretty nice. A bit cramped but definitely a welcome change from your usual Westin/Sheraton decor.

Unfortunately, unlike other boutique hotels the minibar is not complementary.  The minibar prices were…well, minibar prices.

There’s a premium coffee machine in the minibar as well. That’s free, fortunately.

Although it’s an old-ish property I’m glad they made the effort to install USB charging outlets in the room.

As well as a modern A/C controller on the wall. Those old fashioned controllers with knobs and switches and no display bug me to no end.

They even have these cute do not disturb and make up room hangers.

The bathroom had 0 sink space, so minus points for that. It’s really not that difficult to install a separate shelf or at least have a side table to put all your washing up barang barang right?

My favorite feature was the heated towel rack. I scalded my hand touching it but was thankful for the warm towels when I stepped out of the shower on a cold evening.

The shower amenities were Malin + Goetz branded.

Breakfast is served at Plum and Split Milk, the hotel’s restaurant. There’s no buffet, so you order off the menu.

Unfortunately, SPG Elite members need to choose between 500 points and breakfast. Since it was a work trip, I took the points and paid about 17 pounds for the full English breakfast.  I quite enjoyed it, just look at the color of those egg yolks!

On the second day I had something simpler but just as good.

Overall I quite enjoyed the Great Northern. It was a welcome change from the usual cookie cutter Sheratons, and despite the proximity to a major train station they did a heck of a job sound proofing the windows so there was no noise pollution. That said, King’s Cross may not be the most convenient location for you if you’re in London for a vacation, and there are hotels in better located areas at cheaper price points as well.