Tag Archives: starwood

On the road again to Rio: Sheraton Frankfurt Airport

On the road again to Rio: Introduction
Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines Business Class FRA-SIN


Ah, the airport hotel. The subject I could (and indeed have) spend 4,428 words waxing lyrical about.

My flight from Rio landed in Frankfurt at 2pm, which was too late to catch the 11.40am SQ25 back home. The next flight to Singapore would be the 9.55pm SQ325, but unfortunately that was booked solid. My only option was to wait until the following day to catch SQ25 back home, which gave me slightly under 24 hours to spend in Frankfurt.

I was originally intending to explore Frankfurt during this layover, before I realised it was the dead of winter and I didn’t have a stitch of warm clothing on me.

Now this normally would not bother me, because I am a very manly man, and manly men have copious amounts of body hair to keep them warm in deepest darkest winter. I mean, I often wrestle shirtless with polar bears in Arctic conditions as part of HIIT (it’s all on my dating profile, ladies). But I was also very jetlagged and needed my beauty sleep.

Fortunately there were two Starwood properties available at Frankfurt airport- the Sheraton and the Element.

The Sheraton was only about 9 Euros more expensive than the Element, and had the benefit of being physically connected to the airport (the Element requires a 5 minute taxi ride or 20-25 minute walk in the cold)  so it got the nod.

If you’re ever transiting through Frankfurt, it might interest you to know that the Sheraton also has day use rates if your transit is shorter. The silly thing is that the day use rate can often be almost as much if not more than the best available overnight rate, as you can see in this example below.

En route to the hotel, I got excited when I saw signs for the Lufthansa Welcome Lounge. But upon reaching I realised that it only opened between 0500-1300. Those crafty Germans. I suppose it’s meant more for passengers who fly over on transatlantic red-eye flights and need to freshen up before heading to meetings.

The Sheraton is connected to Frankfurt Terminal 1 through this umbilical cord of a walkway.

As you progress through the walkway the building comes into view. The Sheraton building conjures all the charm of brutalist 1960s Eastern German architecture (yes, I know Frankfurt was part of the West)

All the tips I read about the property on the Flyertalk thread told me I should avoid the queues in the lobby and head up to the executive lounge on the 9th floor to check in (as is the entitlement for Platinum members). However, the lobby was completely empty. I think it was a function of the time I arrived- it was after the rush of early/mid-morning check outs and too early for the arrival of the late afternoon flyers.

Check in was fast and before I knew it I had my two keycards, 500 welcome points, a letter about lounge access and was headed up to my room.

I was given a room on the 8th floor (there are a total of 9 floors). Airport hotels, for obvious reasons, aren’t built very tall. It seems that every room in this hotel is “special” in that there are club room floors, SPG floors (a marketing initiative started by SPG where rooms on those floors get like 2 free bottles of water or something) or a tower room (whatever that is).

How was the room? Let me put it this way. It was a Sheraton room. It looked like a Sheraton room, felt like a Sheraton room and you’d be hard pressed to pick it out from a line up of Sheraton rooms.

And that’s not a bad thing, per se. Just that if you come here looking for creative inspiration you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The annoying thing is that Germans (and Europeans in general) do not believe in the concept of air conditioning during the winter. Only the heating function in the room worked. I know what you’re wondering- why do you need air conditioning when it’s 0 degrees outside? And the answer is simple- ventilation. With the heater off there’s no air moving inside the room and it gets stuffy. In the end I resorted to turning on the heater and putting it on the coldest setting. That at least got some circulation inside the room.

The room had two bottles of free water at the minibar. The water felt infinitely classier by the fact that it came in glass bottles.

There’s a large work desk with a comfortable chair for getting work done. One glaring anti work feature was the fact that the on-property Wifi didn’t let you log into more than a single device at once. It could just be that I wasn’t doing it properly, but if that’s a feature rather than a bug it’s an appalling way to try and squeeze out more money from guests.

I’m not sure if my room just didn’t have it or whether the property didn’t have it at all, but I couldn’t find the room service menu anywhere.

Puzzlingly for an a airport hotel, the sockets were not multi-country friendly.

Bathroom wise, nothing to see here folks. It’s your usual Sheraton line up.

I’d like it if someone from Europe can explain to me the idea of the half glass partition you find in showers at European hotels. I’ve never understood this. It doesn’t particularly stop the floor from getting wet, it’s not nearly as effective as a shower curtain, the thing keeps looking like a potential safety hazard. What is the point of this?

The big draw of the hotel is the fact it has a lounge. In fact, you can purchase lounge only access at a rate of 99 euros a day without booking a hotel room. Again, that rate makes no sense, given you can get a room for 94 euros.

The lounge isn’t 24 hours, but is a good place to spend most of the day working or grabbing a snack.

This is the standard layout during non happy hours. You can see that alcohol is available by default, as opposed to many other club lounges where they only bring it out during happy hour.

The lounge views aren’t exactly inspiring…

I visited again during happy hour and they had some additional items, namely a salad bar and a single hot item (spring rolls). They also added a decent German sparkling wine to the mix.

In the morning there’s a small breakfast spread with made to order eggs and some meats.

There’s a gym on the 9th floor too which was deserted when I got there. No swimming pool, sadly. I think great joy is being able to stretch out with a swim after a long flight, and any airport hotel with a pool instantly goes up a few notches in my mind.

When checking out I took a brief tour of the lobby. There’s a mini business centre in the lobby with printing facilities.    

And a Starbucks cafe with plenty of seating.

The lobby restaurant is doing a game promotion. As in, edible game, not video.

Although the F&B choices in the hotel weren’t amazing, there’s a decent selection of restaurants in the airport and in the office complexes surrounding the airport. I went to The Squaire, where there are a few restaurants in a semi alfresco setting

I’d like to believe the yin balances out the yang.

At the end of the day the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport is meant to be a passing through kind of place. If you stayed there any longer than 24 hours I’d imagine you’d go mad with boredom, but as a place to recharge and recuperate before your next flight it gets the job done.

My job now was to get back to Singapore and do one more review on SQ’s old business class seat before it starts disappearing in 2017…

Starwood Select Member Exclusive Bonus- did you get anything?

Starwood offers targeted member promotions from time to time on top of its usual quarterly promotions that are open to all. These present opportunities to earn additional lucrative Starpoints.

Via Loyalty Lobby, I’ve just learned that there’s another Select Member Exclusive ongoing. You need to click through to the website and register your SPG number to see your offer.

Registrations need to be done by 15 April, but stays can be anytime between 15 Feb and 15 May. As with all Starwood promos, you can earn credit “retroactively”. That’s to say, if I make 3 stays in Feb but only register in March, those 3 stays will count towards my  Feb-May tally.

Here’s the offer I got

Other people are reporting bonuses like

  • 3,000 Starpoints after the 3rd stay, 3,000 Starpoints after the 6th stay and 3,000 Starpoints after the 9th stay for a total 9,000 Starpoints bonus
  • Double elite stay and elite night credit
  • One free night certificate (up to Cat 5) after 3rd stay and 6th stay each, maximum of 2 free night certificates

Not everyone will receive an offer, but it only takes 5 minutes to register and find out.

Feeling lucky today?

On the road again to Rio: Sheraton Grande Rio Hotel & Resort

On the road again to Rio: Introduction
Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines Business Class FRA-SIN


Starwood has surprisingly few options in a city with as much tourist traffic as Rio (although their presence in a major Latam country like Brazil is sparse- a total of 9 properties across the nation). There are only two properties in Rio, both of which are Sheratons.

I’ve had my share of issues with Sheraton properties before, but over time I’ve come to appreciate what they are and who they cater to. When the Sheraton is business-focused, it comes with all the amenities a business traveler would want- a lounge to work out of, reasonably solid internet access, a suite of meeting and conference rooms. When it’s leisure-focused, it has the expected amenities for families like children’s areas, a reasonable-sized pool, a few in-house restaurants.

Image result for sheraton grand rio

The Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort, which we decided on, was a mix of both. It’s 5 minutes by car from the famous Copacabana beach (you can even see it from many rooms), but it’s also got a huge conference and events centre in the basement. And so you get a situation where 6 suited management consultants jostle for space with a mix of holiday-goers and screaming kids in the executive lounge.

The ride from the airport took about 40 minutes. Given it was our first time in Rio, we thought it’d be more prudent to opt for the (overpriced) hotel car rather than take a chance with a taxi driver. (Uber allows drop offs to GIG but not pickups). The transfer cost R$260 (S$117), perhaps 3X what a regular taxi would have. What economic crisis?

The Sheraton is located on a cliff that overlooks a bay, as this inexpertly taken panorama shows you. It’s a 2 minute drive from Leblon, where you can find some rather nice restaurants. You’re also close to the Ipanema and Copacabana areas, so you can drop all your pop culture references to your heart’s content.

The 538 room hotel underwent a 2 year, $50M renovation about a year or so ago, but it can’t shake off that familiar Sheraton vibe. You sort of know it the minute you step into the lobby- there’s no mistaking this property for anything other than a Sheraton. Maybe it’s the marble floors and carpets, but at least this property had specifically renovated its lobby to rely more on natural light. I can’t begin to tell you how many Sheratons I’ve visited (of the airport variety, mainly) that have this big, high ceiling-ed dark gloom to them with nothing in the way of sunlight.

There was no one at check-in, but once we showed up we were processed very quickly. The staff automatically gave me the 500 points welcome gift without asking (since breakfast was included in the club room I had) and gave me an upgrade to a “Family Suite” (more on that anon). They also mentioned that check-in could have been done on the 26th floor where the club area is. I’ve never actually bothered going up to a club in any hotel to check in- it seems an additional layer of things to do, given that in some hotels you need a keycard before you can even access the club floor.

I wandered around the lobby a bit more before heading up to my room. This property had at least bothered to put in a few slightly nicer touches to your usual standard issue Sheraton lobby.

There was a bar overlooking the bay.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled, but I couldn’t see why all the publicity materials were describing the view as “breath taking”. I mean, maybe I’ve lost my sense of wonder but I took one glance and went “oh”.

There’s a business centre in the lobby too with printing facilities for boarding passes and attraction tickets.

The property has 26 floors. I was on level 17.

The Family Suite I’d been upgraded to (ah, how I will miss Starwood upgrades once Marriott truly and definitively ruins the program in 2018) was easily twice the size of a regular room.

There is a separate seating area at the entrance with a full-sized work desk, couch and TV.

To the right of the entrance, there’s a small wet kitchenette, but it’s more token than anything else. There’s no stove or hotplate, although there is a fridge and a microwave oven. It certainly wasn’t the awesome kitchenette I had at the Element New York Times Square, where I was able to whip up a full meal.

The kitchen has a coffeemaker with filtered coffee. I don’t drink the stuff, but I know good coffee when I see it and if you’re into coffee you’re much better heading up to the lounge where there’s a proper Nespresso machine with capsules waiting.

The fridge has the usual assortment of overpriced drinks

The room overlooks the carpark. I suppose the houses on the hills in the background aren’t bad. I couldn’t figure out if they were real favelas or those hipster favelas that have been rejuvinated with a few fresh coats of paint, the type that hotels organize tour groups to so Johnny Midwestern can write in his HBS application essay about how his summer (vacation) visiting the (gentrified) favelas gave him a new-founded sense of (faux) empathy for the downthrodden in society, the plight of which his (ovepriced) HBS education will help him somehow vaguely improve.

#notbitter

The bed is your usual Sheraton Sweet Sleeper- nowhere in the league of a Westin but still a solid enough offering.

A solid offering, bar this additional detail I found on the sheets. I’m sure that’s just strawberry jam…

A quick call down to the front desk got that sorted out. It could have been lipstick too. Man, if I had a blacklight…

The guest relations manager had left a nice gift on the table of chocolate truffles.

And a few minutes later a tourist trappy brochure was slid under my door, offering me a free trip to some jewelry workshop. I do pity the people who fall for such things.

The bathroom is quintessentially Sheraton, from the marble wall tiles (what is it with Sheraton and marble tiles?)

To the underwhelming Sheraton toiletries (this company cannot have a brand refresh soon enough). I’m in the habit of collecting hotel toiletries for travel use, but always give Sheraton branded toiletries a pass.

Another quintessentially Sheraton feature was the black and grey marble countertop. At least there was a lot of space to put things.

The property takes part in the Make a Green Choice (MAGC) program, but unfortunately it’s the neutered 250 points version. When this program was 500 points a day, a 2 week business trip could usually net you enough points for a weekend stay in Bangkok. Now that the earning is only 250 points I’m a bit less convinced about the value proposition. But as my mother will attest to, I’m used to living in a pigsty, and took the points anyway instead of daily housekeeping.

As a Platinum member I could have breakfast in the lobby restaurant or in the lounge. It’s strange because usually the restaurant in the lobby has the better offerings, and the lounge has a limited menu (but more privacy). At the Sheraton Rio, it’s the lounge which has the better offerings. I tried the lobby breakfast once, went up to the lounge the next day and never again went downstairs.

I keep saying “lounge” but technically the breakfast is served in the restaurant adjacent to the lounge, L’Etoile. There’s a spread of help yourself items like bread

Cut fruits

Cold cuts (including smoked salmon, which I noted was not available downstairs in the main restaurant)

Cereals and juices

I mean, they even had sparkling wine at breakfast (not available in the lobby restaurant), and any breakfast with sparkling wine is fine with me

There was also a hot food menu where you could order cooked to order items. This already put the restaurant heads and shoulders above the offering in the lobby where everything was in heated warmers

This was what I had over the course of a few days. just sNo prizes for spotting variations on a theme-

It seems on some days the chef put in more effort than others- there were small touches like a spring of herbs on the eggs or just some chives for color. On others the plate was more bare.

I mentioned that breakfast was served in the place that at night becomes the L’Etoile– it’s actually supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Rio, if you believe reviews.

I was a bit hesitant about heading to one of the fanciest restaurants in the city wearing nothing more than shorts and slippers, but as I’d be reminded many times during my stay here- this is Brazil. No one really cares. The maitre d seated me without batting an eyelid.

The price of mains here is about US$30-40, which all things considered isn’t the end of the world, but it’s still expensive for Brazil. The meal started with an amuse bouche. I had difficulty understanding the waiter’s explanation but I surmised it to be a semi cooked egg with tuna tartare and herbs inside. It was delicious.

For the starter I had the scallops. The scallops were cooked nicely, but the sauce they were coated in was so salty it made them borderline inedible. I had to scrape off most of the sauce in the end.

For the main, I had a very nicely grilled piece of salmon. The salmon they use is flown in fresh from Chile every day,

Other food on the property is just dire though. The room service menu was a particularly egregious offender. I know that as a rule of thumb you shouldn’t expect pasta like “la nonna used to make”, but this was a whole new level of wateriness.

Which is weird, because the hotel has a vaguely decent Italian restaurant in the basement, Bene. I suppose the room service Italian comes from a central kitchen.

Other F&B options include a cafe by the pool, which served borderline inedible food.

There was a Brazilian steakhouse on the premises as well, which we did not try. If you’re looking for beef though, CT Boucherie Leblon is the place to go. In any case, Casarao only serves its full menu for dinner. During lunch it served a rather insipid looking buffet.

The Executive Lounge is on the top floor and was where we spent most of our time working. I do pity the holidaygoers who had to listen to people discussing linear regressions, Gini coefficients and catchment analysis during their break.

During the day the lounge is pretty empty

But still gets some foot traffic because of this great Nespresso machine

And the abundance of sugary drinks

In the evening it really fills up as happy hour sets in. Although happy hour doesn’t have anything in the way of hot food (although the very affable lounge head brought around a plate of heated flatbread).

My favourite beverage made another appearance during happy hour…

I visited my pool a grand total of once during my stay. It left me with major body image issues. I know, I know, why visit the pool when you’ve got Rio’s famous beaches just a stone’s throw away. Let’s just say I’m not the textbook child for adventure travel.

Disillusioned with myself, I got out and lay down, covering my inadequate body with a towel. Then I started getting bitten by mosquitoes and decided it was prudent to relocate. In general I realised that mosquitoes were a bigger problem at this hotel than I thought. The worst of Zika is over so I’m not really worried, but I’m just annoyed that given how recent the problem was management didn’t have a mosquito magnet or something on premises.

It’s narratively easier to write this trip report as if I’ve already finished my stay, but for accuracy’s sake I should probably mention that I’ll be here for at least another 2 weeks. So if there’s any aspect of the property you’d like to know more about, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

2 more weeks…