Tag Archives: starwood

Miami, no vice: Element Hotel Miami Airport

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Orlando: Disneyworld and other distractions
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
EVA Air Business Class JFK-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-SIN


I’ve been a fan of Element hotels ever since I made my first stay at the Element New York Time Square a few months ago. You get rooms which are much bigger than your standard hotel, complete with a fully-stocked kitchen, hot breakfast and high-end toiletries and bedding you’d usually find in premium hotels.

So when I was looking for hotels in Miami and saw the Element available for 7,000 points a night as a Cat 3 hotel, it was a no brainer.

The downside was the hotel was located at the airport. But Miami is compact enough in the sense that you can get to all the places worth going to in about 20 minutes of driving. Besides, all the hotels in the South Beach area were upwards of 12,000 points a night, and I prefer the drone of airplane engines to the thumping bass of youth.

Starwood lets you book 5 nights for the price of 4, so my total points outlay was 28,000. An annoying thing was they still charged for parking, though. When I asked the SPG concierge what the parking rate was they quoted me US$10 a night plus taxes, which I was still willing to accept. At check out, I was told the rate was US$18 a night plus taxes. I reached out to the concierge and they refunded me the difference in price (S$40) in the form of 2,000 Starpoints, which I appreciate them doing.

The Element is less than 5 minutes away from the airport by car. After picking up my shiny convertible I was out of the parking garage and into the hotel lot in no time at all.

Image result for element miami international airport
photo credit: jacob kim

There was no one in the lobby at 12pm. My guess is that most of the people staying here would check out early in the morning for morning flights, and the real deluge of people doesn’t happen till the evening arrival of international flights.

This property supports SPG’s keyless check in, which allows you to use your NFC-enabled phone as your keycard and bypass the front desk entirely. Unfortunately every time I tried checking in with the app I got an error message

So I still had to head to the front desk. Check in was smooth and I took the 250 points as my Platinum amenity (breakfast is anyway included with all stays). This property also participates in the MAGC program, which I always opt for when I see. This led to a few complications, as I’ll explain below

I used 5 of my Suite Night Awards to get a 1 bedroom apartment. In all my previous years of being Platinum I’ve never actually finished using all 10 of my SNAs so I figured might as well start burning them early this year.

The apartment was furnished nicely. I got excited when I saw the full kitchen, complete with induction cooker, full sized fridge, microwave and dishwasher.

There was a spacious living room with a flat screen TV and DVD player.

And a well-equipped writing desk.

The bedroom has a Westin Heavenly Bed, which is probably the best hotel bed I’ve ever slept on. The W bed is a close second though.

The loo was also fairly spacious with a shower instead of a tub.

 

The amenities were Pharmacopia branded. Pharmacopia has some really nice toiletries and I was glad to see them featured again here.

I wandered down the next morning to check out the breakfast spread. They have oatmeal and egg mcmuffin type sandwiches

Sausage, pancakes and buns.

Cheese, ham, yogurt and milk

A selection of cereals and breads

Juices

The usual tea and coffee

I assembled myself a small plate of stuff

It was perfectly passable as breakfast, if not very inspiring. I could sense I’d get bored of the spread within a couple of days.

Which is why I went to the supermarket and bought my own supplies. The next day I made scrambled eggs, bacon, spinach and crabmeat with blistered cherry tomatoes. #howisthismanstillsingle

The stay had major housekeeping issues, however. Upon checking in I found this delightful collection in the cupboard

I mentioned I opted for the MAGC program, which allows you to decline housekeeping for 250/500 Starpoints per day, depending on where in the world you’re staying. You can opt to do the MAGC program for up to 3 consecutive days, and on the 4th day you must take housekeeping. Then you can do another 3 consecutive days. You cannot do MAGC on the day you check out.

I’m pretty well-versed with the program having used it many times. So on the morning of the 4th day as I stepped out of the room I removed the MAGC voucher from the door and the do not disturb sign. When I came back in the evening the room had not been cleaned. I called downstairs and was told that housekeeping had left already.

So on the 5th day, as I went down I expressly told the front desk clerk about what had happened yesterday and asked her to send housekeeping to my room as soon as I left (my room was getting pretty gnarly by now). She acknowledged this and wrote something down. And naturally, I return to my room at the end of the day and see nothing has been cleaned, again.

I’m not sure what happened but I ended up doing my own housekeeping during the stay there. I’m sure that builds character, but I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to make sure a room got cleaned. Naturally, none of my Green Choice points posted either.

I wrote to Starwood customer service detailing the incident and got compensated with 25,000 Starpoints, which is fairly generous. To put things in perspective, a night at the St Regis or W Singapore would cost 20,000 Starpoints.

So all in all, far from a perfect stay but good service recovery. I’m still going to look for Element hotels whenever I stay in a place for an extended period of time.

Now it’s time to share with you a bit more what I got up to in Miami…

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?