Tag Archives: starwood

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: The Grosvenor House Dubai 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
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


We will now pivot very quickly from the very worst to the very best. There’s little doubt in my mind that the Grosvenor House, though I can’t pronounce the name nor spell it properly, is one of the best properties in the Starwood chain. The property became part of the Starwood Luxury Collection in early 2010, and added a second tower to the existing one in late 2011.

Image result for grosvenor house dubai

The location might be a bit far South, but it’s near major attractions like the Mall of the Emirates (the Dubai Mall, which I personally prefer, is a bit further up North closer to the airport) and the Atlantis resort. It’s called the Marina area, and it’s maybe 30 minutes to the airport depending on traffic.

I’d heard great things about the property but always found the price too prohibitive. Normally this hotel retails well upwards of US$250, even 300+. But during summer, it’s a different story. As the heat blazes down on Dubai, tourists stay away and locals flee, so hotels cut their rates to try and drive some business. That’s how I got a rather excellent US$155 rate for two nights.

My taxi pulled up to the entrance of Grosvenor House and I wasn’t sure which tower I should check in at. One thing the property can do a lot better is directing guests who have just arrived to the check in area- it’s unlikely they’ll know ex-ante which room they’ve been assigned.

I went to the older Tower One first, where the entrance is split over two levels. On the first floor you have the concierge and bag storage area.

Up from that you have the main lobby. Nothing says you’re in the UAE like a golden jewel encrusted falcon.

The lobby, as you’d expect in Dubai, is lavishly decorated. Think high marble pillars, ornate paintings, vanity artwork.

This was pretty much the same in Tower 2, where I took these photos.

You’ll be happy to know that both Towers are connected via an air conditioned walkway (in 45 degree summer heat, you really don’t want to be exposed to the sun more than you have to) that bridges both sides.

The first thing to know about this property is that there are two towers. Tower 1 is the older one, as you might expect. There are many types of rooms here and with two towers it can get pretty confusing, so I’ll try to explain this best I can. Feel free to chip in if you’ve stayed here before too.

These are the main room types:

  • Deluxe and Superior Deluxe Rooms- Tower 1
  • Premier Rooms- Tower 2
  • Premier Junior Suites- Tower 2
  • Deluxe Suites- Tower 1
  • Premier Suites and Executive Premier Suites- Tower 2
  • Apartment Suites- Tower 1
  • Residence Apartments- Tower 2
  • Grosvenor Suites- Tower 2
  • Royal Suites- Tower 2

I was assigned a Deluxe Suite on the 36th floor of Tower One. I got two separate cards- the first for my room, and the second for the club lounge called Level 5, that was located in the other tower. This was easily one of the best club lounges ever, and I’ll cover it in detail later on.

The dramatis personae of Tower One

I got out on the 36th floor (total 44 floors in this tower) and realised the hallways were impeccably quiet. The carpet and the walls absorbed all footsteps, which was great for light sleepers like me.

You tap your keycard not on the door, but on the small dark panel by the side of the door.

Here’s the overview of the room. This is a very accurate floor map of the Deluxe Suite I’d been given. I want to point out several features before we visit them in detail- the guest bathroom, the kitchenette, the living room, the master bedroom and toilet.  The main entrance to the room is that door you see on the upper right.

It’s always a good sign when your room is large enough to warrant a guest toilet, which is exactly what I saw upon entering the room.

Past that and the room divides into two sections- the entrance to the master bedroom on the left and the living room on the right.

The room really opens up when you get into the living room. There’s a spacious couch set and the windows open out to the Dubai Marina.

On the table was a welcome amenity of fruit. This was slightly disappointing as I thought a hotel of this stature would go for something like wine.

There was a small dining area outside the kitchenette.

The kitchenette didn’t have a stove or microwave, but there was a sink. I’m not quite sure what it was for, other than to give me more countertop space for charging stuff.

A very large work desk rounded out the living room.

There was a very nicely monographed stationery kit

Which inside had a stapler set, sticky notes and a writing pad.

The master bed room had a King sized bed with the usual bedfront couch. I’ve often wondered what it’s for. I typically use it to sit when I put on my shoes. I hope I’m not using it wrong, like I did for years by using the bidet to wash my feet.

I loved small details like how the bedsheets had GH etched onto them ever so slightly.

The TV had a DVD player (who still uses those?) and digital radio.

The air conditioning controls were on the bedside, and you could control the curtains and DND sign from this panel too.

The bathroom is yet another highlight of the room. Nice sunken tub, plenty of towels (the luxury of staying in a hotel, I’m sure, comes in being able to use multiple towels to bathe. Gaia who?)

In addition to the tub you also have a large shower.

Toilet and bidet.

The marble countertop had a single sink (given the size of the room I thought they’d have put in two) and two bottles of mineral water.

Attention to detail again- the towels have GH embossed on them.

Essentials like toothbrushes, shower caps and cotton balls were provided as default. I much prefer this arrangement over what other hotels have done to cut costs by making these items available “on request” only.

The best thing about the loo? The abundant Bulgari amenities that were of the highest quality. There was bath soap and a bath teabag (yes, such things exist)

Shampoo, conditioner and body wash which were replenished daily.

As were the large soap bars in the master bedroom loo and the guest toilet.

The room had a fully-loaded minibar with easily the biggest selection I’ve seen in any hotel (except perhaps the W Seoul)

The minibar also had a whole set of drinking glasses in case you did BYOB.

Here’s a few excerpts of the room service menu so you have an idea of what prices you’re dealing with (1 AED= 0.37 SGD)

I thought about having a celebratory tipple, but was shocked to see alcohol prices this high. AED 148 (S$55) for a glass of champagne?

I mentioned the club lounge previously and I think it could deserve a separate post for itself, but to summarize I believe it’s one of the best club lounges to be found at any Starwood property.

On the first day I arrived I did Happy Hour at the lounge, where they set up a very elaborate variety of small bites.

They also serve sparkling wine. Yes it’s not champagne, and it’s not expensive, but it’s good.

Here’ s a brief rundown of the small plates on offer during happy hour.

Greek salad

Salad bar

Salmon rolls

Rice noodles with corn and sausage

Tuna salad shooters.

Fruit salad

The two hot items were both fried, which is great if you’re not on a diet.

There’s also a bread selection if you really need carbs.

The lounge has a few working stations and a high speed printer.

It also has a meeting room that you can book for complimentary use if you’re staying in a room with lounge access.

The lounge is really big, taking up about half the floor. I never noticed it crowded, not even during the breakfast peak hour rush.

Speaking of breakfast, here’s the breakfast spread in the lounge.

The first station is all about cereals, muesli, jams, ketchup, nutella and other spreads.

And with all those spreads, you need some bread.

Off topic, but I loved the way the butter was presented. It was given in little tubes that you unrolled, kind of like sweets. Sweets that give heart attacks.

Selection of fruit salad and cut fruits

Numerous hot items

And the pork corner. The UAE isn’t as strict as some other gulf countries about pork, but it has to be clearly labelled at all times.

Smoked salmon and other cold cuts

Cheese board

I really think that hash browns are one of those foods that don’t hold up well in a buffet, because most of the time they end up getting soggy. I asked the staff to help me make a fresh batch and the answer, as you would expect in any excellent hotel, was “certainly Sir”. Believe me, I have been to hotels (ahem Westin Singapore) where such tasks were either met with a  “no cannot” or with the alacrity of a man who is about to have teeth pulled.

I didn’t explore the other restaurants on premises because I was hankering for a good steak. And one of the best steak restaurants in Dubai is Rhodes Twenty10, located over in the Le Royal Meridien. This is the sister property of the GH, and there’s a free shuttle bus that runs between the two properties which are about 5 minutes away by bus (don’t brave the heat, even in the evenings, trust me)

The menu is extensive but of course you come here for the steak. The ribeye steak (why would anyone want any other cut?) was incredible. Perfect medium rare, great sear, tender insides, marbled fat.

Less impressive was the asparagus, which wasn’t seasoned at all (and cost AED30) for 3 spears.

I didn’t order desert, but a chocolate slice and a macron found their way to me with the bill.

If you’re an SPG Platinum member you can also take your breakfast at Sloane’s, the buffet restaurant in the lobby. The selection here is massive, much bigger than that in the lounge. But you can’t beat the peace and quiet of the lounge.

The photos of the food should speak for themselves so I’m going to dump them here.

 

The staff in the hotel were excellent, especially in the executive lounge. The concierge hassled Oman Air repeatedly until my bag was returned to me, 30 hours after it went missing. When Oman Air misreported the time the bag was returned, they offered to back up my account with CCTV footage if needed. However, they did back off once they saw that the flight ticket was associated with Qatar Airways (in that the e-ticket said the WY flight was a connecting flight from QR). Even though QR didn’t operate the flight, they said they simply couldn’t issue any sort of official letter in relation with something even tangentially related with Qatar because they’d get in trouble with the police…which sort of goes to show you the insanity of what’s going on in the region now where Qatar has become a he-who-must-not-be-named situation.

If you’re heading to Dubai, I hope you have a chance to experience this great property.

Try to make refundable bookings + a rather “meh” stay at The St Regis Rome

Dr Frederick Ee is a medical doctor, author, blogger and traveler. He discovered his passion for travel on his first long-haul trip to New York City in 2012. His quest for premium travel experiences started on that very same flight as he endured a smelly foot beside him from the passenger behind him for the 24 hours of flight from Singapore to New York. He blogs at goodhotelreview.blogspot.com, focusing on hotel experiences. His most memorable moment of travel was to participate in the resuscitation of a collapsed patient during a long flight to Paris. Feel free to add him on Facebook with a message and his Instagram at @drfrederickee. He would like to thank MileLion for having him as a guest writer and hope readers would enjoy his writings and musings.


Tiny Rooms are not enjoyable
Good breakfast is the redeeming feature

Stayed Oct 2016

After a brief stay at Bucharest, I arrived in Rome to fulfil one of my childhood dreams.

Other than the Acropolis in Athens, the Colosseum was another of the images in the encyclopaedia I read as a child.

But the journey there wasn’t smooth.

A few weeks before the trip, I received an email that my flight from Bucharest to Rome was cancelled and I had been rescheduled on the flight on the next day!

Thankfully my booking was made with points at the Sheraton Rome and I cancelled that booking closer to departure.

So there was no harm done, except a shorter time in Rome and a longer stay in Bucharest.

Arriving safely at the Rome airport, I took the airport train ( I still remember someone left a funny comment on how I was taking the metro to luxury hotels.) to the central station and walked to the hotel which was a short but significant distance away.

As usual, the staff at the entrance gave me weird looks as I didn’t ‘arrive in style’ but were nonetheless helpful when I entered. Unlike a certain Waldorf.

Exterior

 

Entrance

 

A Landmark Hotel!

 

Fountain beside the Hotel

The hotel was still undergoing renovations at that time and it affected the front desk, so the experience of checking in wasn’t too great.

 

Checking in was uneventfully, and I was upgraded to a larger room. Having read up on the hotel, suite upgrades are pretty rare.

Corridors

The upgraded room was still really quite small to say the least, and I shudder to think how the basic room is like! Especially at a rate of 300 Euro per night.

Rome is indeed expensive!

Complimentary Biscuits

 

 

 

 

View from Room

After settling in the room, I took a walk around the hotel noting some interesting decorations as well as an ancient lift.

Ancient Lift

 

Spa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceiling Art

Even the toilet has sculptures. OMG.

Breakfast was served at the restaurant off the lobby and looked really grand and pompous.

The chandeliers, wall and ceiling art made one feel so narcissistic. -laugh-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food display was really good and I guess it should rightfully be for that nightly rate, and there was a lot of space to move around during breakfast.

No jostling with other guests for food and space.

Checking out was easy and I felt really claustrophobic inside the room.

Otherwise, the location of the hotel was good, with easy walks to good restaurants and some central Roman attractions, including the Trevi Fountain 

 

 

Taxi Scam Alert! A Stay at Sheraton Bucharest

Dr Frederick Ee is a medical doctor, author, blogger and traveler. He discovered his passion for travel on his first long-haul trip to New York City in 2012. His quest for premium travel experiences started on that very same flight as he endured a smelly foot beside him from the passenger behind him for the 24 hours of flight from Singapore to New York. He blogs at goodhotelreview.blogspot.com, focusing on hotel experiences. His most memorable moment of travel was to participate in the resuscitation of a collapsed patient during a long flight to Paris. Feel free to add him on Facebook with a message and his Instagram at @drfrederickee. He would like to thank MileLion for having him as a guest writer and hope readers would enjoy his writings and musings.


A Bad First Impression of Bucharest
First Taxi Scam in a long time!

Stayed October 2016

After an overnight stay in Athens, I arrived in Bucharest in the late evening. Why Romania? Thanks to a certain tennis player named Simona Halep (who disappointingly was runner-up in this year’s French Open) and that I saw some of my friends visiting the country (Ms Moon L. and Ms Stacie T!).

After reading many horror stories about the taxis in Bucharest, including kidnap and murder, I made a point to read about the best way to get a cab at the airport.My research concluded that I should order a taxi from the booth at the airport and the booth will issue me a ticket stating the company and taxi number. While using the booth, I had to choose which taxi company from the various rates offered. The cheapest one kept timing out and resulted in a long queue at the booths. It took me 30 mins to get a cab and after choosing a slightly more expensive company.

The ride was fine and when I reached the hotel, I was quoted a fare 3 times than my research prepared me for. And so, I asked him again for the fare several times and he insisted on the high amount.

It was late and there was no staff at the entrance of the hotel so I paid up and entered the hotel.

At the front desk (to the right of the lobby), I asked about the usual fare from the airport and despite the slightly more expensive rate, I definitely paid at least twice as much.

Front Desk

The staff apologized for my bad first impression of Bucharest and Romania and proceeded to call the taxi company to complain about the driver.The ticket printed at the booth supplied the information needed and I was told Bucharest is trying to improve her image and reduce such taxi scams. Unfortunately, I still ended up a victim.

Granted it was a small amount equivalent to 20 Euros, the feeling of being cheated still didn’t feel very good.

Thankfully, it was all great from this point!My platinum elite status granted me breakfast as my elite gift, and lounge access, as well as a complimentary upgrade to a suite.

Brightly lit corridors

 

Living Room of Suite

 

Toilet

 

Bathroom

 

The comfortable bed

 

Standard Sheraton Toiletries

 

Complimentary Drinking Water

 

Complimentary Fruit

Bucharest is indeed a rather affordable city, looking at the prices of in-room snacks.

Sorry for the unclear picture!

The view of Bucharest from the hotel revealed a somewhat sobering image of decaying buildings amongst new constructions.

 

 

The Executive Lounge was a mid-sized room which didn’t serve breakfast but was good for tea and evening cocktails (read: early dinner).

 

Business Room at the Lounge

 

 

 

 

 

The Japanese restaurant at the hotel is named one of the best in the city and I was glad about seeing sushi at the lounge.

However, I would say the taste and texture is rather different from what I am used to.

 

A small and empty gym exists in the hotel as well.

 

Breakfast was served on the second level and was a good spread, the staff were relatively fast considering the number of people at breakfast daily.

The spread was fair, typical of a Sheraton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would say I enjoyed Bucharest for the affordability, but I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.I also wonder what became of the complaint to the taxi company about the taxi scam.Most importantly, this is a reminder that no matter how much research and planning, things can still go wrong.

Happy and Healthy (and safe) travels!

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Sheraton Casablanca 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
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


Image result for casablanca movie

Ah, Casablanca. You know, it’s nowhere as romantic as the movies will have you believe. Before I came to Morocco, Casablanca to me was Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and a kiss is not a kiss. And then I went, and realised it was more decaying industrial city, taxi drivers who call you “my friend” (protip: when travelling, anyone who says “my friend” is not your friend) and a heck of a lot of tajines.

Casablanca is far from my favourite place in Morocco (that honor would probably go to Marrakesh), but it is the business centre of the country. So that’s how I found myself at the Sheraton Casablanca, the template definition of a Sheraton hotel.

This wasn’t my first time at the property- I had visited a couple of times in the past and remembered there was a Japanese restaurant where they cooked everything in butter, a nightclub full of women of ill-repute, and an executive lounge that didn’t have anything inside (more on that later). And yet, I still chose it over the much superior Sofitel, simply because it was part of SPG. See what loyalty does to your decision making?

So, where do I begin? The lobby was, well, it had Sheraton written all over it. Cold, marble floors, the unmistakable concrete and sharp edges of brutalist architecture and lighting that made it feel like constant twilight.

The lobby water feature failed to convey the sense of peace and calm it was presumably put there to do. Instead, the water sat stale and fetid, and probably breeding mosquitoes.

In theory there was a separate check-in area for Platinum members but never in my four visits to this hotel has it been staffed.

So I had to check in at the counter like an animal. Woe. On the plus side, the check-in associate was as cheerful as he could be for past midnight.

The previous few times I’d stayed here, I was upgraded to ridiculously large suites. Like, a room that had a separate dining room, three loos, kitchen, living room and two walk in closets or something like that. No such luck this time, even for a one night stay. I did however get both the 500 points and complimentary breakfast in the hotel restaurant.

The lift was…well it wasn’t bling. It was gold and shiny but I wouldn’t call it bling. The gold paint was tarnished and chipped in parts, and the mixture of French and Arabic engraved on the button plates made me think they really didn’t intend to renovate anytime soon.

The corridors and lift landings conveyed, or at least tried to convey, similar illusions of grandeur. And yet, still fell short somehow.

Dark, gloomy corridors with old worn out carpeting that was strangely mushy in some areas.

Random pictures in the corridors advertised a spa, but my understanding from colleagues who had visited before was that this spa offered conclusions of the joyous variety, so I did not partake.

My room had wooden flooring instead of carpet, a fact for which I was thankful.

The more trip reports I write, the more I realise the average hotel room really isn’t worth writing about. I mean, photos are great and all, but such is the cookie cutter nature of chain hotels that you’re not going to find anything out of the ordinary. The room will be clean (to the naked eye at least), it will have fresh sheets (one hopes), and it will not be retained in your long-term memory. The Sheraton Casablanca was no exception.

The bed is a Sheraton sweet sleeper, which can’t measure up to a Westin bed but is still comfortable enough.

There were a few free bottles of water and unripe fruit on the bedside.

I struggle to find something interesting to point out about the room, so I shall show you photos of exotic potato chips and nuts.

And a workdesk with, erm, a chair!

Obligatory bathroom pics. Marble walls, dirty shower curtain, adequate counter space.

Bonus points for attempted symmetry in crapper room.

Breaking news is that Sheraton is finally revamping its in-house toiletries. Yes, you read that right. The “Shine” brand is on the way out, to be replaced by “Le Grand Bain”

What do they look like? Here’s something that Google image search threw up. I’m still not won over, but what do I know about toiletries anyway.

Image result for le grand bain sheraton

I mentioned that the Executive Lounge was kind of weird and it still is, because I’ve hung out there the whole day in the past and they never did any happy hour, cocktails, breakfast, no nothing. The room seems to be for work and work only.

I mean, it’s probably got the most natural light of the whole hotel, and it’s clearly set up for F&B, so I’m confused as to why I never saw another soul inside.

But the coffee machine capsules kept getting replenished throughout the day. Twilight Zone stuff, really.

Breakfast is served at the Dafra restaurant on the 3rd floor.

Be warned that the level of English at the hotel is quite low (but I will hazard that their English is better than my French), so there were some exquisite communication difficulties at the egg station. The chef didn’t understand what sunny side up eggs were, nor fried, nor over easy, until some nice businessman took pity on me and helped me order in French.

Fortunately the rest of the food did not require French language skills. Unfortunately, it was really so-so.

I will say that at least the restaurant got a lot of natural light, which was a welcome change from the lobby.

The restaurant also overlooks the pool, which I did not use.

I mentioned the Sofitel Casablanca at the start of this post and I think it’s useful to bring it in again just for context- here’s where I could have stayed if loyalty weren’t an issue

Image result for sofitel casablanca

Image result for sofitel casablanca

Image result for sofitel casablanca

Image result for sofitel casablanca room

Image result for sofitel casablanca

It’s clearly a much, much superior property to the Sheraton, but that’s loyalty for you.

One last point- the hotel offers a prepaid taxi service to the airport, but I’d recommend arranging your own. Their service basically involves hailing a guy down from outside with one of those special vans. Despite being told it was an a/c van, the a/c was never switched on, the dude smoked the whole time and conveniently forgot whatever English he knew when I asked him to stop.

The next stop for me after Casablanca was Accra, but before that I’d have a chance to take a flight with Royal Air Maroc.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Four Points Barcelona Diagonal 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
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring 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.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Westin Vendome 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
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring 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 2017: 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 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
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring 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…