Tag Archives: starwood

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Four Points Riyadh

The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.


Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class  Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Seoul
W Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


It was 10pm in Riyadh and the weather outside the terminal was approximately 39 degrees and stable. The plan was to be in Riyadh for only 2 days, fortunately, because I really wasn’t looking forward to walking around in the heat.

There are three Starwood options in Riyadh, the Sheraton, Aloft and the Four Points. The Aloft wasn’t open yet, so I chose the Four Points even though it’s decidedly more downmarket because it was participating in SPG’s Triple Up promotion. See what happens when you opt out of promotions, SPG properties?

I had read stories about how unmarried men and women weren’t allowed to travel in the same vehicle together. I emailed the hotel asking whether we’d need two cars. Their reply-

Greetings From Four Points By Sheraton Riyadh!

 

Please be informed you here is no problem with sharing car with the female, so it’s not required 02 cars.

My colleague informed me she can’t remember the last time she was referred to as “the female”, but she was flattered to be addressed in such endearing terms nonetheless.

It took slightly under an hour to get to the hotel from the airport. Saudi drivers sure love American made cars and chains. I counted dozens of Chevrolets, Buicks, Fords and several Applebees and TGIFs on the way in.

The Four Points Riyadh is one of the largest Four Points I’ve ever seen. Here it is photographed in daylight. There are 26 floors in total with 367 rooms and 85 suites.

What you need to understand about Four Points by Sheraton is that it’s the select service brand of Sheraton (I love that term- select service. We’ll select what we want to serve to you and by golly you’re going to like it!). So don’t go in with high expectations and you won’t be disappointed. There’s a reason why Four Points dot airports, convention centers and highway rest areas worldwide.

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There was no line at check-in when we arrived shortly before midnight. I was upgraded to an executive suite and given both breakfast and 250 points as my amenity.

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My room was on the 19th floor.

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The suite was large with a separate kitchen area. There was a full sized fridge and an induction cooker.

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A very big work desk and living room area

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The bedroom was pretty standard stuff, though I did appreciate the blackout curtains. That Saudi sun’s not to be trifled with.

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A sufficiently large bathroom with push dispensers for soap and shampoo.

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I was pleased to note that the property participated in MAGC, but since it’s a Four Points the reward is only 250 points a night.

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It was the Ramadan period when I was there. Ramadan in Saudi is very different from Ramadan in more moderate countries. No restaurants can be open during the fasting hours. Muslims and non-Muslims alike cannot eat or drink (even water) in public. Room service in the hotels is your only option if you want to dine.

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The room service food was awful, though that might simply be my poor choice of cuisine. It might not be realistic to expect good tempura prawns in Riyadh.

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Or decent spaghetti bolognaise.

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The rest of the stay was largely unmemorable. On the final day of the stay we had an Air India flight to Mumbai departing at 0645 so we decided to leave the hotel at 0430. After all, surely a reputable national airline would run a tight schedule…

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Westin Zagreb, or one day more

The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.


Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class  Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Seoul
W Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


I got to Zagreb late in the evening after spending most of the day touring minefields in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I think it’s safe to say that I have a very unique job.

I ended up staying one night in Banja Luka at the Hotel Vila Vrbas, It’s a charming little waterfront property where each room has a Windows XP desktop PC for some inexplicable reason.  These 5 photos should sum up the experience.

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After that it was about a 2 hour car ride back to Zagreb where we’d catch a flight the next morning to Riyadh via Frankfurt. We crossed the border on land and I’m quite certain none of the border guards had ever seen a Singaporean passport before. But Singaporeans don’t need a visa for either Croatia or (more surprisingly) Bosnia and Herzegovina, so there wasn’t any issue (I didn’t manage to get a visa for Paraguay, where the authorities wanted the following documents, notarized and translated into Spanish- income tax returns, proof of employment, return ticket itinerary,  invitation letter, criminal record history and a medical letter from my doctor saying I did not have any STDs)

There are, surprisingly, two Starwood options in Zagreb. I decided to go with the Westin because (1) I needed a Westin brand for my 11 brands 11K points challenge and (2) the stay was only one night, so I wouldn’t be getting the triple points bonus for a Sheraton stay (min 2 nights required)

The Westin Zagreb is a really old hotel. The building it occupies was commissioned in 1975 and the hotel itself has gone through several rebrandings, starting life as the Intercontinental Zagreb, leaving the chain and becoming the independent Opera Hotel before joining up with Starwood under the Westin name.

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The lobby evokes Grand Budapest Hotel comparisons, what with its ancient carpets, marble pillars and old-timey lighting.

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Check-in was the standard drill. Platinum status acknowledged and room upgraded to a Suite (which you see in the floor plan below is basically the size of two rooms). However, they did not offer both the 500 points and breakfast. I chose the 500 points because we were leaving early the next morning anyway.

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The entrance foyer has a bathroom on the left and the living room straight through

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The living room was spacious with a large sofa, workdesk and lounging chair.

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Two bottles of complimentary water were available.

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This room also had the minibar with the token security seal. But because it pealed off easily I am a master safecracker, I managed to access the contents.

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The bedroom was vanilla. Nothing to get excited about. There was that awesome Westin bed though.  The toiletries were the standard Westin stuff.

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Sidenote: I’m genuinely surprised to find out that Westin toiletries retail for so much on the official site, especially when I don’t find them to be anything life-changing. The Westin leaf soap? S$23.95 for a pack of 5 pieces!

The standard Westin set of toiletries? S$26.12. That’s way too much for something I feel is just ok, perhaps one rung above Sheraton’s Shine line. 

Elsewhere, there is an on-site gym and indoor swimming pool

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Because it is Europe, there were gratuitous photos of naked people on the walls. I was very careful to delete these photos from my phone before I went to Saudi. You never know whose phones they check…

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Downstairs was the swimming pool

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Here’s what it looks like when it’s not crowded.

Unfortunately, when I went it was very crowded. And crowded with people who probably should not be wearing skimpy swimsuits. I am counting myself in that figure.

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I was really only in the hotel from 7pm till early next morning so it didn’t leave too much of an impression on me. Everything worked fine. The place needed a sprucing up. The staff were nice enough. I didn’t see the breakfast spread.

If this review sounds a bit disjointed and haphazard, it’s a good reflection of my mental state as I went to bed that night. I couldn’t sleep properly because I knew something much more exciting awaited the next day…

Earn SPG Gold status with a single stay (Updated: Extended till July 2017)

EDIT: This promotion has been extended for another year. Stay until 12 July 2017 and earn your SPG gold status! (see updated T&C here)

EDIT EDIT: This is only for World MC’s issued in Asia Pacific

EDIT EDIT EDIT: It seems they are now asking for a code when you register. You can call up the bank customer service to ask for this code. I suspect the codes are one-time use only because people have reported not being successful using other people’s codes

The Idea

  • SPG Gold usually requires 10 stays or 25 nights in 1 calendar year
  • If you have a World or World Elite Mastercard, you can sign up for a promotion that awards you SPG Gold with 1 stay at any Starwood Asia Pacific property by 13 July 2015
  • With SPG Gold you can get 4pm late checkout, a 50% points bonus, 250 bonus points per stay and room upgrades

The Details

There is an ongoing promotion which awards you SPG Gold with 1 stay at any Starwood Asia Pacific property by 13 July 2015.

SPG Gold is useful to have- you get guaranteed 4pm late checkout (which can be amazing to have when you’ve got a 6pm flight to catch and need a place to refresh prior), 50% bonus points earning, 250 bonus points per stay (at Four Points and Aloft you get 125 bonus points), room upgrades

So do you have a World Mastercard? If you own any of the following cards, you do

  • Manhattan World Mastercard
  • DBS Women’s World Mastercard
  • Maybank World Mastercard
  • Citi Dividend World Mastercard
  • Citi Paragon World Mastercard
  • Citi Rewards World Mastercard
  • HSBC Premier World Mastercard
  • CIMB World Mastercard
  • ANZ Optimum World Mastercard

It appears that the best way of getting in on this is to get a HSBC Premier World Mastercard– there is no annual fee and the minimum income requirement is S$30,000.

Alternatively you can get a Citi Rewards World Mastercard for S$30,000 min income and no first year annual fee.

As I mention in my post on hotel loyalty programs, if you’re the sort who believes in staying in the cheapest possible hotel, or in boutique hotels/B&Bs, this probably won’t interest you. But if you have an upcoming stay for a business trip at a Starwood property in the Asia Pacific region, why not register and get in on this?