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BrightlyBob's Blab

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A couple of months ago our youngest, Jazzy, turned 18 and as we had done with her elder brothers we offered her an 18th break. Of course this one was always going to be different, an all adult trip - all University students, Kian taking his Masters, Dan on his second year bachelors and Jazzy just about to commence her LLB. A very proud, if expensive, moment!

 

So it’s 5 nights - 2 on the beach at the AC Gava Mar and 3 at the Renaissance Fira with its oh-so-cool (but hot) Rooftop Pool!

 

And a very nice room at the AC Gava Mar...

 

Yes, the wardrobe proves it’ll be a “bright” break!

Lovely bath, note the embossed AC towels and transparent sink, pretty cool - I do like ACs

And finally our view the next day, oh yeah, nice start!

 

This hotel has been a long time coming. Formerly the Duke of Buckingham’s Hunting Lodge on the edge of Lancelot “Capability” Browns beautiful Langley Park this hotel has been comprehensively refurbished from its latest incarnation as the UKs National Lottery HQ.

 

We were here with the in-Laws using my 75-night certificate and I paid 35,000 points for the in-laws room. This place is a real bargain on points against standard room rates of £400/nt, but when we checked in early we were delighted to have been upgraded to 2 of the main house suites, in particular the in-laws had been upgraded to the centre-front of house Spencer Suite!

 

 

These rooms were sublime, beautifully furnished throughout with both roll-top soaker baths and separate “overhead rain showers”. 

 

 

The property has a full spa, and unusually for England, an outdoor pool that has literally opened just the day before our stay! Weather was 20c which was good enough for a sunbathe and swim!

 

 

We ate at the hotels Cedar Restaurant which offers both an a la carte and fixed price £75pp tasting menu (plus a £65pp matched wine taster) and although it’s received some criticism in the British press for slow service and inaccurate orders I think this was opening glitches. We went a la carte, our meal was superb and the service sublime. Breakfast was also in the Cedar and consisted of a cold buffet. It wasn’t particularly wide but it was offered to both our rooms as my Titanium amenity, and I later found out I could have upgraded to the full English for £8pp. Alas I didn’t due to conflicting information and the true policy only emerged after raising it with reception who consulted a manager and called me back later. 

 

However apart from the Titanium breakfast confusion this was a wonderful stay with great elite recognition, and as long as the hotel remains at 35k points per night it will be a proper bargain to redeem your points. We will definitely return!

This year we needed to save some cash so we’re giving our summer vacation a miss - not - really, I’m an insider, we don’t miss summer vacay! Instead of spending money however we’re blowing points redeeming on the Polish Riviera (yes, Polish Riviera, who knew?) for 2 nights at the Cat3 Gdynia Waterfront Courtyard and 7 nights at the Cat4 Sopot Sheraton on the beachfront burning a Travel Package certificate.

 

 

The 2-hour flights are courtesy of RyanScare at £35 each way including priority boarding, seat selection, backpacks and 10kilos of hand luggage each. I’ve ended up with one backpack - Mrs BrightlyBob has filched the rest of my luggage for her stuff. And she’s still complaining to any friends on Facebook that will listen!

 

Her misery levels will increase even more when she finds out that Sopot is actually colder than home, in fact it’s the coldest place on my Weather App - Oooops - and it’s raining too! 

 

In

 

But it’s a cheapo, and I’m sure the sun will break through at some point, although the 10-day weather forecast isn’t optimistic!

 

So travel with us to a soggy Polish Riviera. See the sights. Try the Pierogis - we do it so you don’t have to!

 

brightlybob

London Heathrow Bonvoys

Posted by brightlybob Jul 5, 2019


At long last tonight I made it through all the Bonvoy Heathrow hotels and am now able to give you the lowdown on the lot!
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So what are the choices? Well in order displayed by the Marriott website when searching LHR they are:
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1. Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel ——-Starting from £60/nt
2. Sheraton Skyline London Heathrow——— Starting from £80/nt
3. London Heathrow Marriott Hotel————-Starting from £90/nt
4. Sheraton Heathrow Hotel ———————-Starting from £70/nt
5. Moxy London Heathrow Airport—————Starting from £50/nt
6. Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel———— Starting from £70/nt
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FIRSTLY let’s deal with a much misunderstood fact - The “Heathrow Hoppa” shuttle-bus service. A cause of many complaints, it’s so unfair on the hotels as they have no say in the shuttle. You see Heathrow prohibits hotels using their own shuttle busses and provides facilities only for its own contracted monopoly bus provider, the “Heathrow Hoppa” and like any monopoly winner National Express that won the last bidding round takes full advantage! Lots of stops and an outrageous £5pp each way! On the other hand it does mean that if you’re toting too much luggage for the free local bus then with the Hoppa there’s no real obvious disadvantage for any hotel, except the Moxy which is one of the longest rides and the Heathrow Windsor Marriott where the Hoppa there only connects to T5!
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So, what are Bonvoys Heathrow options like?
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Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel
Giant 1960s Heathrow sleep factory. No swimming pool and the “fitness room” feels a bit like the afterthought it obviously is, but it does have a good variety of equipment. Modern and recently refurbished the rooms are very small, I have no idea how 2 adults sharing a double room with 2 hold cases apiece would organise themselves.
The 3rd floor lounge is however the best of all the LHR Bonvoys, firstly because it overlooks the runway and secondly because of it’s 4 hours free beer and wine. Lounge food is a “chefs presentation of mini appetisers” which won’t serve as a meal but you can ask for seconds!
Bread, cheese and desserts are help yourself and there are generous amounts of each that are promptly replenished as they run down, so you can make an evening meal of it, especially if you like artisan bread, desserts and cheeses. I do, and as a result eat well! Finally Exec lounge guests can take breakfast free in the restaurant which is an excellent buffet with a chef for eggs and omelettes. The restaurant and bar are large and well run, day and evening food is solid rather than spectacular and subject to usual hotel pricing. There’s also a Cha Coffee shop serving Starbucks that is open lengthy hours. The Three Magpies Pub is an easy walk but if eating, The Pheasant which is a little further but still walkable is worth the effort. The hotel is very easily accessed by the free London Buses, indeed it’s the closest on the bus route. Parking £15/nt.
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Sheraton Skyline London Heathrow
Another enormous 1960s property but with more facilities than the Renaissance. The pool is a real feature of the property in the centre quad it features a tiki-bar and plenty of tables to enjoy your Zombie Cocktail! The pool itself is very much recreational, it’s all great fun!
There’s also a tidy gym too. Rooms are large but old-fashioned, however everything has been well maintained.
The lounge is on the top floor and you can vaguely see the runway through one of its windows. The decor is definitely very “gentlemen’s club” and offers 2 hours of free beer and wine 7 days a week.
Food offerings are help yourself but you’ll struggle to make a meal of what’s on offer unless you’re a fan of the ubiquitous salad bowl! Like the Renaissance you can choose breakfast in the lounge or restaurant and it’s a good breakfast spread there! The hotel has a large American sports bar serving American style food and a big Indian restaurant too.  If you want to eat or drink offsite it’s easy walking distance to the Pheasant which is a very good traditional urban English Pub. Finally the Skyline is also on the free bus route. Parking £15/nt.
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London Heathrow Marriott Hotel
Built about 20 years ago it has a large atrium design upon entry. Usually the priciest option it does have a very nice gym and pool. Rooms are large and recently refurbished to the new Marriott palette but have (thankfully) retained their desks!
The internal lounge is on the ground floor and really too small for the numbers. You can certainly make a meal of the food here and like the Renaissance there’s free beer and wine lasting 4 hours, 7 days a week. Unlike the Renaissance and Skyline lounge, breakfast is in the lounge only, unless due to overcrowding you’re directed to the restaurant. Which brings us to the restaurant which is a Carluccios, an upmarket Italian-style chain. Food here is very good, in my view, the best of all the Bonvoy choices, but then I do enjoy Carluccios!
Like the Skyline, if you want to eat or drink offsite it’s easy walking distance to the Pheasant which is a very good Pub. Finally the Marriott is also on the free bus route. Parking £15/nt.
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Sheraton Heathrow Hotel
 
Another big 1960s build recently refurbished but unlike the Renaissance the rooms are much bigger and the quality of the finish feels better too.
The lounge here is internal but a good size with a variety of seating and good evening food, albeit it’s difficult to make a meal of what’s provided here.
Like the Skyline beer and wine is a 2-hour service from 6pm to 8pm. The Orchard Restaurant is nicely set up and serves mainly British food at customarily high hotel prices, it does have plenty of tables so you’ll have no problems being seated which is a good thing as this property is off the main hotel run where you’ll find the first 3 which means that McDonalds is really your only off-site food choice, and requires sprinting across the dual carriageway. It is on the free bus routes but not the same as the first 3, and less busses run, so a longer wait for the free service is likely however it is by some distance the closest one to T5 on the free bus zone. Parking £15/nt.
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Moxy London Heathrow Airport
Welcome Millenials - to Bonvoys newest Heathrow Property built in 2017. Small bedrooms (but still bigger than the Renaissance rooms) and an absence of desks, wardrobes, Exec lounge and a pool make this a pared back choice. Although there is a large fitness room with a good variety of equipment.
But it is cheap, I’ve stayed here at £50 on a 5,000 point BRG - theres serious value right there, especially with its $10pp daily amenity that can be spent in its huge bar. There’s also some food available and as it’s very much at the edge of the Heathrow hotel zone there’s a couple of offsite local restaurants (turn right out the doors) and both KFC and Costa are an easy walk down the road (turn left out the doors). If all you’re after is a drink though the hotel bar is definitely a great place to spend some time and it’s always busy! Connection wise there is of course the Hoppa but no free busses as although it’s on the 105, 111 and 140 bus routes it’s past the free zone so costs £1.50 payable only by contactless credit card (USA contactless usually fails) or London’s Oyster card. Parking is however £3 cheaper than the rest at £12 per night.
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Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel
Ok, let’s be honest here, it’s neither Heathrow nor Windsor but it is situated right next to a “Welcome to Slough” sign! I think it claims it’s Heathrow monicker by having a T5 Hoppa Bus service and charging Heathrow’s ubiquitous £15 per night car parking charge! This is another giant property with a maze of corridors but you’ll find yourself in a large room replete with last decades furnishings and beige carpets minus the red bedrunners!
The hotel has been well maintained though and benefits from a gym and pool too. The ground floor exec lounge is small and you may have to share tables at times but food provision is very good, it’s easy to make a full meal of it there. Unusually for British Marriotts the free beer and wine only lasts 2 hours and it’s the only Marriott in the country to close the lounge on weekends. Plat breakfast can be taken in either the lounge or restaurant and when closed breakfast is restaurant only, but it is the best restaurant breakfast of all the Heathrow choices listed here, in fact it’s one of Europes best Bonvoy buffets! Restaurant food is also very good here and it has a beer garden with a kiddie playground too, so in the summer paying for your beer can give you a nice outdoor drink and the kids a little runaround! Although there’s not much within walking distance there are two pubs, a Toby and a Harvester, both good chain pubs. Of course you do have the delights of Windsor just a £10 Uber ride away with its extensive history and foodie choices so there’s no need to be bored at the Heathrow/Windsor Marriott. Alas no free bus service but as mentioned there is a T5 Hoppa. Parking £15/nt.

2 Cities, 2 SNAs and 2 Mini-TIPPLES (over 7 nights in 4 hotels)

 

Well Mrs BrightlyBob and I ended up on something of an odyssey staying 7 nights in 4 hotels, 2 in London, 2 in Budapest. It wasn’t quite meant that way but as one door closed another opened necessitating changes that led me to this:

 

Thursday 23 May - Intercontinental London Park Lane. What a beautiful property this is, here I used an expiring IHG credit card free-night certificate, originally for a mini-TIPPLE with jerryl, I got the wrong date and accidentally booked in for 23 instead of 25 May. Alas, I realised my error too late and had I then cancelled I would have lost the certificate so I decided to keep hold of the night though was very unsure whether I’d use it. As it happened a trial came up in Southampton and although London isn’t the most convenient place to start from, it’s better than Manchester!

 

Beautifully kept property we were upgraded to a Park Lane Suite for our night.

 

 

This is a lovely spacious hotel with great public areas. It’s not in the same league as London’s grandest Hotels such as Claridges, The Savoy or the Gresham, but it holds its own against The JW, County Hall and, as I found out, the Sheraton Grand. Alas IHGs highest elite level, Spire, qualifies for neither free lounge access nor breakfast at the Intercontinental brand and although it costs 70,000 IHG points they are really the equivalent of 50,000 Bonvoys so it does at least cost comparatively less. As it turned out my 6am start on Friday wouldn’t have permitted breakfast anyway, but I did miss the Thursday evening lounge access.

 

Friday & Saturday 24 and 25 May - London Sheraton Grand. Here I used 2 SNAs for a upgrade to their Park View Suite and they cleared 5 days beforehand.

 

It’s a bit Tracey Emin now but trust us, it was a lovely bedroom when we walked in!

 

 

 

I was meant to be meeting jerryl for a mini-TIPPLE on the Saturday but his plans changed however mine didn’t as me and Mrs BrightlyBob were flying from Stansted to Budapest so we kept the weekend. And what a lovely weekend it was! There’s nothing quite as relaxing as an impromptu weekend in a Luxury London hotel in a beautiful suite with no sightseeing or agenda. As a Bonvoy Titanium I received free lounge access and an enquiry via Chat confirmed that as we’d chosen restaurant breakfast as our amenity we could have it in our room paying just the tray charge. Now there’s a relaxing start to each day - or it would be if it hadn’t arrived 45 mins late and totally cold! Honestly, it had clearly been plated on-time and then left standing despite a couple of calls from me over the 45 mins asking when I was likely to eat. A somewhat irritated word with management produced a fresh cooked to order breakfast and an offer of a bottle of Moët by way of apology. Alas neither I nor Mrs BrightlyBob are champagne drinkers (Mrs BB is teetotal and I already had a Welcome bottle of red from the hotel to consume - yes bejacob, the hotel in-Room Welcome gift is still not dead!) and although the mother-in-law would have loved it we were travelling hand-baggage-only on RyanAir to Budapest so there was no way it could even join us on our travels and end up back in Blighty in a week, so I requested points instead and they very generously posted 5,000 points to my account that same day. As it turned out that wasn’t to be the only bottle of champers offered to me that day!

 

Now usually I operate via the mottoes “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” and “a classic sign of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result” but breakfast in bed is such a rare treat that I tried it again on the Sunday morning, this time booking for a little earlier on the basis if it didn’t turn up we’d just make our way to the restaurant. This time it turned up on time and hot. A lovely treat indeed.

 

I’ve already mentioned the 2 key benefits Bonvoy brings to the table over IHG, and with breakfast working out well (eventually) I guess we should address the other key benefit of Bonvoy over IHG, the lounge access. 

 

 

Unlike most Marriott branded lounges, the Sheraton Grands is huge with a variety of seating in a lovely art-Deco style room, something that is maintained via the background soundtrack, no piped “muzak” here! Cream Tea was a real treat with both fruit and plain scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and a constantly changing selection of lovely cakes. This was the same food as they were serving in the Palm Court for £30pp!

 

The lounge Evening food was meatballs and pasta both nights with a couple of cheeses, a wide variety of breads and salads. There’s a full open bar including bottled Peroni, red and white wine and top-shelf liquor. Mostly manned you’re welcome to help yourself if it’s not. One oddity, as closing time approaches at every lounge I’ve used, someone usually tours the lounge offering a final food and liquor opportunity, but not here. By 7.40pm it was packed-up and gone! Alas that last-minute reminder is a part of lounge service I rely on so ended up going to the counter at 7.40pm both nights to find it dry!

 

Now you may remember I’ve referred to mini-TIPPLES. 2 were planned one with jerryl in London where I’d join him at the County Hall Lounge, the other with jw99 where I’d be joining him in the Budapest Marriott lounge. Well the one with Jerry, he had to rearrange his plans so it went by the wayside but as I sat in the Sheraton lounge on Saturday evening I was approached by a lovely lady who out of the blue asked “excuse me, but are you BrightlyBob?” And with those words commenced a mini-TIPPLE with 2 Insider-lurkers, Diane and her husband, Jim. Although neither have yet joined Insiders they’ve been lurking for a couple of years and on this trip to London took the advice of yours truly staying at the Renaissance Heathrow for a cheap arrival night, the Renaissance St Pancras for a few nights to try out that side of town and of course the fabulous Chambers lounge and finally the Sheraton Grand for the full Mayfair experience. I reckon they made great choices and certainly seemed to have enjoyed their transatlantic London visit!

 

Impromptu mini-TIPPLE, now it’s time to join in you two. You’ve much travel knowledge to share with us!

 

You may have noticed I’m without MrsBrightlyBob here and that’s because although MrsBrighlyBob enjoys the lounge provisions she enjoys her kids too so while I was supping my last beer she was calling the kids before we took a bath and made our way out into Mayfair for the night. We often do that when we’ve got lounge access, it gives her an opportunity to relax in the room and call the kids and I get a last beer or two and post on Insiders! Anyhow, later that evening the very kind Diane called me in my room to say Jim was at our door with a bottle of champers which was really kind, but for the same reason I didn’t accept the hotels Moët, so I asked Diane&Jim (which is the handle I’m giving them till they join and choose their own, partly in tribute to the wonderful brianandlin handle that did get discussed, yup brilin that Bud&Crisps thread is a legend!) if they would enjoy it themselves as we just couldn’t have got it drank, being just a teetotaller and a beer (and single malt scotch) drinker. It was a really kind gesture you both and I hope you enjoyed it yourselves!

 

So Saturday turned into Sunday and our journey from the Sheraton onto the Victoria line at Green Park changing to the Central Line at Oxford Circus and alighting at Liverpool Street for the Stansted Express to the airport, a total journey time from hotel to airport security of 90 mins. The usual cramped but on-time style of a £50 RyanAir flight and we’d arrived in Budapest.

 

Sunday, Monday & Tuesday 26 and 27 & 28 May is spent in Budapest for our bargain 3-night redemption stay at the Intercontinental where as usual they upgraded us to a river view room. 

 

 

 

The Budapest Intercontinental has always been a bit of a bargain at 35,000 IHG Points which is the equivalent of just 25,000 Bonvoy. Of course there’s no lounge access and no breakfast but food and beer is very cheap here and we like to get out and about in Budapest. Plus, of course I’d get my lounge fix by trailing into the Marriott lounge in jw99’s wake for my second mini-TIPPLE.

 

Me with jw99 and his wonderful wife on the Marriott lounge terrace, Buda Castle in the background

 

It turned out that JW99 was there with his charming wife on a lengthy Central European tour having already visited Vienna and Prague staying at the Marriotts there and they were meeting me on their final night before departing Budapest moving on to Split, picking up a hire car to the Dubrovnik Hilton and planning a daytrip drive over the border into Montenegro and the the old walled town of Kotor

 

Leave your car at the town gates, Kotor is a motor-free town!

 

 As usual the Budapest lounge was busy but plenty of food, full bar and help-yourself beer and wine. I don’t think jw99 much appreciated the sugared milk and rum I brought out to them but I certainly appreciated their company as our TIPPLE took us around such subjects as the new scheme, lounges, point-hoarding, airline Miles, Trump, Brexit, Budapest (obviously) past TIPPLEs and brianandlin (have I mentioned that Bud and Crisps thread?). I had a great time and it was a wonderful meet-up sat on the Terrace overlooking Budapests historic Chain Bridge and Buda Castle. Thank very much you two for agreeing to share a little of your vacation time with me, and I hope you’re enjoying Split right now!

 

Wednesday 29 MayAnd thus as I wake up this morning it’s time to move on again, this time to the Budapest Courtyard chosen because our Thursday morning plane is 6am which means leaving the hotel at 4am and I couldn’t countenance spending 35,000 IHG points on such a “short night” when I was able to get the Courtyard on a €86 BRG and having just checked in online we’ve been upgraded to one if their suites too!

 

 

 

If there’s any doubt the City Centre Courtyard is a business hotel, this version of a suite settles it! Spacious, with a full boardroom it’s air-conditioned and with a comfy bed, it does the trick. Happy endings one and all!

Yes, in the absence of the full-caffeine TIPPLE, this may well be the biggest of the year, and it’s underway

On a tourist-packed Westminster Bridge with Marriotts County Hall and the London Eye in the background.

 

Today I met up with bejacob and his enchanting better half Karen at County Hall for a few Camden Town beers and a chat about all things Bonvoy in the Gillrays bar overlooking the Houses of Parliament. 

 

 

After a few drinks and a lot of chat I made my way to meet pey at the Heathrow Renaissance 

 

and supped my way with him through a few Sols in the Exec lounge before being joined by his better half, the fragrant Elaine. I was meant to be travelling with my wife but she’s had a minor accident and didn’t feel up to it but I know she’s watching this thread - mwah, darling!

 

On Saturday morning I’ll be checking out of the Renaissance to make my way to the Aloft Excel and then venture out in the afternoon to meet up in Covent Garden with brilin, normanp, and if his flights work out, hallchr to have a gander at ThePointsGuy’s UK popup shop and hopefully get some free swag, and maybe win some miles too! From there we’re planning on meeting with Pey and Bejacob at Gillrays in County Hall around 6pm. Should be a great day!

And that place is the UK - Now my American friends, please do not be put off, this isn’t an in depth analysis of the hotel business in the UK, but a breakdown of the inflationary effect of Marriott’s category changes in this country. 

 

Although the UK is top-heavy in full service and hence high-category hotels I think it’s a good place to analyse the effect of the latest category changes, in no small part because it’s a smaller market but with a good category distribution. With less than 100 properties it’s maths are manageable without talking in the thousands of hotels and billions of points. It’s also much easier to gather the data. And that’s what I’ve done.

 

The last time I looked at this in June 2018 I found that the combining of both Marriott and SPG programs led to a net reduction of 6,000 points to redeem for 1 night at every UK Marriott/Starwood property. Has the latest announcement of category changes effected that?

 

Well, the launch of Bonvoy next week will be followed swiftly by a category adjustment and right now we have the following category numbers in the UK:

 

Category | Number of Hotels | Points per night | Total Points 

 

1.                         0.                           0.                        0

2.                         3.                      12,500.               38,000

3.                       13.                      17,500.             227,000

4.                       32.                      25,000.             800,000

5.                       24.                      35,000.             840,000

6.                         8.                      50,000.             400,000

7.                       12.                      60,000.             720,000

8*                         1.                      85,000.               85,000

 

Total Points to stay one night at every UK Bonvoy @ 28/02/19 - 3,110,000

 

*Note although Cat 8 didn’t start in 2018, I calculated in June 2018 on the basis of its existence and hence the London Wellesley at Category 8 since it’s reduction was merely temporary.

 

Point adjustments on 5 March 2019

 

1 increase from Cat 3 to 4   =   7,500

4 increase from Cat 5 to 6   = 60,000

1 increase from Cat 7 to 8   = 25,000

LESS

1 decrease from Cat 7 to 6  = 10,000

 

Total net increase is.               83,000 points

 

As a result the new category list in the UK looks like this:

 

Category | Number of Hotels | Points per night | Total Points 

 

1.                         0.                           0.                        0

2.                         3.                      12,500.               38,000

3.                       12.                      17,500.             210,000

4.                       33.                      25,000.             825,000

5.                       20.                      35,000.             700,000

6.                       13.                      50,000.             650,000

7.                       10.                      60,000.             600,000

8.                         2.                      85,000.             170,000

 

 

Total Points to stay one night at every UK Bonvoy @ 10/03/19 - 3,203,000

 

Overall this represents an increase of 2.7%. To be honest I didn’t expect a big increase this time around, I think despite its bullish public position that the merger went well overall and problems effected only a small number of members, in private Marriott realises it’s in the doghouse with us here and doesn’t need to start waving the red flag of depreciation to top-off its - and hence our - IT woes.

 

As a matter of interest all the UK changes have effected the London hotels. The London Edition which was in 2018 slated to remain at Category 7 is the Cat 8 climber, joining the Wellesley there. If I recall correctly the Edition was originally launched in 2013 at 35,000 points. In days now it’ll be 85,000, that’s one heck of a rise! The London Gatwick Courtyard is the one that went from Cat 3 to 4 and the London Marriotts in Kensington and Regents Park increased from Cat 5 to 6, as did the Residence Inn London Bridge and Autograph Xenia. The sole reduction from Cat 7 to 6 was the Autograph Bankside...

 

 

UPDATED 7th August 2019

 

I first posted this thread on 7th January 2019, the day after checking out of the Marriott Worsley Park...

 

2018 ended with me chasing up pointshorting problems on 3 of my final 4 stays and a repeated problem that has beset my entire Marriott membership has reached near epidemic proportions, this last 3 months far more stays are significantly pointshorted, or just plain missing, than post correctly. And I have to chase up Marriotts errors - if indeed they are errors, because let’s face it, pointshorting, if uncorrected has to be a MAJOR saving for hotels. So this year I’ve decided to keep a blog, here, of all instances of pointshorting and the efforts I make to remedy them.

 

This could be MRI’s quietest ever Blog, though I suspect not!

 

So 2018 ended with the Marriott Leeds pointshorting me 10,000 points on a pre-Christmas stay, which wasn’t completely rectified till mid January 2019. Can the new year begin on an optimistic note? Bearing in mind Marriotts IT managed to cancel all last years untaken Choice awards despite the fact that everyone had till 14 Jan of the following year to make their choices, I suspect not...

 

I checked out of the Marriott Worsley Park on 6 January asking for paper receipts for both of my 2 rooms and on 8 January Marriott grasped the first opportunity of 2019 to riff me of 5,640 points. Thus the new year began as the old one ended. This consistency is NOT a good thing, Marriott.

 

2019 Results

 

Jan 04 to Jan 06 Marriott Worsley Park $435 net - 1,127 base points credited - Pointshorted by 5,640 points

Jan 10 to Jan 11 Marriott BexleyHeath - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Jan 11 to Jan 12 Renaissance LHR - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Jan 31 to Feb 01 Marriott York - spend points correct but 4,000 promo bonus points failed to post

Feb 17 to Feb 18 Marriott Cardiff - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Mar 23 to Mar 24 Marriott Canary Wharf - spend points correct but 3,000 promo bonus points failed to post

Mar 24 to Mar 25 Autograph London Dixon - spend points correct but 4,000 promo bonus points failed to post

Mar 30 to Mar 31 Marriott Preston - $330 net - 2,608 base points & no 4,000 bonus  - Pointshorted by 6,925 points

 

First Quarter Marriott Bonvoy pointshorted me 23,565 points

 

Apr 26 to 27. Renaissance LHR - points and night credit posted correctly

Apr 27 to 28. Aloft London Excel - points and night credit posted correctly

Apr 28 to 29. Moxy London Excel - Missing Stay. Nothing credited nor BRG - Point shorted by 7,800 points

Apr 29 to 30. Marriott Leeds - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

May 03 to 04. Marriott Canary Wharf - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

May 04 to 05. Marriott Canary Wharf - points, night credit and promo bonus posted correctly

May 24 to 26. Sheraton London Park Lane - points and night credit posted correctly

May 29 to 30. Courtyard Budapest - points and night credit posted correctly

Jun 07 to 08. Marriott Preston - spend points correct but 4,000 promo bonus points failed to post

 

Second Quarter Marriott Bonvoy pointshorted me 11,800 points

 

Jul 05 to 06 Sheraton LHR - points and night credits posted correctly 
Jul 08 to 10 Courtyard Gdynia - points and night credits posted correctly 
Jul 10 to 17 Sheraton Sopot - points and night credits posted correctly 
Jul 26 to 27 Marriott Leicester - points and night credits posted correctly 

 

This is a good start to the 3rd quarter!

Welcome to the new year everyone. And I’ve decided to start the new year with a lengthier-than-normal post for you to digest with your 2019 breakfast coffee. And what else should be the subject other than Brexit - um, no. Trump? Erm, double no!! Let’s try the new, as yet un-named scheme. That sounds appropriate, even if similarly controversial to the other two!

So what do we think of the new, as yet un-named, scheme folks?

I’m (less than randomly) calling it Bonvoy and the points awarded BonPoints (BP). And this is my take.

Like all the other hotel loyalty programs, it’s based upon a stool with 4 legs. Firstly the Elite levels that determine the nights required for each ascending tier, secondly the in-stay benefits each tier confers, thirdly the pointearning rate and the final leg, the point cost of redemptions. And to make it easier to digest, I’ve broken the post into separate comments. After all, it’s a big subject!

Ok, this isn’t Marriott related, but it is points related - IHG points to be exact.

 

Remember us IHGers repeatedly pointing out how much more generous IHG is with its free point offers. Whilst Marriott was offering 250 points for twittering in 2016, 1,000 points for answering in 2017 and 50 points for competing in 2018, IHG blows it all out of the water with an offer of 5,000 points for a single tweet! 

 

You’ll need to visit IHGs HomeWithIHG page, click through to Twitter, follow IHGRewardsClub on Twitter and post a picture of yourself at home or at any IHG hotel, then hashtag your tweet #HomeWithIHG #ad #Rewardsoffer and @IHGRewardsClub and tweet it out. Then return back to the HomeWithIHG page to claim your 5,000 points. Well worth the effort, I reckon!

 

Heres my tweet:

 

At home with IHG at Holiday Inn Poole #HomeWithIHG #ad #Rewardsoffer @IHGRewardsClub 


 

But you need to be fast. The offer was launched a few hours ago and although claiming to be live till 31st December has already been published by Britain’s biggest blog www.headforpoints and will easily garner 5,000 entries from followers of that blog alone (eh fistuk, eh, eh?). And IHG is only offering this to the first 10,000 tweeters. OneMileAtaTime has also gotten hold of it, as has our very own prolific twitterer starguy and with all his followers y’know it won’t be long till it’s all tweeted out, so if you’ve got an IHG account and fancy supplementing it 5,000 points in a single tweet, what are you doing still reading this? Get it done now! It took me much longer to post this here than it took me to tweet out and claim my 5,000 IHG points!

brightlybob

Timperley Teeny-TIPPLE

Posted by brightlybob Nov 17, 2018

Timperley is my home, a small urban village south of Manchester near Altrincham and Manchester Airport (MAN). 

 

brilin is the new identity of SPG enthusiast and all-round troublemaker formerly known as brianandlin. He was forced to change his insider handle when having chosen his SPG number as his account going forward following the merger he then found he couldn’t access his brianandlin identity which was of course based on the Marriott account he’d signed up for shortly after the takeover, but was now cancelled following his choice to stick with his SPG account moving forward. Hence a new handle was necessary.

 

Now Brian lives in Stockport which is just a short train ride from Timperley on the creaking 19th century Stockport to Chester line that somehow managed to avoid Beechings 1950s “hack and slash” line closures. Equipped with 1960s rolling stock it’s not a glamorous journey but is remarkably direct turning what can often be an hours traffic into a 15 minute trainride. A few DMs and we’d arranged a mini crawl around Timperley sampling our two village pubs, the Stonemasons Arms and the Quarry Bank. We enjoyed a couple of pints at each sticking to each pubs classic bitters, Timothy Taylor’s at the Stonemasons and Hyde’s at the Quarry. 

 

No, it’s not blurred, it’s set to highest handsomeness filter, well mid-highest actually, highest deleted us both!

 

Our discussions inevitably centred on our Marriott and SPG experiences, mine from the point of view of a U.K. business stayer with the inadequacy of SPGs “London and Edinburgh only” coverage and Brian’s from the position of a retiree leisure traveller taking cheap SqueezyJet and RyanScare flights around Europe and finding that SPG offered the best coverage and real one-to-one treatment that he feels, and I agree, Marriott just doesn’t provide. Brian’s conversations touched on Starwood hotels to be found at Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Sofia, Leipzig, Krakow, Sopot, Fuerteventura, Split, Malta, Lisbon and Barcelona. For my part I tried to wax lyrical about the Marriotts in Leeds, Peterborough, Northampton and Preston but it was clear I wasn’t cutting it in this conversation. Our most discussed shared experience was the Huntingdon Marriott, personally I found it to be an unremarkable property, typical of Marriotts edge-of-town inventory, Brian was more animated, it being the foundation stone of his rabble rousing reputation of which he is so justifiably proud, here Is this some kind of joke? 

 

Alas the evening went too quickly and before I knew it I was walking him back to his train home with a promise that I’d make my way over to Stockport where he’ll be arranging a tour of the local Robinsons Brewery next year. Sounds good to me Brian!

My good friend and fellow TIPPLER pey is making a visit to Blighty and as a man of taste he’s chosen the St Pancras Renaissance for his stay enjoying its spectacularly generous lounge facilities. He invited me to join him as his guest for a Teeny TIPPLE and who was I to refuse?

 

Now alas I’m not flash with points and so I had to find a cheap place to lay my head afterwards so searched and found London’s cheapest Marriott, the Moxy Heathrow, just an hours tube ride on the Picaddily line that runs directly under the St Pancras Renaissance. And finding a £50 LNF and choosing points gave me 5,000 points or the LNF, 600 points for the rate, 450 Plat Premier points and 500 arrival points, plus as my second brand 1,000 megabonus points. Finally adding on the 300 AMEX points gives a grand haul of 7,850 points of the £50 ($65) night! Score!

 

And of course the opportunity of a lovely train ride to London, too. Alas my usual route of walk to Navigation station, pick up the 10 minute train to Stockport and then the 2-hour train to London wasn’t available due to some hooray-berk smashing into a railway bridge. Normally this is no problem as I’d just use the train to Manchester Piccadilly from Navigation station, alas there are engineering world and the entire line is closed. So this is going to be a grand journey indeed. So here goes

 

11.00 leave home, walk to Baguley Station 

 

11.30 arrive Baguley Station

 

 

11:35 Catch tram to St Peters Sq

 

12:05 Arrive St Peters, start walk to Piccadilly train station

 

12:20 Arrive Piccadilly station

 

12:25 Board train to London

 

 

 

 

12:35 Train sets off for London

 

 

14.45 Train arrives Euston slightly late

 

14:55 Arrive at Ren St Pancras 

 

15:00 Meet pey at The Booking Office

 

16:30 TeenyTIPPLE in full swing

 

 

 

21:30 Said goodbye to Mrs pey, good night had!

 

A question entered my mind recently. Earn and burn - or not?

 
I’ve been a member of Marriott Rewards since 2006 and started redeeming my points in 2008, burning broadly as I earned. I’ve kept a record of all my redemptions over the years and these featured in my The long and rewarding road to Lifetime Platinum blog post. But when answering the thread How many points do you keep in the bank? I asked myself, since I always advise to burn as you earn, is that actually good advice? And if so, by how much?
 
Now this should be simply a matter of totalling up the points redeemed by category nights but it’s not that simple, not all redemption methods make sense now, or are even possible, in particular I’m never likely to redeem a travel package, the old redemption cheques have long since gone, and some hotels I redeemed at are no longer part of the Marriott group. So ignoring those and counting only the direct redemptions I’ve made over the past decade, how did things turn out? And what did a decade of category creep do to my choices?
 
Well, my records show I redeemed a total of 99 nights within those qualifying parameters from 2008 to date costing a total of 2,110,000 points to redeem, taking into account those instances when I stayed 5 or more nights thus receiving a free night. Those different hotel-nights ended up in the following new categories:
 
New Category-—-Nights————Points now required

Cat 1 ————-— 1 night————————7,500
Cat 2 ————-- 3 nights———————-37,500
Cat 3 ————-- 18 nights———-———315,000
Cat 4 —————49 nights —————-1,100,000
Cat 5 —————- 6 nights————-——175,000
Cat 6 —————10 nights———-———450,000
Cat 7 ————— 12 nights——————720,000

 

TOTAL TO REDEEM NOW —————-2,805,000

So, that’s it. To redeem these self same properties for the self same number of nights that did cost me 2,110,000 points would now cost a total of 2,805,000 points, that’s an increase of 695,000 points, a category creep amounting to 33% over a decade. Sounds awful, right? Well, I thought so too, till I examined the inflation record, which has from 2008 to date stood at 30%! Admittedly that is the figure over the decade assuming you had all that cash in 2008, I’ve earned and burned and the points earned earned in 2008 had been redeemed by 2010, by 2013 I was burning points I’d earned in 2011 etc, etc. Whichever way you look at it, however, saving points for the long term future is a road to stealth devaluation by category creep and program changes.
Its important to realise, this isn’t a treatise to spend points earned yesterday today, saving points for that big redemption is a big part of what this game is about, but hoarding generally over a decade or more is the long term road to devaluation. Yes, let them build up over a year or two for that big redemption, yes keep a war chest available for that bargain redemption when cash prices are sky-high, but they’re a poor long term savings plan, I redeemed those 695,000 “lost” points for 2 travel packages giving me 240,000 airline miles and 2 weeks of hotel stays. I would have lost those to Marriotts inflation had I hoarded them!

Yes, once-upon-a-time Hilton had an earn and redeem proposition that made its program a leader in value. Then in 2007 it fell into the hands of Corporate Raiders Blackstone who simply intended to increase earnings from hotels by charging franchisees more and slash costs by dismissing staff and cutting the wages of those that remained, then sell it on and pocket the profit. Instead the financial crisis happened and nobody was doing deals. Blackstone was left as long-term owners, and so looked at other ways to maximise profits till they could unload. Eventually their search of the Hilton Manor led them to the Hilton Honors loyalty program and with a wolfish grin they sharpened their knives...

 

Ok, so it’s a Coyote, but I like Wile.E. Coyote, and it’s my blog, right!

 

I’ll not go into the gory details on the rest of the sorry story. Needless to say Blackstone gutted the earn and burn proposition but expanded in-stay benefits that of course are paid for by the franchisees, not Hilton. Eventually Blackstone floated Hilton and earlier this year sold their final stake into the market, ending an 11-year holding.

 

Hilton has recently announced its improved top-tier Diamond benefits package that includes free breakfast across all brands and no Resort fees on redemption. More improvements paid for by franchisees, but it seemed an indication that Marriotts biggest and closest competitor was making a play to increase its membership whilst Marriott was going through its merger pains. But what Hilton hasn’t announced is the end of its 5,000 points starting price. 

 

Now to be honest Hilton's 5,000 point starting price didn’t cover many properties, indeed according to Loyalty Lobby here  Hilton Honors Master Property List March 2018 | LoyaltyLobby they numbered just 47 of its 5,221 hotels. There were 154 properties at 10,000 points, and 6 - yes you read that right, just 6 - 15,000 pointers. Alas, even those measly numbers were too high for Hilton’s cost-cutters.

 

Hilton announced a couple of years ago that it would no longer be publishing property redemption movements and here it’s been as good (or bad) as its word. Effectively it seems virtually all the 5k, 10k and 15k properties have been moved to 20,000 points with just the merest smattering kept back at 10,000. I found just one in Europe, at Newport. Remember, in reality only 207 of Hilton's 5221-property inventory were under 20,000 points. Now I suspect we’ll be lucky if there’s double figures. Effectively, Hilton’s redemptions now start at 20,000 points. Of the 10-base points per $ brigade Marriotts redemptions start at 7,500, IHG at 10,000 and Hilton now at 20,000. Bearing in mind that IHG introduced two new top categories at 65,000 and 70,000 points this year, just a couple of years after introducing categories 55,000 and 60,000 and the pattern is clear, the big boys don’t particularly care about their redemption values, cutting at both the top and the bottom and devaluing when a key rival is struggling to merge its gargantuan program suggests whichever scheme we belong to we need to keep a careful eye on both cash and redemption rates, and a firm hand on our wallet and pockets - The Man is after us all!

brightlybob

Take me to your leader!

Posted by brightlybob Sep 15, 2018

Anybody checked the community leaderboard lately?

 

Well maybe you should because we have a new top-of-the-tree leader. 

 

All hail our glorious Empress pluto77, now bow you plebs, bow!

 

 

Now for those leaderboard watchers out there you may well ask how this occurred. After all pluto77 hasn’t figured anywhere near the top of the leaderboard since the new system began, although clearly a valued and regular contributor - go ahead, click on the link here pluto77 - quite prolific, eh? But nowhere near the top. Well, I felt it was monstrously unfair that those not undertaking activity in an “approved” way weren’t necessarily getting all the worthless participation points they deserved so I had a word with a few friends and we decided to crown our own leader in an excersise of democracy - if you take the richest simply choosing a new leader as an excersise in democracy! We selected unlucky 13 to become our lucky leader, and that was pluto77! Things didn’t work out quite like that, to be honest. By the time the putsch had been co-ordinated, Pluto had slipped down to number 14, but the die had been cast. And since I’m making up the rules, Pluto got all the valueless points in a further act of wanton insouciance, so sorry kharada46, you should actually be King, it actually should have been you based on our 13th criteria, but really we just made it up as we went along!

 

Congratulations to our worthy selection, your new leader based on the choice of just a few of us, imposed on all of you! And why? Well, why not? We reckon Pluto is a great contributor and that top 10 was a testosterone-only zone, a Queen brings regal serenity and a calming touch to her subjects, as a Brit I know that!