Skip navigation
All People > brightlybob > BrightlyBob's Blab
1 2 3 Previous Next

BrightlyBob's Blab

43 posts

Live from the lounge

Posted by brightlybob Dec 8, 2019

Hi fellow insiders! Today I’m blogging live from the Renaissance Heathrow Lounge and just decided to post.



I’ve reviewed this hotel and lounge several times now as one way or another my work keeps bringing me back to Heathrow - not to fly I hasten to add, every fool knows of you what to fly anywhere to avoid Heathrow! Actually that’s not really fair comment these days, in fact I flew from Heathrow last month on a stress-fest flight that was initially meant to be from Manchester but then I had to switch to London due to a Judge demanding my attendance before him on that very date that got switched from Chancery Lane to the Docklands and then ended up being fixed for a day instead of an hour, where at 12:30 I had to change my 13:30 flight by phone to 16:20. Luckily United were very forgiving on their change fees for the redemption flight and it went on time. So yeah, Heathrow does work as an airport... I guess!


Anyhow I’m here tonight with no work to do till tomorrow except drink beer in the lounge! And it remains the case that this lounge is still very good, excellent runway views, great food as a chefs mini presentation served to you by the very attentive lounge staff Marusha and Marilena

With some “help yourself” desserts

and a plentiful supply of cheese, breads, chutney and crackers

To my view it is and remains one of Bonvoys best lounges, a good size, good food and of course 4 hours (17:00-21:00) complimentary Wine and beers served by Marusha and Marilena who really do not rest, whether it’s clearing tables, seeing your beer or wines low and topping up or even offering extra of the chefs presentation you’ve chosen to eat. To my mind it remains the top of the five Heathrow lounges, and as I say, one of my favourites worldwide.

As frequently happens when I’m lurking on Insiders I hit upon an old thread which made for interesting reading. It was one of mine entitled “pay or redeem” which you can read here Pay or Redeem? 
I set an Insiders Quiz on a series of planned 2016 stays where I listed my forthcoming stays and asked where members would choose to pay and where they would choose to redeem. Although the thread retains its original theme what particularly interested me reading it in 2019 was that I’d unwittingly recorded the category placement and redemption cost of 10 hotels from 2016. A little treasure trove of redemption costs unknowingly frozen in time that begged the question - After all the Bonvoy changes following the takeover 3 years ago and scheme merger last year, how has this list of redemptions changed? So I updated my search on these self same properties, this time not asking which was the best pay or redeem option, but whether 3 years of redemption table convulsions has changed the cost. And here’s the properties in my list, and their 2016 and 2019 redemption rates. 

01. Legacy Cat 1 Houston Brookhollow Courtyard ——- 7,500 —New Cat 2—12,500

02. Legacy Cat 2 Brownsville Residence Inn ————- 10,000-—New Cat2—12,500

03. Legacy Cat 2 Hamilton Residence Inn —————- 15,000-—New Cat 3—17,500

04. Legacy Cat 3 Houston North Marriott ——————15,000 —New Cat 2—12,500

05. Legacy Cat 5 Gettysburg Courtyard ———————25,000 —New Cat 4—25,000

06. Legacy Cat 5 Corpus Christi Springhill Suites ——- 25,000 —New Cat 3—17,500
07. Legacy Cat 5 EWR Renaissance ———————— 25,000—New Cat 4—25,000
08. Legacy Cat 6 Richmond Marriott ————————30,000 —New Cat 4—25,000
09. Legacy Cat 7 Houston ICON Autograph ————- 35,000 —New Cat 5—35,000

10. Legacy Cat 9 NYC Times Sq Renaissance ———- 45,000—-New Cat 6—50,000

And I found that one night at each in 2016 would have cost a total of 232,500 points and today, right now in 2019... it’s still 232,500 points! 
Of course 10 hotels is not 6,500 so hardly a representative sample, but on the other hand definitely not a sample chosen to try and demonstrate some point of view or other, it was simply a list of hotels where I’d stayed and considered redeeming, nothing more nor less. Nonetheless it demonstrated no inflation, but remained a limited sample.
Now that got me thinking further. What has been the real effect of the move from Marriott and SPG to Bonvoy - in real figures, using real stays and real choices, how have things changed? Clearly a much bigger task this, since it required me to run through all my stays after the schemes merged on 18 August 2018. I decided to examine my stats for the first full 12 months of the new scheme from 1st September 2018 to 31st August 2019 and apply the earnings to each stay. And to do the same with the years redemptions. So I did it! Prepare for a lot of math!
I’ve applied Bonvoy points as I’ve actually earned them, to the very last point and then applied legacy Marriott points and legacy SPG as they would have been earned on that stay according to their scheme, so Marriott points are earned at legacy SPG brands on the same basis as Marriott brands and likewise for SPG, this mainly effects breakfast where Marriott gave both Welcome points and breakfast but SPG gave the amenity choice - breakfast OR points, meaning no amenity points if I chose breakfast at SPG. Importantly here I’ve applied the real choices I made so even though there was a lounge at the London Sheraton Grand, we chose full breakfast-in-bed each morning, so no SPG amenity points. But at the Regents Park Marriott I didn’t have the restaurant breakfast but took breakfasts in the lounge throughout so SPG gets the amenity points, and I chose MAGC, so points reflect that too. Now Courtyards and Aloft in the legacy schemes proved difficult since I took the breakfasts/$10pp instead of the points, but there’s no equivalency between how Bonvoy/Marriott/SPG deal with breakfast here so I’ve simply used the welcome amenity points rather than trying to create false equivalencies. The other big change is Marriott didn’t award points on incidentals at Select service properties whereas Starwood did and Bonvoy does, so I’ve awarded Bonvoy and SPG points for those, and none for Marriott. Finally, for the Fall 2018 megabonus I’ve applied the 2,000 Bonvoy/Marriott points on 2-night stays and 1,000 per brand as per the promo, but for SPG I’ve awarded 1000 Starpoints on 2-night stays and 500 Starpoints per brand rather than the 1/3rd as I don’t think SPG would have run a 666/333 point promo!
Comparing the respective 75-night levels 2018-2019
Bonvoy Titanium -v- Starwood Platinum 75 -v- Marriott Platinum
Points earned are: Base+Elite+Amenity+AMEX+MAGC+Promo
Sep 12 & 13 & 14 London Regents Marriott  £470 ($511 inc incidentals) MAGC 
1st. BT 5106+3830+1000+3066+1000=                   14,002 (SPG+3%;MR+40%)
2nd. SP 1022+1022+500+1022+1000 = 4566 x 3 = 13,698
3rd. MP 5106+2553+500+1022+1000=                    10,181
Oct 20. LHR Moxy £50 MR ($55) - fallow first brand for Promo
1st. BT 554+415+500+330=                    1799 (SPG+3%;MR+50%)
2nd. SP 110+110+250+110= 580 x 3 =  1740
3rd. MP 554+277+250+110=                  1191
Nov 04. Leicester Marriott £81 ($110 inc incidentals) next brand promo
1st. SP 220+220+500+220+500= 1660 x 3 = 4980 (BP+10%;MR+50%)
2nd. BT 1101+826+1000+660+1000=            4587
3rd. MP 1101+550+500+220+1000=              3371
Nov 07. Leeds Marriott redemption £15 parking ($16)
1st. SP 32+32+500+32= 596 x 3 = 1788 (BP+30%;MR+130%)
2nd. BT 158+119+1000+96=          1373
3rd. MP 158+79+500+32=                769
Nov 18. Leicester Marriott £95 ($101 inc incidentals)
1st. BT 1014+761+1000+606=                 3381 (SPG+5%;MR+50%)
2nd. SP 202+202+500+202= 1106 x 3 = 3318
3rd. MP 1014+507+500+202=                 2223
Nov 25. Birmingham AC £74 ($95) next brand promo
1st. SP 191+191+250+191+500= 1323 x 3 =  3969 (BP+5%;MR+40%)
2nd. BT 956+717+500+573+1000=                 3746
3rd. MP 956+478+250+191+1000=                 2875
Nov 30. Worsley Marriott 2/rm £110 ($329 inc incidentals)
1st. BT 3289+2467+1000+1974=                 8730 (MR+40%;SPG+40%)
2nd. MP 3289+1645+500+658=                   6092
3rd. SP 658+658+Brekky+658= 1974 x 3 = 5922
Dec 21 & 22 Leeds Marriott 3/rm £600 ($885 inc incidentals) 2k promo
1st. BT 8856+6642+1000+5310+2000=                       23,808 (SPG+30%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 1770+1770+brekky+1770+1000= 6310 x 3 = 18,930
3rd. MP 8856+4428+500+1770+2000=                        17,554
Jan 04 & 05 Worsley Marriott 2/rm £200 ($435 inc incidentals) 2k promo
1st. BT 4357+3268+1000+2610+2000=                 13,335 (SPG+20%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 870+870+Brekky+870+1000= 3610 x 3 = 10,830
3rd. MP 4357+2178+500+870+2000=                      9,905
Jan 10. BexleyHeath Marriott £85 ($111 inc incidentals)
1st. BT 1116+837+1000+660=                   3613 (MR+50%;SPG+80%)
2nd. MP 1116+558+500+222=                   2396
3rd. SP 222+222+Brekky+222= 666 x 3 = 1998
Jan 11. LHR Renaissance £67 ($86 inc parking) - next brand promo
1st. SP 172+172+500+172+500= 1516 x 3 = 4560 (BP+10%;MR+50%)
2nd. BT 861+646+1000+516+1000=              4023
3rd. MP 861+430+500+172+1000=                2963
Jan 31. York Marriott £77 ($104 inc incidentals)
1st. BT 1034+776+1000+624=                   3434 (MR+50%;SPG+90%)
2nd. MP 1034+517+500+208=                   2260
3rd. SP 208+208+Brekky+208= 624 x 3 = 1872
Feb 17. Cardiff Marriott £77 ($84)
1st. BT 841+631+1000+540=                     3012 (MR+50%;SPG+90%)
2nd. MP 841+420+500+180=                     1941
3rd. SP 180+180+Brekky+180= 528 x 3 = 1584
Mar 19. Canary Wharf Marriott £110 ($119) fallow night of 2x promo
1st. BT 1192+894+1000+714=                3800 (SPG+5%;MR+50%)
2nd. SP 238+238+500+238= 1214 x 3 = 3642
3rd. MP 1192+596+500+238=                 2526
Mar 23. London Autograph Dixon £120 ($142) - First earning stay of 2x promo
1st. BT 1427+1070+1000+852+1427=                 5776 (MR+30%;SPG+70%)
2nd. MP 1427+713+500+284+1400=                   4224
3rd. SP 284+284+Brekky+284+284= 1136 x 3 = 3408
Mar 30. Preston Marriott 2/rm £135 ($338 inc incidentals) 2x promo
1st. BT 3389+2542+1000+2034+3389=           12,356 (MR+30%;SPG+50%)
2nd. MP 3389+1694+500+678+3389=                9650
3rd. SP 678+678+Brekky+678+678= 2712 x 3 = 8136
Apr 26. LHR Renaissance £66 ($78) 2x promo
1st. BT 786+590+1000+474+786=                  3636 (SPG+10%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 158+158+500+158+158= 1132 x 3 = 3396
3rd. MP 786+393+500+158+786=                   2623
Apr 27. London Excel Aloft £140 ($152) 2x promo
1st. BT 1521+1141+500+912+1521=               5595 (SPG+20%;MR+20%)
2nd. SP 304+304+250+304+304= 1466 x 3 = 4398
3rd. MP 1521+760+250+304+1521=               4356
Apr 28. London Excel Moxy £75 ($80) 2x promo
1st. BT 808+606+500+486+808=                   3208 (SPG+20%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 162+162+250+162+162= 898 x 3 =  2696
3rd. MP 808+404+250+162+808=                   2432
Apr 29. Leeds Marriott £85 ($109 inc parking) 2x promo
1st. BT 1087+815+1000+654+1087=                4643 (SPG+10%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 218+218+500+218+218= 1372 x 3 =   4116
3rd. MP 1087+544+500+218+1087=                 3436
May 03 & 04 Canary Wharf Marriott £245 ($263) 2x promo
1st. BT 2635+1976+1000+1578+2635=          9823 (SPG+20%;MR+20%)
2nd. SP 526+526+500+526+526= 2604 x 3 = 7812
3rd. MP 2635+1317+500+526+2635=             7653
May 24 & 25 Sheraton Grand Park Lane £360 ($397) - MAGC. 2x promo
1st. BT 3970+2978+Brekky+2382+3970+500=            13,800 (SPG+20%;MR+20%)
2nd. SP 794+794+Brekky+794+794+500= 3776 x 3 = 11,328
3rd. MP 3970+1985+500+794+3970+500=                   10,821
May 29. Budapest Courtyard £100 ($106) - Last stay of 2x promo
1st. BT 1067+800+500+636+1067=                 4070 (SPG+20%;MR+20%)
2nd. SP 212+212+250+212+212= 1098 x 3 =  3294
3rd. MP 1067+533+250+212+1067=                3129
Jun 07. Preston Marriott £85 ($128 inc incidentals)
1st. BT 1289+967+1000+768=                  4024 (MR+50%;SPG+90%)
2nd. MP 1289+645+500+256=                  2690
3rd. SP 256+256+Brekky+256= 768 x 3 = 2040
Jul 05. LHR Sheraton £75 ($88 inc incidentals)
1st. SP 176+176+500+176= 1028 x 3 = 3084 (BP+1%;MR+50%)
2nd. BT 881+661+1000+528=                3070
3rd. MP 881+440+500+176=                  1997
Jul 08 & 09 Gydnia Courtyard £160 ($214 inc incidentals) 1500 promo
1st. BT 2143+1607+500+1274+1500=             7024 (SPG+10%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 428+428+250+428+500= 2034 x 3 =  6102
3rd. MP 2000+1000+250+428+1500=              5178 (no incidentals points)
Jul 10-17 Sopot Sheraton TP 150k Redemption ($85 incidentals)
1st. SP 171+171+500+171= 1013 x 3 = 3039 (BP+1%;MR+50%)
2nd. BT 855+641+1000+513=                3009
3rd. MP 855+427+500+171=                  1953
Jul 26. Leicester Marriott £67 ($76)
1st. SP 152+152+500+152= 956 x 3 = 2868 (BP+3%;MR+60%)
2nd. BT 758+569+1000+456=              2783
3rd. MP 758+379+500+152=                1789
Jul 31 to Aug 02 Windsor Marriott 2/rm £340 ($467 inc incidentals) 1500 promo
1st. BT 4670+3503+1000+2802+1500=            13,475 (MR+30%;SPG+30%)
2nd. MP 4670+2335+500+934+1500=                9,939
3rd. SP 934+934+Brekky+934+500= 3302 x 3 = 9,906
Aug 02 to Aug 04 Windsor Marriott 2/rm £310 ($414 inc incidentals) 1500 promo
1st. BT 4147+3110+1000+2484+1500=             12,248 (MR+30%;SPG+30%)
2nd. MP 4147+2074+500+828+1500=                 9,049
3rd. SP 828+828+Brekky+828+500= 2984 x 3 = 8,952
Aug 04 Luxury Collection Langley 2/rm 70k redemption ($330 incidentals)
1st. BT 3300+2475+Brekky+1980=             7755 (MR+20%;SPG+30%)
2nd. MP 3300+1650+500+660=                  6110
3rd. SP 660+660+Brekky+660= 1980 x 3 = 5940
Aug 15 & 16 Barcelona AC Gava Mar 3/rm 150k redemption ($239 incidentals)
1st. BT 2389+1792+500+1432=              6113 (SPG+10%;MR+600%)
2nd. SP 478+478+250+478= 1684 x 3 = 5052
3rd. MP nil+nil+250+478=                          728 (no incidental points)
Aug 17 18 & 19 Barcelona Ren Fira 3/rm €970 ($1,264 inc incidentals) 1500 promo
1st. BT 12642+9482+1000+7542+1500=                   32,264 (SPG+30%;MR+30%)
2nd. SP 2528+2528+Brekky+2528+500= 8084 x 3 = 24,252
3rd. MP 12642+6321+500+2528+1500=                    23,491
Aug 22. Liverpool Aloft £79 ($113 inc incidentals) 
1st. BT 1130+848+500+678=                3156 (SPG+10%;MR+80%)
2nd. SP 226+226+250+226= 928 x 3 = 2784
3rd. MP 800+400+250+226=                 1676 (no incidental points)
Aug 26-31 Oxford Courtyard 50k redemption ($60 incidentals)
1st. SP 120+120+250+120= 610 x 3 = 1830 (BP+6%;MR+600%)
2nd. BT 602+452+500+180=                1734
3rd. MP nil+nil+250+60=                        310 (no incidental points)
GRAND TOTAL ON 80 room-nights over 35 stays at $8,000 qualifying charges
Bonvoy       250,000
Starwood   203,000
Marriott      180,000
The first thing this shows is that although the maths would suggest that SPG-75 Plats earning only 4 StarPoints per $ which translates to 12 BonPoints should be earning less than Marriotteers earning 15, SPG in fact earned more. This outcome is strongly effected by the vast difference between the two British credit card offerings where the British SPG AMEX paid 2 Starpoints per £ spent at hotels (worth 6 BonPoints) whilst the British Marriott Mastercard paid only 2 Marriott points, worth just 2 BonPoints! That meant that against net spending SPG was paying 6 Starpoints per $ spent - 18 Bonpoints whilst Marriott was just 17! It is worth remembering American Marriotteers would have held the legacy Chase card that paid 5 points per $ making the comparison 23.5 Bonpoints/20 MRpoints/6 Starpoints (equivalent to 18) per $. Now much was made of the larger earning capacity of the SPG scheme by taking the amenity and MAGC points that were paid in more valuable Starpoints, and that’s certainly true, but taking the actual reality of my stays and the reality of my choices they really would have done no more than equal up the final totals between the 2 legacy schemes. In USA/Canada with Marriotteers using the using the Chase card and SPGers the AMEX it and would have been a dead heat on 203k each for the year! 
For me as a Brit, legacy Marriott would have earned 180,000 Bonpoints, legacy SPG 203,000 Bonpoints and the current Bonvoy scheme actually did earn 250,000, a considerable improvement in earnings against both legacy programs!
Next up - Redemptions - again not theoretical, but real.
Between 01/09/18 and 31/08/19 I’ve redeemed at the following properties:
Nov 07 2018 Leeds Marriott was 30k, now 25k 1rm/1nt saved 5,000
Jul 10-17 2019 Sheraton Sopot was 30k (SPG 10k) now 25k 1rm/7nt saved 30,000
Aug 04 2019 Lux Coll Langley* was 36k (SPG 12k) now 35k 2rm/1nt saved 2,000
Aug 15 & 16 2019 AC Gava Mar was 30k, now 25k 3rm/2nt saved saved 30,000
Aug 26-31 2019 Oxford Courtyard* was 20k, now 12.5k 1rm/5nt saved 30,000
*Neither of these two properties existed before the merger but I’m placing the Luxury Collection Langley at the same 12,000 StarPoint level as the Luxury Collection Turnberry and the Oxford Courtyard at the very lowest English category in place before the merger which was Cat4 at 20,000 points - legacy Marriott had no Cat 1, 2 or 3 properties in England, indeed there were only two Cat 3s in Scotland, both in the remote “Oil City” of Aberdeen.
A total of 445,000 points (saving £4,500/$5,500) spent over 21 room-nights that would, before the merger, have cost 542,000 points, a net reduction of 97,000 points - and as Benjamin Franklin would no doubt have it “a point saved is a point earned” - now to be added to the extra 70,000 points earned from my stays. 
Finally, I’ve received the 50 and 75 night milestone choices and need to value those. Again my value is informed by real life outcomes. So firstly there’s the 5 SNAs I chose at 50 nights. These are a straight added improvement to us Marriotteers and I’ve successfully used them here in the UK at my first choice each time. Now Marriott did provide a points upgrade route at 5,000 points per night per room category. Against the actual suites I used the SNAs this would value the SNAs at ~100,000 points but notably I only once ever used Marriotts points-upgrade option - it was always way too costly for me! Of course Marriotts version, whilst pricey, did lock in the suite from reservation and SNAs don’t do that. On the other hand these SNAs are in monetary terms valuable - the cost of the upgrade on each stay was worth considerably more than the price I paid for my room! Overall I’m going to value these at 10,000 points each SNA as that is easily what I would have paid in points for each nights upgrade! Here it is definitely a case of YMMV - those that are finding their requests returned, or only usable on small value upgrades will feel they’re worth less, but I’m using my actual outcomes over the last year for this entire post and continue that here. These are my actual real outcomes, no theory, no bull! The second milestone choice at 75 nights I chose the 40k certificate which is easy to value as I actually used it on a 35k redemption so that’s the value I give it!
So, to the conclusion - well as a former Marriotteer, Bonvoy has improved my “earn and burn” this past year as follows:
Extra points earned over legacy Marriott ————————————70,000
Points saved on redemption’s over legacy Marriott————————97,000
Value of 50-night choice 5 SNAs @10,000 points each—————— 50,000
Value of 75-night cert redeemed at Luxury Collection Langley———35,000
That means the new Bonvoy scheme has way more than doubled its Rewards value against the legacy Marriott scheme - no wonder I was celebrating last year at the prospect, here New Program - Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!! - It has all come to pass!

I stayed here with my son for 5 nights during the British August Bank Holiday. This is a new-build hotel opened just a few weeks ago. It’s not to be confused with the Courtyard Oxford South, also a newly built property that is definitely very much South of Oxford. Prices for the City Centre Courtyard were running £800 ($1,000) for my 5 nights, the Courtyard South was £400 ($500) for the same 5 nights. But here’s the thing, both are Cat2s therefore redeeming 50,000 points for the 5 nights. The Courtyard South represents good value for your redemption at 1c per point but the Courtyard City Centre represents excellent value at 2c per point and puts you immediately behind the 1,000 year old castle, right in the thick of the Castle area with all of Oxfords numerous 500+ year old colleges, punting, botanical gardens and many museums within a 5-15 minute walk. The mediaeval Castle is literally 2 minute walk! When they say City Centre, they mean it! Of course as a medieval city it’s not very traffic friendly. The hotel has no car parking itself but the nearest public car park is only a 2 minute walk, alas at a £35 per night fee, that would be £175 just to park for my 5-night stay - and that’s normal pricing for Oxford City Centre! Or you can do as thousands of others do (and I did) and park at one of the huge “park and ride” carparks dotted around the Oxford ring-road for only £3 day with a £1.80 e/w 15-minute bus ride. 5 days parking for £15 plus £7 for our 2 return bus fares, much better!


So to the hotel. Well it’s a new build on Paradise Street next to Quaking Bridge

but this being medieval Oxford, there wasn’t much building space so it’s not got a very big footprint. No pool, lounge or restaurant, very narrow corridors

but a spacious bar/breakfast room

The rooms are small, there’s no denying that, and I wasn’t upgraded but that’s due to the fact the twin rooms are standard only, there’s no upgraded twin rooms in the hotel, but they’re well set up and me and my son didn’t feel cramped. It did get quite hot during our stay and I’m pleased to say the aircon worked brilliantly!

Theres no denying the bathroom is small, I could stand in the middle and touch the front and back walls, but the shower cublicle was a good size and water pressure and temperature was good

One of the reasons we didn’t feel cramped was because in the centre of Oxford there’s so much to see and do

Some of it right on the doorstep, here’s the view from the hotel doorway

Thats the Castle Tower - here’s the view of the hotel from the top of the tower which is part of the guided Castle tour

Yes, there is a rooftop bar, alas not quite finished yet, “Health and Safety” certificates are awaited, but it looks good!


Now for my Plat amenity I chose the daily £8pp allowance giving me £80 ($100) in total F&B allowance! On a 50k redemption, this just gets better and better! Breakfast was £15 per person unless reserved on checkin for the entire stay when it would be £13pp. Effectively therefore purchased for the entire stay breakfast would cost an extra £5pppn. I didn’t reserve my breakfast but did “walk up” one morning at £15pp. The spread was small but that was because they only put a small amount of everything out so there was still lots of choice - hot was scrambled egg, bacon, sausage, Tomato, mushroom, hash browns and baked beans, cold was cereals, fruit, breads, preserves and danish. The daily allowance came with the now-familiar rules, it doesn’t stack, it must be spent at the bar, on breakfast or the fridges and can only be used on food and drinks. Mostly we spent the daily allowance on a few drinks at night before turning in. It’s a good benefit, and a real Bonvoy improvement on Marriotts previous “go pound sand” for Courtyard benefits!


Oxford is a great place to visit, there is so much to see and do, and the City Centre Courtyard is a brilliant base, park-and-ride in and walk, walk, walk - and punt, never forget to do a bit of punting!

So much more relaxing if you don’t punt yourself, we went for a chauffeured punt from Magdalen College Bridge. Our  chauffeur was Phoebe, a local student, and apart from looking very concerned about the considerable effort her punt was going to need also gave a running commentary of the colleges we passed and the Oxford/Cambridge traditions.


We had a brilliant stay and I will definitely be back! 

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! 




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!



London Heathrow Bonvoys

Posted by brightlybob Jul 5, 2019

In 2018 I finally made it through all the Bonvoy Heathrow hotels and so launched this thread but since then Marriott has added a new option with the Courtyard which I’m yet to sample, but certainly will! Nonetheless, having launched this thread I’m not going to drop it just because I’ve not yet stayed in the one new Courtyard, and I can still post an opinion on that, so here’s my lowdown on the lot!
So what are the choices? Well in order displayed by the Marriott website when searching LHR they are:
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. Courtyard London Heathrow Airport———Starting from £60/nt (estimate)
5. Sheraton Heathrow Hotel ———————-Starting from £70/nt
6. Moxy London Heathrow Airport—————Starting from £50/nt
7. Heathrow/Windsor Marriott Hotel———— Starting from £70/nt
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 hotel shuttles from the airport instead giving a monopoly licence to the highest transport bidder which wins the rights to then run 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!#
So, what are Bonvoys Heathrow options like?
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, and thirds!
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.
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 “tropical” 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.
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, a mid-market 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.
Courtyard Heathrow Airport
Brand new and running slightly late now so I haven’t yet visited but it’s due to open before end 2019. I’m expecting the typical Euro-Courtyard experience, clean, fresh modern rooms with plenty of outlets and at least for Europe, good sized rooms, but somewhat smaller than Americans are used to. There’s a bar and the Bistro plus a fitness room but no pool. I’m afraid no photos yet but once Marriott gets them done I’ll upload them here. I’m expecting parking to be the typical £15!
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.
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 £44 and there’s no complaining at that price, especially with the daily Platinum $10pp 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.
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.
Heathrow Transport & the free bus travel zone
Lastly, let’s talk about getting to your hotel from London Heathrow terminals. Of course there’s the famous London Taxis. Easy to find, always ready but alas expensive. Depending upon traffic delays and which terminal you’re coming from/going to, expect to to run up a £10-£20 meter. I’ve already discussed the Heathrow Hoppa bus at the top of this post, but there’s also the little known “free bus travel zone” where red London buses run up and down Bath Road, which is the main area for Heathrow’s hotels that are not actually on-site. Here’s the official schematic routemap:
Actually five of Bonvoys seven Heathrow hotels are on the free route but one is simply missing from the schematic and that’s the brand new Courtyard which if you look above is actually sandwiched between the Holiday Inn Ariel and the Ibis. Of those five, four of them namely the Renaissance, Marriott, Skyline and Courtyard are on the “main hotel drag” using the free 105/111/140/285 routes which makes these four easily the most convenient since between 07:00 and 22:00 you’ll never wait more than a couple of minutes for one of those buses. If you don’t mind a very short walk and crossing a dual carriageway at a Traffic-light controlled crossing then the free buses will almost certainly get you to any one of these four faster than the Hoppa. The Sheraton is also on the free route but more isolated and for that you’ll need the U3 or 7 bus. Because there’s fewer buses you’ll likely experience longer waits, although between 07:00 & 22:00 it’s unlikely to be longer than 15 mins. The hotel is also some distance from crossings making it more difficult to get across the fast-moving dual carriageway road with heavy luggage.
Next, although not in the free travel area, the Moxy is actually on the 105 and 111 bus routes but just a little further past the free zone. A £1.50 fare is therefore payable, alas however cash is not accepted, only London’s public transport smartcard, Oyster, or contactless credit/debit cards - unfortunately whilst European contactless cards work well North American cards are frequently rejected. To be safe if staying at the Moxy you would do well to have an Oyster card! The hotels neon signage is easy to spot on the right side of the road riding from Heathrow, but if you find yourself looking at the Travelodge get off and walk back on yourself, you’ve gone slightly too far!

Finally, the Heathrow Windsor Marriott isn’t on the free bus route, and the Hoppa to and from it only runs to T5. It is the most distant from LHR but a good choice if you’re overnighting T5 and especially if you’re intending to visit Windsor!
Last, but by no means least, if you’re looking for more information on Bonvoys London properties you could try my London Bonvoy thread here Bonvoys London Hotels 

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


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 31st December 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 5,211 points


So in the First Quarter Marriott Bonvoy pointshorted me 21,851 points


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And in the Second Quarter Marriott Bonvoy pointshorted me 11,800 points


Jul 05 to Jul 06 Sheraton LHR - points and night credits posted correctly 

Jul 08 to Jul 10 Courtyard Gdynia - points and night credits posted correctly 

Jul 10 to Jul 17 Sheraton Sopot - Redemption, incidentals and night credits posted correctly 

Jul 26 to Jul 27 Marriott Leicester - points and night credits posted correctly 

Jul 31 to Aug 02 Marriott Windsor $467 net - 1,713 base points credited - Pointshorted by 6,225 points

Aug 02 to Aug 04 Marriott Windsor $414 net - 1,438 base points & no 2k bonus - Pointshorted by 6,720 points

Aug 04 to Aug 05 Luxury Collection Langley - Redemption, incidentals and night credit posted correctly

Aug 15 to Aug 17 AC Hotel Barcelona Gava Mar - Redemption, incidentals and night credits posted correctly

Aug 17 to Aug 20 Ren Barcelona Fira $1,262 net - 5,354 base points credited - Pointshorted by 13,395 points

Aug 22 to Aug 23 Aloft Liverpool - Points and night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Aug 26 to Aug 31 Courtyard Oxford City Centre - Redemption, incidentals and night credits posted correctly

Sep 06 to Sep 07 Sheraton LHR - points and night credit posted correctly 

Sep 09 to Sep 10 Sheraton LHR - points and night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly 


So in the third Quarter Marriott Bonvoy pointshorted me 26,340 points


Oct 04 to Oct 06 - Marriott Bristol - points and night credits posted correctly 

Nov 13 to Nov 14 - Courtyard Katy, TX - missing stay, only BRG credited - Pointshorted by 2,544 points

Nov 14 to Nov 15 - Courtyard Katy, TX - Redemption, incidentals and night credit posted correctly

Nov 15 to Nov 18 - Marriott Woodlands, TX - points and night credits posted correctly

Dec 08 to Dec 10 - Renaissance London Heathrow - Missing Stay. Pointshorted by 4,995 points


It’s a very quiet Autumn with Bonvoy as IHGs generous Autumn promos have seen me move the vast majority of my business over to them till yearend. My much reduced Bonvoy stay plans should have meant it was easy for Marriott to finish off accurately since they’d have far fewer opportunities to foul-up, alas it didn’t work out that way with half of my 4 paid stays pointshorted - Truly, truly a shameful outcome meaning that in the final quarter Marriott pointshorted me 7,539 points.


All these various shenanigans means Marriott pointshorted me out of 67,530 points in 2019, a truly astonishing outcome!






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!


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!