Skip navigation
All People > painedplatinum > Travel Report from Near and Far
1 2 3 Previous Next

Travel Report from Near and Far

82 posts

Tip of the hat to brightlybob for the title.


Okay Travel Fans!!!!! Here we go! 


I'll be posting photos that are associated with a particular hotel in a particular city where I laid my head or visited the lobby in 2019. We'll follow the 20 question format. I'll add pictures to aid with the search......


Day 1...

2019, big year for me and big year for Marriott Milestones. It marked the quarter century for me as a Marriott Rewards/Bonvoy Member.


January set the table with eight stays over eight different brands. Six of those hotels were new to me including my first St Regis stay. That New York City hotel was a one night, 60,000 points extravaganza. I had never blown that many points on one night in my 25 yr Marriott history. Realizing the new categories would kick in later in the year, I felt it was probably my first, last and best chance to see what all the fuss was about. It is a fantastic hotel. Room rates were in the $600/700 range for the cheapest, up to well over $1800 for the big suites. I used my first SNA and the hotel popped the Madison Suite. If you get a chance, and the insane idea to blow a lot of cash or points, the The St. Regis New York will be a memorable stay. 


February had six stays over five brands with all six hotels new to me. The first two Marriott Flagship Hotels near O'Hare airport brought a couple of long term goals into view. In 1994, I started my relationship with Marriott at the Melville Marriott Long Island Hotel. Those first few years featured mainly the full service namesakes with a couple of Courtyards for good measure. I had an eight year run of very little travel or Marriott activity. When I started traveling again in 2006, my stays were predominantly select service and long term stay brands. The Flagship Marriotts were becoming a rare treat. BUT, these two Chicago hotels brought my program to date total to 88 and suddenly 100 was within reach.


March was six hotels over four brands with four new to me. A Mid Atlantic barrier island trip was the highlight in Maryland and Virginia. The early spring weather worked out just right.


April was kick it into high travel to far away places time. Nine stays over six brands, all new hotels....and three European countries mixed in. My first Marriott Moment to a Man U game with a brightlybob kicker was priceless. Then off for our first trip to Finland that found us staying in a converted jail that is now a Tribute Portfolio. Helsinki was a too short stay and needs a return. Greece..more specifically Crete and the two Domes, Noruz Chania and Elounda.  The Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection was marked as my 500th Marriott property. The management of the hotel went all out with two, yes two upgrades during the stay. The first was the best view of the Mediterranean in a two room suite. Halfway through the stay, the rooms manager called and asked if we would like to finish up in a two bedroom villa with private everything...pool, outdoor space, you name it.


May...five hotels over four brands, three new.


June/July..I was falling behind Ambassador pace through the first five months. But then came June!!  June brought eight stays over seven brands..all new and the eighth stay was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That  Le Meridien stay set me up for an excellent July. I love Malaysia, by the way. This was my third trip in five years and they get better each time. A weekend trip to Phuket and a lovely JW Marriott added to the July six KL stays at four brands. If you've never been to Asia and experienced these concierge lounges, you are missing out. Our North American lounges are like White Castles compared to Asia.  


August...Back to the US and eight stays at six brands. Seven were new hotels. 


September.... CRAZY time.  Let's start off at home in the lone Autograph Collection in Philadelphia. The Notary has location, history, class, and swank. Unfortunately, they also were having a bad day and check-in was delayed until 7PM!! All was made well with free dinner, almost fully comped suite, and 10,000 sorry points. Big kudos to the GM. Then off to Qatar. Doha had eight available Bonvoy properties. So why not try them all if you're going to be there for a month? Marriott Marquis, W, JW, Westin, Ritz, St. Regis, Sheraton, and a 2nd Ritz property...whew!!! All were outstanding. That Sheraton was the best of that brand I've ever experienced. It holds rates as high as any of the other lux's that nice. 


October....Six stays over five brands. Four newbies. Early October was a seven night travel package stay in Ocean City, MD. Great time for the Eastern Shore. The other highlight for the month was Maui.... Vacation Club. Ahhhhhhhh!


November...Seven stays, three brands, all new. Canton, OH in November..brrrr. So let's head to Fort Lauderdale!!  Off to TIPPLE planning in Houston. Then our first visit to Quebec in Montreal. Our Canadian Insider friends came through with great suggestions. French speakers all over and our first Montreal Canadians game. Great food, great city. Four big Flagship Marriotts during November to reach 99.


December... five stays, five brands, four newbies.  Many Insiders long to visit Scranton, PA in December, right? A storm calling for 18 inches of snow narrowly missed the city. That was enough to convince us of another Florida trip before we got frostbit. The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach is an early winter haven. AND it was number 100 for Flagship Marriotts!!!!!   


Overall, checked-in 86 times. 67 new to me hotels. 195 nights in eight countries covering 22 brands.


What a year...we're travel weary with so many fond memories.. 


Okay, now for the fun. I'm going to post the "12 Days of Travel" Game. Each day I'll post pictures of a hotel or location from 2019 and see who can guess it first.... Stay Tuned!!!!

This weekend marks the second documented Bonvoy Member hitting the century mark.  lakersfan passed the mark many years ago. I'll join him on Friday, December 5, 2019.   What a long strange trip it's been.....


More to come.

Twenty-five years, thirty-two States, thirty-three countries, six continents, and finally hotels 498, 499, and 500!


”Go big or go home”..... “They have to be Epic Hotels”...... “The Most Memorable Stays”...


I heard from my Insider buddies that the finish line had to consist of Marriott properties that were worth the lofty status of “The One”.  So...... I started to look for a place that I would really enjoy and a property that included Insider’s acclaim. Where best to find such a place but in the worldly travels of one fistuk.  Our very own explorer of fine hotels at deep discounted prices. Even erc , the originator of the “Stick it to the Man” philosophy looks up to the mighty fistuk. 


......Besides fistuk and erc, many Insiders have tipped me off to great hotels throughout the journey. Worldly travelers, pluto77, profchiara, jerrycoin, fschumpert, monisame, tker, brightlybob,  iahflyr   goalsetters… nationwide, bejacob,  the up and comers.... seatexan ,  the luxury stayers... verysuiteboy, ssindc


I've taken the blog world up through hotel number 497.  There was a delay for the last three due to verification concerns through Marriott data sources. I wanted to be sure that they could verify....more on that near the end. 


So a little stroll through 25 years of history and then the final reveal....




The First Ten Years


My first Marriott Hotel from memory was at City Line Avenue bordering Philadelphia back in the early 1980s. There may have been a few here and there over the next ten years, but nothing memorable enough to hunker down for recall. 1994 was my first year in the Marriott Rewards program......This is when my second Official Marriott Hotel would occur. 


Funny thing, I didn’t know much about hotels or chains back then. In fact, that 2nd Marriott started life as a Radisson. I was using that Radisson on Long Island New York as a sleep spot for a monthly staff meeting. In month three, that Radisson rebranded and has since been known as the Melville Marriott Long Island Hotel. Over the years, 27 times I would check into that hotel. Most stays were one to three nights. My corporate office moved to Pennsylvania around 1998, but I have revisited that hotel a handful of times throughout the last 25 years.


 There were a few early years of work travel between 1994 and 1999. Not heavy, but enough, when combined with a vacation stay or two, allowed the Marriott Loyalty program to reel me in for a binding relationship in future years.


In 2000, I recorded zero, zilch, nada official Marriott stays. I say official, because who knows? Our favorite hotel chain has never been spotless when it comes to crediting all stays and activity.. .  I wasn’t paying great attention to the quarterly mailings Marriott was sending out as a transaction history in those days. I did keep many, but didn’t really reconcile to actual activity. Rolling on to 2004, after ten years in the program, I was sitting at just 73 stays for 101 nights and 193,124 lifetime points. The big highlight of the first ten years was a redemption of 120,000 points that netted two round trip airline tickets, seven nights at the Marriott Mountain Shadows Resort and Country Club near Phoenix and a half price week for a Hertz rental car....all for that 120,000 points!


The first decade plus of Marriott  concluded with four brands,  32 Marriott’s, 10 Courtyards, 4 Fairfield Inns and a single Residence Inn. A total of 47 unique Marriott properties for the first ten years.


The Next Ten Years....2005-2014...Things are Blowing Up!


In August of 2005, I switched careers.....moved away from Big Corporate America and decided to go at it alone. That lasted about 18 months then back into Little Corporate America! These career moves acted like rocket fuel for work travel. Increased work travel created more points, more points meant more leisure travel to spend the points! 


New to me Marriott brands and new to me Marriott hotels were adding up. 2005 saw the first Renaissance, Springhill Suites and Towneplace Suites.  The Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette in August was the greatest human refrigerator on Earth! That city was as hot and humid as could be, but walking into the Pere Marquette was cooling relief on the highest level. The Springhill Edgewood Aberdeen had the first swivel TV for the living and bedroom areas.. Not good! I wanted two TVs!  The Towneplace in Bowie, Md was an early version with hallway locked doors, no breakfast to speak of with an institutional feel. The chain has come a long way since. 


2006 was my second year (1995) with more than 20 stays. A total of 25 stays for 35 nights were both personal records. The second decade of Marriott peaked in 2010 with 53 stays, 139 nights, at 9 different brands. 


This ten year period also included my first Ritz...fancy! The Ritz was big, but the single most lucrative stay was landing on Insiders and sticking around after my first posted rant. The tips that I learned allowed for points and experiences to add up at break neck speed. This place has been worth many thousands of dollars to me!


After twenty years, Lifetime program numbers at the end of 2014... 279 unique properties, 3,082,763 points earned, 448 stays, 970 nights


The Big Five... 2015-2019.... 500th Property Two Times Over.


My previous blog posts on this journey to 500 properties have covered this period pretty well. So, no need to go over the many highlights. BUT, two big things will wrap this up. Properties 498 through 500 of course, and the new math used for recording purposes. “New math you say? What’s up?”.....


Well prior to the big merge of 2018, back in 2012, I was able to get every stay that Marriott recorded for my account. I cross checked their recorded data with my info from 1994-2010. Since 2011, I “spreadsheeted” every stay, night, point, hotel, bonus, etc. There was a difference of 30 some hotels from the official Marriott record from Corporate and mine. Half of these were hotel stays that our friends forgot to record and the other half were stays while under a different rewards member’s account. My partner for example had a few stays under her name for our vacation travel.  So, near the end of this 500 journey I started having second thoughts about the real 500th. Should it be what I know to be true or what Marriott has on their official records for my account?


I decided to cover all bases. I hit 500 early in 2019 ...... and as of August 1st I have now stayed at 534 unique Marriott properties of which Marriott can search their records and find 500. 


Here are the final three for my journey..... numbers 498, 499, and 500.



Helsinki, Finland....No Marriott legacy properties but our Starwood friends came through.,


Hotel Katajanokka, Helsinki, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

This place was like going to jail...literally..a converted prison. Very cool!!!



I’ll post some pictures of Helsinki in a separate blog post.




Domes Noruz Chania, Autograph Collection

A one night stay to acclimate prior to the 5 night stay at Elounda. This is an adults only property that sits astride the town of Chania. It's a must see waterfront village on any trip to Crete.




Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection

This was the big one!!! After fistuk posted his pictures from this resort, I knew that it would be # 500 !!! What a wonderful place. Crete is the largest island of Greece. Elounda was a great town for foodies, boaters, relaxers, daytrippers, and scenic viewers. This is the first property that I can recall that upgraded me twice. Once at check in to a million dollar view of the Mediterranean......and  2nd time to a two bedroom villa with private outdoor living space to include a pool.



The two bedroom villa had everything you would need for an exotic holiday...


And finally, what would a momentous occasion like my 500th property be without a mini Insiders meet up.  There just happened to be a California Insider and her mom at Elounda! Say hello to Pluto77!


As we make the final turn for the finish line, a "Marriott Moment" including Hotels 495-497 with all the trimmings sounds about right, eh? 


As a lifelong American sports fan, (Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks) I've attended many dozens of live events on U.S. soil. The only sporting event in another country happened in Doha, Qatar when someone in the lobby of my hotel was offering free admittance to an international indoor diving competition. But....never had I been present for an outdoor sporting event in a foreign land. This was about to change:



The Marriott Moments have been around in some form for quite a while. I peeked in from time to time but never participated. I watched nipper doing something fancy with this point redeeming option and that brought me a bit closer to entering the fray. Along came a English Premier League Football (Soccer) game. The legendary club, Manchester United, was hosting various teams and they were now up for bid. Hmmmmmm? 


Yes, let's do it!!!! My son is a huge international soccer fan and keeps tabs on the EPL. The two options for bid included a two day event and a single day event. The two day consisted of a park tour, greet the team, tickets, and the fixings. The single day was a pregame gathering in the ultra fancy Marriott Bonvoy Suite to include food and drink plus great box seats. I started bidding on both. The two day event quickly spiraled over 100,000 points and just grew higher. The single game had seven offerings and the bidding was in the 40,000 range after a fair bit of exposure. I zeroed in on the single game.


102,500 points...….That got it done. The confirming announcement via email looked like this:





Now the air travel could be booked and the hotels (already chosen) confirmed.


Unique Marriott Property # 495


I needed to get home to Philly from Chicago. The Chicago Marriott Suites O'Hare provided shelter the night before.



Unique Marriott Property # 496


The Renaissance Manchester City Centre Hotel was perfectly located for a proper pub crawl.



Unique Marriott Property # 497


AC Hotel Manchester Salford Quays (with surprise guest star, brightlybob)

That's San Francisco in the rear view mirror as we head to New York City for another monumental stay.. Get that St. Regis before the points rate explodes!!


Unique Hotel # 493.. The Maxwell New York City, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. This hotel was formally a W. The first in the W brand. I watched the rate and boy was it low. I was backed up on this rate watch by the man among men of rate watchers.. erc!! He too saw this  anomaly and it caused us to go deep in the hotel reviews. Oh my!!!  This place may be a dump!!.  I gave it a few months and decided to take the plunge. For $94 with a 7500 bonus point kicker, it had to be worth the risk, right?  Well, it was. The young lady at check-in even waved that dreaded destination fee.


They have a long way to go...they're spending millions..but the staff was great, the location was great, the upgraded corner suite was very nice. The breakfast was just okay, but overall, if you can get that low rate, grab it. This won't stay down for long.


#494  The St. Regis New York. My first St  Regis. The price here never gets low...The date I was looking for never dropped below $685 for the cheapest room. The 60,000 points for one night was going to expire and jump soon, so it had to be done. Now, let's see if this Suite Night Awards thing can pay off. BINGO!!!! The Madison Suite was requested and...…….Yes!!!!!!!!! It was granted. What a hotel, what a room, what a breakfast, what a location!!!!  A truly outstanding experience. Missed out on the ride in the Bentley, but for my one and maybe only St Regis stay, it was grand. As far as the signature cocktail in the King Cole Bar, yes, by all means, order up a Red Snapper.

500?  What 500?  The Daytona 500? The Indianapolis 500? No, the Marriott 500!!!  The race is coming down the final straightaway. With 490 unique Marriott Branded properties in the rear view, I had just TEN to go. Let the great reveal begin.


#491    A post Christmas trip to San Francisco chalked up the first Luxury Collection Hotel of the big 500.  Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco.... was royal and exquisite. Historic grandeur elevated with a massive suite upgrade landed this hotel in my all time top 20.  


#492   Still in the City by the Bay.... W San Francisco crossed off the first W of the modern era.  Nice location, a bit disappointing. The staff were great, the chic design, not so much. 

I participated in, and won, a bidding on Marriott Moments for a footy game in the U.K.  It was my first attempt at the Marriott Moments game, so I was a bit stunned that I came away with tickets to Old Trafford. The upside was the win..the downside was the short wick. I was notified April 2nd for an April 13th game!!


Needless to say, airline fares had begun the steep upclimb to $2000 by April 2nd.....I had checked back on March 15th and my carrier, American Airlines, had $850 tix....but now, Oh MY!!!!!  The long and short of my panic filled search was to find a British Airways itinerary starting at EWR (90 minutes from home) to LHR to MAN. The price was right and I'm set.  My son will join me and he's coming from a different starting point, but we both arrive at MAN near 9:00AM on the 12th. I booked his ticket with American Miles at the reduced Economy fare.  We were set for the flights!!!


Hotels... . We get in early on the 12th and have booked the Renaissance Manchester City Centre for £113 (plus a 4000 point booster). This allows for an easy train from the airport. It also puts us in a great location to see the town and do a bit of pub crawling. The game night stay is set for The AC Hotel Salford Quays on points.




I'll reblog with details of the trip and the a review of the hotels and the City once called Cottonopolis.

With the merge year of 2018 in the rear view mirror, it's time to take a relook at the order that Marriott has chosen for the 30 (yes, I'll include BVLGARI, yuk) brands. By looking at the drop down screen from "Our Brands" on the sign on page.....we see the order for Marriott moving forward. So, without further ado, I present, the NEW, IMPROVED, BRAND NUMBERS!!!


note: I had to adjust a few colors to keep the eye pleasing effect 




Prior to 2018, my overnight stays were 80% Marriott, 16% IHG, 3% Hilton, 1% Other.  Inside of other was SPG. I had exactly two stays at an SPG property in the prior eight years. One was in Toronto at a hotel that is no longer around and the other in Newark, NJ that suffered the same fate.


All of this changed in the Year of the Merge!!!!! I dipped my toe in an SPG on April Fools fitting!!!   The lucky property was a Four Points in Newark, DE.  My first taste of SPG hospitality was a good one.  I went on to stay at a Sheraton in Athlone, Ireland. A very nice in town property with a professional well trained staff. Another Four Points by the PHL airport rounded out the first half of 2018 and my SPG early life.


Then came July and POW!!!.....An Element then a Le Meridien followed by a second Le Meridien, an Aloft, two more Sheratons, a Westin, another Sheraton, another Four Points, a Sheraton, a Tribute Portfolio, and then a Design Hotel for the Thanksgiving break. Whew!! Now of course these SPG stays were not the only stays....Marriott legacy brands were still collecting plenty of cash. 


December started with two Weston and two Aloft stays. I thought that was it for the year. Eight SPG brands and nineteen stays would do it....BUT, I was wrong. My partner in crime joined me for two more. A Luxury Collection and a W. Ten, yes ten, SPG brands out of eleven bit the dust in 2018. 


Marriott was not left to feel too bad. The 21 SPG stays were still less than a third of the 66 Marriott legacy stays. Twelve Marriott brands joined the ten SPG brands to bring the 2018 total to 22 Marriott/SPG brands out of the 29. There was also a multiweek Hyatt, a couple of IHG, and a Hilton stay to complete the lodging lineup.


My Marriott mega brand stays featured 78 hotels that were new to me...bringing the lifetime total to 496 unique Marriott properties. Lifetime stays sit at 797. Nights stayed, 1735 plus 919 bonus nights for a total of 2654. Lifetime points earned sit at 5,389,984. Lifetime points burned...4,308,500.


Sixteen States and five countries other than the U.S. accounted for all of my stays. 


Marriott Reward Earnings were just over 700K, nights stayed 177.. 153 paid and 24 award, bonus/rollover nights 159. 


The 29 Brands are slowing coming into view. The last week of 2018 included the first stay at a Luxury Collection AND the first W stay since the merger. That makes for 25 Brands down and 4 to go. The last four, EDITI0N, St. Regis, Exec Apartments, and Protea may never happen....but you never know, do you platpboy4ever????????????


San Francisco is home to the Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel.  This place is nice!!  Entering on Market St., right off the Montgomery BART stop, you walk into history. The marble, lighting, high ceilings, wide foyer all represent opulence from a long gone era. The hotel was built in 1875 and was a masterpiece in it's day. The owners have managed to keep the rich feel while modernizing the facilities to today's standards. The Mayflower, in D.C., is a comparable property. 


I booked a king room, but was Upgraded to a Deluxe Suite the day before arrival. Just a gorgeous room with a wonderful view. Taking the breakfast in lieu of the points was an easy call. The restaurant was first class and the food was excellent. We did have to wait about 30 minutes for a table, but that was due to our own procrastination. 


Next up was the W San Francisco. I had stayed at a W in Chicago many years before the merge, so this was the first "Marriott" W.  These W's are grouped in the top luxury category with Ritz, Edition, St. Regis, etc.  Well, this particular W, while nice, doesn't belong with that lofty group. I overheard someone say it was close to an Aloft on steroids. Bold colors, millennium-ish themes....


The W San Francisco is undergoing guest room reno's, so the 17th floor was as high as you can stay. At check in, a very nice and professional front desk associate added a $40 credit for use in the restaurant. She also Upgraded us to a Mega Corner room. I came to learn that a Cool Corner room and a Mega Corner differ in view only. Our room did, in fact, have a great view. The breakfast instead of points choice was made again. 


The 500 Marriott properties are in sight!! Somebody call Bill Marriott and get my ultimate prize ready!!




Stay # 486... Courtyard NY Manhattan/Upper East Side. 


First time staying on the Upper East Side.


Stay # 487.... Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a Member of Design Hotels.


First time staying at a Design. Right in the thick of Beverly and night wonders. If there are more high priced fancy cars somewhere in the U.S., I'd like to see it.


Stay # 488.... AC Hotel Irvine


Part of the SoCal holiday stay. Very nice hotel!


Stay # 489 ….Renaissance Newport Beach Hotel


The old Duke Hotel (hey nationwide, you should see the place)….Upgraded to the Vice Presidential Suite..according to the front desk. A WOW!! room experience. 


Stay # 490.... Newport Beach Marriott Bayview


Great location, easy ride to the beach for that pacific sunset

Checking into The Wick.....Boutique Hudson Hotel - Hudson Valley Hotel | The Wick Hotel 


Grabbed a $106 breakfast rate a couple of months back.....same rate today over $200





Stay Tuned!!

The original blog post, The Long Road To 500...75 To Go! , gives you the background. This is the mid October update for 2018. 


The 2018 year to date stays are piling up. 68 hotels have received my money or points. All but seven of these were new hotels to me.....which means 61 were NEW!!!  Woo hoo!!  This edition included 18 Brands, six were from the old Starwood family. The Sheraton, Four Points, Element, Le Meridien, Aloft and Westin join the Marriott Legacy brands.   475 down, 25 to go.


The 475th stay was in Vancouver, BC. What a great town. I was able to add the Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport and the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel. The Pinnacle team sent up a cheese platter and thank you note. Nice touch!!!!!


A few years ago, while my daughter was on an assignment at Stanford University, I began my explore of the left coast. We took in San Francisco, Kings Canyon, and Big Sur. This year, I’m adding the Monterey Peninsula and San Diego. 


This blog entry will cover my time on and around Monterey Bay. Let’s start this thing off with fresh, fresh, fresh seafood!


With Santa Cruz on the north end and Carmel-By-The-Sea on the south end, the Monterey Bay has a shoreline of about  fifty miles. Almost in the middle sits Moss Landing, CA. There you will find the world renown Phil’s Fish Market. Hey brightlybob and normanp.. the BBC likes this place.  Old fashioned, bib wearing, food splashing, glorious fresh seafood. Cioppino, red snapper fish tacos, and fire roasted artichokes......Add in a local Bluegrass band and you have the perfect setting.