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Travel Report from Near and Far

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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 game...plus 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 Day..how 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 Hills....day 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.

 

I would love to be sharing my Marriott experience, but Arne hasn’t expanded across the border, so the Hyatt Regency is getting my stash. 

 

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is along the old Silk Road. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that connected the East and West, connecting Asia with southern Europe. Until the break up of the USSR, it was under significant Russian “influence”. Today, it stands alone. 

 

I’ll add some photos and anecdotal  stories during my 28 day stay, but for now, I promised a pic of my new fancy hat.....The kalpak.

 

I worked two hours on Monday morning in Manchester, New Hampshire....in the afternoon, I took in the Seacoast at Portsmouth and Kittery, ME. I worked two hours in New Hampshire on Tuesday and then headed down to Hyannis on Cape Cod. A Nor'easter was brewing and predicted to wallop the Mid-Atlantic to New England regions. Getting to Cape Cod on Tuesday, prior to the storm was important. My original plan was to use my day off on Wednesday to visit Nantucket via ferry. Unless that storm turned out to be a total dud, it wasn't going to happen. Airlines started canceling all flights throughout the northeast for Wednesday and Thursday...the Ferry suspended service to the island for Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday. Thursday was all but written off.

 

The weather was supposed to hit Hyannis around 1PM on Wednesday and snow hard and heavy for 12 plus hours. I felt it was best to make my way over to New Bedford, MA on Wednesday morning and get an early check in at the Fairfield Inn & Suites New Bedford.  When I arrived, the wind was already gusting over 40MPH. The snow wasn't there, but a spitting, biting, sideways rain/sleet mixture was just making it's debut. Wednesday night was a quick bite out and then early to bed.

 

I woke up Thursday morning to hear about the storm that peter'd out (as far as snowfall is concerned). Almost no snow, but plenty of slushy stuff and super high winds. I was scheduled for a two hour workday in Fall River that would finish up around noon. After my grueling workday, I headed back to the FFI and was looking for something to do with the rest of Thursday......then it hit me!! I wonder if the ferries are running out of Hyannis to Nantucket???? If so, what did the schedule look like? Could I get to Hyannis, then Nantucket and back sometime Thursday night? You bet I could!!

 

The slow speed, vehicle and people, ferry would leave Hyannis at 2:45PM and arrive at Nantucket at 5:00PM. The high speed people only ferry would leave at 3:00PM and arrive at 4:00PM. I picked the slow speed since the ship is much larger and I figured it could handle the rough seas better. The return trip had one option. High speed at 8:20PM. I never even thought that the 8:20PM wouldn't sail (that could turn out to be a major miscalculation).

 

I left New Bedford around 1PM and was purchasing my ticket for the Steamship ferry at 2:15PM. The big bellied ship was getting ready to accept trucks and cars that were lined up for the trip. I know many on here are aviation geeks and get really pumped up on plane travel days. I enjoy that feeling also....BUT, it doesn't even compare to the exhilaration that is firing waiting to board one of these ferries. Thirty miles out to sea to visit a historic island had my heart pumping.

 

Yes, it was off season....yes, it was still winter cold...yes, it was a three hour visit....but I was stoked!!!

 

I hinted about the miscalculation for the certainty of the return trip. That possibility hit home when listening to some of my fellow passengers. They were talking about waiting two days to get home to Nantucket. We were chatting about that inconvenience when one nice lady asked me where I was staying when I arrived. I told her I was heading back that evening. Then she said.. "I hope the weather holds up or you'll be looking for a room"... WHAT?????? I can't NOT get back, I needed to be at work in the morning. I started crossing every pair of fingers I had.

 

The trip out was rough. The Captain asked all folks to get and stay seated once we were out of the channel. I don't often get motion sickness, but I have my limits. I remembered a tip given by a US Air pilot many years ago...he told me to always look at the horizon and that will defeat the motion or sea sickness.  I stared at that horizon for two hours on the ride to Nantucket!! There were a couple of passengers that didn't fare too well, but I had no problems!!!

 

As we entered the harbor area, excitement was building. I snapped a few pictures as we were approaching the dock. Just beautiful. I hopped off the ship and walked around town for a while. I stopped in at the Charlie Noble Restaurant for a bite to eat. It was all locals in a somewhat fancy looking pub setting. I can (and have) sit with locals anywhere on Earth. The lady sitting next to me at the bar was enjoying a mouth watering codfish sandwich. I quickly ordered one for myself and washed it down with the recommended IPA. I didn't want to leave the friendly conversation, but I had more exploring to do. By that time, what local shops that were open in the off season had mostly closed up for the day...so I strolled down cobblestone streets with gorgeous buildings.

 

Oh by the way, I grabbed a picture of the high speed ferry leaving Nantucket, so I felt confident it would come back to get me.

 

Back to the ferry terminal on Straight Wharf...and I was heading back to the mainland.

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New Hampshire, Maine, Cape Cod...now New Bedford. I'm getting closer to my work assignment in Fall River (home of Emeril Lagasse). Why New Bedford, you ask? Well, a couple of years ago, I was looking to get out to Martha's Vineyard.( Martha's Vineyard..Day Trip, July, 2013 )  There is a Ferry Terminal in New Bedford that provides the transportation that I seek. When the ferry pushed away from the dock, I noticed a newer Fairfield Inn & Suites rising from the old industrial town. I made a note to try that property out the next time in the area. It took me a couple of years, but I'm back, baby!! Since the winter storm is in full tilt status today, no ferry ride for me, but I am trying out the hotel and a couple of local hot spots.

 

The hotel is actually 7 yrs old and is finishing up a remodel. It feels newer than 7 yrs, for sure. I used the app to message the hotel to let them know of my quest for 500 and that they were #106 FFI and #434 overall Marriott property. They were great and upgraded me to a harbor view suite! Woohoo!

 

The FFI is literally a two minute walk to the ferry terminal.....and less than a quarter mile to many dining spots. I chose Moby Dick Brewing Co. from the front desk recommendation. After walking the 1/4 mile in biting wind and sleet..it was closed!!!! No worries, I had Rose Alley Ale House as my back up and they were ready and willing to accept my money. I know that the New Bedford/Fall River area has a long Portuguese history. What I didn’t know is that Mozambique Sauce comes from Portuguese cooking. The Rose Allay has their own version called “Rose”ambiquie. The bar man recommended the sauce on the wings....so I split 10 wings with their special sauce and traditional buffalo sauce. That Mozambique Sauce was FANTASTIC!

 

The storm is supposed to change from sleet to snow and reek some havoc, so I decided to wait til tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, make the ride back to Hyannis to grab that ferry to Nantucket.  I hope the Sun shows up.

 

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I left the New Hampshire and Maine area to head to Cape Cod. I was going to take the ferry to Nantucket, but another of the never ending Nor’easters is coming later today. My hosts at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Cape Cod Hyannis have a beautiful hotel here. This is one of two Marriott properties on the Cape. The FFI&S is just under two years old. The Courtyard has been here much longer and is separated from the FFI&S by a big box shopping center.

 

The town of Hyannis is definitely worthy. Lots of local shops and eateries. I love their street/directional signs. Since the ferry trip wasn't going to happen, I drove around and did some recon for a future visit. The harbor area, including the ferry terminal, was exciting to see...even if I wasn't hopping aboard. Ferry travel is my favorite way to go. Who doesn't like heading to an offshore island on a big boat??? If you take the ferry, parking is plentiful if you decide to leave your car. Time to hit the road...where’s that evacuation route?  Now for New Bedford and another Ferry Terminal!

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I had the rare work assignment that included four, two hour days, sandwiched around a travel Wednesday. It's still cold, wintery cold, up in New England, with snow on the ground, but the sky was brilliantly blue...so let's hit the Seacoast!!!!

 

I've read the recommendations for Wentworth by the Sea, A Marriott Hotel and Spa. It's that old classic type of property that is slowly being Arned (the act of taking nice things and making them disappear for the all mighty dollar). The vets on here can recall the Seaview and shed a tear for what once was.......Anyway, I've never had the pleasure to stay where the legends like jerrycoin, ahflyr, mustanggt, jerryl, lakersfan, and razorbackfan rub elbows with the beautiful people.

 

My day started in Manchester, NH. After a fine breakfast at the Red Arrow Diner (a Top 10 Diner) I headed towards Portsmouth, NH. It's about an hour drive using NH Route 101. First stop was the Wentworth. Many signs pointed the way. Wow!!! What a great looking hotel!!! The setting is picturesque in any season. I took a self guided tour of the interior and it's everything a history loving stayer would expect. I'll be back, for sure, as a paying guest.

 

PS.  There's a private Golf Club by the same name, Wentworth by the Sea, adjacent to the property. I'm not sure if the hotel extends privileges for staying guests.

 

I drove around Portsmouth's downtown and waterfront areas. Really nice!!! Plenty of shops and restaurants to make a three day weekend type stay worthwhile.

 

Over the bridge from Portsmouth is Kittery, ME.....Lobsters Baby!!!!!!!!  Kittery has it's own town center, not as plush as Portsmouth's, but worth exploring.

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I had an assignment between Reading and Allentown, PA. A few weeks ago, I reserved a room at a new SpringHill Suites in Center Valley, PA. I have never stayed at this SHS, so I was looking forward to the stay. I went back last week to check on my rate and found an even newer property just opened their doors. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Allentown West is actually closer to my assignment..so I switched.

 

The hotel is officially located in the town of Breinigsville, but that's a tiny town, so Marriott, as they often do, used the larger neighboring city, Allentown in the name.

 

The FFI&S opened last Wednesday, Jan 17th. As you would expect, it has a very nice, modern exterior. There is even a fire pit brick patio area in the back that, once the thaw hits, will no doubt see a lot of action. I was upgraded from a king room to a king suite. The newer FFIs feature the bedroom then the sitting area upon entering the door. The rooms are barely separated by two, three-foot wall sections on the sides. This is the first FFI that I've been in that has a leather sofa. I may be the first person to stay in this room...the sheets were brand new crisp and the towels feel as if they are right out of the box.

 

Being opened less than a week, I anticipated a few growing pains. Spotty Wifi, a pool not ready for swimmers, one elevator needing constant attention, etc. The staff is pumped up and very friendly. If you're in the area, I'd give them another month and then feel they'll be up to snuff.

 

The pictures below include what looks like a kid waterslide in the pool area. I've never seen that before.

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