Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

Archive for the category “Marriott”

Surf & Sun Tampa Style: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel

Introduction
Pasco to Salt Lake City (SLC)
SLC to Los Angeles (LAX)
LAX, “The Bump,” and Torrance Marriott
LAX to Atlanta
Atlanta to Tampa
Hotel Review: DoubleTree Suites Tampa Bay
Exploring Tampa Part 1: Honeymoon Island
Hotel Review: Tampa Marriott Waterside
Bern’s Steak House Tampa
Exploring Tampa Part 2: Cigar City Brewery and Clearwater Beach
Hotel Review: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel
Exploring Tampa Part 3: Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center and Ybor City
Tampa to New York (LGA)
New York to Minneapolis (MSP) to Pasco, WA (PSC)

Exterior

I arrived late after my Clearwater Beach adventures, and proceeded to the Elite counter for check-in.

Hotel Lobby-Forgive my crookedness, please

Check-In Desk

One thing I have noticed in retrospect is that usually hotels–especially Marriott tend to not check my ID upon check-in.  On one hand, it is convenient when I don’t have to pull it out, but it makes me a little bit worried.  One could easily check-in as me, and snatch up my room.  Even worse, my credit card is on file, making it even easier for someone to pilfer from me.  Should I start asking them to check it?  I can’t think of a good solution to their lack of attentiveness.

Anyway, as always I asked about a suite upgrade and was informed that a wedding party was occupying those.  After my near-miss the day before, I had checked and indeed Marriott was showing no suite availability.

I was given a club-lounge level room on the 8th floor. I was informed that as a Marriott Gold member, I would be able to receive complimentary breakfast in the hotel restaurant (of which there are actually 2) by notifying my waiter.

After finding the elevator (Renaissance hotels always seem to be set up as a maze) I proceeded up to my room.  It seemed a little bit less cramped than the last hotel I had stayed at, but with nearly the exact same room configuration.

Desk Area

Bathroom

On the wall across from the toilet, was a robe which I thought was comically hung:

Robe

I had breakfast at the restaurant Pelagia Trattoria my first morning at the hotel (a Sunday) and when I mentioned that I was a Marriott Gold member, was informed that I would be given a $14 credit for breakfast.

Crab Eggs Benedict

I ordered the Crab Eggs Benedict.  The bread that it was served on was a little firm, but it was still pretty good and perfectly paired with a succulent slice of avocado.

The service was excellent.  At the end of my meal, my waitress asked if I would write down my room number, and write that I was a Platinum member.  I quickly said “Gold, but wish I was was a Platinum!”  She remarked, “You don’t want that.  It just means you stay here a lot.”  If only she knew!

And while the price of the dish and coffee exceeded my $14 allotment by about $5, I was only billed for the tip.  A great benefit of Marriott Rewards Gold!

The second morning I ended up using the Club Lounge, which was just down the hall a little ways from my room.

Lounge Spread

There was a fair spread for breakfast including bread, sliced deli meat in cheese, cereal and oatmeal in addition to the staples of eggs, bacon and sausage.

Lounge Breakfast

Lounge Seating

On the whole, I liked the property.  It is conveniently located in the International Plaza, which has a fair amount of shops including a mall and Cheesecake Factory next door.  In addition, the locale works out since the airport is only a 5 minute ride on the hotel’s complimentary shuttle bus.

I really like Renaissance Hotels, how comfortable and trendy they are, while not be overly pricy.  For a mid-size town like Tampa, this property is certainly tough to beat.

Surf & Sun Tampa Style: Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina

Introduction
Pasco to Salt Lake City (SLC)
SLC to Los Angeles (LAX)
LAX, “The Bump,” and Torrance Marriott
LAX to Atlanta
Atlanta to Tampa
Hotel Review: DoubleTree Suites Tampa Bay
Exploring Tampa Part 1: Honeymoon Island
Hotel Review: Tampa Marriott Waterside
Bern’s Steak House Tampa
Exploring Tampa Part 2: Cigar City Brewery and Clearwater Beach
Hotel Review: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel
Exploring Tampa Part 3: Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center and Ybor City
Tampa to New York (LGA)
New York to Minneapolis (MSP) to Pasco, WA (PSC)

The second night of my stay I decided to stay at the Tampa Marriott Waterside, which is located downtown in the Channelside district, next to the Tampa Times (formerly St. Pete Times ) forum.

Tampa Times Forum

Things were a little hectic when I walked in, considering that a large group had their baggage sitting around.

Lobby

After navigating the maze to check-in, I was recognized as a valued Gold Elite member, and told that I had been given a room on the 25th (of 27) floor with a water view.

Bay View

The room was above other rooms with a balcony, but did not have one itself.  This bugged me a little bit, but at least I didn’t have any chance of a railing obstructing my view.

I went online and checked to see if any suites were available, and found that they were still selling some.  I went back down to the front desk and inquired about being upgraded to a suite.  Without even checking, she flatly told me (with a smile of course) that there weren’t any available.  I quickly replied that their were suites available on their website.  She finally checked, and told me it was on the 4th floor, and thought it had a city view.

I was still a little bit skeptical, but thought for just one night it would better to have a room higher up with a much better view.  And really, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in my room. anyway.  What would you do?

The room seemed a little small, especially compared to my last hotel room.  Right after entering the room, there was a long closet on the right, and the bathroom to the right.

Bathroom

King Bed

Across from the bed, was the desk area, which made for a pretty good workspace.

Overall, I would rate the hotel as decent.  It was good to be recognized as a Marriott elite, and be automatically given a high-floor room with a decent view.  But they didn’t seem forthright and honest with me, especially about just the possibility of a suite upgrade.  And never did they mention that since the Club Lounge was closed (over the weekend) that I would be able to receive complimentary breakfast in the restaurant.

In the end it worked out fine, since I grabbed something from Starbucks, but they could have at least informed me about this benefit.

Daily Getaways Great Deal Tomorrow-Marriott Travel Cards

The Daily Getaways promotion has been raging on, to rave reviews–ok not really.  Which is why I haven’t mentioned it until now, that I think there is something worth getting in on.

Tomorrow at 1:00 PM EDT (10 AM here on the Left Coast) they are running a sale on Marriott TravelCards-which can be redeemed for anything from hotel stays, to dining in their restaurants and even spa treatments.

Marriott Travel Card

On the surface this is a pretty good deal, but it becomes an AMAZING deal when you consider the fact that you get an extra10% off for using any American Express card.  So here are the options, with the price for using an American Express in parenthesis:

  • $44    ($39.60)    for $50 Marriott TravelCard         [150 Available]
  • $ 89   ($80.10)    for $100 Marriott TravelCard      [290 Available]
  • $222 ($199.80)  for $250 Marriott TravelCard      [452 Available]
  • $445 ($400.50) for $500 Marriott TravelCard      [201 Available]
  • $890 ($801)        for $1,000 Marriott TravelCard  [50 Available]

I became curious about what TravelCard denominations are at the best value, so being an Engineer, I put together the spreadsheet below to calculate this information quickly.

The first column labeled “LIMIT” is important because it is the maximum number of TravelCards that can be bought in a single purchase.  It should also be noted that to analyze the cost, I divided the card value (say $50) by the cost to purchase them ($44 or $39.60 with AMEX), so the larger the number, the BETTER the value.  In other words, it is the dividend available, per dollar spent, ie 1.14 and 1.26.

LIMIT VALUE Regular AMEX Reg. $/$ AMEX $/$
5 $50.00 $44.00 $39.60 1.14 1.26
5 $100.00 $89.00 $80.10 1.12 1.25
2 $250.00 $222.00 $199.80 1.13 1.25
2 $500.00 $445.00 $400.50 1.12 1.25
1 $1,000.00 $890.00 $801.00 1.12 1.25

What is interesting to note, is that the deal is actually slightly better for lower end of the scale.  I can’t claim to be an expert on economics, but it is surprising because instead of receiving a better deal for buying a larger quantity (think Costco or Sam’s Club) you could a better deal for buying less.

What this means for me is that instead of buying 1 single $500 card for $400/$445, I can get a better value and spend less by buying 10 $50 cards (in 2 orders) for $396/$440.  Go figure.

Anyway, I know it is maybe a little late to share this when it is less than 24 hours away, but I am glad to share the path to great travel!

LIMIT VALUE Regular AMEX Reg. $/$ AMEX $/$
5 $50.00 $44.00 $39.60 1.14 1.26
5 $100.00 $89.00 $80.10 1.12 1.25
2 $250.00 $222.00 $199.80 1.13 1.25
2 $500.00 $445.00 $400.50 1.12 1.25
1 $1,000.00 $890.00 $801.00 1.12 1.25

Surf and Sun Tampa Style: LAX, “The Bump,” and Torrance Marriott

Introduction
Pasco to Salt Lake City (SLC)
SLC to Los Angeles (LAX)
LAX, “The Bump,” and Torrance Marriott
LAX to Atlanta
Atlanta to Tampa
Hotel Review: DoubleTree Suites Tampa Bay
Exploring Tampa Part 1: Honeymoon Island
Hotel Review: Tampa Marriott Waterside
Bern’s Steak House Tampa
Exploring Tampa Part 2: Cigar City Brewery and Clearwater Beach
Hotel Review: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel
Exploring Tampa Part 3: Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center and Ybor City
Tampa to New York (LGA)
New York to Minneapolis (MSP) to Pasco, WA (PSC)

As I noted at the time, I had a pretty good flight from Salt Lake to LAX.  Especially considering it was my first complimentary upgrade as a Medallion, to Delta’s internationally-configured Business Elite product on a Boeing 737-800.

For whatever reason we landed at Terminal 6, instead of Terminal 5 which I suppose is Delta’s main terminal.  Maybe I am crazy, but it didn’t bother me.  I had about an hour to make my connection, and it just meant more for me to explore.

When I arrived into the crazy world of LAX, everything seemed to be in a haze, but maybe that was because my weary eyes were futilely attempting to adjust to the bright signage at 11 PM.

I followed the signs toward Terminal 5 and felt a little like I was walking through a dilapidated high school:

I headed into the SkyClub, and I received an unusual comment.  The lounge dragon checking my credentials remarked “I remember you!”  The only problem is I had never been to LAX before.  Maybe she had worked at another Sky Club that I had visited last year, but I didn’t ask.  Perhaps it was her way of being courteous image, as I heard the same remark made to another passenger.

I left about 30 minutes before boarding to began to inquire if they needed any volunteers to take a later flight, as I had checked the loads (see Lucky’s advice) and the flight seemed quite full.  Worse yet, I knew my upgrade about 0 chance of clearing, so I would be a bit relieved to not have to put up with an uncomfortable red-eye, even if I would have been in the Exit Row.

LAX Sky Club

I managed to be first on the list, and was glad to hear that they would provide $400 in Delta vouchers, plus breakfast, lunch, AND dinner vouchers.  Last time I took a bump, I only received $200, perhaps I should have asked for more…

I checked back in about 30-40 minutes later, when most of the boarding process was complete.  “Unfortunately,” at this point, the ticket agent scarily informed me, “we still need you.”  Pfheeww.  I thought she would announce they weren’t going to need me.

Immediately the agent went to working on printing my vouchers and new boarding pass for the following morning, then began trying to find hotel rooms for the 4 of us who had been bumped off the flight.  She mentioned that there were no rooms in The Hacienda close by (which didn’t seem too bad when passing by it), so they had found a room out at the Torrance Marriott South Bay.  As a newly-minted Marriott Rewards Gold Member I jumped for joy at my luck.

The Torrance Marriott that where Delta had reserved a room for me was about 20 minutes away, and I was given Shuttle vouchers for both the trip there and the return.  Needless to say, not only did I have a hard time finding the shuttle, and then wait for a while, when I finally contacted them by phone they told me they wouldn’t be able to give me a ride. GRR.  Long story short, don’t go with Prime Time Shuttle.

Despite not wanting to pay for a 20-minute taxi ride, I did desire to actually get some sleep that night, so fed up, I finally rationalized paying for a cab.  After about 15-20 minutes, I finally arrived at the Marriott Torrance South Bay.

Torrance Marriott Exterior (Courtesy of Marriott.com)

As a side note, I have contacted Delta about having to pay for a cab, and hope they will reimburse me since the transportation they provided the voucher for, simply was  NOT AVAILABLE.  We shall see.

I proceeded to check-in, and unfortunately no King beds were available.  Oh well, it was a practically free stay, who am I to complain?  And the front desk representative was courteous enough to call the shuttle company for me, and arrange for the shuttle to pick me up in the morning.  He agreed to put me on the Club Lounge floor, but unfortunately my shuttle left before the lounge opened.

Anyway, I guess I gave up on the shuttle idea at the right time, because just as I was leaving the front desk, the other distressed passengers arrived, having also decided to take a taxi.

I decided to take a picture of the room, which by no means was extravagant, but did the trick:

My Double Twin Room

For some reason (maybe weariness) I didn’t take pictures of the bathroom, but while it was serviceable, it wasn’t a whole lot more than that.

The following morning the shuttle called my cell phone 15 minutes before arrival–nice  After a quick shower, I dragged (emphasis on DRAGGED) myself down to the lobby to check out and meet my ride.

UPDATE: My “Enhanced” Marriott Service

UPDATE:  I was automatically signed up for the “Taste of Gold” promotion, and the  free lounge access/free breakfast and wifi until February 2014 for only 6 stays was too good to pass up.

As I noted a few weeks back, Marriott informed me that as a loyal member I would be receiving some “special, exclusive offers.”  What I didn’t know was that this would include an upgrade in my status.

After making a reservation for an upcoming trip, I glanced at the confirmation email I received, and noticed that where it listed my status is said “Gold Elite.”  These words was quite shocking to me, yet blissfully so because I had only been (and re-qualified for) Silver Elite last year.

I have a couple of theories on how this is so.  It might have been that that I was automatically signed up for the fast-track to Gold, or just part of my enhanced benefits.  Either way, I won’t complain, especially to Marriott customer service in case it is a mistake.

Also bizarre to me is how lifetime nights is the SUM of my nights from last year (first one as a Marriott Rewards member) AND my elite rollover nights.  In other words, I only spent 18 nights last year in Marriott properties, but because I rolled over 8 nights past the Silver threshold (10 nights), I was credited with 26 lifetime nights:

Anyway, I plan on taking full-advantage of this, as it is a definitely a game changer for me.  I was going to chase Hyatt Diamond and maybe Starwood Platinum status this year, but I think it might be foolish not to take advantage of the status I have already earned.  Here are some of the basic benefits of Marriott Gold Elite status:

  • Elite Guest Services & Reservations Lines -For expedited customer service
  • Ultimate Reservation Guarantee – If they are unable to honor a reservation for any reason, they will pay for your accommodations at a nearby hotel.
  • Free Internet Access  – One benefit I am looking forward to across all brands, since this is not a standard Silver benefit
  • Room Upgrade – Up to best available room.  They say excluding suites, but as I have witnessed, your mileage may vary.
  • Guaranteed Lounge Access/Free Breakfast – Concierge/Executive/Club Lounge access at participating JW Marriotts, the Autograph Collection, Renaissance and full-service Marriotts.  If the hotel doesn’t a Lounge, you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast on your weekday stays.

More Marriott Rewards….Just For Me?

I know that most folks don’t place a lot of value in Marriott Hotels and their loyalty program Membership Rewards.  In general I wouldn’t advise consider chasing after top-tier status with them, considering how stingy they tend to be in general at each of their elite levels.

Where this is especially apparent is in the exclusion of suite upgrades to top-tier members, in addition to the general lack of amenities at check-in and comped breakfast.  Furthermore, consider that in a little over the required nights to reach Marriott Platinum, (75) I could make top-tier status withStarwood, Hyatt, AND Hilton hotels.

That said, I have personally had very few negative experiences with Marriott, and find their hotels–across all brands (JW Marriott, full-service, Courtyard, Fairfield, etc.) to be clean and comfortable.  Even as a lowly Silver Elite (10 Qualifying Nights) I have been given Club Lounge access some of the time.   In addition, they have hotels just about EVERYWHERE which can be pretty hard to beat, especially if you find yourself in a smaller market.

My general strategy for this year is to have a couple of stays with them just to maintain some status with them, while focusing on earning top-tier status with Hyatt and possibly also Starwood.

In general though, I guess you could say that I have been a loyal customer to them.  Yet I am still a little bit skeptical about the email that they sent me–it seems to good to be true:

Dear Mr. Field Of Burch:

More Rewards. Just for You.

Dear Bryce Burchfield:

We greatly appreciate your loyalty and have selected you
to be part of a small group to receive special exclusive
offers this year. Whether traveling for business, weekend
getaways or dream holidays, we hope you enjoy our
program’s many advantages as much as we enjoy having
you as a member.

We’re always working to bring our membership new
benefits this year. In addition to benefits enjoyed by all
Elite members, we’ll provide a small group of members
special exclusive offers. Because of your loyalty and
commitment, you are a part of this select group.
  (Their Bolding)

Throughout the year be sure to look for your exclusive
offers through the mail, email and online at
MarriottRewards.com.

Sincerely,

Ed French
Senior Vice President
Marriott Rewards

P.S. Be on the lookout for unique offers and special deals just for you from Marriott Rewards.

Ready to dismiss this as nothing more than clever marketing, I decided to do some research.  but could not find much out.  I did find a recent MilePoint thread started on the subject, and a FlyerTalk post from a few years back, but no concrete answers.

Is it really to provide exclusive offers for a “small group of members” or a clever marketing ploy?  I would love to know, but in the mean time feel honored and
REWARDed.

 

DC for 4 Days: Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City

Introduction, PSC-SLC, SLC-DTW, DTW-DCA, Ritz Carlton Pentagon City Review, Exploring Washington, DC-Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4; DCA-ATL, ATL-MSP, MSP-PSC, Conclusion

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Once I retrieved my baggage at Reagan National, I purchased 3-day Metro pass.  I then hopped on and headed to the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, which like the airport.  In addition to only being a couple of stops away from the airport, the hotel provides convenient mass-transit access in that it is literally across the street from the Pentagon City Metro station.

At the time, I was not blogging, so I did not get an outside picture of the hotel.  However, the photo below is courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton website:

Ritz-Carlton,. Pentagon City Entrance - Courtesy of ritzcarlton.com

As I mentioned in the trip introduction post, the room had been booked using 120,000 Marriott Rewards points for four nights.  As I found out later, Ritz-Carlton award stays of 4 nights or longer receive the final night complimentary.  Oh well–it really didn’t matter though since I couldn’t stay more than 4 nights because of work.

I was greeted at the door before proceeding to the check-in counter inside.  There was one other person checking in while I was there, but I had to wait for 5 minutes which kind of irked me.  I inquired about an room upgrade and/or access to the Club Lounge floor, was told that this was not a common benefit given to Marriott Rewards Platinum members.  As I will later explain, this did not turn out to be that big of a deal.

I was directed to the 14th floor, where I was provided a Deluxe Guest Room.

Entry Way to my Hotel Room

Don’t worry – the bed and bathroom didn’t look this un-kept when I walked in.  I took these pictures just before leaving the hotel on the final day of my trip.

Bathroom

Bathroom

King-Sized Bed

Work Space/ Love Seat

The “denied” Club Lounge access didn’t turn out to be a problem, though on a couple of counts.  The lounge is situated on the 18th floor, and my key card denied me access to this floor, since my room was on the 14th floor.  I remedied this problem though, by taking the emergency exit stairs up to the 18th floor.  I have actually tried this at a couple of hotels, and in some cases there is a key-card entry to the lounge.  I lucked out in this instance, since there was only an entryway leading into the lounge.

Before anyone screams at me for being unethical, I may have had key card access all along.  The last day of my trip, on a whim I decided to try to use my key card for access to the club floor, and it worked!  There is a chance the lady at the front desk might have been confused.  After all, her English was not what I would call perfect.

Again, I unfortunately do not have photos of the club lounge so you will have to make do with another photo from the Ritz-Carlton website.  The lounge provides an exception view of the surrounding area including the Pentagon, Reagan National Airport, and the Washington Monument.

The hotel spread was delicious, but not necessarily substantial.  The breakfast was more of a continental breakfastl style, and finger foods/hors d’oeuvre were available for lunch and dinner along with complimetary wine and beer.  Unlike a number of other hotel club lounges however,  this one was actually open during the weekend.  In fact, despite the erratic times when I would frequent the lounge due to trying to see the city, I sort of became known as a regular by the lounge staff.  During one of the days I was in there, I was asked at lunch if I would be joining them for dinner.  While I told them I wasn’t sure if I would be making it, I appreciated their consideration, and think this exemplifies the great service of the fine hotel staff.

I also did visit the fyve Lounge on the ground floor of the hotel for a drink.  Nothing memorable, except for a citing of the founder of some obscure site called Facebook, complete with his entourage.  I should have told him Timeline would be a bad, bad idea but that is another topic entirely…

fyve Lounge - Courtesy of ritzcarlton.com

Overall, I would rate the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City a 4 out of 5.  While I came across some friendly staff, the check-in staff seemed inefficient and a little snooty.  I found having a Metro stop right outside of the front door very convenient for my visit to Washington, D.C.  For my next visit to the area I would really consider staying at this property again.

INCREDIBLE Marriott Weekend Rate in the Atlanta Area

I like Marriott hotels due to their general cleanliness, consistency and good service across all of their properties and brands.  Maybe this is due to staying at Marriotts more than any other chain by far growing up, but I always know what I am getting and have had very few poor experiences with them.

I was searching Marriott hotel rates when I stumbled upon what I consider to be an incredible steal:  A weekend rate of $59 per night at a Fairfield Inn & Suites Atlanta Alpharetta.  This rate is for a basic room type, but for $74 per night you can snag a suite.

This weekend rate runs from now through the foreseeable future.  In fact the nightly rate for the next couple of weekends is at $49 per night before increasing at the end of the month.  I looked out as fare as Labor Day weekend in September, and even then $59 weekend nights are still available.

Sure, it is about 20 minutes outside of downtown, but depending on your flexibility it can be a rather cost-effective place to stay, especially if you are trying to build/maintain status with the Marriott Rewards program.

This past fall I was attending a meeting in downtown Atlanta, and stayed with friends (it’s sometimes hard to resist a free place to stay) who live roughly the same distance from downtown with no problem.  As far as the Fairfield brand of Marriott goes, it is not quite on the level of a luxury hotel like the JW Marriott or Ritz Carlton, but I have stayed at a number of them and it offers a solid, fairly modern product in my opinion.

So if you are going to be in the Atlanta area, or looking to mattress run (staying at hotels solely for accruing hotel status and/or hotel points) this is a great value, in my opinion.

This could be a mistake, but I am still tempted to get in on this deal in order to help with my own Marriott status.

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