This past year I set a goal-visit 25 countries. To date, my travels have taken me to such exciting places as Tasmania and the Antarctic. I’ve ridden the Orient Express from Venice to London, and e-chatted with friends back home from an Internet café in India. Throughout it all, the one thing I’ve found most beneficial is my Starwood Platinum Card. As a platinum veteran of four years, I am still amazed at the benefits of the card. We spend so much time battling for airline upgrades, many of us forget that we actually spend more time in our hotel rooms than in the air.
The Starwood program features more than 700 unique hotels worldwide divided among six individual brands-Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotels. Twenty-five stays or 50 nights per calendar year is the requirement for earning platinum status. That gets you a late checkout at 4 p.m., but the key benefit is the spaceavailable upgrade to a suite. In many cases, the hotels book the upgrade prior to your arrival. That little perk has allowed me the pleasure of experiencing some truly glorious suites in hotels around the world, including the Westin Excelsior in Rome, Sheraton Imperial in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Hotel Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg, Austria, and San Cristobal Tower in Santiago, Chile.
Still, I was happily surprised when I arrived in Sydney, Australia, for the Rugby World Finals. I had redeemed Starwood points to book a four-night stay at the Four Points Sheraton Darling Harbour (formerly the Nikko Hotel). Booking online took less than two minutes and required a relatively low point value for such a grand hotel. I knew the city was completely booked for the rugby finals, so I assumed I’d be assigned the standard twin room I had reserved. Much to my surprise, I was upgraded to a beautiful suite with a terrace overlooking bustling Darling Harbour. Most airlines would never consider offering an upgrade on reward travel.
Although I enjoy flying first- or business-class much as anyone, my stays in first-class accommodations have been highlights of the destinations I’ve visited. Starwood has consistently extended this benefit to me, regardless of the hotel rate I’ve booked. In addition, many Starwood properties I’ve visited have made an effort to have much-appreciated welcome amenities
waiting for platinum members on arrival.
Membership in the Starwood Preferred Guest program is free. For information, visit www.spg.com.
I’ll check in with you next time after my winter ski trip to Davos, Switzerland. Until then, happy trails.
Once you’ve boarded Regent’s Seven Seas Grandeur, it is immediately apparent this recently launched cruise ship delivers what the name promises. Jewel box opulence dominates in most of the public areas, while quiet luxury teamed with clever function defines the cabins (save for the individually decorated top-tier suites). The ship, designed by internationally acclaimed Studio DADO and constructed by Ancona, Italy, ship builder Fincantieri, holds up to 746 guests and is serviced by a staff of 548 for optimal passenger-to-staff service.
The St. Regis San Francisco recently debuted a Lunar New Year-themed The Art of Tea to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. Available for only a few more days, through Feb. 25, the afternoon menu boasts Asian-inspired sweet and savory items, a selection of tea and a complimentary welcome toast with Champgane Lallier R.018.
The Saronic or Argo Saronic Islands of Greece call travelers to explore its seven small islands and islets brimming with history, natural sites and more. With most easily accessible by boat, the islands’ proximity to ports of Athens make the Saronic Islands an ideal destination for those preferring shorter boat rides. In fact, trips from Athens ports to the islands take only between 10 minutes and two hours, depending on the island you choose, making them perfect for day or weekend trips. From Piraeus port, you can access Hydra, Spetses, Aegina and Poros directly. Come explore these stunning islands with us and find the inspiration to plan your next trip to these islands. Hydra Hydra town curves around a slope overlooking the Argosaronic Gulf like an amphitheater and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Greece. Most unique to the island is its lack of vehicles. People on the island get around on mules and donkeys as well as water taxis, making for a peaceful and laid-back day. Hydra lies a two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus port in Athens.
After a stressful pre-holiday season and a busy work schedule, there was no better time for a relaxing spa experience than during my recent trip to Pasadena with the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team. We headed to The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for the 20th anniversary of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, which meant a jam-packed trip, but I managed to carve a little time out of our busy schedule to visit Chuan Spa at the hotel.
Reconnecting the World: GBTA Convention 2023 Spotlights the Vital Role of Business Travel and In-Person Connection
In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention remains an indispensable platform for business travel industry professionals seeking to make the most of the power of face-to-face connections. Taking place August 13–15 in Dallas, the 2023 GBTA Convention provides the unique opportunity for professionals and companies to join visionaries, thought leaders and industry experts for meaningful networking, cutting-edge insights and inspiring innovation.
Keep New Year’s resolutions going with a stay at The Westin Tempe. The hotel recently launched a wellness stay offer in partnership with Lululemon. The limited-time Lululemon In-Room Fitness Experience includes accommodations in a guestroom equipped with a Lululemon-branded yoga mat and yoga block.