Posts in the “Marriott” category...

Hotel Loyalty Programme Promotions Q1 2013

by Continental Club on January 15, 2013  |  Leave a comment

Most of the major global hotel brands have now launched their bonus promotions for the first three or four months of 2012. So, here’s the Continental Club guide to five of the biggest promotions and how to register for them. Remember, membership of these programmes is free and you can sign up for the promotions as soon as you become a member – or even at the same time as you become one.

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Marriott: UK Hotel Flash Sale From £56 Per Room

by Continental Club on November 13, 2012  |  Leave a comment

For 72 hours beginning 9am Tuesday November 13th, Marriott is offering up to 30% off weekend rates at UK properties. Starting rates, per room, are from £56 in Glasgow, £65 in Manchester and £103 in London.

All rates include VAT and are pre-paid, and are available for selected Thursday to Sunday stays between December 17th 2012 and March 31st 2013.

The rates will qualify for Marriott Rewards MegaBonus credit for those members who registered for this promotion by October 31st 2012.

To check availability, rates and to book, visit marriott.co.uk and use promotional code ADV.

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Hotel Loyalty Programme Promotions Q1 2012

by Continental Club on January 26, 2012  |  One comment

Most of the major global hotel brands have now launched their  bonus promotions for the first three or four months of 2012. So, here’s the Continental Club guide to five of the biggest promotions and how to register for them. Remember, membership of these programmes is free and you can sign up for the promotions as soon as you become a member – or even at the same time as you become one.

               

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Marriott Hotel Zurich

by Continental Club on May 28, 2009  |  Leave a comment

Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof railway station is a grand edifice built on the banks of the Limmat River, which issues from the Zurichsee just a little way upstream. The station is well-connected with rail lines to all parts of the country and beyond, at both ground and basement floors and surrounded on three sides by a comprehensive tram network at street level.

Exiting onto Museumstrasse and crossing the river, it’s barely a 10 minute walk with light luggage to the Marriott Hotel which, thanks to its almost unique-in-Zurich high-rise stature, is plainly obvious from some distance away.

Easy to locate it may be, but a thing of beauty it most certainly is not. Clearly designed by an architect untroubled by the concept of curves or radii, whose desk posessed only ruler and grey pencil, the Marriott rises like a giant, incongrous, duo-tone Sticklebrick from above the trees which line the clear-watered river’s Northern bank.

Once inside the lobby, things improve markedly – though only to that most reliable of Marriott rosy dark wood, granite, brass and marble combinations, with the ubiquitous portrait of the kindly-looking JWs, Senior and Junior, surveying the passing traffic from within their gilt-edged frame.

Our Receptionist is most welcoming and confirms an upgrade in recognitoin of my Marriott Rewards Platinum status and, better still, advises that our room is ready despite the earliness of our arrival. He offers a city map and some brief suggestions of must-sees and points out the ‘Golden Door’ to the Club Lounge which that Platinum Card (and the upgrade) affords. A very positive first impression.

Having gone from the gulagesque exterior to the clubby American lobby, it’s something of a shock for the lift doors to open onto a guest room corridor which looks like that of a cross-channel ferry (although a richly-carpeted one) and smells ever so slightly like a municipal baths.

The odd wall finish and flush nature of the guestroom doors gives rise to the impression that the doors themselves must open outwards, leading to a distinctly Midvale School For The Gifted tussle with the handle until it’s realised that they do, in fact, open inwards.

The other oddity experienced in the lift is that the hotel appears to have mislaid almost 20 floors. Either a significant chunk of the tower’s midriff has collapsed, the hotel has size issues or there’s a disconnect in the space-time continuum above floor four. I jumped up and down on the bedroom floor a couple of times and it didn’t seem to wobble, so I’m guessing that option one is not the most likely of explanations.

Once inside, it’s back to standard Marriott again, and very comfortable too with the new ‘Revive’ bedding.

The view is expansive back across the river, over the city and towards the Zurichsee. On a clear day, the Alps would feature in the distance.

The bathroom is well-specified, spotlessly clean and stylishly fitted.

The rate included a complimentary bottle of unspecified champagne, which the Receptionist had noted and asked what time it would be required. When it arrived, on time, it turned out to be more than acceptable and didn’t last long whilst we enjoyed the view.

The short stay didn’t leave time to investigate the hotel’s swimming pool and gym, but suffice to say that they’re there and should meet the usual Marriott standards.

The famed ‘Golden Door’ leading to the Club Lounge was passed through for pre-dinner drinks and a largeish room with a central servery was found behind it. Mornings bring with them a light breakfast presentation, followed by access to the coffee machine and sweet treats during the day. In the evening, a wider selection of canapes are brought out, and a bar set up.

The cheeseboard is certainly to be recommended; the Montepulciano only if you propose to indulge in some evening paint-stripping whilst in Zurich. Avoid! There are both lounging and dining areas.

There is a small business centre immediately adjacent to Reception, with PCs and secretarial services. Web access is chargeable however.

The aforementioned light breakfast was passed over in favour of the more comprehensive offering served in the hotel’s dedicated first floor breakfast room. Here, service was to the same friendly standard as elsewhere in the hotel, although the kitchen did seem to be struggling on this occasion to keep all the buffet items fully replenished. There’s an in-room chef to prepare eggs and waffles, although the view is of a slightly Sega Racing flyover parapet.

A late check-out was also included in the room rate and, when the time came, it was a quick and problem-free experience with no extras to add.

Final verdict for the Marriott Hotel Zurich: 8.0/10. The hotel is a long way from being a budget option, so the lack of exterior presence and underwhelming corridors were something of a disappointment. Breakfast was not a completely seamless service and the Club Lounge suffered from a lack of free WiFi or PCs and some horrid wine. However, the overall value for money was good, the service first class and the bedroom clean, quiet, comfortable and with a more than pleasant view. A good, well-located choice, close enough to the centre to be convenient, but just a little away from the noise of the city.

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Vancouver, British Columbia – Part One

by Continental Club on July 30, 2008  |  Leave a comment

After a really very good flight from London, we left the Chatham Dockyard flag and our wonderful crew far behind and trekked through a building site to the Hertz desk at Vancouver Airport to pick up our trusty steed for the next 8 days. Having trawled around, we’d got by far the best deal through American Express Centurion on a Jeep Grand Cherokee (or Dissimilar) with Hertz PermanentlyLost fitted as well.

And so it was that, many days (it seemed) after first smelling the fresh British Columbian air, we clambered into our Jeep, sorry, Ford, Explorer and struck out for East Hastings Street. Quite apart from the clear difference between a two-tone burgundy and gold (sickness bags are to be found in the seat pocket in front of you, should you so require them) Ford and a Jeep, the other thing that struck me immediately was the absence of any kind of loadspace cover. This had been removed by Hertz in light of the luggage compartment’s additional seats, but struck me as a worry given the fact that we intended to tour with all our cases now on view. Privacy glass was our only defence.

The drive from the airport downtown was uneventful, passing through what are clearly the rather nice Southern suburbs of Vancouver. The PermanentlyLost lost it as soon as the high-rises began, but sign posting was simple enough and, within 30 minutes, we were turning into the forecourt of the Marriott Hotel, Vancouver Pinnacle Downtown. These particular lodgings had been selected on the basis of TripAdvisor and FT recommendations and also a rather nifty rate that included valet parking and a $25 gas card per night. The rate rules said that the card could only be used at a local gas station, which might prove to be a problem, but all of the above, coupled with being MHRS Platinum, meant that I thought it worth a punt.

With memories of our crew fading fast, one of several available valets greeted us at the Marriott. We checked in and were (correctly) upgraded to the Concierge (25th) Level. We were given a little card with the lounge opening times (more of which later) and, turning round from the desk to head to the lifts, we were met by….. the crew off the BA85. I mean, the shame of it. Staying in a crew hotel….!

The room was not overly-spacious, but came with a great view of the harbour and the sea-plane piers. Over the coming days, the ever-changing panorama would come to compare with the outlook from the (former) Regent in Hong Kong as a wide-screen feature.

Indeed, much as is the norm at the Regent, the curtains were left open at all times. So it was that, woken from their slumbers on this first morning in the West, MCC and FCC lifted themselves simultaneously from their repose, seemingly without elbow-assistance, and craned up and around to survey the view from behind their mound of Marriott duvetry. This choreographed display forever earning them the moniker of ‘The Geriatric Meerkats’.

Back to practicalities and the room itself also came with the bonus of being adjacent (though silently-so) to the Concierge Lounge. This meant that the free WiFi offered in the lounge permeated the wall and saved a tidy sum.

Breakfast in the lounge was a plentiful spread of coffee to drink in or go, the usual juices, a hot selection, cold cuts, cheese, radioactively-hued smoked salmon, fruits and cereals. All in all, very nice and a harbour view to boot.

Now, the Pacific NorthWest is not known for its great weather, but our first day dawned merely drizzly, so we headed along the harbourfront to the Seabus terminal . This service runs, very much in the manner of Hong Kong’s Star Ferry, Sydney’s Manly, Auckland’s Harbour and countless others, pretty much continuously on a walk-up basis. Tickets are valid on all public transport systems for 90 minutes and are zoned. So, a sail across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver is a 2 zone job. On the other side, you’ll find a great ‘market’ at Lonsdale Quay, selling arts and crafts of varying quality, but mostly some superb provender. Eat here or buy the components of a global picnic.

At the rear of the Market, you can catch a free shuttle bus to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Your ferry ticket would also take you there, but if you’ve had a look around the market then your 90 minutes will have expired. So, by the totem pole, the free shuttle pulls up hourly and whisks you to Capilano. This is really a private pleasure garden (and not all that cheap either) but is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours in a temperate rainforest on bridges and boardwalks, trails and terraces, adjusting to the time difference from Blighty. The on-site ‘Tatarama’ is at the slightly higher-quality end of the scale and you can grab a snack or a meal at one of a number of eateries.

If there’s no shuttle imminent then the service bus stop is right outside the gates of the park. And if, like us, there’s no shuttle in sight and you have no change (buses only take the coins of the Dominion) then you may be lucky like us and score a free ride off the bus driver. His view was that, since we would then be heading over on the Seabus back to the city, we’d be buying a 90 minute ticket when we got off anyway. He also helped passengers with pushchairs on and off and was by far and away the nicest bus driver I’ve come across in a long while. He also started the rot of me thinking that this really is a rather fabulous place.

The bus takes a windy route through neatly manicured suburbs, with lush gardens, soaring trees and opulent homes. The raised vantage point gives you ample opportunity to over-hedge peer too.

Time for a siesta back at the hotel and then a visit to the gym and the pool, both of which are more than fit for purpose, Lockers are secured by means of a lock (supposedly) obtained from the Concierge Desk, but having been looked at like the man from Mars when I enquired, then them failing to find any such thing, I resorted to the perfectly suitable TSA lock off the suitcase. The gym has a good selection of, er, gym things, and the pool is not huge but good for laps. There is a sauna and steam poolside, alongside a spacious Jacuzzi. The one rather strange thing was that, in the Gents changing area, there were a number of perfectly acceptable single showers, but then also a sort of ‘group’ one, like you get at school.

The facility is open 24hrs, keycard accessed but unmanned. There are plentiful supplies of (acceptable) toiletries and towels. Perfectly useful if you like that kind of thing.

Probably the most unusual thing about the hotel is that it doesn’t have a ‘lobby’ as such. Sure, there’s a reception area, but no lounge bar adjacent. Rather, it’s the Showcase restaurant that leads straight off Reception and then, at the far end of that, a sports bar which fronts the corner of the block. The restaurant is very pleasant in a chain-hotel-tries-hard kind of way. Sadly however, the hotel has decided that the ambience of the sports bar will define the entire space. This is not the place for a relaxed dinner therefore. That said, the food – chosen from a reasonable selection on quite a sensible menu – was rather good. It’s just that conversation was impossible.

It was a bit of a relief to find that, at breakfast the following morning, the mood was altogether more relaxed. Per the opening hours of the Concierge Lounge (ie closed at the weekend) we were to take breakfast in the main restaurant for the next two days. We therefore found ourselves in the midst of four (yes, four) BA crews. Breakfast was (as you’d expect) more generous in depth and breadth than the Concierge Lounge, but the Lounge’s offer remained fairly unshamed by comparison.

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Vancouver to Kamloops

by Continental Club on July 30, 2008  |  Leave a comment

After soundly sleeping off the effects of the lengthy exertions of the previous day, we headed bright and early to the reopened Concierge Lounge for a final breakfast and lingering look at the Harbour view. We packed and headed to check out, calling ahead to have the Explorer recovered from the bowels of the garage once again.

As is the norm in such circumstances, FCC and MCC were positioned in comfortable chairs while CC deals with the dirtiness of payment. As would become somewhat of a theme of the trip however, this was not a straightforward process. Although the basic bill seemed to be correct, we had been charged in full for the breakfast taken in the restaurant on the Sunday. This despite being a Marriott Platinum cardholder and the Concierge Lounge being closed (which should prompt a credit). I queried this and was somewhat taken aback to be told that there was no credit because the Lounge had in fact been open. When I pointed out that my keycard wallet had been overstamped with the lounge opening times, the times were posted on the door of the lounge and, when checking in, the agent had confirmed the opening times verbally – ie weekdays only – he said I was wrong. I’ve never actually had that in a hotel before, least of all a Marriott, which I normally rate as consistently-good-if-ploddy hotels. So, when I also pointed out that the requested Platinum Amenity of a bottle of wine and tub of ice cream had yet to make it to the room, four days after check in, I was told that I had selected 500 Marriott Reward points as the amenity instead. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

His only offer was an additional 500 MR points, bringing the total to 1000 and, with impatient parents and a 300 mile drive ahead, I left. Worse still, when the points posted, there were only 750. The one unexpected bonus was that the ‘gas’ cards included in the rate ($25 per night = $100) proved to be valid at the Petrocanada chain of filling stations – and we weren’t to be limited to just a local outlet where we would probably have struggled to squeeze the full value of the cards into the tank.

The postscript to this bit of the story is that, having taken the time to subsequently email Marriott Rewards, I had a superb phone call from the Front of House Manager who seemed genuinely keen to repent, and I was somewhat mollified by a 10,000 MR point bung, which I felt reflected more accurately the service failure.

Anyway, time to leave and, it has to be said, not through the most salubrious part of the city as we struck East and headed for the hills. Or, more accurately, the Rocky Mountains. Woohoo.

The first part of the drive along Highway One – The Trans Canada Highway – is through suburbs and then pastoral land of pleasant beauty and general non-descriptness. Only at Hope do things begin to get a little more interesting, as the Fraser River really begins to make its presence known.

The most direct route from Hope to Kamloops is on the (toll) Coquihalla Highway, but our Moon guidebook (purchased in Vancouver, thanks to the Geriatric Meerkats having been lent all the books for the trip months beforehand, and then forgetting to pack them) strongly suggested taking the original Highway One North for more a more interesting drive.

Having not sampled the toll road, it’s impossible to compare, but H1 certainly didn’t disappoint. Our target, for a picnic lunch purchased from the frankly fantastic Urban Fare on Pacific Boulevard in Vancouver, was Hell’s Gate. Once we had enjoyed the laptop repast of bounteous provender, we headed for the entrance to this famous attraction. Every second, more water passes through this 110 feet wide gash in the rock than does over the whole of Niagara. The difference, of course, is that the water at Hell’s Gate is 175 feet deep.

The torrent is reached by way of the Hell’s Gate Airtram, a cable car notable mostly for the fact that it descends from the principal point of departure, rather than ascends. Trams run every 10-15 minutes from the top station, which also contains a Tatarama of fairly low quality. It is therefore something of an achievement for the equivalent emporia at the lower station to be in possession of an even more flea-market air.

That said, the sway down to the river is charming enough and you are then free to mooch around, cross the bridge and have a wander onto the tracks used by the Rocky Mountaineer touring train. In fact, our re-ascendency to the top station coincided with the passing of said train beneath us, including its observation cars and mighty locomotives.

The road on to Kamloops took us through sometimes lofty, sometimes more low lying countryside, forested and fielded but all the time accompanied by both rail and river. It’s largely unremarkable in itself but, all the while, the expectation of the Rockies ahead fills the traveller with anticipation. In fact, the most notable thing about the road would appear to be the prevalence of field after field covered with black netting – a protection, it transpires, for the valuable crop of Ginseng beneath. Who knew?

Our arrival in Kamloops confirmed that which we had expected – a railhead in a wide valley, neither overly industrial nor particularly scenic, but a place which seemed to have a purpose to it. We swung into the carpark of the Four Points by Sheraton, eager to shower and rest – and also to try the adjacent restaurant which had garnered good online reviews from those who had gone before.

The first surprise to be offered by this Holiday Inn Express equivalent was that the restaurant, Ric’s, was not just the hotel’s in-house facility, but in fact part of a rather swanky chain whose outlet we had also noticed during our whirlwind tour of Victoria.

We were met at the door by a porter and Reception had our keycards all ready. As an SPG Gold, we had been upgraded to a two-bedroomed suite which was very acceptable. We had coffee and a freshen and then headed down for dinner, expecting to be able to walk straight in to this Travelodge-attached diner in a backwood town.

As the lift took us closer, we could already hear people and, when we entered the restaurant, it was fairly obvious that, alternatives or not, this was the place to be in Kamloops on a Monday evening. The girl on the desk was clearly unused to out-of-towners and first-timers, and looked at us as if we were nuts for expecting a table hasta pronto. In fairness we were. Since there was no room in the bar either, we were dispatched back to the suite for 45 minutes, in advance of some of the earlier troughers vacating.

Having made it back down, we enjoyed a quite superb dinner of great quality and quantity, friendly service and a pleasant view (helped by the local brew, it has to be said).

The bill, almost uniquely for the trip as it would turn out, was 100% correct upon check out the following morning after a blissful sleep in excellent quality beds. The total, for accommodation and dinner for three, coming to just CAD300.

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