A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Renaissance Glendale Hotel and Spa

IMG_0905Well this was my next stay with my Marriott Gold Status and I am at the Renaissance Glendale Hotel and Spa.  I had a chance to travel here over the summer.  At first glance in the Lobby it is a spectacular view.  The design is great and you do get the wow factor when you walk in.  Unfortunately that is where the wow ends.

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Unfortunately being gold here did not matter no room upgrade and there was no thank you for being gold.  The front desk was nice enough and even stated we were in a nice room.  The room was just ok and overlooking what appeared to be air conditioners.  Not a nice view at all pretty ugly really.  I mean you can see the stadium and maybe that is the draw.  Not impressed.  Arizona sky was pretty though.

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Room with a view?  You decide

The hotel is in a great area by the stadium and there is plenty to do as there are lots of shops and such adjacent to the hotel a short walk away.

As we walked through the hotel itself there was very few employees that even bothered to smile and say hello.   This is huge in feeling welcome in any place and such a simple gesture that was completely lacking at this property.

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Lovely water feature upon entrance

When you stay at Marriott you expect certain things or at least I do.  I do expect a nice welcome when I arrive.  I would like prefer even if there is not an upgrade to be greeted with thanks for being a gold member.  I would also appreciate as you walk throughout the hotel for the staff to be pleasant and smile.   I could not really find it in this hotel.

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My first Renaissance brand experience was not looking too good.

We proceeded up to the room and in was simply and nicely decorated.  Yet a little worn everywhere.  Carpets appeared to have seen better days.  My guess is it just might be a party hotel for guest going to the games and so the rooms are a little worse for wear.

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oh hum

We spent one of our days at the pool which is nice and they have nice little cabana’s that you have to pay for to use.  They have a bar outside also that you can procure beverages.  We opted for a couple of beers.  The bartender at the time was engrossed in conversation with another guest.  Yet, a simple I will be right with you would have worked here.  Instead we waited as he continued his conversation without acknowledging us or even a smile.  I am beginning to wonder where the guest services standards are.

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beer was good

Not to be disappointed by the consistency of mediocrity in service our room was never made up the following day.  The housekeeper came close to 5 pm and at that point really what is the point?

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Courtyard area

So did I fine anything good about the hotel.  YES!!!  The young woman attending to the concierge lounge was very warm, welcoming and engaging.  Unfortunately I lost my original draft of this post and cannot remember her name.   She was the one shining light in an otherwise very disappointing Gold visit.  Her set up was nice, clean, and she attended to everything wonderfully.  The concierge lounge is one perk for Gold members but usually open only during the week.  It can be hit or miss on breakfast at varying hotels if they do not have this little benefit.

As my year progresses I am not really sure if the value of staying consistently at one hotel is worth it.  We were able to access the lounge on one day which was good, we received high speed internet which is a sore spot of contention for most Marriott’s and guest, we had a mediocre room, it seems I may just have to do a dollar cost average on what we actually receive.

So I continue on my journey with Gold.   Also, I will usually give a property another chance if needed.   So at summer rates I might try this property again.  At high season definitely not.

I did find another Marriott property a mile away that I absolutely loved.  It was the Springhill Suites  right up the road and still in the same great location.  Now this was a small property and it is not considered a luxury brand but the service was great, the property in great condition and my stay enjoyable.

If you need to book any Marriott property even this one if you choose as it is right next to the stadium.  Has a great location and possibly I was just there on an off day.

Please use booking sight at TravelwithT.mtravel.com.  I would be very thankful and it is how I make my living.

 

 

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Long Beach Marriott

IMG_1271A exquisitely beautiful hotel adjacent to the airport with an outdoor area that is beautifully tranquil. This little gem is placed conveniently adjacent to the airport but is nothing like a typical airport hotel yet not like the JW in Houston either.

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We were greeted with a warm smile at the front desk and throughout the hotel.  We were given a room on one of the higher floors as this was a simple upgrade.  We were only going to be here overnight so it was fine.  We were leaving out of the Los Angeles Port to catch our Princess Cruise.   This was in Long Beach and not too far from the port.  We chose it because of it’s rates and it’s location really.

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The Lobby is stylishly designed with hues of blue, beige, and reminds me of sea foam I guess.   A really wonderful choice being we were headed out on a ocean cruise.

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We had a chance to enjoy the pool area in the evening as friends came to visit us while we where there.

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I have to say it is rather surprising that you do not really notice the large air craft sometimes just right over you head.  We had a nice conversation on one of the patio’s out doors and hardly noticed the aircraft flying above.

The rooms are nicely designed and we were presented with upgraded amenities.  The Thann soap smells wonderful.

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The halls throughout are brightly decorated and as you can see feature a cherry style wood grain finish.

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Every detail is beautiful from the exquisite flowers to the stylish and classic telephone.  I do love how Marriott takes care of all these design details to provide not only a comfortable stay but a feast for the eyes for those who care to look.

 

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We had a chance to venture off property during our evening and were treated with some of the best Mexican food at a tiny little place around the corner from the hotel within walking distance.  It’s in a little strip type mall and literally is really close.

We enjoyed a morning breakfast at no cost because we are Marriott Gold members.  It offered an array of items typical of your hotel breakfast.  It was set in there main dining area adjacent to the outdoor pool area.

For my Marriott Gold status this was a great little property.  A nice little upgrade, free breakfast, high speed internet, a concierge lounge it was the weekend so I did not use it, and nice and pleasant staff.

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This is a great little property for anyone visiting the area or flying in or our of Long Beach.  Not far from the Los Angeles Port in San Pedro and a great stop before your cruise.  It’s a little bit of tranquility before your next adventure.

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So if you would like to book this or anything else please use my booking site at TravelwithT.mtravel.net.   I would love to help you.

 

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Salt Lake City

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My year with gold continues with a stay in Salt Lake City at Fairfield Marriott.  We chose this hotel based on convience.  Location to airport, shuttle service and an opportunity for park and fly.  We are headed to Europe over Thanksgiving and needed a place to leave our vehicle.

I do have to say the smaller Marriott properties tend to be what appears a little more friendly.   This small hotel was no exception.   We enjoyed a pleasant check in although they missed the thank you for being gold.  The gentleman was friendly and the cookies were a nice touch after a long drive.

The hotel itself is nicely designed in standard Fairfield style.   Everything was up to date and the property was well maintained.  Our room was comfortable and nicely decorated.  The bed was standard for a Fairfield meaning comfortable.

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Morning was great and the front desk gentleman was friendly and I had and enjoyable conversation with him.  Unfortunately we did not have tme for breakfast but the dining area was nicely set with standard fare.  We had a pleasant ride to the airport with the shuttle and the driver was also very nice.

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We were at the airport when my husband realized he had left his phone in the shuttle.   We telephoned the hotel and they were kind enough to bring the phone back to the airport.   Thank you Marriott!!  Awesome service and we so appreciate it.

So although Fairfield does not offer a lot in the way of Gold they go along way in customer service.   I would love to stay again!   Oh wait I will on the way back.  So see you soon Salt Lake City Airport Fairfield Marriott.

As always if you would like to book this hotel please go to my booking site at travelwitht.mtravel.com  Which is how I earn a little money on my blog.

The World of Points: Destination Germany Christmas Markets

Germany Christmas Markets

The world is an oyster for those in the points game and it contains a pearl of great price in the end.

It’s the smell of chestnuts roasting, spices of ginger and cinnamon permeating throughout the market as you head (if your me) straight for the spiced wine.   Everything is lite up and the Christmas spirit is in full swing.  People are mulling around sipping, tasting, and perusing the Christmas wares.   Where?  At the German Christmas Markets of course.

I can now hear the background noise of all the clamoring about travel is expensive and I don’t have the money.  I am here to share with you, yeah sometimes it is expensive, but it is so worth it.   I love the quote “Travel is the only thing that you buy, that  makes you richer.”

Yet, for those who need to go as expensively as possible I have something else.  I want to share that you can do it for very little of your own money if you are will to play a game.  It’s all about the points.  If you have not heard about the points game definitely keep reading.  Because you are missing out on some of the best deals for travel with very little of your own money.  it’s time to read some blogs and learn how to take advantage of those big bad companies people are always talking about.    There are free flights out there for those willing to put in a little work.  How much depends on you.

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My travel style is varied and I use a lot of methods to do it.  A lot of the time it’s plain hard cash.  Sometimes,  I use those wonderful little methods of accumulating points for travel like sign on bonuses for credit cards. You need to be responsible and you need to have good credit to do this.

There are many out there who live and breath points, and travel for pennies.  People like the Points Guy have made a career out of traveling using points. There are great blogs out there that will show you exactly how to do it.   People like Ben who blog at One Mile at a Time and travel the world using this method all the while making it look so easy.

I use a variety of different methods and I try and make the most of what I do.   My goal is to come out getting more for less.   I usually don’t have the time to travel full time as I am still working and my husband is finishing up a masters.  I just do what I can, when I can.

So, it was here at this juncture I found myself.   I knew I had been sitting on lots of points and I was dying to use them.    While traversing the blog world is one of my favorite past times it is often dangerous for me.  I was doing this and was also perusing the amazing world of Avalon Cruises when I discovered Germany and it’s Christmas Markets.  I was amazed and delighted at the beauty and culture and I wanted to immerse myself into it immediately.  That is once I got past the aspect of being cold.  It took only a few seconds and I was off to dreaming of sleigh rides, roaring fires, and warm spiced wine.  I started to warm up quickly, I grabbed a glass of wine myself and began.

After the dreaming process for me, starts what my husband refers to as the scheming process.  I like to refer to it as strategically planning which then leads to the execution of said plan.  I figured I had more than enough points for a flight in and out of Europe with points left for another jaunt at a later time if I should decide.

I have been sitting on close to 200K Barclay world arrival points.  Barclay also just came out with new rules for utilization and now they are redeemable in 10k increments.  This aspect is perfect for someone like me sitting on lot of them. Not so good if you are only trying to redeem a few.

I try to only maintain a few cards at a time.  That way I don’t lose track and then waste points I have accumulated by not using them.  I try and keep enough just for the near future.  When I have utilized them I start on the next series.  This keeps me current and I never have to worry I will lose them or heaven forbid they become devalued at some point.  I am a earn them and burn them strategist.

When using points for flights if it’s somewhere you really want to go start early.  This gives you the best options.  I started in June knowing I wanted to book over Thanksgiving weekend.   After a hour maybe longer of checking and rechecking I decided on a flight out of Salt Lake City into Paris on Delta for both my husband and I coming in at a whopping 5.00 dollars.  I was on a roll.  I decided to upgrade us to premium economy which includes drinks for a little over 200.00   This is how I use my points in a way that works for me.  I don’t mind throwing in some cash for an upgrade.  I am sure the professional point travelers can do better but for myself I just want to gain some benefits without a lot of effort.

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For hotels the options are varied for me.   I have 100K plus Marriott points which can get me either a couple of nights at a higher end Marriott or a week or more of nights at a lower tier property.  I think I am going for the higher end this time. I have to admit I am a little bit of a hotel snob.  So I do enjoy a little better hotel.  Since I will be flying into Paris and spending two days, I will use them there.

From Paris we will be taking a train into Germany stopping a few places like Nuremberg and Heidelberg before we continue on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  We have reserved a place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen using our military benefits so we will be staying at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort .   You will need to be prior military to do this and being my husband is a retired Marine we qualify.  Listed as one of the most desirable destinations in the Bavarian Alps, the Edelweiss Lodge is in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and is an idyllic location nestled at the foot of sweeping alpine vistas.

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All my details are not completely worked out yet and of course I will be blogging about the journey itself.  I do know we will be leaving out of Austria and with taxes this cost me a little more than the flight in.  I believed it rounded out at a little over 200.00 per person.  Still not bad for air out of Europe. and yes you can get it cheaper if you put in more work.    If you have not stepped into the world of points you are missing out.  The whole world awaits you.

Maybe I will see you in Germany at the Christmas markets.  We can share a mug of warm spiced wine.   Because the world is definitely waiting to be discovered.

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Pueblo, CO

IMG_0324[1]A year with Marriott Gold destination: Pueblo, Colorado

Pueblo is a larger city in Southwest Colorado and was next on my year with Marriott Gold.  I stopped here overnight on a visit for a friend’s celebration and then it was on my way to Gunnison to visit Black Canyon National Park.   My stay was at the Spring Hill Suites and I should get a new badge on my profile for this stay.  It will be my first stay during gold with Spring Hill Suites.  I am looking forward to see what the hotel features for Marriott Gold members.

Springhill Suites is right off the 25 freeway in downtown Pueblo, it’s conveniently located near the river walk area and local attractions.  It was a perfect location for my evening visit to the Cathedral which is about 5 minutes away.   They are apparently in the middle of a remodel or some type of construction as they have signs stating “pardon their dust”.  They do a really good job right now working around it and I hardly even noticed.

My reservation was placed several weeks ago through Travel with T and I’m happy I had the foresight to do it.  When we arrived they had only 2-3 rooms left.   Apparently they were completely booked.    The hotel itself looks beautiful.  A couple of minor little issues with maintenance I noticed but this could just be because they were in the middle of an upgrade.

We checked in at the front desk because for some reason my app for check in never works.  We were greeted by a nice young woman at the front desk.  She had a good smile and a nice welcome.  No thank you for being gold though.  I am beginning to think this is not always done.  Check in goes smooth she directs us to our room and we are on our way.

We were placed on the 4th floor so I assumed we were upgraded to a higher floor but no mention was made.  The rooms are very nice, spacious, and the décor is set in a comfortable but modern sleek style.  The Springhill Suites are designed with the longer stay in mind so they are larger and definitely more comfortable.  I have a tv in my separate bedroom and a tv in the living area.  Maybe 5-10 minutes after check in we receive a call asking if our room was ok and if everything was to our satisfaction.   Nice touch Springhill I liked this and appreciated it.

The hotel is nicely appointed with a café and bar in the center.  They have a breakfast buffet for the morning including in the price of the room so Gold does not matter.   The buffet is just so so, no different than say a Quality Inn or Comfort Suites.  Basic, nothing stands out.   The service was ok, not great, not good, just ok.  The items were refilled and there were quite a lot of people so the gal was busy but not friendly.

At one point I engaged her for a coffee urn that had run out, other than that moment she would not have even made eye contact.  Now this may be due to the morning rush but I find that a smile and engagement with people make a difference between an ok stay or a great stay.  I hate to make a discernment at this point on Marriott’s food venues but I am almost seeing a pattern.   I have yet to experience that great service I had come to know from them.

I do have a Kudo’s to the Front Desk gal who I saw on the floor often making sure everything was ok.  She appeared to take pride in her job and care that everything looked good.  She was attentive to the area surrounding her including the expansive lobby area checking and rechecking during the morning rush.

As for being a gold member, high speed internet was available in my room and for Marriott Gold it is free.  Good perk but not great.  Maybe a room on a higher floor ok but again not great.  Room had a little view of the pool area but it was slightly obstructed.  All in all a good hotel, decent rate, and nicely appointed spacious room.  Linen was excellent as usual and it makes for a comfortable sleep.  Gold status not much benefit as far as I can see here.  I still prefer Marriott most of the time as I can depend on getting a consistent stay.

A Year with Marriott Gold destination: JW Marriott Houston Galleria

My year of Marriott Gold, destination: JW Marriot Houston Galleria

It’s April and we’re in Houston for one evening.  We’re getting ready to board the Emerald Princess for our voyage to the beautiful western Caribbean and some of my favorite islands (Belize, Cozumel, and Rotan Honduras).  For this Gold journey we chose the Marriott’s JW Houston Galleria.  Newly renovated, 23 stories, and reported to have luxurious accommodations.  Our anticipation is always heightened at the opportunity for Gold upgrades,  we are hoping not to be disappointed with just a standard room.  We really never know if we are going to be upgraded and usually just book a standard room and wait and see.  So far our best upgrade has been the JW Miami.  We were placed in a suite with wall to wall windows overlooking the incredible bay.  It reminded us of a penthouse on the top floor complete with a marble tiled bathroom. It will be hard for anyone else to compete with that but we are in Houston waiting to see.  Does Houston have what it takes to outdo Miami?

JW Marriot Houston Galleria is placed in one of the most famous shopping districts in the world only minutes to attractions like Minute Maid Park.  You can walk to more than 200 exclusive stores that surround it.  Fine dining and entertainment are only minutes away and we even managed to find a Catholic Church right around the corner for Easter Sunday Mass.

For our upgrade we were placed in a higher floor on the concierge level.   We were too late in the evening to enjoy any of what they had to offer.  The hotel features a state of the art fitness center with a view of the city.  It was definitely nice and I enjoyed my elliptical program while gazing out into the city.  The additional amenities we used were Starbucks in the morning. The barista was pleasant and enjoyable to talk with.  Breakfast was the buffet restaurant where the management and hostess were outgoing and friendly.  In the lobby lounge bar the service was sub-par and we eventually got our drinks from the bar.  It was the only area I found of the hotel to be lacking.

Our room itself was spacious but not noticeably different or luxurious, it was on a higher floor.  I have to say I didn’t pay too much attention to the down comforters, custom duvets or the rich cotton linens.  All in all I enjoyed my stay but they really didn’t exceed my expectations or deliver the type of service we experienced in Miami.  It is a great hotel in a great area.   Perfect location for our Easter Day visit to Saint Michaels Catholic Church.

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JW Houston Bedroom

A Year with Marriott Gold destination: Courtyard San Antonio River Walk

san antonio rw4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               A year of Marriott Gold destination:  Courtyard San Antonio, Texas River Walk

Our journey was spent in the Downtown Marriott River Walk which is a Courtyard. It is somewhat small or narrow which makes it slightly in my opinion uncomfortable. It’s slightly old and has less attractive features than other Courtyards. The staff were nice but no one really stood out.  Our room was on a higher floor which is a standard upgrade for gold.  This does not mean much in the grand scheme of things.  I understand it is a selling point but the room does not have to have to be a nicer room it just has to be on an upper floor.  So you could in general receive an upper room floor overlooking concrete or air conditioning ducts.  This actually was the case when I booked the Pueblo downtown Courtyard.

So at the Downtown Marriott River Walk the highlight of the hotel is that it’s on the River Walk.  It is in a great location to start any journey to the various bars, restaurants, and activities on the River Walk.   I received nothing for being a gold member and barely even an acknowledgement. I was not overly impressed. On the contrary the Marriott River Center was beautiful and looked amazing!  I will definitely have to try that hotel before my year is out.  Just to compare the two.

san antonio missions 2  What a fantastic city! San Antonio is the quintessential American city. It’s a perfect blend of old and new all coming together in a sophistication of western city life. With its River Walk, missions, and history you could spend well over a week just viewing the city’s historical sights. The market downtown is where you want to go for your “REAL” Mexican food and it also has a panderia which is a Mexican bakery. For night life pubs and dance clubs abound in and around the River Walk and it’s lit up at night in more way’s then one. There are five missions there and they are a sight not to miss.  They represent the history and heritage of the city itself. San Antonio is one of the first cites I have seen embrace its history to the fullest. This is where the Alamo is and the missions are one of the jewels of the city. The city itself is truly a melting pot of America.  In it you will discover a wonderful blend of people, each embracing a San Antonio lifestyle. Not only is the city welcomed and developed its Latin roots but its German heritage too.  It all seems to be incorporated into a beautiful mixture of proud history and culture.

If you have a chance San Antonio should be on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed.   As for the Courtyard Marriott San Antonio if you want to be right on the River Walksan antonio rw 2 at a decent price point this is the place.  Just don’t expect too much.  Grab a drink and sit outside taking in the scenery, sights, and sounds of San Antonio.   That is what you will enjoy the most

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