Point Lobos is my mistress. At least that is what my wife claims. She accuses me at times of spending more time with Point Lobos in her part of the woods than here at home in our part of the woods. That is not true in fact. But, perception is 9/10ths of the facts. Point Lobos State Nature Reserve on the central coast of California is located a couple miles south of Carmel, between Carmel and Big Sur about 125 miles south of San Francisco.

Born to be Wild

Yesterday, I returned to Point Lobos to search for the mama otter who birthed twins last week. The more I thought about the incident over the past week, the more questions I have. The backstory is I saw an infographic last week on the Point Lobos website showing birth seasons for different animals around the park. Sea Otters showed peak season for February. I decided I would search for sea otter pups at Point Lobos Thursday morning, February 26. Beyond my wildest expectations I came across newborn sea otter pup twins.

Loyalty Traveler –  Rare sea otter twin pups at Point Lobos State Reserve (Feb 27)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is called the “crown jewel of the State Park System. The coastal, mostly undeveloped park is seven miles south of my place in Monterey, California.

The website http://www.pointlobos.org/ is better for more up-to-date happenings at Point Lobos like the birth of sea otter twins last week and the rescue of one of the abandoned pups by Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Twin sea otter pup rescued at Point Lobos – KSBW news.

Sea otter twins-3

I happened upon a sea otter and pup within minutes of my arrival to Point Lobos last week and perhaps within minutes of the sea otter twins birth. The sound of a sea otter pup crying is one I have heard before. Just as I spotted the pup in the small cove north of Coal Chute Point, mama otter swimming toward the pup snatched it up and onto her chest. I was surprised the mama sea otter went directly to the rocks and pulled the pup onto wave splashed rocks. After the events that unfolded this past week, it might be that she placed the two pups on the rocks just after birth to catch her breath and figure out what to do with two pups? Within a minute she carried the pups back to the sea and loaded them on her chest and abdomen for the swim across Whalers Cove to calm water near the scuba divers parking lot. I photographed mama otter with her twins for an hour until about noon and went home.  My photos saddened me as I looked at one of the pups hanging on to mama after the journey across Whalers Cove, looking water logged and worn out like Leonardo diCaprio’s character Jack, hanging on to Rose near the end of the movie Titanic.

Later that day, an abandoned male pup was rescued at Whalers Cove by the Sea Otter Research and Conservation SORAC team at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sea otter pup #696 is living in the Monterey Bay Aquarium now. I think I’ll call him ‘Lucky Jack’.

I located mama and her remaining pup yesterday between two other single sea otters floating in Whalers Cove, Point Lobos. I had photographed two other otters last week moments before coming upon mama sea otter with twins. These four souls seem to be the current resident sea otters for Whalers Cove.

Mom otter and pup

Mama otter seen March 4 with her remaining female pup (born Feb 26) resting on her chest under her chin floating restfully in Whalers Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Gray Whales are passing by Monterey Bay

The gray whales are heading north past Monterey on their way back from Mexico to Alaska. Yesterday afternoon was the offshore northern express for whales with pairs and small pods of whales seen all along the coast. I spotted around ten whales. They did not seem to be in any hurry swimming north. The abundance of flukes and flippers sticking out of the ocean surface gave the appearance of playtime on the migratory travel circuit.


Beyond the rocks two whales sticking their body parts out of the water.

A website I check to see the gray whale migration notes from Palos Verdes viewpoint in Los Angeles helps with determining what is happening off the Monterey County coast. The American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter records the number of whales seen passing Los Angeles from the cliffs at Palos Verdes.

ACS-LA 2015 census

ACS/LA has counted 354 whales heading northbound so far this year and only spotted one calf. The mama gray whales and calves leave Mexico later in the season after the calves have fattened up on milk. Calves should be passing Monterey in the next six to ten weeks.

Normally the sighting of so many whales traveling slowly along the coast and making a spectacle with all their body movements out of the water would be feature entertainment for the Point Lobos live action reality show.

Sea Otter Pup drama ends and Harbor Seal Pup drama begins

Sea Lion Point offered high drama in the afternoon. The trail to the beach at Sea Lion Point has been closed for more than a month as sea lions congregate there this winter.

Sea Lion Point

The vantage point on the bluff around 100 feet above the sea is a great photographic spot. My head was abuzz from all the whale sightings. I arrived to a new buzz among eight or so people about something in the cove.

An older man standing next to me with an iPad pointed out a white harbor seal pup on the rocks, born a few minutes before. The part of the story I don’t know is why mama harbor seal was in the ocean and pup left alone on the rocks?

The problem was low tide. This was around 3:00pm and low tide was not until 4pm. The sea level where mama seal was swimming was some four feet below the rock outcrop tidepool where baby seal pup was left alone.

seal pup-1

Seal pup lying in tide pool on rocks four to six feet above sea level at low tide. Seagulls are eating the seal’s birth sac. A white snowy egret is checking out the scene while mama seal finds herself unable to get back on the rock at low tide.

There was a discussion an hour earlier with a male visitor in a different part of the park when I was photographing whales. The man questioned if turkey vultures flying overhead were condors and if the ravens on a rock in the distance were turkey vultures? My previous sentence gives you my opinion on what I thought the birds were.

turkey vultures 

Turkey vultures zoomed in on the seagull activity and moved in with dominance to devour the remains of the seal pup’s birth sac.

Some 15 minutes passed since I arrived and all the people who witnessed the seal pup birth left Sea Lion Point. The live action seemed like it might turn into a horror film until the turkey vultures left the scene without disturbing the living seal pup.  Little pup just lay there the way harbor seals do. Every few minutes he shifted his weight and moved his body an inch or two in the tidepool water. His little flippers were like a newborn’s arms and were not capable of lifting him at all to move across the rocks.

Mama seal made another strong attempt to reach pup. She reached only enough height to see her pup laying in a pool of water eight feet away.

Seal mama

I stuck around for an hour. Seal pup made attempts to move, but moved only a couple of inches with each effort. The pup never cried and I did not hear any sound from mama seal. Unlike the barking and boisterously loud sea lions on the nearby beaches and rocks, harbor seals are quiet animals. Pup feeding season is the primary time you hear harbor seals vocalize. Newborn harbor seal pup simply lay there in the tide pool, eyes open…waiting, unable to see mama.

Other park visitors walked by, couples smiled and took photos of the hundreds of sea lions and selfies from the cliffs with an ocean backdrop. Below a newborn pup waited, quietly, patiently, its entire view of life up to that point being several large vultures and seagulls walking around the rocks.

Mama was swimming in the water below the rocks when I left Sea Lion Point.

High tide was 10pm last night.

Seal pup-2

The outcome of this seal pup is unknown to me. The pup looked healthy and six or seven hours separated from mama was probably not life-threatening.

Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Northwood is an upscale full-service hotel a few miles from Dublin Airport with complimentary airport shuttle service departing at bus stop #14. The hotel has an attached conference center and the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport is adjacent to the Crowne Plaza.

CP DUB conference center

The lobby features a large aquarium.

CP DUB aquarium

The public spaces in general were inviting with a variety of art around the lobby and hallway to the convention center.

CP DUB lobby

I stayed next door at the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport. I do not have room photos.


The hotel had Inca Coffee Company as a breakfast outlet and Touzai as a dinner restaurant, along with a pub bar.

CP DUB dining

Touzai is an Asian Restaurant with noodle dishes, beef, chicken, pork and fish. Two course early-bird meal 17:30 to 19:30 is 20 EUR and three course meal for 25 EUR.

CP Touzai

The hallway wing to the Conference Center is lined with butterflies under glass.

butterfly wing

The conference center foyer had even more interesting art with ancient bog wood, fountains and large butterfly sculptures hanging from the ceiling.

CP DUB conference art

The two bog wood sculptures displayed date to 2,000-2,200 BC. They were unearthed from a bog in Castleblaney. The lack of oxygen in the waterlogged peat prevented decay and ensured the preservation of the tree. These magnificent pieces, “Hosanna” and “The Burning Bush of Moses” were created by James Rogan for the Crowne Plaza.

Conference center doors

This would have been my choice for a Dublin Airport hotel on our return trip to San Francisco, but the shuttle’s first run at 5:00am was too late for our 6:00am departure.

CP airport shuttle

We stayed at the Radisson Blu Dublin Airport with 24-hour shuttle and close enough to walk to the Dublin airport terminals in less than ten minutes, if needed. That hotel review to come.

Crowne Plaza Dublin

Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Northwood is 30,000 points per reward night. Rates are variable based on demand and conferences, mostly from 85 to 130 EUR per night. I stayed at the attached Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport hotel for 69 EUR. I could have stayed at Crowne Plaza for 85 EUR, but chose Radisson Blu Dublin Airport instead for our early morning departure due to its 24-hour shuttle service.

Related post:

Loyalty Traveler –  Beer or Points? Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport (March 5)

Club Carlson announced #hashtaghotelpromo for a Twitter 12-hour sweepstakes in two weeks on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Register today for Club Carlson #hashtaghotelpromo to receive 1,000 points free.

Club Carlson hashtaghotelpromo-1

Follow @Club Carlson on Twitter and register your email, name and Club Carlson account number to receive 1,000 bonus points free.

Club Carlson hashtaghotelpromo-2

That is all you need to do for 1,000 Club Carlson bonus points.

Then, return at 11:00am ET, 8:00am PT on Thursday, March 19 for the #hashtaghotelpromo prize giveaway.

Club Carlson hashtaghotelpromo-3

Cheap flights under $500 from San Francisco to Dublin motivated me to buy my last two tickets to Europe and then catch a low cost carrier to the city I really wanted to visit. In November, I flew British Airways to Dublin via London and last month KLM to Amsterdam and Aer Lingus to Dublin on a $449 round trip.

In December, I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport and we stayed at the hotel again in February. I wanted to stay at the adjacent Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Northwood in February to fulfill one of my Set Your Sights IHG promotion offers for 12,000 bonus points with two Crowne Plaza stays by April 30. The rate was 50 EUR more than Holiday Inn Express. The hotels are adjacent to each other in an area called Northwood, about four miles from the airport.

HIX DUB sign

Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport


The complimentary hotel shuttle runs 5am to midnight. Airport pick-up and drop-off is at bus station #14. Dublin Airport has two terminals and the bus parking spaces are in a central airport lot and numbered from 1 to 18 or so. You can travel onward to all over Ireland from the bus stops at the airport. We lucked out to catch the Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport shuttle just before it left the airport for the hotel. Good I knew directly where to go for bus stop #14 from my December stay at the airport hotel.

Beer or Points?

Cayeleen checked us into the hotel. I was given a choice of points or a free pint of beer. Which do you think I chose?

You are wrong if you guessed I chose beer.

Kelley looked at the room and was unimpressed at the size of the room and bed. It looked just like the hotel room I had slept in ten weeks earlier, except as a corner room there were two windows to open for fresh air. In Amsterdam earlier that day we had a rough time with Kelley getting her wallet and eyeglasses stolen from her purse.

I was happy she still had her passport and I had a second chance to snap the blue light bathroom photo I did not take during my December stay at the hotel.

HIX Dub blue light bath

Bathroom blue light in Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport


Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport room photos can be seen in an article I wrote in December comparing the small Dublin Airport room size at about 150 sq. ft. to a much larger Holiday Inn Express Port Hueneme , California hotel room.

Loyalty Traveler – But we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night (and earned one free night) December 22, 2015.

The nagging question: Beer or Points?

So there I am at midnight in Dublin, Kelley asleep in bed after 30 hours of international travel and I can’t get the hotel Wi-Fi to work on my computer. I read the slip of paper from the front desk stating I will get 300 IHG Rewards Club points as my IHG Rewards Club Platinum amenity.

You are right if you guessed I chose beer over points.

A pint of beer had a 5.50 EUR value, whereas 300 IHG Rewards Club points is about a $2.00 value for me.

Cayeleen, the front desk staffer also worked as the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport bartender. She canceled the 300 bonus points and poured me a pint of Heineken.

HIX Dub bar

Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport bar


Big shout out to Cayeleen of HIX Dublin Airport

Big shout out to Cayeleen of the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport for her vital assistance in helping us out during our stay. We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport about 12 hours after Kelley’s wallet was stolen with two credit cards lost, while walking through Amsterdam Centraal train station.

The police in Amsterdam recommended contacting the credit card companies right away to cancel our cards, however, they did not offer to let us use their phone for the international collect calls to the numbers on the cards.

I tried using my computer at HIX Dublin Airport to find I was unable to connect to Wi-Fi at HIX. When I went to the public phone in the Holiday Inn Express lobby, there was no dial tone.

I use my email for all communication when outside the USA. Figuring out foreign phone connections can be challenging for the inexperienced.

HIX bar

Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport bar seating in lobby.


Cayeleen at the front desk of the Holiday Inn Express helped me access the collect phone call connections. I canceled the two credit cards with no fraudulent activity reported on either card.

The wireless connection issue turned out to be due to my stay in December and Wi-Fi worked fine after I deleted the old Wi-Fi connection for the HIX off my computer.

IHG Northwood complex

Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Northwood (left), conference center (white building in center) and Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport (right).


Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Northwood and Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport Northwood are two hotels with a small conference center between them. The Crowne Plaza is a good looking hotel. I snapped photos of the lobby and conference center area to share in another article. (link to come)

There is a large green space in Santry-Demesne Regional Park across the street from the hotels. This was the site of a 1703 estate house that was demolished in 1959. The 72 acres became a public park in 2004.

Northwood park

Santry-Demesne Regional Park Dublin was created from an early 18th century estate.


Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport is 25,000 points for a reward night.

I booked a 69 EUR flexible day of arrival cancellation rate, about $80 USD. For that price, we had complimentary airport shuttle transportation, breakfast for two and one pint of Heineken. Good deal.

Courtyard by Marriott is opening its 1,000th hotel this month in Walla Walla, Washington on March 31, 2015. There will be an estimated Marriott Rewards 50 million points giveaway on March 31 to celebrate the Courtyard brand milestone.

50,000,000 points would buy about 1,500 to 2,000 nights in the upper category hotels. You could even pack in a few million airline miles with Marriott’s Travel Packages for 7-night stays and 120,000 miles or even 132,000 miles with United MileagePlus.

Don’t get too excited though about a lifetime of free points travel.

On March 31, the opening day of the 1,000th Courtyard by Marriott, all guests worldwide staying at a Courtyard who are Marriott Rewards members will receive 1,000 bonus points. This is estimated to be 50 million points.

What confuses me though is Courtyard had almost 25,000 rooms worldwide on December 31, 2014. Assume every Courtyard room worldwide is occupied on March 31 by a Marriott Rewards member and all rooms earned 1,000 points. This is only 25 million points.

How did they come up with 50 million points?

Source: incentivetravel.com

Courtyard DTW

SPG Hot Escapes offers cold Canada deals this week with 12 hotels in the frozen north, all under $100 per night. From Four Points YVR Vancouver Airport ($76) and Four Points Kamloops ($67) in the western province of BC to Four Points Halifax ($67), Nova Scotia, you can find a hotel room for under $100. Even as low as $60 per night at Four Points Mississauga, Ontario.

SPG Canada

At these rates you can splurge with Westin Harbour Castle at $90 per night.

33 USA Hotels

Denver: In the USA there are several hotels in Denver like Sheraton Downtown Denver ($90), Sheraton Denver Tech Center ($60) and Element Park Meadows ($57 to $75) extended stay hotel in south Denver area. Westin Westminster ($83) is a good suburban hotel between Denver and Boulder.

Chicago: W Chicago Lakeshore at $96 is a good deal for a room with a view. There are a couple more suburban Chicago hotels at $75 per night. Westin Chicago River North is as low as $128.

San Diego: The US Grant, Luxury Collection is $170 Easter weekend, although rates that low are possible at other times.

Aloft London Excel is under $100 on several dates over the next six weeks.

SPG Hot Escapes March 4, 2015

  • 12 Africa-Middle East hotels
  • 35 Asia-Pacific
  • 20 Europe
  • 5 Latin America
  • 45 North America

This post looks at the benefits of being a Nordic Choice Club member for North Americans traveling in Scandinavia. As a Choice Privileges member residing in North America, you can redeem Choice Privileges points for stays at more than 180 Nordic Choice Hotels in Norway (92), Sweden (83), Denmark (4), Latvia (1) and Lithuania (1).

The catch with Nordic Choice Hotels is you cannot earn Choice Privileges points when staying on a paid rate. You must join Nordic Choice Club to earn Nordic Choice Club points when traveling on paid stays at Nordic Choice Hotels.

The Nordic Choice Club guide for North Americans looks at the benefits of Nordic Choice Club membership. There are some points redemption advantages to Choice Privileges rates for some hotels. There are some advantages to Nordic Choice Club membership that may favor crediting some U.S. Choice Hotels stays to Nordic Choice Club if you travel to Scandinavia.

Choice Privileges Silver + Nordic Choice Club Blue

Last September I earned Choice Privileges Silver elite status after staying at Nordic Choice Hotels in Norway for two weeks while spending more than 200,000 Choice Privileges points. Choice Privileges counts reward stays for elite qualification. Silver elite is earned after ten eligible nights. All my 13 nights at Nordic Choice Hotels in Norway were paid with Choice Privileges points. I had no out-of-pocket hotel expenses for my two week trip.

Room rates in September 2014 summer season averaged $400+ per night when converted from the room rate in Norwegian Krone for the room category I booked. One of the best features of booking reward nights with Choice Privileges points was the availability of upgraded rooms for standard reward prices. I booked several of my hotel nights in suites.

The currency exchange rate today in March 2015 at 6.32 NOK = 1 USD has fallen steeply in the past six months to 7.80 NOK = $1 USD. That is a 23% decline in the value of Norway’s currency in six months, meaning the USD buys more for 2015 travel in Norway. Those $400 per night Nordic Choice Hotel rooms from 2014 might only be $300 per night in summer 2015. Norway is one of the top five most expensive economies in the world. Still, I lived two weeks at Nordic Choice Hotels with daily free breakfast included. Clarion Collection Hotels, where I spent about half my nights offered a light dinner meal too.

These food photos are a reminder to my wife that she will not go hungry if I take her to Norway and Sweden for our WOW trip Boston to Copenhagen via Iceland in July 2015.

Oslo CC hotel dinner-1   Oslo CC hotel dinner-2

The relationship between Choice Hotels and Nordic Choice Hotels is a confusing one for American travelers. Choice Privileges members from the USA can redeem Choice Privileges points for any of 180 Nordic Choice Hotels in Scandinavia and the Baltics.

Most Nordic Choice Hotels are listed for Choice Privileges reward nights at the 16,000 points level for one free night. Some hotels are 8,000 and 10,000 or 12,000 points and some hotels like Oslo’s The Thief are 20,000 points per night for Choice Privileges members. These are great deals for hotel stays on points.

Nordic Choice Club is your loyalty program when it comes to earning points for paid stays at Nordic Choice Hotels

Nordic Choice Club

Americans can join Nordic Choice Club. I joined in 2008. They even sent me a physical card.

Basics of Earning Nordic Choice Club points

You earn 1 point per Swedish krona in room rate at Nordic Choice Hotels.

You earn 1 point per Swedish krona when you eat at the restaurant while staying at Clarion Hotels, Quality Hotels, Quality Resort Hotels and Nordic Hotels & Resorts in Norway and Denmark.

You earn 750 bonus points per night when you stay at a Choice Hotel outside of the Nordic and Baltic region. Don’t forget to send your receipt to Nordic Choice Customer Service. Send the receipt to booking@choice.no.

You earn 10 bonus points for each euro spent when you stay at Sokos Hotels. There are more than 50 Sokos Hotels in Finland, Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia.

1.00 US Dollar = 8.35 Swedish Krona (March 4, 2015)

1.11 US Dollar = 1.00 EUR

xe USD-SEK-3-4-15

Nordic Choice Club Spend for one free night

Assume a room at a Nordic Choice Hotel in Sweden is 1,000 SEK ($120 USD) and the hotel night earns 1,000 Nordic Choice Club points. Spending $1,200 USD to earn 10,000 points for one free night at most hotels is not too impressive an earn rate in the Nordic Choice Club scheme. But better than nothing, since paid stays at Nordic Choice Hotels do not earn Choice Privileges points in a North American account.

There are some advantages for Nordic Choice Club compared to Choice Privileges on the redemption side of points equation. There are also some advantages to Choice Privileges points for hotels like The Thief Oslo at a discount points reward rate compared to Nordic Choice Club.

Oslo CC hotel dinner-3     Oslo CC hotel dinner-4

Nordic Choice Club 750 points for stays in Choice Hotels elsewhere

One interesting feature of Nordic Choice Club is a fixed earn rate at 750 points per night for stays at Choice Hotels outside of the Nordic and Baltic region. This includes over 5,000 Choice Hotels in the USA. You can earn 750 points per night for stays in the USA. This might be more points than you would get crediting a MainStay Suites night to your Choice Privileges account.

Nordic Choice Club Sokos Hotels partnership covers Finland and St. Petersburg too

Sokos is the largest hotel chain in Finland. Nordic Choice Club has a partnership with Finland’s Sokos hotel chain for comprehensive points earning coverage of Nordic countries with more than 50 hotels around Finland and hotels in St. Petersburg and Estonia. This feature of Nordic Choice Club provides a benefit unavailable through Choice Privileges.

There does not appear to be an option to redeem Nordic Choice Club points for reward nights at Sokos Hotels.

Sokos Hotels map Finland


Nordic Choice Club Redeem Points

There are many Nordic Choice Hotels with lower priced reward nights at 10,000 points compared to their 16,000 points rate with Choice Privileges. This is a reason why crediting Choice Hotels stays in the USA to Nordic Choice Club for 750 points might be a better value than earning Choice Privileges points when it comes time to redeem points for hotel stays in Norway and Sweden.

Nordic Choice Club Bonus Nights table-3-4-15

The deal is a person with points in both Nordic Choice Club and Choice Privileges can take advantage of lower rates on different days of the week and in summer period.

In Nordic Choice Club, Clarion Collection Hotels are only 10,000 points per night on weekends Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Choice Oslo Christiania

The food pictures in this post are from the complimentary dinner buffet at the Clarion Collection Hotel Christiania Teater in Oslo, Norway. This hotel is 20,000 points through Choice Privileges points, but only 10,000 points for one free night on a weekend using Nordic Choice Club points.

Clarion Collection hotels in Nordic Choice Hotels are distinguished from other Nordic Choice brands by offering guests a light dinner buffet in addition to free breakfast. In Norway, this generally means a savings of $40 to $80 per night on the cost of food. Clarion Collection Hotel Christiania Teater in Oslo had one of the best dinner buffets I saw when in Norway.

Nordic Choice Club Reward Nights at 10,000 bonus points:

  • One weekend night (Fri-Sat, Sat-Sun Sun-Mon, the day before a public holiday or a public holiday) for two people at Comfort Hotel, Quality Hotel, Clarion Hotel, Clarion Collection as well as Yasuragi Hasseludden, Skt Petri, Nordic C Hotel and Nordic Light Hotel.


  • One weekday night (Sunday til Friday) for two people at Quality Resort or Selma Spa+ and Stenungsbaden Yacht Club

Oslo CC hotel dinner-5   Oslo CC hotel dinner-6

Nordic Choice Club Reward Nights at 20,000 bonus points:

  • One weekday night (Monday til Friday) for two people at Comfort Hotel, Quality Hotel, Clarion Hotel, Clarion Collection as well as Skt Petri, Nordic C Hotel and Nordic Light Hotel.


  • One weekend night (Friday til Saturday, Saturday til Sunday or the day before a public holiday or a public holiday) for two people at Quality Resort hotels or Selma Spa+, Stenungsbaden Yacht Club, Yasuragi Hasseludden.


  • One night for two people at Farris Bad or Copperhill Mountain Lodge.

Nordic Choice Club Reward Nights at 20,000 bonus points or more gets you:

  • One night at selected Choice hotels in Europe. An overview of the hotels to which this applies will always be published on the Nordic Choice Club website.


  • One hotel night for 2 at The Thief for 30,000 bonus points.

Nordic Choice Club summer 2015 June 19 – August 16,  10,000 points for Reward Nights

“Between 19th of June and 16th of August 2015 we have other bonus point rates. During the summer period mentioned a bonus night at Comfort Hotels, Quality Hotels, Clarion Collection, Clarion Hotels, Nordic Light Hotel,
Nordic C Hotel and SKT. PETRI will cost 10,000 bonus points all days.

During the same period the price of a bonus night at Quality Resort, Stenungsbaden Yacht Club, Yasuragi, Copperhill Mountain Lodge, Farris Bad and Selma Spa is 20,000 bonus points all days. A bonus night at The Thief cost 30,000 bonus points, as usual.”

Since most Nordic Choice Hotels are 16,000 Choice Privileges points and only 10,000 Nordic Choice Club points, you might want to consider crediting Choice Hotels stays outside of the Nordic countries to earn 750 points per night with Nordic Choice Club. You can earn free nights more quickly.

Another advantage of Nordic Choice Club is there is no booking limitation like the 60 days window limiting the booking of international hotel rewards with Choice Privileges points until 60 days before your stay. You can book summer 2015 dates with Nordic Choice Club points now.

Nordic Choice links:

Nordic Choice Club member benefits – Silver elite members (10 nights in 12 months) have access to 2-for-1 rates on weekends and Gold elite members (35 nights in 12 months) have access to 2-for-1 rates any day. Anyone have knowledge of the availability of these rates?

Nordic Choice Club Free Nights table,

Nordic Choice Hotels map

Nordic Choice Hotels map

Sokos Hotels (Finland) – Nordic Choice Club hotel partner

My Norway Nordic Choice Hotels Trip September 2014


Bergen seen from Mount Floyen

  1. Oslo, Norway walking on a summer day (Sep 6)
  2. Hotel Review Clarion Royal Christiania Oslo, Norway (Sep 6)
  3. Hotel Review Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo, Norway (Sep 7)
  4. Think before you eat whale meat (Sep 8)
  5. Six days in Norway and $6 spent on food (Sep 9)
  6. Hotel Review: Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Larvik, Norway (Sep 10)
  7. Hotel Review Farris Bad Kaupang Suite upgrade (Sep 10)
  8. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord offers whaling culture experience and beds too (Sep 11)
  9. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord, Clarion Collection (Sep 13)
  10. Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport low cost flights (Sep 12)
  11. USA Branded Bergen (Sep 12)
  12. Oops! Radisson Royal Bergen hotel damaged Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sep 12)
  13. Walk like a Norwegian up Floyen in Bergen (Sep 13)
  14. Think before you eat Norwegian farmed salmon (Sep 13)
  15. Biked, hiked and psyched about Bergen (Sep 15)
  16. Clarion Collection No 13 Bergen, Norway (Sep 15)
  17. Clarion Collection Havnekontoret Bergen, TripAdvisor #1 hotel – Part One (Sep 16)
  18. Clarion Collection Havnekontoret Bergen – Part Two (Sep 16)
  19. Bergen Line to Oslo, 500 km by train (and bus) – Part One (Sep 18)
  20. Bergen Line to Oslo 500 km by train part two (Sep 19)
  21. How I stole 2 nights at The Thief Oslo with points (Sep 23)
  22. Hotel Review The Thief Oslo Room 603 (Sep 23)
  23. The Thief Oslo by design (Sep 24)
  24. Clarion Collection Folketeateret Oslo is recommended Nordic Choice Hotel (Sep 27)

One of Marriott International’s major acquisitions was the purchase of Africa’s largest hotel chain, Protea with more than 100 hotels. The first 26 South Africa hotels joined Marriott Rewards February 23, 2015.  Another 83 hotels will join Marriott Rewards later in 2015 after system upgrades.

The initial 26 hotels to join Marriott Rewards are in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. More than 80 other hotels are located across South Africa and other African countries.

Marriott Rewards-Protea

Participating hotels joining Marriott Rewards February 23, 2015

Cape Town

Category 5 at 25,000 points per night:

African Pride 15 on Orange Hotel

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Cape Town

African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa

Category 4 at 25,000 points per night:

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge Waterfront

Protea Hotel North Wharf Waterfront

Protea Hotel President

Protea Hotel Sea Point

Protea Hotel Victoria Junction Waterfront

Protea Hotel Cape Castle Waterfront

Category 3 at 15,000 points per night::

Protea Hotel Tygervalley

Protea Hotel Durbanville

Protea Hotel Mowbray


Category 5 at 25,000 points per night::

African Pride Melrose Arch

Category 4 at 20,000 points per night::

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch

African Pride Irene Country Lodge

Category 3 at 15,000 points per night::

Protea Hotel Wanderers

Protea Hotel Balalaika Sandton

Protea Hotel Parktonian All-Suite

Protea Hotel Midrand

Protea Hotel O.R. Tambo Airport

Protea Hotel Samrand

Protea Hotel Transit O.R. Tambo Airport

Protea Hotel Roodepoort


Category 3 at 15,000 points per night::

Protea Hotel Umhlanga Ridge

Protea Hotel Umhlanga

Protea Hotel Edward

Marriott Rewards redemptions are not available for booking until February 23, 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions

Protea Hotels in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban will participate in Marriott Rewards® starting February 23, 2015 after some necessary system upgrades. The remaining locations across Africa within the Protea Hotels portfolio will join Marriott Rewards in late 2015 after the same necessary system upgrades. Until then, Rewards members are unable to earn Elite benefits, Elite nights, points or airline miles for stays made prior to these dates.

When is Protea Hotels joining Marriott Rewards?

Protea Hotels will participate in Marriott Rewards at 26 select locations in South Africa starting February 23, 2015 after some necessary system upgrades. Members will enjoy Elite benefits and earn Elite nights and points or airline miles for stays arriving on or after this date.

Why is Marriott Rewards only available at select locations within Protea Hotels?

We are excited to launch Marriott Rewards at 26 locations across South Africa starting February 23, 2015 after some necessary system upgrades at these locations. These upgrades will help provide the excellent program and service delivery our members expect from a Marriott Rewards participating brand. The remaining locations within the Protea Hotels portfolio will join Marriott Rewards in late 2015 after the same necessary system upgrades.

When will I be able to earn and redeem Marriott Rewards points at the Protea Hotels remaining locations?

After some necessary system upgrades across the remaining locations, they are targeted to also participate in Marriott Rewards in late 2015 (exact date TBD).

When and how will members be notified when the remaining hotels will participate in Marriott Rewards in late 2015?

At this time, an official date has not been determined. Marriott Rewards members will be notified when an official date is chosen for late 2015 through our Marriott Rewards communication channels, including: Insiders, email notification andMarriottRewards.com.

Will retroactive night credits and points be credited to my account if I stay at a Protea Hotels location that is not yet participating in Marriott Rewards?

No. Members who make stays before February 23, 2015, when the first 26 locations start participating in Marriott Rewards, will not earn points, miles or nights retroactively. Additionally, members who make stays before the end of 2015 (exact date TBD), when the remaining locations start participating in Marriott Rewards, will not earn points, miles or nights retroactively.

Will I be able to book a room using points for a free stay at Protea Hotels prior to February 23, 2015?

No. Until the 26 Protea Hotels locations officially participate in Marriott Rewards on February 23, 2015, members will be unable to secure a reservation using points through any Marriott booking channel, including Marriott.com, global reservations or our Marriott app.

If I made a reservation prior to February 23, 2015 for an arrival date after February 23, 2015 at one of the 26 Protea Hotels locations participating starting February 23, 2015, will I receive Elite night credit and points for that stay when I checkout?

Yes. If you made a reservation prior to February 23, 2015 for an arrival date after February 23, 2015, you will receive Elite credit and points upon checkout as long as your reservation contains your Marriott Rewards account number.

As an Elite member, will I receive any of my Elite benefits from the program during my stays prior to Protea Hotels joining the program?

No. Until a Protea Hotels location officially joins Marriott Rewards either on February 23, 2015 or in late 2015, members will not receive the Elite level benefits they normally receive at participating brands.

When Protea Hotels fully participates in Marriott Rewards, how many points will I earn for my stay?

For participating Protea Hotels locations, members will earn 10 points per US dollar on room rate only.

When participating Protea Hotels locations become part of Marriott Rewards, will members of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® also earn points, miles, Elite nights and enjoy Elite benefits at that time?

Yes. As the exclusive luxury partner with Marriott Rewards, members of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards will also be able to earn and redeem points and receive the appropriate Elite benefits when participating Protea Hotels locations join Marriott Rewards on February 23, 2015 or in late 2015 (exact date TBD).

What is African Pride Hotels and will they participate in Marriott Rewards?

Protea Hotels includes the brand extensions Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! and African Pride Hotels, and all will participate in Marriott Rewards either starting on February 23, 2015 or in late 2015 (exact date TBD).

As a miles-earning member, will I be able to earn miles with all current airline partners when participating locations join Marriott Rewards on February 23, 2015?

At this time, we anticipate a vast majority, if not all, of Marriott Rewards’ airline partners will allow for mileage earning at participating Protea Hotels locations when they join Marriott Rewards on February 23, 2015.


Hotels Joining Marriott Rewards Late 2015

  1. Arabella Hotel & Spa
  2. Protea Hotel Stellenbosch
  3. Protea Hotel Dorpshuis & Spa
  4. Protea Hotel Cumberland
  5. Protea Hotel Franschhoek
  6. Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay
  7. African Pride Pumba Private Game Reserve
  8. African Pride Hacklewood Hill Country House
  9. African Pride The Sands at St. Francis
  10. Protea Hotel King George
  11. Protea Hotel Mossel Bay
  12. Protea Hotel Knysna Quays
  13. Protea Hotel Outeniqua
  14. Protea Hotel Riempie Estate
  15. Protea Hotel Marine
  16. Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! – Menlyn
  17. Protea Hotel Bloemfontein
  18. Protea Hotel Bloemfontein Central
  19. Protea Hotel Willow Lake
  20. Protea Hotel Kimberley
  21. Protea Hotel Hazyview
  22. Protea Hotel Kruger Gate
  23. Protea Hotel Nelspruit
  24. Protea Hotel The Winkler
  25. Protea Hotel Karridene Beach
  26. Protea Hotel Imperial
  27. Protea Hotel Hilton
  28. African Pride Mount Grace Country House & Spa
  29. Protea Hotel Capital
  30. Protea Hotel Oasis
  31. Protea Hotel Upington
  32. Protea Zebula Lodge
  33. Protea Hotel Montrose
  34. African Pride Audacia Manor Boutique Hotel
  35. Protea Hotel Highveld
  36. Protea Hotel Witbank
  37. Protea Hotel Klerksdorp
  38. Protea Hotel Mahikeng
  39. Protea Hotel Ranch Resort & Lion Park
  40. Protea Hotel Landmark
  41. Protea Hotel The Richards
  42. Protea Hluhluwe & Safaris
  43. Protea Hotel Richards Bay
  44. Protea Hotel Umfolozi River
  45. Protea Hotel Waterfront Richards Bay
  46. The Bayshore Inn
  47. Protea Hotel Empangeni
  48. Protea Hotel Clarens
  49. Protea Hotel Pelican Bay
  50. Guesthouse Indongo
  51. Protea Hotel Walvis Bay
  52. Protea Hotel Long Beach
  53. Protea Hotel Burning Shore
  54. Protea Hotel Thuringerhof
  55. Protea Hotel Furstenhof
  56. Protea Hotel Ondangwa
  57. Protea Hotel Sea-View Zum Sperrgebiet
  58. Protea Hotel Zambezi River Lodge
  59. Protea Hotel Victoria Island
  60. Protea Hotel Leadway Ikeja
  61. Protea Hotel Ikeja
  62. Protea Hotels Select Ikeja
  63. Protea Hotel Ikoyi Westwood
  64. Protea Hotel Kuramo Waters
  65. Protea Hotel Select Emotan Benin City
  66. Protea Hotel Ekpan Warri
  67. Protea Hotel Abuja
  68. Protea Hotel Asokoro
  69. Protea Hotel Apo Apartments
  70. Protea Hotel Ryalls
  71. Protea Hotel Lusaka
  72. Protea Hotel Lusaka Tower
  73. Protea Hotel Cairo Road
  74. Protea Hotel Livingstone
  75. Protea Hotel Safari Lodge
  76. Protea Hotel Chipata
  77. Protea Hotel Chingola
  78. Protea Hotel Entebbe
  79. Protea Hotel Amani Beach
  80. Protea Hotel Mbweni Ruins
  81. Protea Hotel Kampala
  82. Protea Hotel Courtyard Dar es Salaam
  83. Protea Hotel Oyster Bay Dar es Salaam

Marriott Rewards members will have many choices for hotels in Africa once the entire Protea brand is integrated with Marriott. For now, South Africa has 26 more hotels where Marriott Rewards members can earn and burn points. The earning is good at the normal 10 points per dollar. The burning looks good to with the highest category hotel at category 5.

Virgin America San Francisco deals caught my eye today as I thought about Florida and cheap one way drive out of state car rental specials in April and May.

Virgin America SFO Deals. Lowest fares tend to be Tuesday and Wednesday flights.

Buy by March 4, travel by June 10, 2015.

SFO  -Las Vegas LAS $59 Mar 17 – June 10  BOOK

SFO – Los Angeles LAX $59  Mar 17 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Portland, OR PDX $69 Mar 17 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Palm Springs, CA PSP $69 Mar 17 – April 27 BOOK

SFO – San Diego, CA SAN $69 Mar 17 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Seattle, WA SEA $79 Mar 17 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Dallas, TX DFW $113 Mar 17 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Austin, TX $129 Mar 17 – June 10 BOOK

21 Day Advance Purchase

SFO – Chicago, IL ORD $129 Mar 24 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Ft. Lauderdale, FLL $149 Mar 24 – May 19 BOOK

SFO – Boston, MA BOS $159 Mar 24 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – New York/Newark NJ EWR $159 Mar 24 – June 10  BOOK

SFO – New York/JFK NY $159 Mar 24 – June 10  BOOK

SFO – Washington D.C. IAD $159 Mar 24 – June 10 BOOK

SFO – Washington D.C. DCA $189 Mar 24 – June 10 BOOK

Terms and Conditions:

* Tickets must be purchased by 11:59pm CT on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. For AUS-SFO, DAL-LAX/SFO/DCA/LGA/AUS, JFK-FLL, LAS-SFO, SEA-LAX/SFO, PDX-SFO, LAS-LAX, SFO-LAX, PSP-SFO, and SAN-SFO, all main cabin fares require a 14-day advance purchase and travel must occur between March 17, 2015 and June 10, 2015. For all other markets, all main cabin fares require a 21-day advance purchase and travel must occur between March 24, 2015 and June 10, 2015. Travel for JFK-PSP must occur by April 25, 2015. Travel for PSP-SFO and JFK-FLL must occur by April 27, 2015. Travel for FLL-SFO must occur by May 19, 2015. AUS-DAL service starts on April 28, 2015. Lowest sale fares are available only on certain itineraries. Lowest sale fares are only valid for travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Blackout dates include March 26, 2015- March 29, 2015, April 3, 2015 – April 6, 2015, May 22, 2015, and May 25, 2015. Seats are limited, subject to availability, and may not be available on all flights. Flights may not operate daily. Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. For travel solely between points in the Western Region (LAS/LAX/PDX/PSP/PVR/SAN/SEA/SFO/SJD only) and AUS-DAL, changes or cancellations can be made for a $100 fee per guest through all channels, plus any increase in fare, if applicable. For all other itineraries, changes or cancellations can be made for a $150 fee per guest through all channels, plus any increase in fare, if applicable. Any remaining balance will be placed in a guest’s travel bank, good for travel on Virgin America for one year from date of issue. Changes or cancellations of a booking made with Elevate Points will be subject to a $100 redeposit fee per guest. Guests who no-show without a change or cancellation prior to the scheduled departure time will forfeit the amount of this fare. In addition, any future flights booked in the same reservation will also be canceled and the fare will be forfeited. Tickets purchased from Virgin America through our reservation call center will cost an additional $20 per guest per itinerary. Any added cost associated with purchasing tickets from Virgin America through our reservation call center will be non-refundable. Fares will not be honored retroactively or in exchange for any wholly or partially used ticket. Fares, routes, fees and schedules are subject to change without notice. Virgin America will accept up to ten pieces of checked baggage, up to 50 pounds each, per ticketed guest traveling within the U.S. The fee for each piece of checked baggage up to 50 pounds is $25. Additional fees apply to baggage exceeding these weight limitations, and other baggage restrictions may apply.

Virgin America SFO 2015 spring deals

This post contains a table of 128 international hotels with Marriott Rewards category increase on March 19, 2015. There are about 1,050 hotels increasing in category, so almost 90% of all hotels going up in reward category are in the USA.

I jotted down US cities with numerous hotels increasing reward category as I pulled international hotels from the pages of Marriott Reward Category changes. Most of the 900+ hotels increasing category in two weeks are located around one of these US cities.

  • Atlanta
  • Austin, TX, GA
  • Asheville, NC
  • Baltimore/BWI Airport, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Charleston SC
  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cleveland, OH
  • College Station, TX
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Dayton, OH
  • Denver/Boulder, Co
  • Des Moines/Ames, Iowa
  • Detroit/DTW, MI
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Fort Myers/Naples FL
  • Hartford, CT
  • Hilton Head Island, SC
  • Houston, TX
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Jacksonville/St. Augustine, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles County
  • Louisville, KY
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Memphis, TN
  • Miami, FL
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Nashville, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York City, NY
  • Newark Airport EWR and northern New Jersey
  • Orange County, California
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Portland, ME
  • Portland, OR
  • Providence/Newport, RI
  • Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, NC
  • Riverside County, California
  • Sacramento, CA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • San Antonio, TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • Savannah ,GA
  • Seattle, WA
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Tallahassee, FL
  • Ventura, California
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Washington DC
  • West Palm Beach, FL

Marriott International Hotels outside USA going up in reward category on March 19, 2015

Marriott 2015 up international hotels

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