There is a lot happening at Hilton HHonors. Waldorf Astoria moves in at the Maldives, Czech Airlines added to exchange partners, Triple Virgin Flying Club miles, Freddies Award Wins, dining partners, and all this is just some of the events for April 2009. There is plenty happening at Hilton HHonors.

The Freddie Awards are hosted by Randy Petersen of InsideFlyer, WebFlyer, blogger, and FlyerTalk founder. Frequent flyer and hotel frequent guest Industry executives around the globe flew to Fort Lauderdale for a night at the Hilton and a chance at an award. Hilton HHonors walked away the Freddie Award for Best Award for Europe/ Middle East/Africa hotels. Hilton won Best Promotion for Asia Pacific Hotel programs which I think was a free nights offer. HHonors also won Best Award Redemption for both the Americas region and Europe/Middle East/Africa hotels. Hilton took Best Customer Service awards for Asia/Pacific region and Europe/ Middle East/Africa.

Other Freddie Award winners are located here:



Instant Complimentary HHonors Gold Membership when you join the US Airways Club by April 30.

Call 1-800-828-8522 to join US Airways Club at the Dividend Miles Preferred Member price of $315 per year. Offer is only available over the phone to eligible Preferred members of US Airways.

Offer expires 4-30-09 so you only have a day to think about this one.  Unfortunately I did not post this offer when I came across it March 16.

Hilton HHonors normally requires 16 stays, 36 nights, or 60,000 base points ($6,000 hotel spending) in a calendar year. I received a targeted offer for Gold VIP after four stays this summer.

The US Airways Club is a cheap way to get Gold VIP status and its loyalty benefits at Hilton Hotel brands. Access to discounted HHonors VIP awards for hotel stays of 6 to 14 nights are a primary benefit of VIP elite membership. A six night stay for a Category 6 hotel drops from 240,000 points to 175,000 points with a VIP elite award.

HHonors Gold VIP members earn 25% bonus on base points earned for Hilton stays.




CSA Czech Airlines is a Skyteam airline member and HHonors miles-to-points exchange partner.

The good news is CSA Czech airline miles can be exchanged into HHonors hotel points.

The bad news is CSA Czech along with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles exchange at a 1:1 rate compared to most airlines offering 2 Hilton points per 1 airline mile.

Airline Miles to Hilton HHonors points is one way to accrue major hotel points for someone who flies but does not have large amounts of hotel spending or business credit card spending.  A frequent flyer can easily earn 25,000 airline miles with promotions and elite bonuses for a flight to Europe or Asia. Transfer airline miles into Hilton HHonors and you can benefit from free hotel nights after your flights.

Participating airline partners for frequent flyer miles to HHonors points exchanges include:

·         American Airlines (1 mile = 2 points) ($25 processing fee)

·         Amtrak (1 mile = 2 points)

·         CSA Czech Airlines (1 mile = 1 point)

·         Hawaiian Airlines (1 mile = 2 points)

·         Icelandair (1 mile = 2 points)

·         Mexicana Airlines (1 mile = 2 points)

·         Virign Atlantic Airways (1 mile = 1 point)

Another restriction on miles-to-points exchanges is some airlines like Hawaiian and Mexicana may not allow miles earned through credit cards or partner activity to be transferred to Hilton HHonors points. 


Want Virgin Flying Club Miles? Triple Miles Offer,HN,Q2TplMlsVirginAtl,Q209

Register and Earn Triple Flying Club miles between April 1 and June 30, 2009. Registration is required prior to check-in for promotion eligibility.


1,000 Bonus Points per Night through June 30, 2009

HHonors stuck with their first quarter 2009 promotion for the second quarter while the other hotel loyalty programs decided to really shake things up. 1,000 bonus points for every night.  Unfortunately there is limited hotel participation. Participating hotels list.,HN,Q2DblPts,Q209


The Beach House Maldives Resort to be branded Waldorf Astoria Collection

Waldorf Astoria Collection to add the Beach House, Maldives to the hotel portfolio November 2009. The global financial shake-up and tourism downturn will likely allow the major hotel companies to branch out around the world snapping up luxury properties. Waldorf Astoria has already added Trianon Palace, Versailles formerly a Westin and the Arizona Biltmore to the Waldorf Astoria Collection this year.

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Starwood Hotels “Pay Rates Equal to Your Birth Year”

The Offer: Pay for one night and your second and third night room rates are reduced to the year you were born. My mother-in-law is 79 and her birth year is 1929. If she books a participating Starwood hotel on the birth year rate she will only pay $29 for the second and third nights.



Participating Hotels: Limited participation of Starwood Hotels in USA and Canada. Check promotion page for participating hotels.

Promotion code: NBR

Promotion Dates: Birth Year rates are offered through the end of 2009.

Two night minimum stay and three night maximum stay eligible for this Birth year rate offer.

Limited availability of rooms for this offer and blackout dates may apply.

Age restriction: Must be 18 years or older to participate in offer. So forget about your second grader booking a room and paying $1 a night because she was born in 2001. This promo truly favors elderly travelers.

There was a California woman born in 1903 at the San Francisco earthquake commemoration April 18. She could have a 3-night stay at the Westin Pasadena for $205.

Try and beat that rate with a Priceline room!

Caveat: Some high-end hotels have a $100 surcharge accompanying the Birth Year rate.

The San Francisco W has a $199 first night rate. My Birth Year rate is $60 based on my birth year of 1960 for nights two and three. The $100 per night surcharge for the W San Francisco makes the extra nights $160 each and greatly reduces the savings of this offer. I can get a comparable room rate with a 3rd night free offer for W San Francisco.

Many high end hotels are not charging the extra $100 for the 2nd and 3rd nights. Book the rate at one of those hotels and this Birth Year room rate is a great deal.


Come on Grandma – We’re driving to Scottsdale!

Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale is a great place to hang out. Large pools, tennis courts, golf course, and Scottsdale high-end stores just down the street.


Westin Kierland Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona

Westin Kierland Tuesday, May 26 to Friday, May 29 3-night stay on Birth Year Rate Offer

Traditional King Room $169/night. (Scottsdale room rates were double the price last year). I can book a three night stay for $169+$60+$60 = $289 for 3 nights. Westin Kierland for just a little over $100 per night after tax. The lowest room rate at this hotel was $359 per night last year when I stayed there. There is no $100 per night surcharge for the participating Scottsdale hotels.

Here is the true underlying opportunity with the Birth Year rate promotion. Buy the most expensive room type you can afford. You only pay the regular rate for the first night.

Casita Suite King, $269/night. The second and third nights are still priced at my Birth Year rate of $60 per night. Now my room rate is $389 for three nights in a suite. My room rate was only $100 extra for the first night and I get the second and third night in a suite for the same room rate I would have paid for a traditional room.

For an extra $33 per night I get a suite guarantee for my stay. The Westin Kierland last year had a policy of $50 per night on SPG elites for suite upgrades. The Birth Year room rate is an even cheaper upgrade alternative.


Westin Kierland Resort pool, Scottsdale, Arizona


W Scottsdale, $199 first night or $399 for a Studio Suite.

I can pay for a traditional King at $199 + $120 (nights 2 and 3) = $319 ( I save $278 on a 3-night stay).

The Studio Suite will be $399 + $120 = $519 for a 3 night stay. I save $678 with the Birth Year rate and I get a guaranteed suite for just $67 more per night.

The W Scottsdale also has a 3rd night free rate offer. The qualifying rate for the Studio Suite is $439/night. A 3-night stay for May 26-29 will cost $878 + tax with the 3rd night free rate compared to $399 + Birth Year rate. I could take my mother-in-law and get a 3-night suite at the W Scottsdale for $457+ tax. Now that is some serious money saving.

For someone without SPG platinum elite status, the Birth Year room rate is a great bargain for a guaranteed hotel suite.

Grab the old folks and put them in a hotel wth the young folks. Starwood has a real family values offer with this deal.


Totally off-subject:

Starwood’s Birth Year rate promotion made me think of “Harold and Maude”.

Remember the 1971 classic film “Harold and Maude” starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort?

Basic plot is suicidally depressed 20-year-old Harold hooks up with 79-year-old Maude. An older woman with a lust for life turns Harold on to living.  The movie is a laugh and the soundtrack is Cat Stevens in top form.  Cameron Crowe, one of my favorite movie directors (Almost Famous, Elizabethtown) was instrumental in getting the soundtrack album for Harold and Maude released in a special 2,500 limited edition for the first time about 16 months ago. In a true record fan retro move to old vinyl days there were variations and bonus items like signed posters, booklets, and silkscreens in limited copies of the limited edition set.

“Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are”

Yusuf (Cat Stevens) lyrics from “If you want to sing out, sing out”

If you are wondering why hotel loyalty programs like IHG Priority Club and Starwood Preferred Guest are giving away free room nights I think the basic answer can be seen in the hotel industry data.  STR measured average hotel occupancy across the USA for March 2009 at just over 55% compared to 62.5% in March 2008.

Hotels are sitting half empty on average, and some hotels are far less than half full on certain nights. Hotels need bodies, hence free night promotions. Pay and stay nights now to earn future free nights and spend your free nights over this summer.

Advantages of Priority Club Free Nights promotion over SPG

1.    No need to hotel hop.  A single two night stay at one hotel will earn a free night with Priority Club. A single 8-night stay at one hotel will earn 4 free nights.  SPG’s promotion is based on hotel stays and not hotel nights. A free night with the Starwood promotion requires at least one night at two different hotels or two nonconsecutive nights at a single hotel to earn a free night.

2.    Free night can be used any day of the week with Priority Club. SPG limits free night redemption to Friday, Saturday, or Sunday weekend nights.

3.    Priority Club Redemption period is from July 3 through December 26, 2009. SPG free nights must be redeemed by Sep 27, 2009.

Advantages of SPG Free Nights promotion

1.    Member earns normal SPG points for hotel stays during promotion. Priority Club suspends normal points earning for duration of promotion through July 3 if member registers for Free Nights promotion. A Priority Club member has the choice to register for an alternate promotion for Double Points or Miles.

2.    SPG promotion for earning free nights lasts longer. SPG stays from May 1 through July 31st count towards free nights. Priority Club paid nights from May 4 through July 3 earn up to 4 free nights.

3.    SPG free nights appear in account within three days of qualifying stay and may be redeemed throughout the promotional period through September 27. Priority Club members may start making reservations around May 22, but free nights can’t be used until July 3.

4.    Starwood Free nights earned are unlimited (there is actually a technical limit of 46 free nights that can be earned within the free night qualifying period and the member would need to be redeeming free nights while earning free nights to actually use them all since redemption is limited to three weekend nights per week).  A Priority Club member may earn only 4 free nights.


InterContinental Hotels Group Free Nights Promotion link:


Starwood Hotels Free Night Promotion link:


I have spent some time this past week making spreadsheets to track hotel rates for the Starwood Preferred Guest free nights promotion starting Friday May 1.

I am following hotel rates throughout California. The good news is that generally the lowest hotel rates are in my part of the state around the San Francisco Bay Area.

The shock to me was the prices of Holiday Inn Express hotels for the IHG free nights promotion running concurrently with Starwood’s free night promotion.  I would love a 4-night stay at a good InterContinental Hotel in Europe later this year. 

So the shock was seeing most Holiday Inn Express hotels with rates from $100 to $140 per night. I can stay at the InterContinental San Francisco for the same price as most HI Express hotels I checked in California in little gas station villages along the freeway exits of Interstate-5.

I plan to earn my first Starwood free night by the end of this week. I lined up two Best Rate Guarantee hotel claims for next weekend. The hotel room rates actually come out to be the same price I would have paid if I booked the rooms last week on, but Starwood raised their rates. Some online travel agencies did not.

So in addition to the low rate I will earn an extra 4,000 Starpoints for my first two stays in this free night promotion.  Wouldn’t it be something special to book 20 Best Rate Guarantee stays and earn 40,000 bonus Starpoints on top of the 10 free nights?

My trend analysis shows the hotel rates in San Francisco went up on average $10 to $30 per night for the lowest priced popular hotels over the past week.  Here are some changes I saw in room rates over just the past six days. I am not putting dates, but these are room rate changes I’ve documented for a specific Starwood hotel on a specific date in May.

·         The Palace Hotel, San Francisco rate of $118 went up to $169.

·         Westin Market Street, San Francisco, $99 rate 4-21 went up to $139 on 4-25

·         Le Meridien San Francisco, $139 went up to $159

·         Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, $125 went up to $179.

·         Sheraton Petaluma, $109 went up to $129.

·         Sheraton Palo Alto, $199 up to $239.


Loyalty Traveler post on IC Hotels Group free night promotion

Loyalty Traveler post on Starwood Preferred Guest free night promotion



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Offer: Stay two nights at any IC Hotels Group brand hotel from Tuesday, May 4 to July 3, 2009 and earn one free night. Nights do not need to be consecutive nights or even at the same hotel.

Promotion Registration is required at

and registration is necessary before making your paid hotel night reservations in order for them to be qualifying nights for the free night promotion. Qualifying nights are any InterContinental Hotels Group hotel in the brands: InterContinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites. Hotels in Japan are excluded from this offer.

Free night may be redeemed from July 3 through December 26, 2009 and free night is valid for any IC Hotels Group hotel, except for hotels in Japan. There are no other hotels specifically excluded from free night redemption, however, capacity controls may effectively limit some hotels from redemption once allotted rooms have been redeemed.

Maximum free nights a Priority Club member may earn is capped at 4 nights after 8 paid nights within the promotion period of May 4 and July 3. If you have a travel partner/spouse, then you can readily earn an additional 4 free nights and have 8 free nights for 2009 between the two of you.

The terms of the promotion state room upgrade benefits for elite members do not apply to free nights redeemed with this promotion so theoretically elite status should not result in a room upgrade. In practice I think this will depend on the specific hotel and guest. An elite guest who has stayed at a particular hotel numerous times in the past and been upgraded as an elite member will likely still receive hotel recognition. But the rules do state an upgrade does not have to be given to elites.

Free night notifications will begin around May 22.  You should receive notification of free night award around 14 days after qualifying activity.

My advice is to book free room nights as soon as possible if you are planning to stay at a high demand hotel such as New York City, Hawaii, a beach resort or expensive InterContinental hotel. Wait too long, like into July or August before booking your reservation and the allotment of free rooms at your desired hotel may already be gone for the year.  

Just remember that your free night reservation can’t be modified – only cancelled and forfeited. Be sure you book an ironclad reservation date.

Free Night may be redeemed only at



Holiday Inn Santa Clara

Turn your hotel stay at the lower priced Holiday Inn into another hotel stay here at the higher priced InterContinental San Francisco.


InterContinental San Francisco

InterContinental Hotels Group 2 Nights Earn a Free Night Promotion Terms:

·         Promotion registration is required prior to stay for eligibility towards free nights. Reservations made within 48 hours prior to Free Nights promotion registration will count towards free nights.

·         Paid nights during promotional period earn elite qualification credit. Free nights do not.

·         Registration for the free nights promotion restricts the member’s earning of base and elite loyalty program points for the duration of the promotion even if the maximum number of free nights has already been earned. (For this reason some members planning numerous nights in May and June may choose to register for double points instead).

·         Members may still earn bonus points for hotel stays as part of room rate offers and paid nights will count towards Ambassador Accelerator for InterContinental Ambassador members. Ambassador Accelerator awards 20,000 points for 15 InterContinental Hotel nights during the calendar year.

·         Hotels in Japan are excluded from this offer.

·         Only one room per member per night is eligible for free night offer.

·         Member may redeem earned promotional free nights individually or for up to a 4-night consecutive nights stay

·         Warning: Hotel Reservations for free nights may not be modified. A reservation cancellation forfeits the free night. Free night credit will not be redeposited to account.

·         Free Nights are not transferable. Account Member must be guest on file.

 The trend this past month has been to soft launch hotel loyalty program promotions on FlyerTalk. SPG announced their promotion on FlyerTalk to rave responses. InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott Rewards released their promotions and hotel loyalty program members cried out for better terms. Marriott released a double elite nights promotion and then pulled it last week while it is still being fine tuned.

This IC Hotels Group promotion also disappeared for a few days and came back slightly altered. The promotion term of no base or elite points during the two month period of the free nights promotion received a negative response on FlyerTalk. IC Hotels Group added an alternate promotion of Double Points or Double Miles for the two month promotional period in lieu of the free nights offer.

You will have to make a choice between two promotions when you register for the free nights promotion. Your selection cancels out the other offer in your account during the May-June promotional period.

Free nights works out to a much better deal for most Priority Club members. A free night at an InterContinental Hotel  will cost either 30,000 or 40,000 points per night. Paris, London, or Amsterdam free nights are worth 40,000 points each. Bora Bora, if you can get a free room reservation, is a $500 to $800 per night hotel you might get for free after two nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Double Points would mean up to 25 points per $1 for a Platinum member. Two nights earns the equivalent of 40,000 points if used for an InterContinental Hotel free night.  The free nights promotion caps you at 4 free nights equivalent to 160,000 points.  A Priority Club platinum member who will spend over $6,400 during the two month promotional period will earn more in points using the double points promotion.

InterContinental Hotel stays earn 2,000 points per stay and a stay pattern with InterContinental stays needs to be evaluated separately.

Unless you have a track record of earning 60,000+ points per month, then you are better off going with free nights for the two months of this promotion as long as you have the ability to get good value from a hotel stay using the free nights in 2009.

Last Saturday morning April 18 in San Francisco, a red-headed woman riding in the elevator of the Palace Hotel with my mother and me asked if we had been at the 5:12am commemoration for the 1906 earthquake. 


Lotta’s Fountain 1906-2009 Commemorative Wreath, Market Street, San Francisco

Her British accent underscored the international experience of a San Francisco hotel. She sounded so proper despite her excitement at telling us about the morning events. Her enthusiasm at 8am as my mom and I were trying to get a coffee jumpstart to the day made me long to be an international tourist feeling that travel high in a new place.  She inspired us to make the most of our Saturday touring. We were even thinking about a first time trip to Alcatraz, but the tour required advance reservations.

She exited the elevator with us at the 7th floor and continued talking in the foyer about the two earthquake survivors at the ceremony – a 106 year old woman and a man 103 years old. The 5:12 am gathering at Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street and Kearney, across the street from the Palace Hotel, marked the 103rd anniversary of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.


Lotta’s Fountain (Palace Hotel is visible on right edge)

Our new British friend described a few hundred gatherers in the morning cold, some men and women dressed in century old style clothing, top hats and gowns, along with fire trucks blaring down Market Street at 5:12am. Her eyes widened when describing the old earthquake survivors and she had talked with some of their descendants.  She had obtained an email address and hoped to have further contact with the centenarians. The 103 year old man would have been less than 4 months old at the time of the quake. The 106 year old woman had lived in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco where my father grew up. She says she remembers watching the fires from Bernal Hill.


San Francisco 1906 Fire Storms Burned Four Square Miles of the city

The Palace Hotel and the 1906 earthquake

The Palace Hotel originally opened in October 1875 as a 755-room hotel after two years construction based on plans of architect John Painter Gaynor. William Ralston, founder of the Bank of California and the financier behind the Palace Hotel had drowned in San Francisco Bay just five weeks before.  The Bank of California collapsed due to a mining investment scandal and Ralston had just been removed as President of the bank on the day of his death.  The current environment of toxic assets, highly leveraged banks, and financiers at the end of their rope are nothing new historically.

bank-of-california-Museum palace-hotel-description

Description of 1875 Palace Hotel from Bank of California Museum display

Ralston had also used architect Gaynor to build a fabulous estate house in Belmont, California, twenty miles south of San Francisco prior to the Palace Hotel. The Ralston  Hall Mansion still stands and the estate is now the campus of Notre Dame de Namur University, the 5th oldest college in California.

Not surprisingly, the politician on the scene and Palace Hotel finance partner, William Sharon came out of the situation with lots of cash and property.  William Sharon, a California U.S. Senator, ended up in control of the Palace Hotel, the Bank of California, and even Ralston’s estate in Belmont.


1865 Gold ingot from San Francisco mint (displayed at Bank of California Museum)

For thirty years the Palace Hotel was a San Francisco icon – until 5:12am, April 18, 1906. The hotel survived the earthquake but was destroyed in the subsequent firestorm that burned much of the city.

The current Palace Hotel is the redesigned and rebuilt structure that opened in 1909. The hotel underwent its last major renovation between 1989 and 1991 at a cost of $150 million. I stayed at the Palace Hotel for a week in 1993 when it was a Sheraton Hotel.


Throne Chair in the Palace Hotel

Palace Hotel History Source: . This web page shows numerous photos and illustrations of the Palace Hotel from 1875 to 2003.

An excellent source for San Francisco history is the web site with dozens of storytelling podcasts. Here is a 44-minute podcast, #55: caruso, the palace, and the 1906 earthquake telling of the story of Enrique Caruso, his visit to San Francisco, and his hotel stay at the Palace Hotel on the morning of the 1906 earthquake. The story provides lots of interesting details about the title subjects: Caruso, the Palace Hotel, and the 1906 Earthquake. His story tells of the four-story Hotel Valencia sinking three stories in marshland liquefaction and only one story remained sitting above ground.


French Parlor in Palace Hotel, San Francisco

Welcome to California Earthquake Country

As a Californian in Eureka and Monterey, I have experienced at least ten substantially earth-moving earthquakes 6.0 and over in the last 25 years.  I was born 49 years ago within a few miles of where I now live in Monterey, however, the first earthquake I experienced that actually lasted long enough to be scary didn’t happen until I was 24.  

It took a couple of years to recover mentally after going through a 7.2, 6.5, and 6.7 quake within a 19 hour period on April 25-26, 1992 in Eureka, CA.  For months we set up water glasses to view and distinguish an earthquake and the need to flee to a safer location from the ordinary vibration created by a large truck passing outside the house and rattling the windows.  I have been amazed at how much the walls and floor of a house can visibly bend and not break.  Structural flexibility is why we do not have brick construction in California.

Earthquake intensity is relative to one’s position to the epicenter.  A 5.6 earthquake in 1994 centered within 15 miles of Eureka did more damage to my mother-in-law’s house than the 7.2 earthquake about 50 miles away in 1992.

The two most damaging California quakes of the past 25 years in terms of lives lost and property damage were the Loma Prieta 1989 (the World Series earthquake in San Francisco) which registered 6.9 and killed 63 persons and the 6.7 Northridge quake, north of Los Angeles on January 17, 1994 with 60 fatalities.  Nobody died in the three Cape Mendocino quakes of 1992 but Humboldt County is sparsely populated in comparison to the San Francisco Bay Area and San Fernando Valley in SoCal.

The 1906 earthquake is estimated to have been 10 times stronger than any I have felt. The great quake is estimated around 7.8 and killed around 3,000 people. There is a researcher in San Francisco I have seen on PBS documentaries who has spent years documenting fatalities and adding thousands more lives to the commonly used official number of 3,000 lives lost. 

Here is a resource list for articles on the 1906 quake.

The US Geological Service now estimates the 1906 quake at 7.8 which is a far lower magnitude than the 8.3 commonly used when describing the 1906 quake.

 palace-hotel-corner-suite facing Market Street

 Corner Suite of Palace Hotel facing Market Street

2010 will be the 104th anniversary of the 1906 quake. Soon there will be no more earthquake survivors. The Palace Hotel, St. Regis, and the Westin Market Street are all within one block of Lotta’s Fountain if you want to get up early and walk over to take part in the commemoration at 5:12am, April 18.

Hilton HHonors has a 10,000 points bonus offer for a 3 night or longer stay at a Conrad Hotel between April 1 and September 30, 2009. Offer is valid at all Conrad Hotels and may be earned multiple times throughout the promotional period.

Conrad Hotels reservation link.

Registration is required prior to your stay.

Link at

Conrad Hotels is one of the two luxury brands of Hilton. There are only three locations in the US for Conrad Hotels: Chicago, Indianapolis, and Miami. The Waldorf=Astoria Collection has become the more prevalent luxury brand for Hilton in the Americas over the past year as several luxury hotel properties have rebranded to W=A Collection in the past year.

Sample room rates for Conrad Hotels:

Conrad Chicago Fri July 17-Mon Jul 20,

nonrefundable rate/Best Available Rate

King Bed Deluxe                     $204 / $255

King Bed Junior Suite              $264 / $330

King Bed Deluxe Suite            $324 / $405


Conrad Indianapolis Fri July 10 – Mon Jul 13,

nonrefundable rate/Best Available Rate


King Bed Deluxe                     $169 / $199

King Bed Corner Suite             $339 / $399


Conrad Miami Fri Aug 7 – Mon Aug 10,

nonrefundable rate/Best Available Rate


King Bed Deluxe                                         $160 / $179

King one Bedroom Suite                             na / $249

Two Bedroom Bay View Residence Suite     na / $329


Conrad Centennial Singapore Fri May 1 – Mon May 4,

nonrefundable rate/Best Available Rate


2 Twins Classic           $225 SGD/$250 SGD            

(Exchange rate 1 USD = 1.50 SGD)

King Business             $288 SGD /$320 SGD

King Executive            $351 SGD /$390 SGD


The Conrad Centennial is one of my favorite hotels in Singapore due to its proximity to the waterfront and a great location next to a shopping mall requiring only a couple of minutes outside in the heat to reach an air conditioned sanctuary.


In 2002 I was at the Conrad Singapore the night of an incredible show on the Esplanade and Marina Bay at the mouth of the Singapore River.  I walked over and found a spot on the Esplanade Bridge and spent the evening partying with a hundred thousand Singaporeans. The company that staged the Sydney Olympics fireworks show put on an amazing display of fireworks as dragonboats paraded around the bay and aerobatic performers descended lighted skyscrapers. WOW.


Hotel rates I checked in Europe and Australia ran from $250 to $400USD for the lowest priced rooms.


HHonors seems committed to a policy of not offering lucrative promotions. In all fairness to the HHonors program, the standard earning rate for Hilton stays with Points & Points or Points & Miles, along with a policy of award stays being eligible for elite status credit makes the Hilton HHonors program a good value without many additional bonuses.


Hilton HHonors had their 1,000 points per night promotion for most of this year and it was extended for many Hilton properties through June 30, 2009. Link to 1,000 points per night promotion.


When it comes to earning free nights there are advantages to IC Hotels Group, Hyatt, and Starwood with all the opportunities for bonus points and free night offers based on hotel stays.


Some of us remember the old days of Hilton HHonors fondly for multiple points earning opportunities like 2,000 points every quarter for changing account preferences like the email address on file. That was a simple 16,000 points per year from home for my wife and me.


And then there were the charitable years with the lucrative points earning opportunities through City of Hope’s “Walk for Hope” breast cancer research walks and runs. Earning 50,000+ points per year was possible for registration as a virtual walker in cities around the country with donations of $25 for 5,000 points. HHonors facilitated contributions to cancer research and helped the hotel loyalty account balance.  


Thanks to Hilton HHonors we have memories of Oakland from the 2004 Walk for Hope that go beyond rock shows at night and our car being vandalized on trips there in the 80s.


10,000 points for a 3-night stay at a Conrad Hotel is an offer to consider when comparing rates for hotels in the nearly 20 cities around the world with Conrad Hotels.



Conrad Bangkok, tub and elephant (the bed had a stuffed elephant amenity)

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Things I think a hotel  traveler wants are a safe place to stay the night, a pleasant environment, and a comfortable bed.  Some people even say two out of three ain’t bad.

The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, a Starwood Hotels Luxury Collection brand property, is a pleasant environment. The hotel staff members were quite friendly and helpful –from the Front Desk staff to the concierge and maids.

The ambience of the Palace Hotel is great.  Historical photos and documents reflect the glorious past of the hotel, from an 1893 Thanksgiving menu for the Palace Hotel listing Sierra bear meat as a dining selection to a letter commissioning a $6,000 mural by Maxfield Parrish – the famed Pied Piper mural painting in the hotel bar. The historic hotel – at one time the largest hotel in the world – has wonderful features not found in most modern hotel rooms like spacious size, 14 foot room ceilings, and wall molding.


The Pied Piper Bar’s Maxfield Parrish mural

But when it came to the bed this Prince in the Palace did not sleep well due to the pea beneath the sheet. And I do mean to use sheet in the singular term. The only thing between me and the mattress was a single thin sheet and a thin layer of fabric that did not even cover the entire mattress surface.  I felt the stitching pattern of the mattress impressed upon my torso as I lay on the bed and after four hours of in and out sleep I started thinking about the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea.  Unfortunately these thoughts were running through my head at 2am while tossing and turning on the bed in the Palace Hotel.

I am a person who normally sleeps well. My wife is envious of my ability to quickly pass out in bed. No ambien is needed for this guy to get a good night’s sleep. I can’t remember the last time I had a hotel bed so uncomfortable. The mattress at the Palace hotel wasn’t that bad, although too soft for my sleeping preference.  There are reasons for having a mattress pad on a bed. 

Awake at three in the morning I am thinking about the homeless man I watched earlier in the evening setting up his blankets in the doorway of the shoe store outside on Market Street.  He is sleeping tonight without the safety and pleasant environment, but his bed might be more comfortable than what I am experiencing tonight.


Palace Hotel mattress pad

The Palace Hotel is a member of the Luxury Collection.  In November 2008 I stayed at The Nines, Portland, Oregon. That hotel opened in October 2008 as a new member of the Luxury Collection. The bed at the Nines, and perhaps more importantly the bedding, made that bed the most luxurious hotel sleeping experience of the past year. That was a bed I relished lying on and the bed at the Nines actually deserved the phrase used in the Palace Hotel confirmation email, “featuring ultimate comfort bed”. 

As my wife and I lay in the bed at the Palace, we both quickly agreed the bedding lacked quality one would expect from a Luxury Collection property.  I felt the cord ribbing of the mattress as my hand moved along the edge of the bed through the night.  I kept adjusting my body trying to get off the damn pea, but the more I fidgeted, the more I bunched up the thin pad beneath the sheet into ridges.

Paul Simon sang the lyrics, “He’s got diamonds on the soles of his shoes”.  While I generally would only describe a mattress as firm or soft, I can truly say after a night at the Palace the stitching pattern of the mattress left me with a feeling of having diamonds on the skin of my back.  


The Palace Hotel is a San Francisco landmark and a wonderful hotel to visit. Saturday mornings at 10am there is an independent tour run by San Francisco City Guides volunteers. This free tour is well worth your while to look around the hotel and hear its history. Although the tour takes visitors to public spaces it does not give access to guest rooms or visit the pool area on the fourth floor.

Perhaps I am a royal pain in the ass regarding the bed since I looked through FlyerTalk and TripAdvisor and I didn’t see other guests complaining about the linens and bed.  In my opinion, the beds are more comfortable at any of the other Starwood Hotels in San Francisco.  The ambience of the Palace Hotel is deserving of the Luxury Collection branding.  The beds are not.

“Oftentimes excusing of a fault,

Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.”

                        - Shakespeare “King John”



Pool on 4th floor of Palace Hotel. St. Regis (indoor), Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf (outdoor), and W Hotel (indoor) are only other Starwood Hotels with pools in San Francisco.

Marriott and Visa have teamed up to provide up to a $50 gift certificate for with Friday or Saturday night stays. 

Earn $25 per night for up to two nights at Marriott, JW Marriott, or Renaissance hotel brands for a $50 maximum gift card value. 

Courtyard Hotel stays earn a $15 credit per night for up to two nights and a $30 maximum gift card value.

Offer Details: Marriott Promotion link for Amazon gift card

·         Book between April 13 and May 3 for weekend stays between April 16 and June 14, 2009.

·         Use promotion code OTP

·         Use Visa card and request Amazon gift card voucher code at check-in

·         Log on to website provided in voucher to register your Amazon gift card code

·         Link to Amazon gift card claim code will be emailed within 5 business days.

·         Offer valid only in US and Canada (and if your stays are in Canada your gift card value is in Canadian dollars and worth 21% less).

·         Some properties may offer this deal seven days a week.

·         Guest has 30 days from checkout to receive voucher.

Loyalty Traveler analysis:

The rules do not appear to restrict a member from earning a gift certificate from both Marriott and Courtyard stays for a total of $80 since they are separate hotel brand offers, but I may be wrong on that term. It is unclear if you could have a $15 certificate for one Courtyard night and a $25 for one Marriott night. The total may be limited to $50 for the entire promotion.

The 30 days after checkout limit for registering a voucher could be a problem if Courtyard and Marriott are exclusionary since a guest staying in a Courtyard hotel for one night April 20 must redeem the voucher by May 20 and that guest could have a qualifying two night stay at Marriott in June.  

Questions, questions. I do not like unclear promotion terms.

Room Rate Analysis

Fremont, California is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the US. I love going to the malls and seeing all the Asian restaurants with Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Indian foods.

Fremont is also notoriously inexpensive for hotel stays on the weekend when the Silicon Valley tech industrial area shuts down.

Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley, Friday, April 24

Concierge Level room = $89 and is eligible for $25 gift certificate. Or you could drop the rate to $79 without Concierge Level. And the rate may be cancelled up to 6pm on April 24. Wow. That is a lenient cancellation policy.

A quick check of AAA rates shows the $79 rate drops to $63 for the same night.  Basically the $25 gift certificate requires paying a total room rate after tax of almost $18 more. That certainly diminishes the value of this offer for this night at this hotel.

San Francisco Marriott, Friday, April 24 Amazon Gift Card OTP rate = $169/night

AAA rate for this night is $152. San Francisco has a 15.5% tax on rooms.  The room rate to earn a $25 per night gift card value requires a room rate that will cost $19.50 more per night after tax. 

Not so great a deal after all.        

And if you are a senior 62 or older the room rate drops to $144 per night.  Guess what?

You are paying more than $25 more per night to book the OTP promotional rate to earn the Amazon $25 gift certificate.

The real blow to your hotel booking savvy is evident when you do not enter any promotional or group code whatsoever for a rate search of the Marriott San Francisco.

A nonrefundable reservation for Friday, April 24, 2009 at the San Francisco Marriott is only $109 per night if booked today.

The sucker who went directly for the promotional rate would have paid about $70 more per night after tax to receive a $25 Amazon gift card.


Marriott San Francisco


Much of the work I do as Loyalty Traveler is to go beyond presenting hotel promotional offers to readers. The hotel companies promote the offers themselves and sites like and list hotel promotions.

The real work of Loyalty Traveler is applying the promotional offer to actual hotel rates and seeing if the deal is really a deal. In this case, I think the Marriott + Visa offer for an Amazon gift card is far less valuable than it looks at face value.

Saturday is the 103rd anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I plan to be in the city. My hotel stay plans were not based on the earthquake anniversary. That is just a coincidence.  

My parents are visiting and wanted to spend some time in San Francisco after several years away. My father is a San Francisco native who moved from the Monterey Peninsula in the mid 90s to Las Vegas. This weekend may indicate if he left his heart in San Francisco.

My task was to find two hotel rooms for this weekend.  The week became a study of hotel rates.

Hilton San Francisco was a deal at $95 per night.   The last time I stayed there I did not receive a room upgrade, even as an HHonors Diamond member.  I have no status with HHonors currently. I received a targeted  offer yesterday for Gold status with  4 stays between July 1 and September 30, 2009. I’ll be hoping for $95 rates at the Hilton San Francisco this summer.  

I actually prefer the Hilton Financial District hotel where Chinatown eateries are right outside the door and some of the room views are better. Rates there were $149.

The Fairmont San Francisco at $103 per night was a choice for a historic hotel at a bargain price in a great location.  My reluctance with the Fairmont is its location on the top of steep Nob Hill. My father recently had knee surgery and Nob Hill is a tough walk for the healthy.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco was my hotel preference due to the top floor circular Club lounge with its 360 degree views and food spread throughout the day. I haven’t had chocolate cake since my last visit. The location near the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero shops and restaurants is a prime tourist spot.  The Hyatt Regency has a WOW factor.  Unfortunately rates were oscillating between $199 and $239 per room all week.  This hotel has been $119 on many weekends recently, but not this one.

Calculating BRG Rates

I almost went for a Best Rate Guarantee with who had the Hyatt Regency San Francisco hotel at $147 per night last week and then upped the rate to $152 per night this week. 

Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee offers 20% off the competitor’s lower rate and you can make a claim before booking a room.  Hilton, Marriott, and IHG offer Best Rate Guarantees, but only after you book a room.  

$152 x 0.8 = $121.60 gives an estimate of the Best Rate Guarantee price, however, the BRG calculated rate will normally be slightly higher.  OTAs, online travel agencies, make money from both advertising and additional fees.

The fee charged by GTAHotels can be calculated by taking the room rate of $152 x 4 nights x 15.5565% tax and subtract from the total rate shown for the room.

$608 x 1.15565 = $702.64

The total rate was listed at $716. 

$716 – $702.64 = $13.36 for four room nights.

GTAHotels add-on fee per room night is$13.36/4 =  $3.34.

The Hyatt BRG 20% discount is not based on the $152 room rate shown. You have to add on the GTAHotels fee and the 20% discount is based on $155.34 per night.

Hyatt BRG for $152 rate at Hyatt Regency San Francisco would result in a room rate of $124.28 per night + 15.5565% tax = $143.63/night after tax. The Hyatt rate would be $230 after tax.

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco was available for $75 less than the room rate listed on Hyatt’s website. After tax that would be a $344 savings on four room nights.

I actually filed a BRG claim with Hyatt using as a competitor rate at $137 per night compared to Hyatt at $199. The claim was denied due to being an OTA that does not offer instant online confirmation.

The Palace Hotel, a Starwood Luxury Collection property, has been available as a BRG property for the entire week.  Orbitz had a rate of $119.20 for several days and on Tuesday dropped that rate to $108. Starwood Hotels had the rate at $135 all week.

I filed a BRG claim with Starwood Hotels for The Palace hotel citing Orbitz at $108 compared to $135 on  The final rate came out to $100.73 per night. After tax the rate is $13 less per night than the Orbitz rate – a savings of $52 for our two night stay with two rooms.

A person booking the Orbitz rate of $108 without going through a BRG claim would still save $17 per night on the lowest available rate through Starwood Hotels using the Better Tomorrows offer of 50% off the second night.

The BRG claim saves money and qualifies for Starpoints and elite stay and night credit. This is the first time I have taken the 10% discount rather than 2,000 Starpoints.  I would have taken points if it was a one room night stay since 2,000 points are definitely a better value than a $13 savings. Four room nights made the 10% discount a more tangible savings of $52 now rather than 2,000 Starpoints for some future use.

My parents have never stayed in an upscale hotel in downtown San Francisco.  There was never a reason to spend the money. My grandmother owned a house in the city for over sixty years until she died in 1990. I think the historic Palace Hotel is an appropriate hotel for revisiting the city on the 103rd anniversary of the Great Quake.


Comparison of Various Room Rates on  for The Palace Hotel, San Francisco

 Orbitz rate was found through Kayak searches.

Hotel Stay: Fri April 17 – Sun Apr 19, two night stay

Mon April 12 rates

Room Category

Rate Plan

Room Rate


Total after Tax


Superior Room (lowest category)







Superior Room (lowest category)

Internet Rate nonrefundable






Superior Room (lowest category)

Better Tomorrows

(50% off second night)

$169 Night 1 $84 Night 2





Superior Room (lowest category)

California Resident special rate offer






Superior Room (lowest category)







Superior Room (lowest category)

Z2H Promotion Code 20% off based on $169 rate






Superior Room (lowest category)

Z3H Promotion Code 3rd night free based on $179 rate



$413.73 for 3 nights



Wed April 14







Superior Room (lowest category)


$108  + Orbitz fees = $111.92





Starwood Hotels

Superior Room (lowest category)

Best Rate Guarantee (10% less than Orbitz final room price after booking fee)







The Palace, San Francisco, a Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel

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IHG in Asia has a sale from Wednesday through Friday based on GMT+8.  I should have looked up the meaning of GMT+8 yesterday.  It turns out that GMT+8 is 15 hours ahead of California time and this promotion started 22 hours ago as I write this in California at 7:00am on Wednesday . 

For those of us in the USA this means the sale ends at Friday morning 5:59am on the east coast and 8:59am on the west coast.

Offer: 140 or so hotels have special Asia on Sale rates. Brands include InterContinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and HI Express for stays between April 14 and July 31, 2009.


Sample Rates:

InterContinental Bangkok, May 6-10, 4 nights, Grand Deluxe Room = 4,580 Thai Baht or $130USD/night.

InterContinental Coex Seoul, May 8-11, King Standard Room 178,000 Korean Won = $134USD/night

            Two Bedroom Family Suite, 340,000 KRW = $255USD/night

InterContinental Singapore, Wed June 3 – Mon June 8, 5 nights

 King Deluxe 196SGD = $130USD/night

Club InterContinental 316SGD = $210USD/night

ShopHouse Suite 396 SGD = $264USD/night

Check other special offer rates before booking these. Flyertalkers have stated some of these Asia on Sale rates are higher than rates were recently for these hotels. Link to FlyerTalk thread.  I have not looked at Asia rates frequently enough to know which hotels are good values with this sale.


InterContinental Hotel Bangkok

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