For my February trip to Sofia, Bulgaria I booked three different hotel stays for the same dates with reservations for Radisson Blu Sofia on a 2-for-1 rate, Starwoodâ€™s Sofia Balkan Hotel on a Cash & Points rate and Ramada Sofia City Centre on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate.
Why did I choose to keep the Ramada reservation over the other two hotels?
Ramada Sofia, Bulgaria
Radisson Blu Sofia, near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, is a location close to several of the major city sights as well as near a neighborhood with trendy bars and restaurants. I passed by the hotel on a Sunday night, my second night in Sofia, but I did not go inside the hotel. The neighborhood around the Radisson Blu seemed like one of the most happening restaurant/bar scenes I found during my three days in Sofia.
I booked a King Bed for 54.50 EUR per night on Club Carlson Gold elite member 2-for-1 weekend rate. This discount rate was eliminated by Club Carlson on January 30, 2017 after many years of providing great 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 rate discounts.
Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 Gold elite booking links gone (Jan 30, 2017).
While there was potential for an upgrade as a Club Carlson Gold elite member, that is not common in my stays and I also did not expect free breakfast at this hotel.
Radisson Blu Sofia
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia
Sofia Balkan Hotel, a member of Starwood Hotels Luxury Collection, seemed like a phenomenal deal at 2,000 points + $35 per night for a hotel room in a historic building in the heart of the city. Rates were over $200 per night those dates.
I have no status with SPG, so I figured I would get exactly the 325 square foot Queen bed room I booked. Breakfast would cost extra too.
Sofia Balkan Hotel is located in one of the key three buildings referred to as The Largo, a set of immense buildings designed in 1950s Socialist Classicism style, also known as Stalinist Architecture, located above Serdika Metro city center underground station.
Sofia Balkan Hotel, Starwood Luxury Collection
The Largo complex viewed from outside Sofia Balkan Hotel.
Ramada Sofia City Center Hotel
Ramada Sofia City Center Hotel is located near the central train station for Sofia, about 1.5 km from Sofia Balkan Hotel and 2.5 km from Radisson Blu Sofia.
The Ramada location was less desirable as a tourist base than the location for the other two hotels. Basically, I had to walk 1.5 km to Serdika Metro station area and Sofia Balkan Hotel to reach the main tourist district of the city. Although, I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood near the Ramada Sofia and found some great shopping deals there in the more working class market stalls and second hand stores. Ramada Sofia was the hotel farthest from the airport of these three hotels I booked. Since I arrived by plane and not train, and never needed a train in Sofia, the location did not have any advantage over the other two hotels.
King Non-Smoking Suite with complimentary breakfast on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate for 3,000 points + 23 EUR per night is the reason I kept the Ramada Sofia reservation and canceled the other two hotel reservations for Sofia Balkan Hotel and Radisson Blu Sofia.
Then, about ten days before my trip, I called Wyndham Rewards to get 12,000 points redeposited to my account from a hotel booking for Ramada Amsterdam Apollo I canceled the week before. One of the deals with Wyndham Rewards is hotel stays must be canceled over the phone. I had canceled my Ramada Amsterdam reservation for 4 nights on a GoFast reward stay, but the 12,000 Wyndham Reward points were not credited back to my account.
While on the phone with Wyndham Rewards customer service, I explained the situation about not getting the Ramada Amsterdam points credited back to my account. The agent placed me on hold. After a few minutes she came back on the phone and said my reservation was canceled and my account had been credited 9,000 points.
A little confused, I said it should have been 12,000 points for a 4-night reservation. Then, I learned she had mistakenly canceled my 3-night Ramada Sofia hotel reservation. Online at the same time, I saw there was no longer a suite available with the Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate. The agent was unable to rebook the suite either.
That was how I discovered Wyndham Rewards had just changed their website and part of those changes were to eliminate higher category rooms for reward stays at nearly all hotels. The option to book suites using the standard number of points at many hotels had been one of the little known features of Wyndham Rewards rarely mentioned on travel blogs and a feature I had taken advantage of for several years.
Loyalty Traveler – Wyndham Rewards GoFast Rewards increase copay, reduce room types (Feb 12, 2017).
Ramada Sofia GoFast reservation for a suite at 3,000 points + 23 EUR per night.
There was no getting the suite reservation back for my Ramada Sofia stay. As a consolation, a Wyndham Rewards manager credited my account 9,000 points I had redeemed for the Ramada Sofia 3-night GoFast reward stay. I also got the 12,000 points back for the Amsterdam Ramada canceled booking, the original purpose of my phone call.
In the end, I stayed three nights at Ramada Sofia in a standard room with complimentary breakfast for 23 EUR per night.
Another issue arose when I arrived at Sofia Airport to see a text message from my wife stating she had missed her Norwegian Airlines flight at London Gatwick to Oakland. I had left my wife at the Amsterdam train station six hours earlier. Now she was stranded in London Gatwick Airport without a hotel room or a flight home to California and needed help with her travel plans.
To make a long story short, I arrived at Ramada Sofia, went to my 12th floor room and spent the next 90 minutes booking a room for Crowne Plaza London Gatwick for , an American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer ticket for 22,500 miles + $170 for London Heathrow to Monterey, California for the next day and the Hyatt Place Phoenix Airport for 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for an overnight stay before her flight to Monterey two days later.
In short, I forgot to take photos of my room during my three night stay.
Cameron Croweâ€™s movie Elizabethtown, dubbed in Bulgarian language, played on Ramada Sofia old style tube TV with kind of snowy reception as I planned my wifeâ€™s emergency travel home.
My hotel room was hot. I turned off the heat and opened the window wide to pull in colder outside air in the upper 30s, as well as city smog pollution, into the bedroom. The bathroom remained about 75 F. degrees for my entire three day stay.
At night the bed springs pressed into my body. The bed was a bit irritating. The bed was not terrible, just not particularly comfortable. Everything else was fine in the room. There was a refrigerator with space for my store-bought beer. Bathroom facilities worked fine. The room had plenty of space with a table, two chairs, coffee maker.
Ramada Sofia 12th floor view.
Ramada Sofia Lobby
While my room was nothing special, the Ramada Sofia lobby, restaurant and bar and especially the spa facilities were upscale 4-star quality.
The lobby has a store and business center with guest computers and printer.
Victoria Spa in Ramada Sofia Lobby
The fitness center and a large indoor pool are located in Victoria Spa, accessed in the hotel lobby.
The prices for a massage were some of the lowest I have seen in Europe. If I recall correctly, something like $30 for an hour.
I saw the fitness room and it looked nice with modern equipment.
The indoor pool is definitely a hotel highlight. The hours were 7am-10pm as I recall and throughout the day there are some group activities scheduled for parts of the pool. My photo is taken standing near the pool bar.
Prices were reasonable for drinks at the hotel with beer about $2.50 to $3.00 for a pint compared to $1.25 to $2.00 at city pubs and restaurants.
Breakfast on the Meridien (Mezzanine).
Ramada Sofia Restaurant Breakfast 6:30-10:30am.
Breakfast was basic buffet with kind of funky scrambled eggs.
There were sufficient vegetables to make a salad, fruit, bread, bacon, beans, sausage.
Ramada Sofia City Centre adjoins Casino Princess with a doorway from the hotel lobby into the casino. I am not interested in gambling and never went inside the casino.
Casino Princess entrance is about 100 feet from Ramada Hotel lobby entrance.
Ramada Sofia City Centre
This hotel is currently priced at 24 EUR + 3,000 points for a GoFast reward night or 15,000 points per night for a GoFree reward night.
Room rates are as low as 50 EUR night.
My 3-night stay was priced at 135 BLN, which worked out to 23 EUR or about $24.40 USD per night.
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