Hotel Review: The Fairmont, Singapore

Having stayed at The Fairmont before, it was a safe bet for me to stay in this hotel a second time when passing through Singapore for just a few days. The Fairmont has a lot going for it. It is centrally located, it’s connected to the City Hall MRT station on the East-West line which is a direct service from Changi airport, and it offers a competitive rate.

It is also one of the few hotels in Singapore that offer rooms with two double beds: a gem if you are traveling with family and don’t want to book two rooms.

We arrived into Changi at 8.00pm and took the MRT into the city centre. Two years ago the MRT ticket machines would only take cash but they now accept credit cards so this can make things simpler if you arrive without Singapore dollars. It’s about 40 mins on the MRT from Changi, probably about the same duration as a much more expensive cab ride. Arriving in City Hall station take the escalator up to the shopping zone and follow the signs for The Fairmont.

We arrived a little tired and the staff were quick to notice and offer some cool water. Check in was quick and we were offered the chance to upgrade our room to a large penthouse suite for a modest amount. We declined. (More on this later!) Although many of the rooms seem to now be renovated there may still be some non-refurbished rooms around, so make sure you ask for what you want. We had booked an executive room in advance. The price uplift was modest for the access to the lounge and the free breakfast for for people so it seemed like a good deal at the time.
As the helpful agent handed over our keys, she let us know that she had upgraded us to a suite in any event, free of charge. That was a nice touch. I am an Accor Platinum member and although the Fairmont group was recently acquired by Accor, there is no integration of their loyalty schemes so my high status officially counted for nothing!
Now to the room. This wasn’t a contemporarily decorated room, in fact it seems to have been one of the non-refurbished rooms, but what it lacked in modernity it made up for in space and comfort, as you can see from the pictures below. 


The views were excellent too and the complimentary  water and fruit were welcome alternative snacks for a late night bite, rather than dinner anywhere. (These were updated daily.) Now, I should point out that there was a welcome note in the room for me with my name on it: so paid upgrade or not, we were always likely to get this room!
Although we could have breakfast in the Lounge, on the first morning we went poolside for breakfast. 


This was probably the best location for breakfast. It wasn’t too busy and there was a selection that was on par with the main restaurant. We went there for breakfast the next morning and it was chaotic: slightly greater choice, but the wait for a table and crowds weren’t worth it.
One benefit of the Executive room is the access to the Lounge. We only had one evening when we arrived early enough to visit it. It’s a pleasant enough space. A little formal and stuffy though. There was a pleasing selection of drinks: beers, wines, and a few spirits, although the Moët et Chandon was the most popular tipple. This is not a ‘pour-your-own’ environment: the staff were very attentive though and I don’t think my glass was ever empty. The canapés were quite good too. I think I tried everything to make sure they were fit for purpose!


So I guess I could summarise this hotel as follows: excellent property, great location, outstanding staff and customer service, great value. I don’t know what more anyone could ask for!

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Hotel Review: Hotel am Steinplatz, Berlin

The Steinplatz, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection is simply a wonderful boutique hotel. Like the Marriott Frankfurt which I reviewed here, I stayed here on a Visa pre-paid rate which offered free breakfast. This is not a particularly cheap hotel, but it is a high quality establishment, small, and discreet. I loved it. Its individual, slightly funky, Gaudi-esque  entrance gives you a clue about what to expect, the lobby area is compact and trendy enough to let you know you are in for a treat.




At checkin my Marriott Gold status was noted, but that was about it. There was no upgrade offered nor amenity provided. I was told that I would have been offered free breakfast for myself and a guest, but since that was included in my rate it was a rather moot point. There is no lounge here, so no access there, but even though I had expected a drinks coupon or two for the bar, none of this was forthcoming.

From there it all got better though. The room, though small, was very classy.



There was very much a modern luxury elegance to the hotel: the rooms finished to the highest standard. We stayed here on a B&B rate and if you have the opportunity I would suggest you do too. The breakfast area was lovely: you could sit indoors or in a summer garden area, as shown. The menu choices were excellent. A supreme buffet of typical cold cuts and continental selections and some hot foods to order: sausages, bacon, eggs, etc. You can also order one item off the menu: the eggs with Hollandaise sauces and spinach is not to be missed!


Even the corridors in this hotel had a certain charm about them. 


Not only are they very calming, but the framed pictures on the walls were, for the most part, framed video screens, and they had some really cool, and somewhat ghostly, old German imagery.

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​ Overall, this is a great and very classy hotel in the Charlottenberg area of Berlin. It’s convenient to and a short walk from the S-Bahn Zoologischer Garten stop and there are several reasonably priced and relaxed eateries and bars close by. At about €172 per night including breakfast for two, I felt it to be great value for the quality of the establishment.

Hotel Review: Frankfurt Marriott Hotel

The Frankfurt Marriott on Hamburger Allee is huge but it’s also a bit of a gem. It’s popular with airline crews and multi-national travellers and of course many of those redeeming frequent traveller points. If you are looking for a small, intimate getaway this is not for you!

I stayed here on a pre-paid rate. Pay with Visa and get free breakfast. For around €100 for the room and two people this was a pretty good deal. With Marriott Gold status I was given access to the Executive Lounge upon checking in, but there was no room upgrade or other amenities offered, which was a little disappointing. I wasn’t too bothered though, the room was excellent and I got good use of the Lounge.


The room seemed recently refurbished and well presented. The bed was extremely comfortable. I was surprised that there was no free in-room water offered, but the lounge access made up for this slight inconvenience. However, the in-room tea selection was one of the best I’ve ever encountered: quite a selection!


The Executive Lounge was open all day and there were snacks, fresh fruit, and a fine selection of hot and cold drinks. The evening service kicked off from 5.30pm and ran on until 11.00pm with a good selection of wines and beers available. There was also a generous hors d’oeuvres selection: plentiful supplies of meats, salads, breads, and a hot dish. The cakes were outstanding too!


There was a breakfast service in the Lounge but we ate in the main restaurant: Brasserie Ici. This was a bit mad with a lot of food offerings, a lot of people, and not so much space!

The spread was impressive though and so was the price: €30 each if you chose the full buffet, so having it included in our rate was a good bonus.

Immediately outside the hotel was a tram stop with direct service to the main station just a few stops away, so from a transport perspective this Marriott was amazingly easy to get to, even from the airport.

Overall, I liked this hotel very much. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Like I said, the only slight drawback is its size, making it very busy and causing rather long waits for the elevators. However, if you can get a good deal and are patient, this place is a winner.

Trip Report: DAA Executive Lounge at Dublin Airport Terminal 1

The T1 DUblin Airport Authority (DAA) Executive Lounge has been open for many years but it has been recently refurbished and had a complete makeover. It’s still located airside, one floor up, just after Security in T1 (although it is equally accessible from T2 since both terminals are connected airside).

This lounge is not the most luxurious compared to other lounges, but it is more than satisfactory. You can access the lounge using a Priority Pass card or if you are travelling in a premium cabin or have status with any of the airlines flying from T1 (although not Aer Lingus, since they have their own lounge in T2).

The biggest change in the lounge since its previous incarnation is that the food area is on the right hand side of the lounge and the alcoholic bar is on the left hand side. The lounge opens at 4.45am so is handy for a quick breakfast if you are taking an early flight. I was doing just this and there was a very pleasant breakfast spread: pastries, cereals, fruits, juices, and coffee, and the usual soft drinks.



Around the dining area there were very many small tables and chairs. Actually, the smallness of the tables was a problem. If you had any number of people around the table there was vey little space to put down more than a few plates and cups. 

The effect of the changes at the lounge has been to dramatically increase the number of seats and hence the number of guests that the lounge can accommodate. This is most evident over at the left hand side of the lounge: there are myriad chairs and tables.


Another change in the lounge is at the new bar area. Previously it was a self service bar area, but there is now a manned bar. The drink selection seems the same though, but perhaps the amount served will be limited in some way.


For those not wishing to drink, but perhaps do some work, there are numerous workspace areas and plenty of power outlets at desk level and even around all of the tables. As ever, the staff were very friendly and helpful at the reception desk, where it should be noted there is an excellent selection of newspapers available.

On balance this is an improvement to the old lounge: it’s more roomy, brighter, and generally just much fresher. Well worth a visit if you are passing through.

Flight Deal: Venice to Bangkok in Business Class on Qatar Airways for €1328/£1170

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There’s (yet) another excellent deal out of Venice to Bangkok on Qatar Airways in Business Class. A mere €1328 for the roundtrip ticket. There’s lots of availability for the next few months, and of course both the hard and soft product on Qatar are excellent. You can even go tomorrow and you don’t even need to stay for a full week!

There are several routing options to choose from, and I’ve included a screen grab below.

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You want to choose the Business Promo Fare. As you can see, it’s not available every day. For example, you can’t select it on Saturday 1 July. However, even tomorrow, there are lots of options for the cheaper fare of €667.42 (outbound only). There are at least five options available, all with different departure times from DOH to BKK. Choose carefully. There are several different aircraft types available on this routing, all showing at the same discounted price. For me, the obvious choice would be to take the Airbus A380 aircraft option from DOH with the onboard bar area, although you could take a 777 or a 787 if the timings suited you better.

Discounted fares from VCE have been around for a while and they tend to come and go, so book soon if this is of interest. You might also be able to get an extra 5% or 10% off if you enter the code ‘ONTHEGO’ into the Promo Code field if you are booking from the mobile app.

Hotel Review: Hilton Dublin Kilmainham

The Hilton Kilmainham is a little bit out of the city, over towards the west and in a quiet area. It’s convenient to Heuston Station though, if you are coming or going by train, being just a 15 minute or so walk away.

It’s a modern construction with a small lobby area. When I arrived to check in, it wasn’t busy and the staff quickly got my details and I had my room key within about three minutes.


As a Hilton Honors Diamond member I was thanked for my loyalty, but that was about it: no room upgrade, no lounge access (there isn’t one at this hotel), and no fancy amenities or gifts in the room. I did get two small bottles of water, a voucher for a single drink in the bar, and a small chocolate gift. The days of half bottles of wine and fruit basket are well gone from this hotel.


The room was small and basic, but clean and modern, and although I wasn’t upgraded to the next category, it served its purpose, although this hotel really does need to work on its Hilton Honors Diamond member recognition. The standard toiletries were on offer, but only one of each—is money that tight? I should also not that while the bed was comfortable the room was far too warm and the air conditioning didn’t work. The staff seemed nonplussed when I mentioned this at checkout the next morning.


I had a pint in the bar area later that night. The service was quick and friendly and the area was comfortable and relaxing. To be honest there isn’t a lot going on in the area so it was not surprising to see many business types having lonely dinners by themselves in the bar.

Because it’s in a quiet area, there was a calmness and serenity in the hotel that I really enjoyed. This is probably because it’s mostly a few travellers and business people staying at the hotel rather than fully fledged tourists and families. Nevertheless, I would consider staying here if I was visiting the city for pleasure: it’s convenient to bus stop that gets you into the city center within 15 minutes and the rooms rates are very good value for Dublin. Another plus is the excellent leisure facility at the hotel: a pleasant pool area, steam rooms, and sauna, all in tiptop condition. Oh, and I should mention that the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Kilmainham Gaol Museum are a stone’s throw away.


Leaving early the next morning I scarcely had time for breakfast, but the staff did let me into the dining room a few minutes early and I really enjoyed the excellent selection and quality of food that they had on offer. The breakfast area was nicely furnished and very roomy. All in all, this was a pleasant enough hotel offering great value, even if a little of the beaten track.

Flight Deal: Stockholm to Auckland in Qatar Business Class £1826/€2076

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Qatar Airways is generally regarded as one of the best airlines around, especially in Business Class and First Class. The very frequent sales that they offer, mostly Eastbound from Europe, offer some of the best value luxury flight deals around.

While there is no global QR sale on at the moment, there is a very reasonable Business Promo fare available from Stockholm to Auckland in Business Class. It weighs in at around SEK20,281: that’s approximately £1826/€2076, which while not amazingly cheap is darn good price to get to Auckland in Business Class from Northern Europe.

There is good availability for the next few months. You can find sample routings and fares here.

Those sample flights are operated on the relatively new Boeing 787 aircraft from Stockholm to Doha. The cabin interior is wonderful on the 787, one of the best in the industry.qatar-airways-boeing-787-dreamliner-business-class-review-19

And on the Doha to Auckland sector it’ll be the Boeing 777. The interiors here are no so up-to-date, but they are more than satisfactory for this, the world’s current longest flight. It’s a huge 16 hours from Doha to Auckland (non-stop!) and a whopping 17 hours 40 mins on the way back thanks to those pesky jet-streams!

All-in-all, a reasonable value flight and plenty of time to enjoy the on-board service!

The British Airways World Sale is Now On

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British Airways launched its summer sale yesterday. You can read all about it here. but there is not a lot to get really excited about.

From a luxury flight perspective, there aren’t so many good deals. Here are a few that I noticed that seem OK, especially since they depart from the UK (London), but they are not really stand out fares:

Tampa for £1495
Philadelphia for £1744
New York for £1813
Miami for £1870

There are some slightly better prices to the Caribbean. Kingston for £1195 isn’t too bad and there is good availability right through to May 2018. Punta Cana at £1196 isn’t too shabby either. Heading further east is quite disappointing: Bangkok for £1859 and a remarkable £3256 for Kuala Lumpur is quite the poorest value I’ve seen in a BA sale for some time.

If you want to include a hotel and select a Club World Holiday then there is some slightly better value to be had. You can book the 4-star Occidental Punta Cana hotel on an All-inclusive basis for seven nights with Club World business class flights from London for £1399 per person (based on at least two people sharing). That’s just an additional £203 per person. You would probably spend that on food alone. The other benefit of booking a Club World holiday is that you don’t need to pay the full amount when you make the booking, just a deposit. Apart from that, there are’t so many great holiday deals around, but if you find any gems do let me know!

You can see all of the Luxury flight and holiday offers here. Bookings must be completed by 11 July 2017 and for the most part is for travel up to around June 2018.

 

 

Trip Report: The Levity Lounge Nice Airport Terminal 2

It had been some time since I had visited Nice Airport T2. They’ve been doing a lot of remodelling in this terminal and they have introduced a completely new lounge. The Levity Lounge is located at the B Gates, beyond Passport Control in the non-Schengen area of the terminal. It’s an impressive looking lounge from the outside, as you can see from the picture above.

Inside, it’s impressive looking too. It’s quite large and very roomy, with space for easily 200 or so guests. It’s also modern and fresh in terms of its seating areas and also its general design and appearance. Below are some pictures I took.


This was the view from the front desk. I really liked the spaciousness that was immediately apparent.

This seating area in the middle seemed quite suitable for small groups and if you were looking for lots of light and comfy chairs, there is a third long seating area just past this.


I settled myself in here for a while, but although it’s beside some windows, there isn’t much of a view: nothing more than some roads and a terrace where people seemed to be walking past and staring in.

There’s a more communal work area with charging points as well.


And as well as this, the majority of the seats had power sockets and USB charging outlets.


The food offering was pretty average. The same as what was typically offered in the other lounges in NCE. Some cheese and tomato rolls, mini pizza slices, and a modest variety of drinks and snacks.



The cold soup didn’t do much for me, but I selected a couple of things to sample. None were great to be honest.


There were a few beers and numerous soft drinks to sample, spirits as well, and champagne available upon request.



This does seem a refreshingly new lounge with nice decor and stylish touches, but as you can tell from my pictures, it was very quiet when I was there and really lacked any atmosphere. Perhaps the calmness is a good thing. In any event, if it all gets too much for you, there is small rest area with very comfortable looking loungers!


Certainly this lounge is well worth a visit. I accessed it via a Priority Pass membership, but you can pay at the door too.

Flight Deal: Germany to Malé in Air France Business Class for €1696

airfrance-business_04.jpegThe Air France BEST Business Class seat

Air France is launching a new service (twice per week) from 1 November 2017 from Paris CDG to Malé, the capital of the Maldives on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft. This is not news per se: it was announced back in February by Air France. You can see the February announcement here.

But what is interesting, is that some good value fares for this routing have appeared, although you would have to start your journey in Germany. I priced up a flight for January 2018 for €1696 departing from MUC with relatively short layovers in CDG. See here on Google Flights for the routing. There’s quite a bit of availability over the coming months.

This is probably not the best price you will ever see from mainland Europe to the Maldives, but the AF business class seat and service is one of the best around and that reasonable value.