A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Palacio del Inka & Cusco

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The hotel was a short taxi ride away and we were surprised that we were already feeling the effects of the altitude. Cusco is over 11,000 feet above sea level (higher than Machu Picchu and surrounding villages) so it may hit you hard!

When we arrived to the Palacio del Inka, a bell hop immediately took our bags into a waiting area in the lobby and offered us some coca tea to help with the altitude sickness. The effects of this are unproven but, hey, when in Rome Peru…

Upon check-in, the front desk agent informed us that we had been upgraded to a “junior suite.” I am Starwood Gold (thanks to an American Express Platinum card I had up until a few months prior) so that would explain the upgrade. The agent also gave us the code to the complimentary wifi – one of the 3 Gold welcome benefits to choose from (bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access or a complimentary beverage).

The bell hop brought us to our room, which was definitely better, but it wasn’t a suite. There was no separate bedroom + living room area. It was a weird setup with a floating wall separating the entrance from the rest of the main area.

Entrance & mini bar

Entrance & mini bar

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A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Sheraton Lima Convention Center

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After landing at Jorge Chavez International (LIM) Airport, we got our passports stamped and collected our bags. First order of business was to get a taxi to the Sheraton Lima Convention Center.

Thanks to a great tip from fellow blogger Jamison, we went directly to the Taxi Green stand before even entering the actual Arrivals Hall. We paid the posted rate, received a receipt, and a driver started rolling our luggage through the throngs of people and taxi drivers.

Sheraton Lima Convention Center is in the Centro Historico (Historic Center) district of Lima. This is where you can find most of the history of the city, with several monuments and other Spanish-influenced architecture. As a semi-history buff, it was interesting to be within the city that Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded almost 500 years ago.

As for the hotel, it is conveniently located next to a shopping mall with food court in case you need to do any shopping or grab a quick bite.

Upon checking in, the front desk agent welcomed us and informed us that we had been upgraded to the Club Floor, which meant access to the Club Lounge. This was great because it meant we were all set for breakfast the next day, before leaving for Cusco.

We were shown to our room on the 17th floor and a welcome amenity of was awaiting us. Nice to have some fresh fruit after a day of travel.

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Club Lounge

The following morning, we woke up early to eat in the Club Lounge before heading back to the airport for our flight to Cusco. It was early enough that we were the only ones in the lounge. The lone waiter was very attentive and friendly, offering to refill our coffee and juices more than once.

The spread was pretty extensive. I am a fan of a hearty breakfast so I found the spread, especially the meat options, more than adequate for breakfast. I can see why these Starwood Platinums cherish their breakfast amenity!

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge – Lomo Saltado

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

Sheraton Lima Convention Center

Sheraton Lima Convention Center Club Lounge

A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Introduction

Introduction
Avianca Business Class New York (JFK) – Bogota – Lima
Sheraton Lima Convention Center
Avianca Business Class Lima – Cusco
Palacio del Inka & Cusco

I think a place as epic as Machu Picchu is on almost everyone’s list of places to visit before they die. For Joann and me, the list is pages long but I’d say the great Incan estate appears on the top half of that bucket list.

The idea of going somewhere for our anniversary first came up when I wrote about a very lucrative US Airways promotion. Basically, the targeted promotion stated that if you redeemed your US Airways Dividend Miles by March 31, 2014, you would receive 10-50% of them back. It really made us think.

I remembered a discussion we once had about the New7Wonders of the World and how any of them would be awesome places to visit.

After a few days of brainstorming and figuring out time off, we decided to go for Peru and Machu Picchu. Even though we’d be headed there during the rainy season, at least there would be fewer tourists and it would be an experience nonetheless.

Machu Picchu, Peru

By Pedro Szekely at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/

Planning

The best way to make the most of this promotion was to travel in Business Class. Since most Business Class awards are around 100,000 round trip (according to the award chart), this would be great for us to maximize the mileage rebate that US Airways was offering.

With Dividend Miles, searching for Star Alliance award space is easy with Wandering Aramean Travel Tools (WATT). What Seth does over there is great. The specific tool I used was his Star Alliance Award Search. More or less it mimics the results that United.com will give you but in a more efficient way (i.e. +/- 2 days per search). For $15 a year, it is a must-have and a bargain compared to other tools out there.

Hotels for this trip were very easy. We are flush with Club Carlson points, due to Joann having the credit card, so we booked two nights at the end of our trip at the Radisson Miraflores in Lima. We’ll also be utilizing the best perk of the Club Carlson Visa – redeem at least two award nights and receive the last night of the stay FREE! So we are redeeming 38,000 Club Carlson points for two nights.

The rest of the hotels went to Starwood, another program that we need to whittle down. We are doing an overnight in Lima on the way to Cusco so we redeemed a measly 3,000 Starpoints at the Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center. Not bad when the rate was $135.

While in Cusco and Sacred Valley, we’ll be staying at two Luxury Collection hotels by Starwood – Palacio del Inka and Tambo del Inka.

The Palacio del Inka is a Category 4 hotel where we used Cash & Points – 5,000 Starpoints + $75 per night.

The Tambo del Inka, which will be our base for exploring Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, is a Category 5 hotel. We used 12,000 Starpoints per night for this.

In the end, this is the routing we ended up with. We’ll be exploring Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and, of course, Machu Picchu.

Not bad for 100,000 miles each in Business and receiving 30,000 of those back!

Our Routing to Lima & Cusco
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Registration for Starwood’s Double Take Promotion is Live

Just a quick reminder to head over to Starwood’s page for their Double Take summer promotion. I wrote about it here earlier this month.

A quick recap of the promotion is as follows:

  • Earn double Starpoints on all eligible stays from May 1 through July 31, 2013
  • Get 500 bonus Starpoints for each eligible booking made through our spg.com mobile site, the SPG® App for iPhone® or the SPG App for Android™

spg-double-take-2013

Again, it’s nothing ground breaking at all, but if you have Starwood hotel stays in the works, you might as well earn some extra points for them.

Mistake to Madrid: Westin Palace Madrid

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Westin Palace Madrid

After chowing down on croissants and beautiful pieces of jamòn and downing 1 Euro beers, we walked the rest of the way to the hotel. It’s a real looker when you come upon it.

Westin Palace Madrid

Westin Palace Madrid

Planning

When planning this trip, there were plenty of hotels to choose from in Madrid, but this one seemed to be the grandest. I decided to burn some of our Starpoints.

At 4,800 points and $90 per night, this hotel offered great value. The rooms were consistently going for over 200 Euro (almost $300) so each Starpoint ended up to be worth about 3.8 cents. That beats the pants off 1-2% cashback!

About two weeks prior to our stay, I had emailed the GM to ask about upgrade options. He promptly replied with two options:

  1. A free upgrade to a “premium view room”
  2. A Junior Suite for 7,500 Starpoints per night

I did some research, particularly on Oyster, to see if the room would be worth it to us. Ultimately, I told the GM that we would take the upgrade for 7,500 Starpoints per night. Why not, at the time we had about 160k burning a hole in our pocket anyway. We were confirmed for a Junior Suite for a total of 22,500 Starpoints (3 nights).

Check-In

Upon arrival, the agent at the front desk brought out the Manager who explained that we had been upgraded to the Executive Suite for free! Now THAT’S the way to start a trip. Not bad for an SPG Gold.

The front desk agent also thanked me for being a Gold member and asked which welcome gift I’d like – 250 Starpoints, complimentary Internet, or a complimentary beverage. Normally, the Internet is the best value, but since we were traveling with an international MiFi device, I chose the Starpoints.

Our keys were made and the Manager had a bell hop take our bags to our room. She was going to show us around the hotel. She brought us through the grand lobby, the hotel restaurant, and the other facilities.

Finally, she brought us to our Executive Suite. She walked us through each part of the room and then left us, but not before giving us a few maps and brochures and one thing that I thought was very thoughtful – a new 2012 edition of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. Funny because Joann borrowed that same book (older edition) from a coworker.

The Executive Suite

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