A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Palacio del Inka & Cusco

TRIP INDEX

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

Continue reading

A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Avianca Business Class Lima – Cusco

TRIP INDEX

After the great breakfast in the Club Lounge, we checked out and had the front desk arrange a taxi to the airport for us. Shortly, we were back at LIM.

It’s so busy there that they have security at the doors and will only let passengers in. We had to dig out our passports to gain entry to the check-in area. The check-in was quick because no one was using the Ejecutiva (Business) Class queue.

We then went upstairs to where security is located. It is a mad house because everyone is basically saying their goodbyes right in front of the entrance to security. We had to dodge so many people. Security was quick and easy and, eventually, we were at our gate ready to board.

TACA 805
Lima (LIM) – Cusco (CUZ)
16 February 2014
Depart: 10:25 am
Arrive: 11:45 am
Duration: 1hr 20min
Aircraft: Embraer E-190
Seats: 1D, 1K (Business Class)

Joann and I were the very first passengers to board the regional jet that fit only 96 passengers. There were only 2 other people in Business and Economy wasn’t full either.

The seats were fine, just like most domestic First Class recliner seats. Business Class has a 1-2 layout. We sat on the right side so we could sit next to each other.

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco – Single Side

For an 80 minute flight, the food was great – simple and fresh. It was a cold plate featuring chicken and some type of salsa. It was better than some meals I’ve had in domestic First in the States.

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco

All throughout the flight, we were treated with breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains. Upon approach, there were amazing views of the city of Cusco.

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco

Avianca E-190 Business Class to Cusco
As soon as we landed and inhaled that thin air 11,000+ feet above sea level, the first thing on my mind was where to get coca tea or oxygen or anything that would prevent altitude sickness!

Once we collected our checked bag, we went outside to look for the driver that we had arranged with our hotel. There weren’t as many taxi drivers as Lima airport so he was easy to spot and we were on our short journey to Palacio del Inka.

Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport

Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport

A Machu Picchu Anniversary: Sheraton Lima Convention Center

TRIP INDEX

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.