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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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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Credit Update: August 15, 2012

How long has it been?

It’s been pretty quiet on the credit card front for both Joann and me. The last time I applied for cards was back in April. For Joann, March…

What’s the latest for Joann?

Joann applied for the 2 Southwest Airlines credit cards about three weeks ago and was approved with a monster limit on the personal card. We already met the easy spend goal of $1,000 each and are anxiously waiting for our first statement to post so we can see where we stand for getting her the Companion Pass. This will be easy to hit before year end because of Amazon Payments (AP). She’ll use the business card for her AP account and I’ll use the personal for my AP account since I’m an authorized user on that card.

She also applied for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest credit card last week and wasn’t instantly approved. A few days later, we checked the status of her application on this web page and found out that she was approved! We still don’t have the card yet but $5,000 spend in six months won’t be difficult at all with good old Amazon Payments once again. This 30,000 Starpoints offer is only for a limited time and will expire on September 4, 2012.

American Express also sent Joann an official FICO score that they pulled from Experian. I like that about their application process. They always include a credit score; it’s nice to know every once in a while. Even with all the credit cards we apply for, she still has a credit score of 718.

Good score! Keep on churnin’!

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Hawaii 219: St. Regis Princeville Resort, Kaua’i

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We boarded the Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717 for the 35 minute flight to Lihue Airport on Kaua’i. Soon enough we landed, gathered our luggage, and took the National shuttle once again. National on Kaua’i does not have a great selection. There was no Executive Aisle and not much choice overall. Remembering what The Points Guy had said about a 4WD, we decided to take the Jeep Wrangler with removable hard top. It had under 10k miles on it and was in great cosmetic shape. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the car was a piece of junk. So much plastic and it didn’t drive well either. It would prove to be just fine since the 4WD came in handy a few times during our trip.

At least it looked nice!

We drove about an hour north from the airport to the town of Princeville where the St. Regis is located. Within that hour, it was easy to see how vastly different Kaua’i was from Oahu. Everything was much less developed and seemed a lot more laid back. In fact, the building code of Kaua’i states that no building can be higher than the tallest coconut tree. It really makes the island feel more personal than the rest.

The resort itself is 2 miles past this entrance

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