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Deluxe Harbour View King room at the Hilton Auckland

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waterfront view of Hilton Auckland from the hotel's website

After our Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne, we only had one night in Auckland, and wanted to take advantage of some hotel points redemptions, since for many of our stays in New Zealand, we wouldn't be able to do so. We booked one night at the Hilton Auckland.  It was a category 7, so it cost a steep 50,000 points for one night in a standard room. 

Upon check ...

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Virgin Australia: Sydney to Melbourne to Auckland plus Virgin and Air New Zealand lounges

Virgin Australia Lounge entrance

After my nice, but brief stay in an Executive Suite at the Westin Sydney, we were now bound for Auckland.  Thanks to the availability via my Delta award ticket, we had to do this in a bit of a complicated manner.  Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand have an alliance for flights across the Tasman Sea, but since I was using Delta Skymiles for my award ticket, only flights on Virgin metal would be redeemable.  Approximately 70% of the Tasman flights in this alliance are on Air ...

Free Executive Suite Upgrade at the Westin Sydney

Promotional exterior image of the Westin Sydney

After my flight on Virgin Australia to Cairns and great time scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, it was time for the main portion of our journey: New Zealand.  I flew back to Sydney where my wife and I met up for a short overnight stay at the Westin Sydney before we departed for New Zealand. 

Promotional image of the exterior of the Westin Sydney


I booked a ...

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Long Layover in Sydney: Virgin Australia Lounge then Virgin Australia Economy to Cairns

SYD_roof

 A cloudy day at an architectural marvel

After my 15 hour flight in V Australia Business Class from LAX to Sydney, I decided to spend some time in the fresh air rather than hopping on another flight right away.  I was pretty well rested after my flight, but I wanted to spend some time enjoying a great city instead of spending that time in Cairns.  

After a quick immigration and customs experience with no lines, I ...

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My LAX Layover: a run before lounging in the Delta Skyclub and Alaska Airline Boardroom

LAX_Qantas parked

When I originally booked my V Australia Business Class ticket via Delta miles, I had a long layover at LAX that I was hoping to change as the date got closer.  Eventually I convinced myself that this was a good thing, I could get out of the airport a bit before a 15 hour flight.  That and I struggled with Delta's famous award availability.  So I embraced this and decided to make the most of the time I had.

I planned on going for a run in the nice warm LA air, as I try ...

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V Australia Business Class Meals

VA_Menu2

As someone who loves to eat and loves to fly, I usually have pretty high expectations when flying internationally in premium cabins.   My recent V Australia Business Class from LAX to Sydney provided great service and very good meals.  V Australia really seemed to do the little things well, particularly for a business class product.  One example of that is in the fact that all glassware used during the service was made by Reidel, a small thing but a nice touch.

The ...

Virgin Australia brand is expanding internationally

VA_repainted

I recently returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand, and am currently in the process of posting trip reports from my journey.  Most recently, V Australia Business Class from LAX to Sydney. 

Until now, there have been various names for the airlines owned by the Australian version of Virgin, depending on their destination.  Domestic Australia flights used to be known as Virgin Blue, have been renamed Virgin Australia for a few months, and their planes are in the ...

V Australia Business Class LAX to Sydney: The cool way down under

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After all the planning and waiting the day of my business class flight on V Australia was finally here. As you may remember, I had redeemed Delta SkyMiles for the V Australia ticket and flew Delta Airlines to Los Angeles prior to this flight.  One comment on the airline name, as it a bit confusing.  V Australia (VA) is part of the Virgin Australia group, but until 2012, it will maintain its distinct name, due to some rule regarding carrying the Virgin name on flights to the ...

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Introduction to my journey to Australia and New Zealand

LAX_InNOut

I've talked a lot about about planning my trip down under on V Australia via a Delta Skymiles award, and I have posted a few preview photos during my trip.  I spent much of November on this journey.  It is the longest vacation I have ever taken, 3 weeks off work.   

This will be quite a large trip report with various separate posts, and it will likely take me a while to get it all out, so please bear with me.  I will attempt to focus on the frequent flyer ...

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Complete customer service breakdown by Virgin Australia

I'm writing this from the lovely Air New Zealand lounge before my V Australia flight to LAX.  Heading back home after what was a very nice trip to New Zealand and Australia.  I'm working on a full trip report, which will be coming out in parts as I am able to complete it. 

I had several flights on the various Virgin Australia brands on this trip, and some were perfectly fine, but the last few have left quite a sour taste in my mouth, and wanted to share ...

My Cathay Pacific First Class award: Best use of British Airways Miles

Note: I'm still very much enjoying my vacation in New Zealand.  Sorry for the lack of new content lately.  I will have an extensive trip report coming soon.

 

Due to the upcoming changes in the British Airways Executive Club, I wanted to redeem my British Airways miles while I can still maximize their value.  Not everyone is a anxious about this as I am, but this is the route I have gone down.  I'm a very infrequent OneWorld alliance traveler, and all ...

V Australia preview photos

VA_Delta_enroute

I’m back to civilization, and wanted to post a few photos from my journey thus far, as well as one diving photo.  More to come.

 

The V Australia experience was good, but not great.  Apparently Janet Jackson was on my flight, but I didn't know that until afterwards.  She was in the private row 5 of Business Class.  Much more to come in the full trip report.  My wife flew out on a later flight, and she was delayed almost 12 hours.  I ...

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Sheraton New Orleans Executive Suite review

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I recently had a conference in New Orleans which was held at the Sheraton.  The hotel is conveniently located across Canal Street  from the French Quarter and near downtown and the Riverwalk. 

I received a nice upgrade to an Executive suite, but other than that, the hotel was nothing special.  More on that soon.  While on the subject of upgrades...While waiting in Houston for my connecting flight to New Orleans, I noticed the seat map for the flight ...

Off to New Zealand! (via Australia during a Qantas strike....)

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My long awaited vacation trip to Australia and New Zealand is finally here.  I've talked a lot about the planning and booking process for this trip using Delta miles.

My trans-pacific flights are on V Australia, which I anticipate being quite packed due to the Qantas strike.  Its a bit concerning taking off for many hours of flying, not exactly knowing what I will find when I land early Tuesday morning in Sydney.  Once there I have a Virgin Australia flight up to ...

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A new option for ExPlus First Class Snackboxes

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Flights on United Express are typically not anything special.  Nearly all of my trips begin with a CRJ-200 hop to O'Hare.  Occasionally I am able to mix that up, but there still aren't great options.  I recently had a trip routing via Houston (IAH), which I got on the Skywest CRJ-700 that have done some longer flying from IAH.  While these planes contain 6 first class seats and Economy plus, they are far from luxurious.  First class catering consists of plastic cups ...

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The O'Hare Urban Garden: Growing fresh produce at ORD.

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Given that food is prominent in the name of this blog, and good quality food is something I strive to find while traveling, when I had a little time on an O'Hare layover, I wanted to explore the Garden and feature here so maybe others can explore it.  

The O'Hare Urban Garden is a unique concept in that its truly local food in a place that primarily features large quantities of fast food and junk food which is the norm at airports.  Items grown in the garden are currently ...

Delta adds a cash bar for premium drinks

SkyClub_Luxury_Bar

Delta is now joining United, American, US Airways and Alaska in charging for some alcoholic drinks in their club lounges. (Are there any other domestic US lounges I'm missing?)

I received the below in an email from Delta:

 

This seems similar to the offerings at United Clubs (formerly Red Carpet Club and/or Continental President's Club).  Basic cocktails are free, with higher end pours available for purchase. 

Interesting ...

Tour of Starwood brands, part 2.

SPG_Le_Meridien

 

 

This is a continuation of my discussion of the 9 Starwood hotel brands.  Below are comments on Le Meridien, Westin, W, St. Regis and the Luxury Collection.

 

Le Meridien

Pool and beach view at Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort

Le Meridien was originally established by Air France in its key destinations throughout the world.  I have only stayed at one of these, but looking at other reviews as well as my ...

A tour of Starwood brands, part 1

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Four Points Sheraton Darling Harbour, Sydney

I have considered Starwood as my preferred chain for several years now.  I used to stay at Marriott, then Hilton.  For the last 2 years or so I have focused on Starwood and and I  also enjoy Hyatt Diamond status.  SPG has enough properties for where I travel for business, and some great properties where to redeem my points for leisure travel. 

The Starwood group has 9 different brands.  I've ...

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Update on the progress of my Nexus application

Nexus kiosk

As I discussed in a past post, I was going through the application process for the Nexus program for my somewhat frequent business travel between the US and Canada.  

photo courtesy Calgary Sun

 

About a month after I submitted my application, I received conditional approval for Nexus and Global Entry, pending my interview.  I made an appointment at the Nexus center in Detroit since I had a trip there already.  The final part of the ...

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